Republican officials and Democratic Fairfax County election supervisors still disagree over whether a GOP school board candidate lost her race because of gremlins in the machines.
Fairfax County Elections Secretary Margaret K. Luca (D), whom county Republicans excoriated over the voting problems in November, said she is "pleased they opted for a study instead of jumping in and rushing to judgment on things."
Virginia Secretary of State Jean Jensen (D) said that she is happy that a commission will be formed, but said that she does not support requiring a paper trail.
"We don't want to assume that because we haven't had any big problems that we don't have any security issues," she said. "[But] I do not support a situation where the voter would be handed a piece of paper ... that shows how they voted. The potential for fraud is scary."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said he believes no one will find a completely satisfactory solution to the problems confronting electronic voting. "Frankly, I don't know what they're going to find that everyone else hasn't already found," Sabato said.
"Even with paper ballots, as we learned in the 19th century, ballot boxes are often stuffed," Sabato said. "There is no foolproof system. None. There is always a way around it if people are determined enough to cheat."
Luca said that Fairfax County precincts already allow voters to choose paper ballots if they do not want to use the new voting machines.
House Speaker Howell will appoint seven members of the panel, four of whom will be members of the House of Delegates and three will be private citizens. The Senate Rules Committee is responsible for naming the other appointees -- two senators and two private citizens. Committee Chairman Thomas K. Norment (R-Williamsburg) did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
The Virginia commission was originally ordered to report its findings and recommendations in early 2006, but a lengthy budget battle in the General Assembly prevented any work from being done until now.
That delay, according to one Republican activist who helped lead the fight to create the commission, means that any reforms that come out of the commission's deliberations won't be acted on until well after this year's primary and presidential elections.
"I have a very high sense that something bad will happen," said Fairfax attorney Chris Craig. "I don't believe that the problems that emerged this past November have been fixed."