Constituent lobbyists Joannie Ashbrook and Jennie Woodard report a familiar mix of responses from HR 550 House visits. Rep. Gene Green's (D-TX) staffers were very receptive and indicated that he would likely vote for the bill, despite the fact that he is also a co-sponsor of HR 278, a competing paper trail bill authored by Rep. Steve King (D-IA). Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), on the other hand, indicates that he will not support HR 550 and will instead support Rep. King's bill, partly because he believes that the federal government should continue to exercise only limited control over elections and instead leave state and local governments with greater flexibility.

The state vs. federal tension remains a significant component of this debate. Some bill opponents (and opponents of the earlier Help American Vote Act (HAVA) that imposed new federal election rules and funding) have cited a general unease at creeping federal authority over an area that has been, since the country's founding, under the control of the states. As we've all seen in the last two presidential election cycles, however, what used to be benign state law peculiarities have become areas of national concerns. Take a look, for example, at the Overview of Voting Equipment Usage in the United States report generated by Election Data Services to get a feel for the scope of the problem (scroll down to page 7). The patchwork election system has frequently led to confusion and imperfect regulation, especially on election day. Federal legislation, that sets simple ground rules (like a paper trail requirement), and still permits states to have ultimate control over their elections, should be a common sense reform that everyone can agree on.

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