In a major victory for voting rights advocates, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced Friday that all electronic voting machines in California must provide paper receipts by 2006.

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Shelley also introduced stricter requirements for testing and auditing of the software used to record and tabulate votes in the nation’s most populous state.

The move may prompt changes in the type of voting equipment used throughout the country as states rush to modernize terminals.

California’s reforms address concerns of computer scientists and voting rights advocates who have been warning that paperless voting systems are vulnerable to hackers, software bugs and mechanical breakdowns.

Earlier this month, a state agency began an investigation of uncertified software allegedly used in California’s Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election.

Shelley made the move not because “voting systems are inherently insecure — they are not,” he wrote in the document detailing the changes. “But rather because people understandably feel more confident when they can verify that their votes are being recorded as intended.”

Shelley ordered all counties that purchase new touch-screen terminals to provide a “voter verified paper audit trail,” starting in July 2005.

In addition, voting equipment companies must retrofit touch-screen systems already being used in at least four California counties to include printers and paper receipts by July 2006.

The requirement makes California the first state in the nation to force equipment vendors to retrofit machines already installed in voting precincts.

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