New Version of Holt's Election Reform Bill Misses 'The Mark'
New Version of Holt's Election Reform Bill Would Institutionalize Touch-Screen Voting, Secret Software Bill 'improved' to require paper ballots, but they may be marked or printed by computer devices which offer most of the same dangers as current Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) devices... Additional concerns remain in the previously-defeated, newly-rewritten draft version of the landmark legislation...
Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) is preparing to drop a new version of the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" legislation which met so much resistance during the last Congress from both Election Integrity advocates and those opposed to any reform whatsoever, alike.
A recent draft of the new legislation, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG, is an improvement over last session's controversial HR 811 bill in that it would ban the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting devices by the 2012 general election. However, the new bill fails to ban all forms of computerized touch-screen voting and, indeed, encourages it through federal funding to help jurisdictions move from DREs to similar, but non-tabulating, Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs).
We could well jump out of the frying pan, and into yet another frying pan, if the legislation passes as currently drafted.
Holt has offered The BRAD BLOG a fairly puzzling response to our concerns. We share the details of our concerns, and his response in full, at the link below...
1. There is nothing more important than this. Our election system is fundamental
to all our troubles, and transparent vote counting is the bottom line condition needed to fix those problems and create a healthy, prosperous country. Name one other thing that you think is more important, and I will tell you how our vote counting system caused the problem or made it worse, and is the key to fixing it.
I'm going to Bradblog now to see what Brad is saying about the new Holt bill. I'll report back.
2. If I had to identify a worse voting system than DRE's, it would be the Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs)
used in Los Angeles. When the marked ballot card comes out of the device, you can't see the candidates' names (or referendum issues) any more. THEN, all these marked cards are trundled together, put on trucks, driven to collection points, moved again, and finally are all dumped at one central location where nobody gets to see what happens after that. (They are fed into a big computer--also run on TRADE SECRET code--which spits out results.)
You might as well let Diebold & brethren decide who wins (the current system).
But the first thing that struck me about the new Holt bill is that it's another boondoggle for private corporations. The DRE's kept Bush/Cheney in office, and now that people are onto that, oh, oops!, sorry about all that money poured into Bushwhack e-voting corps; here, pour money into these other companies' pockets instead. They're basically selling off our democracy itself--not just our military, and everything else we might have thought was nailed down--but our very voting system. It's now insecure, shoddy, unreliable and much more expensive, as only private corporations can achieve, and we're paying them for this shit--for voting systems they can hack. It is the ultimate evil in privatization.
And now the Holt bill throws in billions for R&D, so they can figure out how to fuck us over some more.
There should be NO 'TRADE SECRET' CODE IN OUR VOTING SYSTEM. None! Zero! Zilch! We might be able to develop an "open source code" electronic system. That's what Venezuela uses--a system in which anyone may review the code by which the votes are tabulated--and they additionally handcount a whopping 55% of the votes, as a check on machine fraud. But our system is so corrupted with private interests, we need a great big PURGE, to clean it all out, and, while we do that, we should return to paper ballots handcounted in each precinct, in public view.
And DO beware of Congress meddling with our voting system again. They're the ones who fast-tracked the only kind of voting system that Bush-Cheney could have won in, all over the country, during the 2002-2004 period. I think it's likely about half the members of Congress were not really elected. That means they're beholden to the rightwing, Bushwhack vendors (Diebold & brethren). Watch for midnight changes to make Holt's half-good bill worse.
...There is nothing in the bill that ensures that. While they are, indeed non-tabulating, if you read my article, you'll see that there are many -- if not most -- of the same problems with BMDs as there are with DREs.
As well, you'll see my quote from Holt that he would like every voter in America to vote on a BMD.
Please read the article in full if you haven't. There is a lot of very valuable information in it, and it's important that folks understand a bill of this importance and magnitude before it might become law, as is rather likely.
It's also likely to get worse, more watered-down after introduction, so now is a good time to understand what's in it, and let your opinions be known (pro or con).
These are your elections, this is your bill, and your government. Please understand what's happening here, or what may be happening here, before we have another surprise (and a bad one at that) like the horrible Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.
9. Holt is behind the times. Avi Rubin also once suggested that everyone should vote on a BMD.
I don't think he does that anymore.
I will read your article. I'm sure we agree that BMDs are not very reliable, but to maintain voter privacy, it may not be possible to limit them to disabled voters, and neither Debra Bowen nor the state of NY has done so.
Certainly no one should be forced to use one, except maybe the party reps or poll workers e.g., to meet the 5-voter minimum that Bowen requires.
With all due respect, Marybeth, and you know I have much for you, that's a rather silly notion.
As I'm sure you know, many are involved in working on this bill currently. Many have been allowed to see it, to offer input, to suggest changes. I understand it's even changed, or is in the process of changing, since the version I posted with the article.
Those who are currently giving input are those who have been allowed by the bill's author to do so. They are not elected officials, but they are lobbyists, activists and other stakeholders who have been granted the ability to effect change in the bill. You may have even been one of them (I don't know), as I had been on previous versions of the bill.
Surely you don't believe that only those lucky enough to be "chosen" to offer input should be allowed to do so? Surely the public is welcome to offer input for such a sweeping, landmark piece of legislation at any time, no?
If you read my article, and it seems that you did, you also know that Holt himself expressed no concerns about my sharing it with the public, as so many scores of activists (and other, less well-meaning folks) have been allowed to see it, and work with the author.
You also surely know how difficult it is to see changes in a bill after it's already rolling through the process of committees, as the last time this happened, the creators of the bill told folks over and over that it couldn't/wouldn't change (only to change it when folks like lobbyists from the software industry, and Republican opponents, insisted).
I have neither endorsed nor opposed the bill (though many organizations have been invited to endorse it, and have done so, on a list kept by the legislation's author). I have simply reported to the public what is in it, invited them to look at it for themselves, and offered my opinions about what is both good and bad in the bill.
I understand that you likely support this bill, as you did the previous one. That is your right. It is also your right to post in favor of it (as I believe you have). So I'm flummoxed as to why you feel that nobody else should have the right to do so, and believe that you must not have thought that comment all the way. At least I hope that's the case.
8. In e-voting computers tally up info about the way electors voted
(which button they pressed or which part of the screen they touched). Such info is collected and stored in the form of anonymous intangible human-unreadable string of bytes. Votes are "counted" and results declared solely by the "electoral service" which is under the control of the Government whose term of office is about to expire. No democratic control is possible over electronic elections.
Hand Count the Goddamn Paper Ballots before thE ballots leave the polling place.
Its an embarrassment to me and my kids that we are even debating this issue.
Hand Count the Goddamn Paper Ballots before thE ballots leave the polling place!!
How hard is that?
Remember the kids will eventually be reading all of this.
10. Nice article on this year's bill! See if you can find this in there (because I'm tired
Edited on Sat Feb-21-09 03:38 AM by Bill Bored
of reading Holt bills)!
You wrote re software (non)disclosure:
"While that last qualifier, 'other investigation' might allow someone like us to review the hardware and software --- maybe --- the general public (read: the voters for whom the systems are theoretically there to serve) is entirely shut out of the process."
Well, not entirely. As you correctly point out, all one would have to do is review, analyze, or report on the technology. While Jo 6-Pack/Voter would have to know what she's doing, I don't think she'd be precluded from doing it. If she didn't know, the code would be gibberish to her anyway.
"And even we, presuming we were granted permission to look, would still be required, in any event, to sign a non-disclosure agreement first, limiting what we could, and couldn't report publicly about the system in question."
As I understand it, those limitations are not so severe. You could report on any problems you find; you just couldn't publish the code itself.
However, all that said, the larger problem with HR811 was the definition of the voting technology covered by this section. The definition in the previous bill did not even INCLUDE voting system source code! It therefore did not have to be disclosed at all. So, is that definition still in there, or has it been fixed as our best and brightest in the US Congress claimed it would be?
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