Holt's Election Reform Bill Edges Away From Disastrousness Prior to Introduction
Holt's Election Reform Bill Edges Away From Disastrousness Prior to Introduction 'Final' draft for introduction, committee process sees important improvement following criticism from BRAD BLOG last month; But substantive concerns still remain A review of the good, the bad and the still ugly...
Due, in no small part, to the concerns expressed in our February analysis of the January draft version of this year's Election Reform bill being introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) in the U.S. House, along with a bit of "lobbying" his office for a key change after the publication of that article, the updated version of the bill, said by his office to be the "final" one before introduction, has been slightly -- one might even say, significantly -- improved to meet one of our major concerns.
Still, while there is a lot of much-needed reform in this federal legislation, there remain many concerns with it as well. So let's take a quick, updated look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the soon-to-be-introduced "final" version of Holt's "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2009"...
1. An excellent run-down by Brad on the pro's and con's of the Holt bill.
Edited on Tue Mar-31-09 09:53 PM by Peace Patriot
The bill now gives a very, very grudging nod to the right of the people to a handmarked paper ballot--but you have to request it, in anti-democratic jurisdictions, and I guess sue your Secretary of State or county election official if they don't have any ballots handy? In California, a number of years back, when Sec of State Kevin Shelley tried to enforce Californians' right to a paper ballot, Diebold-corrupt county officials failed to provide real ballots, and handed out easily tossable "provisional ballots" instead. That may not happen with CA Debra Bowen as Sec of State, but what is a mere peon voter in fascist hotbeds, say in Louisiana, or Mississippi, going to have to do to get their right to a paper ballot respected? And will they even know of their right? And will we not be looking at battle after battle for voters' rights all over the country, anyway?
Besides this major flaw in the bill, the very worst thing that it does is to enshrine the 'right' of RIGHTWING, BUSHITE CORPORATIONS to control the vote counting with 'TRADE SECRET,' PROPRIETARY programming code, and is particularly favorable to the MOST FAR RIGHTWING among them--ES&S--for whom the bill is a multi-million dollar boondoggle in disabled voting systems. ES&S is an evil corporation. There is no other word for it. Its initial funder and major investor is the billionaire, far rightwing recluse Howard Ahmanson, who also gave one million dollars to the extremist 'christian' Chalcedon foundation which touts the death penalty for homosexuals! This is the sort of people who are 'counting' our votes with 'TRADE SECRET' code! Is it any wonder that we have to fight Congress tooth and nail to re-establish our right to vote? Is it any wonder that our Democratic leaders are not yelling alarms from the rooftops about the goddamn corporate privatization our most fundamental right and power as a people? They are goddamned complicit, that's what, or crapping in their pants for fear of the likes of Howard Ahmanson!
Brad wants in-put on whether or not to endorse this bill--or wait to see if its few good provisions are deleted or rendered meaningless in committee, as happened to the first Holt bill. I am surely for waiting until it is finalized. As for endorsing a bill that sanctifies private, corporate, rightwing control of our voting system, even if the bill remains in tact, I don't know what to say to that. I really don't. It's possible that any Congressional action that further usurps state/local power over election systems, and accrues more federal power--not to mention rightwing corporate power--is a very dangerous thing. Because, as it stands now, Howard Ahmanson and brethren can easily--EASILY!--steal the 2010 and 2012 elections. Nothing in the Holt bill is going to ensure that they cannot. It does not ban the touchscreens (DREs) until 2016! And it does not require states to give a paper ballot to every voter--it places the burden on the voter to demand it, and furthermore to find the remedy if a paper ballot is denied. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, that might result in a court decision that supports the paper ballot requirement. MIGHT result. Meanwhile, half the voting systems in the country have unverifiable elections! And the other half aren't much better. They may have a paper ballot now, but they count only a miserably inadequate 1% of them--not nearly enough to detect machine fraud.* And the Holt bill specifically makes that audit easy to rig.
So, I fear and distrust federal power for this and other reasons. The accrual of federal power over our election systems means that a second Bush Junta could come in and use that increasing federal power against us. Only this semi-secret federal commission--the so-called Election Assistance Commission--is permitted to review and test the 'TRADE SECRET' code by which our all our votes are tallied. That is a recipe for abuse, in the wrong hands--as we have seen with the EAC thus far. And now the Feds are dictating the rules, while the U.S. Constitution specifically assigns that duty to the states, for a very good reason--to decentralize power over elections in the case of a tyrannical president! I don't like this creeping centralization--any more than I like it in the centralization of medical records. But our voting system is fundamental to our continuance as a democracy. And I know it's hard to deal with all these local and state fights about election systems, but it really is a strength of our system to have voting be decentralized, and as close to the people as possible. We could end up having our votes counted in Dubai or Singapore.** We're not far from that now. And depending on what happens to this bill in the midnight hours in Congress, we could be looking at a far WORSE situation in 2010 and 2012 than we have now, or than we had in 2004!
Why should we have to fight this hard for a transparent system? WHY? The fact of it being so hard is an alarm bell. It's a ringing Liberty Bell that something is not right. It's a warning. And it is also an indicator of what has taken place in the recent past. Our political establishment is clinging to this egregiously non-transparent, privatized, massively riggable system for a reason. It is an insane system on its face.
I have to say that it is an ENORMOUS contribution to our democracy and our future that Brad Friedman, Velvet Revolution, Voters Unite and other passionate, hard-working patriots have managed to get even a grudging acknowledgment of our right to a paper ballot into this bill. And I'm sure they know a lot more about the in's and out's of the bill, and of the politics involved, than I do. It's their call whether to endorse it or not. I cannot advise them on that. But personally I cannot endorse it, and, if I had a vote in the matter--and I don't, and none of us do--I would vote against it, and demand that the privatization of our voting system be ended, forever, NOW.
I think that the end of privatized, 'TRADE SECRET' voting systems can only come, and will only come, when the people demand it of our state/local officials. That is going to be long hard road back to democracy, but it is one that others have traveled--recently, in the case of most of South America--and in our own past, time and again, as people fought for the end of slavery, for labor rights and women's rights, for the end of segregation, and for so many rights that entrenched political establishments never give back easily. I don't have a lot of trust that the Holt bill will end up aiding that fight and it may end up making our task harder.
*(In Venezuela, they used electronic voting, but it is an OPEN SOURCE CODE system--the code belongs to the public, and anyone may review it--and they additionally handcount a whopping 55% of the votes to check for machine fraud--more than five times the minimum amount recommended by statistical experts whom I trust. Half our systems handcount ZERO percent; the others handcount 1%--one tenth the minimum needed. And ours is a 'TRADE SECRET' system, with code owned and controlled by Puke corporations, of which Diebold (now called "Premier"), for all its tight association with Bush/Cheney, is not even the worst.)
**(See Dan Rather's "The Trouble With Touchscreens," at www.HD.net . He travels to the Philippines, where ES&S touchscreens are manufactured, in sweatshops, for the U.S. voting "market." It is a blistering expose.)
3. Ah yes, the pros and cons of the features of the train headed THE WRONG WAY (transparency too late)
Edited on Wed Apr-01-09 08:17 AM by Land Shark
Audit transparency. Concealed counts.
Try suing for recounts or to change elections and come back and tell me that the first counts are not the final counts 99.9% of the time, and 100% of the time in corrupt elections where one's trying to remove the party controlling the vote counting/the imbumbent.
The only statewide examples of any post-election recount (a form of 'audit') changing the result were in Democratic states where a Democrat replaced the incumbent Dem governor by finding votes in Dem counties (WA state, 2004) and (looks like) in a solid Dem state (Franken, MN) but watch out for the appeal they've been planning all along as Coleman's lawyers recently admitted. They will attempt a re-run of Bush v. gore, or in the alternative delay Franken as long as possible.
Post-election remedies, as a class, are an extremely poor bet. They can't "check and balance" concealed secret vote counts on election night. It just doesn't work, and it REALLY doesn't work when it's really needed to work -- look at post election litigation where challengers are trying to replace entrenched machines and you'll see what I mean about post-election remedies.
Holt's entire investment is in the post-election basket. A very poor place to bet the entire integrity of democracy.
9. sorry Bill bored, you don't fully grasp the post-election legal barriers to any effectiveness
If you did, you would not hold out the kind of hope for overturned elections that you do. The only time one sees that is when the party who wins happens to have substantial or total control of the vote counting process on the ground. It does not work when a challenger controls the opponent's control of the vote counts on the ground. That's one reason why there's no substitute for total transparency of the initial count.
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