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Hold On To Your Hat:: Holt Bill on Voting Machines is coming back & with it the controversy

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althecat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-13-09 12:33 AM
Original message
Hold On To Your Hat:: Holt Bill on Voting Machines is coming back & with it the controversy

Exclusive Interview with Democracy Warrior, Nancy Tobi

by Joan Brunwasser Page 1 of 1 page(s)

Q: I have with me democracy warrior, Nancy Tobi. It's nice to have you back for another OpEdNews interview, Nancy. There's a lot of talk about Congressman Holt's new bill. Many in the election integrity movement are supporting it. You, along with Black Box Voting, and VotersUnite, among others, are not. Why should our readers accept your take on it?

A: Well, your readers shouldn't accept anyone's take on it. They should read the bill itself to see what it is about. But I understand that reading legislation is not everyone's cup of tea. And this bill, in particular, is most difficult to read because of its obtuse language and expression. This is either sloppiness on the part of Holt and his staff, or deliberate obfuscation. Either way, when the law is unclear it pushes people to the courts to decide on its interpretation. With election law, this is particularly dangerous. The last thing we want to do is pass fuzzy election law that throws our elections to the courts for interpretation. You don't have to look further than the 2000 presidential election that was decided by the Supreme Court to understand the implications of such a set up.

So having said all this, I suppose I would say that if your readers don't want to read the bill itself and prefer to rely on the analysis of others, than I guess I am as good a resource as anyone. I have studied this bill for years, in all of its various iterations. In fact, when I first began to speak out against the bill I was pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness. Everyone in the movement, it seemed, was rallying behind Holt and his bill.

I think most people hadn't even read it and were relying on Holt's reputation as an election reformer or something. And many in the movement's early leadership had been personally approached by Holt. You might say co-opted, in fact.

Q: Why are you against the legislation?

My dissent is and has always been based on a very careful read of the bill and the real world implications if it were to pass. I have not only consulted with real world election officials but I have also worked in elections as a citizen volunteer. I have consulted with attorneys for legal interpretations, and I have traveled around the country to observe meetings and deliberations of the White House's Election Assistance Commission and its Standards Board, which is composed of the nation's top state election officials. I've done my due diligence on this bill.

And unlike some of the early Holt supporters, Holt's office has never opened its doors to me. They don't seem to want to work with dissent, which accounts for why their bill remains as divisive and controversial as it is.

So I have never had any personal stake in this process. I came at it as an outsider, I have no personal agenda, and nothing to gain from my analysis one way or the other. In this sense, I think I am presenting as honest and straightforward and factually supportable analysis as you will find on this issue.

Q: Fair enough. So, will you walk our readers through the ins and outs of the Holt Bill?

Sure. Legislation like this is presented as a solution to some kind of problem. So I think it is important to first define the problem we are trying to solve here. The problem Holt is trying to solve is very different from the problem as I and many others in the movement now see it.

Obviously, America's elections are broken in a lot of ways. After the tragedy of the 2000 presidential election, Congress and the White House put together legislation called the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), ostensibly as a solution to the election problems that had been exposed in 2000. I'll talk a bit more about HAVA later, but suffice to say that the "solution" we were sold in HAVA had nothing to do with the problems in our election systems. HAVA was just a computerized voting bill. It appropriated a lot of funding to disseminate computerized voting equipment across the nation.

Holt's bill is being presented as "an amendment" to HAVA. So the problem Holt's bill is trying to solve is purportedly to fix HAVA. Holt calls his bill the "Voter Confidence Act". I guess he wants voters to have confidence in our elections. So his bill tries to address problems with HAVA and problems with voter confidence.

The problem that I and others in the voting rights movement want to solve has nothing to do with the e-voting industry or voter confidence. The problem we want to solve is that we need to regain our constitutional right to self governance through open government and public oversight, which are the key ingredients to governance by consent of the governed. We focus on the need to restore public control and oversight in our elections, because elections are in fact the mechanism of the democratic process.

Holt's goal is nationwide, federally mandated and controlled, technology-enabled voting systems.

Our goal, like that of the Founders, is government by the consent of the governed.

These two goals are by their very nature mutually exclusive, and this is where the fundamental division lies between Holt and his supporters, on the one hand, and others in the movement, like me, who believe that you cannot have self governance with a privatized system of elections using trade secret software to conduct concealed vote counting outside of public oversight.

Q: Okay, Nancy. Let's take a break here and when we come back we'll talk about specific provisions in the Holt bill and what they mean for voters and our elections.

(more to come...)
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-13-09 12:16 PM
Response to Original message
1. is it fund raising time over at
Edited on Mon Jul-13-09 12:31 PM by WillYourVoteBCounted
Looks like donations are down.

2004: $972,304
2005: $175,578 Salary $90,000
2006: $159,592 Salary $80,000

2007 not posted at Guidestar yet.

Its hard to stomach seeing Bev Harris exhalted at DU, especially when you consider that this is the anniversary of Andy Stephenson's death. Considering how she told the public that Andy wasn't really ill.
Oh, and how about firing him and not having health coverage? Couldn't she afford it for her employees?

And Nancy Tobi? I remember her lobbying efforts with anti paper election officials.


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troubleinwinter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-14-09 01:26 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. BBV's latest 990 filing was due November 15, 2008.
Two three-month time extensions (the maximum) were applied for, bringing the final due date to 5/15/09, eleven and a half months after close of BBV fiscal year. The filing was recieved at IRS 5/21/09, but has not shown up on Guidestar quite yet (probably within a week).

Why it takes the maximum allowed two extensions and eleven and a half months to file is a mystery. One would expect a tax exempt organization that is run on donors' money would have responsible financial oversight and ongoing bookkeeping/accounting.
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althecat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-14-09 09:38 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Just so you know... I have no connection to Bev Harris
I have no connection to fundraising for BBV.

The constant insinuations are really tiresome.

Just so you know. The person that triggered Bev's final tombstoning from here was me.

Jesus wept.

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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-15-09 12:40 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. didn't think you did, but Nancy Tobi worked for Bev
and it is fund raising time for non profits.
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althecat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-15-09 01:06 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. So did Andy Stephenson. And Kelvin Mace, John Gideon and Roxanne Jekot worked with her
Edited on Wed Jul-15-09 01:07 AM by althecat
Among others. Working with Bev Harris does not mean you are poison clearly.

Does Nancy work for Bev now?
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-15-09 01:34 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. yes, they worked for her and got trashed by her -
Whereas Nancy worked for Bev after the trashing and the mistreatment of Andy.

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kster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-15-09 03:27 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. I have a connection to Bev Harris
we both want a COMMON SENSE method in place when it comes to the counting of ballots.

Don't be afraid to say it, this crew works on your fears, I have no fear. F*ck th*m.
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-14-09 09:08 PM
Response to Original message
3. Self-delete.
Edited on Tue Jul-14-09 10:01 PM by Bill Bored
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Cookie wookie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-17-09 10:14 PM
Response to Original message
9. If you go to DC/make an appointment, even you can get into Holt's office.
They also accept snail mail and faxes.
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Democracy Cop Donating Member (4 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-19-09 07:46 PM
Response to Original message
10. Don"t let someone else do your thinking for you
The bill is easy to read and formulate your own opinion. The Bill Number is HR2894. You may find it at and it is a good read.
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dfnh Donating Member (7 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-25-09 06:52 AM
Response to Original message
11. I am Nancy Tobi and I have never worked for BlackBoxVoting
The propaganda here is unbelievable. I don't work for anyone when it comes to election reform and voting rights. I am an American citizen. BlackBoxVoting.ORG is a nonprofit citizen watchdog organization, which does outstanding investigative work, all based on factual evidence. If the only thing you have going for your argument is specious smears against people, that speaks volumes. The other two installments of my interview with Joan Brunwasser may be found here:

and here:

The Holt Bill continues to be nothing more than a computerized voting bill aimed to make the e-voting industry and their anonymous backers wealthy and to centralize control over the nation's elections in the hands of the Executive Branch. Neither of these outcomes is good for the American Republic.

If you have valid debatable rebuttals to my points, I'd like to hear them.

If all you can do is spout bullshit about Bev Harris, me, or anyone else, then it is clear you have no valid arguments to make in support of this legislation.

No big surprise there. The supporters of Holt's bills have actually never had any supportable facts against my arguments.
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-25-09 12:18 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. "The expenses Nancy incurs... underwritten by ..."
When someone PAYS for your expenses, you are WORKING FOR them.

From the Election Defense Alliance webpage, (see lower part of graphic)
"The expenses Nancy incurs traveling to these important meetings to observe election policy in formation are underwritten by Election Defense Alliance and allied election integrity organizations including and Democracy for New Hampshire."

I've got a screen shot of the entire webpage as well.
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OnTheOtherHand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-25-09 01:28 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. actually, not necessarily
Various organizations covered travel expenses to the Audit Summit. I wasn't working for them, although I was grateful that their assistance allowed me to attend at less expense.

Certainly Nancy works with Bev at times. I think that, and her comment upthread that does "outstanding investigative work, all based on factual evidence," speak to her judgment. Well, hell, her statement that the Holt bill is "aimed to make the e-voting industry and their anonymous backers wealthy" (yadda yadda yadda) says something about her judgment.
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-25-09 04:02 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. Bev: "Thank you, Nancy."
I am ambivalent about the Holt Bill. I am not lobbying for or against it.
DU did however ban Bev Harris from DU after she threatened to sue DU and after the situation
became utterly disruptive.
Bev may have done good work, but her treatment of Andy Stephenson
caused me to lose any respect for her that I might ever have had.

Here's some more:

Message List
Reply | Forward Message #21499 of 21588 < Prev | Next >
Thank you, Nancy.
I will mention here that Black Box Voting cannot do any more
federal legislative (lobbying) faxes for quite a while, because there is a cap
on such activities (we are allowed to do some lobbying, but it is capped in
terms of time and financial investment, so we have to track it). We did do this
second fax as you requested. Here is what I sent to 2,299 elections officials
(we had one remove request last time, from a Vermont official):

Dear Elections Chief, March 30, 2007
This is the last communication from Black Box Voting on this matter, and I
apologize for using your fax lines once again. I didnt want to, but I believe
this is important.
As you know, Black Box Voting and others have pointed out dangerous provisions
in the Holt Bill: unfunded mandates, for equipment that does not yet exist, and
shifting regulatory power over elections from your state to the federal

I thought you'd be interested to know that your efforts, and those of many
citizens, have now caused the mark up of the Holt Bill to be DELAYED for at
least two weeks. I have been told that congressional fax machines whirred all
day long, gumming up the "fast track" on this bill.

I have learned that there is one additional step if you would like your comments
to be memorialized into the congressional record. Though your faxes stopped the
train (temporarily) it turns out that your faxed comments will not be entered
into the record. If you feel strongly about this and want your opinions entered
into the congressional record, here are the instructions:

The deadline is today (I know; like we have nothing else to do). The procedure
is to e-mail your comments on the Holt Bill to:

The instructions we received are: (a) Submit a letter to the above e-mail
address with your comments on the Holt Bill; (b) In the letter, explicitly
request that your comments be included in the congressional record.

The House Administration (full committee) is still planning to mark up Rep.
Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR. 811), but
the schedule has now been moved forward at least two weeks.
Theyre saying, "Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good." We say: "Do
not let the Congress be the enemy of democracy."
Mar 30, 2007 1:40 pm
Bev Harris <bev@...> black_box_vo... Offline

While the most pressing issue for many elections officials will be the unfunded
mandate, the reason Black Box Voting believes this bill is the enemy of
democracy is that it contains a Trojan horse. While offering citizens the
glittering promise of a paper trail, the hidden peril in the Holt Bill is that
it makes the EAC permanent and expands its powers. Thus, the Holt Bill
transfers permanent control over the administration and equipment for elections
to the federal level.
Whether or not you like the current administration, please consider this: By
making this change permanent, the Holt Bill requires us all to "trust"
forevermore that every single president will appoint four benevolent cronies to
tell you how to run your elections. The founders of this nation were thoughtful
enough to provide for long-term stability by requiring dispersal of power, and
it was their wisdom that gave power over elections administration to the
states. If the Holt Bill extension of the EAC is passed, at some point in our
future just one goofy president could install very inappropriate people to
specify how elections will be run. But the way it is now, all 50 states would
have to get goofy at once, and Black Box Voting believes thats a good, stable
safeguard. In fact, the only appropriate use of federal legislation over
elections, we believe, is in the area of protecting civil rights not federal
meddling with local mechanics and procedures.
The peril of EAC usurping state powers over elections:
"Centralized executive power"
Thank you for your patience with receiving these two faxes from Black Box
Bev Harris Director Black Box Voting
This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.
Forward Message #21499 of 21588 < Prev | Next >

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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-25-09 04:05 PM
Response to Reply #11
15. DU's statement on banning Bev Harris Dec 03, 2004
Statement on the Bev Harris situation Fri Dec-03-04 02:31 PM

Over the past two years Bev Harris has received a great deal of support from the members of Democratic Underground, in her research, publicity efforts, and fundraising. In return we have played host to an 18 month-long squabble between Ms. Harris and other verified voting activists, and have even been threatened with lawuits by Ms. Harris herself. Despite this, we have publicly remained mostly silent on the verified voting squabbles.

We believe verified voting is a topic of crucial importance, and have been uncomfortable taking sides on an issue which, frankly, we should all be on the same side of anyway. Therefore we have kept most of our correspondence with the various factions private and attempted to cool things down behind the scenes. Like all issues discussed at DU, we have tried to focus the discussion of verified voting on the topic at hand, and not on the personalities of the participants. However, in light of the recent troubles, we feel compelled to make a statement.

In 2003 Bev Harris, along with a few other verified voting activists, were banned from DU for engaging in personal squabbles on the message board after they were repeatedly instructed to stop. Around that time, Ms. Harris threatened us with a libel lawsuit, claiming that we could be held responsible for comments made by other message board members who doubted the credibility of her project. She never followed through on this threat and we never heard from her lawyers.

Ms. Harris was reinstated shortly afterwards, after agreeing to put an end to the problems that got her banned in the first place. Nonetheless, those problems periodically recurred after her reinstatement. A few weeks ago, Ms. Harris again used our website to threaten DU with lawsuits, in her postings, in private messages to other members, and in rude alerts she sent to the moderators.

We sent a message to Ms. Harris telling her to stop hassling our moderators and members, and informing her that if she had a legal concern, she needed to contact us directly. We also let her know that her continued participation on this message board was dependent upon her behavior. The legal threats stopped, but we received no response from either Ms. Harris or her lawyers.

This is our personal experience with Ms. Harris. We cannot confirm or deny the veracity of claims made by others, including many former colleagues, her former publisher, and Keith Olbermann. But we can confirm that the claims made by others about Ms. Harris are not inconsistent with our own experiences.

We have remained as patient as possible in our dealings with Ms. Harris because we believe that the topic of verified voting is a crucial one. We were prepared to sacrifice a certain amount of tranquility on the message board if verified voting was being discussed in a generally positive manner.

Ms. Harris's recent spat with Keith Olbermann has made positive discussion of verified voting increasingly difficult on DU. For over a year and a half, our members have been split into pro- and anti-Bev factions, and recent events have only exacerbated that division. Yet this morning Ms. Harris returned to DU and started posting as if nothing had happened, while making liberal use of the alert button to complain to the moderators about our enforcement of the message board rules. At this point our patience finally ran out.

The fact that the disruptions have continued, despite repeated warnings from the administrators, leaves us with no other option but to bar Bev Harris from posting on this website. We no longer believe that it is productive to allow her to use DU as a platform to promote herself while simultaneously trashing us, our moderators, and others who have been previously supportive of her cause.

We still remain firmly committed to promoting discussion of verified voting, and we wish Ms. Harris well in her efforts to shed light on this important issue. From now on, we encourage all of our members to focus on discussing the verified voting issue itself, rather than the personalities involved.


This thread will remain open until further notice. Again, we would like to remind everyone to take care to avoid personal attacks. Thank you for your continued cooperation.

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