Rebuttal To Dill Support of the HR811 Trojan Horse
Rebuttal to Dill's Support of the HR 811 Trojan Horse
By Nancy Tobi
OpEd News & Truthout.org
Friday 27 April 2007
Dr. David Dill, long time proponent of the concept of "verified voting" (voters get to proofread computer printouts of their voting intention), recently posted an oped in support of the Holt Bill (HR 811).
However, Dr. Dill's arguments in support of HR 811 fall apart from the moment he promotes an "it's this or nothing" position. Every argument he makes in support of the bill is easily deconstructed when we remember we are fighting for our American democracy and not the right for corporate technologists, computer expert elitists, and bureaucrats to run our elections.
A very bright voting rights activist in California stated to me the other night, "we did away with the literacy test as a right to vote a long time ago!"
And we will fight just as hard to do away with the computer literacy test embedded in our current technoelection nightmare, embraced and supported by HR 811.
When I attended last month's meeting of the Standards Board, the saddest story I heard was from the Secretary of State of a midwest state, who told me:
"We have a law on our books that says, if for some reason, none of the election officials show up on election day to the polls, the citizens who show up first are required to run our elections. (The show must go on!) The legislature is looking to eliminate that law because our elections have become so complex that ordinary citizens can't run them."
Think about this. What the heck is going on here? Is America a democracy, technocracy, or just a corporatacracy now? Let's focus, people. Let's remember what we are fighting for.
"There are two provisions in HR 811 that are especially vital for restoring trust in American elections: A nationwide requirement for voter-verified paper records, and stringent random manual counts of those records, to make sure they agree with the announced vote totals."
Dill is correct in that we need to have auditable paper in our elections. He is incorrect in stating we need to have paper "records" (as opposed to ballots), but at least he is honest enough to make the differentiation. The Holt Bill itself disingenuously refers to "paper ballots" throughout the bill, even while referring only to paper printouts generated by a computerized voting machine.
But I believe that if Holt had produced an ingenuous "paper trail" bill with only the two items Dill mentions above, it is highly unlikely the bill would be receiving such a wide swath of broad based opposition.
(And it should be noted here that the bill is opposed by a strange group of often oppositional bedfellows: the voting industry, the National Association of Secretaries of States, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties, The Election Center, the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, and election integrity activist organizations and individuals nationwide.)
It is doubtful that, had the bill only contained the two items Dill points to, it would be receiving such strong opposition even from those citizens Dr. Dill claims have a "hidden agenda" for hand counting.
I will not belabor the particular issue of hand counting that he raises - in somewhat of a sidelong manner - in his piece, but it is worth rebutting his positioning of it.
Those patriotic Americans who support hand counted paper ballot elections, of which I include myself, support hand count elections because we have spent considerable time over the past several years analyzing requirements - not for TECHNOLOGOLICAL elections - but for DEMOCRATIC elections.
After several years of rigorous debate, dialog, dissent, and discussion, after years of this evolutionary thought by patriotic American citizens, we have arrived at the simple conclusion that democratic elections require citizen oversight of the entire voting process, and that this is impossible when computers - with their processes invisible to the human eye - are involved. In other words, we have come right back to what the founders of our nation and the framers of our early state constitutions understood full well, which is why both the Massachusetts and New Hampshire constitutions state that our votes must be "sorted and counted" in "open meeting".
This raises doubt as well on optical scanners, which, as Dr. Dill full well knows, have been the perpetrators of at least as much electoral crime, fraud, and failure as the touch screens he derides in his piece.
And while it is true that much of the country has forgotten the lost art of hand counting paper ballots, New Hampshire, with its complex ballots and large jurisdictions (still hand counting up to 3-4-5 times the national average of ballots processed in any given polling place) has proven that the transparent and democratic method of administering hand count paper ballot elections is not only do-able, but is recommended for those truly wishing to create and support community-based, representative democracy and democratic elections.
As opposed to the impossibly complex recommendations coming out of Holt's office and supported by others - with their own private techno-election agendas - who are pushing for more investment into privatized, corporately owned, high tech voting systems, hand count proponents are supporting transparency and public ownership in the entire voting process, which any logical, thinking, patriotic American should agree is a prerequisite for sustaining our democracy.
Be this as it may, had Holt's office put forward a simple bill to mandate paper trails and audits, and if he had kept the bill's language simple enough to identify these as the criteria but to honor state plan processes in enacting the mandates, this bill would likely have received wide scale support even from hand count proponents.
In fact, I will make a public proclamation right here and now, that should Congress amend the Holt Bill in this specific manner I will muster every resource I have at my personal disposal to ensure passage of the bill.
Instead, Holt's office put before us a highly complex, 50+
page bill that contains many unacceptable items. I will
focus only on two of the unacceptable items in HR 811:
1. huge unfunded mandates, and
2. making permanent the Election Assistance Commission, an executive commission of four White House appointees - the Commissioners of the Count - who have absolute power and de facto regulatory control over the entire voting technology industry.
Making permanent the EAC, as Holt proposes in his bill, is not, as Dill states, giving the EAC "minimal responsibilities".
By making them permanent, HR 811 is cementing a complete restructuring of the balance of power in our system of government, shifting power over our national election systems from the states, and in times of distress, Congress (a representative body) to the Executive Branch.
The cost of these two items alone is too much to bear for the promised Trojan horse of a paper trail.
The cost of shifting vote counting control to the White House is incalculable, but suffice to say that centralized control of the vote is what kept Stalin and Sadaam in power, and certainly was the trigger for our own American Revolution and Declaration of Independence.
Additionally, the fiscal recklessness and irresponsibility of this bill is staggering.
Let's just look at its mandate for an entirely new text conversion technology for every polling jurisdiction in the nation. This cost could easily arrive at the multibillions.
And this is not even addressing the bill's requirement for two entirely new state functions, those being state audit and certification offices. For states not currently structured with these functions, this is another continuous multimillion dollar unfunded mandate for staffing and operational costs of two new state functions.
The truth is this: we are by no means facing Dill's "choice between HR 811 or continuation of our current "Kafka-esque" paperless system ."
We are facing a pivotal moment in our history, where we can choose to throw away the American dream or embrace it.
We can choose honest debate or power positioning propaganda.
We can choose to call this bill for what it is: a Trojan Horse containing gifts for all kinds of private interests with hidden agendas, or we can continue to falsely market it as a "paper trail" bill.
We can choose to focus on defining and fulfilling THE single hard benchmark appropriate for any electoral reform:
Does It Support Citizen Oversight of Our Publicly Owned Elections?
Or we can continue to play the game that says we shut our eyes to the private interests working with Congress to promote technoelections for the nation at the cost of our democracy.
As I stated earlier, a very wise activist from California phoned me the other day and said to me, "we did away with literacy tests for voting a long time ago."
So I'd like to know: who is Rush Holt, the US Congress, the EAC, ACCURATE, Verified Voting, or anyone else to tell the American people that we now all need not just literacy, but computer literacy, in order to participate and engage in our own democratic processes?
Enough is enough. It is time for a return to the ideals and dreams of our visionary revolutionary founders. It is time to remember what this is about: protecting and preserving our American democratic Republic.
Nancy Tobi is the author of numerous articles on election
integrity, including "The Gifts of HAVA: Time to Ask for a
Refund," "What's Wrong With the Holt Bill," and "We're
Counting the Votes: An Election Preparedness Kit." She is
Legislative Coordinator of Election Defense Alliance,
co-founder of Democracy for New Hampshire and Chair of the
New Hampshire Fair Elections Committee. Her writings may be
found at www.electiondefensealliance.org and www.democracyfornewhampshire.com.