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Holt Election Reform Bill Passes Out of Committee

Holt Election Reform Bill Passes Out of Committee, People for the American (PFAW) Still Misleading Public About It

- Advocacy Group's Press Release Disingenuously Continues to Forward Unsupportable Notion that Bill Would Have Prevented Sarasota's FL-13 Election Meltdown
- Legislation Still to Allow for Uncounted and Uncountable Electronic Ballots on Touch-Screen Voting Systems...

BLOGGED BY Brad Friedman ON 5/8/2007 5:32PM

Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR811) was successfully voted out of the U.S. House Administration Committee today after a four hour mark-up session. We'll have analysis of the bill in the coming days as we are able to review a copy of the final version which is now headed to the House floor. We have been told that electronic balloting on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems will continue to be allowed in the bill.

Apparently, a paper ballot --- one that is actually counted --- for every vote cast in America is of little interest to either the Democratic and Republican members of the committee.

See our Holt Bill Special Coverage Page at for much more information and action points concerning the bill.

First out of the box to trumpet today's "triumph", naturally, was the bill's top supporter, the public advocacy group, People for the American Way (PFAW). They had a press release good to go before the ink even dried on the dangerous new version of the bill (which, we should add, does include both some improvements to the initial version, along with several watered down provisions as we've been told...but we'll wait until we actually read it before commenting further on any of that.)

For now, however, we have little choice but to characterize the tactics used by PFAW in their press release as despicable, while they continue to knowingly mislead the American people about what the Holt bill will and won't do. (Their press release is posted in full at the end of this article.) This group knows better, and yet, they are doing it anyway.

PFAW can be reached at:
202-467-4999 or 800-326-7329
2000 M Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

We can do little else at this point other than to recommend any donors to their organization cease supporting them immediately, and otherwise let them know exactly why. Their dangerous, disingenuous support for this dangerous and disingenuous bill is counter to the best interests of Election Reform and Integrity in America. Worse still, PFAW --- who has openly lobbied in favor of the use of dangerous, disenfranchising, hackable touch-screen DRE systems, claiming they are preferable to paper-based optical-scan systems --- is willing to lie about facts in order to see the bill move forward...

Here's one example from their press release, misleadingly headlined from the start, claiming erroneously that: "Holt Bill Would Fix Voting Machine Problems before Next Presidential Election, Prevent another Sarasota"

It's the "Prevent another Sarasota" that gets our ire up the most. Given that they know damn well that what happened in Sarasota's U.S. House in Florida's 13th district between Vern Buchanan (R) and Christine Jennings (D) would not have been avoided by the bill's requirement to ensure uncounted "paper trails" on DRE touch-screen systems. Such systems disallow any human being to ever verify their vote before it is cast and counted by the voting system.

The Holt Bill disingenuously refers to those "paper trails" as "paper ballots" when both Holt himself, and certainly the PFAW bunch, know that that language in the bill is purposely misleading to members of Congress, to the media and to the public at large.

Says PFAW's Executive Director, Ralph Neas in the release, despite knowing he's misleading those who have come to trust PFAW as one of the "good guys" up until now:

“In November, 18,000 votes went missing on voting machines in Sarasota County, Florida. If voting machine problems are a sickness, the Holt bill is good medicine. We must make every effort possible to ensure that an injustice like Sarasota never happens again,” Neas said. “This bill will end paperless voting - period. It will make paper ballots the norm, and impose strict new requirements on all voting machines to ensure they are accurate, reliable, accessible and secure.

Neas well knows --- because we personally discussed it at length with him, several of his top staffers working on this matter at PFAW, and even PFAW's founder Norman Lear --- that "paper trails" on the paperless touch-screen voting machines used in the FL-13 election would likely have made no difference whatsoever in the outcome of that election!

In that election, some 18,000 voters failed to either notice and/or change their recorded "undervote" when it likely appeared in front of their very face on big touch-screen machine. And yet, virtually every computer scientist and/or voting system expert we've discussed this matter with has confirmed that having such a results subsequently printed on a tiny piece of paper would have made any difference at all in the final recorded outcome.

The only difference it would possibly have made is that Jennings' contest of the election would likely have been dismissed by now on the grounds that "those paper trails you guys insisted on, confirm that 18,000 voters decided not to vote in that race, so case dismissed!"

PFAW also knows better because they are one of four groups sponsoring the legal challenge to the FL-13 election. Another one of the groups on the legal team is, who has responsibly opposed the bill as originally written due to its allowance for the use of DRE voting systems.

The press release describes PFAW as "one of the nation’s leading advocates of federal election reform." They are indeed. Unfortunately, they are advocating for "reform" which will likely be as bad, or arguable worse, than our current dysfunctional system in a number of ways. Worse because, among other reasons, the bill institutionalizes touch-screen voting in America with a Democratic (big "D") stamp of approval.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which began all this madness, could well have been laid to blame at the feet of now-imprisoned Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, who was its lead sponsor/author in the House back then. If this bill passes the full House and then Senate and becomes known as HAVA II by the time 2008 rolls around, the Democrats will have nobody to blame but themselves. And PFAW.

One more thought: The PFAW statement also claims VoteTrustUSA as one of the supporters of the bill. That, despite repeated claims to us and others, by VT's co-founders Warren Stewart and Joan Krawitz, that they have not endorsed the bill. They have been big supporters of it, however, even while many members of their national coalition of Election Integrity groups have either opposed the bill outright or otherwise rallied against a number of the provisions in the bill --- including the allowance for the use of touch-screen DRE voting systems.

With "supporters" of election integrity the likes of PFAW and VoteTrustUSA, it's little wonder that we will continue to have electoral meltdowns such as those we saw in 2004, and week after week in 2006, for many more years to come.

That's not all the bad news out of the House Administration Commitee today, but more on that to come shortly.

PFAW's shameful press release follows in full below...

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2007

Contact: Stacey Gates or Josh Glasstetter

Effort to Ban Paperless Voting Machines Advances Out of House Administration Committee

Holt Bill Would Fix Voting Machine Problems before Next Presidential Election, Prevent another Sarasota

Voting rights advocates scored a significant victory today when legislation addressing voting machine problems advanced out of the House Committee on Administration by a 6 to 3 vote.

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 811) would ban paperless voting machines and require all voting to either be done directly on paper, or on machines that produce voter-verifiable paper ballots and meet strict security and auditability requirements. It is sponsored by Congressman Rush Holt (D-N.J.).

People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas praised today’s development and urged the Congress to quickly consider the legislation on the House floor.

“In November, 18,000 votes went missing on voting machines in Sarasota County, Florida. If voting machine problems are a sickness, the Holt bill is good medicine. We must make every effort possible to ensure that an injustice like Sarasota never happens again,” Neas said. “This bill will end paperless voting - period. It will make paper ballots the norm, and impose strict new requirements on all voting machines to ensure they are accurate, reliable, accessible and secure. We urge the full House to pass this legislation quickly, so its reforms can be implemented in time for the 2008 presidential election.”

Republican leaders in the House Committee on Administration introduced 12 amendments, including an egregious photo identification provision that would potentially disenfranchise millions of voters. All 12 amendments failed.

“What we saw at today’s mark-up was a last-ditch effort to rehash this misguided voter fraud debate that only serves to limit access to the ballot of certain communities, and does little to nothing to secure the ballot,” Neas said.

People For the American Way is one of the nation’s leading advocates of federal election reform. The organization worked with Congressman Holt’s staff as the legislation was drafted, and public policy director Tanya Clay House testified on the legislation before the House Administration Committee.

The Holt bill already has more than 200 co-sponsors in the House, and a broad array of voting rights, civil rights and progressive organizations supporting it. In addition to People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation, Holt bill supporters include Common Cause, MoveOn, SEIU, the National Education Association, the Brennan Center, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Vote Trust USA, Verified Voting, and prominent voting technology experts Avi Rubin and Ed Felten.

For more information about the Holt bill, visit Click here to see our letter to the House Administration Committee in support of H.R. 811.


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