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Support & Opposition For Election Reform Bills

RE: Who Is Supporting and Who Is Opposing Current Election Reform Legislation?

by Kathy Dopp
National Election Data Archive
Monday, March 26, 2007

Will Congress pass election reform legislation by early 2007 in time to be in effect by the 2008 general election? Will The U.S. Congress Pass Any Election Reform Legislation?

Election reform bills have been proposed by U.S. Congressman Rush Holt and Senator Bill Nelson (HR 811 & S559) and by Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Senator Hillary Clinton (HR1381 & S804). These bills all require improvements to voting technology; strengthen the roll of the US Election Assistance Commission; and require the same election audit protocols.

Who is FOR these election reform bills?

The same organizations which pushed through the Help America Vote Act in 2002 also support the Holt and Nelson bills. Common Cause, MoveOn, and People for the American Way (PFAW); plus a new group called VoteTrustUSA [1] , and a few computer scientists such as Ed Felten of Princeton University, and Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University publicly support the Holt and Nelson proposals. The ACLU supports the Clinton and Tubb-Jones bills.

The opponents of current Congressional election reform proposals include strange bedfellows: election integrity activists, election officials, and voting system vendors.

According to Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections, "Congress got it wrong when it passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 and there is a high probability that HR 811 in its current form could create another form of expensive mischief that could interfere with efficient administration of elections." [2]

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) wrote a joint letter on March 19, 2007 urging members of Congress “to oppose H.R.811, S.559 or other legislation that would require dramatic changes in state and local election laws”. [3]

Doug Lewis, Founder and Executive Director of the Election Center, opposes having elections subjected to independent manual audits. Lewis told Congress that “Humans count large numbers of ballots less accurately than voting equipment” because “their minds wander” and if outside agencies conducted audits that would “turn the process of live ballots over to people who … will be handling the ballots without the training of what to look for or what to do if there are problems with the ballots.” and “there is unlikely to be sufficient time with the audit process specified in HR811.” [4]

Is Lewis right? Should we trust his representation of election officials? Not according to Engineer Charles Corry, former member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) voting system guidelines committee. [5] According to its web site, The Election Center brings local election administrators together with suppliers of election products and services and conducts training and certification programs for election administrators and vendors. The Election Center served as an incubator for the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) until 1989. In fact, Lewis is a former director of the Voting Systems Program for NASED; and set up a lobbying meeting in 2003 to help voting machine vendors convince the public to accept their products. [6] Other co-founders or board members of The Election Center include:

* Thomas Wilkey, Executive Director of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) since 2005 and a former chair of the NASED Voting Standards Board, a past-president of the NASED and past chair of NASED’s ITA Committee; and

* Donetta Davidson, Chair of the EAC served with Wilkey and Lewis on the board of The Election Center and also was on NASED's Voting Standards Board while Wilkey was the Chair.

Davidson, Wilkey, and Lewis were largely responsible for the control, selection and oversight of the voting machine test labs and the certification of voting machines, most of which were not secure and not independently auditable. [7] Even after the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as technical advisor to the EAC, reported that "the DRE provides no independent capability to detect whether fraud has not caused errors in the records. In principle, a single clever, dishonest programmer in a voting machine company could rig an entire statewide election" and said that the NIST research staff "do not know how to write testable requirements to satisfy that the software in a DRE is correct”; and the Carter-Baker Commission, the US Government Accountability Office and the League of Women Voters recommended auditing election results, Davidson, Wilkey, and Lewis continued to oppose independent audits of election results.

Many groups of long-time election integrity activists also publicly oppose provisions in the Clinton and Holt bills and have written extensively of the flaws of these election reform bills that need to be fixed.

Kathy Dopp of the National Election Data Archive showed that the proposed election audits would result in low minimum 10% success rate for detecting vote miscount that could alter an election outcome despite the fact that the election audit costs of these bills is from 50% to 95% more than an election audit that is 99% effective. [8]

Nancy Tobi of Democracy for New Hampshire and Ellen Theisen of Voters Unite showed that the US Election Assistance Commission had not accomplished any of its functions and that it would be dangerous to our form of government to cede so much power over elections to the federal executive branch, let alone give it more authority like the Holt and Clinton bills do. [9]

Computer technicians and computer scientists wrote papers showing that the time frames that these election reform bills require for developing and implementing new requirements for voting equipment [10] are unreasonable, and would be virtually unenforceable and could cause a repeat of the HAVA-like buying cycle of voting equipment prior to the establishement of standards and proper certification and enforcement procedures. [11]

Black Box Voting’s Bev Harris, Blogger Brad Friedman, Dopp, Tobi, John Gideon of Voters Unite, Bruce O’Dell of the National Election Defense Alliance, and many others wrote lists of reasons why these election reform bills would not work as written. [12]

In sum, the Holt, Clinton, Nelson, and Tubbs-Jones bills face substantial opposition and seem unlikely to pass in the Senate.

An upcoming sequel to this article will present an alternative proposal for election reform legislation that was written over many months by election activists, computer scientists, and election officials, that recommends splitting election integrity legislation into several bills that each address fewer topics; requires sufficient citizen oversight; allows reasonable time frames for implementing secure, publicly disclosed election technology for voters with disabilities and alternate language requirements; does not reauthorize the U.S. E.A.C.; bans practices which disenfranchise voters; and requires sufficient manual audits to ensure the accuracy of all federal election outcomes by 2008; where the best measures in the Holt and Clinton bills would be split into sections and redrafted into new, more practically achievable bills. Any help that you can be in getting this legislation sponsored would be greatly appreciated.

[1] Warren Stewart of VoteTrustUSA testimony on election reform before the House Admin Committee:

[2] Doug Kellner, NYS Board of Elections Co-Chair’ comments:

[3] Joint letter of National Association of Counties and National Conference of State Legislatures

[4] Testimony of Doug Lewis before the Election Reform Hearing of the House Administration Committee HouseAdminElectionTestimony2007/HouseAdminTestimony-DLewis-3-20-2007.pdf

[5] Trust our Officials?” Dr. Charles Corry’s bibliography on “Questionable (and crooked) Election Officials” Dr. Corry is an engineer and former Marine corporal.

[6] In 2003 Doug Lewis set up meetings with the lobbying firm, Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) to help Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S and other voting machine vendors. See

[7] In fact all three have opposed requirements which would make voting machines independently auditable.

[8] “Fool Me Once: Checking Vote Count Integrity” and “Federal Audit Election Audit Costs”

[9] DeForest Soaries says that “EAC and Federal efforts for election reform 'A Charade,' 'Travesty'!

"Why not Re-Authorize the EAC"

"The US Election Assistance Commission Has Not Done its Job"

[10] for voters with disabilities and for publicly disclosed software

[11] “Avoid Another HAVA Train Wreck: Software Disclosure Requirements are a Good Long Term Goal but Need to Be Redrafted in Current Federal Election Integrity Legislation.”

David Wagner, computer scientist’s testimony on election reform before the House Admin committee:
Refer also to endnote xiii.

[12] “Critical changes are needed to Holt’s HR811”

“Holt's HR 811, A Deceptive Boondoggle -- 10 Blunders to Fix” by Bruce O’Dell

“What's Wrong with Holt II (HR 811)” by Bev Harris of Black Box Voting

“Summary of E-Voting as a Ponzy Scheme” by Nancy Tobi of Democracy for New Hampshire or

“New Version of Holt Bill: A Giant Step Backwards” by Nancy Tobi of Democracy for New Hampshire

Brad Friedman says he would support HR811 if it would ban DRE electronic ballot voting systems.

“Essential Revisions to HR811”,

HR811 Review by Marian Beddill


Kathy Dopp
National Election Data Archive
Dedicated to Accurately Counting Elections

© Scoop Media

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