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Rush Holt's D(NJ-12) Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility bill (H.R. 811) was postponed for markup in House Administration today.  I just got word that it will be heard again on Tuesday.  It is essential that the committee, on both sides, pass this bill so that the full House can vote on it as soon as possible.

The bill would require that electronic voting machines produce a paper record by November 2008 for every vote cast.  Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia currently use paperless voting machines. It would also require states to conduct mandatory random routine audits (a mouthful I know).  Currently, more than 75% of the voting systems in the country are unaudited, which scares the hell out of me.

This has been taking long enough.  Delay after delay in the last congress allowed tens of thousands of people to lose their votes across the country (that we know of).  I want to have as much confidence in my vote being counted as I do in my pay checks being credited to my bank account.  We all know what the problems are with the machines, we know how to fix them, when will we see action?

Originally posted to IanS on Thu May 03, 2007 at 10:09 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There are problems with that bill (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrgrsvArchitect

    I'd be interested to know who's postponed it and why.

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Thu May 03, 2007 at 10:06:24 AM PDT

    •  what are the problems you see with it? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jzaharoff, IanS

      Granted, I haven't read the bill, but based on the summary I've heard, it's a good idea. Yes, it's expensive to attach paper trails to existing systems, but I have little sympathy for the people complaining: they bought systems which were incapable of doing the job right, and if they have to pay more to fix the problems they created by choosing the wrong tool for the job, so be it.

    •  Watered down from last year, needs to be fixed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Thom K in LA, bumblebums

      The biggest single problem is a change from last year's bill.  In H.R.811, unlike in last year's H.R.550, a loophole was added.  The mandatory hand-counts of the paper ballots are not required when state law requires an audit -- which is almost always in really close races.

      This means that if the state law only requires that the machines be asked to spit out the same numbers again -- as it does in California -- then close races have no paper guarantee and can be stolen at will.

      This is a fatal defect.  It could be fixed easily with an amendment.  That's what committee time is for, so call your Congressman and ask him to fix it.

      The second biggest problem is that it allows the paper trail printouts from DREs as 'paper ballots'.  These are fundamentally defective for several reasons, most notably because if the DRE prints it wrong, even if you verify that the DRE printed it wrong, there is jack shit you can do about it because it's trapped behind glass.

      -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

      by neroden on Thu May 03, 2007 at 11:31:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you are partly wrong about the close races (0+ / 0-)

        As far as I know, "Invisible Ida's" round-up of recount laws is still pretty close to accurate. As of 2004, about 15 states required some sort of recount based on closeness of race. California wasn't among them. Maybe it is now?

        That said, I agree with your reading that HR 811 doesn't require manual audits or recounts in those 15 states. That would be Really Unfortunate in states where the recount is mandated to be by machine. This definitely ought to be fixed. (There is language that may have been intended to close this loophole, but doesn't.)

        You're also partly wrong, as far as I know, about the DRE ballots. HR 811 mandates: "The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any error made by the system in the voter-verified paper ballot before the permanent voter-verified paper ballot is preserved in accordance with subparagraph (B)(i)." A system in which you have to cast your vote before you can review the paper ballot would not be compliant. However, there are grave questions about whether voters can be induced to verify DRE "ballots" and to act if the ballots are actually incorrect.

  •  I've said before and I'll say it again.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumblebums, Gary Norton, neroden

    Paper trail from a DRE is NOT the same as a paper ballots that can be scanned or hand tallied later.

    See excerpts and links to see why this an important distinction.  
    http://www.bradblog.com/...

    That may come as a surprise to advocates of Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform bill, who have been pointing to the "Hursti Hack" as a way to suggest that op-scan tabulation is "just as bad" as Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting systems. Holt's bill (HR811) would allow for the continued use of DREs, despite the continuing warnings from computer scientists, disabilities and minority rights advocates, and the Election Integrity community that the devices should be banned.

    Hursti heartily disagrees with those Holt supporters and told us again that DREs are not safe for use in elections, with or without a so-called "voter verified paper audit trail." He's asked for us to help facilitate a meeting for him with Holt and his staff to discuss the matter, and we are attempting to do just that.

    http://www.bradblog.com/...

    John Bonifaz is a constitutional attorney, the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute and a Senior Legal Fellow of Demos' Democracy Program. He further serves as co-counsel for VoterAction.org on behalf of the voter plaintiffs in the Sarasota FL-13 case.

    Yes, the Holt bill tries to say it is requiring a paper ballot even for DREs, but, in the end, a DRE "paper ballot" is nothing more than a paper trail, which requires voters to verify their votes after they have cast them in the DRE machines. Studies show that most voters will not spend the time to verify their votes after casting them into DRE machines. Thus, the "voter-verified paper ballot" is a fiction when it comes to DREs.

    If none of this is convincing, we need to look no further than Sarasota, the current epicenter of this debate. A "voter-verified" paper ballot or paper trail in Sarasota would not have erased the problem with the 18,000 missing votes in the FL-13 congressional election. With most voters not verifying their votes, most of those missing votes would still be missing --- and with no way to recover them and derive voter intent.

    •  Absolutely. Paper read outs on touch (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Thom K in LA, PrgrsvArchitect

      screens are as useful as a rubber crutch. We need paper ballots that are hand counted or optically scanned. Period.

      •  Perfection the enemy of the good? NO (0+ / 0-)

        This bill is a huge step forward!  It does two key things: it creates a uniform national standard for a record of every vote and it mandates random routine audits which will identify basic malfunctions in the systems as well as major malfeasance or fraud.

        One more thing:

        With most voters not verifying their votes, most of those missing votes would still be missing --- and with no way to recover them and derive voter intent.

        Not so.  The effect of the bill is clear.  The ballotts from the proposed system would absolutely be available to check the actual results.

        •  No, no, no, no (0+ / 0-)

          What's wrong with Holt's Bill from VotersUnite.org
          http://www.votersunite.org/...

          There are many good provisions in the new election reform bill (HR 811 introduced by Congressman Rush Holt D-NJ), called the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007." For example, it would ban wireless communications to reduce the possibility of some types of hacking; it would prevent Diebold, Sequoia, and other voting machine companies from using secret software on the voting machines; and it would require partial hand counts to check the accuracy of the machines.
          However, the primary problem with the bill is that it allows the continued use of Direct Record Electronic (DRE), or "touch screen" voting machines, as long as they print out a copy of the electronic record of your vote for you to approve (called a "voter-verified paper audit trail" or "VVPAT"). But this "band-aid" cannot solve the systemic problems inherent to DREs. Democracy demands that DREs be banned from all American elections.

          DREs disrupt the electoral process, as they have in the still-contested Jennings/Buchanan U.S. Congressional election in Sarasota, Florida, as well as in many less publicized races across the country. If the voters had voted on paper ballots, there would be no more speculation about the 18,000 missing votes. The ballots would be available for inspection. VVPATs ("paper trails") would not have solved the problem in Sarasota. http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/...

           DREs change voters’ selections from one candidate to the opponent, with no way for the voter to know if the right candidate was ultimately recorded inside the computer’s memory.  http://www.votersunite.org/...

          DREs change voters’ selections from one candidate to the opponent, with no way for the voter to know if the right candidate was ultimately recorded inside the computer’s memory. http://www.votersunite.org/...

          A reform in our election systems is needed NOW, but the new technology proposed by Rush Holt’s HR 811 HAS NOT YET BEEN INVENTED.

          The bill, as written, would foster a fresh round of DRE development, rushed to market and certain to continue the technology's historical pattern of disenfranchising voters as well as wasting taxpayer dollars.

          Tried and true technology is available now to convert the entire country to paper ballots. New Mexico’s smooth and speedy transition from DREs to optical scan paper ballots proves it.

          •  Requiring paper records means it doesn't matter (0+ / 0-)

            whether the machine's tally is in question.  Obviously some machines/systems are better than others for different reasons.  If there is a hard-copy record of the vote which is subject to random routine audits then we will have a system that can assure voters that their vote will be counted.

            The technology does exist and the bill allows states to use widely available systems that are easy to implement.

            You need a paper record even with optical scans.  If the hardware malfunctions somehow on optical scan machines you will have the paper ballot to check the results, which again are mandated on all systems under the Holt Bill.

            Bottom line, the Holt Bill provides a system that protects votes from being ignored, discounted or manipulated and can be implemented in time for the general election.

            •  Random audit? what about a verifiable recount? (0+ / 0-)

              You need a paper record even with optical scans.  If the hardware malfunctions somehow on optical scan machines you will have the paper ballot to check the results, which again are mandated on all systems under the Holt Bill.

              No, the bill does not require a paper ballot.  Have you read any of my comments or referenced any of the links?  The paper record for an optical scan is a ballot you fill out and it is then scanned.  The original can then be hand counted.  The DRE printout is just that - a printout.  If the machine is corrupted with a virus it can produce a printout showing the vote and tally the votes in the memory differently.  

              Bottom line, the Holt Bill provides a system that protects votes from being ignored, discounted or manipulated and can be implemented in time for the general election.

              On what authority do you claim this?  Various voter rights organizations have complained that the bill is not sufficient.  How do you make a blanket statement without backing it up?  The only links you have is to the bill itself.  Back up your opinion with some facts

              •  this is one argument I don't grasp (0+ / 0-)

                Anyone can read the bill and see that it says: "The voting system shall require the use of or produce an individual voter-verified paper ballot...."

                But some people say, Well, if a DRE prints it, then it isn't a ballot. Why not? Your answer seems to be: "If the machine is corrupted with a virus it can produce a printout showing the vote and tally the votes in the memory differently." OK, and if an optical scanner is corrupted with a virus it, too, can tally the votes differently than they are recorded on the paper.

                Another argument would be that the word "ballot" should be reserved for what voters mark themselves. Shrug.

                But a DRE "ballot" can only work if voters use it, so that is a real pitfall.

        •  the issue isn't whether the paper is available (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PrgrsvArchitect

          It's what the paper means.

          As far as we know, the summary screens in Sarasota were functioning properly, so voters could have seen that they had not cast a vote in the House race. As far as we know, many of them either did not notice, or decided not to change it, or did not know how to change it.

          Creating a paper record does not affect that situation.

  •  I'd rank this as a top priority (0+ / 0-)

    but why haven't the democrats made any real progress in areas that have to do with election reform?

    Time and again they'll throw us bones and we act like the favorite dog around the kitchen table so pleased to have the taste of one morsel.

    Yet the important things that can really change the balance of power in our government are neglected.

    Real paper ballots.
    Real public campaign financing.
    Real campaign finance reform.
    Real ethics reform.

    Not Real: Democratic leadership.

    Formerly of Los Angeles, now in the FL Panhandle(Lower Alabama) I blog at ThisIsWhatDemocracyLooksLike.com

    by Thom K in LA on Thu May 03, 2007 at 01:29:13 PM PDT

  •  Update on why bill stalled today (0+ / 0-)

    Apparently there were several amendments which will be given real consideration before Tuesday.

  •  Here you go..... (0+ / 0-)

    Florida Moves to Paper Ballots!!!
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    TALLAHASSEE: In a historic vote, the Florida House today unanimously passed CS/HB 537, already passed in the Senate, that provides almost all voters paper ballots in time for the 2008 Presidential election, and bans paperless DREs outright by 2012. The bill now goes to the Governor where he’s sure to sign it since it’s his initiative.

    Counties will have the option to pitch DREs immediately and provide ballot marking devices for voters with disabilities. "FVC urges all 67 counties to convert to uniform paper ballot systems without delay and leave no voter behind voting on failed electronic voting machines," said FVC Co-Founder, Dan McCrea.

    The bill is funded with $27.9 million in HAVA funds and there’s plenty more money in that account should more be needed next year. Counties will get help from the state to purchase optical scan equipment to count the paper ballots; ballot-on-demand equipment to ease paper congestion problems in Early Voting; and ballot marking devices to serve the disabled.

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