What would you say if a bill that had attracted a majority of House members as cosponsors was prevented from reaching the floor? Doesn't sound very democratic, does it? But that's just what happened to the election integrity bill (H.R. 550 in the 109th Congress, successor to H.R. 2239 in the 108th Congress) proposed by Rep. Rush Holt (D, NJ-12). Both 550 and 2239 were bottled up in the Committee on House Administration by the Republican chairs, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio (now in jail for conspiracy as a result of the Abramoff scandal), and then Rep. Vernon Ehlers of Michigan. However, as Barbara Boxer said, "elections have consequences" and Holt's H.R. 811-110 finally hit the floor last week. In a comment, Nathaniel Ament Stone said here yesterday that the bill has been scheduled for debate
today soon. This is very big news.
H.R. 811 has attracted a "pro", a "pro-but-amend", and a "con" group. I've done my best to collect the arguments on the dKosopedia H.R. 811-110 page. Everyone loves the fact that H.R. 811 promotes paper ballots and audits. Some
are were worried by the fact that it makes the original version of the bill made the President-appointed Election Assistance Commission permanent, others wish that its audit requirements were stronger, and still others wish that it moved farther toward hand-marked hand-counted paper ballots. Those worries have led some to propose that the bill be amended, while others want it to be scrapped.
There are several strategic questions involved:
(1) Is it possible that even though the bill explicitly is meant to act as a floor, not a ceiling, for election integrity, in practice its passage will remove the impetus for stronger bills?
(2) Could the possibility that the bill will override stronger state election integrity legislation outweigh its positive effect on states where election integrity is weak?
I personally am a pro-but-amend fan of H.R. 811. But I urge everyone to read the discussion at H.R. 811-110 and leave your comments here. Also, if anyone is actually able to watch the debate, I would love it if you could blog your reactions here.
If you're interested in election integrity questions, consider joining the Yahoo! election integrity and reform listserv. There are many more listservs as well, but this one has a special emphasis on Daily Kos diaries.
Please also visit the dKosopedia Voting Rights page for an overview of election integrity issues. That page contains a box that lets you see all diaries with an "election integrity" or "voting rights" tag.
The dKosopedia Election integrity timeline also gives you a quick view of what's going on, and what has been going on for the last few years.
See also my diary A Tour Through the Election Integrity Landscape (Part 1). Sorry, no Part 2 yet, but I'm hoping that when I write it, it will have positive news to report.
Update [2007-5-18 11:12:13 by AlanF]: See clammyc's recommended diary for a reminder of why we need to address election integrity in the first place.
Update [2007-5-18 14:22:15 by AlanF]:: I really like VotersUnite's "Essential Revisions", which I found via smkngman's comment. So I think a succinct description of my position is "pro-amend, with the amendments favored by VotersUnite". Thanks to smkngman for the link, and to zappini for his comment in that direction. When I contact my rep, I'll send him a link to the VotersUnite revision page.