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Urgent Plea Mailed to 50 State Governors, Sec's of State and Election Directors Signed by Broad Coalition of Election Integrity Advocacy Orgs, Congressional Members, Elections Officials, Computer Scientists, Civil Rights Attorneys and Journalists
Initial Federal Effort Calling for Back-Up Paper Ballots Now Moves to States, Citizens Asked to Join the Call!
By Brad Friedman on 10/12/2006 1:03pm PT  

An urgent letter has been sent today to the Governors, Secretaries of State and State Election Directors of all 50 states urging them to immediately create and implement plans and procedures for allowing the use of Emergency Paper Ballots at every local jurisdiction during this November's general election.

The missive, signed by a broad coalition of more than 50 Election Integrity Advocate groups, congressional members, elections officials, computer scientists, attorneys and journalists comes on the heels of Federal legislation recently introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. Those bills, which were not brought up for a vote before Congress adjourned for the Election Recess, called for funding to states who implement plans to provide Emergency Paper Ballots. The legislation was introduced in the wake of recent primary elections around the country where voters were unable to cast a vote due to failure, malfunction, or other inability of electronic voting systems.

The two-page letter [PDF] (also posted in full at the end of this article) was signed by individuals such as: Sen. Barbara Boxer, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Rush Holt, Leon County, FL Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, OH elections attorney Cliff Arnebeck and University of Iowa computer scientist Doug Jones. Organizations signed on include: Common Cause, VerifiedVoting.org, VotersUnite.org, BlackBoxVoting.org, VoterAction.org, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, MoveOn.org, TrueMajorityAction.org and many other national, state and local Election Integrity advocate groups.

"No legally registered voter should ever be told to 'come back later,' or be forced to use a provisional ballot simply because a voting system is unavailable to them at the time they are able to vote," the letter reads. "It is imperative that an ample supply of Emergency Paper Ballots be made available to account for any unforeseen circumstance."

The letter continues, "All voters must have the option to vote on an Emergency Paper Ballot if necessary and all such ballots must be counted as regular --- not provisional --- ballots."

As well, it's pointed out that some states already have certain procedures required by law to ensure that registered voters are allowed to vote, in the event that primary balloting procedures break down. Officials are urged to check those requirements and otherwise "draft, establish and publicize your own state's common-sense plans for Emergency Paper Ballots at every polling place this Nov. 7th, so that every election official, poll worker, and voter may be crystal clear on the procedures for utilizing such measures."

The movement calling on states to create Emergency Paper Ballot plans began just three weeks ago when The BRAD BLOG first called on the U.S. Congress to introduce and pass legislation in order to ensure that legally registered voters would not be turned away from the polls without being allowed to vote, as has been the case for thousands of voters in a number of states this year due to voting machines that failed to start up, were misprogrammed, failed during voting or, in some cases, hadn't been brought to polling places at all until several hours after polls were to have opened.

Many voters were either told to "come back later" or given Provisional Ballots, which are not counted as normal ballots on Election Night and frequently not counted at all.

Legislation for Emergency Ballots was introduced the following week in the U.S. Senate by Senators Boxer, Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold and Kerry. A matching House version was filed the next day by Rep. Rush Holt and co-sponsored by 28 other House members. As well, Feingold and Kerry introduced a "Sense of the Senate" resolution calling for same, but that effort was also never brought up for a vote on the floor before the recess.

The letter, drafted by this journalist along with a number of other signatories, was sent to all recipients via return-receipt requested certified mailing this morning by VelvetRevolution.us. [DISCLOSURE: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR.]

With the failure of Congress to pass such crucial legislation prior to this November's important general election, the effort now moves to the State and Local level. Organizations and individuals are called on to contact their State and Local Elections officals to assure that plans are in place to accommodate any and all unforeseen circumstances.

Alluding to Americans who have fought for and defended the right to vote in the past, and indeed to this day around the globe, the letter concludes: "Our vote is our precious franchise. We believe it is worth defending, and worth the effort to guarantee that that right remains assured and inviolate."

Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), one of the initial signatories, has created an online petition for citizens to urge their Secretaries of State and Governors to ensure such plans and procedures are created and implemented immediately. Take action by clicking here...

The open letter, sent to all State Governors, Secretaries of State and State Election Directors calling for Emergency Paper Ballot plans and procedures and signed by 55 organizations and individuals, can be downloaded here [PDF]. It also follows below in full...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Says 'We Can Do This', Thanks BRAD BLOGGERS for Taking Action!
By Brad Friedman on 9/29/2006 12:02pm PT  

We've just received the following letter from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). She was the first to answer our urgent plea last week to immediately introduce Federal legislation in Congress for Emergency Paper Ballots to be made available at polling places this November. In the letter, she requests the BRAD BLOG community send email via her PAC website to their members of Congress in order to urge them to pass this incredibly important legislation before adjourning this week.

Dear Brad & the entire BradBlog community,

I’d just like to thank all of you so much for all of your hard work in fighting for safe, secure, and reliable elections in our country.

When I saw the mess in some primary states due to touch screen voter machines, I knew I had to do something. As a result of your advocacy work on this issue for a long time now, I was motivated to get a simple, straightforward paper ballot bill out there. So thank you for being on this issue for so long and for pressing for action.

The bill I introduced on Tuesday, the "Confidence in Voting Act," would encourage local jurisdictions to make paper ballots available at every polling place to any voter who wants one. But now we’ve got to get it passed! I encourage people to join my online advocacy campaign and contact their Members of Congress, urging them to pass the "Confidence in Voting Act" before Congress adjourns this week:

http://ga4.org/campaign/...n_voting?source=bradblog

We can do this --- but we need to build grassroots support for our legislation to get it done.

Thanks to Brad --- and to all of you --- for speaking out on this issue, and for your passion in fighting for election integrity across America.

-- Barbara Boxer

The good Senator has been there for us before (you'll recall, she was the only Senator to stand up and challenge the clearly gamed 2004 Ohio Presidential Election results on Jan. 6th 2005...Back before it was fashionable to point out what virtually everyone now recogizes!) --- so let's be there for her! CLICK HERE NOW! And then pass it on! And thank you Senator!

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Donna Brazile Posts Open Letter Encouraging Citizens to Pressure Lawmakers!
(While, So Far, All Republican Congress Members Remain Apparently Uninterested in Ensuring American Citizens Can Vote This November!)
By Brad Friedman on 9/28/2006 5:05pm PT  

In her role as Chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute (VRI), Donna Brazile has issued a statement to The BRAD BLOG moments ago in support of the Congressional Emergency Paper Ballot legislation now pending in the U.S. House and Senate.

Announcing that "We still have time to address the e-voting security crisis!," Brazile writes in her "Open Letter to Supporters of Democracy of America" in support of the House (HR 6187) and Senate (S. 3943) bills introduced this week calling for Emergency Paper Ballots at the polls this November, in the light of voting system failures across the country in primaries so far this year.

She calls on citizens to "pressure...lawmakers to support legislation that would help produce a fair and transparent election." (Full letter posted at the end of this article)

The "time to address" the crisis, at least on the Federal level, is quickly drawing to a close as Congress will likely adjourn tomorrow for the Election Recess. Citizens are asked to call their legislators (House switchboard: 202-225-3121, Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121) to demand they pass this bill immediately.

Maryland's Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich recently called for a similar state measure after his state turned away thousands from the polls, or handed them provisional ballots, when electronic voting machines failed to start up during their September 12th primary election.

Brazile's call to push for the Emergency Paper Ballot legislation this afternoon is notable. She has come under fire in the past from critics in the Election Integrity Advocacy movement for failing to take a firm enough stance, in her role at the DNC VRI, to alert Americans to the potential for fraud, inaccuracy and disenfranchisement via electronic voting systems.

The DNC endorsement for the legislation by Brazile is the latest in a growing drumbeat of politicians and non-partisan Election Integrity organizations calling on supporters and members to help pass the 11th hour legislation, co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Boxer, Dodd, Feingold and Kerry and in the House by Rep. Rush Holt and several other co-sponsors.

The BRAD BLOG originally proposed this legislation early last week. As of this hour, not a single Republican in the U.S. Congress has publicly endorsed the legislation or joined as co-sponsor to help ensure that all registered American voters will actually be able to cast a vote at all this November.

The complete open letter from Brazile, issued this afternoon on behalf of the DNC's Voting Rights Insitute, follows in full...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Media Gets on Board, Dems Get on Board...So Where are the Republicans in Congress?
UPDATED WITH VIDEO LINK!
By John Gideon on 9/28/2006 8:50am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon (Augmented by Brad Friedman)

Wednesday's Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN picks up on the Emergency Paper Ballot legislation now filed in both the U.S. House and Senate.

Additionally, the story was also covered on MSNBC's Hardball yesterday (video with RFK Jr. here) and the NY Times picked it up the day before.

The Media is beginning to get it, the Democrats in Congress (those who have sponsored it, anyway) are beginning to get it. So where are the Congressional Republicans? Do they not want American citizens to be able to vote this November? We're just asking.

Said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), one of the original sponsors of the Senate legislation to Kitty Pilgrim on CNN last night: "I really have lost a lot of faith in these machines and it's expensive. Why not just go back to the simple paper ballot, at least until we're really sure that we've resolved all the problems?"

Dodd, Feingold and Kerry have now joined here on the Senate bill (S. 3943) and Holt's bill has several Democratic co-sponsors in the House (HR 6187).

The BRAD BLOG proposed the idea of Emergency Paper Ballots early last week, but the legislative session will likely adjourn this week for the Election Recess. Action is needed now in order to mitigate the possiblity of millions of Americans being disenfranchised this November. Please call and/or write your Congress Members of both parties now.

UPDATE: Video Now Available here... (Hat-tip BRAD BLOG commenter "Stop_George")

The complete text-transcript of Wednesday's segment on Lou Dobbs Tonight follows in full...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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'It's the Help America Vote Act, not the Help Diebold Profit Act,' Says Dem Nominee
State Senator Debra Bowen, Staunch Election Transparency Proponent, Issues Strong Statement on Congressional Initatives!
By Brad Friedman on 9/28/2006 8:30am PT  

The Democratic nominee for Secretary of State in California issued a powerful statement in support of recent legislation filed by several Senators and Representatives in both the U.S. House and Senate calling for Emergency Paper Ballots at the polling place this November.

The 11th hour Congressional bills, filed on Tuesday and Wednesday, just days before both chambers adjourn for the Election Recess, will offer voters the right to vote on paper ballots this year and see those costs reimbursed by the Federal Government. The legislation, if passed, is estimated to cost approximately $10 million. It would amend the disastrous 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which has mandated some $3 billion to encourage States and Counties to "upgrade" to electronic voting systems.

Monumental failures in those systems, during primary elections across the country over the last several months, have sent thousands of voters away from the polls without being able to cast any vote at all. The situation could be far worse during the general election when voter turnout will be a great deal higher than it's been so far in the mid-year primaries.

"Remember, it's the 'Help America Vote Act,' not the 'Help Diebold Profit Act,'" said Bowen, in a stinging comment referring to one of America's largest manufacturers of inaccurate, untested, hackable elecronic voting machines. "It's why this low-tech option makes so much sense, especially in light of all of the problems electronic voting machines have had in primary elections this year, not just in California, but also in Texas, Illinois, and most recently Maryland."

The BRAD BLOG originally proposed the idea for Emergency Paper Ballots early last week. The low-tech, high common-sense notion has gained considerable steam since its inception on these pages. It has now been officially introduced as legislation in Congress by Senators Boxer, Dodd, Feingold and Kerry in the Senate, and by Representative Rush Holt and several co-sponsors in the U.S. House.

Bowen's Republican opponent, Sec. of State Bruce McPherson was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has come under considerable fire for re-certifying Diebold systems in the state in light of severe warnings from his own team of scientific advisors about more than a dozen "serious vulnerabilities" in those particular voting systems.

An investigate report from BlackBoxVoting.org [PDF], a non-partisan E-voting watchdog organization, found that representative of Diebold's had actually drafted official documents on behalf of the California Secretary of State's office!

That same rep, Rob Pelletier, had previously been presenting disinformation in comments here at The BRAD BLOG under the name of "Wally O'Diebold" until he was found out.

Diebold voting systems were decertified in California by McPherson's predecessor, just prior to the 2004 election, when it was discovered the company had been installing uncertified software and systems in several counties across the state. They settled a qui tam (fraud) lawsuit with the state for $2.8 million later that year.

Though the legislation in the Congress so far has been sponsored by Democrats, the problem is a decidedly non-partisan issue. Maryland's Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich recently called for paper ballots to be used in his state this November after failures across the state disenfranchised thousands of voters during their September 12th primary. Maryland, along with Georgia, was Diebold's "showcase" state having installed their paperless electronic touch-screen systems as early as 2002 with the cooperation and ardent support of the Democratic MD Elections Director, Linda Lamone.

Citing the irony of the public outcry for a return to countable paper balloting, the failure of the U.S. Congress to take action on growing concerns, and the plunging confidence rate in electronic voting amongst the American electorate, Bowen said in her statement, "It's about time Congress provides counties with the incentive to allow their voters to cast a paper ballot at the polls on Election Day, a step that will help begin to restore voter confidence in the elections process and the results."

Bowen, in her capacity as chair of the CA State Senate Elections Commission, held hearings in Kern County, California after the state's marred June 6th primary, when voting systems failed to start up --- or sometimes even show up at the polls at all --- until hours after voting was supposed to have begun. The Kern County Registrar of Voters had, incredibly, given instructions that "back-up paper ballots were not to be used" on Election Day according to the State Senators statement.

"Kern County is the reason why I wish counties were required to provide this option to voters," Bowen remarked.

Citizens are asked to call upon Congress to pass the Emergency Paper Ballot legislation immediately. You may easily contact your Senators here, and your House Members here.

Debra Bowen's complete statement on Emergency Paper Ballots follows in full...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Another Election Integrity Organization Joins Drumbeat Hoping to Mitigate Disaster this November With Last Chance Common Sense Legislation!
By Brad Friedman on 9/28/2006 12:45am PT  

This from an email tonight from VoteTrustUSA.org email list, from their Executive Director, Joan Krawitz, urging citizens to call Congress NOW to demand passage of the Emergency Paper Ballot bills just filed in both the Senate and the House!

URGENT ACTION ALERT!
TELL CONGRESS TO PASS EMERGENCY PAPER BALLOT BILLS NOW!

...

It All Comes Down to You! Your Calls Make a Difference. Call Your Representative NOW!

A flood of phone calls from constituents could be all it will take to break the roadblock at this critical moment. Pick up the phone NOW and call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121. Tell your Representative that Congress must pass HR 6187 before they adjourn, to make sure that every vote will count when voting machines malfunction or count votes incorrectly as they have in every primary this year.

If you don't know your Representative's name, click here and enter your zip code to find out. You can also use this link to find your Representative's direct telephone number on Capitol Hill by clicking on his or her photo, which will appear once you've entered your zip code.

Then Immediately Call Both of Your Senators

As soon as you hang up with your Representative's office, call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 to speak with both of your Senators' offices. Tell them to pass S. 3943 before Congress adjourns to ensure that every vote will count in November. If you don't know both your Senators' names, click here and enter your zip code to find out. You can also use this link to find your Senator's direct telephone number on Capitol Hill by clicking on his or her photo, which will appear once you've entered your zip code.

Every moment counts, so please don't delay. Make those phone calls as if our democracy depended on it --- because that's what it comes down to today.

Joan asks that you forward this to everyone you know. We ask the same. (The URL for this item is: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3544)

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UPDATED: Complete Video Now Linked! Also, Complete Text Transcript!
By Brad Friedman on 9/27/2006 1:28pm PT  

Heard from Bobby an hour or so ago, that he's going to be on MSNBC's HARDBALL with Chris Matthews tonight at 5:10pm ET (2:10pm PT).

He'll be discussing his recent Rolling Stone piece on Diebold's duplicity in their voting systems, and our elections from 2002 on up to now. At least, that's what he's been told.

As well, we're hoping he'll put out the words calling on folks to demand that Congress pass legislation for Emergency Paper Ballots this November.

UPDATE 3:35pm PT: Full video now linked below! Kennedy spoke about how easy it now is to steal an election on an E-Voting Machine ("in just 60 seconds") as based on recent studies by Princeton, NYU's Brennan Center and the non-partisan GAO office.

He also discussed the new congressional Emergency Paper Ballot legislation, and even recommended your friendly neighborhood BRAD BLOG as a good source for information on all of the above.

Video links now below. Thanks to Bobby for the kind plug. Thanks to Chris Matthews for letting him get out a sentence or two in a row. (Thanks to HotPotatoMash for the video links!)


-- Video in Flash Format is now here...
-- Video QuickTime format is here...

UPDATE: A Complete text transcript of the interview now follows in full...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Kerry Joins Original Senate Bill as Co-Sponsor, Joins with Feingold in Filing New Senate Resolution as Well!
Feingold Says, 'Back-up Paper Ballots Essential to Preventing Disasters', Kerry Calls Situation 'Disgrace, National Scandal, Requiring Emergency Action Now'!
By Brad Friedman on 9/27/2006 1:14pm PT  

Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) has now filed a U.S. House version of the Emergency Paper Ballot legislation introduced yesterday by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) in the Senate.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) joined the Senate legislation as co-sponsors late last evening.

Additionally, Kerry and Feingold both have now co-sponsored and introduced a new "Sense of the Senate Resolution" calling on States around the country to act immediately to put back-up plans in place to have "Emergency Paper Ballots" at the polling places this November to avoid voters being turned away when voting machines fail to work. Thousands, so far this year, have been turned away in one state primary after another due to machine malfunction or unavailability.

The language in the Holt bill filed in the House late last night is identical to the bill filed by Boxer, except that it notes, explicitly, that the "contigency paper ballots" the Federal government will reimburse states for are to be counted as regular ballots --- not as provisional ballots which often go completely uncounted, and must be vetted first to determine a voter's registration status.

Feingold and Kerry issued a press release today (posted in full at the end of this article) calling on Congress to act immediately in the face of what they describe as "a national disgrace," in reference to voters being turned away at the polling place for lack of voting system on which to vote.

Holt's bill, which can be downloaded here [PDF], differs from the Senate bill by stating that jurisdictions who wish to reimbursed by the Federal government for such contingency paper ballots must treat "each such contingency paper ballot cast by a voter as a regular ballot cast in the election and counts it accordingly, and does not treat it as a provisional ballot."

Kerry and Feingold, who are now co-sponsors of the Boxer/Dodd Senate bill filed yesterday, also issued a non-binding "Sense of the Senate" resolution this morning. Pamela Leavy originally reported the news earlier today at Democratic Daily.

In a press release issued earlier along with that resolution today, Feingold said, "We cannot allow the American people to lose faith in the most fundamental aspect of our democratic system ­the right to vote."

He added, "Some of the problems we saw this year, like voters in Maryland being told to come back later because the machines weren’t working, are simply unacceptable. A back-up plan as simple as having emergency paper ballots on hand is essential to preventing election day disasters."

Kerry, who has been criticized for not taking enough action to ensure that votes were counted accurately, or at all, in Ohio after the 2004 Presidential Election, had even stronger words, calling the lack of action by Congress and the White House on these matters, "a disgrace" and a "national scandal".

"It’s a disgrace that a Congress and an Administration which talks about exporting democracy around the world ignores the challenges of our own democracy right here at home," says Kerry in this morning's news release. "We have seen American citizens disenfranchised in our elections for the simple reason that no effective back up system was in place. That’s a national scandal."

Kerry called for "emergency action" and points to the recent meltdown in Maryland's September 12th primary election, which resulted in the Republican Governor there, calling for a similar measure to scrap the machines, and allow all voters in the state to use paper ballots this November.

"[H]ere we are, 42 days away from another election," Kerry said, "and Congress has again dragged its feet even after we mobilized 35,000 citizens to demand a hearing for our Count Every Vote Act, even after what we saw just this month in Montgomery County [Maryland]. We need emergency action now. That is why I am co-sponsoring the Dodd-Boxer legislation to provide emergency paper ballots and that is why Russ Feingold and I are introducing our resolution today demanding election day back-up plans."

"We have a duty to ensure that no citizen will be denied the right to vote in 2006," Kerry concluded.

The BRAD BLOG began the call for Emergency Paper Ballot legislation just over a week ago.

The SoS Project has set up a page where citizens can contact Congress Members to demand they pass this legislation in the few days left before breaking for the Election Recess.

We urge citizens to use this link and contact Congress immediately.

The full text of the Feingold/Kerry press release follows...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Your Friendly Neighborhood BRAD BLOGGER Quoted as Part of Coverage...
[UPDATE: NYTimes Late Edition, Russ Feingold Joins as Co-Sponsor!]
By Brad Friedman on 9/26/2006 6:09pm PT  

In an article by Ian Urbina, The New York Times' now has their story up about the Senate's Emergency Paper Ballot legislation as filed earlier today by Senators Boxer and Dodd.

UPDATE: An updated version of the NYTimes article, now linked above, has added Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) as a co-sponsor of the legislation as well!

The BRAD BLOG broke the story earlier today in a bit more detail, and along with the actual bill filed. We originally called on Congress in article published here a week ago today, to introduce and pass such a bill before their Election Recess coming up at the end of this week.

Urbina offers several additional points worth checking out in his Times coverage. Including this quote from Boxer concerning her reasons for not making the paper ballot initiative mandatory, but rather allowing it to remain optional to states and local jurisdictions [emphasis ours]:

"I think Big Brother dictating something to local jurisdictions is a big mistake, because they will balk at it," she said. "What we’re saying here is that you run your own elections, and we are going to help you run it properly. If local officials don’t take advantage of the option to take precautions, then they’re the ones on the line."

...As well, "Brad Friedman, a liberal blogger" is mentioned in the Times article.

So as the good Senator B, doesn't get the idea we were dissing her bill to the NY Times (We weren't! Not by any means!) in the comments attributed to us in the piece, please us allow a clarification.

The statement they used from us, had originally preceded a full direct quote explaining that Election Directors from states like Florida had expressed concern that they might need a Federal mandate in order to take advantage of the this paper ballot legislation. State election code in Florida, we're told, does not have provisions allowing such elections officials to make paper ballots available, even if they wanted to.

In Florida's touch-screen-only counties, for example, which comprise some 50% of Sunshine State voters, even the Provisional Balloting is done electronically on touch-screen systems! Which means, as Leon County, FL Election Director Ion Sancho explained to us this morning, that without a Federal mandate, it's likely that those officials would not be able to take advantage of this legislation...even if it manages to get through the full Congress in the few days left before Congress breaks for their Election Recess.

UPDATE: Ah, proof, I'm not crazy! In this version of the Times article (how many do they release?!) there is this additional quote from yours truly:

"In the case of many states, such as Florida, there is simply nothing in the state code that allows election directors to provide emergency ballot in the event of machine failure," he said.

See? Phew...

Beyond that, given the short time left here, we're delighted to see this legislation move forward! Delighted to see the Times' coverage. And just delighted in general that someone in Washington D.C. is finally recognizing the dangers to democracy that we're facing in the upcoming mid-term election!

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Calls for 'Contingency Paper Ballots' in States, Counties this November to be Paid for by Feds!
Co-Author of HAVA is Co-Sponsor of New Bill Answering Our Call for a 'LET AMERICA VOTE ACT', Makes Paper Ballots Optional to States Rather Than Mandated...But We'll Take it! Sources Say House Bill to Follow Soon!
By Brad Friedman on 9/26/2006 12:36pm PT  

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced emergency legislation to amend the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) this afternoon to offer funding to states and counties who make 'contingency paper ballots' available to voters to be used at the voter's option instead of electronic voting systems.

The so-called contingency paper ballots are intended to be counted as normal ballots, as opposed to Provisional Ballots which must be vetted first to determine the integrity of the voter's registration. Provisional ballots are frequently counted only several days after Election Day, and often, not at all. The Senate legislation as filed, however, does not spell out the intended difference between "contingency" and "provisional" ballots specifically.

The BRAD BLOG has learned from a source currently working on similar legislation in the House, said to be filed there shortly, that the House version will include such specific language if possible to ensure such contingency ballots are counted as normal ballots on Election Night. Several Capitol Hill sources have confirmed that such legislation is currently in the works. We hope to have more details on the House version later today.

The inclusion of Dodd as a co-sponsor on the Senate legislation is no small coup, as he was one of the original co-sponsors of the HAVA legislation of 2002 which this bill would amend. Until now, he and the other bi-partisan co-sponsors of that original legislation have been reluctant to open HAVA to amendment.

The legislation, filed just after 4pm ET this afternoon, would refund state and county voting jurisdictions that offer paper ballots as an option to voters, and requires such jurisdictions post "in a conspicuous manner at the polling place, a notice stating that contingency paper ballots are available at the polling place and that a voter may request to use such a ballot at the voter's discretion."

Election integrity advocacy groups and citizens alike have been rallying members of both the U.S. House and Senate to pass such legislation since The BRAD BLOG initially called for what we had called, the "LET AMERICA VOTE ACT" last Tuesday. The act we called for would mandate emergency paper ballots at all polling places this November in light of thousands of voters having been sent away without having been able to cast a vote in primary after primary election so far this year when new electronic voting machines either malfunctioned or were otherwise unavailable.

The short Boxer/Dodd bill does not mandate the use of such ballots, but rather offers federal payment to local jurisdictions that choose to make such 'contingency paper ballots' available at either the voter's request or in the event of machine malfunction.

The bill is now being referred to informally as the "Confidence in Vote Act of 2006". It's a simple bill, three pages long in total, and is posted in full at the bottom this article. The final version of the bill to be filed momentarily (it may have already been) may be downloaded here in PDF format.

The bill introduced today is notable in no small part in that it's co-sponsored by Dodd --- one of the original co-sponsors of HAVA along with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the Senate and Reps. Bob Ney (R-OH) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in the House. HAVA was the bill which had set in motion the nationwide implementation of electronic voting systems paid for by the federal government. That bill gave states and counties some $3 billion dollars for voting systems "upgrades" around the country, and has led to a panoply of problems at polls, criticism from computer scientists, security experts and non-partisan election integrity organizations.

Dodd, and the other bi-partisan co-sponsors of HAVA, including the now-disgraced lead author Ney (R-OH), have been reluctant up until now to modify the legislation in any way, despite repeated calls from Election Integrity advocates, and a host of bills filed in both the House and Senate which have not been allowed to move forward.

The BRAD BLOG has learned that Boxer and Dodd chose to make the use of "contingency paper ballots" an option to states, rather than a mandate, in hopes that it would make the bill less contentious and easier to pass in the few days left in this legislative session before the election recess.

Both touch-screen DRE's and paper based optical scan systems have spectacularly failed across the country so far this year as well, and contingency plans have been called from both Republicans and Democrats alike to have such contingency plans in place at local jurisdictions should such machines continue to fail this November.

The downside to offering these paper ballots as an option, instead of a mandate, is that some states --- such as Florida --- have provisions in place making it essentially illegal for elections directors to offer such paper ballots at the polling place. For those states, it may well be that only a federal mandate would do the job of ensuring that voters would be able to vote come hell or highwater this November.

The legendary Leon County, FL Election Director Ion Sancho had previously expressed hopes that such a bill would make it "illegal to send a properly registered voter away from the polls without allowing them to cast a vote."

The latest state to have had machine problems in their primary election, resulting in voters being turned away from the polls, or being given Provisional Ballots (which are frequently not counted at all after Election Day) was Maryland. The Republican Governor of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich, called for scrapping the state's Diebold paperless touch-screen voting systems after their September 12th primary, calling on the state to impliment Emergency Paper Balloting this November. Incidents similar to the now-infamous "Maryland Meltdown" have been occuring across the country all year in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and many others.

The Boxer/Dodd legislation cites a recent call from former Republican Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Democratic Governor Richard Celeste to have such "backup and contingency plans that anticipate a wide range of possible failures in their electronic voting systems" this November.

With just 4, or so, legislative days left in this Congress before they break for their Election Recess, it'll be no easy feat to see the bill passed by both the House and Senate before they leave. But given the stakes, and the bi-partisan call across the country for such a measure, we hope the Congress can act with the speed appropriate for a bill so important to, at least, helping to mitigate the train wreck that our democracy may be headed for this November 7th.

The BRAD BLOG would urge you to contact your Congress Members to demand they support this legislation immediately. You can send a message to your Congress Members here asking them to pass this legislation now!

You may otherwise contact local media to write in support of it, or ask to ask them to cover it, via this link.

UPDATE 6:17pm PT: New York Times coverage now linked here...

UPDATE 11:12pm PT: Late, final edition of the Times now lists Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) as a co-sponsor of the legislation as well!

The complete text of the Boxer/Dodd legislation as filed this afternoon, follows in full...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Blog Statement by V.P. Barbara Burt Refers to our 'LET AMERICA VOTE ACT' Legislation as 'The LEAVE NO VOTER BEHIND Act'
Contact Congress (Who We Hear May be About to Act!) Now!
By Brad Friedman on 9/25/2006 3:56pm PT  

Barbara Burt, the Vice-President and Director of Election Reform at the non-partisan Common Cause, has posted a statement this morning on the organization's blog in support of the 'LET AMERICA VOTE ACT' (Emergency Paper Ballot legislation) that we proposed last week as an emergency measure that Congress could pass in their few legislative days left before the election recess.

The idea is to ensure that registered voters who bother to show up to the polls this November could at least cast their vote --- even if the voting machines are malfunctioning or unavailable, as has been the case in primary after primary election so far this year.

The measure should make it illegal to turn away a properly registered voter without allowing them to cast a vote. Giving them a Provisional Ballot is not an alternative, since those ballots are often not counted at all.

As Burt writes in her blog item in support of the initiative:

This is an initiative that would ensure that every precinct stock paper ballots for use in an emergency or, possibly, in case voters demand to vote on paper. It would be ideal to get this passed through Congress before the election, but Congress is leaving Washington at the end of this week. So chances of passage are slim (although they are capable of fast action on ocassion).

She also reports that the legendary Leon County, FL election director, Ion Sancho, "one of the voices of reason in the world of election officials...said that it should be illegal for a polling place to turn away any eligible voters without allowing them the opportunity to vote."

Common Cause joins election watchdog groups such as VotersUnite.org and VelvetRevolution.us in publicly calling for this common sense legislation.

As of this morning, we're hearing a number of hopeful reports about a number of legislators on Capitol Hill who are considering bringing this legislation forward soon. It would be similar to the emergency measure called for by Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich in Maryland recently, after his state's primary election was an utter disaster in the face of voting machines that couldn't be started up until hours after the polls had already opened.

The SoS Project has created a page where you can contact your congress members to urge them to pass this legislation with Terri Schiavo-like speed!

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UPDATE: Story Hints 'LET AMERICA VOTE ACT' Being 'Considered on the Federal Level'!
PLUS: Vermont's Sec. of State Makes Jerk of Herself...
By Brad Friedman on 9/23/2006 1:16pm PT  

New York Times set to report elections officials are getting "cold feet" about electronic voting. Gosh, what to 'em so long? (both the elections officials and NYTimes!)

From RAW STORY right now...

Electronic voting machines are making many election officials wary, according to an article slated for the front page of Sunday's edition of The New York Times, RAW STORY has learned.

"A growing number of state and local officials are getting cold feet about electronic voting technology, and many are making last-minute efforts to limit or reverse the rollout of new machines in the November elections," reports Ian Urbina.
...
"Paperless touch-screen machines have been the biggest source of consternation, and with about 40 percent of registered voters nationally expected to cast their ballots on these machines in the midterm elections, many local officials fear that the lack of a paper trail will leave no way to verify votes in case of fraud or computer failure," reports the Times.
...
"Less than two months before voters head to the polls, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland this week became the most recent official to raise concerns publicly. Ehrlich, a Republican, said he lacked confidence in the state's new $106 million electronic voting system and suggested a return to paper ballots."
...
"But some election officials and voting experts say they fear that the new technology may have only swapped old problems for newer, more complicated ones. Their concerns became more urgent after widespread problems with the new technology were reported this year in primaries in Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and elsewhere."

Nice going waiting until it's pretty much too late to do a damned thing about it. NY Times has, once again, failed the American people. Jerks.

(Though there's still time to demand Congress mandate Emergency Paper Ballots!)

The full NYTimes story is now here.

UPDATE: Now that I've read the full story, it looks like the following graf refers to the buzz we've help generate on Capitol Hill for our proposed LET AMERICA VOTE ACT (Emergency Paper Ballot legislation)...[emphasis added]

In Pennsylvania, a state senator introduced a bill last week that would require every precinct to provide voters with the option to use paper ballots, which would involve printing extra absentee ballots and having them on site. A similar measure is being considered on the federal level.

Also worthy of condemnation is Vermont's Democratic Sec. of State Deborah Markowitz, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) who seems to be continuing the disingenously positive spin of too many state elections officials of late...

Deborah L. Markowitz, the Vermont secretary of state and the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, said that while there might be some problems in November, she expected them to be limited and isolated.

“The real story of the recent primary races was how few problems there were, considering how new this technology is,” said Ms. Markowitz, a Democrat. “The failures we did see, like in Maryland, Ohio and Missouri, were small and most often from poll workers not being prepared.”

Though we like to encourage folks to be poll workers, we might recommend that those in Vermont simply stay home this year. Your Secretary of State, who is clearly not prepared to do her job, thinks it's all your fault! So why bother? Take the day off!

CORRECTION: We had originally reported Markowitz as being a member of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the group given the responsibility of certifying (and so far, rubber stamping on behalf of the voting machine companies) electronic voting machines at the federal level. Markowitz is President of NASS, not NASED. We regret the error.

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Demand Emergency Paper Ballots at the Polls This November!
By Brad Friedman on 9/22/2006 1:14pm PT  

The good folks over at the Secretary of State Project have endorsed the "LET AMERICA VOTE ACT" (Emergency Paper Ballots this November) legislation and have created an easy web page where you can fill in your name and address, which will then send Email to Congress Members asking them to immediately propose and pass this important legislation!

If you only fill out one such online letter writing campaign between now and November 7th, please make it this one! Click here right now to send your letter!

It'll take you 30 seconds, and it could be the difference between a mitigated success (where people are actually able to cast their vote!) and a complete disaster at the polls this November 7th! Click it, and then send that link everywhere!

We've got no more than 5 legislative days left before this Congress breaks for the Election Recess. So if 6 or 7 of you can act now, it may make the difference! My original proposal for the LAVA legislation is right here.

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Endorses LET AMERICA VOTE ACT!
Election Integrity Org Says 'It's Unacceptable to Turn Away Legal Voters Because Voting Machines Aren't Working'
By Brad Friedman on 9/22/2006 12:26pm PT  

VotersUnite.org, an election integrity watchdog group led by Executive Director John Gideon (who is also the Information Manager of VoteTrustUSA.org and a frequent Guest Blogging contributor here at The BRAD BLOG) has issued a statement this morning in support of our demand that Congress immediately pass Emergency Paper Ballot legislation.

Our original proposal for the "LET AMERICA VOTE ACT" is posted here.

The complete news release from VotersUnite has been released to the wires, and is posted online here. The pertinent information from that release follows...

For Immediate Release:

This primary election season has provided evidence that computerized voting systems are not ready for use in our elections. Election melt-downs in states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and last week in Maryland prove that emergency steps must be taken for the November election. When poll site voting machines fail there must be a viable option that will allow every legal voter to vote.

"It is unacceptable to turn legal voters away from the polls just because the voting machines are not set-up, not set-up correctly, or not working at all. It is also not alright to use provisional ballots instead of a 'real' ballot that will be counted just the same as an electronic ballot cast on a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine. Emergency paper ballots must be in place in every polling place in the nation that uses DRE or touch-screen voting machines and those ballots must be used in the case of voting systems failure", said John Gideon, Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org.

VotersUnite.Org fully supports the implementation of the "Let America Vote Act" as presented at http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3502 and calls on Congressional leaders to do all they can to get this legislation through Congress and to the President for signature prior to Congress going on recess.

VotersUnite.Org is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that provides well-sourced information to those interested in voting machine issues.

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By Brad Friedman on 9/21/2006 2:21pm PT  

Much happening at the moment. Hopefully details to come later today/tonight.

For the moment, I'll point you to Kathy Gill's coverage at About.com of my proposal for the "LET AMERICA VOTE ACT" (LAVA), a call for a federal Emergency Paper Ballots mandate at all polling places this November. I originally proposed the idea, asking Congress to pass this measure immediately here. A follow-up, including suggested legislative language for the very simple act was posted here yesterday.

The LAVA legislation seems to be generating quite a bit of buzz right now in certain sectors on Capitol Hill. Hope to have more details for you later. But with just about 5 legislative days left before the pre-election recess, please continue to make noise about it, contact your Congress members and let's save whatever we can this November!

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