Guest Blogged by Rebecca Mercuri
(NOTE: The archived appearance of Dr. Mercuri on the Peter B. Collins show, as Guest Hosted by Brad Friedman, discussing this article and other matters surrounding Holt's Election Reform bill is now available here....)
Anyone who has been anywhere in the blogosphere in the months since Rush Holt's HR 811 Election Reform bill was introduced knows that a schism appears to have developed in the voting advocacy community. I say "appears" because it's not terribly clear to me at this point whether this schism existed all along and now the fires are being stoked by rogue insiders in order to fuel a "divide and conquer" effort that benefits voting system vendors who can rise like Phoenixes out of the ashes of the activists, or whether Congressman Holt's bill is a litmus test being used to decide who'll continue to get a seat at the table (to testify at hearings) and a chunk of the grant money and other set-asides for election "research" projects. Maybe both of these actions (and others) are in play.
This has been reminding me a lot lately of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, riding on the hippie bus to the 1964 New York World's Fair. Tom Wolfe quoted Kesey saying: "There are going to be times when we can't wait for somebody. Now, you're either on the bus or off the bus. If you're on the bus, and you get left behind, then you'll find it again. If you're off the bus in the first place --- then it won't make a damn." Wolfe went on to explain "And nobody had to have it spelled out for them. Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: You're either on the bus ... or off the bus."
That dividing line between where the bus ends and the rest of the world begins, right where Wolfe was sitting, is the only place to get some decent perspective on the whole situation. So I'm perched at that vantage point, and inside the voting bus I'm seeing Brad Friedman, Bev Harris, Lynn Landes, Rob Kall, Teresa Hommel, Ellen Theisen, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast, Ion Sancho, Doug Kelner, David Chaum, and Dennis Kucinich all arguing about something, but the vibe is upbeat. And outside the bus there's Doug Lewis, Wally O'Dell, Tom Wilkey, Theresa LePore, Linda Lamone, Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Hans von Spakovsky, Jim Dickson, and Matt Damschroeder just milling around. These are not comprehensive lists (since I'm somewhat myopic and have never been very good with names or faces), and I'm certainly not saying that any of these folks have affiliations with each other, though maybe some do.
What's bugging me is that I can't tell whether Rush Holt and HR 811 are on the bus, or not, right now. Though the bill's predecessor versions (from the prior two Congresses) seemed to be on the bus, none of Holt's bills have ever made it totally clear that the voter verified papers would actually be the real ballots, by ensuring that 100% of them would be counted (preferably by hand, in public, and before the election night returns are reported).
The folks who are truly on the bus all seem to grasp this reality. Holt's latest bill, especially the revised version, comes with Avi Rubin, David Dill, Barbara Simons, and maybe even Ron Rivest, each of whom have wandered on and off the bus before. Plus now there's the Microsoft attorneys too, and Holt's backyard buddy Avante, who hopped on when the bus passed through their adjacent parking lots (see photo below).