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A Leading Election Integrity Advocate Speaks Out Against 7 Serious Failures in the Latest Holt Election Reform Bill ...
By Ellen Theisen on 6/10/2007 9:22pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ellen Theisen, Co-Director of VotersUnite.Org

(This is the first of a two-part series. Tomorrow: An excerpt from the author's companion article, “Senator Feinstein’s Election Reform Bill: A Constitutional Heresy,” describing even graver concerns about S. 1487, a bill recently introduced in the Senate.)

In September of 2003, when I was working with VerifiedVoting, Greg Dinger, Keone Kealoha, and I coordinated the first national activist effort in the current grassroots election integrity movement. We had a calling campaign to get more co-sponsors for Representative Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) election reform bill, then called HR 2239. In two months, the number of co-sponsors more than doubled — from 29 to 61. After the disastrous November 2003 Fairfax, Virginia, election, we rejoiced when Republican Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) signed on and the bill became bipartisan. By the end of 2003, there were 94 co-sponsors.

But Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) was chairman of the House Administration Committee, and the bill never even got a hearing. Nor did Holt’s subsequent version of the bill in the 109th Congress, HR 550. But this year’s bill in the 110th, HR 811, has been marked up in committee and is expected to soon come to the House floor for a vote. This should be a time for celebration for me, but it’s not.

After more than three years of supporting election reform bills introduced by Representative Rush Holt, I am saddened to see the many severe flaws in the version of HR 811 as it was passed out of committee last month. This year’s bill had serious flaws when it was introduced in January. Primarily, it failed to accommodate a nearly unanimous agreement among citizen activists and computer scientists who have watched election disasters over the past three years — the agreement that electronic voting machines (DREs) should not be used in U.S. elections. I worked with many people to try to get an amendment requiring a paper ballot, one that was actually to be counted, for every vote cast. To my mind, that one significant improvement would have been worth tolerating the other flaws.

But the bill that was passed out of committee still allows for invisible, unverifiable, electronic ballots on DRE touch-screens as the official ballot for the all-important initial count where electronic voting systems are used. Adding a "paper trail" to those machines makes no real difference. Voters still can’t verify the electrical charges that make up the ballots that are counted on Election Night by the DRE.

In addition to other flaws that remained in the bill as it came out of committee, some changes removed valuable safeguards from the bill, and other changes introduced new problems. (Both versions of the bill can be viewed by inputting "HR 811" at the government's legislation search engine, Thomas.gov. The complete text of the current version is here. )

In my opinion, HR 811 will cause more problems than it will solve.

My primary objection is the extreme shift in the concept of “democracy” that the bill institutes legally. Specifically, it gives a federal stamp of approval to “ballots” that will never be counted, and it endorses secret vote-counting.

Let me explain seven of the bill's severe failures....

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

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The Holt Election Reform Propaganda Machine Has Said a Ban on DRE Touch-Screen Voting Machines Couldn't Pass in Congress, But Has Yet to Name a Single Supporter Who Would Vote Against Such a Ban
Looking for a Single Name Here...Anybody?...
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2007 1:09pm PT  

For months, supporters of Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR 811) - from computer scientists such as David Dill and Avi Rubin to extremely powerful advocacy groups such as People for the American Way (PFAW) and VoteTrustUSA --- have been telling critics who believe that Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems are antithetical to democracy that an amendment to his bill, requiring a ban on such systems, could not be passed by Congress.

They appear to have accepted the talking point as gospel, and thus have argued that any attempt to amend the current bill (and the matching one in the Senate) is a fruitless endeavor, and we should therefore support the bill as is because something is better than nothing.

In the case of PFAW, they've actually been responsible, in no small part, from selling that line to the public.

Never mind that if the many respected Election Integrity advocates and computer scientists repeating that unsubstantiated argument actually announced they would not support any federal Election Reform legislation that failed to include such a ban --- one which most of them have said they'd support (PFAW not included) --- we might actually get such a ban added to the bill.

Nonetheless, despite my best efforts, I have yet to be able to find a single congress member who supports the bill as currently written, without such a ban, who will go on record --- or even admit off-record --- that they would vote against the Election Reform bill if it included a ban on DREs.

I have yet to be able to find one.

Anyone have a name for me? Even just one?

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

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By Brad Friedman on 5/25/2007 6:13pm PT  

Takin' it easy today (at least as far as you know) after a brutally exhausting and often dispiriting week. Whether or not that led to a different mood today during my weekly guest appearance on the Peter B. Collins Show I can't tell you.

Either way, as Guest Hosted today by our friend Tony Trupiano, we covered a few things I haven't gotten to speak much about lately, and also received an important good news update from caller "Chris in Salinas." Turns out action taken by Chris over the past week, after finding something troubling in a recent special election in Monterey County, CA, has led to a happy conclusion that will effect all voters in Monterey, and perhaps across this entire state.

That story --- and much else of what we chatted about on the show --- again, underscores the need for citizens to take control of their democracy because it will not be either the media or the government who restores our country. It will be you.

Enjoy...


-- Brad on PBC (Guest Host Tony Trupiano), 5/25/07 [MP3, appx 50 mins]

UPDATE: "Chris from Salinas" writes in to comments below with more details on precisely what happened in Monterey County, the action he took, and the changes that were made because of. Useful if you haven't been able to listen to the audio above (which I still recommend, in any case).

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Advocacy Group's Press Release Disingenuously Continues to Forward Unsupportable Notion that Bill Would Have Prevented Sarasota's FL-13 Election Meltdown
Legislation Still to Allow for Uncounted and Uncountable Electronic Ballots on Touch-Screen Voting Systems...
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2007 5:32pm PT  

Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR811) was successfully voted out of the U.S. House Administration Committee today after a four hour mark-up session. We'll have analysis of the bill in the coming days as we are able to review a copy of the final version which is now headed to the House floor. We have been told that electronic balloting on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems will continue to be allowed in the bill.

Apparently, a paper ballot --- one that is actually counted --- for every vote cast in America is of little interest to either the Democratic and Republican members of the committee.

See our Holt Bill Special Coverage Page at http://www.BradBlog.com/Holt for much more information and action points concerning the bill.

First out of the box to trumpet today's "triumph", naturally, was the bill's top supporter, the public advocacy group, People for the American Way (PFAW). They had a press release good to go before the ink even dried on the dangerous new version of the bill (which, we should add, does include both some improvements to the initial version, along with several watered down provisions as we've been told...but we'll wait until we actually read it before commenting further on any of that.)

For now, however, we have little choice but to characterize the tactics used by PFAW in their press release as despicable, while they continue to knowingly mislead the American people about what the Holt bill will and won't do. (Their press release is posted in full at the end of this article.) This group knows better, and yet, they are doing it anyway.

PFAW can be reached at:
pfaw@pfaw.org
202-467-4999 or 800-326-7329
2000 M Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

We can do little else at this point other than to recommend any donors to their organization cease supporting them immediately, and otherwise let them know exactly why. Their dangerous, disingenuous support for this dangerous and disingenuous bill is counter to the best interests of Election Reform and Integrity in America. Worse still, PFAW --- who has openly lobbied in favor of the use of dangerous, disenfranchising, hackable touch-screen DRE systems, claiming they are preferable to paper-based optical-scan systems --- is willing to lie about facts in order to see the bill move forward...

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

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A Huge Victory (Finally!) for Voters in the Sunshine State!
ALSO: Congress Asks GAO to Investigate Contested FL-13 Election...
By Brad Friedman on 5/3/2007 4:49pm PT  

Will the Democrats in the U.S. Congress finally begin to realize their mistake in allowing for DRE touch-screen voting machines now that the Republican Governor of Florida has led the Republican-majority Florida legislature (along with every Democrat in it as well) to do the right thing and move to all paper ballots? Or will U.S. Congressional Dems continue to allow themselves to lose yet another issue that they should be owning?

We'll leave it to the Election Integrity advocates on the ground --- the coalition of GoAllTheWayFlorida.com --- who have worked so long and hard, to give you the great news...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 3 May 2007

FLORIDA MOVES TO PAPER BALLOTS!

FLORIDA VOTERS COALITION CONGRATULATES GOVERNOR CRIST AND THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE FOR ENDING PAPERLESS VOTING.

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.

While there was talk earlier in the legislative session about retrofitting printers to failed touchscreen DREs, that talk faded as legislators saw it would be throwing good money after bad...

The rest of the News Release is posted here [PDF]...

In still more very good FL news, a U.S. House panel has asked the non-partisan GAO to investigate the contested FL-13 election between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan where 18,000 votes disappeared on the DRE touch-screen voting systems in Sarasota.

John Gideon has links to media coverage of both of those events in his Daily Voting News today.

Congratulations, Florida voters! And especially to the tireless patriots down there who have been fighting so hard, for so long! There are still many fights ahead down there before true Election Integrity returns to Florida, but there is no denying that this is an enormous victory. Let's hope it rubs off on the other 49 states...and the U.S. Congress!

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Takes Leave of Absence from Committee Overseeing Holt Election Reform Bill...
By Brad Friedman on 4/18/2007 1:16pm PT  

Prior to the Easter Congressional recess, there was a great deal of speculation as to why the scheduled mark-up for the Holt Election Reform Bill (HR811) had been delayed until after recess in the U.S. House Administration Committee.

Among reasons for the delay, The BRAD BLOG had heard from various Hill staffers that chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) had come down with the flu. Another staffer said the issue was due to a failure by Microsoft to present promised information on problems with the software disclosure portions of the bill. Some Election Integrity activists had attributed the postponement to their phone and fax campaign warning lawmakers about perceived dangers in the bill.

While we've been unable to confirm that any of those reasons specifically caused delay of mark-up for the controversial bill, The Hill is reporting today that Millender-McDonald has been diagnosed with cancer and will now be taking a leave of absence through late May...

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

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PFAW Website 'Democracy Campaign FAQ' Mischaracterizes my View on 'Paper Trails' and Dishonestly Represents a Host of Related Issues
AN OPEN LETTER DEMANDING RETRACTION AND CORRECTION ON THE FACTS ABOUT MY POSITION, ELECTION REFORM AND DANGEROUS DRE VOTING SYSTEMS...
By Brad Friedman on 4/9/2007 5:55pm PT  

I'm sorry to have to keep banging this drum. I truly am. But it must be done, as People for the American Way (PFAW) continues to not only mislead the public about the Holt Election Reform Bill (HR811) and dangerous, disenfranchising DRE touch-screen voting technology, but they are now apparently also misleading about my position on the issue, by name.

I sent the following via email to PFAW's lead Election Policy attorney, David Becker, today along with CC's to Executive Director Ralph Neas, and a number of other Election Integrity organizations.

I would urge you to read the letter below, and contact PFAW with your own concerns and demand that they immediately stop misleading members of Congress and the public alike about the most important issue of our day.

PFAW's support of the Holt bill is currently the lynchpin, for Congress and a number of powerful organizations, concerning whether or not it will be passed as is, or whether much-needed amendments --- most notably, one that immediately bans the use of dangerous, disenfranchising, unverifiable DRE voting systems, with or without a so-called useless "paper trail" --- will move forward in Congress.

You can contact PFAW right here:
Email: pfaw@pfaw.org
Telephone: 202-467-4999 or 800-326-7329

Please don't wait for someone else to do it!

From: Brad Friedman
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2007 5:20 PM
To: 'David Becker'; 'Ralph Neas'
Cc: [REDACTED FOR PRIVACY]
Subject: IMMEDIATE CORRECTION REQUESTED: Misleading, Incorrect PFAW FAQ

David (and/or whoever is managing the "Democracy Campaign" FAQ page at the PFAW site) -

Thanks to Art Levine's American Prospect article today, I noticed for the first time, your misleading FAQ concering the Holt bill.

There are a number of out and out inaccuracies on that FAQ, as well as several wholly misleading points and --- the only thing which perhaps I have a say in --- a complete mischaracterization of my personal position concerning Election Reform in the very first Q&A on the page.

I am requesting an immediate retraction of that incorrect position statement, along with a statement noting your correction to it. The other items, obviously, I have little say about. But I will note the most troubling here in hopes that your conscience will lead you towards correcting the incorrect and/or misleading information you are currently making available to your members and the American public...

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

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Even While the Republican Governor of Florida (of all people and places) Restores Felon Voting Rights, Calls for a Ban on Touch-Screen DRE Voting, and Otherwise Succeeds in Shaming the Democrats...
By Brad Friedman on 4/6/2007 9:35am PT  

Florida's new Republican Gov. Charlie Crist continues to get far in front of Congressional Democrats concerning issues of Election Reform. Previously, he has called for the Sunshine State to replace all DRE touch-screen voting systems with paper-based optical scan systems (and touch-screen ballot marking devices for the disabled) and today, he succeeded in restoring voting rights for former felons to all but the most violent criminals after they've served their time.

While Democrats in Congress, and their public-advocacy group supporters such as People for the American Way (PFAW), MoveOn, Common Cause, and VoteTrustUSA, continue to dally around the edges of reform vis-a-vis Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR811) in the House and a forthcoming companion bill from Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, shamefully, it's the Republican Florida Governor --- of all people --- who is proving to be the true Progressive in the fight for real reform.

There's plenty of blame to go around, of course. The GOP Legislature in Florida is hanging on to their own share of shame in fighting Crist's bi-partisan proposals to replace disenfranchising, democracy-stealing DREs. In Maryland, it's the Democrats in the Senate who are killing Election Reform after House Dems had approved it (as tepid as that reform would be in only requiring useless, panacea "paper trails" for the state's paperless Diebold touch-screen systems. LATE UPDATE 3/6/07 5:07pm PT: Stunning turnaround suddenly in MD's Senate, support for a paper ballot bill! Breaking details here...)

New Democratic Secretaries of State Debra Bowen in CA and Jennifer Brunner in OH are meeting their voter mandates and doing their respective best to correct dysfunctional, unverifiable, easily gameable voting systems, but they are also facing challenges from both Republicans and local Elections Officials alike who are fighting to put their own self-interests over those of the voters. As usual.

In the meantime, the currently-flawed federal bills in the U.S. House and Senate are on the verge of getting worse, not better, through the drafting, mark-up, and amendment process, as legislators bend to the demands of henhouse-guarding Elections Officials along with the uncritical support for "Election Reform, any Election Reform, whether it'll bring true Reform or not" by powerful groups such as MoveOn, VoteTrustUSA, Common Cause, and others.

By way of example, MoveOn sent out an email to members yesterday calling for unflinching support of the Holt bill, despite knowing it to be flawed and VoteTrustUSA yesterday sent out an "All-811-All The-Time" newsletter yesterday to members without a single article, from among the mountains available, critical of the bill. That, despite recent testimony to Congress by their own policy director, Warren Stewart, asserting that "the direct electronic recording of votes to computer memory is inimical to democracy." Both the Holt and Feinstein bills currently drafted would allow for exactly such systems, and in fact, institutionalize the practice for years to come.

Both MoveOn and VoteTrustUSA declined to respond to our queries seeking explanation about their mailings yesterday.

So what's going on here?

Legislation that would have been smashing in 2005, but has since been shown to be desperately out of date in 2007 given the mountains of new evidence which revealed itself during the 2006 Election Cycle and beyond, is mired under the weight of bureaucratic deal-making and go-along-to-get-along public advocacy. All of which is by-and-large enabling the Democrats who seem to be fiddling as democracy burns.

It's all made worse, for the moment, by the largest and most influential of the public-advocacy groups, PFAW, who continues to dominate the debate on many levels. The group, which The BRAD BLOG has come to learn wields great power and proxy throughout a large swath of the civil rights community, is not only currently against a much-needed ban of DRE voting systems, but --- far more disturbingly --- is actually advocating in favor of their use.

We reported recently on that point, but the evidence is perhaps more clear in PFAW's own published analysis [PDF] (pages 2 & 3) of the Holt bill [emphasis ours]:

DRE technology offers better access options to voters with disabilities and voters who have minority language needs.
...
Whereas optical scan technology requires the printing of thousands, if not millions, of ballots in multiple languages, the distribution of those ballots in adequate numbers for each precinct, and the training of poll workers to distribute those ballots to those voters who seem to need them, DRE technology is much more effective for minority language voters.
...
Similarly, DREs afford voters with disabilities an opportunity to cast an independent secret ballot— something that optical scan paper ballots cannot fully do. It is important that jurisdictions with large numbers of minority language voters and voters with disabilities have the flexibility to use DRE equipment.

PFAW's position, as expressed above, is wholly unsupported by scientific evidence, common sense, or anything else as we have learned while investigating the matter over the past several weeks and months.

When a Republican governor from Florida has gotten ahead of Democrats on this issue, it's safe to say that something has gone terribly wrong.

If someone within the Democratic caucus doesn't stand up soon and bring the type of leadership to this issue that Crist has brought to Florida, they risk becoming the owners of a dysfunctional electoral system previously designed-for-disaster, via the Help America Vote Act of 2002, by the now-disgraced, Republican felon, former Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio.

Is there nobody in the U.S. Congress with the leadership skills and courage to stand up and do what is both right and well-supported by scientific evidence in order to make America's broken system of democracy right again?

Is there nobody who will stare down the disingenuous and/or fearful and/or ill-informed and/or self-serving factions standing in the way of restoring America's once-great shining example of democracy to the world?

As the right to vote and to have that vote counted transparently and accurately underpins every other right we have in this country, we'll continue to keep digging, advocating, investigating, reporting, and hoping. The alternatives --- and consequences --- are far too dire to do anything less....

Take action to amend the Holt Election Reform Bill!
DEMAND A BAN ON DRE/TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING!
- Email Congress!
- Call your members!
See www.BradBlog.com/Holt for more details, coverage, talking points & information on all of the above!
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As we Sit Down for a One-on-One Debriefing with the Finnish Computer Security Expert and Discuss American Elections, Rush Holt's Reform Bill, Debra Bowen, 'Black Hats' and Why Elections Matter
Big Turnout and Good Press Coverage Accompany his Riverside Visit, Even if Jeff '1000 to 1' Stone Was a No Show...
By Brad Friedman on 4/1/2007 7:13pm PT  

Harri Hursti drove up to Los Angeles last Friday after his appearance that morning before the Riverside County, California, "Blue Ribbon" panel convened to investigate massive problems during the County's 2006 election, and continuing concerns from Election Integrity advocates about both the performance and security issues surrounding the Sequoia Edge II DRE touch-screen voting systems in use down there.

We sat down to interview Hursti for a documentary film for an hour or two on Friday night, and we continued chatting into the wee hours. After getting home around 4am, we suspect we'll be playing catching up for a few days.

The headline from those discussions last night is probably that Hursti, now famous for his hack of a paper-based Diebold optical-scan voting system in Leon County, Florida, in late 2005 (as seen live in HBO's documentary Hacking Democracy), advocates digital optically-scanned paper ballots --- where the image of the scan can then be made available to all on the Internet --- as the most secure and most transparent method of voting for the type of elections we have in these United States.

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.

As well, Hursti's position may also come as a surprise to those who have pointed to the "Hursti Hack" in their call for 100% hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) in American elections. While Hursti said he recognizes that such a system works well enough in other countries where ballots are much simpler, he feels the thousands of ballot styles and pages and pages of candidates and propositions would likely make all HCPB unwieldy here. By contrast, he explained that in Finland, voters go to the poll and cast a single vote for President as the only race on the ballot, which is simple enough to hand count on the night of the election.

He rattled off the many different systems of democracy in many different countries, from Europe to Asia, as well as a history of how America has come to its current mess, going back as early as the late 1800's to discuss the evolution of our modern day system in this country. Clearly, he's done his homework and is well worth listening to on these matters.

Hursti also gave high marks to California's new Secretary of State Debra Bowen for her recent announcement of "red team" hack testing for all of the state's currently certified electronic voting systems, as part of her "top to bottom review" of those systems. Other computer scientists and security experts have lined up to join in praising Bowen for this unique, first-of-its-kind attempt to finally test the security of these systems.

On the other hand, many of the state's elections officials have come out against such testing of their precious, hackable, un-transparent voting systems. And, surprise surprise, so has the Santa Cruz Sentinel --- the paper once owned by thankfully-former CA SoS Bruce McPherson --- in a laughable editorial late last week claiming that "paper ballots carry an even greater risk" than electronic voting systems, and that Bowen's planned test criteria is a "solution in search of a problem."

We're not sure what cave the Santa Cruz Sentinel has been living in, but we're guessing they've been sharing their hard tack and canned spam with their buddy, the gone-but-apparently-not-forgotten McPherson, the one responsible for certifying these god-awful systems in the first place for the state, despite mountains of evidence suggesting it was unwise. We're also guessing they've never sat down to chat with Harri Hursti.

Hursti's visit to Riverside, as we reported here last week, was in response to County Supervisor Jeff Stone's challenge last December that nobody could manipulate the county's Sequoia election system. After Hursti volunteered to take Stone up on that "1000 to 1" challenge, the county has been waffling ever since. So quite a few members of both the public and the press were on hand yesterday for Hursti's testimony before the "Blue Ribbon" panel.

Although Hursti traveled all the way from Finland, Stone and every other member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors were apparently too busy to make it up the road to meet Hursti and listen to his presentation...

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

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All Eyes on Harri Hursti in Riverside County...
By Brad Friedman on 4/1/2007 12:53am PT  

FEATURING: Our One-on-One Debriefing with the Finnish Computer Security Expert on American Elections, Rush Holt's Reform Bill, Debra Bowen, 'Black Hats,' and Why Elections Matter...Pre-details back here...

UPDATE: Story now posted here...

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One of Several Reports 'Buried' by EAC, Shows Drop in Voter Participation in Wake of Poll Restrictions, Is Shamelessly Described as 'Draft'
Election Law Professor Warns: 'Chance for EAC to be an Honest Broker Above Politics Are Fading'...
By Brad Friedman on 3/30/2007 4:51pm PT  

After recent Congressional oversight questioning by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission's Bush-appointed chairwoman, Donetta Davidson, has finally relented and agreed to release the commission's bi-partisan report on "Voter ID" issues which has been held back for months. That report, and another not yet released on claims of "Voter Fraud" have been withheld by the EAC, as we reported here and here and in a guest blog by Tova Andrea Wang, one of the two original lead researchers of the still-withheld "Voter Fraud" report.

Hinchey's statement on today's release, including a call for the release of the other related reports, is posted here.

Finally having released the June 28, 2006, report [PDF] today, in the wake of Congressional pressure, and shamefully titling it as a "Draft Voter ID Report" (since it didn't show what they had wanted it to show), the EAC today announced the following:

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has voted unanimously to launch a comprehensive study focused on voter identification laws after concluding that initial research it received in a report, which focused on only one election cycle, was not sufficient to draw any conclusions. The Commission declined to adopt the report, but is releasing all of the data to the public.

In other words, they'll get the "facts" they want, no matter how many reports they need to commission!

The report details how voter participation in minority areas had, in fact, declined after restrictive "Photo ID" laws were enacted at the polls.

"It appears that politics remains the EAC's main priority," said Michael Slater, Deputy Director of Project Vote who claims the commission responsible for overseeing elections systems in the U.S. continues to "play politics." In a statement posted after the report was released today he said, "It's disappointing that the Commission is building a reputation for ignoring or suppressing research findings that don’t satisfy everyone’s ideological position."

He added that the commission's disassociation from the report is another example of their string of continuing failures. "The EAC should be embarrassed by its attempt to impeach the report's findings by insinuating its methodology is unsound."

Are supporters of Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill paying attention?! His bill, HR811, as currently drafted, would reward the EAC by making them a permanent body, despite their notable and repeated failures...

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

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'Why would you have a paper record if you don't count it?' Asks 'Losing' Candidate
Orange County, CA, Court Decision to 'Set Precedent' According to Both Sets of Attorneys...
By Brad Friedman on 3/27/2007 1:35pm PT  

The Los Angeles Times underscores everything that is wrong with relying on "paper trails" from Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting systems: Nobody ever counts them. Even in incredibly close contested elections as overseen by a court of law...

A judge ruled Monday that Janet Nguyen won the February election for an Orange County Board of Supervisors seat by a slim three-vote margin, rejecting arguments by her opponent that a recount wasn't completed because the paper audit of electronically cast ballots was not counted manually.

"All the votes were counted," said Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Brenner. "There was a full and legal recount."
...
It was, he said, "perfectly reasonable" for Janet Nguyen to ask for about 35,000 paper absentee ballots to be checked by hand to contest ones that weren't filled out properly and then ask to have about 10,000 electronic votes recounted the way they were on election night — by machine
...
Trung Nguyen, who is not related to the winner, declined to comment and left the courthouse as his attorney, Michael Schroeder, said an appeal was likely. "Why would you have a paper record if you don't count it?" Schroeder said.
...
All sides agreed that Brenner's ruling could set a precedent.

Please note that Rush Holt's Election Reform bill (HR811), which mandates the hand-count of a very small minority of paper records in most federal races (which this race was not) via an audit after Election Day, allows no audit to happen at all in the case of an automatic state-mandated recount --- the type that occurs when an election is incredibly close, and when such an audit, arguably, might be needed the most.

UPDATE 4:58pm PT: Election Integrity advocate Tom Courbatt of Riverside County points us towards an October 31, 2006 statement [PDF] from former CA Sec. of State Bruce McPherson, who said: "The mandatory paper audit trail will be used for a full recount if necessary." That statement is at the bottom of the 5-page press release. Guess he was just kidding. Or the judge in Orange County didn't care. Or "paper trails" don't actually matter after all, no matter what any law or elections officials try to tell you...Which is why we need a paper ballot --- one that is actually tabulated --- for every vote cast in America!

# # #

Take action to amend the Holt Election Reform Bill!
DEMAND A BAN ON DRE/TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING!
- Email Congress!
- Call your members!
See www.BradBlog.com/Holt for more details, coverage, talking points & information on all of the above!
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ALSO: A Clarification of Why I Wrote the Story in the First Place About the Alarming Position, Advocating for DRE Use, by People for the American Way...
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2007 4:16pm PT  

If you missed our coverage of the concerns about the positions on Election Reform by People for the American Way (PFAW), including their advocacy of dangerous touch-screen DRE voting systems which originally ran here a couple of days ago, you've got another chance. AlterNet is now running the article from their front page today under the title "An Opposing View on the Progressive Voting Machines Debate."

As with the original, it includes the links to the audio and transcripts of both PFAW Executive Director Ralph Neas's and my appearances on Ring of Fire with RFK Jr. and Mike Papantonio, so you can decide what's going on here for yourself.

And if it wasn't 100% clear in the article originally, PFAW does not have the same position as some of the other groups (like Common Cause, VoteTrustUSA, MoveOn, etc.), who are generally opposed to DRE use, but have been afraid (for political reasons, legitimately or not) to support a ban.

PFAW, to the contrary, is actually advocating the use of DREs in their position and arguments to back it up.

I'm happy to run a response from Ralph or PFAW if they'd like to contact me in order to clarify anything they feel I've misrepresented. That was not my purpose. Similarly, my purpose was not to attack them, but to discuss openly what I see as a very troubling position that I spent much time trying to figure out --- and work out --- privately, before Ralph's public interview on RoF made it necessary for me to respond in kind to help clarify what seems to be going on here...

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By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2007 2:52am PT  

It's a big day in the House on Friday, with hours of hearings set for Rush Holt's HR811 Election Reform bill in the House Adminstration Committee's Subcomittee on Elections, with four big panels set.

The witnesses this time may be more good than bad for a change, and include, among other familiar names, Debra Bowen (CA SoS) and Noel Runyan, the blind technology expert who, with many other disabled voter advocates released a statement here calling for "an immediate ban" on DREs last week. (My interview with Runyan, during last week's guest hosting stint for Action Point on Air America/Nova M Phoenix is here [MP3] for your listening pleasure. I'm back again this Sunday, btw, with a special exclusive broadcast interview premiere! Stay tuned for details!). The rest of the witnesses are listed below.

Unfortunately, I may be gone for much of the day, so let me know how they did in the event that C-SPAN picks any of it up (and if anybody spots Warren Stewart of VoteTrustUSA calling for an amendment to the Holt Bill to require a DRE ban during his public testimony, send him a few dozen roses, will ya?!)

By the way, now's a great time to email and call your Congress members to ask them nicely, but firmly, to amend Holt to include a ban on Electronic DRE Ballots!

The full panel breakdown is listed below...

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

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As Heard on 'Ring of Fire' with RFK Jr. & Mike Papantonio: I Support Banning DREs, Neas Opposes Such a Ban, and Speaks in Support of DREs
Papantonio: 'Brad, my bet is on you on this one' --- Audio & Transcripts Now Posted
By Brad Friedman on 3/21/2007 1:51am PT  

The Saturday before last I was interviewed on Air America's Ring of Fire with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Mike Papantonio concerning my call for the Election Reform Bill (HR811) by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) to be amended to include a full ban on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems.

The interview was pre-taped, and an edited-for-time version was aired. The complete, unedited version of that 15 minute interview, along with a text-transcript is now posted here.

This past Saturday, Ralph Neas, the president of People for the American Way (PFAW), one of the groups supporting the Holt Bill as is, and fighting against a ban on DRE voting systems, was interviewed on Ring of Fire. I had been critical of PFAW's unwaivering support of the bill during my interview the week before (as I have been in many articles here and elsewhere), so Bobby Kennedy asked Neas, a number of times, to answer directly to some of my criticisms.

The audio of that interview as well as a text-transcript, is also now posted here.

Now before I get to a huge number of concerns about the Neas interview and what I see as the dangerous PFAW position, and not to stack the deck (but I will anyway), Papantonio concluded his interview with me as follows, which I then promised to quote on the blog, so here it is...

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

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