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Rep. Hinchey 'Deeply Disappointed,' Calls Unwillingness to Debate Issue a 'Shame'
AlterNet Covers Latest Political Landscape Surrounding HR 811...
By Brad Friedman on 9/17/2007 2:06pm PT  

Citing "recent developments outside Washington that bolster critics who say DRE [usually, touch-screen voting] systems are too insecure and unreliable for use in elections," AlterNet's Steve Rosenfeld surveys the political landscape in regard to Rush Holt's impending time-bomb of an Election Reform Bill, known as HR 811.

The controversial bill that refuses to die is again said to be headed back to House Rules Committee this week, where a rule concerning whether or not amendments will be allowed to the bill when/if it reaches the House Floor will be set.

Rosenfeld reports Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is being dodgy about whether or not Rep. Susan Davis's (C-CA) amendment to restrict the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems will be allowed for debate. "I don't have an answer for you," a spokesperson told him, "I have no way of knowing. This is a comprehensive bill. This is a process that is moving."

Last week, Davis said, in a statement sent to The BRAD BLOG, that "we are still ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room," in regard to Congress's fear of discussing whether or not to allow the use of DRE systems which are now being banned by states across the country.

Her amendment was followed by an editorial from the New York Times charging that "electronic voting has been an abysmal failure," and calling for a "provision banning the use of touch-screen voting machines" to be added to Holt's bill. They add that such a provision should be in place in time for the 2008 election, though Davis's amendment, as currently written, only calls for a restriction to one DRE per polling place, by 2012.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has been a supporter of HR 811 since a secret "compromise" version, recently brokered behind closed doors by out-of-touch DRE-supporters, People for the American Way (PFAW), and Holt was agreed upon several weeks ago.

Pelosi has remained largely mum concerning her position on the bill, which does not require paper ballots, despite the blatant lie that Holt offered Rosenfeld in a report some weeks ago after CA SoS Debra Bowen's independent study at University of California found "severe vulnerabilities" in DRE voting systems. Such vulnerabilities, her study found, would not be safe-guarded against use of the paper trails that the Holt/Hoyer/PFAW compromise bill mandates.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), now a co-sponsor of Davis's amendment --- along with Barbara Lee from California --- and a previous critic of the Holt Bill, is now critical of the Democratic leadership. He seems to indicate, in comments given to Rosenfeld, that Davis's amendment will not be allowed for consideration:

"The potential for manipulation of national elections with the use of touch-screen machines is much too serious for this Congress to allow their continued use --- let alone to encourage additional states to convert to DREs," he said. "Regrettably, the Democratic leadership was still unwilling to allow the Davis amendment to be considered before the full House."

"That's a shame, because this is an important issue about which many voters are justifiably concerned," he said. "I'm deeply disappointed that we won't even have the opportunity to have an open debate about the merit of these very dangerous touch-screen devices."

Quoting an industry watcher who straight out proclaims "The DRE is dead," Rosenfeld reviews a number of national and media developments that support that assessment.

Apparently, that message hasn't gotten through to Holt and the tone-deaf, out of touch Democratic Leadership on the Hill, however.

"While these events and trends are unfolding," Rosenfeld astutely sums up, "in Washington the House Democratic leadership has been accommodating interest groups that want to see continued use of the very voting systems that are being discredited across the country."

You may reach your Congress Members, along with Hoyer and Pelosi's office, to register your own opinions, via the Capitol switchboard at: 1-800-828-0498.

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New York Congressman Has 'Very Serious Questions' About Election Bill, Says Bush and Cheney 'Have Violated Federal Laws in Criminal Ways'...
By Brad Friedman on 7/18/2007 6:35am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Houston...

Radio host Peter B. Collins has been earning his keep of late. On his last show before a three-week Summer vacation today (we will be filling in to Guest Host for him for the next week and a half), Collins finished up a segment with Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today concerning his efforts to renew the Fairness Doctrine with two quick, unrelated questions.

First, Collins asked whether the Congressman supported the controversial Rush Holt Election Reform Bill (HR 811) "in it's current form." The legislation has come under fire from Election Integrity advocates for its continued allowance of the use of dangerous DRE touch-screen voting machines, and a host of other concerns.

Hinchey --- who is currently signed on as one of the bill's co-sponsors --- responded by saying he had "some very serious questions about it" and feels that "it has been compromised."

While there was no time to follow up with details, his comments likely referred to the troubling changes made to the bill by the House Administration Committee. Originally, the legislation had called for complete disclosure of electronic voting system source code to any member of the public interested in examining it. By the time the bill was voted out of committee, however, those important disclosure provisions had been changed to require that the source code be placed in escrow, to be examined only by so-called "experts" in the event that a problem is discovered during an election, and only under non-disclosure agreements.

Those changes led Holt himself to admit that "the vendors have won," according to reports from several Election Integrity advocates who attended a town hall event where the New Jersey Congressman spoke over the weekend. No word on whether Holt may be removing himself as a co-sponsor of the Holt bill in light of his reported admissions.

Secondly, Collins asked Hinchey, "What is your posture on the impeachment of Vice President Cheney?"

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

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NY Times Finds Original Bi-Partisan Draft Report, Buried by the EAC, Concluded Fears of 'Voter Fraud' Were Overblown
Altered, Politicized Report Follows Familiar White House Pattern, Brings Additional New Concerns About Continuing Status of EAC...
By Arlen Parsa on 4/11/2007 1:12pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Arlen Parsa with additional reporting by Brad Friedman

The New York Times reports today that a governmental report on the so-called dangers of "voter fraud" was manipulated to reflect the Bush Administration's claims rather than their own panel's findings.

The Times obtained two copies of the report on voter fraud, the first of which [PDF] concluded that fears of voter fraud were overblown and exaggerated. The second --- and official version of the report --- however steps back and promotes ambiguity about the danger (or lack of danger) that voter fraud poses to American democracy.

The Times reports:

A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.

Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.

The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.

Democrats say the threat is overstated and have opposed voter identification laws, which they say disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats.

Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,” the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”

The bi-partisan report had been buried for months by the supposedly bi-partisan U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), which has come under fire of late for partisanship and a failure to oversee the electronic voting systems and voting machine vendors they are supposed to be overseeing and testing for compliance with federal standards.

The two bi-partisan authors of the original report were bound, by contract, as reported by the Times, to keep quiet about their opinions on the final report. However, following the release of the EAC's edited final version, one of the two authors, Tova Andrea Wang, a Democracy Fellow at the The Century Foundation, telegraphed some of her opinions about it in a guest blog we ran at The BRAD BLOG titled "Where's the Voter Fraud?" Her editorial made clear that the Republican claims of a "voter fraud" epidemic in America were simply unfounded and being used as a political weapon to suppress Democratic voter turnout via the use of Draconian Photo ID restrictions at the polls.

The EAC's approach in releasing their altered final version of the report --- spreading doubt when there is really a consensus among experts --- is a technique that the White House has used in several instances when expert agreement is not politically convenient. Perhaps the most famous case of this was when the Administration trumped up scientific doubt about climate change and used it to mis-portray findings of government scientists.

According to the originally submitted draft report [PDF], marked "NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION," voter fraud at polling places, which Republicans have frequently cited as part of a massive, insidious attempt to undermine democracy, is not nearly as frequent as is claimed.

As The BRAD BLOG has previously reported, debate about the report, and its initial origins, was highly politicized by members of a White House-connected GOP front-group organization whose founder, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne, a St. Louis resident and White House operative, is closely associated with the EAC's Paul Degregorio, a fellow St. Louisan, who was chair of the federal body when the report was first commissioned.

An email obtained by the Times detailed the complaints of the lead Republican author of the report, Arkansas election attorney Job Serebrov, in response to pressure to alter the conclusions of the report's findings...

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

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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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