By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2007, 10:38pm PT  

In today's "Daily Voting News" John Gideon mentions the "banter back and forth between members of the Election Integrity community" over Rush Holt's controversial HR 811 Election Reform bill. "Banter" is a very nice way, for the very polite Mr. Gideon, to describe it. I'd call it just short of a shooting war.

In any case, while debate over such sweeping attempts at reforming our entire electoral system are essential, the continuing efforts by the pro-Holt folks to lobby in favor of their bill by offering deceptive and misleading information about it are certainly not useful to anyone. The bill itself is misleading by describing paper trails created by touch-screen voting machines as "paper ballots." The fact is, such trails aren't ballots. They are simply records (perhaps accurate, perhaps not, there is no way for any voter to know for certain) of the voters' votes. They are not actually used in the tally of results on Election Night, and almost never thereafter either.

BRAD BLOG readers are likely well familiar by now with various, and, worse, misleading claims about the bill from Holt's office staffers themselves and People for the American Way (PFAW) in particular, the biggest lobbyist/proponent for the bill. Much of that is covered in articles on our Holt Bill Special Coverage page.

The latest entrant into the mislead sweepstakes is Pam Smith, President of Verified Voting. John points to her editorial today in the DVN, which begins this way...

Since the Help America Vote Act was implemented and electronic voting machines became commonplace, there has been a growing clamor for all voting systems to provide a voter-reviewed paper ballot. The call for a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast comes from the General Accounting Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, The Commission on Federal Election Reform, countless election experts and computer scientists and most overwhelmingly from voters.

Smith then goes on to argue that Holt's bill should be passed in the House, because it meets that "call for a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast." But as Smith well knows, it doesn't. And if she doesn't, she needs to confer with Verified Voting founder and computer scientist Prof. David Dill, who also supports the Holt bill, but has the decency, usually, not to mislead folks about what it does and doesn't do.

She continues on to say that "unless this bill passes, more than 35 million votes in 2008 will be impossible to verify as accurate," when surely she knows by now that even with paper trails added to all DRE touch-screen voting machines, the votes of those voters will still be impossible to verify as accurate. Dill knows that, even if he still prefers dangerously pacifying paper trails with his electronic voting machines. Why doesn't Smith?

Think Bush's "Clean Air Act" whenever you hear Holt supporters such as Smith and PFAW, etc., claim their bill "bans paperless electronic voting." It's a phrase that Frank Luntz would appreciate. But it's completely disingenuous coming from those who understand the technology and who know well that a "ban" on "paperless electronic voting," as they describe it, does not mean a ban on unverifiable touch-screen technology. Nor does it mean there will be a "voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast," as Smith insinuates in her opening salvo.

Why it's necessary for Smith and other Holt proponents to resort to such tactics continues to be beyond me. There are plenty of good provisions in the bill (some that I actually helped to write myself before the bill's introduction) that they could point to in order to support its passage without misinforming Americans about the not-so-good ones. But they continue with the unending misinformation nonetheless. At a deafening level, of late.

I'd expect that sort of thing from the wingnuts, but as many EI advocates come out of the Progressive movement, it's exceedingly disheartening to see. I'll have more examples of such tactics --- fit for George W. Bush, Frank Luntz, and friends, but terribly disappointing from "the good guys" --- in the days ahead.