READER COMMENTS ON
"NPR's Muddy Airwaves"
(18 Responses so far...)
COMMENT #1 [Permalink]
said on 6/22/2007 @ 6:37 pm PT...
Noticed that Rep. Holt is hiding from your forum.
COMMENT #2 [Permalink]
said on 6/22/2007 @ 6:46 pm PT...
Just sent the following to NPR. Hopefully they'll listen...
Thank you for covering some of the issues surrounding the current election reform bill known as H.R. 811. Your coverage was good, and timely, but there was a very important error in the coverage that needs to be corrected. This error, regarding the nature of of H.R. 811 with regard to paper ballots, also highlights a significant omission in the report, regarding the opposition to the bill, as written, by a very substantial portion of the Election Integrity community. These two issues represent an excellent opportunity to present another story on H.R. 811, this time highlighting some of it's most fundamental flaws, rather than just "pragmatic" issues of when and how it is implemented.
First, the error: The “Holt II “ bill, H.R. 811, does not "require paper ballots". It requires "paper audit records" of the voter's votes. This is critically important because, in almost every case where an electronic voting maching (NOT an electronic "ballot marking" machine, a critical distinction) is employed, the "paper record" will not be counted. A "paper ballot" must, by definition, be counted during the initial vote count on election night. A "paper record", as defined in H.R. 811, will, in nearly every case, never be counted AT ALL. Thus, the well-documented and ongoing errors generated by electronic voting machines (known as "DREs" for "Direct Recording Electronic" voting systems) which currently count over 40% of our nation's votes, will NOT be rectified by "paper records". These paper records (also known as Paper Audit Trails, and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails or VVPATs) have been shown to be esentially useless in many studies (both government and academic) of election technology (Copies of these studies are available at VotersUnite.org, and an number of other election integrity websites).
This fundamental problem in H.R. 811, which is occasionally acknowledged by supporters of the Holt II bill, is a primary element in the widespread LACK of support from a large proportion of the election integrity community for the Holt II bill. A tremendous level of frustration is elicited by Holt II supporters who continually state that the bill "will require paper ballots", (because the bill itself conflates paper ballots and paper audit records), when in fact, by definition, the "ballots" described in the bill are not counted, except in rare instances.
This lack of support, initially manifesting itself in a partially-successful drive to have the Holt II bill amended to correct some of it's failings, has spread across a large segment of the election integrity community, and is starting to spread into some of H.R. 811's co-sponsors, who have withdrawn support for the bill.
Regarding “ballot marking” machines, as opposed to DREs, advocacy groups for handicapped accessibility have often overlooked the problems with H.R. 811 under the mistaken impression that DREs are the only systems that guarantee a handicapped person’s ability to cast a secret ballot, un-aided, and that “banning electronic voting” or “requiring true paper ballots” would be a set-back for handicapped populations. These groups have been lumping together “electronic voting systems” (DRE’s) with “electronic marking systems”, which don’t record the ballot, but just aid in the marking of the ballot. Such electronic marking systems, while not perfect, would alleviate some of the more pernicious elements of electronic voting. At least one of these groups, after coming to understand the critical issues surrounding these systems, has come down against Holt II.
A more comprehensive description of H.R. 811’s problems can be found here:
I highly recommend that producers and reporters of any followup story on H.R. 811 contact those representatives who have withdrawn support for the bill, and especially election integrity advocates Ellen Theisen of VotersUnite, and Brad Friedman, of Bradblog.com, who have been following and assiduously studying these issues for years.
Thanks for your attention. Also, if possible, perhaps Ms. Fessler or one of her producers could contact me to confirm receipt of this note. And of course, thank you NPR for your ongoing presence as a bastion of journalistic integrity and a beacon of the Free Press!
COMMENT #3 [Permalink]
said on 6/23/2007 @ 12:27 am PT...
It is obvious that there are legions of people who do not want honest elections. They make money from the status quo, and do not want any change. Everyone involved, public and private, who has anything to do with elections likes everything just the way it is, because that is how they got there, and that is the only way they will stay there. They will practice any obfuscation to maintain control of the vote count by private corporations. Any compromise with them is a deal with the devil.
We have to work to get Holt tabled, since we would be much better off without any Federal bill at all. The reason? Because whatever ends up getting signed by Bush will only guarantee the continuation of the status quo. Bush does not want honest elections, because he knows the neo-cons will lose, so anything we get from Washington will allow the continued theft of the vote count.
We have to take it to the municipal and county level if we want to save our nation and our liberties. If we can't do that, we can't expect Washington to do it. Also, trusting anyone currently in power to "do the right thing" is naive. There is way too much money and power involved. We have to hand count ballots, and do it at the local level. Holt is not just worthless, but is, and has been, a huge waste of our time. Table Holt.
COMMENT #4 [Permalink]
said on 6/23/2007 @ 5:28 am PT...
It would be just as easy to inform NPR of the facts. One fact is that the movement is a group of competing ego driven folk, some of who admit to never having read the relevant bills before parroting some party line or talking point. As they critize the media for being ignorant of the facts.
The movement is setting forth the best way to grasp at straws, as it has for 40 years now, each denomination in the religion demanding that their method for grasping at straws is the "one true gospel".
Brad has even called it "just short of a shooting war". And we complain that congress is not bi-partisan enough, then castigate them when they
agree cave-in on something.
Really all you movement heroes who disagree with me, I go back to a phrase I coined some years ago "your method of grasping at straws is just as good as mine".
There are three bills in the Holt planetary system. The original filed 2/07, the amendment to it that came out of committee, which is in the nature of replacement, and S. 559 its Senate compliment.
All three of these will have to be dealt with. At least two of them by at least one floor vote.
The first thing for you mighties of the movement to do is read all the bills and learn how to interpret them as the courts do.
Your opinion and method of interpretation does not count no matter how loud you shout it out.
COMMENT #5 [Permalink]
said on 6/23/2007 @ 6:13 am PT...
Telling others what a bill or statute says is a form of "statutory construction".
For those truly interested in improving their own statutory construction, legal hermeneutics, or legal exegesis (what the text says), here is a link to a list of the contents of "the bible" of statutory construction:
Recognised as a core text on statutory construction by the American Bar Association, this extensive resource provides all the principles of statutory interpretation, and helps you to develop your own theories and positions. Discusses specific substantive areas of law, such as punitive legislation, domestic relations, and debtor and creditor legislation. Provides a history of crucial articles, and legal commentary. Section titles discuss Legislative Power, Legislative Organisation and Procedure, Legislative Form and Mode, Legislative Applicability, Statutory Interpretation, and Application of the Rules of Statutory Construction in Selected Areas of Substantive Law. Includes detailed index, bibliography, and table of cases.
(Sutherland Statutes and Statutory Construction, emphasis added). The volume is expensive, but one can read it and make copies in the local law library ... if it is a comprehensive library.
Focus especially on the part that "helps you to develop your own theories and positions" that will not be laughed out of court.
Or you can go to a blog called Statutory Construction Blog and check that out.
Enjoy its cheaper than law school.
COMMENT #6 [Permalink]
said on 6/23/2007 @ 7:45 am PT...
Dredd, the bill you were promised by Holt and company was not the bill that was written. And we informed you that the bill that was written made false promises and, as written, the bill could not even be made to work...
... and you protested that your interpretation of the bill, an interpretation based on the bill we were originally promised, was the correct one.
And it came to pass that we were right.
And you were informed that because of the way the actual bill was written that the inevitable rewrite would quietly strip even things like meaningful source code disclosure from the bill...
... and you protested that your interpretation of the bill, an interpretation based on the bill we were originally promised, was the correct one.
And it came to pass that we were right.
And now you are being told that, among other things the bill has turned out to actually an attempt to permanently install a new federal bureaucracy dedicated to protecting and furthering corporate e-voting interests, and that it's obvious now that this was the actual intent all along...
... and you protest that your interpretation of the bill, an interpretation based on the bill we were originally promised, is the correct one.
... see a pattern here?
COMMENT #7 [Permalink]
said on 6/23/2007 @ 8:19 am PT...
This is an example of what would happen to movement heavies who use inflamatory rhetoric while discussing the statute amongst themselves if they appeared in court, the only place that matters once a bill becomes law:
William P. Smith ... told a Miami bankruptcy judge in open court "[Y]ou're a few french fries short of a Happy Meal" ... was ordered yesterday by the judge to ...
(WSJ Lawblog). Professional courtesy ... "its not just for intelligent folk anymore".
COMMENT #8 [Permalink]
said on 6/23/2007 @ 9:00 am PT...
Dredd, I'm disappointed. You have all sorts of vague insults. You extol the virtues of proper statutory construction. Yet you provide no such construction of your own. Nor do you use any such vigorous approach to refute my assertion. Actually, do you refute it at all?
Let me bring something to your attention Dredd. In their excellent proposed revisions to H.R.811, the good folks at VotersUnite.org had this to say:
We caution against redefining the term "paper ballots" to include printouts from direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, more typically called a "voter-verified paper trail" or just a "paper trail." "Paper ballot" should retain its historical definition as a ballot marked by the voter's hand or by a non-tabulating ballot-marking device. We need different names for different things so that people can discuss these issues without confusion.
The legal team at Sen. Feinstein's office researched this concern, and, apparently reaching the same conclusion, struck all references to "paper ballot" and replaced them with "paper record" in S.1487.
Now, I try to present my logic in a simple way. I say that "(t)he ballot is the thing that counts." If you prefer the longer version, complete with legal citation, so be it.
42 USC Sec. 1973i: (a) Failure or refusal to permit casting or tabulation of vote - No person acting under color of law shall fail or refuse to permit any person to vote who is entitled to vote under any provision of subchapters I-A to I-C of this chapter or is otherwise qualified to vote, or willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report such person's vote.
42 USC Sec. 1971: "the word "vote" includes all action necessary to make a vote effective including, but not limited to, registration or other action required by State law prerequisite to voting, casting a ballot, and having such ballot counted and included in the appropriate totals of votes cast with respect to candidates for public office and propositions for which votes are received in an election"
Refusal to count a vote is criminal. The legal definition of vote includes the casting of the ballot. Therefore, if we were to consider the printout from the machine to be the ballot, U.S. Law would require that it be counted each and every time. Either Rep. Holt must mandate a 100% audit rate, or Rep. Holt must not label these printouts as ballots.
It's as simple as that.
COMMENT #9 [Permalink]
said on 6/24/2007 @ 6:15 am PT...
Here are additional thoughts to share with NPR and their sloppy reporting:
* The bill doesn't require replacement of all DREs by November 2008. It allows toilet paper rolls until 2010.
* Positioning election officials as being opposed to the bill because they are against paper is a cheap shot. They have many reasons to oppose the bill, most of them serious, deep and scary.
* Doug Lewis doesn't represent all election officials – again a cheap shot
* Holt in the interview claims "there is time to do it before 2008" but all his bill calls for before 2008 is an extensive, cumbersome auditing procedure – we can actually make a real paper ballot bill in time for 2008 – but without all the dangerous components of the Holt Bill
* Warren Stewart doesn't represent election integrity activists – VTUSA takes money from Choicepoint
* Activists like myself oppose the bill for three reasons:
1) The bill codifies secret vote counting
2) The bill cements control of secret vote counting to the executive branch
3) The bill sets the scene for unlimited litigation on election challenges, based on the destabilizing voting system standards set by the white house commission controlling the votes. This scenario destabilizes our nation. We saw the results of judicial intervention in our elections in Florida 2000. We saw it in San Diego 2006, when Congress swore in their candidate with 68,000 votes still uncounted, and then the court told voters they had no recourse because the guy was now a member of the House.
* It is dangerous to minimize change in election administration. Every change can cause destabilization. The bill calls for a whole new technology. An expensive technology. Election officials should not be chided for being wary of more wholesale changes in their systems.
COMMENT #10 [Permalink]
said on 6/25/2007 @ 2:03 pm PT...
Bob Bancroft #8
Since you did not quote from Sutherland or any court setting forth the canons of statutory constuction, I will assume you have not read my posts in this thread. Nor those authorities.
And from the rest of your first post here, I suspect you have not read any of my thousands of posts here in any significant way either.
So, I repeat: "your method of grasping at straws is just as good as mine". (Dredd, 1986).
COMMENT #11 [Permalink]
said on 6/25/2007 @ 2:17 pm PT...
Hear my phone ringin',
sound like a long distance call
Hear my phone keep ringin',
sound like a long distance call
When I picked up my receiver,
the party said another mule kickin' in your stall
COMMENT #12 [Permalink]
said on 6/25/2007 @ 4:17 pm PT...
This dude repesents the Holt bill[s] when captured, cuffed, and booked? No?
Here is da pictcha
I swear massa Bub ... he is not as tall left as he is tall right ... da numbahs ... da numbahs ... dey not de same on de left as de right. Wha ebbah ...
No massa bub no massa ... don't hit ussssss ... we are smeagol ... don't hit usesssesss boybub ... we gonna do whatcha say massa bub ...
COMMENT #13 [Permalink]
said on 6/25/2007 @ 5:19 pm PT...
It's true that the NPR piece wasn't the best informed, particularly regarding HR-811's "replacement" of voting equipment, and also the absence of the type of opposition represented by Brad's and other blogs.
However, while understanding the difference, not everyone considers the difference between producing a paper ballot and paper audit trail to be crucial at this point in time. I've spoken to election officials in a good number of counties in several states, and the issues cited in the NPR piece are indeed what you hear from most of them. I would agree that many of these folks are simply atrophied and poorly informed, but that's what they have to say.
I don't see why anyone would assume that concerned folks who back HR-811 are few in number because they're not as prolific on the web as the opposition, however.
Speaking for myself, I believe the quality control principles behind HR-811 will shed stark light on errant black-box-voting models/software, and if they're anywhere near as bad as most of us reading this blog think they are, the country will have, for the first time, irrefutable evidence. EAC precinct method selection (because of public vetting), secret source code, and NDAs (which do not gag integrity judgments) will not keep that from happening.
With data from HR-811 on record, Mr. Kucinich will have his paper-only hand-count bill (along with the required politically anathema anti-states-rights movement to bring certain levels of standardization to ballots nationwide) on the floor in the next congress instead of the next decade. Ellen Thiessen, whom I've informally worked with and have a great deal of respect for, will have her beautifully crafted Vote-PAD in counties around the country years sooner.
The heat of our anger over DREs warms our concerned and purist hearts.
The light of an active HR-811 will convince an American Idol public, and all the politicians we need that DREs are worthless, and hand-counted ballots appropriate for our great, advanced society.
COMMENT #14 [Permalink]
said on 6/25/2007 @ 7:45 pm PT...
That was a particularly lame excuse. We've known that EVM software is badly written, very badly written, for years. We don't need to officially enshrine EVM corporations as part of our electoral processes in order to relearn that lesson. The EAC has already been there, done that, and left behind a hell of a bill to pay as a result.
The argument that the various versions of "Holt II" are somehow 'only temporary' is equally lame. The bills' collective language makes it clear that they are playing for keeps... whether the supporters are aware of that fact or not.
And if you are so silly as to think that having to jump through legal loopholes and risking massive lawsuits and/or imprisonment won't have a chilling effect on citizen oversight of elections... err... what planet did you say you were from?
And unfortunately "the lurkers support 811" is the lamest excuse offered so far. Election integrity supporters are not particularly known for being quiet on the subject... nor are their opponents. Between EI factions clashing and opponents sniping there should be raging debate on every forum that allows actual debate on the subject.
And instead there's only a few flashes here and there with the seemingly invariable outcome of the pro-811 faction either retreating or... more often... converting and dropping support for the bills as currently written...
(Shout out if there's any continued debate going on somewhere that I've missed)
... and that's simply because the election reform bills we all had such high hopes for have mutated into pro-corporate e-voting bureaucracy legislation that is literally indefensible.
The "purist hearts" line is bullshit, of course. "Purism" has nothing to do with 811 turning our elections into a bureaucracy designed to support a perpetual e-voting gravy train.
And the only light 811 shines is in the eyes of those ever-decreasing numbers of people who mistook 811's abuse of certain election integrity keywords as an indication of concerns with actual election integrity.
COMMENT #15 [Permalink]
said on 6/26/2007 @ 6:01 am PT...
I guess the only thing worse than HR 811 is the condition evoting is in now after 40 years of "enlightened" activism.
COMMENT #16 [Permalink]
said on 6/26/2007 @ 7:06 am PT...
Dredd, is your sole defense of 811 this apparent attitude of "You folks didn't stop e-voting before so why are you all bitching about it now?"
If so I'd have to say that that monotonous and peculiarly unproductive refrain is becoming tiresome instead of informative.
The only other thing you seem to say is your insistence on treating the mess that 811 has become as if it were the election reform paradigm that it was originally promised to be...
COMMENT #17 [Permalink]
said on 6/27/2007 @ 8:01 am PT...
One who points out that heavy election integrity movement folk admit to opposing HR 811 without ever having read it is not "advocating HR 811". It is advocating the integrity part of the "election integrity" movement.
The only thing worse than not reading it is reading it but not knowing how such text is interpreted under American law. I don't care about banana republic law.
And the only thing worse than the above two vices, is severly damaging the movement but not knowing it.
Professional courtesy "its not just for intelligent people anymore".
COMMENT #18 [Permalink]
said on 6/27/2007 @ 10:32 am PT...
Since you allege expertise in statutory construction, why have you not, in your generosity and eagerness to help, outlined precisely how H.R.811 will be interpreted by U.S. law? I would much prefer that to your intellectual masturbation, which, frankly, is less than pleasant.
Come to think of it, what does legal interpretation have to do with this?
I write about a logical and practical distinction between: on the one hand, using a marked paper ballot as the primary artifact of a voter's choice, the principle means of tabulation, and, on the other hand, relying on electronic data first and foremost, while using paper printouts as an audit aid.
That distinction exists.
Its existence does not depend on any interpretation of U.S. Law, in the same way that the statement “one does not equal two” does not. The question is not how courts will interpret H.R.811, despite your dogged attempts at misdirection. The question is whether or not you think this distinction is important.
Try to be a little more constructive, or, at least, on topic.