The BRAD BLOG Has Confirmed That Congresswoman Susan Davis Will Introduce Such an Amendment This Afternoon --- If Allowed --- as Rush Holt's Controversial HR 811 Goes to Rules Committee Before Introduction on House Floor
UPDATED SEVERAL TIMES: Amendment Now Endorsed by MoveOn, Verified Voting, VoteTrustUSA; Source Says Holt on Defensive in Committee Hearing...
By Brad Friedman on 9/5/2007, 9:49am PT  

By Brad Friedman from Glenwood Springs, CO...

[ED NOTE: Many updates have been posted throughout the day on this item. Please see bottom of article for the latest updates!]

An amendment to either ban or restrict the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems may be added to Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) Election Reform Bill by California Congresswoman Susan Davis today, The BRAD BLOG can now confirm.

After learning of the possibility early this morning, we have now confirmed with Davis's office that she is mulling such an amendment to present to the House Rules Committee, which is set to meet this afternoon at 3pm ET to determine which amendments will be allowed for debate on Holt's controversial HR 811 election bill. The legislation is currently scheduled to come up for debate on the House Floor as soon as it's passed out of the Rules Committee.

UPDATE: Davis's office has now confirmed they will bring such an amendment if allowed by the Rules Committee and by Leadership.

The committee will decide whether or not to allow amendments to the bill at all once it's on the House floor. The BRAD BLOG has learned that the committee essentially has three options in that regard. They can move the bill forward with a "Closed Rule," meaning no amendments are allowed on the bill; a "Restricted Rule," meaning only certain amendments will be allowed for debate, or an "Open Rule," which would allow any amendment to be brought to the bill while it's on the House floor.

The phone and fax numbers for members of the Rules Committee are posted below, along with the contact information for House Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, who would be instrumental in allowing such an amendment to be brought.

At this hour, Davis's office is considering language for such an amendment, conferring with legal authorities and gauging potential support from colleagues. They may be considering restrictions on DRE usage, rather than a complete ban, along the lines of what California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen implemented recently after her independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" found severe vulnerabilities in all of the states certified touch-screen voting systems.

After the landmark study, carried out by the University of California, Bowen implemented restrictions on DRE systems made by Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, and other major manufacturers. Only one DRE per polling place will be allowed in California's 2008 elections in order to marginally meet federal accessibility requirements for disabled voters. Bowen's restrictions also allow for DRE use in Early Voting, though all such systems must have 100% of their "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails" (VVPATs) manually counted.

Bowen's office has told The BRAD BLOG they cannot yet comment on the amendment, but support from the CA SoS, we have been told, could be crucial to it moving forward. We will update this article with any comments from Bowen's office as the day progresses.

Holt's office, along with major bill supporter People for the American Way (PFAW), has long been against any such ban or restrictions on the use of DREs. Over the past several months, however, our reporting has indicated that some of the other major supporters of HR 811 --- such as MoveOn.org, Common Cause, Verified Voting, and VoteTrustUSA --- would not oppose such a ban/restriction on DRE voting systems. Some of those groups, in fact, have indicated they would support such an amendment if it were brought to the Holt bill.

UPDATE: MoveOn, Verified Voting, and VoteTrustUSA have now endorsed the Davis amendment. See end of article for details.

The BRAD BLOG would also welcome such a ban/restriction on unreliable, vulnerable DRE systems, as their continued use, as allowed by the Holt bill, has been one of our major objections to HR 811.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: We worked on the bill with its authors prior to its introduction this year, though several provisions in the bill, most notably the failure to ban DREs, have kept us from endorsing it as currently written.)

We will continue to follow this story as it develops today, and will update this article as needed...

UPDATE 2:55pm ET: Davis's office now confirms they will bring such an amendment if allowed by the Rules Comm and by Leadership!

UPDATE 3:50pm ET: MoveOn.org, one of the Holt bill's largest supporters --- and of whom we were critical in our article yesterday for their misleading email in support of the bill as currently written --- has just notified The BRAD BLOG that they support the Davis amendment to restrict DRE usage in the Holt bill.

UPDATE 4:03pm ET: The BRAD BLOG can now also confirm that both Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA --- two other ardent supporters of the Holt bill as currently written --- now endorse the Davis amendment as well.

UPDATE 5:48pm ET: A source who was present in the Rules Committee hearing room tells us that there was "a lot of skepticism about Holt's bill" from committee members. The source reports that Holt was "trying to explain the bill to members and was clearly on the defense," as members from both sides of the aisle, including Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), expressed that they have heard many complaints about the bill from constituents, Secretaries of State, and elections officials.

Our source had to leave before the hearing concluded, but was of the opinion that it seemed unlikely the bill would even make it out of committee and to the House floor at all. "Nobody on the committee was very happy with it. Nobody was happy," the source told us.

The question of whether to allow the Davis amendment had not yet been brought up in the committee before our source had to leave. More as we're able to get additional info...

UPDATE 6:44pm ET: The Rules Committee hearing has now adjourned for the day. A spokesman for the committee, John Santore, tells us that the members were unable to yet come to agreement for a rule on the bill.

"We don't have a rule yet. It may be heard again tomorrow," he told The BRAD BLOG moments ago. Though when pressed, he indicated it may not be brought up again tomorrow in the committee.

"Discussions are ongoing. It could go in a lot of directions. We could meet on it tomorrow and we might not," Santore said.

When asked if the issue of the Davis amendment was brought before the committee, he said he didn't believe so, though he wasn't at the entire hearing.

For now, shy of any late updates, we'll consider this matter closed for the day. We'll continue to suggest folks call House leadership, the members of the Rules Committee, and their own Congress members to urge them not to even consider voting in favor of the Holt bill --- should it ever come to the House floor --- unless or until an amendment to ban DREs is added to it.

UPDATE 6/6/07 3:43am ET: Okay, one last update. Susan Davis's official statement on her amendment, calling the matter of whether or not to ban DREs the "800 pound gorilla in the room." Complete statement now posted here...


The names and numbers of members of the House Rules Committee and House Leadership are posted below. We ask you to call and politely urge members to allow for Susan Davis's DRE Amendment to Holt's HR 811 Election Reform Bill. And please pass on this information to others!...

House Leadership:

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA)
Phone: (202) 225-4965
Fax: (202) 225-4188

STENY HOYER (D-MD)
Phone: (202) 225-4131
Fax: (202) 225-4300

U.S. House Committee on Rules:
Main Number: 202-225-9091

Democrats:

LOUISE McINTOSH SLAUGHTER (NY) - CHAIRWOMAN
http://www.louise.house....038;id=39&Itemid=84
Phone: (202) 225-3615
Fax: (202) 225-7822

JAMES P. McGOVERN (MA)
http://mcgovern.house.go...nid=2&sectiontree=2
Phone: (202) 225-6101
Fax: (202) 225-5759

ALCEE L. HASTINGS (FL)
http://www.alceehastings...038;id=60&Itemid=30
Tel: (202) 225-1313
Fax: (202) 225-1171

DORIS O. MATSUI (CA)
Phone: (202) 225-7163
Fax: (202) 225-0566

DENNIS CARDOZA, (CA)
http://www.house.gov/cardoza/biography.shtml
Phone: (202) 225-6131
Fax: 202-225-0819
800-356-6424

PETER WELCH, (VT)
http://www.welch.house.g...038;id=23&Itemid=61
Phone:(202) 225-4115

KATHY CASTOR (FL)
Phone: (202)225-3376
Fax: (202)225-5652

MICHAEL ARCURI (NY)
Phone: 202-225-3665
Fax: 202-225-1891

BETTY SUTTON (OH)
Phone: (202) 225-3401
Fax: (202) 225-2266

Republicans:

DAVID DREIER (CA) - Ranking Minority Member
Office (202) 225-2305
Fax (202) 225-7018

LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART (FL)
Phone: (202) 225-4211

DOC HASTINGS (WA)
Phone: (202) 225-5816
Fax: (202) 225-3251

PETE SESSIONS (TX)
(202) 225-2231
(202) 225-5878 fax