"As we have looked closely at all the issues concerning Election Day voting systems, we are still ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room," declared California Congresswoman Susan Davis in a statement sent to The BRAD BLOG late this afternoon.
That 800 pound gorilla, Davis goes on to say, is "the question of whether and how Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Voting Machines should be used in federal elections."
Her statement (posted in full at the end of this article) followed on the heels of our exclusive BRAD BLOG report earlier today detailing Davis's attempt to restrict the use of DREs (often referred to as touch-screen voting machines) to no more than one per polling place on Election Day in federal elections.
Davis's proposed amendment is stalled for the moment as the U.S. House Rules Committee debates whether Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) flawed and controversial Election Reform Bill (HR 811) will be sent to the floor of the House at all and, if so, whether or not amendments will be allowed with it. (See this morning's report for more specifics and details.)
The amendment is similar to, though weaker than, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's recently imposed restrictions on DRE voting systems in the Golden State, which also require a manual hand-count of 100% of the so-called "paper trails" produced by the touch-screen machines.
"There is one controversial issue that seems to come up again and again in my discussions with voters, activists, and elections officials. It is an issue that has been dealt with in many states including my home state of California just recently with the Secretary of State’s Top-to-Bottom review," Davis said, adding that "the wealth of data and opinions on this topic are so strong that I feel Congress would be remiss if we do not allow a debate on" the use of DREs in federal elections.
As a member of the House Administration Committee, which passed the bill some months ago along party lines, Davis could have brought such an amendment then. Indeed, we personally met with Davis earlier this year in her home district in San Diego --- the site of more than a few controversial touch-screen elections --- in hopes of conveying the dangers of such voting systems. While clearly concerned about the issue at the time, Davis was not yet prepared to call for either a ban or any sort of restriction on the machines that failed at hundreds, if not thousands, of precincts across the country during the 2006 election cycle.
But that was before Bowen's landmark analysis, as carried out by computer scientists at the University of California, added fuel to the anti-DRE fire, finding severe and alarming vulnerabilities in every e-voting system they tested.
With the Bowen wind at the backs of California's sizable and powerful Congressional contingent, things may well be changing, if Davis's "attempt [to] spark debate on this issue" is any indication.
In concluding her statement, Davis expressed her hope that Congress might finally address the now-unavoidable question of DRE usage in the wake of what has become a virtual mountain of evidence against them.
"Our democracy is too important to ignore this issue any longer," the Congresswoman concluded.
Rep. Susan Davis's complete statement is posted in full below...
Representing the 53rd District in San Diego, California
PRESS RELEASE: September 5, 2007
Contact: Aaron Hunter 202-225-1686
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-Calif) released the following statement on her effort to offer an amendment to Rep. Rush Holt’s bill (H.R. 811) to ban paperless voting.
“Electoral integrity is of the utmost importance to guaranteeing our democracy and I support many of the provisions of Rep. Rush Holt’s bill (H.R. 811) and respect the thought behind it.
“However, as we have looked closely at all the issues concerning Election Day voting systems, we are still ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Although Rep. Holt’s bill has looked at many tough issues, there is one controversial issue that seems to come up again and again in my discussions with voters, activists and elections officials. It is an issue that has been dealt with in many states including my home state of California just recently with the Secretary of State’s Top-to-Bottom review. The wealth of data and opinions on this topic are so strong that I feel Congress would be remiss if we do not allow a debate on the question of whether and how Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Voting Machines should be used in federal elections.
“In an attempt spark debate on this issue, I proposed an amendment to H.R. 811 allowing every polling place to have one DRE with a paper trail for those who want or need to use it—sort of a paper or plastic option. And of course, early voting could be done electronically because it makes the most sense when voters from any of thousands of precincts show up to vote in the same place and stocking all the different paper ballots can be a nightmare. What’s more, problems of the past such as long lines from broken machines or elections with no record like we saw in Florida’s 13th Congressional District could not happen. There would be fewer problems that lead to long lines and disenfranchisement, people with disabilities could vote privately, a true paper record would be available for recounts and costs would shrink.
“It is my hope that Congress will address this issue in the near future. Our democracy is too important to ignore this issue any longer.”