Will House Democrats Seize the Opportunity Before Them?
By Bob Bancroft on 9/10/2007, 9:33am PT  

Guest Blogged by Bob Bancroft of VotersUnite

Just over a month has passed since California Secretary of State Bowen’s ground-breaking “Top to Bottom” review was made public. The study, conducted over the course of nearly half a year, took a comprehensive look at electronic voting machines that directly record and tabulate votes. The results were unambiguous.

According to the report, “all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results”. Computer scientists found that the secret software “contains serious design flaws that...attackers could exploit to affect election outcomes.” Despite the oft-cited rationale that e-voting expands the franchise for people with disabilities, the report starkly concluded that “[N]one met the accessibility requirements of current law”.

This report, along with countless others, leaves little doubt as to the correct course of action. As the New York Times put it in a recent editorial, “Electronic voting has been an abysmal failure.” The editors of "The Paper of Record" joined election integrity activists and watchdog groups across the country in calling upon Congress to ban these machines.

In fact, some members of Congress have caught on. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) said in a recent statement, “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.”

Despite all of this, Democratic House leadership continues to push Rep. Rush Holt's HR 811, a bill so badly compromised that one member of the powerful House Rules Committee reportedly referred to it as “Microsoft 811”. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) was referring to the fact that some of the bill’s most vital protections were stripped, replaced by new, vendor-friendly language allegedly supplied by Microsoft.

So it seems the most vocal opposition to this Democrat-sponsored bill comes from fellow Democrats. The irony was not lost on House Republicans, who took some satisfaction pointing out the in-fighting. All of this begs the question: why does House leadership continue its stubborn support of e-voting?

Only Majority Leader Steny Hoyer knows for certain.

Unfortunately, after months of repeated calls to his office, neither he nor his staff has ever responded to our inquiries. Instead, when the bill was rumored to be in jeopardy earlier this year, Hoyer enlisted People for the American Way (PFAW) to rewrite it, behind closed doors.

In a show of inexplicable loyalty to this failed technology, Hoyer and PFAW apparently concluded that attaching cash-register style thermal printers to Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting devices would somehow fix the problem. These printers failed a recent study at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) so badly that the state’s Superior Court immediately declared, “This is a crisis.”

Exactly right: this is a crisis. Millions of Americans will cast their virtual ballots on election simulators in 2008, unless action is taken now.

House Democrats have a unique opportunity to renew their covenant with the American people. They can do this, not with vendor concessions or wasteful add-ons, but by demonstrating that they understand the solemn trust we place in them, and the mechanism by which we secure that trust.

We need a clean, buck-stops-here bill to phase out DRE voting equipment from our elections. This is not about technology; this is about our civil right to vote and have that vote be counted as we cast it. Steps should be taken, in consultation with local election officials, to conduct this replacement in an orderly and fully-funded manner.

Would an end to e-voting solve all problems? No. But such decisive action would show that this House has its priorities in order. There is no single step that could do more to restore the integrity of, and public confidence in, our elections today.


House Leadership:

Phone: (202) 225-4965
Fax: (202) 225-4188

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