Citing "recent developments outside Washington that bolster critics who say DRE [usually, touch-screen voting] systems are too insecure and unreliable for use in elections," AlterNet's Steve Rosenfeld surveys the political landscape in regard to Rush Holt's impending time-bomb of an Election Reform Bill, known as HR 811.
The controversial bill that refuses to die is again said to be headed back to House Rules Committee this week, where a rule concerning whether or not amendments will be allowed to the bill when/if it reaches the House Floor will be set.
Rosenfeld reports Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is being dodgy about whether or not Rep. Susan Davis's (C-CA) amendment to restrict the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems will be allowed for debate. "I don't have an answer for you," a spokesperson told him, "I have no way of knowing. This is a comprehensive bill. This is a process that is moving."
Last week, Davis said, in a statement sent to The BRAD BLOG, that "we are still ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room," in regard to Congress's fear of discussing whether or not to allow the use of DRE systems which are now being banned by states across the country.
Her amendment was followed by an editorial from the New York Times charging that "electronic voting has been an abysmal failure," and calling for a "provision banning the use of touch-screen voting machines" to be added to Holt's bill. They add that such a provision should be in place in time for the 2008 election, though Davis's amendment, as currently written, only calls for a restriction to one DRE per polling place, by 2012.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has been a supporter of HR 811 since a secret "compromise" version, recently brokered behind closed doors by out-of-touch DRE-supporters, People for the American Way (PFAW), and Holt was agreed upon several weeks ago.
Pelosi has remained largely mum concerning her position on the bill, which does not require paper ballots, despite the blatant lie that Holt offered Rosenfeld in a report some weeks ago after CA SoS Debra Bowen's independent study at University of California found "severe vulnerabilities" in DRE voting systems. Such vulnerabilities, her study found, would not be safe-guarded against use of the paper trails that the Holt/Hoyer/PFAW compromise bill mandates.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), now a co-sponsor of Davis's amendment --- along with Barbara Lee from California --- and a previous critic of the Holt Bill, is now critical of the Democratic leadership. He seems to indicate, in comments given to Rosenfeld, that Davis's amendment will not be allowed for consideration:
"That's a shame, because this is an important issue about which many voters are justifiably concerned," he said. "I'm deeply disappointed that we won't even have the opportunity to have an open debate about the merit of these very dangerous touch-screen devices."
Quoting an industry watcher who straight out proclaims "The DRE is dead," Rosenfeld reviews a number of national and media developments that support that assessment.
Apparently, that message hasn't gotten through to Holt and the tone-deaf, out of touch Democratic Leadership on the Hill, however.
"While these events and trends are unfolding," Rosenfeld astutely sums up, "in Washington the House Democratic leadership has been accommodating interest groups that want to see continued use of the very voting systems that are being discredited across the country."
You may reach your Congress Members, along with Hoyer and Pelosi's office, to register your own opinions, via the Capitol switchboard at: 1-800-828-0498.