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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Holt Bill HR 811 Needs Essential Amendments

Essential Revisions to HR 811

If you want to endorse this statement, please email to John Gideon

The groups and individuals endorsing this statement commend Congressman Rush Holt for all that is excellent in HR 811, the “Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007” -- such as the ban on wireless communications, requirements for disclosed source code and hand audits, and the mandate that testing labs be contractually independent from vendors. However, we cannot, with good conscience, give our endorsement to HR 811.

We believe we have a duty to call attention to the bill’s unacceptable shortcomings and to call for the needed amendments.

1) We strongly object to the co-opting of the term "paper ballots," by inaccurately applying that term to a DRE printout (often called a "voter verified paper trail" or just a "paper trail").

The bill must be amended to require real, firsthand voter-marked paper ballots[1] (counted by hand or by optical scanner) and to ban the use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems, which have proven themselves to be dangerously unreliable and only produce secondhand machine-printed paper trails that require voter-verification as a separate step by each voter.

Florida's Congressional District 13 race and the report of conflicts between the paper trail records and the electronic ballots in Cuyahoga County, Ohio are only two recent examples of how elections using DRE technology cannot be trusted and how confusing the technology can be to voters. Evidence overwhelmingly confirms that, even with the addition of a voter-verified paper audit trail, DREs cannot be made to serve our nation's need for universal citizen enfranchisement. It would constitute a grievous error to further codify the use of DRE systems, as is currently done by the redefinition of "voter verified paper ballot" found at the beginning of HR 811's Section 2(a)(1).

We believe that all voters should have equal access to accurate, secure, meaningfully observable, and verifiable election systems. DREs have been touted as providing this kind of election system, but America’s experience with hundreds of documented DRE failures and thousands of voters disenfranchised by them proves otherwise.

Any voter required to use a DRE is at once relegated to second-class status, given that other voters can vote on voter-marked paper ballots. Evidence shows that voter-marked paper ballots, combined with existing ballot-marking interfaces, provide both equity and parity to disabled and language minority voters in full compliance with ADA and HAVA.

Banning DREs would encourage the use of voter-marked paper ballot systems — currently available and deployed in many jurisdictions — and would provide America with a fair, consistent, unified, and superior method of conducting elections.

Conversely, HR 811 as written would require upgrading or replacing all DREs currently deployed and would foster a fresh round of DRE technology development, rushed to market and certain to continue the technology's historical pattern of disenfranchising voters as well as wasting taxpayer dollars.

Recommended revisions:

In the proposed HAVA Section 301(a)(2)(A)(i), after "created through the use of a ballot marking device or system," delete "or a paper ballot produced by a touch screen or other electronic voting machine."

At the end of subparagraph (i), add "Paper printouts produced by a direct recording electronic voting machine are specifically excluded."

In the proposed HAVA Section 301(a)(2)(D), change "voting machine" to "tallying machines", and change "voting-machine-to-voting-machine" to "tallying-machine-to-tallying-machine".

In the proposed HAVA Section 301(a)(12)(B)(v), change "voting machine" to "voting equipment".

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