Thursday, May 17, 2007

David Dill vs Nancy Tobi On Holt HR 811

For our information

It's Time to Outlaw Paperless Electronic Voting in the U.S. (13 comments ) by David Dill 4-29-2007

Four years ago, when I began publicly opposing paperless electronic voting, passing a federal law to require voter-verified paper records (VVPRs) seemed an impossible dream. Rep. Rush Holt introduced such a bill in 2003, and another in 2005, but both bills languished in committee until the clock ran out.

The dream is now achievable, due in part to the unending stream of problems caused by paperless voting machines in recent years.

HR 811, the third incarnation of the Holt bill, is a critical measure needed to protect the integrity of our elections, and it now has very good prospects of being enacted. It already has 210 co-sponsors in the House, where only 218 votes are required to pass it.
There are two provisions in HR 811 that are especially vital for restoring trust in American elections: A nationwide requirement for voter-verified paper records, and stringent random manual counts of those records, to make sure they agree with the announced vote totals. The requirements in the Holt bill are superior to those in almost every state of the country (there are now 22 states with significant amounts of paperless electronic voting, and only 13 states require random audits of VVPRs).

Success is not assured, however. The forces that have blocked previous bills are still active, especially vendors of current poorly performing equipment. Also, various concerns, reasonable and otherwise, have been raised about the bill by other parties.

Some groups insist on optical scan machines, which read and count hand-marked paper ballots, and are not supporting HR 811 because it still allows the use of touch-screen machines. However, under HR 811, those machines must be equipped with so-called voter-verifiable paper trails, which print a paper copy of the vote that can be reviewed by the voter before being cast. Most of the current generation of inferior paper-trail machines would not be allowed under HR 811, which requires the machines to preserve the privacy of voters and requires the VVPRs to be printed on high-quality paper. This will create a strong incentive for local jurisdictions to purchase optical scan equipment. Furthermore, HR 811 makes the paper records the official ballots of record in audits and recounts, and requires election officials to post a notice explaining to voters the need to verify their VVPRs.

I would personally prefer to see optical scan machines be used nationwide, if supplemented by equipment to allow voters with disabilities to vote privately. If groups objecting to HR 811 can cause such a bill to be introduced and line up the votes in Congress to get it passed, that bill will have my support. Meanwhile, those of us who have actually talked to Congressional staff have not seen any significant support for such a requirement. It seems that we have a choice between HR 811 or continuation of our current "Kafka-esque" paperless system (as a French politician recently described it).

Another small but noisy contingent is opposing HR 811, sometimes without revealing their true agenda, because they will be satisfied only with a nationwide system of hand-counted paper ballots. In theory, we could adopt hand-counting of all ballots. However, hand counting is rarely used now. It is politically unrealistic to believe that the overwhelming number of jurisdictions that have been using automated voting in various forms for 40 years or more are going to go back to hand counting. HR 811 does not prevent hand counting for those communities who want to do it, but it provides a realistic solution for the rest of us...

Shame on all of you for mistaking technology for democracy

Rebuttal to Dill's Support of the HR 811 Trojan Horse
By Nancy Tobi OpEd News Friday 27 April 2007

...Dill writes:

"There are two provisions in HR 811 that are especially vital for restoring trust in American elections: A nationwide requirement for voter-verified paper records, and stringent random manual counts of those records, to make sure they agree with the announced vote totals."
Dill is correct in that we need to have auditable paper in our elections. He is incorrect in stating we need to have paper "records" (as opposed to ballots), but at least he is honest enough to make the differentiation. The Holt Bill itself disingenuously refers to "paper ballots" throughout the bill, even while referring only to paper printouts generated by a computerized voting machine.

But I believe that if Holt had produced an ingenuous "paper trail" bill with only the two items Dill mentions above, it is highly unlikely the bill would be receiving such a wide swath of broad based opposition.

(And it should be noted here that the bill is opposed by a strange group of often oppositional bedfellows: the voting industry, the National Association of Secretaries of States, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties, The Election Center, the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, and election integrity activist organizations and individuals nationwide.)

It is doubtful that, had the bill only contained the two items Dill points to, it would be receiving such strong opposition even from those citizens Dr. Dill claims have a "hidden agenda" for hand counting.

I will not belabor the particular issue of hand counting that he raises - in somewhat of a sidelong manner - in his piece, but it is worth rebutting his positioning of it.

Those patriotic Americans who support hand counted paper ballot elections, of which I include myself, support hand count elections because we have spent considerable time over the past several years analyzing requirements - not for TECHNOLOGOLICAL elections - but for DEMOCRATIC elections.

After several years of rigorous debate, dialog, dissent, and discussion, after years of this evolutionary thought by patriotic American citizens, we have arrived at the simple conclusion that democratic elections require citizen oversight of the entire voting process, and that this is impossible when computers - with their processes invisible to the human eye - are involved. In other words, we have come right back to what the founders of our nation and the framers of our early state constitutions understood full well, which is why both the Massachusetts and New Hampshire constitutions state that our votes must be "sorted and counted" in "open meeting".

This raises doubt as well on optical scanners, which, as Dr. Dill full well knows, have been the perpetrators of at least as much electoral crime, fraud, and failure as the touch screens he derides in his piece...

Bev Harris Black Box Voting:

HR 811: Representative Lofgren's substitute amendment

the new version is NOT improved! It's actually worse than its predecessor.


- It rides roughshod over the Constitutional rights of the states, by taking the unprecedented step of recommending that states violate their own state laws if needed in order to comply with the bill. It then says the states can catch up with their own laws later.

Let me explain just how wrong-headed this is, and "wrong-headed" is a polite term for "power grab":

Laws are supposed to be passed following a deliberative process. That deliberative process is not supposed to have a foregone conclusion, and if it does, the deliberative process is just a sham process. So, when the federal government encroaches on the fundamental checks and balances giving certain powers to the states, by telling the states to violate their own state laws, and then says "you can change your laws to match later", that is saying "do a sham deliberative process with a foregone conclusion" to create your legislative changes...


Avi Rubin's Blog
Thursday, April 26, 2007
David Dill's excellent essay on the Holt Bill

May 10th, 2007
Paper trail bill voted out of House committee. Would such a law have prevented Sarasota?
Posted by ZDNet Government @ May 10, 2007 @ 9:25 PM

Categories: Government technology, Congress, Elections

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