March 29, 2009

2009 Holt Bill on E-Voting:
Making a Bad System Worse

By Nancy Tobi source

Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) is getting ready to introduce his 2009 electronic voting bill.  Interested readers can review the 65-page proposal here. Holt has been trying for several years to pass one version or another of this bill.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires observable vote counting. Many state constitutions demand a public voting system with public vote counts. The Holt Bill mandates computerized voting systems, and enforces concealed vote counting.

Concealed vote counting violates our voting rights.

The Holt Bill extends the federally sponsored 2002 e-voting Ponzi scheme, when Congress, through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), invested $4 billion taxpayer dollars into a fraudulent e-voting promise, causing the states to scoop up computerized voting machines and voting registration systems that turned out to be as fraud-friendly as the firm of Madoff Investment Securities.

If you think the Madoff Ponzi scheme was extensive, consider this e-voting rip-off.

The e-voting scheme promised huge returns: High tech, efficient elections. Voting systems that can meet the needs of every voter with a disability, every voter speaking a language other than English, you name it, e-voting will do it. But there was nothing behind this promise.

The e-voting legislation invested taxpayer dollars into an industry producing fraud-friendly voting systems, with built-in double and triple sets of accounting books, audit reports and logs that drop data tracking of programmatic events like changed vote counts and the like.

This is the industry whose product gave a negative count of 16,022 votes for candidate Al Gore in the Florida 2000 election, delivering the wrong President to America.

The 2002 Congressional e-voting bill also established a White House agency (the Election Assistance Commission, or EAC), which perpetuates e-voting failures by drafting new e-voting standards and schedules for the states, which can never - in reality - be met. The EAC drafts standards for e-voting equipment that hasn’t been built, hasn’t been tested, and, which is so complex that no ordinary election official could possibly operate independently of private industry control.

The EAC e-voting scheme has the states investing in equipment that will require upgrades or replacements in each succeeding election. In this scenario, the e-voting industry gets richer while America's elections become pilot runs to test new technologies!

The $4 billion e-voting systems - and the multi-millions of continuing taxpayer e-voting "investments" since 2002 - have delivered truly catastrophic elections.

Machine breakdowns. Unprovable election results. Unlimited avenues for manipulation.

Once the states used up the first $4 billion federal dollars, they were left to their own devices to come up with the continuous cash flow required to service, repair, and replace the error-prone e-voting systems. Not to mention costs for storage, transportation, certification and recertification.

Now comes the Holt Bill with a new provision that will up the e-voting ante by requiring states to purchase entirely new technologies: high tech, high cost, highly complex, computerized assistive voting technologies that do not even exist yet.

Many citizen activists, myself included, have opposed previous versions of the Holt Bill.

We oppose this year's version of the legislation as well because it repeats all of the errors of past versions.

  1. It contains a concealed vote counting provision that allows access to voting machine software only to "qualified" experts and only if they sign a nondisclosure agreement. The Holt Bill will make concealed vote counting federal law. If Holt's bill passes, it would be a federal crime to let the public know whether or not voting machines work as promised!
  2. The bill includes a provision for high cost, high tech, as yet non-existent technologies that are allegedly designed to enable "accessibility" to disabled voters. This is another multi-billion dollar boondoggle that enriches the e-voting industry and bankrupts the democratic process by rendering our elections completely opaque and under the control of corporate high tech industries. It is already possible to achieve accessible voting without the use of complex, high cost, opaque, technologies.
  3. The bill places a White House agency between the states and their certification of election results. It requires states to provide all kinds of data to the EAC in order to certify election results. The obvious conflict of interest in having the White House involved in election certifications opens the door to dangerous litigation should the EAC agency take issue with the data or the election results. This places election results in the hands of the Executive branch and possibly even the Judiciary, which may once again be called upon to decide election outcomes.
  4. The bill subverts the election night first count as the vote of record and replaces it with the results from post-election sampling. Post-election sampling is highly vulnerable to chain of custody risk vectors of all kinds. Furthermore, the sampling (or “audits”) so far proposed by Holt, are not statistically adequate to ensure any reliable verification of election night results.

Holt supporters advocate for the bill because it provides incremental progress, in that it requires durable paper ballots in every election system.

But the negative Gore vote count in Florida happened in a system using durable paper ballots.

The problem was they were counted in a concealed electronic count with no public oversight.

The incremental step of getting paper ballots into every voting system offers a placebo effect to make people feel good without improving the democratic process.

Holt's bill expands corporate control over our elections, usurps public authority and oversight, subverts election night vote counts, and allows for White House intervention in election results.

We have no excuse to compromise on democracy. We now know too much about e-voting and its risks. We understand the perils of concealed electronic vote counting and corporate control over our elections. We know, too, that post-election samples of possibly compromised ballots do not legitimately replace election night public vote counts.

Today, Americans are demanding change in broad strokes: for our health care, our economy, our environment, our education… and, yes, our elections.

We cannot allow the Holt Bill to pass.

Election reform efforts must focus on restoring voting rights: repeal HAVA, eliminate the EAC , and honor our tradition of representational democracy, self-governance, and public oversight of our elections.

Author's Bio:

Nancy Tobi is co-founder, former Chair, and website editor for Democracy for New Hampshire (DFNH). She is also a founder and Chair of the NH Fair Elections Committee. Nancy is the author of numerous articles on election integrity, including "The Gifts of HAVA: Time to Ask for a Refund," "The Myth of Verified Voting," "We're Counting the Votes: An Election Preparedness Kit," and "Hands-on Elections: An Information Handbook for Running Real Elections, Using Real Paper Ballots, Counted by Real People". Her article about election reform fallacies is included in the April 2008 book "Loser Take All" edited by Mark Crispin Miller. Nancy's Youtube videos ( include "Protect the Count- NH", "The $700 Rig", "High School Hackable Elections", "Findings about the Diebold Optical Scanner", "New England's Diebold Vendor Testifies of Defects", "Pulling up the Stone: Patriots at Work", and "Hand Count Elections". She can be seen on NH's political talkshow "Political Chowder" in the Youtube video "NH Votes Outsourced to Diebold". Nancy believes in the principles embodied in our Constitution, and that grassroots movements are the best way of empowering ordinary people to do extraordinary things.