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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Feb 12th, 2007 - 01:32:46

What's wrong with Holt II (HR 811)
By Bev Harris
Online Journal Guest Writer

Feb 12, 2007, 01:18

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You may have received one of the mass e-mails recently from Common Cause or People for the American Way (PFAW), urging you to support hurried passage of the new Holt bill. Below is a concise list of problems with the bill.

And you should know:

  • Common Cause and PFAW lobbied for HAVA (Help America Vote Act).

  • Common Cause and PFAW then lobbied for full funding of the direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine purchases.

  • Common Cause told its members to support Holt II (HR 811) two weeks before they knew what was going to be in the bill.

  • PFAW put deceptive bullet points on its Web site regarding the bill (but removed them when Brad Friedman confronted them on the deceptions).

  • Open Voting Consortium has publicly come out against the bill.

  • Black Box Voting has publicly come out against the bill.

  • Brad Friedman has publicly come out against the bill.

  • Jon Bonifaz ( / Demos) has publicly come out against the bill.

  • Paul Lehto has publicly come out against the bill.

  • Democracy for New Hampshire has publicly come out against the bill.

  • John Gideon of Voters Unite has refused to support the bill.

And there will be more.

Problems with the bill

1. Deceptive language. Calls a paper TRAIL a paper BALLOT.

2. Billion-dollar unfunded mandate: Requires text conversion technology in every polling place. At $7,000 per machine for 185,000 polling places, you do the math. See this article for documentation on the billion-dollar boondoggle.

The bill is not talking about scanner wands, folks.

Note that only two vendors currently manufacture the needed technology, and one (Populex) has as head of its advisory board Frank Carlucci, the former chairman of the Carlyle Group and former CIA director, who was Donald Rumsfeld's roommate in college. Every polling place in America. is this really what you want? Isn't it time to read the fine print on this???

3. Makes the scandal-ridden Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) a permanent fixture and increases its power -- Open Voting Consortium statement: "Holt contemplates the invasion of these United States by the federal government. If passed, it would BREAK the voting system in the states while establishing a dictatorship to handle things: the Election Assistance Commission ("EAC" or just "the Commission") with its four commissioners appointed by the president of the United States."

4. Loss of secret ballots for the military

5. No recognition of citizen right to oversight. Audit provisions do not allow either citizens or candidates access to any records for meaningful audits.

6. Conflicting requirements -- i.e., must have text converters by 2008 and must study how to best do the conversions by 2010.

7. Language on disclosed source contains an error in that it doesn't deal with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components -- meaning, any electronics component with a chip on it would be required to disclose source code. There are literally hundreds of commercial off the shelf components in the system -- printers, video drivers, motherboard components -- that contain firmware, and these are manufactured all over the world. The bill would require Hitachi, Seagate, Fuji, Western Digital to open up their code for their commercial products if used in voting machines. Effectively eliminates the use of electronics while at the same time mandating electronics.

8. Mush language about who gets what. (example: "The manufacturer shall provide the appropriate election official with THE INFORMATION NECESSARY FOR THE OFFICIAL TO PROVIDE INFORMATION . . .�)

9. Overcomplex: No Appendix, so sections of the bill require the reader to actually go find a different bill and look up sections in it in order to make sense of the current bill. (example: "Section 301(a)(1) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 15481(a)(1)) is amended (A) in subparagraph (A)(i), by striking "counted" and inserting "counted, in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3)").

10. Audit protocols that no one agrees with, even fans of audit solutions.

11. Loophole allowing central tabulators and ballot definition software to be connected to the Internet.

12. Loophole allowing states with computer-only recount protocols to bypass manual audits.

13. Loophole allowing machine count to supercede voter verified paper when fuzzily described circumstances arise. Conny McCormack already has tried to co-opt this (Feinstein senate hearing last week) into meaning when there is a printer jam damaging the paper, the machine count will trump.

14. Supports DREs

So many people worked so very hard on this bill, but in the end it isn't about who worked hard. It's about getting it right.

And if it's got this many problems now, just wait until the lobbyists carve it up.

Bev Harris is the founder of Black Box Voting, Inc., an advocacy group opposed to electronic voting methods based on non open-source code.

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