Elections & Voting
An open letter to voters clarifying H.R. 550
From Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)

Apr 12, 2006, 01:12

I would like to thank Bev Harris for her work to improve the integrity of elections. In fact, it was through Bev Harris� work that I first became aware of the virtual monopoly that only a few voting system vendors have over the vote count in the United States. Her work, and that of many others in the grassroots community, played an important role in my development of a solution to the problem of an increasingly privatized vote count.

I would like to correct, however, a few misrepresentations about my legislation included in her recent article.

First, my legislation calls for a minimum (not a maximum) unannounced manual audit of �at least 2 percent� of the precincts in each state, and the sample must include �at least one precinct� in each county. Precincts must be selected �on an entirely random basis using a uniform distribution in which all precincts in a state have an equal chance of being selected.� This provision is calculated to provide a high level of assurance that any irregularity will be caught, but importantly, nothing in the bill prevents states from passing additional state-based audit requirements. Those who believe the federal 2 percent minimum audit requirement should be higher should join me in getting the House Administration Committee to act on my bill, and then push for an amendment to increase the percentage. Working to defeat H.R. 550 at this critical juncture is tactic that will only cement the status quo.

Second, my legislation does not call for simply �adding a �vvpat�� to touch screen (DRE) voting machines. It mandates that there be a �voter-verified paper record� for every vote cast, and explicitly lists as examples �a paper ballot prepared by the voter for the purpose of being read by an optical scanner, a paper ballot prepared by the voter to be mailed to an election official (whether from a domestic or overseas location), [and] a paper ballot created through the use of a ballot marking device.� H.R. 550 allows the use of DREs only if they print out a paper record that the voter can verify, and that serves as the actual ballot of record.

Finally, my legislation is not calling for anyone to �wait a couple years� before it gets committee action. My first bill demanding voter verified paper records was introduced in May 2003, and it had a November 2004 deadline. My current bill was introduced in February 2005, and it has a first-election-in-2006 deadline. Not only are there no delays built into my legislation, but its sound, reasonable audit requirement is helping it gain yet more bipartisan support. Thanks to the continued involvement of many thousands of people from across the country, H.R. 550 is gaining steam every day. Since hundreds of citizen advocates came to Washington, D.C., last week, almost a dozen more representatives have become co-sponsors.

I agree with Ms. Harris that we must demand an end to voting system secrecy while still protecting the secret ballot. My legislation will accomplish this by requiring voter-verified paper records of every vote, requiring audits, and banning undisclosed software and the use of wireless devices. We also agree on the need for increased citizen oversight, which my legislation facilitates by removing HAVA�s exemption of the EAC from the public bidding process, thus enabling established citizen groups to bid to conduct the audits themselves.

As it has been from the beginning, H.R. 550 continues to be the product of an immense amount of thought, work, and advocacy by concerned citizens, voting experts, and computer scientists. I remain open to constructive advice and fair criticism. Further, I encourage all parties to ask the Committee on House Administration and state legislatures to take action on this critical issue now.


Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)

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