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The Cult of Holt and More from Nancy Tobi

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser     Permalink
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This is the final portion of my interview with voting rights activist, Nancy Tobi.

Initially, the Holt bill had more uniform support among the election integrity community. What happened, Nancy?

Unfortunately, since 2003, Mr. Holt and his suggested legislation have gone through a number of transformations. As a result he has damaged his position as "the Congressional election reform leader", and his legislation is no longer supportable.

Each legislative session since 2003, Holt has introduced a new version of his bill.

The second version had jumped from the simple 5-pager-no-holds-barred-nothing-concealed original bill to a 60+ page piece of legislation containing all sorts of unpalatable and obscure provisions.

I say that Mr. Holt himself went through a transformation because the goals of his new legislation were so completely different and, in fact, oppositional, to his earlier very worthy goals, that it appears that some sort of personal transformation must have occurred. But that is for him and his conscience to consider.

Where it affects the rest of us is this: with his first 2003 bill, HR2239, Holt established himself as the go-to man on the Hill for those citizens sincerely interested in positive election reform. With Holt on the election reform throne, so to speak, nobody seems interested or willing to challenge him, and his legislative efforts are now presented as gospel by citizens, the media, and his colleagues on the Hill alike.

Can you give an example of this from personal experience?

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Yes, I can. I met with my NH Congressman, Paul Hodes, a couple of years ago to ask him not to support that year's version of the Holt Bill. The bill was so complex and its language so obfuscated that it was difficult to distill the main oppositional points down to a one-page briefing.

Nonetheless, I did so, but I also provided Mr. Hodes with supporting documentation to explain the issues more deeply.

Following that meeting, Mr. Hodes' senior NH staffer, Mary Beth Walz, berated me for providing "too much information" to Hodes, whose time, she advised me, was valuable. And on top of everything, she called me to task for asking my freshman Congressman to oppose the man she called "the election reform guru of Capital Hill", a man in Mr. Hodes's own political party, a man with leadership clout.

Sure enough, not two weeks after I met with my Congressman, Mr. Hodes, he signed on as a sponsor to Holt's bill, citing, as he put it, his ability to "meet behind closed doors" and address the issues of concern I had raised to him. Needless to say, none of the issues were addressed in that bill either behind or outside of closed doors.

That must have been disappointing.

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As the Founders must have said somewhere along the way, government must be the rule of law and not of man. The Cult of Holt is now standing in our way to move forward as a true citizens' movement. And the Cult of Holt becomes an obstacle in Washington too, where party loyalty and access to power become more important than constituent representation.

Unfortunately, I believe at this point we need to deconstruct the halo from Mr. Holt and either find a new champion for voting rights on the Hill, or hold Holt's feet to the fire long enough and hard enough until he finds his way back to the more honest and beneficial election reform stance where he started from.

No legislation is perfect. Many believe that the current Holt bill (HR 2894) is the best we're likely to get. Do you disagree? Just what's so bad?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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