by N. Tobi, April 2006
This week Holt Bill fervor hit the election reform movement in a big way. TrueMajority launched an email alert asking its members to support HR550 (aka the Holt Bill, aka the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act) as written. VoteTrustUsa.org posted an article on their website urging the same.
But election activists are not united on this issue, and for good reason.
The Holt Bill is well intended, its origins are pure, but unfortunately, it is not just about paper ballots; it includes several dangerous provisions that are not at all good for our democracy.
The movement of informed grassroots activists against the Holt bill is growing each day. This bill, like the Help America Vote Act, was borne from the grassroots but now seems to have been hijacked by special interests. Since the 2000 election, grassroots activists have been struggling to bring about meaningful reforms to ensure the integrity of our elections. Passion at the grassroots level has been repeatedly distorted once it hits Congress. Witness the so-called "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA). Ostensibly passed at the behest of election reform activists, the Act is one of the more heinous examples of Capital Corruption and lobbyist influence in contemporary politics. Rather than helping America Vote, HAVA has brought unprecedented chaos into America's elections, at an obscene cost to the country in dollars and democracy.
Now Congress is ready to do it again, once again with the backing and blessing of large election reform groups. Rather than being a simple piece of legislation responding to grassroots demands for verifiable paper ballots, HR550 has grown into another endorsement for the privatization of elections and the creation of a federalized launch into electoral chaos at the federal, state, and even the local level.
How did this transformation occur? I can't say, because I am not privy to the discussions and decisions being made in congressional offices. I am part of the grassroots: that vast, thriving, disorganized network of ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard in the halls of power. We don't have foundation funding, we don't have fancy websites and communication networks, and we don't have inside access to those in power. We work full time jobs, raise our families, try to pay our bills, and somehow fit in to our lives some moments of political expression.
Well, here is mine.
I am issuing a counter alert to TrueMajority and VoteTrustUsa.org. I am urging the grassroots to not sign their petitions, to not call their congressional representatives, to not allow the passage of another piece of federal legislation that will result in countless iterations of unintended consequences, and push us into more and more years spending our time in damage control rather than rebuilding our democracy.
What I'd really like to see happen is for us all to work together on this, Congress, the grassroots, and organized election reform groups. This is too important to screw up yet again.
So what's wrong with the Holt Bill?
I have already written two articles explaining concerns that grassroots activists have about HR550. For background, you can read those here:
What's wrong with the Holt Bill? Part 1
What's wrong with the Holt bill? Part 2
The biggest issue with the bill as written is that it sets us up for a handover of election control to the executive branch. The bill proposes to empower the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an entity created in HAVA allegedly for the sole purpose of overseeing HAVA implementation. But the EAC has been steadily growing in its power, and the Holt Bill cements and expands its powerful position of authority over our elections. The problem? EAC Commissioners are presidential appointees. They are not a representative body, they have no checks and balances.