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The Neighborhood Penny Candy Shop and Why Holt (HR 811) Needs To be Fixed or Discarded

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Incrementalism in and of itself works for instituting foundations upon which we can build.

In the case of elections, as many have already pointed out, it also needs to include in the foundation the essential elements that protect our constitutional rights to a free and open democracy.

The accessibility argument, in terms of the ADA and the Voting Rights Act, has never been addressed intelligently in the arena of our elections. Instead, we have been handed a demolition derby of competing voting rights, all crashing into each other in destructive, rather than productive, ways.

We are probably spending at least anywhere from $10,000-$50,000 per voter actually USING our so-called disability solutions. This means we are spending a lot of money and resources on complex technology to meet the needs of a very small percentage of the population while ignoring the needs of others. There is no prioritization and no common sense being applied.

And the foundation for incrementalist improvements in our elections is a house of cards that for the most part is built with elements (such as opaque technologies) that actually conflict with the tenets of democracy.

Incrementalism is necessary, to a certain degree, in our country's elections now, because they are so screwed up and there are so many bricks to be laid in building the foundation.



But even if this is what you are looking for, it will not be found in Holt, because the only incrementalism in this bill are the steps being taken to further destabilize and complexify our election systems to the breaking point. Holt's bill is laying the foundation to enable the plans of the EAC and its foul Technological Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), as they have clearly articulated them to be: Their plans are to bring us to completely paperless verification systems, in which one computer checks another, and to impose requirements for walking, talking ballots, in multiple languages, to accommodate the needs of every single possible disability and minority language irrespective of practical need, implementation or cost.

This is the incrementalism you have in Holt. It is NOT incrementalism to more transparent elections by any means, and if its language is intentionally obscure and then further obscured through an ingenious and successful propaganda campaign, shame on everyone for not taking the time to read the bill and ponder its very real significance.

Holt's office has been intractable on negotiating or removing the two most dangerous elements in the bill: the perpetuation of the Election Assistance Commission and the new requirement for text conversion technology - and YES, that requirement is STILL in the bill in black and white on page 9, where it states the voting system must do the following:

"allow the voter to privately and independently verify the individual, durable paper ballot through the conversion of the human-readable printed or marked vote selections into accessible form"


This is in the version of the bill reported out of committee found right here:
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:h811rh.txt.pdf

And while the authors of the bill have removed the explicit provision to extend the Commission, they reference it no less than 31 times in the 60 page bill, granting it ever increasing authorities and appropriations in perpetuity.

Incrementalism would work if ALL Holt did was put paper back into the system so we could build off of that transparent foundation. It doesn't. If this is all Holt did, it would not affect the X number of states, like NH, which already HAVE paper in their systems.

But Holt will affect EVERY state because it imposes new requirements that are complex and destabilizing.

Imagine you have a neighborhood penny candy shop. You run your shop in a simple straight forward way, so that people enter and buy penny candy, you take their penny, put it in the cash drawer, they take their candy, and all is well. But one year the government decides that you have to change the way you manage that transaction. It decides that you have to provide any disabled person with the opportunity to get the candy off the shelf without reaching for it.

So you redesign your entire shop floor plan. You purchase expensive technology to raise and lower the shelves with the flick of a switch. You change your entire tax reporting system and hire new staff to fulfill the new government reporting requirements. 30% of your time running the shop is now spent fulfilling the governmental reporting requirements, rather than maintaining the quality and security of the product, never mind the accuracy of the transactions.

Then four years later the government provides new mandates. Now, your shop needs to get the candy to people without their having to flick the switch, in case someone enters who has dexterity issues. Now, the receipts you provide need to be converted into every possible language, plus audio, so that the blind and non-English speakers are accommodated. And, by the way, the government tells you this is a civil rights issue so they don't have to pay to help you fulfill all these required changes.

You dig into your fairly meager financial reserves, go to your local high tech inventor, who tells you he can get you a device to convert most of your receipt text, it will cost you $6,000 to buy, and you should budget at least $1,000 for the next ten years (because you always do a 10 year budget), so your total costs will be $16,000 for this one device. He tells you this device will not be able to do everything you want it to do, and you will probably have to pay ongoing costs for the configuration and reconfiguration as he tries to figure everything out to meet all the complexities of the requirements, but that's okay. Might as well get started on it.

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Nancy Tobi is best known as a national leader in the voting rights movement for her seminal work exposing the dangers and fallacies in various election reform efforts past, present and future. Nancy is co-founder and former Chair of Democracy for (more...)
 
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