For months, supporters of Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR 811) - from computer scientists such as David Dill and Avi Rubin, to extremely powerful advocacy groups such as People for the American Way (PFAW) and VoteTrustUSA --- have been telling critics, who believe that Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems are antithetical to democracy, that an amendment to his bill, requiring a ban on such systems, could not be passed by Congress.
They appear to have accepted the talking point as gospel, and thus have argued that any attempt to amend the current bill (and the matching one in the Senate) is a fruitless endeavor, and we should therefore, support the bill as is because something is better than nothing.
In the case of PFAW, they've actually been responsible, in no small part, from selling that line to the public.
Never mind that if the many respected Election Integrity advocates and computer scientists repeating that unsubstantiated argument actually announced they would not support any federal Election Reform legislation that failed to include such a ban --- one which most of them have said they'd support (PFAW not included) --- that we might actually get such a ban added to the bill.
Nonetheless, despite my best efforts, I have yet to be able to find a single Congress Member who supports the bill as currently written, without such a ban, who will go on record --- or even admit off-record --- that they would vote against the Election Reform bill if it included a ban on DREs.
I have yet to be able to find one.
Anyone have a name for me? Even just one?* * *
DRE voting systems --- with or without a so-called "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT) --- have been shown time and again to be inaccurate, easily tamperable, and dangerous for use. When they fail to work at all on Election Day, as they frequently do --- and as we saw week after week throughout the primary and general election cycle in 2006 --- legally registered voters are unable to even cast a vote.
Equally notable, DRE systems, by their design, are against the law and in strict violation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which the Holt bill is meant to amend.
Section 301 of HAVA expressly requires that any electronic voting system "permit the voter to verify (in a private and independent manner) the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted." And yet, by design, electronic DRE systems allow for no such verification by the voter.
At best, a voter may verify a "paper printout" said to represent the electronic ballot, the one which is actually "cast and counted" on a DRE system --- if the DRE in question is equipped with a VVPAT printer. Of course, that's only if the voter bothers to verify it for accuracy. Unlike with a paper ballot system, "voter verified" by definition, since the voter has marked it themselves, it is impossible to determine whether or not such paper printouts were ever verified by the voter.
(Holt's bill requires that all DRE systems must have a paper printout, thus their oft-repeated, misleading sales line that the bill will "ban paperless electronic voting machines." Very clever, eh?)
And while the voter may or may not verify the accuracy of that DRE paper printout --- studies by electronic voting supporters, of all people, at CalTech and MIT [PDF] and elsewhere, have shown that the vast majority of voters do not --- that paper printout is never counted on Election Night. That fact will remain true even under the current provisions of the Holt Bill.
Instead, as will be required by Holt, just a tiny 3% of those paper printouts will ever be counted by anyone or any thing in most cases (some times as much as 10%), as part of an "audit" provision in the Holt bill. That audit will take place days after the media has already been given the name of the "winner" of the election as based on the results reported from the 100% voter-unverified electronic ballots as cast and counted on the DRE voting systems.
While it is strictly impossible for any human being to determine if their actual ballot is accurate before it is cast and counted on a DRE voting system, and strictly impossible to determine if a voter has actually verified that the paper printout supposedly representing their ballot has accurately reflected their intent, some say that's okay, because the 3% to 10% "audit" later on will most likely catch any discrepancies days after the election.
For those who believe it's just fine that 90% to 97% of the votes said to be represented by such paper receipts will never be tallied by anyone or anything, because a post-election audit will somehow be effective in reversing inaccuracies reported on Election night, I'd remind them of Bush v. Gore, when the Bush Team went all the way to the Supreme Court to argue, successfully, that their client would be "irreparably harmed" if a count of the actual paper ballots, which actually existed in that contest, had proceeded because the media had already announced George W. Bush to be the "winner" on Election Night.