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HR 811 - Electronic Tallies Can Still Trump Paper Ballots on Election Day

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Message Lynn Landes

HR 811 - Electronic Tallies Can Still Trump Paper Ballots On Election Day

by Lynn Landes

This is a good news / bad news story. The good news - If the Holt bill (HR
811) passes into law, it will be the first time since Feb.14, 1899 that
paper ballots will be required in federal elections. Americans will finally
regain their right to a paper ballot, to verify their ballot, and to correct
their ballot, if necessary.

The bad news - The electronic tally, not paper ballots, can continue to
constitute the "official" ballot on Election Day, regardless of obvious
errors. Although, it does not appear to be a requirement for election
officials to accept an electronic tally over paper ballots.

Matthew Dennis from Holt's office says, ".on Election Day, neither a
corrected paper ballot nor a paper emergency ballot will be HAND counted
(unless the jurisdiction does that anyway)." That appears to mean that it's
up to state and local election officials to decide what counts and what
doesn't count on Election Day.

Under the bill, paper ballots must be hand-counted and, thus considered the
"official" ballot, in the following situations: 1) paper-only voting
systems, which applies to 0.6% of voters, 2) mandatory audits which only
affect 10% or less of all precincts depending on the margin of victory -
audits take place one week after Election Day giving corrupt election
officials ample opportunity to tamper with secret (i.e., anonymous) ballots,
and 3) in the remote event of a recount, which also gives corrupt election
officials plenty of time to commit vote fraud.

Moreover, the electronic tally can still prevail in an audit or recount if
paper ballots are compromised (i.e., damaged). This provision could act as
an incentive to sabotage paper ballots.

The "emergency ballot" provision is also confusing. Emergency ballots will
be made available on request by the voter in the event of "the failure of
voting equipment or other circumstance at a polling place that causes a
delay" and will be treated as a "regular" ballot. However, the bill doesn't
define what constitutes a delay. These ballots could create chaos at the
polls if voters demand emergency ballots from resistant election officials.
And as previously noted, emergency ballots may not be counted anyway,
according to Holt spokesperson Dennis.

Voting rights groups are divided over the bill. Some are enthusiastically
supporting it in its entirety. Others, led by, are demanding a
ban of all touchscreen machines, but strangely, they want to replace
touchscreens with computerized ballot markers and computerized optical
scanners. That seems to constitute a distinction without a difference.

The most onerous part of the bill is the requirement to provide some sort of
technology at each polling place for the disabled. A few leaders of the
disabled community may support it, but many of their members have already
concluded that voting machines create more problems than solutions.

Although the Holt bill returns the paper ballot to the American voter, HR
811 also allows a handful of private, foreign, and multi-national
corporations to remain in the driver's seat on Election Day.
Republican-friendly ES&S and Diebold may continue to count 80% of all votes.
And, if history is any judge, voting irregularities and Election Day chaos
and confusion will continue to overwhelmingly benefit Republican candidates.

Besides pushing for amendments to the Holt bill, activists are also putting
pressure on Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and other members of Congress
to re-introduce last year's HR 6200, which required paper ballots and
hand-counts for the next presidential election. That bill should be amended
to apply to all federal elections.

American voters deserve clarity. There should be a single standard for
voting that election officials from the poorest town to the richest city can
follow. And that standard should include nothing more complicated than a
pencil, paper, and local hand-count of all ballots on Election Day. It's
simple and straightforward. And that's what it will take to restore
confidence in America's voting system.

originally posted at:

Reprinted with permission from the author

Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading researchers and analysts on
voting integrity issues. She publishes Contact
info: 215-629-3553 /

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Lynn Landes is a Philadelphia-based writer, researcher, and activist in the fields of politics, health, and the environment. Her articles and opinions have been published in several books, films, and online publications.

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