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MoveOn and HR811 (the Holt Bill)

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Many people have emailed me asking what does the NH Fair Elections Committee think of the so-called "compromise" version of the Holt bill being brought to the US House floor this coming Wednesday.

They want to know, how should they vote in MoveOn's latest poll, asking their feelings about the bill. We see this as a good sign, that after months and months of pro-811 propaganda and ignoring the voting integrity movement's concerns, MoveOn seems to be open to a new look at their steadfast and inexplicable support of HR811.

So here's the straight poop. When they say the latest version is a "compromise" bill, what this means is that Congress has compromised the will of the people, the good of the nation, in favor of industry lobbyists. In December 2006 submitted to every cosponsor of HR811, including NH Congressman Hodes, a letter in opposition to HR811 with suggested amendments. This letter was signed by 800 American citizens and organizations.

How many industry lobbyists does it take to outweigh 800 ordinary Americans? Apparently as many as can fit into a room with the House Administration Committee.

In July 2007 Mark Crispin Miller revealed what Congressman Rush Holt's counsel had to say to voting integrity activists about this latest "compromise" version of HR811:

There is no doubt that Rush Holt has, in working on his bill, unduly heeded the concerns of interested corporations. This is not a speculation but a fact, which was revealed to me straightforwardly by Holt's own counsel, Michelle Mulder, who is, of course, a fervent advocate for HR 811. Recently Michelle tried, via email, to respond to some of the concerns expressed by me and several other activists, at one point asserting that the bill will not legitimize the use of secret vote-counts.

In response, I pointed out that the continued use of DRE machines, which HR 811 would permit, makes secret vote-counting inevitable, since there's no way to watch computers add up votes, or send them on to tabulators, or manage any other data.

And then I made this second point about the actual secretiveness enabled by Holt's bill:

"Unless this point in the legislation has been changed, the bill as marked up in committee now stipulates that the e-voting software be available only to 'qualified' individuals, who must sign strict non-disclosure agreements."

(This was an extraordinary change, because the early version of the bill had ordered that such software must be readily available to everyone. See my vlog on this.)

And here is Mulder's staggering reply:

"That's not what the bill said when introduced. Therefore, you can take up your concerns with Microsoft and others in the proprietary software industry. During Committee proceedings they lobbied very heavily against the language that was in the bill as introduced and none of you lobbied in favor of the language that was in the bill as introduced, and thus, the software industry won. It's very simple, really."

In other words, companies like Microsoft, Diebold and ES&S had problems with the early version of Holt's bill; and Holt himself not only listened to them, but obliged them, so that his "election reform" bill would now make our system even more undemocratic than it is already. Of this development Holt's office made no public mention, as if those private companies' dictation of the law was no big deal.

And this, Holt's counsel says, is not Holt's problem. In fact, it's our fault, for not having "lobbied very heavily" for our position (which would have been a little hard, since Holt's people have consistently refused to talk or listen to the bill's opponents).

In any case, if we don't like it, we can somehow "take up our concerns" with Microsoft et al.--and do so without Rush Holt's help.

The NH Fair Elections Committee remains opposed to HR811, and we hope to be reporting, after Wednesday's vote in the House, that our two NH Democratic representatives will have realized they are in Washington to represent New Hampshire, whose key stakeholder constituencies (NH Secretary Bill Gardner, the NH Association of City and Town Clerks, the NH Fair Elections Committee) uniformly oppose the bill, and not the Democratic Party, which seems intent to ram it through come hell or highwater.

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