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Life Arts    H3'ed 7/12/09

Exclusive Interview with Democracy Warrior, Nancy Tobi

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I have with me democracy warrior, Nancy Tobi. It's nice to have you back for another OpEdNews interview, Nancy. There's a lot of talk about Congressman Holt's new bill (HR 2894). Many in the election integrity movement are supporting it. You, along with Bev Harris and Black Box Voting, and VotersUnite, among others, are not.-Why should our readers accept your take on it?

Well, your readers shouldn't accept anyone's take on it. They should read the bill itself to see what it is about. But I understand that reading legislation is not everyone's cup of tea. And this bill, in particular, is most difficult to read because of its obtuse language and expression. This is either sloppiness on the part of Holt and his staff, or deliberate obfuscation. Either way, when the law is unclear it pushes people to the courts to decide on its interpretation. With election law, this is particularly dangerous. The last thing we want to do is pass fuzzy election law that throws our elections to the courts for interpretation. You don't have to look further than the 2000 presidential election that was decided by the Supreme Court to understand the implications of such a set up.

If folks don't want to read the bill itself and prefer to rely on the analysis of others, than I guess I am as good a resource as anyone. I have studied this bill for years, in all of its various iterations. In fact, when I first began to speak out against the bill I was pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness. Everyone in the movement, it seemed, was rallying behind Holt and his bill.

I think most people hadn't even read it and were relying on Holt's reputation as an election reformer or something. And many in the movement's early leadership had been personally approached by Holt. You might say co-opted, in fact.

Why are you against the legislation?

My dissent is and has always been based on a very careful read of the bill and the real world implications if it were to pass. I have not only consulted with real world election officials but I have also worked in elections as a citizen volunteer. I have consulted with attorneys for legal interpretations, and I have traveled around the country to observe meetings and deliberations of the White House's Election Assistance Commission and its Standards Board, which is composed of the nation's top state election officials.

I've done my due diligence on this bill.

And unlike some of the early Holt supporters, Holt's office has never opened its doors to me. They don't seem to want to work with dissent, which accounts for why their bill remains as divisive and controversial as it is.

So I have never had any personal stake in this process. I came at it as an outsider, I have no personal agenda, and nothing to gain from my analysis one way or the other. In this sense, I think I am presenting as honest and straightforward and factually supportable analysis as you will find on this issue.

Fair enough. So, will you walk our readers through the ins and outs of the Holt Bill?

Sure. Legislation like this is presented as a solution to some kind of problem. So I think it is important to first define the problem we are trying to solve here. The problem Holt is trying to solve is very different from the problem as I and many others in the movement now see it.

Obviously, America's elections are broken in a lot of ways. After the tragedy of the 2000 presidential election, Congress and the White House put together legislation called the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), ostensibly as a solution to the election problems that had been exposed in 2000. I'll talk a bit more about HAVA later, but suffice to say that the "solution" we were sold in HAVA had nothing to do with the problems in our election systems.

HAVA was just a computerized voting bill. It appropriated a lot of funding to disseminate computerized voting equipment across the nation.

Holt's bill is being presented as "an amendment" to HAVA. So the problem Holt's bill is trying to solve is purportedly to fix HAVA. Holt calls his bill the "Voter Confidence Act". I guess he wants voters to have confidence in our elections. So his bill tries to address problems with HAVA and problems with voter confidence.

The problem that I and others in the voting rights movement want to solve has nothing to do with the e-voting industry or voter confidence. The problem we want to solve is that we need to regain our constitutional right to self governance through open government and public oversight, which are the key ingredients to governance by consent of the governed.

We want to restore public control and oversight in our elections, because elections are in fact the mechanism of the democratic process.
We know that constitutional checks and balances eliminate any worry about "voter confidence."

HAVA was a computerized voting bill and Holt's expansion of HAVA is to implement nationwide, federally mandated and controlled, technology-enabled voting systems.

This has nothing to do with our American birthright, which is government by the consent of the governed.

This is the fundamental division between Holt's vision and the vision I share with others in the movement.

Because we cannot have self governance with a privatized system of elections using trade secret software to conduct concealed vote counting outside of public oversight.

Okay, Nancy. Let's take a break here and when we come back we'll talk about specific provisions in the Holt bill and what they mean for voters and our elections.
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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