In case you may not have noticed, there is a titanic controversy swirling about the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR 811). Many highly thoughtful individuals are expounding diametrically opposing views of the portents of a document only about 30 pages long in 12-point text.
How is this possible?
graphic by Rob Kall
I am convinced that the answer lies in the parable of “the blind men and the elephant.” In this ancient Hindu folk tale, each of the six sightless persons touches a different part of an elephant, and then they argue endlessly among themselves over what an elephant really is.
graphic by rob kall
Early in my career as a research physicist I became involved in a new and highly-interdisciplinary field of research that seemed to be making little headway despite many impressive individual efforts. One of the scientists involved finally invoked “the blind men and the elephant” as the likely explanation for our lack of consensus. It was a good analogy. With major meetings spaced only about a year apart, each researcher became so wrapped up in gathering and interpreting his own data that he had little time to think about the results of colleagues doing different, but equally valid experiments.
It turns out that Rush Holt, the sponsor of the HR 811, and Vernon Ehlers, the ranking Republican on the Committee on House Administration, which recently reported HR 811 to the Committee of the Whole House, are also Ph.D. research physicists (actually the only two in Congress). (By further coincidence, I used to collaborate with scientists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory back when Dr. Holt was its Assistant Director.)
Today I find myself to be one of the “blind men” who, up until a few days ago, vehemently opposed Congressman Holt’s bill without actually reading it. My “excuse” for initially allowing others to sift through the minutia for me was that I and my colleagues at the Election Defense Alliance (http://electiondefensealliance.org/) were, and still are, placing maximum emphasis on issues affecting our fundamental Constitutional rights. In this sense, we have been touching an entirely different folkloric elephant: “the elephant in the room” – which according to Wikipedia is “an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored.”
In fact, there ARE many obvious truths that are being ignored in this debate, truths which must be brought to the fore if we are ever to assure the integrity of our elections. Here are some of those that disturb me the most:
(1) HR 811, if passes, will perpetuate SECRET VOTE COUNTING in the U.S. Our vote counting is secret in the very real sense that the initial counting takes place inside computers, where it cannot be witnessed by citizens, and (absent publicly witnessed paper-ballot audits) its accuracy can only be vouched for by “experts.” Indeed, most computer experts not in the pay of the election industry freely admit that computerized vote counting opens up the possibility of wholesale election theft, especially by insiders (http://www.votersunite.org/info/PeeringThruChinks.pdf). How this was likely done in 2004 in Ohio, and by whom, has been exposed in a recent forensic investigation (http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2562).
(2) There is compelling STATISTICAL EVIDENCE OF WHOLESALE FRAUD in the counting of the 2004 and 2006 Elections (see, for example, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen and http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/upspr, respectively). HR 811 makes no mention of this. Thus, it would be a “con job” to call this bill a “Voter Confidence Act” if it did little or nothing to prevent repeated election fraud in 2008 and beyond.
(3) Thomas Paine has warned us that “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery.” Noted election lawyer Paul Lehto (http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-profile.cgi) eloquently brings Paine’s warning up to date: Perpetuation of secret vote counting on computers “VIOLATES OUR #1 INALIENABLE RIGHT” – the one that underpins all other inalienable rights claimed for us by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence, that is, our right to “throw the bums out.”
So, captivated as I was by the power of these inconvenient truths, I made the gross “blind man and the elephant” error of not actually reading HR 811 line by line. Finally having done so, I am now convinced that the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 mandates a least one small step in the direction of eliminating secret vote counting – and one giant leap towards thwarting wholesale election fraud in the United States! That is not to say HR 811 has no defects, but I believe that those I have identified (but don’t mention here) can be corrected in time.
Here below is what I like about HR 811:
First, HR 811 requires that the voting system use or produce “an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot of the voter's vote” to be “used as the official ballot for purposes of any recount or audit.” Moreover, according to mathematician Kathy Dopp (http://electionmathematics.org), the audits mandated by HR 811 would (based on analyses of actual 2002 and 2004 U.S. House races) detect outcome-determining fraud with average statistical confidence of 58% for elections with official margins between leading candidates less than 1%, 97% for margins of 1 to 2%, and 99% for margins greater than 3%!
This much I have known from the beginning but had discounted because of another “inconvenient truth”: Every election challenge since 2000 (save FL-13 in 2006, which remains in limbo) has either been arbitrarily denied by the courts – or by Congress itself! Most recently – and most egregiously – the Committee on House Administration DISMISSED 4 OF 5 CHALLENGES to the “official” results of the 2006 Election without even examining the evidence. And in one of those cases, wholesale election fraud was proven with 100% certainty (http://clintcurtis.com/)!