New Jersey Congressman Rush Holts Grand Notion…
The American voting process is in harms way. The voting integrity grassroots have taken it upon themselves to represent the interests of this grand notion that we call American Democracy. It is rare when an elected representative or those seeking elected office will challenge the process that confirms or denies the intent of the voting population.
However, for those fortunate enough to have listened to the January 16, 2008 broadcast of the ever popular Voice of the Voters radio program, were treated to the thoughts and intent of just such a rare politician. On that program, host Mary Ann Gould spoke with New Jersey Congressman, Rush Holt. Congressman Holt gets it! He too has a grand notion, that being to create a secure, accurate and transparent American voting mechanism. The topic of the broadcast was his Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections in 2008 bill. The goal of the bill said Congressman Holt, “is to provide verified voting for every voter, and verified audits for every election”. The dilemma with the bill is one of timing, “we have not succeeded in getting it done for every county for the 2008 election” admitted the congressman. However, he then followed with, “we may be able to sway some counties to adopt paper based voting”.
Mary Ann asked, “Do you consider this a real emergency”? “As it stands right now” explained Holt, “my own state of New Jersey does not have verifiable voting”. He then explained that he named the bill “Emergency Assistance” to communicate the necessity for timely action. “The Governor of New Jersey signed legislation making it mandatory to audit elections, but there’s nothing to audit”! exclaimed New Jerseys elected voting rights champion. The Emergency Assistance Bill is “a paper based voting system with hand marked, and hand counted paper ballots” said Congressman Holt. “The addition of a printer is not part of the bill” he further explained, and “the bill does not address the addition of a printer to a Direct Recording Electronic device”.
When the topic of potential problems with the November 2008 election came up, he said, “You can bet on it’!
Fearing the same destructive process that Congressman Holt’s HR811 suffered after having been marked up by committee to the point of it being unrecognizable, Mary Ann asked, “Will you Sheppard this bill all the way through the process” and, “will the bill be changed in committee”? The congressman explained that because no one elected representative controls congress, and precisely because of how his HR811 had its teeth pulled, that the Emergency Assistance Bill is scheduled as a suspension bill that cannot be amended. He then explained that because of its category it must pass by a supermajority, two thirds of the vote. He added that, “because of the previous problems now becoming more familiar to the congressional body that Congress would be embarrassed if there are irregularities in 2008”, and “Congress may spend less time fiddling around with this”.
Holt feels that “federal reimbursement may be the incentive needed” to get counties to convert to paper ballots. He then stated that a “federal standard” needs to be established to get everyone on the same sheet of paper with the voting process. Finally! Someone has recognized the vital importance of standardization! “It is perfectly appropriate that all states meet a federal standard” said the free thinking congressman. “We in congress should have passed a federal standard years ago” admitted this very straight forward speaking public official. If I were a New Jersey resident, I would be highly inclined to vote for Mr. Holt.
He went on to clarify that the need is for “every voter will have a paper ballot” and “every vote verified”.
The congressman explained that there is, “no equivalent Senate Bill as of yet”. Mary Ann then asked, “What is the time frame that you are shooting for”? Laughing, Congressman Holt said, “Last September”. He then gave the example of how, “New Mexico in 2006 overhauled the entire election system…signed a bill in March…and had it all in place by November”. “Other states have overhauled their systems in eight months”, he further explained.
Mary Ann’s immediate question was, “Then what is the biggest opposition that slows that process”? “Everybody is an elections expert” Holt sarcastically explained. “ There are so many opinions on voting” was another of his comments. But he more directly answered the question by saying, “the biggest problem that we face is that the states and counties are not pushing this”. He used Florida as an example of how systems can change rapidly if there is the political will. He explained that the governor of Florida sent the message that, “We’re going to do it right”.
When asked by Mary Ann, “What can citizens do”, Holt insisted that contacting the state or county to get verified voting systems in place” is the way to go. Yes, that is good advice, unfortunately lacking a federal standard…one state/counties concept of verified is nothing close to another’s concept of transparency!
“The key point is having an audit” and “with electronic memories, an audit is meaningless” were two additional comments offered during that exchange.
Host Mary Ann Gould then asked, “Is a printer with a DRE acceptable”? The congressman’s instantaneous response was that, “a paperless DRE is absolutely unacceptable”, and he added, “a DRE with paper is better than no paper, but it is not my preferred way to go”.
A discussion of statistical usage was the close to the Rush Holt portion of the broadcast, and the congressman is a believer in the viability of statistical analysis. “Statistics are powerful” glowed the congressman, and he then explained that very small audit samples can reveal either validity or shenanigans in an election. “We tried to keep the legislation as simple as possible so as many counties as possible will “opt in” was the last meaningful comment.Credit should go to those that deserve such. New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt is a voting rights champion. He is standing as the lone elected warrior attempting to bring integrity to a compromised process. He gets it! Let’s all help him maintain the momentum by following his advice of contacting our respective Secretaries of State and County Election Boards. Also, lets keep contacting our elected types also…after all, to my knowledge Rush Holt is the only one at present time that gets it! Thus, the others need to be educated.
Next on the broadcast was John Gideon. His report about New Jersey’s northern neighbor New York state revealed that close proximity does not translate to similar thinking. In New York the situation is dire. Because of the New York courts, the “Commissioners are now empowered to purchase DRE’s” explained Mr. Gideon. New Yorkers must write their opinions, concerns, complaints, solutions by the end of the month. John provided the following website, WWWDOTNYVVDOTORG as a source of information and as a guide for communicating with officialdom . “They made a switcheroo” said John, and communication is vital.
He then commented on some Sequoia voting systems issues that were the topic of a Chicago based press conference, “the first screen has a glitch where if you hold your finger on the screen, votes are assigned to specific candidates”. Well, isn’t THAT special! What was even more special was when broadcast host Mary Ann Gould commented, “If it keeps going this way John, I may be in favor of all paper ballots”! Yes!