This is a big week for elections and voting rights advocates.
In addition to being a huge political event, the activity surrounding the Holt Bill, H.R. 811, is highly symbolic,. The symbolism is that of diversion and denial. Holt is the apotheosis of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). That nihilistic effort was supposed to take care of the problems of Florida in2000. Unfortunately, Congress missed the point. Instead of dealing with the 57,000 voters wrongfully removed from the state of Florida’s registration records (50% minority voters) and the 100,000 plus “spoiled” ballots in Florida which were spoiled along racial lines (predominantly black precincts), HAVA served up the new voter suppression and disenfranchisement through its emphasis on voting machines and centralized registration databases.
This is important to understand. Congress passed a bill that gave us lousy voting machines run by Republican companies and an emphasis on state based centralized voter registration, the same type of databases used by Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush to remove the 57,000 voters from the rolls in 2000. It did nothing about spoiled ballots in minority precincts, other than provide a new vehicle for spoilage, electronic voting machines. HAVA also ignored the potential for disenfranchisement via state based voter registration databases. What could they have been thinking? One wonders. But, they weren’t thinking very well.
Cesare, the Somnambulist
HAVA is the Somnambulist controlled by Dr. Caligari. The Holt Bill is the magic elixir that keeps the Somnambulist from ever awakening from his dangerous and mindless sleepwalking journey that devastates the community. Quite an accomplishment!
I’m not questioning Holt’s motives. He introduced bills on voter intimidation and misleading election practices in the 109th Congress and he’s heading up the election contest brought by candidate Christine Jennings in Florida’s 13th I fully expect his considerable intellect will not be able to tolerate that obvious miscarriage of justice. congressional district.
Nevertheless, we need to wonder what kind of input Holt’s getting to produce such a flawed bill. It’s not all right to perpetuate electronic voting. At the very least, touch screens should be tossed in the nearest recycle bin immediately, if not sooner. It’s not all right to have election systems so complex that we need experts to decipher the election results. There will always be hired guns on one side or the other who make the case leading to endless controversy, litigation, and public distrust.
Can’t the Congressional faction get over it? They don’t get to control and manipulate with abandon using complexity and magic shows which they think continue to confuse and dazzle the public. People are well aware that electronic voting is a joke perpetuated by special interests; the interests who take but do not give and promise but never deliver. Congress needs to provide a suitable election approach that speaks to the peoples’ need to know and understand. Instead, we have an expertise in diversion that focuses us on the machines while we avoid the real issue, the issue that’s been with us since the Compromise of 1876, the suppression and disenfranchisement of minority and poor voters.
Compounding the diversion is outright denial. It’s more than simply denying the real problem; that’s easy to see. It’s a denial of the original 1960’s Civil and Voting Rights legislation. In an excellent article in AlterNet, Steve Rosenfeld points out the following:
As election integrity activists focus their attention on pressuring the House Committee on Administration to ban electronic voting machines when Congress reconvenes next week, the question of whether voters can individually sue -- known as a private cause of action -- has received scant public attention. But that legal right, which was a cornerstone of the federal Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, is not in the panel's bill, H.R. 811. Instead, the bill says citizens can sue under other preexisting law. 13 April 2007
Think about it. What would our history look like had citizens been denied the right to sue to gain their civil and voting rights?
In a previous article on the subject, Rosenfeld criticized election integrity activists for focusing on the negatives of the Holt bill while ignoring its implications. He suggests that H.R. 811 will effectively ban touch screens (DREs) and assure that optical scans with durable paper ballots are the standard. Should Holt pass, I hope that he’s right. He’s certainly a thorough analyst.
However, I disagree. It doesn’t matter if Holt passes. The regulatory arm of the federal government for voting rights is the Department of Justice with U.S. Attorneys fired for political reasons and replaced by political operatives. The name of the game is voter fraud, the sham election crime wave that produced a grand total of 24 convictions between 2002 and 2005. Those attorneys will not likely enforce much of anything that Holt offers, unless it’s advantageous to the White House game plan for 2008, perhaps the most important election in our nation’s history given the stakes.
The reality is simple. If the Holt bill passes, it will be enforced by Alberto Gonzales or his replacement aided by one of those famous presidential signing statements where the laws passed by Congress are changed with the stroke of an autopen. And we’ll have voting machines, optical scan or touch screen, built, sold, and, in many cases, maintained by politicized corporations of a Republican kind.
Congress is doing a much better job on Iraq than it is on elections. At least we’ve got people willing to stand up and say that the war is a disaster. When will we get a major political figure to stand up and say that our election system is a disaster designed to maintain those in power in perpetuity; most often at the expense of the least powerful?