REQUEST BY VOTERS:
To amend H.R. 550 (aka the "Holt bill") with remedies and recommendations for removing obstacles to democratic elections
December 25, 2006
Dear Honorable Representative _________________________,
We are a coalition of national and local individuals and groups working on meaningful election reform. We understand that H.R. 550 and other proposed election reform legislation are targeted for passage in the upcoming congressional session starting on January 4, 2007. We believe there is a need to amend H.R. 550, of which you are a sponsor.
Congressman Holt has indicated that he is amenable to changing the language of this bill. As of the date of this letter, those proposed changes have not been made public. Unless these proposed changes address our concerns, our recommendations regarding this or any other proposed legislation to address election problems remain as stated herein.
A recent Zogby poll shows that 92% of the American public wants the right to view vote counting and obtain information about it, making a very strong case for transparency and against secret vote counting outside the observation of the public. We believe that fiscally responsible and secure solutions will ensure transparency and restore full validity to all future election results for millions of voters across America.
Whereas HAVA and many proposed legislative amendments are written to enable technology-based elections, our remedies are written to enable democratic elections. The question of if and how technology is integrated into elections must build off of this foundation, and not vice versa.
We wish to acknowledge your and Congressman Holt's support for election integrity that led to the development and co-sponsorship of H.R. 550 to amend HAVA in early 2004. However, in the years since H.R. 550's first introduction, revelations about electronic voting and HAVA outcomes undermine the bill's original purpose. We describe these in detail below.
In light of our work in the area of election integrity, we ask you to consider the strategy as described below. We have submitted our remedies and recommendations to some of the most experienced election officials in the nation, and have received their support. Our proposal reflects years of work to restore the democratic processes required to support the American Republic as envisioned in the U.S. Constitution. Your leadership in enacting the remedies described below is an important first step towards this goal.
1) PAPER BALLOTS Amend HAVA to require durable voter-marked, paper ballots, which are defined as those ballots used in the first count, as the legally defensible gold standard for determining voter intent. The voter-marked paper ballot is auditable, durable, observable, efficient, and reliable. Federal law (the Voting Rights Act) requires voting records be kept for 22 months following every federal election. The use of electronic voting machines severely hinders our ability to comply with this mandatory retention of voting records. States that choose, in the administration of their elections, to follow federal HAVA leadership, will then be able to quickly implement sane and sensible checks and balances into their voting systems.
a. This amendment should also encourage states, through appropriate incentives, to implement checks and balances appropriate to democratic elections such as parallel hand-count verifications on election night, and financially feasible and accessible recounts.
b. Additionally, paper ballots for all voting systems are required in order for states to comply with existing federal law regarding information technology (IT) disaster recovery plans. Pursuant to the E-Government Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-347, 44 U.S.C. 3531 et seq., Title III, Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), all states must have viable disaster recovery plans for all IT-based systems. Paper ballots requirement shall include language to enforce this existing law.
2) FREEDOM OF ACCESS TO ELECTIONS INFORMATION Amend HAVA to require elections-related information at the local, state and federal levels be made available to any person under the civil rights principles embodied in the Freedom of Information Act in a way that addresses the special circumstances in elections.
a. All information necessary to validate elections must be produced by the voting system and its accompanying elections procedures;
b. When information to validate the election is requested, it must be provided before recount and contest periods have expired;
c. The information must be provided in a usable and cost-effective manner;