Today, while Congress listens to the latest spin from the Bush Administration on “democracy building” in Iraq, an important pro-democracy effort continues to be waged at home by Representative Rush Holt. In January I wrote about his Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008 (HR-5036). Last week, the House of Representatives Committee on House Administration approved the bill without opposition. Now it’s up to Leadership to bring it to the floor for a vote.
Currently, six states and a number of counties in 14 other states will be conducting completely unauditable elections in 2008. Shockingly, only about a dozen states will conduct audits. Holt’s bill would reimburse jurisdictions that choose to implement voter-verified paper trails; help states move to an entirely paper-based system; and/or provide funding for audits of election returns.
The alternative? How many lessons do we need? The 2000 debacle alone should be enough to show the need for these changes. Want more? How about 2006, when 18,000 votes were lost by electronic voting machines in Florida’s 13th Congressional District – in a contest decided by less than 400 votes. As a New York Times editorialput it, “The flaws of electronic voting machines have been thoroughly documented by academic studies and by voters’ experiences. The machines are far too vulnerable to hacking that could change the outcomes of elections. They are also so prone to mechanical error and breakdown that there is no way to be sure that the totals they report are correct. In some cases, these machines have been known to “flip” votes — award votes cast for one candidate to an opponent. The solution is for all votes to be recorded on paper records.”
Holt’s office believes the legislation will be brought to the floor in the next week or so. They are also optimistic about companion legislation in the Senate. But, as Holt said, “Time is of the essence to pass this bill. We need to make sure states have the opportunity to take advantage of the equipment conversion opt-in reimbursements, in addition to the audit reimbursements. We need to ensure that we protect our citizens’ right to vote and assure them that their vote can be independently proven to have been counted accurately.”
Let your representatives in Congress know – the time to protect democracy at home is right now.