In the Land of the Free, and the
Home of the Brave
Congressional Intent to Eliminate We the People
from Our Own Elections -- Congressional Failure to Secure and Guarantee Basic Rights to All Americans
Americans Must Act Within Two Weeks to Restore
Their Inalienable Right to Kick the Bums Out of Office
Paul R Lehto
Web Page: www.psephos-us.org
"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the
transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them . . ." --Patrick Henry
"Give me Liberty, or Give me Death." --Patrick Henry
WARNING: a bipartisan Congress will, in the next few days, attempt to violate your #1 Inalienable Right. Having talked to many folks, I've not yet found an American who says this warning is not well taken. Although each person I've talked to understands they're being cheated by this; they just tend to think that other Americans won't listen, or think Americans too busy to preserve their own most basic rights.
Are Americans, in fact, too lazy or stupid to defend their own freedoms anymore? Some say that a few words about their own history will bore them to giving up their republic without so much as a fight, especially with an election law attorney writing like this as if he's Paul Revere. Will cynicism mean that Americans give up the fight for their rights on their own soil?
Nowadays, some say American attention spans are so short that they won't be able to finish an essay like this of just a few pages, even when told that Abe Lincoln's "government of the People, by the People and for the People" depends on it. I'm told regularly to use extremely few words, give a quick action request at the end, so that Americans can go back to their slumbers.
But I don't believe the pessimists. I choose to address all of those who read this as concerned citizens, instead of addled consumers. I believe that Americans respond when they know what's at stake. The USA did not become the world's richest country and sole military superpower for no reason. They will read a few more paragraphs of context that help explain why this is so important, before it's time to prove why your #1 Inalienable Right must be defended.
Americans by and large remember the sacrifices of citizens and soldiers over the generations -- millions of them who worked, fought, and died for the dream of American democracy -- and they will not allow democracy to slip away during our generation -- on our watch -- if they understand clearly what's at stake.
So, to be clear, please let me explain. As an offer of my own seriousness about this, let me simply say I don't particularly need this fight: I've been in the hospital several times in the last year for as long as a week, and though medical bills and devotion to this cause have emptied the savings, and although fatigue follows me daily, and with two young children to worry about, I am nevertheless convinced of the need to give this my all. After having sought the counsel of some fellow citizens and lovers of democracy, and short of funds and energy for renewing my license anyway, I've let my attorney license expire as a form of resignation as a lawyer, I will not have clients any more -- other than American Democracy. I feel that what I've learned about elections I can not ration and sell at $200 an hour, when as many as possible need to know some things, and soon. --
In reaching this decision, I realized that the principles of our representative democracy are actually more important than life itself. Otherwise, if this were not the case, how would you convince a man or woman to sacrifice their life for this principle of democratic self-government? By what other persuasion would we send our young to the front lines of war other than with some version of Patrick Henry's famous patriotic challenge: "Give me Liberty, or Give Me Death?" Americans believe that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
But on our watch, there haven't been quite enough sentinels of democracy, there have been too few watchdogs of our Constitutional and Inalienable Rights: those Rights we're endowed with by our Creator under the Declaration of Independence. That Declaration of Independence, and those American men and women took on a King and the world's mightiest military -- they dared greatly. The wanted to remake the history of the world in favor of the principles of self-government. A revolution of perspective would, they believed, restore this continent to a state of Nature, with free and equal citizens joining in communities to protect their individual rights and the commonwealth.
Today, historians write that we were the first nation founded on ideals -- like "no taxation without representation," like "legitimate political power comes only from the people" via free and fair elections establishing the consent of the governed, and that laws in derogation of the natural rights of the People are Void and without effect.
On the purpose of government, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "governments are instituted to secure [our] rights." Thus from that day in 1776 forward, we would have "Government Servants" or "public servants," with the People as the Master of the government, and not the other way around. With the right to vote for representatives and others, the People would never again be slaves to Tyranny or governmental abuse of power.
Consequently, under the Declaration of Independence, the People have the Inalienable right to "alter or abolish" their Government servants if they no longer serve them well. Today, we sometimes refer to this as the right to "kick the bums out." The very recognition of inalienable rights present at birth were an example and precedent for the whole world because, for the first time in European historical memory, the individual human being was an independent source of power and rights, just by virtue of being born. In these notions, the Founders learned from both John Locke, and perhaps even more from the advanced civilization of the Iroquois, with its three branch form of government. We all remember that humans are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these rights are life, liberty, and … though the last word was originally "property," the Founders changed the word "property" in that phrase to the more familiar "pursuit of happiness."
The emergence of the "pursuit of happiness' in place of property emphasizes that Liberty is ultimately more important than Property. The real core of the American Revolution, the new idea with which the Founders wanted to "begin the world anew" was specifically that a government does not Grant rights (nor does it possess any rights); rather, as a servant of the people, the purpose of government is to Guarantee the rights of the people.
Pledged irrevocably to these ideals, the signers of the Declaration pledged and lost their Lives or their Fortunes, but they still retain their Honor today. By intentionally enslaving the Government as servant of the public's rights and happiness, the energies of a whole nation of individuals of diverse races, colors and creeds were unleashed to maximize their potential. As a result, Freedom, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, arises when a government of limited powers, working in trust, guarantees the individual rights of all citizens, thus unleashing the maximum potential of each person.
At the Seneca Falls Declaration of Rights in 1848 that launched women's suffrage movement, and again in Washington DC in Martin Luther King's civil rights speech "I Have a Dream" speech, the history of American can largely be told as a process of women and minorities and their families and supporters insisting that our country live up to its ideals, that it make good on the promises of the Declaration for everyone. Though heroes like Susan B. Anthony worked their whole lives without seeing a ballot in their hands, their vision and their engines of progress forced the American Dream to grow. They insisted that the country make real its ideals, and they made it so. As many state constitutions and the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights state, frequently recurring to fundamental principles is necessary to the preservation of Liberty and free government.
Today, we are faced with a choice of recurring to our own principles of Freedom and Democracy, or letting democracy die. Whenever we do not regularly bring to the fore these principles, they are eroded, chipped away, violated and harmed -- just by the very process of not being considered because they are not at the negotiation table.
Though popular, Freedom is always at risk of intentional harm from people who think they have a better idea about how to live our lives or run our country than ordinary Americans do. Some of them are so convinced they will happily force you to go along for your own good. But freedom is only free if you are safe being unpopular.
Our representative democracy is always at risk of harm or manipulation because the passions of the day or the business interests at issue don't wish to leave their fates to a majority vote sometimes any more than you or I would like to have a spouse chosen for us by majority vote. Power is endlessly addictive to humans, once some government officials taste it, they don't want to stop and may try to stay in office by crooked means. Those of us on the internet often inform just our like-minded friends about internet polls in order to get them to help vote up our side of the issue. But this one-sided get-out-the-vote effort on our part makes the internet poll even less scientific or accurate than it was in the beginning, and because of this distortion it's the moral equivalent of stuffing the ballot box. Now, given that we all try to stuff the ballot box for fun in these internet polls, imagine a real election where the stakes are just a little higher: like for example control of the world's richest country and sole military superpower up for grabs in a presidential election. Ever heard of the name President RutherFraud B. Hayes? That name was quite popular back in the late 1800s. Around that time, there was so much violence, intimidation, bribery and pressuring at and around the polls that the secret ballot came along as an innovation to reduce the intimidation and fraud.
But the secret ballot did not make all the pressure on elections go completely away. It just moved location and changed tactics.
So now at last, we are left at the point of seeing where we are losing our most sacred democratic rights. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is one channel of political legitimacy and that's the elections. Everyone who votes takes a side and is biased. Many political issues have both sides believing that great injustice will occur if they lose an election. Most especially, because the government relies on elections for 100% of its power, money and legitimacy, it has a huge conflict of interest and can not administer elections without a check and balance from the public.
But We the People have been eliminated from a meaningful role in elections, because nobody counts and nobody can watch the counting of the vote on the new electronic machines. After well over a century of successfully hand counting paper ballots under the supervision of the public and the parties, and although the number of workers it takes per thousand hand counted ballots has essentially not changed, we've grown fond of the wonders of computer and grown tired of Election Night labors for democracy. Various types of computers have come in to take up the slack, both optical scanners using paper ballots originally, and touch screen computers, counting well over 80% of our ballots in complete invisibility and secrecy.
We the People are no longer able to keep our eyes on, or supervise, our own elections. We've been eliminated from elections by "modernization." The "modern" computers are amoral slaves that do whatever they are told to do without regard to law or democratic ethics. Their electronic hard drives operate invisibly. They might offer some convenience, but they also make us stand in line to wait for machines, and richer counties have shorter lines than poorer counties. As might be expected given the nature of computers, numerous studies establish that one person with access to one results disk for about one minute can place a virus that can alter an entire county's election results, or alter an entire state's election results. Though elections have always been under pressure because of their stakes, this increases enormously the amount of cheating one person can do, how quickly they can do it, and how easily they can erase the evidence of what they did.
It gets even worse. The software that counts is the only thing that knows the true count, even the officials have no idea if the scanner or touch screen numbers are correct, barring the rare, expensive and (in Bush v. Gore 2000) terminable hand recount. We've been taught to be frustrated with the hanging chad to embrace the computer, claiming the chad is paper, but in fact it is a punch card, and every punch card ever made was for a computerized process of counting.
WARNING: With computerized voting, your inalienable right to kick the bums out, or your inalienable right to alter or abolish your government through elections, doesn't exist. It is not secured for you by your government. They are not guaranteeing this right for you. In fact any corrupt election insider could, for money, partisanship, pressure, threat or in the belief of doing a great justice to the whole Nation, alter the election results undetectably, erasing the steps along the way. As long as the total number of votes match up roughly, and one doesn't cheat more than say 20 percentage points, a whole industry of political pundits will chalk up the surprise victory to the last minute attack ad, or great get out the vote campaign, or a problem with the "loser's" platform, the weather, or any of dozens of other colorable excuses.
In short, with computerized voting by optical scanner or touch screen, your vote is simply whatever the invisible computer instructions say it is, computers can be programmed many months in advance, and instructing the computer to wait til election night poll closing before changing votes will defeat every test that ever happens, which are all with small amounts of votes anyway. With a computer, it is really irrelevant what it does in a testing period the day before or the day after, it matters only what the computers in the real election (and we all know which ones they are) are actually instructed to do, on Election Day and election conditions.
This means that you do still have the right to kick out an honest politician, you just don't have the right to kick out a crooked politician. But of course, that's precisely when the inalienable right to kick the bums out is most needed: with a no good cheating bum.
Some folks in our government are accidentally or purposefully not checking in with or recurring to our fundamental principles frequently, as needed to preserve liberty and free government. If they did, they would recall that our Founders taught us that power corrupts, they would not ask us for trust. They would recall the America is about checks and balances, a form of distrust, and not about trust. If they checked in with the Declaration of Independence, they would in the second paragraph realize that governments are instituted to secure us our rights. In order to SECURE the right to kick the crooked bums out as needed, our elections must be secured FROM the government. Our elections must be beyond the possible or ready manipulation of the government. If you are not serious about your rights or your freedoms, you don't need to take this seriously. But if you are serious about preserving American rights and American freedoms, most especially the freedom to get rid of any crooks, you had best cast a suspicious and jealous eye on the Public Liberty of elections. Be a sentinel of democracy, don't let democracy wither on your watch.
President McKinley said that Americans agree on principles, they disagree on politics or the application of principles. The principles outlined here for the protection of freedom and democracy are our Nation's most sacred. They are revered by Americans. An August 2006 Zogby poll I paid for with help from Nancy Tobi of New Hampshire and Michael Collins of electionfraudnews.com established that an incredible 92% of Americans supported a vote counting system where vote counting is observable by the public and the public can obtain information about vote counting. http://www.zogby.com/News/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1163 This is one of the highest political values ever measured in polls, yet the 90% secret vote counting that is taking place in America shows how incredibly out of touch our government, of both parties, is with every demographic group in America.
The only kind of voting system that is compatible with your inalienable rights and mine is one the public can watch like a hawk, and one that the public controls, and that it can observe. Given it is the duty of government to secure and guarantee our rights, specifically including the right to kick them out, elections have no choice but to be publicly controlled.
Those are the principles. Now for the politics that get a little debatable with some people. Essentially in the only system that provides for public control and observable elections is known as precinct counted hand counted paper ballots. Simply put, this system is running unopposed in the democracy race. We do not have a choice of much completely different systems. The ability to peacefully preserve freedom and democracy through elections is far too valuable for any objection to it to have weight.
But the Congress won't listen. Neither party listens to the needs of democracy, so they must hear from YOU the citizens. On May 6, 2007 the House Administration Committee reported out a modified bill called HR 811, also known as the Holt bill. In that bill's markup in committee, it got better and it got worse in various particulars, if you follow the debate. One way in which it got much worse is that instead of source code for the computer that would be given away for any citizen's inspection, they committee put in language that made the source code a government-recognized trade secret, available only to "qualified" experts, and then only if a strict nondisclosure agreement is signed that incorporates trade secrecy laws of the states, which almost always contain harsh punitive damages and attorneys fees clauses for violating the secrecy.
This language is particularly ominous. I know of no time before that an American legislative body has ever tried to pass law to reinforce secret vote counting. Of course, having a copy of the source code does not tell us if that code is the same as what's used on election day, nor does it tell us what the actual voting computers are asked to do on election day. It would be, of course, illegal for the software to differ, but it is readily possible to conceal a double Trojan Horse, for example, such that it is highly resistant to being found. It is not possible to verify that a piece of software remains unchanged, if it were, the problem of viruses would be solved since each program could self-verify whether or not it had been changed. As stated in the classic computer paper "Reflections on Trusting Trust" the only code you can trust is the code you wrote yourself and know nobody else has accessed.
As a consequence of all of the above, while computers have many wonderful uses, they are not compatible with democracy.
On the same infamous day of May 6, 2007, the House Administration committee did more than just insert language that would give a specific statutory "anchor" or claimed basis in law for secret vote counting. On that day they also dismissed, without allowing discovery via the Congress or hearing any evidence in the Congress, 4 Congressional election contests. Three were in Florida and one in Louisiana. A remaining fifth contest in Florida's 13th Congressional District was not dismissed but already has a state court ruling holding that "trade secrecy" overcame the need to investigate the truth in that Congressional election. In another, Florida's 24th, candidate Clint Curtis collected many hundreds of affidavits showing his official results were underreported by 12% to 24%. The House Administration Committee ignored and refused to hear this evidence, dismissing this and 3 other contests without any discovery of facts or any evidentiary consideration.
Pursuant to a self-serving law called the Federal Election Contest Act, the Congress claims to be the judge of its own elections! Thus, in one case that I personally litigated near San Diego California, in a June 6, 2006 special election for Congress, one of the candidates, Brian Bilbray, was sworn in only 7 days later, on June 13, 2006. The June 13 Congressional Record recites that there were 68,500 uncounted votes on the very first count! This was considered a bellwether for the November 2006 congressional races, and Francine Busby led in all of the pre-election polls except one controversial one right before the election, where it's claimed she made a gaffe. But regardless, the Congressional Record admits the results were unofficial, there were 68,500 uncounted votes in a race with a margin of less than 5000 votes, and it was weeks prior to the earliest date anyone can file an election contest or a recount request. But the Congressional Record states there are no "known" disputes or contests. Mr. Bilbray, a former Congressman known to many of the members, was sworn in.
Subsequently, when two lady citizens sued to contest the election, Mr. Bilbray claimed that no state or federal court had any jurisdiction since only the Congress had an exclusive jurisdiction thanks to his premature swearing in. He cited Art. I, sec. 5 of the Constitution for the idea that the House could not be second guessed after an unconditional swearing. This insult to democracy and the people of the 50th District was made worse. For having the audacity to question Mr. Bilbray's election termination maneuver, Bilbray countersued with a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) counterclaim for damages and attorney fees, a suit usually brought by the little guy against the big corporation. Plaintiffs Jacobson and Ritt never asked for money, they simply wanted their rights and their votes counted. But even for that privilege, the election officials jacked the recount price up about 7 times higher than similar races, for an estimated cost of $150,000. That's one expensive personal right to vote.
Our government "servants" while often noble in motivation, are also too frequently lazy or corrupt. Few know, since it was only reported in local Ohio news, that convictions have been obtained for rigging the 2004 presidential recount for Bush and Kerry, requested by the Libertarian and Green parties. As shown by two felony convictions for rigging the Presidential recount in 2004 in Cuyahoga county Ohio show, partisanship is by no means the only motive that distorts elections. In cases like the inflated recount price tag above, government officials are very uninterested in having their first "official" counts made to look bad (they're human), and they are also very uninterested in working through Thanksgiving (one of the motives in Ohio's presidential recount rigging convictions). In a nutshell, recounts and audits are so hazardous because they have many legal hurdles and take place after the election, when lots of pressure is put on the "sore loser" to concede. This means that only the first count really matters, and certainly the first count controls headlines, and swearing-ins.
The presidential election, in particular, has a special time limit of December 13 that came into play with Bush v. Gore that makes post-election "remedies" very unreliable. But, it is very gravely concerning that the first counts are secret. Literally only the hacker or rigger knows what the true count is. The greatly enhanced ability to cheat means we have reached more than just a dangerous time for democracy. With no basis for confidence in election results because indeed we have no evidence at all of the counts, we are forced to take the elections purely on trust instead of evaluating the evidence and the checks and balances.
Publicly controlled elections must be restored immediately, based on considerations of the values of democracy. If we only consider non-democratic values like convenience, we'll end up with a non-democratic system. Harry Truman laid it out straight: If you want just efficiency, you'll get a dictatorship. The most likely route to a loss of freedom comes when realizing that a successful election criminal gets to be an election official or set election policy. What if a bank robber got to be bank president and set bank vault policy? Thus, when protective of liberty and looking for suspect election criminals, look in office.
In contrast, the longtime values of democracy are openness, inclusion, equality of one person one vote, consent of the governed, and the rights of the people to alter or abolish their government. These and related values are the ones we should frequently refer to, use as compass guides to keep us pointing in the right direction. Even if we don't achieve our ideal destination, we are lost indeed if we can not orient ourselves in the direction of progress.
The congressional election contests unfairly dismissed, the California election contest prematurely terminated by swearing in, and the problem of secret vote counting on electronics share a common theme: It is not possible to run democratic elections without a major role by We the People, and the government has too many conflicts and partisanships to do the job of auditing itself, investigating itself, or potentially undermining a fellow Member in Congress The necessity of a role for We the People in controlling elections should not surprise us, we are after all the master, the government the servant. In the Judiciary branch, for example, We the People still walk in to the jury box and judge innocence and guilt, life and death, liability and non-liability.
But our elimination from our proper role controlling elections? This is a crime against democracy. We need to remember who we are as Americans, and act soon to tell the House and the Senate in DC and in our state houses, that we will not stand for secret vote counting, that they most definitely will not pass laws purporting to authorize or legalize that even indirectly, that it is a shame of immense proportions for them to vote for secret counting of votes in their own re-election races, by simply amending the Help America Vote Act with HR 811 without abolishing secret vote counting. That this huge conflict of interest, voting on their own re-elections, ought to sensitize Congress to a great need to act against its own perceived interests, and that politicians who love representative democracy and their own constituents surely ought to be competing with each other to see who can restore more power to the people in elections than the other guy.
Because if they don't, if they keep the secret counting easily manipulated by insiders and their cavalier attitudes toward election contests, our #1 inalienable right to kick the crooked bums out will remain violated and denied by our own government. Denying We the People the steering wheel of elections keeps our government "stuck on stupid" and out of touch with the public, unable to obey the public will. Without elections, featuring voting as the right that controls all other rights, it is we who are the slaves, and not the government.
This, if it remains, is a revolution against democracy. It is un-American. It must change by all means necessary.
The Star Spangled Banner always ends with a question:
O Say Does that Star Spangled Banner Yet Wave,
O'er the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave?
A land of free and brave people will not fight amongst themselves on partisan elections results, they will first secure their most important inalienable rights. A land of free and brave patriots will never again let their elections get out of their sight, or out of control.
So if you feel as I feel, if you wish as I wish, that America will never become a banana republic with an out of control government, then talk to your fellow rulers, your fellow citizens, spread the word far and wide, and make the US House, the US Senate, and your state legislatures here Freedom's bell, so they know what it sounds like. We are not the Slaves, we are in charge. We are watching. We demand control of our elections. We will not give up. Democracy and Freedom both depend on that.
Paul R Lehto
Starting Friday, May 18, 2007 at 8pm EST, you can go to www.HR811.com for more detailed information on the Holt Bill, HR 811.
|May 24, 2007|
Originally Published at OpEdNews
Passing judgment on HR 811: A classic case of "the blind men and the elephant"
By David Griscom
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 (Link) 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 (Link). How this was likely done in 2004 in Ohio, and by
whom, has been exposed in a recent forensic investigation (Link).
(2) There is compelling STATISTICAL EVIDENCE OF WHOLESALE FRAUD in the counting of the 2004 and 2006 Elections (see, for example, Link and Link, 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 (Link) 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 (Link), 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 (Link)!
I have regarded this duplicity as further damning evidence that Congress has no intention of ever refusing to seat the winner of the "official" (machine-counted) Election-Day tally, no matter what the evidence that a majority of "We the People" actually voted for his/her opponent. But then I took a closer look at HR 811...
Whereas there is no PRESENT law requiring Congress to defer to post-election audits, look at what HR 811 actually MANDATES: "...each State shall administer, without advance notice to the precincts selected, audits of the results of elections for Federal office held in the State...consisting of random hand counts of the voter-verified paper ballots required to be produced and preserved..."
And for those of us who have been holding out for a return to publicly witnessed citizen hand counting of paper ballots, HR 811 specifies: "In administering the audits, the Election Auditor may utilize the services of election administration personnel of the State or jurisdiction, including poll workers, without regard to whether or not the personnel have professional auditing experience." And that "EACH AUDIT...SHALL BE CONDUCTED IN A MANNER THAT ALLOWS PUBLIC OBSERVATION OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS [capitalization my own]."
And contradicting my former worries that such audits would have no "teeth," HR 811 specifies that "No State may certify the results of any election which is subject to an audit...prior to... the completion of the audit." "If the Election Auditor finds that any of the hand counts administered...do not match the final unofficial tally of the results of an election, the Election Auditor shall administer hand counts...of such additional precincts (or equivalent jurisdictions) as the Election Auditor considers appropriate to resolve any concerns resulting from the audit and ensure the accuracy of the results."
And finally: "DEADLINE FOR COMPLETION OF AUDITS OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS - In the case of an election for electors for President and Vice President which is subject to an audit..., the State shall complete the audits and announce and submit the results to the Commission for publication of the information required...in time for the State to certify the results of the election and provide for the final determination of any controversy or contest concerning the appointment of such electors prior to the deadline described in section 6 of title 3, United States Code."
These mandates (plus the very important one of requiring publicly witnessed random selection of the precincts to be audited) are exactly what is needed to expose the type of election fraud perpetrated against optical-scan voting devices in 2004 (Link)
I will end with expressing my high respect for my fellow election-integrity activists who have come down against HR 811. Mark Crispin Miller, for example, opposes HR 811 basically for reasons (1) through (3) above, calling it a "poison pill" (Link).
I agree with MCM that ALL electronic voting machines must be banned as soon as possible -- but I sincerely doubt that will happen very soon. I disagree with him that the non-disclosure of election software codified in HR 811 is a big deal, because it is possible to embed a self-erasing Election-Day vote-flipping program even into open-source software. So there are only two defenses against electronic election hacking: (i) get rid of all electronic voting machines (including op-scanners) or (ii) institute transparent-to-the-public audits of the voter-verified paper ballots. To repeat, HR 811 actually mandates that "The individual, durable voter-verified paper ballot...shall be used as the OFFICIAL BALLOT [my emphasis] for purposes of any recount or audit conducted ... and shall be preserved."
To me, HR 811 sets the stage for returning to what we all want the most, that is, publicly witnessed hand counting of our hand-marked paper ballots. Under the HR-811-mandated audits, citizens would actually begin to acquire these skills -- and before 2008! After reading the fine print of the Holt bill, I am convinced that I couldn't have designed a better system for catching election fraud if I had tried. Ph.D. electrical engineer and voting technology expert Tom Ryan (Link) came to this conclusion long before I did.
Tom and I believe that the real "poison pill" in HR 811 targets the hackers who would steal our elections. Please do call your Congressperson today and tell him/her what YOU believe!David L. Griscom, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, retired in 2001 from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where he had been a research physicist for 33 years. He has subsequently held visiting professorships of research at the Universities of Paris, Lyon, and Saint-Etienne, France, and Tokyo Institute of Technology; he was also Adjunct Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at The University of Arizona in Tucson. By virtue of his collaboration with John Brakey in an investigation of poll-worker fraud in Tucson, Griscom was an invited presenter at both the National Election Reform Conference (Nashville, April 2005) and the Election Assessment Hearing (Houston, June 2005), as well as the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (San Francisco, February 2007). He is a Coordinator of the Election Defense Alliance.
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