December 9, 2003 - Issue: Vol. 149, No. 176 — Daily Edition108th Congress (2003 - 2004) - 1st Session
THE VOTER CONFIDENCE AND INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY ACT OF 2003
(Extensions of Remarks - December 09, 2003)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E2487-E2488] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] THE VOTER CONFIDENCE AND INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY ACT OF 2003 ______ HON. RUSH D. HOLT of new jersey in the house of representatives Monday, December 8, 2003 Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to reiterate the importance of my ``Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003'' to the integrity of democracy in the United States. Although I am deeply gratified by the substantial groundswell of support among my colleagues and cosponsors, I regret that this session draws to a close for the year without this critical piece of legislation having been meaningfully addressed by this Chamber. When I introduced the Voter Confidence Act in May of this year, I did so without cosponsors. I had been told that no one wanted to re-open HAVA. I had been told that adding paper records back into the electoral process would generate fraud. I had been told that access for the disabled and voter verified paper trails were mutually exclusive--you can have one or the other, but you can't have both. I had been told that there is no complaint that existing electronic voting machines are not functioning properly. But it seemed obvious to me, given that all computers are subject to error, failure and tampering, that computers upon which elections are conducted would be as well. I also believed that voter verification mechanisms, just like voting machines themselves, could readily be made accessible to disabled voters. Although I supported HAVA, and continue to support the many groundbreaking improvements it ushered forth, I was troubled to see that HAVA funding fueled an unintended consequence--the wide-scale purchase of unauditable electronic voting machines--and threatened the very integrity of the electoral system in the United States. Earlier this session, I introduced the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act to enhance HAVA's accessibility requirements, to increase participation among all voters, and to restore faith in the electoral system and in the government itself by giving voters a means by which they themselves could be certain that their votes are being counted. From the moment my press release announcing the bill was released, my telephone began to ring with calls from voters around the country expressing their profuse thanks. Within a week, one of my local metropolitan papers ran an editorial saying that the bill ``proposes urgent and sensible measures to preserve the sanctity of the ballot'' and suggested that Congress ``shift into high gear and enact this legislation without delay.'' Within two or three weeks, I was joined on the bill by eight of my Colleagues. In another week or two, I was joined by eight more. More editorials ran--New York Newsday said that although ``many election officials . . . resist the paper trail idea . . . the purpose of voting reform isn't to make life easier for election clerks. It is to make elections fairer and restore the frayed confidence of voters--the people who are supposed to count most of all.'' The Bismark Tribune asserted: ``One thing the committee should insist on is a paper `receipt' that lets the voter check his work and is available for a re-count, if necessary.'' The Star News of North Carolina opined: ``By the time this is over, we might be nostalgic for hanging chads. At least they were cheap. It turns out those expensive high-tech voting systems based on computers can be stuffed like ballot boxes in Chicago. My, what a surprise. . . .'' Most recently, the New York Times said, ``[T]he public must feel secure that each vote is counted. At this stage, a voter-verified paper trail offers the public that necessary security.'' And as we all know, this is not just a matter of opinion. A team of computer scientists from Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities released [[Page E2488]] a report in July disclosing ``stunning, stunning flaws'' in the security of certain electronic voting machines widely in use, precipitating an avalanche of further studies and reviews, raising further red flags among jurisdictions considering new equipment purchases, and generating further uncertainty and concern about the use of privately owned and controlled voting equipment that produces results that cannot be meaningfully audited in any way. Reports of irregularities on voting machines abound, but I will mention just one. In a recent election conducted in Boone County, Indiana, a ``computer glitch'' reportedly ``spewed out impossible numbers.'' In a jurisdiction that had fewer than 19,000 registered voters, 144,000 votes were reported. The County Clerk said she ``just about had a heart attack.'' Although a ``corrected'' count of about 5,300 votes was eventually produced, how can we know it was in--fact correct? The fact is, without an independent voter verified paper trail, we can never know. The New York Assembly passed a law in June mandating voter verified paper trails. The State of Illinois passed a similar law in August. In November, the Secretary of State of California mandated voter verified paper trails. Legislation requiring voter verified paper trails is also pending in Maine, and I have been told that similar bills are imminently to be introduced in Maryland and Virginia. Broad coalitions of public interest groups are now taking definitive action to lobby in favor of voter verified paper trails. The Communications Workers of America passed a resolution in August stating that the CWA ``endorse and support the use of only DRE and `touch screen' machines with the ability to provide the voter with a view of a paper ballot that is stored and available for audits.'' A large New York-based coalition including at least five disability advocacy groups issued a statement in the fall urging that ``New voting machines should provide a `voter- verifiable paper audit trail' and incorporate `data-to-voice' technology to ensure full access by all.'' Grass roots organizations lobbying for my bill and for voter verified paper trails are forming all over the country. The resolution in favor of voter verifiable audit trails posted by Verifiedvoting.org has more than 1,000 endorsers. An online petition in favor of my Voter Confidence Act which had 50 signatures in July has more than 4,000 signatures now. An online petition in favor of voter verified paper trails sponsored by Martin Luther King III, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Investigative Journalist Greg Palast has more than 60,000 signatures. I introduced this legislation because I think that if we don't have an election system that voters can trust, voter participation will decline and our democracy will deteriorate. Citizens from all over the country, sharing this concern, have spoken out, indeed shouted out, that we should act. The extent and depth of discussion on the Internet and in town meetings is striking. This is not a partisan issue. I stand today with 90 Members from both sides of the aisle, who are just as deeply concerned about the integrity of our electoral system as I am. They are just as deeply troubled by the prospect of private ownership and control of the vote count as I am. They have heard from and responded to the concerns of their constituents about insecure, unauditable voting equipment just as I have. Some of them have even told me that--second only to the Iraq conflict--the issue of the verifiability of election results is the one most frequently raised in public forums. And one thing that has been reiterated to me time and again--even by people who have not made their minds up on the issue--is that the issue is not going to go away. We have a responsibility to demonstrate that our democracy stands above all others in its unimpeachability. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman concluded his recent column, entitled ``Hack the Vote,'' by saying, ``Let's be clear: the credibility of U.S. democracy may be at stake.'' When the results are in after the next election, there must be no question. There must be no doubt. We must all feel certain that the voice of the people, as expressed in the voting booth, was heard. November 2004 is just around the corner. When this body reconvenes in January, I urge it to consider this legislation a top priority. ____________________