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.

                          ____________________