Urgent Comment on Holt Bill for Ralph Neas of PFAW
This is in response to Josh Mittledorf's communication with you and your invitation for further comments.
As a volunteer election integrity activist and researcher I, unfortunately, do not have the time to comb through the bill but based on observations passed on to me by others who have read the bill believe that it is important to convey the following information to you.
A) I'm not sure if you're aware of the fact that much of the clearly documented large scale corruption in 2004 in http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2006/2209 . occured on optical-scan paper ballot systems. This is not to say that this did not occur on ETS or "punch card" systems (still in use then), but the point is that optical scan machine miscounts and rigged or biased "recount" corruption are an evident and real danger to a trustworthy voting system - see:
B) The corrupted precents were targeted for detailed on-the-ground poll book, absentee, early, and provisional, vote investigation, by analyzing statistical anommalies in vote returns, not because races were close in these counties. Exit poll evidence (Ohio was the only state where precinct level exit poll data and matching election results were released, after this data was used to ostensibly rule out fraud!) was also key to alerting analysts to potential vote corruption in 2004. ( see
video of We Count Presentation at: http://www.wecount2006.org/ and http://www.freepress.org/images/departments/2196.pdf )
C) These facts point to a need for regular uncorrupted and objective recounts and audits of sufficient quality and power to ensure corruption detection (even with op-scan machines and paper ballots) and for public (or at least publically transparent and available) exit polling data and detailed precinct-level analysis of election return data (that needs to be available to the candidates and to the public before results are certified) regardless of the closeness of the election.
D) They also raise concern about the following reported provision in HOLT 2 (discovered by election integrity attorney Paul Lehto):
" In states with automatic machine recount provisions based on winning percentage, no paper "ballots" will EVER be counted if the race is CLOSE. (boldface and caps added)."
This provision (if it is in the bill), which seems to suggest that "automatic machine recounts" can replace paper ballot counts (even when the race is close) defies logic and common sense, and appears to vitiate the entire intent of the bill!
Ron Baiman, Ph. D.
Center for Urban Research and Learning
Loyola University Chicago