(or tomorrow my goes live with truth on HR 811)
Don’t be afraid of a debate. If we are distressed by debate then we are distressed by democracy. Jefferson wanted all issues argued “at the bar of public reason” and the solution to inaccurate speech is more speech. That being said, one can always remind of the principle of civility in speech where needed, but even that principle is constrained by the RIGHT of free speech.
Some are concerned about a “split” movement. A movement can be deliberately or accidentally derailed by wild arguments. The solutions to that are calming but not silencing the parties, and thick skin with listeners who appreciate that democracy is and must be continually contested. In fact, you could say real democracy = perpetual debate.
In order for a split to go away, somebody has the intellectual honesty and courage to change their mind (or differences are just tolerated).
But when we reach the core of the Holt debate, there’s not a lot of thinking or at least debate, that I can see. It goes like this, in my experience:
HOLT: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, these are first steps” Pragmatism, baby! Let’s at least get some more paper trails out there for 2008!
Anti-HOLT: With rights, especially CORE democratic rights of elections, a COMPROMISE of a right is the violation of the right. Rights by their very nature TRUMP other things. We should not give up our rights because a Congress supposedly suggests that the only “REALISTIC” thing to expect is that they WILL VOTE THEMSELVES secret vote counts in all congressional elections for the all-important first counts, exercising the ultimate conflict of interest, because only Holt is realistic…. The Holt bill will not restore minimal requirements of democracy and voters, so first steps get us nowhere since half a right of free speech (for example) is not right of “free” speech at all.
SO, this being more or less the underlying debate (at least with me) the anti-Holt position seems stronger argument, applying a voting rights approach to voting rights questions should always trump mere principles like compromise and being “workable” and “inclusive”. These principles, in the context of rights, are VIOLATIONS of rights, since a right trumps other things and is not compromised.
Do Holt people really have an answer for this? I’m thinking that we SHOULD be able to unify around a strong voting rights/election rights banner, and when these rights are seriously considered, we can not support Holt, but when we fail to frequently check in with these rights, we apply normal rules of compromise that don’t apply with rights, because with rights the compromise of the right is the violation of the right.
In this light, many state constitutions provide “A frequent recurrence to fundamental rights and fundamental principles is necessary to the preservation of liberty and free government.” Wash. Const. Art. I, sec,. 32. This is particularly crucial with elections.
I contend that, while we may disagree about the scope of some rights and so forth, none of us, most particularly Holt supporters, are recurring frequently enough to fundamental principles, and thus the preservation of liberty and free government is at risk today, is it not?? At the very least we should be telling the obstacles to voting reform that actually want less transparency that this is a matter of RIGHT and there concerns, however valid, are trumped by the superior rights of democracy. Since 122 million voted in 2004, and the individual right to vote is sacred, that would mean and open and honest public counting of the vote would be approximately 122 million times more than just sacred. Do “administrative concerns” like getting enough pollworkers really trump this? It’s the other way around.
Some Holt supporter please prove me wrong, this is what Thomas Jefferson wanted us to do. Not to fear public discussion, but encourage it. My email is
But I predict, based on experience, that the only responses made, though made “loud and proud” are just to restate the critique of an “all or nothing” approach, which, again, doesn’t apply in the area of rights. If Congress doesn’t take rights seriously, that’s important information about the nature of our government today, and you should immediately and on the record ask them, preferably with video in hand, if they truly intend to vote themselves an HR 811 law that preserves secret vote counts on the first counts and relegates all purported protections like 3% audits to post-election procedures after everything is decided in the public’s mind, and the 3% audit can be struck down as unconstitutional under equal protection just like Gore’s 4 county recount request didn’t fly with equal protection, either. It seems like this legal argument is enough merit to get the 2008 election thrown into the Supreme Court to decide the effect of Bush v Gore on the 2008 election. I’ve emailed Holt’s office twice and voicemailed twice and simply don’t get an answer to this. Keep in mind if the election gets thrown into Court, regardless of result that is a failure of the system in and of itself.
With rights, it’s more like “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” The political and legal wisdom behind this is in the 6 points below.
Please forward to Holt supporters, if there is a reply that disproves my “rights approach” here, I’d appreciate saving my time, otherwise I intend to keep throwing out these rights and suggesting that it is not our place to compromise on fundamental conditions of elections with things like secret vote counting. Especially on due out Sunday.
Paul Lehto, Juris Doctor
Attorney at law


RIghts have some REALLY interesting properties that are highly relevant to legislation and debating legislation.

1. They can invalidate that legislation, IN COURT. (But we do not want to have the right violated for months or years before this happens, and have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees, so we don’t PREFER this option, it’s preferable to fight for the rights up front)

2. They are not subject to significant compromise – a compromised right is a VIOLATED right. In legal lingo, it is called “Burdening” the right, which is illegal or unconstitutional as the case may be.

3. Rights would not be rights if they did not prevail or TRUMP when in conflict with other considerations or interests. One does not have a right AT ALL if the opposition of even 70% of the american public would result in the non-occurrence or non-enforcement of the RIGHT. A right means a court will compel the granting of the right no matter what the state or the public thinks.

4. If the rights are constitutional or foundational fundamental rights, they COMMAND OR CALL UPON our support as Americans since we are all politically obliged to uphold the constitution (or change it) and elections officials especially have sworn an oath to uphold it. In other words, it’s not necessarily OPTIONAL for anyone or everyone. The democracy tent can hold 100 different political parties and points of view. As a private citizen you are free to deny fundamental rights
and principles or ignore them deliberately, but then others are free to call you unamerican, because these are core, inclusive american values.

5. Fundamental rights like voting rights are powerfully moving and inspirational to most Americans.

6. Given that fundamental American rights and principles prevail in the end and trump, and even if denied leave one in a VERY POWERFUL POSITION to argue from, to compromise those rights or give up on them is fairly considered SURRENDER without so much as a REAL FIGHT. We’re talking about things on people’s minds when they died, so these rights are hardly the political playthings of a movement that wants to notch a compromise victory in order to feel good about itself.

So, do any of these four qualities grab anyone’s interest in terms of their relevance to VOTING legislation pending in state or federal government???

Paul R Lehto, Juris Doctor

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