Two letters to MoveOn

1. From Brad Friedman to Noah Winer at MoveOn:

Noah –
Given that by now I know you to be quite clear on what the Holt bill does and doesn’t do, I’d like to ask for an on the record comment as to why MoveOn is misleading members by referring to the Holt Bill as follows:

“But last-minute opposition is trying to do away with the crucial deadline of paper voting in time for the 2008 presidential election. … For years, they’ve refused to replace paperless electronic voting machines. Now they want to loosen the requirement of paper voting in time for the 2008 election.

But we can’t afford another election without the security and verification guaranteed by paper ballots.”

Yes, the push to move back the deadline is underway. So is the push by HOLT SUPPORTERS to allow for reel-to-reel DREs in 2008! Further, with or without paper trails, DREs are a menance to democracy. And, as I’m sure you must also know by now, paper trails in Sarasota would have made things worse, not better, since folks would have said “Well, there ya go, 18,000 ‘voter verified paper ballots’ which specify no vote for FL-13, end of court case, end of congressional challenge”
Most importantly, and as you know by now, Holt’s bill does not actually require or “guarantee” paper ballots and yet is misleading to that effect. While I expect them to do whatever it takes to see their bill passed, I expect much more from MoveOn and am very troubled that you not only play into their spin, but perpetuate it with the demonstrably false statements as outlined above. Nothing in the Holt bill “guarantees paper ballots”, it only guarantees “paper trails” and only that 3% of them (sometimes as much as 10%) will ever actually be counted by anyone or any thing.
This is a reprehensible tactic, especially for a group as (usually) straight forward, honest and trustworthy as MoveOn.
It’s troubling enough that you all (along with Common Cause, VoteTrustUSA, etc.) have gotten into bed with PFAW even though it’s now been made clear that they are actually advocating the use of DREs and the replacement of paper ballot systems with them, but your latest email seems to me to be beyond the pale at this point, so an on-the-record response to these concerns would be much appreciated.
See below for more details.
2. From Paul Lehto:
Dear MoveOn and Common Cause,
As an election law attorney, and by way of introducing myself solely in an effort to get the next paragraphs after the following “bio” paragraph considered (and which explain why Holt will continue and acelerate the destruction of our democratic elections) let me say:
I’ve most recently litigated cases first highlighted in bradblog (the CA50 Busby/Bilbray election contest), and cases involving post-election remedies like recounts and audits like Busby/Bilbray and others, which case has now received the attention of international election monitors as a significant 2006 case involving core democratic rights, and also as a co-author of a groundbreaking scientific study on DREs that has nothing less than smoking gun evidence of actual electronic irregularities, as a”Rising Star” lawyer in 2004 and 2005, as a former Governor of the Washington State Bar Association, as the plaintiff in a case that helped rid my county of Sequoia DREs via county council vote, as someone who travels the country and speaks to people all the time on these subjects, as someone who thinks, reads and writes on voting systems pretty much full time and then some for the last two years, as someone not only on the Moveon list but also on a movein listserv, and most importantly as someone who has litigated post-election lawsuits for recounts/audits and stands to make more money if there are juicy Holt audits and so forth to litigate or utilize, please allow me a few words in utter opposition to Holt:
This is not an area for “balancing” tests, but an area of fundamental rights in voting and democracy. RIghts are not balanced against other things, they TRUMP other things. As such, the compromise of any right is nothing less than the VIOLATION of that rights, since half a right of free speech for example is not “free” speech at all and neither is it a right at all.
The core democratic right at issue is the right of public supervision of elections via open and honest (transparent) vote counting. Put negatively, the right at issue is the right to be free from SECRET VOTE COUNTING. If HOlt is enacted, all in the name of election “integrity”, the critical FIRST VOTE COUNTS that control everything from the headlines to the news to who is the alleged “sore loser” and has to pay big bucks for recounts or hire experts and lawyers to interpret and challenge election and audit results, are institutionalized as TOTALLY SECRET. This was just confirmed in the Sarasota, FL 13th Congressional district race where the trade secret rights of the vendors TRUMPED the search for the truth in court concerning a close race for Congress, even though the parties would have stipulated to a confidentiality agreement — itself a continuation of the secrecy with respect to the public. Secret vote counts have zero credibility (once examined) even in a race for high school class president. But even elections officials have no idea what’s happening in the computers under the trade secret software.
The election integrity movement is founded in part on the principle that it’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the vote. (attributed to Stalin). Notorious election criminal Boss Tweed would have been delighted if he could have counted the vote in total secrecy, having said “I’m counting the vote, what are YOU going to do about it?”
The HR 811 “deal” is that secret first counts on touch screens and optical scans are given to the vendors and officials, while citizens get only post-election “remedies” that are expensive, unwieldy, and largely illusory, and 3% audits are just as likely unconstitutional as Gore’s partial recount request in Florida was unconstitutional in 2000. But even though the officials “get” the first secret counts, only those officials committing crimes against democracy will actually have personal knowledge of what the machines are actually doing since it is a secret even from them. They just certify whatever magic numbers pop out of the DREs as the “true and correct” result. Yet all the testing in the world is irrelevant because these are computers that follow instructions regardless of law or democracy an

d only a lunatic hacker cares a whit about instructing anything but the counting on election day itself and when there are lots of votes at stake, but all of the testing is either NOT on election day, or not in election mode, and certainly not at election volumes.

I’m working with some people including known authors, people with Air America and others to launch entire websites to counteract what MoveOn is doing here, with a major internet campaign.
Friendly Fire? The worst thing is that, representing core concerns about democracy, MoveOn nevertheless asks its membership to “fire” upon our efforts as well by supporting Holt and condeming the “last minute” campaign against Holt. At the very least, an acknowledgement that it is in large part election activists, including many full time election activists (though not every one), that are the target moveon asks their membership to resist.
I don’t know whether I’ve succeeded in clarity here or not, but in all my travels around the country I do not find a single person who AFTER THIS KIND OF INFORMATION still supports Holt, except for those who have previously committed themselves or are in constrained roles as the leaders or staff in Congress or certain organizations. In other words, informed citizens without any conflicts oppose Holt for the above reasons. Because these reasons are so fundamental to democracy it is a grave mistake to believe that Holt’s bandaids concerning post-election remedies are any way for the government servants to treat We the People at the very moment (elections) when they will be seeking Our authority.
Congress will vote on the conditions of THEIR OWN RE-ELECTIONS, and what voting systems will be used. And all We the People can expect is secret vote counting???
The above position of those who call HR 811 “realistic” is so anti-democratic, so riddled with conflict of interest and potential for abuse that when and if the American people find out about this, I predict that they will be mighty, mighty angry and pissed.
Moveon should prove that Thomas Jefferson was right about the power of the “bar of public reason” and MoveOn should publicly reverse this position completely and lobby the other way, proving that it is committed to progressive ideals of continual learning, defending democracy, and promoting the rights of We the People, and opposing elitist claims to privileges like secret vote counts and the ability to create the “reality” for We the People, who in any honest democracy or republic must be and are the sole source of 100% of all legitimate power.
Elections are a unique political issue, Our democracy rights and constitutional rights in voting can not be for sale or compromised/violated. A trade secret is a form of intellectual property and corporations are literally claiming to OWN the heart of democracy via trade secret software (the counting of the vote) and to exclude the citizens therefrom. This is not corporate “influence” on elections this is corporate OWNERSHIP of the heart of democracy. There is not a redblooded American alive that will not be outraged by these facts.
I hope Moveon has the courage to drop out of the false debate framed by major corporate media, and instead strongly support progressive ideals of meaningful public supervision of elections, the sole channel of power from the people to the government. There is nothing more important to defend.
Voting is the right that protects all other rights. The counting of the vote caps that off. We can not sell out our democracy for ANY price, or for any values of voting “convenience” or administrative “efficiency” or to protect wasteful spending decisions by Democrats, Republicans or anyone else. Unless every soldier and civil rights activist who at the urging of others or their superiors sacrificed and DIED for democracy was LIED to, this issue is more important than Life itself.
In light of the above importance, it merits a historic decision by MoveOn to completely reverse itself, and to undo the damage done, and rally for real voting rights and democracy.
Paul Lehto
Attorney at law

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