March 22, 2007


Halting Holt Thoughts


By andi novick


Today I received an email from Doug Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections, with his comments in response to Doug Lewis’s March 20, 2007 testimony regarding the Holt Bill. Doug Kellner’s comments were also posted at


The Lewis testimony can be found at . Lately I’ve been spending a good deal of time thinking about who are these people who are my would-be allies, but support the Holt Bill, which I believe to be terribly damaging to our ability as a people to regain control over our democracy. Doug’s email came in the midst of my pondering. One particular comment, excerpted below, really moved me and provided me with needed insight:


I thought that you might be interested in my comments on Doug Lewis’s testimony regarding the Holt Bill (HR 811)… The comments have generated considerable debate, generally agreeing that HR 811 needs revision, particularly among advocates of verified voting.




I am torn by my 14-year crusade to require a voter verifiable paper audit trail in all direct recording voting equipment and the new problems that would inevitably arise if HR 811 should be enacted in its current form.


That really struck me to think about what it must be like to have waged a battle for so long for something which may turn out not to be the solution you believed it would be. What strength it takes to struggle with oneself; how few people are willing to do that.


A few weeks ago I went to a forum at Rutgers Law School and listened to computer scientist Ed Felten ( ) talk earnestly about the problems with DREs and how adding paper is better than not having paper, but it isn’t going to make the DRE secure. And yet he was supporting the Holt bill, still holding onto the machine with the paper and I thought, why? A couple of days after that I read that computer scientist Avi Rubin, who was traveling the same path Ed Felten was on, had testified about electronic voting and had changed his mind, rejecting DREs with paper as a solution. He wrote in his blog, ,


Another member of the committee gave me the best opening I think I've ever had. He asked me if I thought it was possible to have a trustworthy and secure election using paperless DREs. I replied "no". He then said, "Why?" It was a question I was hoping for. I explained that a software only system, especially one as complex as a DRE where all of the voter input and vote tabulation takes place in a closed box, cannot possibly be audited. There is no way to know for sure that the totals produced by the machines at the end of the election correspond to the votes that were cast by the voters.


Finally, I was asked if I thought that a DRE with a paper trail was an adequate voting system. I replied that when I first studied the Diebold DRE in 2003, I felt that a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) provided enough assurance. But, I continued, after four years of studying the issue, I now believe that a DRE with a VVPAT is not a reasonable voting system.


The other day I heard Ralph Neas of People for the American Way (PFAW) being interviewed by RFK Jr.. PFAW is a main supporter of the Holt bill and as I listened I kept thinking, why are groups like PFAW and Common Cause and Moveon all supporting the Holt Bill when it is going to make the current situation even worse.


And then I thought about this from an article by Bruce O’Dell, Holt's HR 811, A Deceptive Boondoggle -- 10 Blunders to Fix,


In fact, there is a fascinating study from 2001 (interestingly enough, published shortly before HAVA was enacted) which concluded that not only were hand-counted paper ballots the most accurate of all vote counting methods, measuring by residual vote rate, but that every single technological "innovation" of the last century - lever machines, punch cards, optical scan, DRE - actually measurably decreased the accuracy of the voting process. Their conclusion:


These results are a stark warning of how difficult it is to implement new voting technologies. People worked hard to develop these new technologies. Election officials carefully evaluated the systems, with increasing attentiveness over the last decade. The result: our best efforts applying computer technology have decreased the accuracy of elections, to the point where the true outcomes of many races are unknowable.


We are a technological society. Technology has become part of our religion. And like other religious, some stop along the path to seek answers, to question, to revisit, while others just go on faith. It’s not my place to say what role critical thought and science should play in religion, but America is not supposed to be a religious society. It is time to revisit faith based voting. If a computer is counting your vote, there is simply no way for human beings to observe the count. If the count is being done by a machine- whether it’s a DRE or an OpScan- it is a secret count and we’re all going on faith that our vote was counted as cast. That’s not good enough for a country which was founded on a separation of church and state and whose founding documents jealously guard against the surrender of our rights. Our right to know that are votes were accurately counted is the right on which all others hinge. When we stop and think and question we see this:


(See Paul Lehto’s New York City Change To Optical Scan Elections: Not the answer, but getting closer).


It’s not easy to give up our machines, but what if it’s true that: “our best efforts applying computer technology have decreased the accuracy of elections, to the point where the true outcomes of many races are unknowable.” None of us should be willing to accept not knowing the outcomes of our elections because we choose machines over doing it ourselves. No one would voluntarily surrender the right of the people to control their ability to choose their representatives and yet, we hold onto our machines.


So Doug’s willingness to publicly say he’s torn after 14 years of fighting for a paper trail really moved me. I can understand that feeling. I don’t understand Ralph Neas. Neas, by the way was responding to Brad Freeman’s interview with Kennedy the week before. Brad’s powerful story about these interviews and his struggle to deal with his allies is at .


Brad focuses on the irrationality of Holt II and the groups who seem to be blindly supporting the Legislation, holding onto these DREs notwithstanding everything we now know. But not to let the dreaded DREs distract from other aspects of Holt’s Bill which are particularly frightening, see Bev Harris’s, What's Wrong with Holt II (HR 811)  and Nancy Tobi’s New Version of Holt Bill: A Giant Step Backwards  in which she discusses the unfunded mandates contained in the Holt Bill as well as the expansion of executive power. Lost amidst the discussion about DREs is the power this piece of Legislation hands over to the executive, of all branches!. Holt’s Bill would make the shamefully scandal ridden Election Assistance Commission (EAC) a permanent fixture.


Speaking of the EAC…………….


Who is Doug Lewis?


This is where I went when I got Doug’s email commenting on Doug Lewis’ testimony. Take a look at Lewis’s testimony and then those of you who don’t know will fairly quickly ask yourselves - who is Doug Lewis? A question that many have asked before.


Doug Lewis, as you will see in his testimony, wants to maintain the status quo: hackable machines/nobody paying any attention. He is critical of Holt’s Bill because it might apply some scrutiny to Doug Lewis and his friends, see below. Congressman Holt, like Doug Lewis also wants to hang onto these hackable machines. He just thinks if we throw enough money at them (unfunded in his Bill) they can be improved. If improved gets you to still can’t observe the counting of your vote, what good is it?


In 2002 HAVA forced us to vote on these nightmarish machines which breakdown with remarkable frequency. The number of "glitches" (putting aside that “glitches” has an innocence that “glitches which predominantly favor one party” lacks) have been documented (at least the tip of the iceberg) see E-Voting Failures –Election Problem Log at . Given how many breakdowns, malfunctions, lost votes, miscounts, etc. there have been it makes you wonder how such shoddy, dysfunctional machines could get passed those who are responsible for testing and certifying these machines entrusted with our votes.


Turns out, no one is really testing or certifying these machines! The certification process which has certified all of the voting systems Americans vote on today is effectively non-existent. One giant fraud on democracy (that would be us). Here’s where Doug Lewis comes in.


The National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) was responsible for managing the qualification, testing and approval of voting equipment in America through "independent testing authorities" (ITAs). These so called independent testing centers are not really independent at all -- they are funded by voting machine vendors to whom they issue their testing reports. The three labs which had been testing all the electronic voting machines in America are selected and paid for by the voting machines companies themselves!


R. Doug Lewis served as the director of the Voting Systems Program for NASED until 2004. Mr. Lewis is also the Executive Director of the Election Center, a private, “non-profit organization that serves the elections and voter registration profession”  by sponsoring training and certification programs for election administrators and vendors. The Election Center selected the companies to certify the voting machines. All requests regarding testing and certification were channeled from the ITAs to one R. Doug Lewis. Who is R. Doug Lewis? Just like the certification requirements, or the way votes are now counted in America, it's a big secret.


New Yorkers for Verified Voting reports that prior to taking over the Election Center in 1994, Lewis was president and director of Micro Trade Mart, a company that traded in used computer parts. What else do we know about Doug Lewis? Well in 2003 he set up a lobbying meeting for voting machine vendors. The lobbying firm, Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) wanted to help Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S and a few lesser voting machine vendors get the public to accept their "product". As Bev Harris, wondering who is R. Doug Lewis, wrote in her book, Black Box Voting: "Perhaps colluding with for-profit companies and helping them hire a lobbying firm is in the spirit of this organization's charter -- and since we aren't quite sure who set up [The Election Center], how it gets all its funding or who exactly appointed R. Doug Lewis, his murky relationship with vendors and lobbyist might be exactly what they had in mind."


Black Box Voting publisher David Allen managed to slip into a teleconference with the lobbyist and the vendors. He reports that Lewis was indeed helpful at that particular meeting suggesting that ITAA draft a legal brief to address possible antitrust ramifications as a result of this collusion among industry sources.


Lewis has been a strong advocate of paperless DREs. He is also opposed to anyone's actually monitoring or auditing or being able to observe the regular failure of these machines. Giving Doug Lewis the benefit of the doubt, he has great faith in DREs (look at his testimony). Having such faith, he wouldn’t really need to do testing and certifying. But judging these machines from a more critical perspective, they and Doug Lewis, who has been responsible for their testing and certification, have done an abysmal job. So it’s understandable that Doug Lewis would be opposed to any scrutiny in the Holt Bill.


Since R. Doug Lewis's bio is a big secret, perhaps we could gain some insight from looking at some of Doug's buddies. There's Thomas Wilkey, Executive Director of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) and Donetta Davidson, the current Chair of the EAC. These friends go way back. Davidson and Wilkey both served together on the board of The Election Center, headed by Doug. The Bradblog notes, "Lewis, a key player in test lab secrecy, mentored Davidson and Wilkey as they gained control of the ITA testing infrastructure".


Wilkey, at the time of his appointment to the EAC in 2005, was the chair of the NASED Voting Standards Board. He was also a co-founder and a past-president of the NASED and chaired its ITA Committee from 1998 until he left for the EAC in 2005. In other words, Lewis and Wilkey were at the NASED and the Election Center together, while they were both responsible for the performance of the machines we vote on.


Donetta Davidson, who is now Wilkey's boss at the EAC (prior to that she was Colorado's Secretary of State during the time that state was failing certification of its electronic voting systems), also served on NASED's Voting Standards Board while Wilkey was the Chair (maybe that's what the game musical chairs was supposed to be about).


In 2004, John Gideon of Voters Unite wrote to the EAC cautioning about the Davidson-Wilkey-Lewis controlled Election Center, warning, “In accepting funds from the voting machine industry and putting on a program that is strongly sponsored by the same industry, Mr. Lewis and the Election Center are violating their own principles and standards of conduct.” Lewis sent out a "HEADS UP' notice to his buds, Davidson and Wilkey, warning that the attacks from the "crazies" was about to escalate.


So that means Lewis and Wilkey and Davidson were all involved or in control of NASED during the entire period that HAVA mandated the purchase of these voting machines. In fact they were responsible for the control, selection and oversight of the voting machine test labs.


Responsibility for accrediting these ITAs has now been transferred from NASED to the EAC, where there is a huge scandal unraveling, exposing the incestuous relationships among the federal government, election officials and the voting companies who worked together to create the appearance of a certification process when nothing could be further from the truth (the Brad blog is covering this extensively).


Things were apparently so bad under Doug Lewis’s and presumably Davidson’s and Wilkey’s watchful eyes, that even the EAC was forced to acknowledge with regard to Ciber, the main testing lab selected by R. Doug Lewis’s Election Center, that there are no independent requirements for testing and:


"the testing for a product tends to either use vendor developed tests or new tests developed specifically for the product-they have no standard test methods defined. This makes their testing dependent on vendor input and vulnerable to unique vendor interpretations rather than a core validated set of internal references for training and testing."



So there it is, the Davidson-Wilkey-Lewis controlled Election Center (emphasis on the controlled). That’s who testified today. Doug Lewis represents the best of those that have made sure only the most profitable “product” should be seriously considered. The NASED/EAC/Election Center is not interested in optical scanners and they are definitely not interested in permitting people to count their own votes by hand (how would Doug’s other buddies make any money that way?). Besides why would we want to discuss a hand count system for ensuring that votes were actually counted as cast, when we can have the counting go on in secret within the opaque walls of these machines controlled by Doug and his extended group of friends (that would include those with a vested interest to sell the most expensive machines and have no accountability for their shoddiness as well as those who have a vested interested in staying in power).


In reading Doug Lewis' testimony, now you can gain some perspective into where he's coming from. Doug Kellner has told us where he’s coming from. Avi Rubin has permitted us to observe his learning curve. For full disclosure, this is where I’m coming from: I would concur with Doug Lewis on certain objections to the Holt bill.


Doug Lewis’s Testimony Regarding the Holt Bill:


"The process described in HR811 is unworkable and unnecessary."


"it is my understanding from my colleagues around the nation there is no state


yet which could comply with the paper trail system as specified in HR811. So the 27 states that have previously taken action would have to scrap what they have already done and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp once again. Surely this Congress does not intend for that to happen. And what could they buy if they wanted to continue with DREs? From what we’re told, nothing currently manufactured as a DRE can comply."


I agree--Holt's bill is unworkable and creates unfunded mandates, requiring us to purchase machines that don't exist and we can't afford. But does that mean we should conclude, as Doug Lewis does, that therefore we should hang on to our malfunctioning DREs, which the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has now told us on two occasions, are so pervasively problematic they "could damage the integrity of ballots, votes and voting-system software by allowing unauthorized modifications." See October 2005 Report , and the latest study, PDF format  released March 7, 2007, wherein the GAO Information Technology Architecture and Systems Director, Randolph C. Hite, testified that electronic voting systems can break an election! (It should definitely be observed that the GAO report refers to electronic voting systems, which includes both DREs and Optical Scanners as being unreliable, but Holt’s Bill focuses on DREs). From Hite’s testimony:


“[E]lectronic voting systems are an undeniably critical link in the overall election chain. While this link alone cannot make an election, it can break one. The problems that some jurisdictions have experienced and the serious concerns that have surfaced highlight the potential for continuing difficulties in upcoming national elections if these challenges are not effectively addressed”


If the GAO told you the cars you’re driving are likely to blow up when you hit 50 miles/hour or that they break down with regularity while you're driving, would you keep driving? If there was no safe alternative and you had to take your child to school- would you a) take public transportation; b) walk; c) risk yours and your child's life?


Lewis says stick with the car that could kill you because he’s comfortable denying reality (see his testimony on how well the elections went in 2006 and how infallible machines are). Holt says we have a new model—it’s not ready yet and you won’t be able to afford it when it comes out, but whenever it does, it’s still going to be likely to blow up when you hit 50/ mph and it’s going to keep breaking down while you’re driving it, but we’re improving things—we’re putting in a couple of air bags and a fancy new navigator that can talk to you (in 8 different languages) [see Ralph Neas testimony- the transcript and the audio are at Brad Freeman’s article] I don’t believe that would be considered “effectively address[ing]” the problem, pursuant the to the GAO’s wake up call.


I would also agree with Lewis’s objections about audits:


"Audits of elections lengthens the time to close an election and it adds significantly to the cost of doing the election."


"So far every jurisdiction that has tried to audit or recount paper records produced by DRE=s, and has to do so with humans instead of technology, the counts are taking exponentially longer times to complete than any other form of voting"


The GAO and many other studies have told us how unreliable these machines are, necessitating audits, which are going to add to the time and expense of an election (see Rady Ananda’s overview of major expert studies on voting machines at Doug Lewis’s response: stick with the quickie electronic/no audit election in which heads you lose, tails you lose. Holt’s choice is to pour many millions into machines we still won’t be able to make secure (it’s actually worse than that, see Nancy Tobi’s Summary of e-Voting as a Ponzi Scheme Download this article in PDF format ). Or do we change the system so that it produces accurate results the first time, requiring less need for these audits. The problem is we mortals only know of one way to do it right the first timeB and that’s hand counted paper ballots.


Doug Lewis's problem with having people count the votes by hand- whether it's an audit or a recount (or the actual first count, which words I don’t think would pass his lips)- is that it takes too long and machines are oh so much better at counting that we mortals.


Doug Lewis: "there is the rub. Humans count large numbers of ballots less accurately than voting equipment does. The higher you establish the required percentage to be counted the more you will find discrepancies Y and those discrepancies are rarely the voting equipment=s numbers. It is because humans either make a mistake in counting or because a human interprets a ballot differently than the equipment. Humans get tired. Their minds wander when counting large numbers of ballots by hand.”


It's the conclusion that he draws from our shared objections to the Holt Bill which reveal the underlying problem with the entire discussion around voting in the United States. It starts with machines and it assumes machines can do a better job than people. And so our legislators, whose desire to be reelected creates a conflict of interest of the first order, have placed the machines over us: Machines ruling over human beings on the single issue which determines whether we remain a free self-governing people.


But the Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not start with machines and they don’t start with belief in technology. They start with the assumption that power corrupts and must always be vigilantly checked and guarded against. They start with our right to be a free people, which we accomplish by being able to choose who our representatives will be. It’s really that simple. Are you willing to entrust your ability to remain self-governing to a machine when even the government’s own technical advisor (the National Institute of Standards and Technology is technical advisor to the EAC) has reported that:


"the DRE provides no independent capability to detect whether fraud has not caused errors in the records. In principle, a single clever, dishonest programmer in a voting machine company could rig an entire statewide election" and the NIST research staff "do not know how to write testable requirements to satisfy that the software in a DRE is correct.”


As the GAO has found, it’s not any better with an optical scanner if it’s not being heavily audited. Whether these machines glitch out because they were produced or programmed poorly or glitch in one direction, because they were programmed to do that, they are too unreliable and insecure to vote on. No amount of money can change what science has not wrought. If we have to vote on them, We the People have lost.


We can count our votes ourselves. We don’t need the Orwellian Help America to Vote Act. We don’t need Congressman Holt or any of the other legislators who support this legislation to help us. We need to recognize that we are the only ones who can take back control of our elections, by our own hand.


Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Andi Novick Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media