H.R.’ Microsoft 811’ Challenges

Our Voting Rights and Democracy Itself!


“So what I agreed to... I didn't do the negotiations but I understand what they were doing, so I shouldn't say I agreed to them... but I accept the outcome.” Rep Rush Holt


“Unfortunately, the committee that made this change heard from Microsoft…

They heard that voice” Rep Rush Holt


We present a “debate” with Rep. Rush Holt on “Microsoft 811” using the words of Congressman Rush Holt (NJ) captured on video at a Town Meeting in his district in July 2007.


Holt:  “The confidence in the working of our elections has been shaken badly. There are literally millions of Americans who don't believe the results of recent elections…in certain elections.”

Us:    On this, we are in complete agreement. It is urgent to restore the integrity of our voting system, to restore the ability to prove the outcomes from the source ballots.

Holt:  They're saying at the end of the day, an electronic machine can print out the totals, and that's the verification. Well, no... If it's stored incorrectly in the electronic memory, I don't care how many times you print it out for recounts, it's still incorrect, and there's no way you can recover”

Us.    Quite correct. There is nothing there to count, nothing to show the original intent of voter. So we expect any legislation to ensure that the ballot of record be the original source ballot…the voter-marked paper ballot completed by each voter.

Holt:  “My legislation since I've introduced it would require that every voter would have a paper ballot to verify in the privacy of the voting booth”.

Us:    On the contrary, “paper ballot” — as the term is used in your bill — is a misnomer. H.R. 811 requires a paper print-out of the votes, and while it requires that the voter be allowed to verify it, the bill would NOT require all those “paper ballots” to be counted. 90% to 97% of the printouts won’t ever be counted and cannot be considered ballots at all.

          What your bill requires is a paper printout from the electronic memory — the same electronic memory which you yourself said could be incorrect “and there’s no way you can recover.”

Mr. Holt, in a meeting in July, you said to us that you believed that our voting system should meet the same standards as our government….a system of separate and independent checks and balances.  A DRE with a printer does NOT and can NEVER meet that vital requirement. Why are we allowing DREs to be used in our elections?

Holt:  “You would be able to see that it's recorded the way you intended. That would be the vote of record; that would be your ballot.”

Us:    You will not see what is recorded inside the machine, and it is the machine count that will be announced as results on election night. It is the machine record, which voters can’t see, that will determine our next President and Congress!

Holt:  “The legislation says any software that is used to count the votes must be available for inspection. Now that probably would not include the operating system, but that's okay. What counts the votes would be open for inspection.”

Us:    Mr. Holt perhaps you are confusing your current bill with your original bill, which DID open software to inspection. Your current bill has closed it to all but a chosen few, only if they promise to keep it secret. Your bill makes the corporations’ right to vote-counting secrecy the LAW.

Holt:   “Furthermore, the real protection for any of us against -- you say it's being managed by a corporation, Microsoft or something -- the real protection against that is the audit. Every election will be audited. If the electronic count is different from the hand count on the paper ballots, the electronic count is finished, it doesn't mean anything, you don't use it, it's irrelevant. It is the voter-verified paper ballot that counts.”

Us:     The tiny 3% spot check required by your bill is NOT an audit. It is NOT real protection.  Evidence shows that most voters don’t verify the screen view of their electronic ballot, even fewer verify the hard-to-read paper printout. It will be a coincidence indeed if the 3% (or at most 10%) of the spot-checked printouts were some of the few that the voters actually did verify. The ability to perform good audits is dependent on having a reliable system….and that we do not have with electronic voting!  When a system is “out of control”…unpredictable…as are the present electronic machines given the extensive series of problems and inability to know when some viruses activate or changes made, an audit of 1-3 percent is more a “feel good” than a system that is trustworthy. We deserve real proof our elections equal voters intent!


Holt:  “And I don't care what Microsoft does with their electronics in there.”

Us: To say that I don't care what Microsoft does with their electronics in theredoes not reflect the findings and concerns of most scientists and is in opposition to the right of citizens to know what is going on in the election process.  We better care what is going on inside the voting machines.  This head-in-the-sand attitude is in complete opposition to the right of citizens to observe their election processes. How can you claim to care about voter confidence when you endorse a bill that allows secret software to count votes?


Holt:    “That's not what the bill said when introduced. That's true. The bill has been changed since I introduced it.”

Us:    So who lobbied for the change?

Holt:   “Microsoft did lobby strongly. It wasn't just Microsoft. It was everybody who—“

Us:    Diebold?

Holt:  “No, it was software -- the software industry.”

Us:    Well it's your bill.

Holt:  “No, it's no longer my bill -- well, it's still my bill but it's been marked up in committee.”

Us:    Mr. Holt, how can you allow your fellow Representatives to vote for ‘Microsoft 811’ without telling them of the changes, the industry lobbying, and in your own words  “Unfortunately, the committee that made this change heard from Microsoft. They heard that voice…the software industry won”? Since when is it a rule that the group that lobbies hardest gets to set legislation? 

American citizens should not be forced to vote on machines deemed unsecure and unreliable. But they are — in thousands of jurisdictions. They are forced to cast their votes on machines whose results cannot be proven by the original source votes, whose software is a secret from the voters themselves. Correcting this intolerable situation must be the highest priority facing all of us before 2008 election.

It’s time to remove H.R.’Microsoft’  811 from consideration and offer instead a “stripped down” bill focused on what would most secure the 2008 election.  We have a crisis…an emergency facing 2008!

It’s time to ban DREs for national elections.

It’s time for voters and candidates to have meaningful participation in the vote-counting process.

It’s time to acknowledge that democracy is our most important asset. Not corporate secrecy rights. Not the convenience of election officials. Not just the appearance of democracy. But real democracy!

Will Congress vote for an “election reform” bill where the voices of corporate lobbyists insisting on secrecy in vote-counting were heard over the voices of the voters?

Vote NO on H.R. ‘Microsoft’ 811.
Vote YES on banning all DREs for 2008 and funding the transition.
Vote YES on giving candidates and voters the right to meaningfully audit election results.

Coalition for Voting Integrity                                                                             www.voiceofthevoters.com