In advance of today’s press conference on the introduction of Representative Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) election reform bill, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas released the following statement:
“It is an honor and a distinct pleasure to be here today to support this effort to make our elections work for every American. I salute Representative Rush Holt for his indefatigable leadership in election reform, and his work to make sure that every citizen can cast a vote that will count.
“Nothing less than the integrity and fairness of the 2008 elections is at stake. Congress must act immediately. We will continue to work with Congressman Holt, the co-sponsors, and Congress to guarantee that all eligible voters—including disabled and minority language voters—have full access to the entire voting process.
“At People For the American Way, election reform and election protection are two of our highest priorities. Nothing is more central to our democracy than the people’s right to participate in elections. We must ensure that our elections set an example for the world.
“Unfortunately—with millions of voters disenfranchised each election cycle—our citizens have lost confidence that their votes are counted accurately—or even counted at all. The recent debacle in Sarasota County, where some 18,000 votes were inexplicably not recorded on the paperless voting machines, is only the tip of the iceberg. Poll after poll shows the impact of voting irregularities on people’s faith in our electoral system. We must turn this around. We have an obligation to fix this broken system.
“Congressman Holt’s Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 addresses this national crisis. Most importantly, the Holt bill gives voters a chance to verify that their vote was recorded properly before they leave the booth. Under the Holt bill, all voting machines must produce a paper ballot that would count as the official ballot for purposes of all recounts.
“In addition, the bill contains two very important safeguards. It requires voting machine vendors to provide independent access to their machines source codes to permit inspections to verify the integrity of elections without compromising ballot secrecy. And it requires manual audits of all voting machines pursuant to established federal standards.
“Finally, the bill goes a long way toward protecting voters with disabilities and language minority voters’ access to the ballot box. Voters whose primary language is not English will be able to make the best and most informed choice at the polls. It will also allow disabled voters to cast their ballots with the privacy and dignity we all expect.
“Make no mistake: the need for election reform in this country is urgent. We’re facing an election in 2008 which will decide control of Congress and the presidency, as well as thousands of down-ballot races. Many of these races will be close. Americans deserve to know that they will cast a vote that will be counted—and, if necessary, recounted, by fair and independent observers.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. many times used the phrase ‘the urgency of now.’ If these reforms are to be in place for 2008, we must act now. People For calls on all Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to make sure that legislation addressing these problems becomes law by this summer. The heart and soul of our democracy is at stake.”