Says 'Voting Machine Purists Should Not Let The Perfect be the Enemy of the Good'
We Disagree With Both the Premise and the Conclusion...
By Brad Friedman on 3/19/2007, 5:57pm PT  

Using often inaccurate characterizations of my position, and the position of those like me who are in favor of amending Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR811) to include a ban on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, often called "touch-screen") voting systems, my friend Steve Rosenfeld filed an article today at AlterNet titled "Are Voting Machine Purists Standing in the Way of Reform?" which is critical of my position.

The piece is in direct response to an article of mine published at AlterNet several weeks ago on the false arguments being put forward by supporters of Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR811) --- folks like PFAW, Common Cause, MoveOn, etc. --- in trying to see the bill passes as is and in opposition to an amendment that would ban dangerous, unverifiable, disenfranchising DRE voting systems.

In the editorial, Rosenfeld, describes folks like me, misleadingly, as "voting machine purists" and inaccurately suggest we have an "all or nothing approach" to Election Reform. Further, he goes on to mischaracterize a number of provisions of the Holt bill, as well as many of the arguments that have been made in favor of banning DREs.

I just spoke with Steve...

He did not speak to me before filing his piece, but rather worked from my original AlterNet piece --- adapted, in turn, from an article here at BRAD BLOG --- and built his presumptions from there. His presumption, he told me, was that various supporters of the legislation explained to him that "the bill could not pass if it included a DRE ban." That premise, itself, was examined --- and I thought, debunked --- by the original article he was responding to. As well, he confirmed that he didn't hear that argument directly from any Congressional offices who would actually be voting on the bill, but rather, second and third hand from various folks who have been in close touch with Holt's office and the disinformation campaign they've been very actively running in support of the bill.

Simply put, his argument is that folks like me are attempting to derail the Holt Bill (not true, we've both worked on its development in support, have detailed many of the very good and much-needed provisions in the bill, and are now attempting to see it amended to help move us closer to true Election Integrity, transparency, and verifiability).

Steve concludes his "Don't let 'the perfect' be the enemy of 'the good'" argument thusly:

If a newly responsive Congress fails to act because of Internet-based critics, those who say they are defending elections may end up prolonging the very problems that they have worked to expose. HR 811 is not a perfect solution, but it is more than a good start.

While my longtime girlfriend may be surprised to learn that I'm "Internet-based", I'll leave the bulk and the specifics of Steve's comments for you to assess on your own for the moment. It's a lengthy and well-meaning (if misguided) response and will, undoubtedly, require a lengthy response in response by me. I hope to find the time to create such a response.

Since I don't, for the moment, I'll just underscore my point in referring to Steve as a friend who has worked assiduously in the name of election integrity, particularly along with the good Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman at Columbus Free Press in their exhaustive investigations of the 2004 Ohio election debacle. I don't believe Steve had a nefarious purpose in writing his piece. I believe he was simply misinformed about both the bill and the political landscape, which leads to him being completely wrong in his conclusions about both.

Beyond that, as Steve was, until recently, the producer of Radio Nation with Laura Flanders on Air America Radio, I might suggest that Laura have both of us on to debate this most important matter live on the air. I believe such an open and direct discussion would be very enlightening for the entire debate.

While I'm at it, and while Congress has been having a series of hearings to discuss the Holt bill, I might suggest that they too have a hearing dedicated to the pluses and minuses (if they can find any) for a DRE ban.

UPDATE: Mark Crispin Miller, author of FOOLED AGAIN: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and How They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them), responds to Rosenfeld's piece by writing, in part: "While I respect Steve's point about the frequent need, in politics, for incremental measures, I think that HR 811 could easily do more harm than good. I oppose it only for that reason, and not because it isn't perfect." Mark's full response is here...

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