17 October 2014

Dear Elections Assistance Commission

Today I write to express my disappointment with the non-responsiveness of the commission to the needs of the voters. You do well when it comes to the needs of the voting machine vendors, it seems, but the voters are being ignored.

You say that "the Commission serves as a national clearinghouse and resource for information and review of procedures with respect to the administration of Federal elections". I'm sorry to say that you fail as both a national clearinghouse and as a resource for information.

Let me give you a few examples of the failures. On October 17, 2004 a letter from VotersUnite.Org was given to, you, the commissioners. This letter expressed an idea that VotersUnite.Org had concerning your mandate to be a national clearinghouse and resource. It was VotersUnite.Org's idea that a communications network be established between all state, county, and local elections officials for the purpose of wide promulgation of information about voting system problems, solutions, and other issues that would have wide-spread interest. To this date VotersUnite.Org has never received a response to this letter even though I have personally spoken with your spokesperson about it and another copy of the letter was transmitted to this person for a response. It is, apparently, sitting on some EAC Counsel's desk for action; or being ignored.

The letter was also given, months later, to members of the Government Accountability Office as testimony prior to their report on your successes and failures since you were formed. I'm sure you have noticed that the clearinghouse idea was mentioned several times in their report. It is hoped that you will not treat the GAO as you have treated the public and ignore their advice.

In mid-August of this year your spokesperson told a newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania, "[S]tates must require that the disabled have the ability to vote, and that machines meet certain auditing and accuracy requirements. But there's nothing in the act saying that decades-old lever voting machines must go, she said; that's a decision for the states to decide." To be fair, the spokesperson told me that she was misquoted; but that misquote caused an almost immediate action because on September 8 you issued an advisory that clarified that lever voting machines do not meet the mandates of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. It is clear that the advisory was quickly issued to clear-up the 'misquote'.

I would think that you would be just as interested in clearing up the rampant misinformation regarding punch card voting systems. As you are aware, HAVA clearly gives means for states, counties, and local jurisdictions to keep their punch-card systems. However, the voting machine vendors have spread the false information that these systems are not legal for use after 1 January 2006. Unlike your action to clear-up a 'misquote' from your spokesperson, you have allowed the vendors to continue to spread this misinformation unchecked.

On September 7 a group of 15 voter advocacy groups representing thousands of voters across the country and signed by the Executive Director of VoteTrustUSA, an umbrella organization representing these 15 local or state groups, sent you a letter requesting clarification of HAVA language concerning lever machines and punch card voting systems. The action requested of you by these groups was to provide guidance regarding these voting systems and HAVA. Fortuitously you cleared-up the question about lever machines the same day that this letter was in the mail.

Unfortunately, again, your staff seems to have lost the letter and there has never been a response to the punch-card issue. I have called more than once and talked to your spokesperson who searched for the original letter but was not able to find it. I sent her, via email, another copy of the letter on October 13. I was then told on October 14 that this email'd letter was forwarded to the appropriate staff person for response. I have since called and asked for a status of that response and I have been given excuses such as that the appropriate staff person is "out with the flu".

Joan Krawitz, the signer of the original letter and the Executive Director of VoteTrustUSA, called your spokesperson and left a message on her voice mail asking for a call back. That return call has never been made.

It is unfortunate that by your inaction you have allowed the voting machine industry, and their lobbyists, to misinform counties and jurisdictions into thinking that HAVA mandates a replacement of their punch-card voting systems. Counties that have never had problems with their elections and that have budgetary problems are now reluctantly spending tax payers' funds to purchase new technology that they do not want. It is clear that you have not done your job in this instance.

Finally, rather than take a simple action to provide the "Qualified Voting Systems" list on your own website, you have left it for the National Association of State Elections Directors to do this task. This list is public information; not proprietary. However, until I made many calls over a period of two months to the ITA Secretariat, Brian Hancock, that list was not updated. The list went without being updated from August 30 until November 18. That is an egregious failure to get public information to the public. To be fair Mr. Hancock did make calls to NASED when I called him, and finally he had to call the Chair, Linda Lamone, in order to finally get that vital information made public.

It is clear from the above that you are a failure as an information clearinghouse. It could also be argued that you are reticent to do anything that might damage the voting machine industry. That is an unfortunate perception, I realize, but it is one that you have done nothing to fight. I am disappointed that a government agency that is supposed to ensure fair elections seems to have lost its way. I am disappointed that a government agency that should be giving the voters more confidence in their election process has done nothing to give anyone confidence. Instead, you have stood idly by, watching the voting machine industry make hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of the taxpayers.

I sincerely hope that actions are taken to immediately assuage my disappointment in your lack of any action on the above matters.

John Gideon
Executive Director www.votersunite.org and
Information Manager www.votetrustusa.org

VotersUnite! is a national non-partisan organization dedicated to fair and accurate elections. It focuses on distributing well-researched information to elections officials, elected officials, the media, and the public; as well as providing activists with information they need to work toward transparent elections in their communities.