Something I didn’t know until a few days ago, Chris Dodd, former Candidate for President, who dropped out this week, claims authorship of HAVA, or the Help America Vote Act. As such, Dodd is the main man behind giving the United States Touchscreen Voting Machines, ala Diebold.
Here’s a new and relevant piece from the NYT:
“Many worried that another similar trauma would do irreparable harm to the electoral system. So in 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which gave incentives to replace punch-card machines and lever machines and authorized $3.9 billion for states to buy new technology, among other things. At the time, the four main vendors of voting machines — Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and Hart — were aggressively marketing their new touch-screen machines. Computers seemed like the perfect answer to the hanging chad. Touch-screen machines would be clear and legible, unlike the nightmarishly unreadable “butterfly ballot.” The results could be tabulated very quickly after the polls closed. And best of all, the vote totals would be conclusive, since the votes would be stored in crisp digital memory. (Touch-screen machines were also promoted as a way to allow the blind or paralyzed to vote, via audio prompts and puff tubes. This became a powerful incentive, because, at the behest of groups representing the disabled, HAVA required each poll station to have at least one “accessible” machine.)
HAVA offered no assistance or guidelines as to what type of machine to buy, and local elections officials did not have many resources to investigate the choices; indeed, theirs are some of most neglected and understaffed offices around, because who pays attention to electoral technology between campaigns? As touch-screen vendors lobbied elections boards, the machines took on an air of inevitability. For elections directors terrified of presiding over “the next Florida,” the cool digital precision of touch-screens seemed like the perfect antidote.”
Interesting in and of itself. But even more interesting, on Air America he also was pushing heavily for moving the entire country to Vote-By Mail, something I and other well known voting activists across the country are firmly against.
So next time you think that those sneaky Republicans are behind this move to Touchscreens and shutting down polling places with Vote-By Mail, think again, and take a minute to write Chris Dodd, the author of the takeover of the machines.