Holt Bill Fails To Get Required 2/3 Of House

The Holt Emergency Bill, H.R. 5036, which we support, failed by 239 to 178 to get a required two-thirds margin in the House of Representatives. AlterNet has the story <read>

CTVotersCount thanks the entire Connecticut House Delegation for voting for the bill, with especial thanks to Representative Courtney, a co-sponsor. We also appreciate the work of Speaker Pelosi who worked to move the bill forward. We appreciate Rush Holt for his continuing efforts since 2003.

We are not surprised by this development, just disappointed that so much damage was caused so quickly by Washington’s Help America Vote Act, and that to road to correcting the problems is so long. Last year we supported Representative Rush Holt’s long term bill, H.R. 811, co-sponsored by 226 members of the house and lobbied Congress in 2006 for its predecessor. Our understanding is that Representative Holt will continue to work on the long term bill – we intend to continue our support.

Let me boldly predict that without unity behind a good bill, 2009 will be “too soon” to worry about election reform in Congress with other more pressing needs and that 2010, like 2008, will be “too late” to correct anything before an election.

Holt responded to the GOP’s main objection to the bill, its cost.

“I’d like to ask the opponents how much spending is too much to have verifiable elections in the United States,” he said. “I note that many people who opposed this legislation supported spending almost $330 million in recent years to provide election assistance in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I would have hoped those who supported efforts to export democracy abroad would be equally committed to strengthening democracy here at home.”

The main objections and arguments for:

CQ reported that Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee — who supported the bill in committee — said many GOP House members opposed the bill because of its price tag. The Congressional Budget Office estimated its cost as high as $685 million after the committee approved the bill on April 2, although other estimates by its backers cited a much-lower figure.

“This bill would represent a real step forward in our effort to protect the accuracy, integrity and security of the November elections,” Holt said, in a statement issued after the vote. The bill that the House leadership scheduled for a vote today is the same one that passed two weeks ago without the objection of a single Committee member. There is no reason why this should be a partisan issue but the Republicans evidently have chosen to make it so. The White House issued a statement opposing the bill and 176 of 203 Republicans voted that way.”

According to Warren Stewart of the Verified Voting Foundation, the White House’s opposition was the first time the Administration has weighed in on the election reform issue in years. “The Administration does not want to improve the accuracy and reliable of this November’s elections,” he said, noting that 16 Republicans voted for the bill, including Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) the fourth-ranking Republican in the House and National Republican Campaign Committee chair, whose job is to win GOP seats.

“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 5036,” the White House statement said. “First, the Administration opposes the bill’s authorization of excessive spending for reimbursement to States for the costs of obtaining paper ballot voting systems and conducting audits or hand counting of election results. Approximately $3 billion in Federal grants have already been provided to States to upgrade their voting systems since 2002, including $115 million in 2008. More than $1 billion in unspent funds remains available and, in addition, States can retain interest earned on their unspent federal grants … “

More from Rush Holt <read>.  And a Common Cause press release.

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