Statement for the Record before the House Judiciary Committee by Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen, on Ney-Hoyer “Help America Vote” Bill

Dec. 5, 2001

Statement for the Record before the House Judiciary Committee
by Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen,
on Ney-Hoyer “Help America Vote” Bill

The Ney-Hoyer “election reform” bill would do relatively little to fix our broken election system ? which “lost” about six million votes in the 2000 presidential race. Unveiled barely three weeks ago, Ney-Hoyer compares unfavorably to the more pro-reform Dodd and McConnell-Schumer bills in the Senate. Both Senate bills require states and localities to meet strong national voting standards as an indispensable condition for federal assistance. But Ney-Hoyer offers only weak standards ? shot through with loopholes ? in a “hands off” program of grants to states and localities. Rather than fixing the wound to our democracy, Ney-Hoyer would largely perpetuate the flawed state and local system that produced the 2000 election fiascoes.

Unlike both Senate bills, the Ney-Hoyer bill:

  • Does not require national standards for the permissible “error rate” of voting machines in counting and tabulating ballots.
  • Does not require that voters be notified if they have voted for too few or too many candidates so they can know whether they need to correct their errors.
  • Does not mandate that the states and localities ensure the availability of voting technology that would enable vision-impaired and other disabled voters to independently and privately fill in their ballots.
  • Does not ensure that citizens deficient in English will have access to ballots in alternative languages.
  • Does not ensure that voters are notified of their right to file a provisional ballot if their names are not on the precinct register, and to be informed whether their registration was ultimately verified and their vote counted.
  • Undermines the “Motor Voter” law by allowing voters to be purged from registration lists if they have not voted in four years and not responded to a notice (regardless of whether they actually received it, for example, at a new address).

Nearly 80 percent of the Senate is co-sponsoring a better bill than Ney-Hoyer, so it is not true, as some argue, that the House “can?t do better than this.” If House leaders want to pass a serious reform, the best thing they could do now would be to await the imminently anticipated results of ongoing Senate compromise negotiations among Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) and the principal sponsors of the superior Senate legislation, and take its cue from there. At the very least, they need to fix Ney-Hoyer and send a credible bill to an eventual House-Senate Conference.

The American people will not accept a fraudulent reform that makes a new Florida fiasco almost inevitable.

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