E-Voting Update – House Markup and Investigation

By David Bruggeman
May 4, 2007

The Committee on House Administration has acted within the last week on both the Holt e-voting legislation, H.R. 811, and the contested election for the Florida 13th Congressional District.

First, we must note the passing of the Committee’s Chair, Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald, on April 22nd from cancer. She had just started a formal leave from Congress when she passed, and is the second Representative to pass this year (Rep. Norwood of Georgia also passed from cancer in February). Rep. Brady of Pennsylvania is the interim chair of the committee. Speaker Pelosi is expected to name a new chair within the next few weeks. Rep. Brady is currently running for mayor of Philadelphia, so he may not be chosen, depending on the results of his primary later this month. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama has joined the committee.

The committee met on Thursday, May 3 to markup HR 811, Rep. Holt’s e-voting legislation. There are several amendments under consideration. One is a substitute offered by Rep. Lofgren that has some changes from the Holt bill – more flexibility for the states in how they select audit personnel, and an exemption of commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology from the requirements to place voting technologies in escrow. The Republican members have “9 or 10” amendments, only one of which was available. This amendment, offered by Rep. Ehlers, was a slimmed down version of the bill, with some impractical computer security provisions. The markup was postponed until Tuesday, May 8, given the lack of time members had to review the pending amendments.

On May 2, the Task Force considering the Florida 13 contest met to consider future action. This follows a meeting in late April where the Task Force (chaired by Rep. Gonzalez of Texas, with Reps. Lofgren and McCarthy of California as members) heard from representatives of both sides regarding the progress of the case. The Taks Force voted to proceed with an investigation, but declined a request to compel disclosure of the source code for review by both parties. Instead the GAO will investigate the audits conducted by the State of Florida and initiate its own investigation if they deem it necessary.