Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Cos works for John Bonifaz for Secretary of State in Massachusetts.

Matt and Chris have invited me to cover election reform and voting rights on MyDD - issues I have bloggedabout here already.  By way of introduction, I want to address the biggest political problem I've seen plaguing the election-reform netroots.  On Daily Kos and MyDD, on the Democratic Underground Election Reform forum, on the email lists of local and regional Democracy for America and Progressive Democrats of America groups, I see this cry repeatedly:

What good does it do to support candidates?  With those Diebold machines, they can steal any election.  It's pointless to compete in elections when the votes won't be counted.
I understand the concern.  I've been organizing and campaigning against computer voting machines for several years.  I've collected signatures for verified voting petitions and helped organize a press conference, successfully lobbied Representatives to support Rush Holt's audit bill, and seen Bev Harris' 2 hour presentation in person and stayed for the Q&A.  On election day, 2004, I was at the Election Protection coalition's call center in Broward County, Florida, as VerifiedVoting.org's TechWatch volunteer, taking calls from voters and poll watchers about touchscreen voting machine problems.  I left Fort Lauderdale that night with a queasy feeling, and no confidence that the votes would be accurately counted.  So I'm somewhat familiar with this issue, and it does concern and disturb me.

The problem I have with the attitude I see from some election reform advocates - the attitude I paraphrased above - is that, in its extreme absolutism, it is deeply cynical.  It is nihilistic.  Rather than challenge us to work to solve the problem, it calls on us to throw up our hands in despair, to eschew the most powerful tool we have, and to cry out to the wilderness, "why won't anyone pay attention?"

In the past few years, I've volunteered and worked on a number of progressive campaigns.  I've canvassed, been a poll watcher, been a precinct captain, and ran a citywide get out the vote operation.  I've participated in a hand recount, and seen an election for Democratic State Committee go to a tie because several precincts didn't count write-in votes.  In another election, college students were challenged at the polls, and the number of legitimate voters turned away were almost enough to swing the election.  And I've learned something: There is nothing, not even money, that candidates and elected officials fear or respect more than votes.

Electoral politics is the strategy through which we pursue change in this country.  Just because the voting machines being used are unreliable or buggy, doesn't mean they'll throw every election, or even most elections.  Just because they have poor security and can be hacked, doesn't mean all, or even most elections, will be stolen.  If you run for Democratic State Committee or county committee, will Republicans sweep in to steal the election?  I've seen state representative elections decided by 93 votes, by 64 votes - and it is exactly these local and state officials who can solve the sort of mundane problems I observed.

That same election day in 2004, just to the north of me, incumbent Palm Beach County supervisor of elections Therese LePore was defeated by challenger Arthur Anderson, who campaigned against paperless voting.  He won 91,134 to 85,601, a margin of victory of 5,533 votes.

If we want to reform elections, we need to elect reformers to run our elections.  John Nichols' recent article in The Nation, Fighting for a Fair Vote, highlights a new crop of "Champions of Democracy" running to do just that: Mark Ritchie in Minnesota, Debra Bowen in California, Jennifer Brunner in Ohio, and John Bonifaz in Massachusetts, all running for secretary of state.  If the state of our elections disturbs you, don't throw up your hands and cry, "what's the use?".  Support reformers like these, and get them elected.

Me?  I'm working for John Bonifaz as his campaign blogger.

Tags: Arthur Anderson, California, Debra Bowen, election reform, Florida, Jennifer Brunner, John Bonifaz, Mark Ritchie, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Theresa LePore (all tags)

Comments

72 Comments

Thank you for that.

I work with Democrats Abroad, trying to get people registered and signed up to vote, get them their absentee ballots, and get them active.

One of the MOST pernicious attitudes is the one you describe in your post, and it is one that is widespread.

Combatting it is exhausting, and the steady stream of defeatist, nihilisic, neo-anarchistic propaganda about voting machines, stolen votes, and the non-relevance of peoples' votes is never-ending and constantly stymying our efforts.

Our efforts, by the way, can be found here:

http://www.votefromabroad.org/

Please spread it around.

My take on the issue is this:

Regardless of whether there is outright fraud, infrastructural slop resulting in lost votes, holes in the system exploited by nefarious tricksters, or suppression efforts...all of which could be in existence...the ONLY solution absent an outright popular uprising is to SIGN UP MORE PEOPLE TO VOTE!

Get them excited, get them active, get them registered...overwhelm the system one way or another.

We cannot change it until and unless we have the reins, and we cannot get the reins unless we win elections.

by RedDan 2006-06-20 12:57AM | 0 recs
Foreign agents of defeatism

have been quite successful, I see.

It would of course be impossible for expatriates to notice from that distance that U.S. elections are getting increasingly corrupt and that the supposed opposition party inveriably accepts the result no matter what.

So nothing else could account for their attitude than the daily mailings urging them not to vote.

by macdust 2006-06-20 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Good for you, Cos. I agree.

I'm working very hard for the Deval Patrick campaign for Governor of Massachusetts. One of the things that appeals to me about his candidacy is his call to bring people back into the process, or to encourage them to get involved for the first time. Too often, we have been presented with candidates who have no imagination or vision, and people become cynical. We can change this by supporting great candidates like Deval.

by Michael Forbes Wilcox 2006-06-20 01:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Great post.  I am so sick and tired of these self-defeating, conspiratorial, excuses to avoid work.

We need to face reality.  Sure, election fraud exists.  But the vast, vast majority of the time when we lose an election, it's because we simply didn't do what we needed to do to win -- NOT because there's some Diebold executive hiding in the grassy knoll.

We need to get better candidates, we need to frame the issues better, and we need to get more people to the polls.   Whining about Diebold doesn't help with any of these things.

by jhlinko 2006-06-20 02:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Good piece.

And I agree, though it's possible that we may already be too late.

So if we have another exit poll fiasco this time around . . . well, then what? Will you guys finally get on the stolen election bandwagon? How do we repair the system when we cannot gain access to it?

Here's my prediction: The Republicans will miraculously maintain their advantage in the House and the Senate, despite every poll in the world saying otherwise; and Democrats will continue to wring their hands and wonder what they've done to turn off the electorate. The rest of us will look at the polls and the results and yell, "bullshit," while the news media constructs a narrative about how "out of touch the Democrats have become," when the can't even win an election against the most unpopular president in living memory.

And the GOP cypto-fascists will made it through yet another election cycle without anyone challenging their criminal activity, thereby further consolidating their grip over the mechanisms of democracy.

Hope I'm wrong. Please, god, let me be wrong.

by Tod Westlake 2006-06-20 04:34AM | 0 recs
Jeez, Todd...

do you even see that the post that you contributed is exactly what cos is talking about? Exactly what he is criticizing?

Your post is exactly the defeatist, "we can't win," it's all fixed nonsense that cos is decrying.

How do you expect me to get a first time voter excited to participate with that?

How do you expect to get people to the polls with that?

And guess what? If you are wrong about your suspicions, then you have sabotaged my work based on unfounded speculation. Thanks a lot!

And even if you are RIGHT in your suspicions, if no one TRIES to vote, then how will we ever get the massive number of people active and angry that we need to radically change the situation? How will we get a mass protest, rally, general strike or whatever off the ground if no one is angry because everyone stayed home? You expect people to take that kind of risk just on your say so? Good luck with that.

You've shot yourself and everyone else in the foot either way.

It's defeatist, nihilistic nonsense...and it's unfounded, baseless suspicion with little or no factual proof.

by RedDan 2006-06-20 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez, Todd...

It's defeatist, nihilistic nonsense...and it's unfounded, baseless suspicion with little or no factual proof.

I say this is bullshit. If people in other places can throw rocks at tanks, we can vote on machines we want to get rid of. Computer voting machines have no place in a real democracy. For each ounce of convenience they offer, they they bring in tons of security Holes. A lot of Republicans hate the machines too. And that will not stop them from voting either. An election is like a war. Enough computered elections and there will be a war.

by blues 2006-06-20 06:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez, Todd...

Indeed.  

Speaking as a software engineer, the new dynamic that computerized voting - without paper trails - presents is that it is ONLY the folks that wrote/or understand/or have access to, the software, who know what was really counted or not.

It's unacceptable in gambling machines in Vegas, it should be regarded as unacceptable by those in power and those looking to represent us.

Computer voting, isn't the problem.  It's the lack of accounting and logging some of these systems provide.

The more I see push-back on reforming the voting system, from verifiable voting machines, to making it easier for people to vote, the more I believe some want to keep the 'voting class' just the way it is.  

Sad.  Very sad.

by kmartino 2006-06-20 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez, Todd...

You've obviously never taken a statistics class.

And it's one "d" i Tod ;)

by Tod Westlake 2006-06-20 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Jeez, Todd...

Oh, and please don't put words in my mouth that "we can't win," etc. In fact, I'm saying we are winning -- assuming the votes are cast and counted fairly, of course.

And I'm not hoping people stay home; quite the contrary. And, if you'll take the time to look at what happens in other countries when the populace knows the electoral process has been compromised, it is this very kind of mass action that I am hoping for. By shedding light on this corrupt process, I'm hoping people will get mad, and, if nessessary, take to the streets and demand that this problem be addressed and fixed.

I'm sorry, but the argument that it will cause people to become jaded, and therefore participate less in politics, is idiotic.

by Tod Westlake 2006-06-20 07:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

I'm working on my wife's local campaign in Colorado House District 21 and I know she will work for paper trail voting. But I really recommend Ken Gordon the Sect of State candidate in Colorado. He has deferred rerunning for the Colorado State Senate (he was President of the Senate) for the sole reason that he believes Colorado could be a swing state in the 2008 election and he wants to assure an honest vote count.

by tjlord 2006-06-20 05:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Thank you, Cos, for your post.  In the wake of Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, it is clear that we must stand up and fight back.  That is why I am running for Massachusetts Secretary of State.

Following the November 2004 election, I went to Ohio and led the fight in the federal courts for a full recount of the presidential vote in that state.  I was honored to work with people throughout Ohio and across the country who came together to demand that the promise of democracy be upheld and that the votes be properly counted.  While we won the right to the recount, Ohio election officials -- led by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell -- ultimately refused to conduct the recount in a manner consistent with basic due process and equal protection guarantees of the US Constitution.

As we approach another national election, we must continue the fight to safeguard the integrity of our electoral process and to protect and preserve the right to vote.  As Massachusetts Secretary of State, I will press for a new Voters' Bill of Rights, ten new proposed guarantees to strengthen our democracy and expand the political process.  First among these is the guarantee that we count every vote.  For the full list, see:

http://www.johnbonifaz.com/votersbillofr ights

Until we have a uniform federal system (which I favor, along with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote), it is up to secretaries of state to set the standard for how we conduct our elections.  As Massachusetts Secretary of State, I will build and lead a coalition of secretaries of state from around the country committed to progressive electoral reform and to returning voters to power.

Join me in this campaign to reclaim our democracy.

by john bonifaz 2006-06-20 06:03AM | 0 recs
Let's draw a line.

You draw it. Make it public.

It is the line where the United States government can no longer claim to operate with the consent of the governed.

This administration will attempt to cross that line, however tolerantly you draw it.

Come what may, we all should always vote, if only to signal the value of our vote.

But on the other side of that line, it will no longer be good enough to say to people, "we will reform elections through elections."

When we cross that line, what?

And is it not better to say now what remedy we will resort to if democracy is destroyed?

Will not drawing a line help preserve the hold of our Constitution?

by macdust 2006-06-20 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Oregon is a very blue  state and we vote by mail.  I don't know if that  makes the diffenece but it sure would make things a lot easier and more honest if the rest of the country tried our way.  I agree we have to get the vote out and get it counted. There is no reason why we can't do both.  The alternative  is to just let the corporations appoint the people they want to regulate them, like they do  now. Vote and make it count!, should be our motto.  

by upperleftedge 2006-06-20 06:07AM | 0 recs
Awesome
This is great stuff. This is a way beyond the endless repitition of the meta-discussion about the discussions we are suppodedly not having about eleciton reform. I am thrilled to have cos writing about this subject on the front page, and welcome anyone else who is actually engaged in activism to solve this problem to post diaries on MyDD. Activism is the key to solving this problem, and that is what I want ot see more of. Great work.
by Chris Bowers 2006-06-20 06:10AM | 0 recs
Thanks everyone

I  am from Broward County, a couple miles south of Ft. Lauderdale. My queasy feeling started in 2000 when I was trying to do my civic duty volunteering to recount the ballots.  What I am trying to say is that my queasy feeling hasn't gone away in six years. And fwiw, I have voted D in every election since 1972 when I voted for George McGovern. I will continue to do so, so my parents won't turn over in their graves.

The problem that I see is that many people focus on the one or two fanatics and write about their fanaticism. For those who cast doubt on the efforts  of good Americans who want to ensure fair and verifiable voting for all eligible voters, I would ask them to rethink whether or not public criticism is warranted.  A few nuts on the above mentioned web sites have nothing to do with the groups I work with. Furthermore, more and more reputable individuals are speaking out.

Let us not forget that there is also the pressing issue of the disenfranchisement of African Americans in Florida and elsewhere. Please help.

by misscee 2006-06-20 06:38AM | 0 recs
One more thing

Election reform is not a partison issue. The election reform process is complicated and varies from county to county. I believe it will take more than electing candidates who campaign on the election reform issue. The candidates who can do the most good are election supervisors. If you want to help, work to get them elected.

by misscee 2006-06-20 06:51AM | 0 recs
one or two

I think sometimes, it's otherwise practical people, temporary fallen prey to cynicism or venting frustration.  There are a small number of people who feel this way full time, and a larger number of people who feel this way part of the time, or at least talk this way.  I want to combat the attitude, not condemn the people who hold it.

by cos 2006-06-20 08:21AM | 0 recs
Re: one or two

Sure there are too many conspiracy theorists out there, but their effect on the current voting class is surely minimal, and it's doubtful they have an effect on the millions who choose NOT to vote because they already believe the game is rigged.

It's curious why any good, thorough discussion about keeping elections fair, open, and verifiable is being actively poo-poohed by the powers that be,  and those who are already active in the political sphere.

by kmartino 2006-06-20 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: one or two

I don't think the issue is "conspiracy theorists", or whether there are few or many of them.  The problem I see is this attitude, which comes out a lot in discussions of election reform.  As I said above, I think a lot of the time it's from people venting frustration, or who are temporarily demoralized - it's not the people who are a problem, it's the attitude.  And it is unfortunately very common in most of the election reform online communities I watch or participate in, and in many in-person meetings I've been to.

The point here is to encourage discussion about keeping elections fair, open, and verifiable, while at the same time tamping down the idea that because elections are flawed, competing in them is a waste of time.  Because those two are at cross-purposes.

by cos 2006-06-20 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: one or two

Don't you see the paradox in what you're saying?

If people are venting frustration in these election reform communities you are mentioning....

It means they are discussing these issues!

Which is, as you say, your point.

The vast majority of folks out there - ARE NOT.  

They aren't engaged.  They've already walked away.

And talk to stifle conversation about these concerns will do nothing to bring them back.

by kmartino 2006-06-20 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: one or two

"The point here is to encourage discussion about keeping elections fair, open, and verifiable, while at the same time tamping down the idea that because elections are flawed, competing in them is a waste of time.  Because those two are at cross-purposes."

Let me put it another way.

I don't think you'll find anyone here that disagrees with you.  

The problem is, by pursuing the later, trying to "tamping down the idea that because elections are flawed, competing in them is a waste of time", as you are seeing in this thread, it encourages folks to stop pursuing the former and justifies calling that discussion as counter-productive

by kmartino 2006-06-20 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: one or two

People get frustrated. It's like watching the statue of Saddam being toppled and you've seen the uncropped photo. And then there are the people who don't understand math, hacking, and cracking. Of course you can't prove something one way or another with math, or else no one would win the lottery. But still, those unanswered doubts uncovered by the mathematics and computer science demand investigation. Has anyone seen the source code for these programs?

Good luck getting people to act sensibly. There has been no rational voice speaking for them. I think that as more and more people realize the problem or heaven forbid their vote doesn't count or doesn't get counted properly, there will be a more civilized approach to the issue.

by misscee 2006-06-20 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Great post.  I am so sick and tired of these self-defeating, conspiratorial, excuses to avoid work.

Precisely so. Never forget, that in 1985 Marcos stole the election and he still lost.

Winning elections is hard tedious work. It is very difficult to get people to make the connection between that tedious work and the way their country is governed.

One of the best things you can do, other than campaign, is to volunteer to be an elections officer. Also, if you live in Virginia, you can get active in Virginia Verified Voting.

by Alice Marshall 2006-06-20 06:52AM | 0 recs
Bunk: Marcos stole the election and he still lost.

No, he won officially.

Corazon Aquino refused to accept the elections. Military factions loyal to the people threatened a coup. A massive outbreak of civil disobedience crippled Morcos' operations.

But officially, Marcos won.

But thanks. There's definitely a lesson in here somewhere.

by macdust 2006-06-20 11:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Anyone interested in the bipartisan aspect of this should look at the Colorado REPUBLICAN assembly in Colorado Springs last month. They were delayed 4 hours in counting votes for the Governor's race - why? Because one of their candidates refused to allow electronic voting without a paper trail in their ASSEMBLY. In the middle of Fort Dobson our case was made. This could use a little air time.

by tjlord 2006-06-20 07:37AM | 0 recs
Colorado Springs

Huh, I'd like to learn more about what happened there, and perhaps speak to some of the people involved.  Do you have any pointers?

P.S. I'll be in Colorado July 3-5 or 6, though I'll be staying in Fort Collins and my not venture further south than Boulder.

by cos 2006-06-20 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Colorado Springs

Stories:

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_384730 9

and

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/el ections/article/0,2808,DRMN_24736_471483 4,00.html

A 'verified voting' effort taken to an extreme and actually making voting more difficult.  

by kmartino 2006-06-20 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Colorado Springs

That story is interesting but it doesn't have anything to do with voter-verified paper ballots and electronic voting.  The problem in that election was that the credentialling process was poorly planned and implemented.  Also, when the waits started to build up, the delegates weren't informed as to what was causing the delays, leading to frustration and lost votes.

by eRobin 2006-06-21 04:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

I work as a law clerk for our County Clerk, who runs the elections of the largest county in Utah.  

They are using the Diebold TSX machines, which have a paper backup to the memory stick, that is spooled into a secure spot on the machine.  The machines are  not networked to anything, and the meta counters are not networked and are in a secure location.  

From the presentation the Clerk's office gave me (and the responses to my questions) I am satisfied that nothing could happen to the results.

State law won't let us turn them over to the blackbox voting people, and mandates which kind of machines we get.  There is also a 6th circuit case out there that says not having the same verifiable  error-free technology statewide violates HAVA and the 14th amendment (Stewart v. Blackwell)

Retire the tin hats and list to cos.

by DaveB 2006-06-20 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

those changes where implemented AFTER the work of many who raised alarm at how the Diebold system was previously implemented.  

and the jury is out if the changes made are as open and complete as they should be.  

by kmartino 2006-06-20 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Dave, does the voter have the opportunity to view the paper backup before it is spooled into the secure spot?  If so, that sounds like a reasonable system.  If not, it's meaningless.

by Flynnieous 2006-06-20 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

it appears briefly behind a piece of clear plastic and then spools into a can.  But it does go by slowly enought that a person with good enough eyesight to read the print (20/30 or so) could do so.

Plus there are confirmation screens etc.  The error rate is very small compared to paper ballots.  Paper ballots also have the problem of changing everytime you look at them or run them through the feeder.

The main worry I have in this electronic voting age are the paper absentee ballots which will go by optical scan.  The scanner is very slow compared to the old punch card readers.

This was one of the many reasons that Ohio's Cuyahoga County results took forever to process this year.  A vet of my county clerk's office works now for Cuyahoga, so we have an inside track about what is happening there.

by DaveB 2006-06-20 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Sounds like some good progress made there.

So DaveB... those were 'Tinhats' expressing the need for these changes?

by kmartino 2006-06-20 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

no it was the state legislature (who are usually just idiots, not tinhatters) and the county clerks.

reading the paper printout in the case of recount would be an abolute nightmere.  Diebold promised to have something better available by this summer, now they say 2008.

But at least they have technicans and call hotlines on all day for confused poll workers.  So far, the turnout is low and there have been no real problems.

by DaveB 2006-06-27 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

But it does go by slowly enought that a person with good enough eyesight to read the print (20/30 or so) could do so.

If that tape is only available to someone with good eyesight, and if those machines are the only ones available for the seeing-impaired to use, then that system violates at least the spirit of HAVA which insists that the machines are friendly to disabled voters.

The verification screens that show up on the machine are meaningless. As for the tape:  what happens if a voter is able to notice an error on the tape as it rolls by?  How is that ballot/section of the record changed?  How is the new vote recast?  And finally, without a proper audit of the tape, it's not much use.  Although that's not Diebold's fault.  That's the state's fault for not mandating proper auditing.  Voter-verified paper ballots are necessary but not sufficient.  

There are DREs that print ballots which can be verified by the voters.  Those ballots are then cut by the machine and dropped into a secure ballot box.  That sounds more in line with voter verfication of a paper ballot than what you've got.  (still useless without a proper audit)

by eRobin 2006-06-21 04:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Actually, it is Diebold's fault.  The state legislature wanted a auditable paper trial, but Diebold couldn't deliever in time for the election, so this is the best they could provide.  

by DaveB 2006-06-27 02:42PM | 0 recs
Right on!

As I see it, the fraudsters have two choices.

They can get out there and vote no matter what, or they can stay home. If it turns out they're right, then it's possible their vote won't count. If they stay home, they'll never know because their vote definitely won't count.

They can work their asses off pushing their candidates and getting their voters to the polls, or they can just sit around and blog about how the evil MSM is letting democracy be destroyed. If they're right, there's a possibility they won't make a difference. But if they stay home, then they guarantee they won't make a difference.

They can volunteer to observe at the polls or try to become an election supervisor, or they can scream and shout and yell that we're all helpless in the face of the Diebold conspiracy. If they choose the former, they can do their part to be sure that every vote counts and collect hard evidence of any fraud that takes place. If the choose the later, they'll just lose their voice.

I know how I'll be spending my time this fall.

If you care about something, act like you care. Get off your ass and off your keyboard and DO something.

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 08:10AM | 0 recs
We've got your back. You'll betray us.

There has to be a point when the election system is so corrupted that the consent of the governed cannot be granted.

Have we reached that point? Reasonable voters can disagree.

Those who think we are past the breaking point will not just lie down and cry.

They face two choices.

1. Rebel.

2. Make a bargain with corruption.

What do you want your friends to do? Because right now, only option 2 comes with allies. And let me tell you, the offers are baronial.

by macdust 2006-06-20 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: We've got your back. You'll betray us.

Are you saying that you've reached the point where you believe the only option is armed inssurection? Is that your goal?

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 12:23PM | 0 recs
Not armed insurrection.

Refusing to accept the legitimacy of elections that lack prima facie credibility does not require violence.

Don't probe for irrational and extreme positions, hoping to find an absence of reason. It has become a denial mechanism among those who follow the same reasoning but accept the conclusions more reluctantly. The reluctance I understand; I've had enough of the demonization.

by macdust 2006-06-20 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Not armed insurrection.

What is it you are suggesting?  It is not my intent to put words in your mouth.  I'm simply asking what your position is.  You keep implying things, and hinting at things, but you're not saying anything.

I'll ask one more time.  You seem to feel white strongly about this.  What are you doing about it?  Is it working?

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Not armed insurrection.

Urr, that should be "quite strongly".

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 01:26PM | 0 recs
Something.

What, I cannot say for certain, other than than a popular withdrawal of recognition of the government until such time as reasonably credible elections occur.

It's obvious that the current regime will continue its incursion against democracy until some crisis stops it. It has every appearance of preparing to switch from popular consent to an authoritarian regime through some convenient crisis. Yesterday there was a massive rehearsal of the "continuity of government" program, involving 4,000 officials setting up a shadow government not just to keep the army going but to enforce patent rights over the long term even if Washington shuts down.

These things are real, however much they seem surreal, and the more the Republicans notice that we consider it impolite to obstruct what they are doing, the safer they feel proceeding.

But I have no plan, no mass movement. I'm feeling the need for one, though.

by macdust 2006-06-20 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Something.

So what does that mean exactly?  When you say "a popular withdrawal of recognition of the government," what would that constitute? How would one accomplish that? You keep saying things like "preparing to switch from popular consent to an authoritarian regime", and "refusing to accept the legitimacy of elections that lack prima facie credibility" or "let's draw a line." What does that mean? What are you going to do? Don't say "this should be done" or "people should do this". Don't wave your arms around and spout dire warnings and vague plattitudes. Get specific. What are you going to do?

Quit accusing people who are actually working to try to fix things of cuddling up to "corruption" when you aren't even able to articulate a position of what should be done, let alone decide what you're gonna do.

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 03:50PM | 0 recs
First show you can be respectful in conversation

before we open the topic of what we might or might not do.

I am plenty well involved in trying to perserve this republic. I have never suggested waving arms or otherwise acting the fool. Anything done to withhold recognition of the government would be merely symbolic if conducted by only by an individual.

Otherwise, I don't report to you, and you are clearly more engaged in ridicule than political discourse.

by macdust 2006-06-20 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: First show you can be respectful in conversati

If I'm such a big bully, you must have lived a mighty sheltered life. My point is not to ridicule you, but you're so stubbornly vague, it's hard not to. I could do that if you'd like. I'd probably start by calling you obtuse.

My point, of course, is to try to impress on you the importance of actually doing something. Short of that, I'd at least like convince you that it's rather stupid to attack people like Cos, who is doing something, and is trying to motivate others to do something.

Here is what I mean:

This cycle, I'm am donating to and volunteering for candidates who support election reform. I'm going to be volunteering for my local Democratic party. I'll be taking time off work on election day (and possibly other days) to volunteer. In 2004, that meant I was an election observer. I'll probably be doing something similar this year, or maybe it will be GOTV work. I'll be writing letters to the editor, and contacting my representatives about issues which are important to me.

I know the elections in my polling location were handled fairly because I was there. Other Democratic observers were at other polling locations in the area, so I know things were on the straight and narrow there as well. It's a nice feeling. Do you know, first-hand, how well or poorly elections were handled in your area?

Now, I know a lot of others are doing more than me, and are doing more ambitious, innovative things, so I don't claim to be any sort of hero, but I think I'm doing my part.

What I won't be doing is whining and carping and claiming victimhood. Nor will I be tearing down people like Cos who are working hard for change. If half the time spent whining on blogs was spent on on actual action, the country would already be a much different place.

I sincerely hope that you're "drawing a line" or "trying to preserve this republic", you actually mean you're doing something.

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 08:04PM | 0 recs
Re: We've got your back. You'll betray us.

Well sure, in a country where we could not pull off Not One Dime Day, in a country where we could not even persuade people to give up one day of shopping for crying out loud, we are going to call poeple into the streets.

Yeah, sure.

by Alice Marshall 2006-06-20 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: We've got your back. You'll betray us.

Failure is always a possibility, yes.

That particular example attacks the media oligopoly and its staple, the cultivation of consumption, so it should not be your index for likelihood of success.

by macdust 2006-06-20 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections
I believe there are many actions we can take to make our elections more transparent & verifiable. We must be very vocal - lots of letters to the newspapers, opinion pieces, and to elected officials and to party chairs. NOTE: Even though Therese LePore was defeated by Arthur Anderson, who campaigned against paperless voting, Anderson has not kept his promise to bring a paper trail to Palm Beach and has bought into statewide restrictions on testing for security of the voting systems.
by Vicky Perry 2006-06-20 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

I work with the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a non-partisan group dedicated to election reform. The county votes on DREs and there are steps you can take to monitor elections by observing how polls are closed and determining what is going on.
http://www.reformcoalition.org/index.htm l The coalition is very active at the local, state and national level.

Many non-partisan groups have sprung up over the last few years and I would suggest that you see if there is one in your area. This issue is too important to ignore or to be defeatist about.

by bhb2b 2006-06-20 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning
You know, I think this is a false dichotomy.
I see every reason for us to get together, and no reason to continue this argument.
I am active in voting rights/election integrity
issues in California. I have collected data and reports and testified at hearings in Sacramento and Alameda County.
  In California we are blessed to have a candidate for Secy of State who is remarkably intelligent and engaged with securing our elections.  In the election integrity community we are all busy working on the campaign of Debra Bowen for Sec'y of State.  She is an effective legislator who has earned everyone's respect, she has held hearings on electronic voting issues, taken action on the culling of voter registration lists, and called upon the Republican-appointee Secy of State MacPherson to decertify Diebold voting equipment based on the results of a study by his own panel of scientific experts.
Some in our voting rights group think that the expose of problems in the 2004 election should be our first task-- because until we all understand the hows and whys of that, we won't grasp how to fix it.
But they never for a moment argue against continuing action on any election or against working for a candidate in any political race.
I think it is a false interpretation of what is happening -- and somehow became the basis for a bitter fight that is totally counter productive.
In the election integrity community we believe that if we don't get to work on fighting these corrupt and frauduent and pathetically inaccurate and inefficient voting systems, or let the media continue to ignore the problem, all our work for candidates will be for naught.  But nobody ever said to stop working for candidates.  We need to work on both things at the same time.
 We have to have people working on exposing the machinery's flaws, and the companys' corruption, as well as have many working for the candidates to change the system.
I don't see why this has become a bitter fight-- and that it has shocks me.
I am a big fan of this blog and I am glad to welcome you aboard.  When some negative attacks on our work were referenced recently I was really shocked and thought that the bitterness of the attacks and the belittling quality of it reminded me of Marshal Whitmann and the DLC attacking other Democrats and tearing down all of our values.  I thought-- "why are they attacking us?  We're the same people as you are -- we are progressive democrats and we are working at trying to get rid of this corruption and fix our elections.  What's the problem with that?"
To be bitterly attacked for that, by the people I want to support in every way, made no sense to me.
Is it caused by some sort of trouble-making types who are trying to divide us for the reason that we are better fighting than uniting?
So I'm asking you take a lead in putting an end to these divisive attacks.
If some of us choose to concentrate our time on exposing the machine fraud, that should not take away, but should add to the effort to secure the voting process for everyone.  We are a part of the same effort. Can't we get rid of the bugs between us and get together?
--sandra
by syolles 2006-06-20 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning

Sandra, I agree with you.  There is no binary choice that needs to be made here.  Indeed, the issues surrounding fair, accountable elections goes far beyond the machines.

In Philadelphia we have a terrific organization focused on them, the Committee of Seventy: http://www.seventy.org/.

by kmartino 2006-06-20 05:41PM | 0 recs
You're right, and yet...

On your overarching point that there doesn't have to be a contradiction between working on election integrity and pushing for change through electoral politics, complete agreement.  That, after all, is the point of my post: That we need to do both.

In the election integrity community we believe that if we don't get to work on fighting these corrupt and frauduent and pathetically inaccurate and inefficient voting systems, or let the media continue to ignore the problem, all our work for candidates will be for naught.  But nobody ever said to stop working for candidates.  We need to work on both things at the same time.
The problem is that many people have said to stop working for candidates.  Or to not bother running for office.

And when election reform advocates, even well meaning ones who pursue change through elections, say things like "If we don't [fix this, then] all our work for candidates will be for naught," it fuels that fire.  Whether you intended it or not.

Yes, we have a serious problem with election integrity.  We need to learn about it, and work on fixing it.

Yes, we can win elections by getting more votes.  We do win elections by getting more votes.

Yes, the most powerful way to get anything done is to win elections - or to credibly challenge and come close.

We need to do all of these things.  To be effective, we ought to make sure not to present them as being at odds with each other.  We ought to avoid rhetoric that suggests electoral politics is futile - because many people believe it.

I'm trying to combat the same false dichotomy you are.

by cos 2006-06-20 06:04PM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

I understand you are trying to make an argument that both are needed - winning elections and reforming them.  You're absolutely right.

A few things about your argument (I don't think it's an argument - you will have to look hard to find someone to disagree with you) however:

"The problem is that many people have said to stop working for candidates.  Or to not bother running for office."

Can you show me an example of someone who is well thought of in political spheres, who said or did this?  Someone who got some kind of mass media attention?  Is there some kind of 'none of the above till voting is fixed' movement you can point me towards?

"If we don't [fix this, then] all our work for candidates will be for naught," it fuels that fire.  Whether you intended it or not."

Objections to that kind of speech remind me of those in the Administration who equate criticism of it to aiding and abetting the enemy.

I'm sorry, but I'm a firm believer that the solution to ignorance is more communication.  Not less.

I get suspicious whenever someone suggests that certain kinds of talk are bad and 'non-productive'.  

by kmartino 2006-06-20 07:16PM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

Can you show me an example of someone who is well thought of in political spheres, who said or did this?  Someone who got some kind of mass media attention?
I'm not judging who is "well thought of in political spheres", nor am I talking about mass media attention.  I'm talking about comments I see people making on political blogs and email lists in election reform communities and the new grassroots groups (DFA, PDA, etc.) that I participate in.  There's a lot of energy in these groups that can get a lot of good things done, and a lot of it comes from individuals with no fame, no mass media attention, and no reputiation in "political spheres".  I think these people matter, and I think anything a good number of them say, is worth addressing when I disagree with it.

I don't know how anything in my post or in my comments suggested to you that I was talking about the mass media (who aren't paying nearly enough attention to election reform) or people of high political prominence.

"If we don't [fix this, then] all our work for candidates will be for naught," it fuels that fire.  Whether you intended it or not."

Objections to that kind of speech remind me of those in the Administration who equate criticism of it to aiding and abetting the enemy.

I'm sorry, but I'm a firm believer that the solution to ignorance is more communication.  Not less.


That's unwarranted and uncalled for.  I hope you'll re-read what I wrote, and what you wrote, and understand why.  If we disagree on something, and you really want more communication, try to persuade.  I presented a point of view I think is wrong, said so, and explained why.  To respond by saying it's not legitimate for me to criticize that point of view, in the name of more communication, and especially with that Rumsfeld quote, is deeply ironic.  I wasn't calling you disloyal, but by implying that I was, you're not promoting communication, you're trying to shut it down with rhetoric.

I stick by my opinion, though: I think when we talk about election reform in ways that imply that competing in elections is a waste (or may be "for naught"), we hurt our cause.  I wrote this post partly to persuade people not to do that.  Competing in elections is a critical part of working to fix our elections, and I think we ought to make that clear when we talk about it.

by cos 2006-06-20 10:14PM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

I think you're the one with the thin skin here, cos.  kmartino may have read into what you wrote, but s/he didn't make any unreasonable conclusions.  I read your post the same way and was frustrated by the lumping of most people opposed to paperless electronic voting with people who withdraw from the process instead of working for change.  I'm an activist on this very issue in Bucks County.  I have only become more engaged  through my work in support of VVPB in getting good people elected because I know that that is how I'll get  legislation mandating VVPBs and proper auditing.  All this even though I know that until we get that legislation, there will be no verifiable record of the will of the people in Bucks County and that no matter who wins, those elections are not  certifiable.  

On a related point, I was very happy to see John Bonifaz, the candidate for whom you blog, release this statement declaring "no confidence" in the CA-50 race.  I wish more people would follow his lead.

I join the growing numbers of citizens across this country who are declaring "no confidence" in the machine tally results of the special election held on June 6, 2006, for the 50th Congressional District in California. I further join their call for a full hand-count of both the paper ballots and the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail in that election.

We face today a crisis in public confidence in the integrity of our elections. This crisis threatens the foundation of our democracy. Now more than ever, we must return to a basic truth: In order for voters to trust the outcome of our elections, they must be able to trust that their votes are properly counted.

It is clear that too many voters in California's 50th Congressional District do not trust that their votes have been properly counted in the June 6, 2006 special election.

Now that you've written this post, I hope we can move past discussions about people who have withdrawn from the elections over the issue of unverifiable voting systems.  The discussion of the many reasons people drop out of our political system is a serious one, that would include electronic voting for sure.  So let's stipluate to that fact.  But let's futher agree that the realization that our country has been disenfranchised by design is a difficult one for people to accept.  If someone is posting about their grief and frustration with that realization, then they're probably still able to be engaged.  Telling them to shut up isn't the way to do it.  

by eRobin 2006-06-21 04:50AM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

cos, I apologize if I offended.  Robin puts my point forth here better then I can in fact.

Thanks for this Robin.

It's great that we agree that there is a need for more discussion and awarness on these issues, and not less.  

by kmartino 2006-06-21 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

opposed to paperless electronic voting with people who withdraw from the process instead of working for change.

And yet...  I'm clearly a person opposed to paperless electronic voting.  Why would I write a post lumping myself in with the attitude I'm trying to persuade people not to have?  I don't understand where this is coming from.

As I said, I understand the problems with electronic voting, and I've worked hard to fix them.  What I don't support is cries that discourage people from running for office or working for candidates.

What's so confusing about that?  Why must I necessarily be lumping those two things together?  Where did that incorrect assumption come from?  And how is it at all reasonable to compare what I wrote to Rumsfeld claiming that people who criticize American policy are disloyal?

by cos 2006-06-21 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

It's clear now that I'm not alone in reading the post the way I did.  

Try and forget for a moment that you are personally immersed in related conversations and put yourself in the shoes of someone else for a moment.

Someone who is far too used to seeing this discussion matter ignored by the mainstream media, and when brought up tagged as conspiracy tinfoil-hat think or non-productive.

Then imagine that person reading your post.

As for the Rumsfeld allusion, that was in response to one of your comments - which I quoted.

The quote again:

...when election reform advocates, even well meaning ones who pursue change through elections, say things like "If we don't [fix this, then] all our work for candidates will be for naught," it fuels that fire.  Whether you intended it or not.

The point of you saying that was to persuade folks to abandon that train of thought  and discussion right?  

You have every right to try that, and I have every right to think attempts at shutting down conversation dangerous and most times unhealthy.

As for the lumping together of people opposed to paperless electronic voting with people who withdraw from the process instead of working for change...

Well you just did it again in your reply to me, even as you said you support efforts to reform the voting system.

As I said, I understand the problems with electronic voting, and I've worked hard to fix them.  What I don't support is cries that discourage people from running for office or working for candidates.

The juxtoposition, of your choosing here, associates one with the other.  You are either being disengenuous in not seeing that, or you really can't put yourself in mine and it sounds like eRobin's shoes.

by kmartino 2006-06-21 07:57PM | 0 recs
Re: You're right, and yet...

Note, I really don't think you're being disengenous at all cos.  Nor, after this conversation, do I think that you are trying to shut down discussion.  

I think it's just a matter of context and communication.  You're point is an important one.  

by kmartino 2006-06-22 01:55AM | 0 recs
Count the Vote in CA-50

On a related point, I was very happy to see John Bonifaz, the candidate for whom you blog, release this statement declaring "no confidence" in the CA-50 race.  I wish more people would follow his lead.
Yes, I was happy about that too.  Actually, I posted it for him :)  A couple of us stayed up late that night as he was writing it, giving him feedback and helping him edit it.  If it makes you happy, please send that link around!

(And thank you for commenting!)

by cos 2006-06-21 01:00PM | 0 recs
I tell you what...

you would dispense with a lot of that type of attitude if we could see more posts on this subject that weren't centered around criticism.

I happen to agree, but rather then waste more air on the "fraduster"/doomsayer criticism, why not just get to work?

ok, now having criticized the criticism, I am eagerly, eagerly looking forward to this series.

BTW, I applaud Matt and Chris for doing this so very, very important work.

This is totally the place to do it.

-C.

by neutron 2006-06-20 09:52AM | 0 recs
also...

I obviously applaud cos for stepping up to the plate, as a fellow VV advocate, I look forward to participating in this discussion.

-C.

by neutron 2006-06-20 09:55AM | 0 recs
Smile and eat your corruption.

You selectively misrepresent the objection to your stance, so you can easily find cynicism in our corner rather than capitulation in your own.

At what point do we stop hopping from one corrupted elected to the next, vowing to stop this nonsense the next time around?

At what point to we question the legitimacy of the current government?

By your lights, no matter how corrupted the system, we should always accept its processes as legitimate.

by macdust 2006-06-20 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Smile and eat your corruption.

So, Eeyore, what are you gonna do about it? What action are you going to take this fall? What are you doing right now? Is it working?

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 10:46AM | 0 recs
Savage, untruthful ridicule

from your corner marginalizes and atomizes those who think enough is enough.

It is easier to enumerate the losses I have taken and personal limitations imposed on my freedom for my effort to help a common political observation coalesce into a political movement. It is impossible for an organization to form that does not come under the attack of paid Democratic operatives like Cos here.

PS: why do you call me Eeyore? Are you complimenting me for being a Democrat, calling me an ass, or accusing me of being someone else?

by macdust 2006-06-20 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Savage, untruthful ridicule

I'm calling you Eeyore for wallowing in self-pity.  Why do you dismiss Cos as a "paid Democratic operative?" Why do you consider his constructive criticism an "attack"? He's working to advance the same goals as you.

You seem to feel pretty strongly about this. I'll ask you again: What are you doing about it? Are your actions working?

by fwiffo 2006-06-20 12:20PM | 0 recs
Pushy and phony.

I didn't start wallowing in self-pity until after you called me a name.

Anyway, now that I have a reading on your candor here, I'm feeling drawn to other threads.

by macdust 2006-06-20 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Shout out to Cos!
Great to see you working on this and for Bonifaz. (And a shout out to Alice Marshall of VAVV.org too... and all the others who keep on working on election integrity.)

A couple of things that sometimes help me in steering the conversation (not stifling it, but steering it in productive directions):

1. For as long as there have been elections, there's been election fraud. Keep voting anyway...

2. Working toward election integrity is not just about this election (whichever one is coming up). It's about ALL elections.

It also helps to keep in mind that while some jurisdictions are up a creek when it comes to their voting system (paperless, no voter-verification, difficult to vote absentee, etc.) others have some choices and flexibility. There are ways to make the best choice of what's available, and even to influence what's available.

One example: try to work with election officials to ensure there are paper ballots in every polling place as an alternative to touchscreens/DREs (direct recording electronic voting machines), as was done in California while waiting for the VVPAT law to kick in -- Kim Alexander of the California Voting Foundation dubbed it the "Paper or plastic?" option. This serves double-duty - if the machines fail to boot up or crash during the day, voting doesn't have to stop. Just make sure they are not "provisional" ballots, because that's a different beast.

by pamVV 2006-06-20 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Reforming Elections By Winning Elections

Electoral politics is the strategy through which we pursue change in this country.

I strongly disagree. I don't think electoral politics is the only, the best, or even a particularly effective way to achieve change in this country. Electoral politics reflects change far more often than it generates it. It is at the tail end of the change process.

The best way to achieve change is to educate yourself and watchdog the people who are in office, not elect new ones. If you want voting reform, but have not educated yourself on federal and state voting laws, you can vote all day, every day, and you are not likely to achieve much in the way of positive change.  But a good watchdog can hold anyone's feet to the fire.

...incumbent Palm Beach County supervisor of elections Therese LePore was defeated by challenger Arthur Anderson, who campaigned against paperless voting.

Yeah. And last I heard, Anderson had reneged on his promise that, if he were elected, Palm Beach County would not have paperless elections in 2006.  Too "impractical" to switch, he said.  If he has since carried through on his promise, I would surely love to hear about it.

by thepollyannafromhell 2006-06-20 10:31AM | 0 recs
The Answer is Simpler Than You Think

I can write election software.

The right kind of election software.

There is no doubt in my mind.

I can't raise funds to start the company,
and I can't sell election machines (although I am acquaintances with one voting machine salesperson)
but I can program the darn things.

by JoshNarins 2006-06-20 11:02AM | 0 recs

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