By Major Tom (and Einsteinia)
Is your frustration with our seemingly spineless and ineffectual Democratic Party contributing to the Holiday Blues? Feeling suicidal--I mean like you want to break up the party--the Democratic Party?
For More, Read Below the Fold
If you're willing to take the time to read an earnest tale taking you from the Depression Era in L.A.'s Black Watts Ghetto through to an intriguing proposal for the betterment of humankind, this second mini-treatise by Major Tom is worthy of your time.
BTW, Major Tom posted a comment right before Thanksgiving, and he generously permitted me to re-format it and submit it as a Diary. It was successful, so I asked him if he had any other important stuff that he was hiding under his mattress. As a result of that inquiry I found myself collaborating--as well as re-formatting this for ease of readability on the computer--including all the helpful (or irritating?) paragraph headers.
THE REPUBLICANS' WORST NIGHTMARE: Or, How I Got Some Black Wisdom, Stopped Worrying About Space Age E-Voting & Saved the Democratic Party
ABOUT ONE SCORE AND FIVE YEARS AGO
More than twenty-five years ago, I was afforded the singular opportunity to work for an old Black Judge (May God rest his soul) who sat as a semi-retired judge on the bench of the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.
Despite having seen and gone through every kind of conceivable hardship life could bring to a poor, Black kid from Watts, this very special, gray-haired jurist was indeed a very happy-go-lucky and august gentleman. I soon learned that this wonderful gentleman dearly loved playing poker; and so when we were not terribly busy (which wasn't very often), we would play poker with "other willing card players" who worked in the downtown Los Angeles Appellate Court building. We would play at the long conference table located in this Judge's beautifully, well appointed office, for hours at a time.
POKER IN L.A.
Not long thereafter, we jointly decided to make our poker sessions a weekly, Friday night event. By the way, the stakes were quite small; otherwise I would not have been able to play.
Those "other willing card players," of course, also included other Appellate Court Judges as well as other Appellate Court Clerks like myself. In fact, one Justice happened to be a Judge Hansen, who had the rare privilege of being one of General George Patton's Chiefs of Staff in the ETO during World War II. Yep, he too had a pearl handle revolver which he coveted greatly and which, incidentally, was given to him by no less than "old blood and guts" himself. Other willing participants were Appellate Court Judge Compton and the former DA who actually prosecuted Sirhan Sirhan for the assassination of our beloved Bobby Kennedy. Judge Compton was also one of the original, "real life," members of the "Band of Brothers."
Soon our card playing get-togethers also turned into "rap sessions." Unquestionably, we learned so much and were told so many wonderful real life anecdotes from these wise and learned men. Furthermore, during one of these intense rap sessions, the wise old gent from Watts went through a bit of the history of his long and highly distinguished life. Misty-eyed, he told us that he had been compelled to claim that he was an American Indian in order to gain admission into the UCLA Law School. In those days (the early 1920's), UCLA, like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities throughout the length and breadth of America, was simply not open to Black Americans. He said that everyone at the school knew what was up; however, they never questioned his racial or ethnic status. He said laughingly, "The fact that I was not a dark young man helped me maintain my great ruse at UCLA. You know, I broke new ground in those days. Once I had graduated near the top of my class, right before I loudly and publicly made my true race known, they soon had to begin admitting other Black Americans into UCLA based upon individual merit." (Of course, all quotes cited herein are not verbatim; however, I remember well that they do quite accurately represent the veritable gist of what was really said.)
A BOAT TO SUCCESS
After a short while, his law professors grew to like and respect him so much that they arranged a job for him on the old Catalina Island Line, where he could make a sufficient amount of money on the side selling bootleg liquor to wealthy passengers in order to pay his law school tuition and bare minimum living expenses. Again, this was in the early 1920's, and the never popular Prohibition was then in full force and effect.
In 1931, after having graduated from UCLA Law School a few years earlier,the good judge became involved in Democratic politics. Of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was running for President at the time.
ORGANIZING BLACKS IN THE 1930's
It was this young lawyer's specific job in that seminal year, as the Watt's area "unofficial" Chief Democratic Organizer, to register masses of Black voters and assure that they would vote in the fall for the Democrat Roosevelt. This was not as easy as it sounds. A majority of Blacks in those days voted Republican simply because Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican; and, of course, they all knew that "he had freed the slaves."
Yet the old judge told us that his job became much easier once he had been given basic food stuff and "throw away clothing" to offer to many of the destitute residents and homeless people of Watts. Indeed, those dark days were Great Depression era days in which government welfare did not exist in any large measure; and of course, there were many half-starved takers, even entire families, who were only too happy to register and vote in exchange for subsistence food, clothing and some limited housing (ramshackle shelters mainly).
NO VOTE, NO EAT
Unquestionably, "those were hard and unforgiving times that tested one's soul more than twice daily," the old jurist readily but ruefully admitted. "If you didn't vote, you simply didn't eat. God knows, those were hard and fast rules at a very terrible era in our nation's history when so many thousands of poor unfortunate souls actually fell to acute hunger. Many actually died in streets. You know,I could also give out some menial jobs to those who helped me register thousands of other people; and by God,we did."
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED--FOR DEMOCRATS!
All in all, in 1931 we registered more than fifty thousand new Democrat voters. Not all were Blacks. There were many destitute whites living in Watts at the time. "You know, if you or your family needs a meal in order to survive, you'll do just about anything to get it. There wasn't much humility in those days." (Again, my account of what the judge had actually said to me those many years ago is not verbatim, although it is very damn close.)
Then the judge turned his carefully chosen remarks to the present, which at that time was in early 1977. "You know," he said grimly, "we have basic welfare today, but it is subsistence welfare absolutely devoid of an opportunity for education or training; a welfare system that shamelessly robs the spirit and soul of all sustainable hope and invariably creates permanent cycles of poverty for whole generations of trapped and broken families. It's even worse than that. It robs a man of his basic manhood and makes him just want to get by, fearing always that his daily sustenance, and that of his family, could arbitrarily be taken away at any time without rhyme, reason or right of redress."
"You know, that's why most people on welfare no longer vote these days. They know they don't have to vote in order to get the basics anymore. Some also fear voting, afraid to upset either political party, afraid they might be spotted at the polls and later tossed off welfare, even afraid sometimes to get beat up at those polls. You see, we need a poor, non-voting class in America in order to maintain the political status quo, and the Republicans know this "real truth' even more than my Democrat friends do."
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE. . .TO BOTHER?
"Really, what it essentially comes down to," he continued, "for most of the poor, be they Black or White, it's a simple matter of 'equality of bother.' Dressing up and getting out of the house, finding a ride to and from the polls, which usually costs the price of at least one meal for most poor folks, and then humbly having to prove your identity over and over again to scary officials; that is, if you hadn't misplaced your 'proper identification,' and that is, if you ever had any 'proper identification' at all, I can surely tell you, is not a poor man's idea of a good, productive and proud day. Really, vote day for many of these poor socio-economic outcasts is like having to walk down the middle of Main Street completely naked.
Then you end up standing around in a line with a lot of strangers for a long time, before you are finally allowed to vote for a list of candidates you don't know anything about, or who don't even know or care anything about you as a person, or as a human being. 'What's the use, why bother, nothings ever gonna really change,' soon becomes the usual refrain of these poor unfortunate folks."
Then the old jurist said something to us that evidenced his singular insightfulness concerning the future. (Of course, it may have helped that two of his grandchildren had graduated from UCLA as top Computer Science Majors.) "Young men," he said, "when the time comes when you can vote at home with a computer, a lot more people who don't vote now will surely vote then. I probably know right now of a couple of thousand people still living in Watts who, if I came to their home with a portable computer, would vote each and every year, if I just asked them to. And of course, they'd vote Democrat... because I'd tell them it was in their best interest to do that. Yep, I'm sure they would. And you know, when those days come, and they surely will, the Republican Party will suddenly find it very difficult to win many elections in America. In fact, I'd wager to say that they may actually become an extinct political party in America, much like the Whigs of the early 1800's did. Nope, I have no doubt about that, none at all. You just mark my words."
LINKING BACK TO PAST, CLOSING THE GAP
Wow, right then and there I knew that what the old jurist (who was a very close and dear friend to Earl Warren of the famous SCOTUS "Warren Court") had so wisely and insightfully said was completely true. I personally know at least five hundred people who would vote if I, or another friend of theirs--or better yet a relative of theirs--went to their homes on election day with a portable computer. How many do you know? How many does your family know? How many do all your like-minded friends know? How many do we know all together? Indeed, the "Old Black Owl" was absolutely correct: "It really is a question of `equality of bother.'"
MAN ON THE MOON!
Dear Friends, we've all been fed a big lie: "That no matter what is done to protect the system,internet voting will always be fraught with insurmountable problems of potential fraud and pervasive unreliability." Again, what a huge prevarication! Just think about it: Today, we file our taxes over the internet, pay our bills, conduct millions and millions of daily bank transactions, use our credit cards unendingly; all these things, in addition to so many other secure things, you just name it, etc. So why the hell can't we be allowed to register and to vote over the internet everywhere throughout America? Heck, we put a man on the moon, so we can certainly make a completely auditable e-voting system, if only we simply have the will to do so-- it's only the particulars that can and must be worked out. For a first attempt at setting the parameters for those particulars, see the "grey box" below.
BTW, did you know that any member of our oversees military can currently vote via the internet? That's the current law. In fact, the Bush Administration fought like hell against the recent law; however, another Judge with more than a modicum of judicial insight recently upheld it "as safer than our current voting system, either at the polls or through the mailing of Absentee Ballots." Also, I believe in one or two states internet voting is currently allowed, including most notably the State of Nevada.
LUDDITES BE WE?
"Why don't we do this?" you might ask again. Well, the short answer is that Republican politicians are violently against it; and so are so very many misinformed Democratic politicians and the "powers that be." Again, their usual complaint comes down to a security issue. Come on now, with our current computer technology, we can make security a non-issue; and we can certainly create a system in which a vote might INSTANTLY be registered in a number of places SIMULTANEOUSLY, thereby making it almost completely free from fraud and theft.
Of course, the real reason why Republicans are deadly set against internet or e-voting is that they know that it would surely change forever the balance of political power within America; and it certainly would. Make no mistake about that. Actually, I have talked to some very powerful Republican leaders from time to time over the years; and those who have decided to be frank and honest with me have openly admitted that e-voting could be the nightmare of all nightmares to the "Grand Old Party."
FRIENDS, WHAT'S THAT HANGING BELOW OUR NOSES?
Why do we not yet understand what has been going on for so very long now, and right in front of our very noses? It's quite simple: The Republicans cannot win unless there is active voting fraud, voting "irregularities," voter mistakes, ballot defects, voting official negligence--and most of all--voter suppression, and they know it all too well. So is there any wonder why is it that Republicans engage in these unfair and illegal activities more and more each and every year? Friends, it's because it works, and they can get away with it "Scott Free," year after year after year. . . .
DEMS BIG LOSERS IN THE NUMBERS GAME
Even in the most heated elections throughout our country, fewer than 55% of all registered voters actually cast a vote. Unquestionably, there has been such terrible voter lethargy and apathy over the last three decades. Moreover, at the same time, there has been a simultaneous decrease in voter attention spans, and particularly "political attention spans." Indeed, with the "why bother" folks combined with a general public disconnect to all things political, we have somehow managed to markedly INCREASE voter apathy over the past three decades--certainly not a proud feat.
WHEN DEMS ARE BIG WINNERS IN THE NUMBERS GAME
Furthermore, the ratio of current non-voters who would likely vote Democratic to those who would likely vote Republican is somewhere at minimum around two-to-one, or perhaps even three-to-one, depending upon what particular demographic study is being discussed. Can you believe that? We're probably talking about an increase and winning margin of at least twenty million new Democratic voters over new Republican voters. Yet we persist to go to (or at least maintain) extreme measures to disallow those at the margin any "rightful" and "Constitutionally guaranteed" national franchise.
Clearly, the old Black jurist was right. Internet voting would change the balance of political power in America forever; and with that change, there would also be a permanent move towards more compassionate and certainly more responsive government throughout the length and breadth of our great and wonderful country.
SHOOT THE DNC'S SNOOZE ALARM!
So where has the DNC been on this vital issue? Asleep as usual? If not that, then at least they are--for no logical reason--determined to maintain the present-day "power status quo" which we should all know by now is a second tier or "second rate" one. Did you know, during non-election years, the DNC doesn't even have an internet e-mail site that is fully operational. Check that out yourselves. I did.
Friends, I don't know about you; but for me, I'm completely fed up with Democrat politics as usual; political inaction that has unmistakably been losing in droves its "people base" over the years; and at a moment in history and culture when the party should have been easily expanding its base. "The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer." Indeed, we are fast becoming a two-party caste society sans all sustainable hope.
THE FASTEST WAY TO MOVE A MOUNTAIN
How do we change the law? Well, with the current makeup of Congress, it likely will not happen through a national bill. Again, most Republicans know what is at stake, even if most Democrats still do not.
However, it can be changed on a statewide basis, and in some cases, on a town or city level. That's the current law, folks. Furthermore, there is no legitimate or logical reason for that change to take place over an inordinate amount of time. One of the important reasons why this should not be the case is the simple fact that such a voting system would be much less expensive than it is today. It would also be much more accurate.
SECOND MILLENNIUM JIM CROW--GOTTA GO
So here we are today: grasping at and playing to independent voters in deadlocked states when it could be so much easier.
Really, don't you think it's finally time to put on a political press to bring into long overdue effect "secure internet or evoting" in all states of the Union? You know, having to travel to the polls and overcome constant voter suppression activities today is akin to having in place a poll tax of yesteryear; and there is simply no valid reason to put voters through that kind of system abuse anymore. Democrats, please wake up!!! It's only your longevity as an entire people movement and "vehicle of best hope" that is at stake.
So how about it, all? Through your thoughtful and kind posts, please endeavor right now to create for us the best and most honest internet voting system that would make America an even greater democracy than she presently is (Alas, some assert that isn't very much right now). Naturally, computer and internet experts are most welcome. Yes, let's hear some of those wonderful scientific ideas. Yet any and all comments and suggestions will not be ignored. Really,I know we can do this, people.
In the end, we can either curse the dark or simply light a candle. That choice has always been ours.
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Respectfully, I am sincerely asking for your much needed help in this good faith endeavor that is long overdue. Please consider it a "brain trust exercise of the first order."
Perhaps someday a national franchise system like the one we "brain trust" right here and now at KOS might actually help to change politics and the very world as we know it today. Stranger things have been known to occur, you know. Yeah, I know, I'm a "dreamer of the first order." ANYWAY, THANKS lots and lots for all your good and wise efforts and great suggestions in this group endeavor.
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DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS FOR A N.I.V.I.V.S.
("NATIONWIDE INSTANTLY VERIFIABLE INTERNET VOTING SYSTEM")
I. OVERCOMING PUBLIC FEARS
After this past election--where no less than 1/3 of our nation voted on Republican owned, easy-to-hack and wholly unverifiable--evoting systems, it is no wonder why so many good and honest Americans are so extremely wary of this technology. Why were the vast majority of these machines not explicitly designed for external auditibility, e.g., paper trails? Of course, the answer is more of a reflection of the will and "questionable intent" of the designers than a reflection of the limits of the existing technology.
II. PROTECTING THE PRIVACY OF THE VOTE
Secure Pin Numbers: What if everyone who registered to vote were given a random pin number--pin numbers like the IRS, our banks, our credit card companies, all our retailer, etc., currently give us? (The Secure Pin Numbers could also serve to prevent double voting as well as "dead people" voting.)
Home Computer Interface: A completely new dimension to GOTV--likely resulting in unprecedented increase in minority Democrats casting votes. Friends, we're not talking about a prayer and a hope here. The numbers are really there.
Convenience & Privacy: Vote from the golf course, the office, the garage. . . . And no damn lines! Historically effective voter suppression efforts be foiled and will directly translate into increased turnout. Furthermore, keeping the polls open for a day is just as easy as keeping them open for a week.
Traditional Polls Still Available: Of course, there would still be polls for those who prefer to exercise their "Right of Franchise" in that traditional way.
IV. DESIGNING FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND RELIABILITY
(Transparency from the moment the vote is cast
through to final tabulation.)
Public Software: In Australia they have opted for a completely transparent system. No proprietary software!
Paper Trails: Many computer experts in our country advocate paper trails. Under the proposed system, in the privacy of your own home, you can actually print your paper trail.
Instant Confirmation of Accuracy: In addition to all of this "highly redundant," backup security, suppose all voters could subsequently--but instantaneously--go to an official internet site and look up and verify their actual votes, simply by looking up their pin numbers. In that way, voter anonymity could continue to be guaranteed, just as it currently is by law. Voila, we have thus created an instantaneous vote recount process. If one's posted vote is not the way it should be, then one has more than ample "instant proof" of the so-called "computer glitch." Sunlight has always been the most effective disinfectant.
Multiple Simultaneous Public Postings: What if any person's vote could be registered instantly and simultaneously in say 5 or 6 places at the very instant a particular vote is cast? For example, how about at each party's headquarters in addition to a number of official sites (local, regional and state level)? And why not add to these "The League of Women's Voters" or any other like sites-the more the better . After all, voting is supposed to be an open public event.
Poll Cost Benefits: In the long run it would be less expensive. There would be fewer poll workers to employ, fewer security personnel to hire, and fewer expensive voting machines to buy and stock with ever-changing and highly esoteric voting materials, etc. And if we keep the internet polls open for a full week, including weekends, no one needs to work overtime.
Hardware: Citizen owned and maintained
Software: Public and transparent
Internet Access: Public or Private--but fully auditable
Impact on Democracy: Once more, one of the major effects of such an "all inclusive voting system" would likely be that millions and millions more Americans would simply exercise their right to vote. In and of itself, wouldn't that be a good thing for any democracy?
Wouldn't everyone feel closer to, and more part of, their very government--their very democracy? Perhaps, once more, all peoples of our great nation would feel that they have a real stake in their political system-knowing also that they have a guaranteed right to change it completely at the polls, if they should feel it no longer serves them best.
Additionally, it is likely that such a wider and more equitable system would bring forth more respect for America throughout the world of nations for its "truer democracy in action."
Moreover, under such an open voting paradigm, the "instant run-off" voting, such as San Francisco used in the last election becomes an easy possibility. No longer will citizens have to choose between voting their conscience and "throwing away their votes." Also, the transparency offered with this proposed e-voting would increase the likelihood of third parties could overcome the vicissitudes of sometimes very dirty, and even criminal, politics in America would be greatly enhanced.
Democrats Win: Again, potentially millions of currently disenfranchised voters would eventually benefit from this proposed voting option, and that would translate into an unprecedented windfall for the entire national Democratic ticket.