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Our election system is broken.  We all know it.  But let's face it.  "Election reform" is boring.  You say the words, and people's eyelids start to droop (hey, is that a snore I hear already in the back of the room?).  Reform is something  we need as Democrats, and it is something the American people need.   So how do we call attention to it?  Especially now that the Republicans control Congress?  

Well, by getting back to being the party of Big Ideas.  Thinking outside the box.  Thinking boldly.

Let's not reform our election system.  Let's revolutionize it.

The American voter should feel excited--not  afraid--to cast her vote.  Let's imagine a society where a voter can go to the polls, free from intimidation, where she can cast her vote knowing her voice will be heard.  Let's envision an election system that will once again make other nations envious of our democratic process.  

A Right To Vote Amendment is a fabulous Big Idea, but we know it will take years to draft, approve, and be ratified. So let's focus on short-term solutions, solutions for 2008. Markos has some excellent suggestions for change in his post yesterday.  Let's use those as a springboard for setting out a plan to revolutionize our democratic process.

1.  It shall be illegal for a public official, especially in the office of Secretary of State or Attorney General, to serve on the political campaign of any candidate.  In our new system, we need to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

2.  Election day shall be extended.  Some have suggested a week.  I think that is too long.  A week of voting is a week's worth of access to ballot machines, registration rolls, poll books, etc. and I think that is too dangerous at this point.  Besides, the size of our electorate doesn't require so many days.  Two days of voting should be more than enough time to cast ballots in an expeditious fashion which still considering the integrity of voting materials.

3.  There shall be 1 voting machine per 100 voters.  Allocating machines based on "active voters" is stupid when you're facing new registration rates upwards of 25%.  Urban areas, rural areas, rich and poor - every voter has a right to cast his ballot without waiting in line for more than 15 minutes.   And if a State receives a request for an extra machine on election day, has extra machines, and refuses to release them, the State shall be fined.  Each machine withheld prevents what, 150 people from voting?  Then $150,000 per machine.  Make the disincentive huge.

4.  There shall be paper trails and source code examination.  Pass HR 2239, which requires both of these things.  We should not be afraid to embrace modern technology in our voting process.  But we should only do so with the caveat that it is the voter's interests that are always paramount.  Every machine (touch screen, optical scan, even tabulation is possible) should print out two receipts listing the candidates selected.  One for the voter to take home, the other to be places in a big ol' lock box at the polling station.   Just in case the machine has a "glitch" and loses votes or something.

5.  A National Election Code.  Like the Uniform Commercial Code, this would be a set of model laws which should be adopted by every state.  We need uniform standards across the board, from registration to voting to counting to recounting.  What should be some of the standards?  Provisional ballots shall be counted even if they are cast at the wrong precinct.  Absentee ballots shall be mailed out earlier, and accepted later.  Prices for a recount should be adjusted.  Easier ballot access for third party candidates.  

Good ideas? Sure.  But we said Big Ideas.  Let's shoot for the moon:

5.  Registration verification.  When a person signs up with a group to vote, they should know if their registration was processed or not.  An they should know before the election.  Voter registration forms distributed to registration groups like ACT or ACORN should come with a detachable slip at the bottom the new voter can keep, listing who registered her, date of registration, etc.  It should remind the voter to call up X weeks later to check if his registration has been processed, and have the proper number listed to call.  A little forward thinking never hurt anyone.

6.  Increase polling places at University campuses. We want America's youth engaged in the political process, and having a University filled with an election atmosphere is sure to get more of them interested.  Also, practically speaking, University campuses are much larger and can accommodate more voters in a community than say, a church or a small building.  The less people wait outside, the better.

7.  A complaint box  in every polling place.  How come it's easier to call 1-800-How-Am-I-Driving and report a crappy driver than to call your local Board of Elections and report a problem with the poll workers? We need to start holding poll workers accountable, and if they are not properly trained, then the Secretary of State should be responsible.  While a phone number to report problems is great, let's face it. Most people would rather fill out a form, right there, right when it happens, rather than go home and look up a number to complain.  

In our new system, we want to provide the most efficient way for voters to report their grievances or problems.  At the polling place, have a big display, labeled something like "Comments?  Problems?  Report them here." That way, every voter who is told he's not registered, or every voter who thinks a poll worker is not qualified, every voter who had a bad voting experience because of intimidation by challengers can fill out a form, drop it in the box, and viola!  The voter feels better because his grievance is aired, and the system is healthier because you can use those complaints to improve the system.  

8.  Public Announcements.  Time for the media to step up and start -- gasp! -- informing people.  With the adoption of a NEC, we could even do a National Voter Education Campaign.  At the very least, local media should do a notification that Election day--for ALL parties--in on such and such date.  Remind voters they don't need an ID to vote (unless they're new, some laws are different).  

Big Ideas.  Our voters deserve them.

What are your big ideas to revolutionize our election system?

Originally posted to Georgia Logothetis on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:24 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  How are you coming with the Project? (none)
    Have you communicated with DemfromCt?  Remember, if it's ready today, we can go with it on the front.

    I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin'

    by Armando on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:08:31 AM PST

  •  National Election Code (none)
    This idea is particularly promising since we don't need the Republican controlled congress to get involved.  Rather, all we need is a commission of the best experts in election law and procedures to put together a plan and then sell it.  I would recommend having Jimmy Carter as an honorary co-Chairman giving his work in monitoring elections nationally.   and then we'll need a massive local outreach program to sell it to State legislatures as a "good government reform" program.

    It would probably make sense to also have a Republican as an honorary co-Chairman.  Can anyone think of a high-profile reform minded Republican who would actually get behind real election reform?

    Fight the American Taliban

    by pontificator on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:16:16 AM PST

    •  I agree... (none)
      ...that one is a winner.  I was also happy to see that addressing the incredible conflicts of interest was at the very top of the list.  However, a secretary of state like Blackwell could be just as partisan in that position without being an appointed campaign manager as he would be wearing both hats.  I know it's pie in the sky, but, ideally, supervisors of elections on state and county levels should be persons acceptable to both major parties (not sure how to incorporate lesser parties in this) rather than persons picked through the partisan political process of the last state election.  This could be achieved by choosing these important officials through a process similar to the way an arbitrator is usually chosen: Each side offers a person as the designated arbitrator.   If neither party can accept the other's designee, then these two designees pick a third person and both parties are bound by that choice.  

      Another alternative would be for the party out of power to raise hell whenever secretaries of state and other election officials act in a partisan manner, and for the media to do their job.

      "Now watch this drive."

      by tompaine2004 on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:17:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  KEEP ON, KEEPING ON. (none)

    Forewarned is forearmed.

  •  RIGHT BEHIND YA! (none)
    First, I've got this little issue, but the links will work for Election Reform, too:

    Write Dubya & those wimps in Congress, and tell 'em to get on the stick on tsunami relief!


    Info on committee assignments; also districts by zip code.

  •  Take home receipt problem, solution (none)
    I'm not convinced it's necessary, but could accept it if encrypted to prevent votebuying/blackmail by employers.

    It would take 2 keys to unlock an individual voter's ballot. OLne held by the voter, the other by local election officials.

    I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.

    by ben masel on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:24:04 AM PST

    •  Wow, good point. (none)
      Last thing we need is people "checking up" on how voters voted.
      •  Georgia: (none)
        There was extensive discussion of this model on Slashdot a year ago. Gotta run, can't dig for it now. The keyword is "frog." (The name given to the encrypted receipt)

        I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.

        by ben masel on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:12:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Encryption Doesn't Help (none)

          Then the employer just says "Give me a decrypted copy of your receipt or you'll be fired for this minor offense." And ballots that have been taken home don't help with the integrity of the system in any way - they wouldn't be admissable/useful for any kind of recount effort. So we have to push for a system where the voter-verified paper trail is stored at a trusted location under lock and key, and the voter can't forget to deposit or walk off with their ballot.

          I think the best proposal I've seen for this is touch-screen voting machines that basically just print ballots. The printed ballots are then the only legal ballot, and are counted either by scanners or by hand. You could even have it print braile on the ballot for blind people.

          Its like the media listened to Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid" and said "Yes! This is how the world should be!"

          by RHunter on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:17:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  When you use an ATM (none)
            and make a deposit, it prints a receipt for that deposit and then asks you if you have any more transactions.  That's what I'd like to see.

            You go to the voting machine, choose your candidates, hit done, the receipt prints and you check it over while the machine gives you, let's say a minute before it starts beeping to remind you to press OK or EDIT (or something to that effect).
            If it's ok, your screen clears and you pop the receipt in a traditional type ballot box.  If it's EDIT, you redo the ballot and print again.

            Of course we have to account for the rejected receipts.  
            Maybe they're fed back into the machine before it proceeds with your edit to ensure it's accounted for.  Maybe you have to call a poll worker over to put it in a special locked box and authorizse your edit request.

            Thinking off the top of my head.

            •  Receipts (none)

              The problem, though, is that people cannot be allowed to take the receipts home with them. If the system allows/requires that, then it allows all kinds of pressure/vote-buying fraud that we don't want.

              I think your point about edit requests is a good one. After all, what happens when you get an incorrect ballot (not a receipt - a receipt is something you take home with you. Making the printout the legal ballot is a vital distinction) or decide you want to change your vote after printing but before you deposit the ballot? I think your first solution's a good one, though it might be a little paper-intensive.

              Of course, this is only really an issue if people decide they absolutely must have machines. I'd be in favour of Canadian-style paper ballots, even with the number of races typically on the ticket in the US...

              Its like the media listened to Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid" and said "Yes! This is how the world should be!"

              by RHunter on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:48:42 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Receipt (none)
                it could just have a coded number on it that could be used (online or by phone) to retrieve the actual vote information.  Maybe in conjunction with a pin number?

                Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups

                by Catriana on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:34:59 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Cannot Be Possible (none)

                  Votes have to be totally divorced from the voter. The system cannot ever, at any point, associate a voter with a vote. As soon as you do so, you open the door to intimidation and vote-buying. Even with a PIN number or a phone scheme. Besides, what good does it do?

                  Its like the media listened to Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid" and said "Yes! This is how the world should be!"

                  by RHunter on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:50:52 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Good point. (none)
                    I guess I was thinking for verifiability... "Do not lose this stub, it is a record of your vote."  But you're probably right.  People like me would just lost the receipt anyway, so its unreliable at best and a violation of privace at worst.

                    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups

                    by Catriana on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:54:40 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Election Lottery (none)
              There should be a receipt given to each person saying that they voted but with no indication of their choice.  These receipts should have a unique number that the board of elections will use for random sampling.  

              To help fund all of the reforms, let corporations advertise on the backs of these receipts.  Then, to encourage people to keep these receipts, corporations can have a sweepstakes where prizes are awarded to the person with a particular ballot number.  This will have the effect of encouraging people to vote, especially the poor and disenfranchised.

              For once, let's have a lottery that actually HELPS the poor.

      •  Top ten things America can do to (none)
        improve her democracy, written well before the election, is here.


        1.    Abolish the Electoral College.
        2.    Make registration compulsory and attached to an active National database.
        3.    Make election day a holiday.
        4.    Prohibit polling and campaigning for at least one full day before the election.
        5.    Prohibit the broadcast of exit polls until Hawaii is finished.
        6.    Ensure that a vote cast is a vote counted.
        7.    Get a partisan press and breakup the media monopolies.
        8.    Establish non-partisan boards to oversee every aspect of the actual polling
        9.    Stop gerrymandering.
        10.    Educate the people.

        It does not seem dated, to me at least...

        Thinking dangerous thoughts in the birthplace of democracy

        by Athenian on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 05:47:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great ideas. (4.00)
    Especially the uniform voting code.  All states must use the same methods and standards.  There should also be a Federal Agency that administers elections, with a national chairman and 50 independent and nonpartisan state chairmans who administer the elections in the 50 states.  

    There should be a voting month, starting in October.  Vote by mail and over the internet should also be explored.   No for profit company can have a role in counting the votes.  They can manufacture the machines, but once they are sold to the government, they are maintained by the government.  The companies must surrender all access codes.  

    When the revolution comes, Republicans will be a good source of protein.

    by Delaware Dem on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:24:04 AM PST

    •  The Federal Agency is an interesting idea (none)
      Do we have a Fedeal Election Commission already?

      I like your idea better.  The right would hate "nationalizing" the process, but I think that's what we need right now.

      •  Diversity (none)
        please. Diversity is an important feature of all ecologies, including the political ecology. Diversity of the voting process is the only way we have been able to check up on the count this year. Without diversity, the Feds could mandate all DREs with no paper trail, for instance. So think hard before you advocate giving up state control over the voting process.
      •  Yeah, (none)
        the FEC.  But my idea would entail enlarging and revamping it.  

        When the revolution comes, Republicans will be a good source of protein.

        by Delaware Dem on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:47:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I like the one month voting process (none)
      but it may be too radical for most.  How about a compromise of 3 days of voting, over a long weekend -- i.e. make monday or friday a voting holiday.  I uderstand that businesses will probably strongly oppose this -- but one of the real crimes of our voting system right now is how hard it is for low wage earners to get away from work to vote.  We lose a lot of votes because of that.  Making election day a holiday, and/or extending voting over the weekend, would greatly help low wage earners get to the polls.
      •  I would give up Veteran's day or Memorial day (none)
        As a designated voting day. What better way to honor those who have died fighting for us?
      •  Also agree with Georgia - too long could enable (none)
        dirty tricks to take place. The voting time should be more than 1 day (unless a national no-work holiday). But too long, and there's bound to be mischief. 2-3 days would be a big improvement, yet not so long that elections observers lose vigilance.
  •  Paper: Back to Basics (none)
    Like Canada, perhaps via only mail, like Oregon.

    Easy to audit.

    Compatible with reform suggestions posted vis-a-vis tallying software etc.

  •  Institute Reform State by State (none)
    There is a set of business contract law called the Uniform Commercial Code that is national in scope but implemented state by state to avoid be overturned if the interstate commerce clause argument is ever reversed.

    We need a common set of laws and procedures that, if enforced, ensure transparency, auditbility, and accessibility.  The same wording needs to be passed by all of the states individually.  We could also backstop it by passing the same language at the federal level.

    In addition, there needs to be common language for an amendment to the state constitutions, backstopped with a federal constitutional amendment, prohibiting Congress or the states from restricting the right and opportunity to vote and commanding that all votes be counted openly by a method that can be fairly audited.

    Finally, working with the Association of Boards of Elections, there needs to be professional ethical standards (with enforcement) for professionals working with boards of elections.  And a recommended list of best practices for running elections, that deals with transparency, allocation of machines, counting, storing for audits, auditing, recounts, financing, and impartiality.

    As we develop the list of recommendations, we need to sort them into Uniform Amendments, Uniform Law, Uniform Standards, and Uniform Practices.  That will help us find where they can best be implemented.

    On this issue, we need to move beyond mantra mode to actually proposing a comprehensive list of recommendations to Democratic Congressmen, Democratic Legislators, Democratic Secretaries of State, Boards of Elections Supervisors, and the staff at the Association of County Boards of Elections.

    The revolution starts now--in your own back yard, in your own home town

    by TarheelDem on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:30:27 AM PST

  •  Right on! (none)
    Thinking big is always a good thing.  It's the only way to overcome political infighting, to draw "Contracts with America", to win elections.  Thank you as always, Georgia!

    One quibble- I'm not sure I like the election week/month idea.  I'd be more in favor of making Election Day a national holiday, and have limited early voting.  Thoughts?

    •  ELECTION HOLIDAY (none)
      needs to include a must vote or be penalized codicil.  Otherwise, everyone will take four day week-ends!

      Maybe we can vote while on vacation?

      A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

      •  Election day (4.00)
        is a holiday in Hawaii.  And it works well.  I don't know much of anybody who takes a 4-day weekend because of it.

        We have a fairly low percentage of eligible voters who vote though, but I think that is because the state always votes blue, so individuals don't think it's necessary to vote, and because the military population is very transient.  I don't think it's because of 4-day weekends.

        Democrats: We believe in fiscal, economic, social, civic, personal, and moral responsibility.

        Republicans: We take risks with your future.

        by Katydid on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:49:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  BUT IT IS (none)
          probably because there is no penalty for not voting.  Gee, I thought just being in Hawaii could be called a vacation.  Only teasing!

          A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

          •  penalizing non-voters (none)
            isn't exactly democratic. I can't believe that I have seen this in more than one place. What other rights and priveleges do you want government to enforce participation?

            "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."- Benjamin Franklin

            by bluestateLIBertarian on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:10:28 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  JUST THIS ONE (none)
              It is called participating in your democracy. Of course, a doctor's note could eliminate an undeserved fine.

              A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

              •  Remember (none)
                that not voting is also a statement.  Any interference in a person's right NOT to vote would be a violation of their first amendment right to free expression.

                Mandatory voting is a bad idea.  You want more people to vote, develop a politics that speaks to them.

                In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

                by a gilas girl on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:45:04 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not voting (4.00)
                  is a stronger statement if there is a penalty involved.

                  "I can't be bothered" is not much of a statement.

                  "eff you bastards, I won't vote for anybody" when you might lose your passport or license makes a point.

                  You can always vote 'none of the above' and make your statement that way.

                  'Develop a politics that speaks to them." Aren't their children being sent off to war? Aren't their savings being wasted by a profligate government?

                  Voting is a right that should also be a duty.

                  In fact it a duty that should be earned. I'm with Heinlein on this.

                  Thinking dangerous thoughts in the birthplace of democracy

                  by Athenian on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:55:47 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Other suggestions (4.00)
    1.  Get rid of felons-can't-vote laws.  At least let those who have served their time AND finished their parole period join their fellow citizens again.  They've paid their debt, now let them live.

    2.  Let the people vote where it is convenient for them to vote.  Maybe they're at work and a polling place near work is better.  If there must be a rule, then say they must vote in the county where they live.  This precinct rule is ridiculous (especially when the poll workers can't even inform people where they should go!)

    3.  Let the people whose right to vote has been contested be confronted with the information and allowed to show documentation or proof of registration.  So many people out there don't know their votes didn't count, and they should have the right to be informed.

    4.  Same day registration.  Look, let's make it easier to vote instead of harder.  What's the harm in allowing this flexibility?

    I diagree with only two days for voting.  I like a week or more myself.  We had extended voting in Florida and I think it resulted in more people casting a vote.  (Can't speak to whether the votes were counted or not.)  HOWEVER, my early voting experience was horrible because they had VERY few polling places open.  In my very Democratic county, the lines for early voting were wrapped around blocks.  I voted the Sunday before election Tuesday.  I arrived a half hour before the poll opened and finally got to vote after the official closing time.  Nearly five hours.  And I arrived EARLY to prevent that!  Others waited much, much longer.  That's just plain wrong.  
    •  hear hear (none)
      i like all your ideas but one thing: #3 suggests the question, what is the point of contesting a voter's registration at the polls?  i understand you want to prevent ineligibles from voting, but why at the polls?  why not between the time of registration and voting (except, obviously, in the case of voters who register at the polls)/

      i say we eliminate this stupid contesting voters rule.  let people register; then if someone wishes to contest the voter's registration, the burden of proof is on him to show that he has explicit and personal knowledge to disqualify the voter's registration.  and THEN let the voter be notified that his registration is being contested.

      .. a letter to the editor a day keeps Bush away

      by kosaddict on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:00:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes! (none)
        You wrote:  "i say we eliminate this stupid contesting voters rule.  let people register; then if someone wishes to contest the voter's registration, the burden of proof is on him to show that he has explicit and personal knowledge to disqualify the voter's registration.  and THEN let the voter be notified that his registration is being contested."

        Yes, I agree.  Good point.  They put the burden of proof on the voter in many states.  All someone had to do was say, "I contest this voter," and he/she was given a provisional ballot. Strange, eh?  Instead of "prove you have a right to vote," it should be "prove I don't have the right to vote."  The detective has to prove you committed the crime; you don't have to prove you didn't.

        I didn't mean to endorse contesting -- particularly not at the polls on election day.  But in the event that votes are contested, people should have the opportunity to be notified and respond.

        Other petty stuff that shouldn't take place... To take Ohio as an example, they actually went through the registration lists and removed people who hadn't recently voted.  What's up with that?  So if I'm a registered voter, but missed the last election, I have to re-register?  As I recall, this was an obscure law.  (does anyone know if this is a regular practice or if they pulled out some old law for this election?)  Also, the Republican Party sends out mail to voters and if it is returned unopened, the voter is removed/challenged!  Partisans should not be allowed to remove anyone from a list without that voter given notice to respond.

        Same day registration would cure some of the above ills.  If my name got off the list through some glitch, I could just register on the spot and cast my votes.

        •  yes - same day registration rocks (none)
          i agree wholeheartedly.  in this day of atms and streaming video and what-not, there's no reason we can't do same-day voter registration.  in fact i remember several people who had solved this problem from a technological standpoint in 1998 and implemented it in nicaragua, of all places.  my one concern about same-day is that it not further overload busy precincts - we don't want the lines to be any longer than they need to be.

          as far as provisions for preventing voter contesting, it might do to explicitly list things which may not be used to contest a voter's registration - unreceived registered mail is a good example.

          .. a letter to the editor a day keeps Bush away

          by kosaddict on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:30:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  REFORM (4.00)
    Whether or not the Repubs stole Ohio, what did happen is that they tried to steal it even though they may not have had to!  In  a Civil Society, I think there should be a penalty for that.  It would be the one plank I would really like to see included. That is, if someone cheats, they have to submit to a do-over. Like a prosecutor who loses his conviction if the defense can prove malfeasence.

    Nothing complex.  We can call it the Ukrainian amendment.

    Forewarned is forearmed.

    •  I'm almost with you (none)
      on the do-over stuff.  If there is enough evidence of stealing votes, re-do the election.

      But it shouldn't be applied without some overwhelming evidence.  Unfortunately, I can't help but worry that there are those who will take advantage of the situation and make false claims.  Then we'd have election after election.

      But I think cheating should carry stiff penalties for sure.

        that cheating would not only look bad, but that it would all be for naught, then they would spend there campaign money more profitably.

        Forewarned is forearmed.

        •  yeah (none)
          but we would certainly have to be concerned, as we are now, that they don't flaunt their lawlessness openly, regardless of what laws are passed.  If we have to depend on Republicans in power to enforce the laws, we're in deep poopoo.  As it is, against the law or no, they do what they please and no one says diddly.
  •  I think this is a great start georgia10 (4.00)
    every time I hear about reform and changes, I just keep thinking of how voting happens in Canada.... it's so simple, yet works so well..

    Here's what happens:

    It used to be that the gov't would actually walk door to door and register people to vote, but obviously in a large society that is not feasible... so... now you go online and fill out a form... or... you can register at your districts central polling place on the day of the election. You bring a utility bill (or DL, etc.. anything that has your address on it) to prove you live in the riding. You sign a form swearing that you haven't voted yet and that you are a citizen. The head of the elections gives you a temporary registration card and then you go to cast your vote. Not a provisional ballot, a real one.


    A citizen walks into the polling place with a voter registration card. The poll worker says "you aren't on the books, did you recently move into this district?" You say "yup". They say, okay, please provide your new address, sign this form and here's your ballot.

    The hilarious thing about the voting process is that you then take your piece of paper and a pencill and walk behind a cardboard partition, X what you will, fold the ballot and walk to the deposit box. The poll worker marks that you've voted in a book and give you a receipt for your ballot.

    Each precinct has no more than 200-300 citizens eligible to vote.

    The ballots are then counted... really difficult to make a mistake -- did the person mark the X or not?

    Results are then phoned into the central precinct and the tallies presented.

    The other key part is that Canadians aren't afraid of having an election. That's why you will rarely find more than 4 races at one time on a ballot. You don't have ammendments, or race for Agriculture commissioner. Those can be held separately. It's either a national election, a provincial election, a municipal election or a referendum on the issues.

    There is really a simplistic beauty to this process.

    Jaded Reality... I've had enough spin for today thanks...

    by spiderleaf on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:49:06 AM PST

    •  look to other countries (4.00)
      Thanks for your post. I was just reading through the thread when the thought, "why reinvent the wheel?" came up.

      Elections Canada is our independent, national body that oversees our elections. It might be helpful for those interested in reforms to study our practices and legislation.

      In addition to your voter registration info, spiderleaf, we are now also able to simply check a box on our tax returns to allow our basic personal information ie. name, address, to be given to Elections Canada for a national voter database. This reduces other voter registration efforts.

      Since it is a fairly new program, there have been some glitches with people (like me) not showing up on the voter's list even though I checked the little box but, as you said, I just provided my ID at the polling station and voila - I voted.

      I'm also very grateful that we don't have endless propositions to vote for, as they do in California, for example. I think that type of in depth consideration requires a lot of work and probably turns people away from actually voting altogether. I do like the idea of direct participation but I'm not sure that endless propositions on a ballot are the best way to go.

      Anyway, thanks for making the case for looking to Canada. We do feel secure that our votes are counted properly and that the system works. When there are problems, they're dealt with quickly. That helps as well.

      •  Thanks catnip (none)
        I was just reading in the current issue of the American Prospect (which is devoted almost exclusively to election reform) that we should look to other countries for guidance. The point being: other countries have just as much experience conducting elections (although never perfect), so why reinvent the wheel? Why not just adapt the best practices and modify to suit a large population such as the States?

        Another interesting idea they highlighted was instant run-off voting and of course, scraping the Electoral College.

        If anyone gets a chance it is a really compelling issue and discusses the ideas in-depth.

        Jaded Reality... I've had enough spin for today thanks...

        by spiderleaf on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 10:43:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Let's look to other countries. (4.00)
    Another idea to encourage voter participation is to fine citizens who don't vote, like they do in Austrailia.   The attitude there is that if you live in the country you are required to particpate in the democracy. This would discourage the 'get out your base' type of campaign strategy.  
  •  re the uniform code & other reforms (none)
    Below are the concluding lines of an article by R Dworkin on Election 2000, from New York Review of Books, which may be of interest. He describes reforms that don't require a constitutional amendment. Lot of bang for the buck. In 2000, it seems, the concept of "accurate electronic voting machinery" had not yet become an oxymoron.
    a twenty-four-hour election day ending simultaneously across the country--could be adopted by Congress now, because the Constitution assigns it authority to fix the time of presidential elections. More could be achieved through a Model Uniform Election Code which Congress might endorse and propose to the states, agreeing to finance elections for national office, including providing accurate electronic voting machinery, for those states that adopted that code. The model code would no doubt be adopted in somewhat different form in different states, but Congress could identify core provisions that guaranteed uniform voting machinery and mechanisms of challenge and review, for instance, that could not be changed without forfeiting the benefits Congress offered. There could be no objection under Article II to a state legislature adopting the model code; a legislature would of course be free to repeal the code later, but it would presumably face great political pressure not to do so.

    These are extraordinary measures, and many people will be understandably timid about altering a constitutional structure that has been, as a whole, dramatically successful. But the Constitution's original design for elections, rooted in an elitism which is no longer tolerable, has proved its most unsuccessful feature. We have had to amend it before--in 1913, when the power to choose senators was taken away from the state legislatures that originally had that power, and given to the people--in order to keep faith with our most basic constitutional conviction, which is that the Constitution creates and protects genuine democracy. We have now witnessed new and frightening challenges to that assumption, culminating in a deeply regrettable Supreme Court decision, and we must again change the Constitution in order to sustain our deep respect for it and for the institutions that guard it.

    --December 14, 2000

  •  I know it won't sell, but (none)
    handcounted paper ballots really are a simple, cheap, transparent and quick voting "technology" and work in both populous (UK) and large (Canada, Australia) countries, and I honestly don't see why they wouldn't work just as well in large populous (US) country.  FWIW I make the argument here.

    We have our own electoral issues in the UK (like we don't even elect our upper house - yet) but the voting system itself works.

  •  "Paper trail" isn't enough (4.00)
    It has to be called a "voter verified paper ballot." In other words, the paper generated must be legally qualified as a ballot under applicable state law, or it is useless in a recount.
    •  And Massive Random Auditing Also Req'd (none)
      because if the first count is automated, the incentives are to rig them for a large enough margin that the paper ballots are never needed by a close vote.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:22:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Amen!! (3.50)
    1.  It shall be illegal for a public official, especially in the office of Secretary of State or Attorney General, to serve on the political campaign of any candidate.

    Although it really needs to be worded differently.

    Especially illegal? :-)

    Georgia10, please run for office so that I may contribute to your compaign.

    You have shown leadership that has been so lacking here the past several months.
    (No dis to Kos, he rocks)

  •  Excellent... (none)
    And why not demand and expect the most democratic and transparent methods of voting, and counting the votes? We are a democracy, are we not?

    We've got to stop lowering the bar and demand what is our rightful heritage. Revolution, indeed...

  •  What I want to know is... (none)
    these are great ideas... Why aren't the major blogs actually DOING SOMETHING to bring about these needed changes?  (i.e. orchestrated campaign for VI in swing states in 2006) etc
    •  because it's much easier (none)
      just to say you are for election reform than to actually do anything about it. hell, for that you need to put yourself on the line. much easier just to call others names and pretend they were the ones who prevented you from doing so by promoting questionable theories. no need to take any personal responsiblity then.

      (yes I will remain bitter about Kos' rant yesterday until he apologizes for insulting a lot of people who have been working incredibly hard on this issue, not just the last 2 months but the last 4 years. It would also be nice to recognize that due to the increased interest in the OH election issue more people have joined the site, generating more hits and page views and therefore more advertising dollars, higher CPM's, etc. So perhaps he should clarify his mandate that we take it elsewhere)

      Jaded Reality... I've had enough spin for today thanks...

      by spiderleaf on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:41:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Bitter Club (none)
        Sign up here!  It's free.

        Agree with y'all on the blogs and their whole stance of ignoring the election reform situation.  Kos can say the issue was hijacked all he wants as a reason why he gives it no play, but that's silly.  Like someone is stopping him?  As he says, it's his blog and he writes what he wants to write, what's important to him.  He doesn't write about it; ergo, it's not important.  So his very recent talk about reform?  He hasn't put much focus on it, so I don't know what the chances are that he will make it a priority.

        I would give a great deal of credence to any no-fraudnik who would make election reform a priority in their own way.  My feeling is write about it any way you want to, just please write about it!

        Some get so turned off by talk of Ohio that they get to where they want to avoid the subject altogether.  Their voices are needed, in my view.  Some of the great thinkers and level-headed types are hanging out in the no-fraudnik camp.  It doesn't hurt that they play devil's advocate on vote fraud either.  I, for one, can get pretty wrapped up in all the evidence and fail to see something crucial.  

  •  Here's a BIG IDEA... (4.00)
    As I presently see it, the Dems have two challenges at the moment:

    • They don't have a national cross party issue to push

    • They have a great big media wall to climb to get the election issue front and center.


    We create and push THE CONTRACT WITH DEMOCRACY

    This contract should include the Right to Vote Ammendment with many of Ga10's steps (tweakable).  It should also include other measures that will de-privatize our government.  Putting the democracy back into our Demcoracy.  Any measures that support empowering our citizens and minimizing corporate should be part of this contract.

    The idea that our democracy is threatened is beyond the election issue, but the election is where we start.

    Help me here Kossacks.  What else can we include in the THE CONTRACT WITH DEMOCRACY?  Let's get 10...starting with the Right to Vote Amendment.

    This is a joke...right?

    by NYBri on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:44:28 AM PST

    •  And, Dianem, (none)
      You got what you wanted.....


      PS.  Georgia, again.  You the woman.

      This is a joke...right?

      by NYBri on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 08:47:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Constitutional Right to Vote (none)
      the single most crucial reform.  Placing the core election right in the hands of voters rather than candidates or parties will have huge implications for enforcement by giving standing to aggrieved voters and demanding due process and equal right protection for voters -- not candidates.  

      #1 on my list -- and a grassroots right to vote amendment drive is a no brainer political winner.


  •  georgia 10 - great ideas, (4.00)
    and also :

    Why not look - besides to the electoral practices of other Democracies - to the evolving international guidelines for Democratic elections ? There are, indeed, general guidelines that has been developed ( hint - the US doesn't meet them ) that wuld be very useful in the formulation of a better US system.

    See :  the OSCE  and also The Institute For Democracy and Electoral Assistance,

    Especially this ( Pdf ) : "International Electoral Standards: Guidelines for reviewing the legal framework of elections - This book sets out the basic legal components governing elections for the purpose of reviewing, drafting or amending electoral legislation.These Guidelines are an attempt at distilling such electoral standards as a means of contributing to uniformity, reliability, consistency, accuracy as well as professionalism in elections."

    Also, INDIA ! has developed it's own open-source voting software that runs on a PC. No paper trail, but India's voting machines cost less than 1/10 the price of Diebold machines, so if they could be equipped with some sort of strong-encryption verification software, the US could retool it's whole darned voting system for......  let's see : one machine per 100 voters. How many voters ?  Well, 100 % or eligible voters is about 200 million. best to build in some over-capacity to prevent lines and minimize the hassle. So :

    $230 US (cost of indian made voting machine)

    2,000,000 - machines necessary for average 1/100 machine to voter ratio.

    $460,000,000 - total cost for all the voting machines, less the cost of encryption software and ancillary expenses.

    US $1 Billion should do it. But, let's be liberal, eh ?

    So : US $2 Billion, federally funded, saves American democracy : Pretty cheap, I'd say.

    I'd articulate a very simple, non-electronic receipt system, as well, that would make the overall system quite bulletproof.  But, I really need to go to the transfer station to get rid of all the garbage that has built up in the back of my Volvo wagon. Later.

  •  Oopse... (none)
    I firget to spellchek mu text before I pozted it.
  •  Transparency in Voting (none)
    Here's another one, the Transparency in Voting Act:

    All processes, software code, poll methodology, and any other information and processes related to voting procedure are a matter of public record and must be made available on a publicly accessible web site or published in some other form no later than one month before elections.  Intentionally deviating from the publicly published methods or withholding these records is considered vote fraud and punishable as a federal felony.

    All election results, registration records, precinct records, exit poll results, and any other data collected from the voting process, must be likewise published publicly within one week of the elections from which they result.  Intentionally withholding these records is considered vote fraud and punishable as a federal felony.

    These requirements in all cases supercede any and all claims to patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, privacy, national security or any other grounds for circumvention of these requirements without exception.

    •  More... (none)
      Here are some of the "hidden" implications of this:

      1.  Internal party polls run on election day become public record one week after the election.

      2.  All software on a machine must be publicly open source.  This is not just the actual vote counting/tabulating software but the operating system, and all other utilities and support software included.  This takes MS Windows off of these machines and puts something like BSD, Linux, or Solaris on instead.  That single switch will dramatically increase the security of these machines.

      Something else I just thought of is that there needs to be mandatory audits of random (real random, not "Ohio random") precincts across the nation to verify that the every piece of software matches the open source code by checksum, all published records match internal records, and that hand recounts of paper trails (which are also mandatory) match, or are within reasonable margin of error for optical scan and punch tabulators, the corresponding electronic tallies, and access logs to the machine match the protocols by which they are supposed to be operated.  In addition, a few select precincts will be subject to a deeper forensic audit in which the machines are analyzed at a more in-depth level to detect illegal access and modification of the system.

      Furthermore, the procedures and processes that voting administrators can take will be fully documented and fall under the first category of public disclosure.  Businesses are documenting all procedures related to operations due to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Why do we take so much more care to protect our money and our corporations than we do our democratic rights?

  •  Goergia10, Blogger of the Year (none)
    Girl, you are an absolute inspiration.

    Your earlier diary, plus this tour de force for bold and aggressive action, are quite the tonic for being castigated by Koz as a wacked out, wolf crying Fraudster and proclaimed by Mr. Bowers to not want election reform after all.

    Democracy matters, guys. Get over it.

  •  End (contain?) Gerrymandering ... (none)
    A critical -- related -- issue for the fairness of our electoral system is the drive toward gerrymandering (most notably the recent Texas mess) and how it is skewing the Congressional representation.

    This is not "election" reform but clearly falls into an associated issue that should not be abandoned if we are trying to put things on the table.

    Thus, perhaps there should be a drive for "non-partisan" commissions in every state for determining Congressional districts.  We would likely improve the health of American Democracy if more Congressional seats were openly competitive rather than our current system virtually guaranteeing incumbent reelection and specific party control of most Congressional districts.

    In the end -- over the long term -- this probably results in a true non-partisan reform as the House of Representatives would become more competitive and more difficult for one party to maintain a long-term lock on control.

    4 Jan 05, Day 1211 ... Osama still "wanted dead or alive" linked text

    by besieged by bush on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:16:10 AM PST

  •  Agree with your suggestions except: (none)
    for the machine-related ones.

    4.  There shall be paper trails and source code examination.  Pass HR 2239, which requires both of these things.  We should not be afraid to embrace modern technology in our voting process.  But we should only do so with the caveat that it is the voter's interests that are always paramount.  Every machine (touch screen, optical scan, even tabulation is possible) should print out two receipts listing the candidates selected.  One for the voter to take home, the other to be places in a big ol' lock box at the polling station.   Just in case the machine has a "glitch" and loses votes or something.

    Down with the machines.  

    As I've commented, and KOS finally made a similar comment on the front page, the machines can be programmed to print a receipt [or any number of receipts] indicating the voter's choice while counting contrary to the voter's choice. Paper receipts are useless for verification when programmed machines are used.

    The verification of source code would be better than nothing; however, programmers can do many tricky things with code. It is my understanding that code can be written that deletes itself, or that routines can be written that would not be readily apparent to someone reading the code.  

    A truly well-controlled electronic or software-based voting environment [and I'm not just talking about e-voting, but also machines that count/tabulate/transmit electronically] would be extremely expensive.  Which is why the controls are so haphazard as they are.

    O Canada, O Canada, O Canada.  It works up there, it can work down here.

    Also, if you want to pursue your legislative agenda regarding software based machines, I would strongly suggest that you find some forensic fraud auditors, preferably those with a passion for democracy, with strong software analysis experience, to join your project.

    [my own plan involves destroying the machines, then having Dean raise $$ for bail and legal fees, then having Dean raise $$ for a Canada-like system to implement--very simple ;)]  

    •  about paper receipts (none)
      Paper receipts can be made to work pretty well.  The term "voter verified paper trail" is the key.  Here's how it works:

      1.  You cast your vote.
      2.  A paper receipt shows up covered under glass for you to double check it's accuracy.
      3.  If you indicate that it is not correct the receipt is shredded and you may alter or redo your vote.
      4.  If you indicate that it is correct, the receipt is dropped into a lockbox and the vote is tallied electronically.
      5.  Spot audits are done on random (real random, not "Ohio random") precincts throughout the nation to verify, through manual recount, that the receipts match the electronic record.  Discrepencies trigger further investigation and recount.

      The fifth step is the key to the whole thing working.  No matter what you do there will always be small scale, localized, fraud, but the spot audit will prevent anything on a large scale and make even small scale stuff very risky to attempt.  Even if the whole thing was done manually without any computers, as you suggest, the spot audits are still essential to a secure voting system.
      •  Yes, even with (none)
        a manual system, audits should be used, and I did not comment that no auditing would be necessary, nor did I comment that all fraud would be detected or prevented. [I'm an internal auditor].

        However, your scheme regarding the printing of receipts still does not mitigate the weakness that the program can print something on a piece of paper while it tabulates/sums/transmits the data differently.  And for some tabulation procedures described by some diarists--where the file is transmitted to a central location for adding--you have the added weakness of unverified processing or software at the adding/tabulation level [or a different level where the count may be tampered with].

        If you use the printed receipts to verify the final total, it would still be possible for the program to move small amounts from one candidate's count to the other candidate.  Over many precincts, the small amounts shifted could add up enough to change the outcome, but the discrepancy between the receipts and the count could still be small enough at the audited level [I'm assuming precinct level here] such that the auditors could conclude no problem occurred.  [It is my understanding that audits are done on a very small number of precincts, and I don't recall what error rates are in use now--I'm thinking I saw around 5% somewhere.]

        Maybe the problem could be mitigated by accepting only a very small error rate; larger discrepancies would kick in additional audits.  

        Then again, maybe I'm just full of it.


        •  print versus electonic (none)
          If the machine is printing and tallying electronically all automatically, the numbers should match 100% in the audit.  Anything else indicates a problem.
          •  I agree with you (none)
            but currently, I think for recounts, there were error rates that are allowed [where the recount could differ from the original count by a certain % w/o kicking in more recounts].  I think the error rates are set by the state laws.
  •  A Universal Ballot (none)
    There should be one agreed-upon ballot design imposed on all states. Once that is implemented, learning to vote should be a part of all grade-school civics classes, with the understanding that the process doesn't have to be re-learned every time one changes residence to a new state.

    We need to prevent the recurrence, ever, of some high school graduate being given the opportunity to make a new butterfly ballot.

    Alterius non sit qui suus esse poteste. - Paracelsus

    by asterlil on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:35:14 AM PST

    •  Makes Sense (none)
      All of our other important transactions-governmental, legal, et al, are done basically on common templates: money has the same appearance coast to coast, legal documents are uniform throughout a state (even down to the wording), even diplomas and award certificates look  the same from a certain institution.

      And changes are announced to those documents publicly so that all who use and rely on them know that they are legitimate.

      I see no reason why that can't apply to ballots. Provided that there are different ones for the handicapped to use, there should be no problem at all with this.

      I would even go to make them a common color and paper-to guard against forgery.

      Dean: Who knew a Country Doctor could heal a Country? Dean 2008 and beyond!

      by CarolDuhart on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 12:36:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ah <sigh> Sanity is back! (none)
    Thank you Georgia for all you are doing! I really thought there was going to be another war.

    If not already mentioned SAME DAY REGISTRATION

    we do it in NH at it works perfectly.

  •  Paper ballot or bust (4.00)
    Although many/all of the reforms mentioned above would be welcome, I don't think I'll trust elections until they are on simple paper ballots.

    Let's make a chart outlining the pros and cons of paper vs. electronic. I'll start:

    Paper vs. Electronic:

    Transparent vs. Secret
    Verifiable vs. Unverifiable (currently)
    Cheap vs. Expensive
    Simple vs. Complex
    Public vs. Private
    Fast vs. Slow
    Accurate vs. ??

    To me, it seems like there is absolutely no way to compare these. The paper ballot wins hands down in all possible categories of comparison.

    •  do you really think (none)
      uniform paper ballots are safe? Evr hear of stuffing the ballot box? Any system can be gamed. People that favor one system over another claiming "xxx is the only type of voting I can trust" are missing the point. Voting is never going to be 100% accurate, the changes in Ga10's diary gets us closer to the ideal.  

      "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."- Benjamin Franklin

      by bluestateLIBertarian on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:23:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wrote My First Code In 1973, Couldn't Agree More (none)
      Back in the late 60s, early 70s, the Whole Earth Catalogue crowd was very into the idea of appropriate technology. Basically, you don't use a forklift to lift a fork.

      That's the principle here. Computers and voting are a dream come true for all the wrong people and all the wrong reasons.

      Canada uses paper ballots, and counts every vote within 24 hours. How does Ohio compare with that?

      •  Ohio Is 3 Times Smaller (none)
        Therefore it takes them 30 times longer.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:24:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Proportional representation (none)
    If you really want to revolutionize elections, let's have proportional representation. With this, each party would win representation based on the percentage of votes it gets.

    So if the Dems get 47 percent, they get 47 percent of the seats. If the Repubs get 46 percent, they get 46 percent of the seats. If the Greens or Libertarians get enough votes, they get seats too.

    Such a system would have to be well desinged to avoid pitfalls, but it would encourage a healthier national debate and engage more people. Most Americans are rightfully turned off by the two-party system, and this would give them more choices. It also would make the two big parties more accountable.

    More info about proportional representation, and the related instant runoff voting is available at .

    •  Multiple reps. with fractions of a vote? (none)
      Nearly 50% of the nation is always disenfranchised all of the time.  Does that seem like a fair system?  What if there was a fundamental right that nobody will ever be represented by someone that they did not vote for?  It seems like a pretty self-evident kind of right for a democracy when I think about it.

      So how about each district sending more than one Representative to congress?  Each gets a percentage of the vote in congress equal to the percentage of the vote he got in his district.

      Same goes with senators.

      I know it's too radical to ever happen, but it seems like a good idea nonetheless to me.

  •  one more thing (none)
    Use unpaid volunteers or a flat fee for people collecting voter registrations. You had numerous problems with paid volunteers fraudulently registering people just to make more money.
  •  Automatic voter registration (none)
    when you turn 18. Registrants are automatically unaffiliated; they can change their party affiliations at the post office, city hall, or online.
    •  affiliations (none)
      Canadians don't have to provide party affiliations when we register to vote. I don't understand why Americans do. That seems invasive.
      •  That is for primary elections (none)
        Anyone can register to vote without stating a party affiliation, in most states that is done by marking "no affiliation" or "decline to state" on the voter registration card.  Here is
        a further explanation of the California rules, if you're interested.

        In nearly all U.S. states, you have to be registered with a party to vote in its primary election.  For example, to get a ballot for a Democratic primary election you have to be registered as a Democrat.  There are a small number of states that allow party primary voting by voters not officially affiliated with that party.

  •  I was searching my old comments (none)
    for a list I made some time back of Election Reform idears... but I talk too damn much and couldn't find it so... here is an off the top of my head list of idears in no particular order other than starting with comments on your proposals.

    1. Non-partisan election commissions. Every aspect of our electoral system must be under the control of non-partisan or at the very least, bi-partisan election boards. No officials elected to other office, no party officials, and no involvement with any candidates campaign allowed.

    2. Election day(s) as holiday. I am curious for an in-depth report of Oregon's 100% vote by mail process (anyone?) but am currently skeptical. In the meantime, elections ought to begin at 9:00am on a Friday and continue through 9:00pm on the following Monday. Said Monday should be a national holiday.

    3. machines per voter - 1 per 100 is a lot of machines, especially if you stretch voting out over a long weekend. However, the number of machines and the number of polling places must be based on a per voting population basis with some accomodation for per milage basis for rural areas. Exactly what those numbers ought to be I'd have to look at real numbers to determine a reasonable proposal.

    4. Uniform national election code - Yes. The Constitution is contradictory on this between the part (Article 1, Section 4) that says elections will be handled by the states and the equal protection clause in Section 1 of Amendment 14. Our experience as a nation in 2000 and moving forward makes it clear that the health of the nation depends upon Section 1 of Amendment 14 overriding Artcile 1, Section 4. The uniform code should contain all of these idears and requirements.

    5. Voter registration should needs to be thought out. How to make it automatic and have it follow a person around without being an invasion of privacy. All eligible voters should be registered and should have to rely on access to government offices or some third party organization managing to send a canvasser to their door. I'm open to suggestion how to do this one.

    6. University polling places, high schools, and other commonly and easily accessed buildings. Weekend voting, holiday voting, automatic voter  registration during class registration. No real preference to university polling places however as that is potentially disadvantageous to low income communities.

    7. Complaint box is fine but better yet is enough trained election observers, enough voting machines, and a smooth enough process to be able to handle on-site, immediate problem resolution.

    8. Fair and equal media coverage and public service announcements. Excellent. One way to restrain big money influence is to require all networks, local stations, cable stations, radio, internet news, and sattelite radio, etc... to provide equal time, equal access to candidates... free. Included in this should be regularly scheduled public service announcements (and not only at 3:00am) showing ballots, voting machines, listing polling places, times, process, etc.

    Other idears...

    My favorite:

    1. Proportional Representation in the House and all state and local legislatures. The Senate can remain the same.

    2. proportional breakdown of electoral college votes (all states) or elimination of the electoral college altogether

    3. Campaign contribution limits of $250 per person per election per candidate(250 - primary, another 250 - general: $500 max). No corporate contributions. No pacs. No unions. No groups whatsoever. All third party groups (PACS, 527's 501c's, corporations, unions, citizens organizations) are also limited to $250 contributions per person per election cycle, required to perform monthly accounting and list of contributors, and not allowed to advertise within 30 days of an election. Just citizens, just small donations.

    4. rotating regional primary calendar. 5 groups of 10 states each by geographical region; 5 groups of 10 states each by population; 5 primary days (1 per month Jan-May) of 10 states each (2 from each geographical group with as close a breakdown of 2 from each population grouping as can be managed).

    5. Electronic voting with store and forward to secondary machines at the polling place and to a central repository at state or county board of elections. Paper trails on all machines. Random periodic memory dumps of all machines for comparison to master code. Open non-proprietary code vetted by a college of nations top computer scientists. All machines and polling places handicapped accessbile for wheelchairs, blind, and hearing impaired. All machines and polling places capable of handling english and spanish language voters and in particular locales other languages as required.

    6. automatic recount and comparisons of counts on all three levels of machines regardless of vote results. All elections will be recounted and checked for validity. No exceptions. No requirements. No requests. Recounts and results verification as a matter of course.

    ummm... I'm sure I'm missing something buts that's just off the top of my teeny little head.

    "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Theodore Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 10:58:28 AM PST

    •  bi-partisan is not enough (none)
      Non-partisan election commissions. Every aspect of our electoral system must be under the control of non-partisan or at the very least, bi-partisan election boards.

      It's not enough for a board to be bi-partisan. If it's not non-partisan, it needs to be multi-partisan. I'm tired of Repubs and Demos collaborating to make things tough for other parties.

      Proud member of the reality-based minority

      by Bearpaw on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 02:10:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Works for me... (none)
        My only question is how one guarentees "non-partisan?" And there are many places where various third parties aren't strong enough to warrent board of elections representation. A bare minimum is bi-partisan, the best is non-partisan, the medium is multi-partisan, the thing to be outlawed is people in charge of an election also working in a role, any role, as part of a particular candidates campaign.

        It is such a flaming outrage of conflict of interest that they should be shamed into quitting. There oughtn't be a need for a law.

        "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Theodore Roosevelt

        by Andrew C White on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 03:50:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lack of booths (none)
    at a precinct in Maricopa County in Arizona caused hundreds and hundreds of people to be diverted to a community area with small cramped, circular tables with no dividers at them.

    I cannot tell you how uncomfortable that was, firstly for being a closeted Dem in the family.  My brain was literally torn because I knew that there was absolutely no way I was filling in W. And then when I went to fill in Kerry, I feared the pearing, intrusive eyes of family outing me as a Dem and then to be the subject of scorn forever.  Luckily, the way that openings arose, if two square inches at a table can be called an opening, my family was diverted to separate tables and I was allowed to vote relatively freely.  I still didn't appreciate the fact that Bill, Susie, and Freddie sitting right next to me saw exactly who I was voting for, and that they held discussions to make sure they were all on the same page.  This county is heavily Republican and it is unacceptable for there to be an intimidation factor in voting.

    So this county did one thing right.  They used paper and optical-scan.  But they desperately needed many more booths to allow for privacy, a timely vote, and to prevent group conspiring or intimidation.  I don't even see why the booths have to be all fancy or whatever.  All they need is lengthy tables with dividers spaced out regularly.

  •  methods? (none)
    what are the best methods to accomplish election reform?

    • passing state laws in states with friendly legislatures?

    • ballot initiatives in states with unfriendly legislators?

    • somehow getting Congress to pass these rules?

    a related question: how do we get the public behind this initiative?  perhaps following the debacle in florida we could have gotten some good momentum, but it seems the clamoring for election reform is done mostly by leftists and people already keenly interested in politics (that's us).  how do we get people less interested in politics to take interest in what seems like fairly mundane, obscure laws?

    .. a letter to the editor a day keeps Bush away

    by kosaddict on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:09:16 AM PST

    •  seems to me the CBC (congressional black caucus) (none)
      could spearhead election reform. Conyers et al are the only ones with any spine so far. Blacks get screwed the most, and the average black voter probably knows they are getting fucked with, but they probably haven't seen the proof, like that video from OH showing the terrible situation of the black precincts. If we can help NAACP and other groups arm themselves with info from the election, that might help.
  •  Here's an ad-hoc system... (none)
    That I've designed - in principle anyway - to be secure, fast, accurate, cheap, and tasty as well.

    But - hey - paper's cool too, and I sure don't see Canadians grappling on the floor in electoral controversy death-matches.

    They just, you know, hang out there in the frozen north being all chill and mild, playing hockey and doing that odd little curling thing with the brooms and the huge hockey puck  (  or whatever it is. maybe it's a huge ageing old wheel of cheddar with a black wax coating - how am I supposed to know ? ), while Americans are busy building up rolls of surplus fat for lean end-time days by gorging on fast food, and cheez-wiz, while yelling about shoddy computerized equipment over the din of widecreen TV's bought on home equity loans and drinking coffee and Jack Daniels whilst blasting away at each other with handguns and hunting rifles purchased at K-Mart.

  •  The right to vote should be automatically (none)
    bestowed on all citizens.  

    The burden should lie in removing this right, not in its establishment.  For instance, rescinding rights for convicted felons who have not completed their sentences should be a deliberate and proactive undertaking on the part of the government, not a routine matter.

    Such burden should also apply to a citizen who chooses not to be eligible, allowing him or her to "de-register."

    Party affiliation could be established by a citizen on the date of voting age eligibility, but would not be required.

    Logistics, I don't know, but this whole registration business is a racket that impedes citizen rights and responsibilities, is unnecessarily bureaucratic, and is rife with possibilities for fraud - as we have witnessed firsthand.

  •  PS, Georgia10, Thank YOU (none)
    This is exactly the conversation I have been looking forward to on this blog since 11/2.

    I'm a bit pressed for time this minute, so I can't comment further, but I want to help.

    How do I plug in?

  •  ALSO: (none)

    1.  Open Source software

    2.  Transparency from the moment the vote is cast through to final tabulation

    3.  Multiple public postings as votes are cast

    4.  Public owned election equipment

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 12:15:36 PM PST

    Please read this diary on how--if Democrats do this reform right--WE WILL BE THE BIG WINNERS:

    THE REPUBLICANS' WORST NIGHTMARE: Or, How I Got Some Black Wisdom, Stopped Worrying About Space Age E-Voting & Saved the Democratic Party

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 12:20:33 PM PST

  •  Don't let this fall off the Recommended (none)
    list!  It doesn't appear to be getting any assistance in exposure.
  •  One way to jazz up the proceedings... (4.00) to offer a national lottery for one winning vote reciept in the amount of $1 million.  

    In an election where the major parties spend over $200m EACH to lie about the other side let both the Dems and the Reps. put up 500k each for one lucky voter.  

    What a buzz this would create.  And us Po' Folk wouldn't have to use the welfare check to buy it all we would have to do is vote (of course the vote won't be counted, but that is a whole other flame war).

    How about it?  One cool mil for one lucky voter!

    "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything" - Joseph Stalin

    by Blue Shark on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:10:11 PM PST

    •  Definitely (none)
      But like I said above, let corporations pay for the prize in exchange for having their names on the back of the ballot.  It'll be worth more than the lottery payout and the remainder can go to pay for the voting equipment.
  •  I have access to (none)
    the IEEE Electronic Voting Standards board that is deciding these things.

    If you make up a wish list, I can pass it on.

    They were Nazis, Walter?

    by BooMan23 on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:11:51 PM PST

  •  Great topic (none)
    Here's me, late to the party (as usual); I posted this a couple weeks ago, in a "Machine-Free" diary.

    My 10-point plan for election reform:

       1. Hand-counted paper ballots

       2. Separate the election of Pres electors from all other races and regulate it at the federal level;

       3. If you're a citizen of the US, you're allowed to vote in this race;

       4. No registration -- voters must provide proof of citizenship to vote, and get an indelible-ink stamp on their hand after they vote;

       5. Make Election Day a fed holiday;

       6. Every candidate for Pres can have one witness per polling station/counting team/tabulating team/certifier/recount team, at every step of the process;

       7. Counting the ballots, tabulating the totals, recounts, and certifications are open to the public and the media;

       8. Allow states to hold elections on that day if they choose to, using whatever processes and methods they choose -- but keep the federal poll workers, ballots, counting teams, etc. completely separate from the state system;

       9. Any challenges, disputes, recounts, contests are regulated by fed law, under the authority of fed election officers/in fed courts;

      10. Set the timetable for the whole process -- canvassing, certification, recount, contest -- to adhere to the requirements of fed law WRT the meeting of the Electoral College.

    Embarassingly Liberal! -- Wellstone '96

    by rincewind on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:22:35 PM PST

  •  Great ideas (none)
    But I think the question is more how are we going to get them implemented? The first step is winning the war in the media, and that's something Democrats haven't proven adept at doing of late.

    "You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it." -Malcolm X

    by PsiFighter37 on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:30:11 PM PST

  •  Great ideas (none)
    You always do great work, and this is no exception. I especially like the Complaint Box onsite.

    I am your king! Well, I didn't vote for you. You don't vote for kings. - So, that's our problem!

    by Liberaljentaps on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 04:53:15 PM PST

  •  big ideas (none)
    1. mandatory nonpartisan voter registration at 18. registry with political parties separate.

    2. election-day holiday. fines for not voting, big fines for preventing employees from voting.

    3. the constitutional right to vote shall not be infringed.

    4. abolition of the electoral college.

    5. uniform ballot and voting tech standards, both within and between states.

    6. jail time for violation or accoplice to violation of citizens' voting rights.

    7. nonpartisan gerrymandering reform.

    8. decennial reapportionment based on state's average of previous decade's voting %.

    9. felons must be able to vote, even when imprisoned.

    10. mandatory public funding of campaigns.
    •  hmmm (none)
      #3 -- Scalia has opined that there is NO Constitutional right to vote. He interprets the language of Amendments:

      14: "But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of denied.....",

      15: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged.....on acccount of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.",

      19: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged.....on acccount of sex.", and

      26: "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged.....on acccount of age."

      to mean that we don't have "the right to vote", it only means that "a right to vote" can't be DENIED for any of those reasons. IOW, he says the Constitution doesn't say anybody can vote, but that if anybody DOES get to vote, that blacks, women, and people 18 and over can't be refused. (I don't know how he turns the phrase, "the right to vote", repeated numerous times, into "a right to vote" -- I thought he was supposed to be such a strict constructionist?)

      I really like your #8! Sounds like a great way to increase turnout ;>

      Embarassingly Liberal! -- Wellstone '96

      by rincewind on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:28:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  #8 (none)
        came to me when i realized that counting disenfranchised felons is just the 3/5 compromise in a different form.

        as for #3, i meant it as a constitutional amendment. can you imagine what campaign ads you could run against anyone voting against it? "senator _ doesn't want you to vote."

  •  Add mandatory vote by mail (none)
    Like Oregon's system.
  •  #6 & #7 (none)
    are great ideas. How easy would it be to set up voting booths at universities?

    all this typing is hard work...

    by shelly vander on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 07:02:13 PM PST

  •  IRV? (none)
    While we're talking revolution rather than reform, let's add instant-runoff voting, where voters are able to give their second and third choices.
  •  Let evey citizen over 18 vote, even prisoners. (none)
    Plain paper ballots, publicly hand-counted on Election Night.

    Election Day Voter Registration at every polling place in the US (we already have Election Day Registration at polling places in Minnesota.)

  •  Michael Moore's Letter to the Senators (none)
    Just One Senator!

    Tuesday, January 4th, 2005

    Dear Members of the U.S. Senate,

    Welcome back! The 109th session of Congress has just begun. I'm watching you on C-SPAN right now and you all look so snap-happy and clean-faced. It's like the first day of school all over again, isn't it?

    I have a favor to ask of you. Something isn't right with the vote from Ohio. Seems a lot of people didn't get to vote. And those who did, thousands of theirs weren't counted.

    Does that seem right to you? I'm just asking. Forget about partisan politics for a moment and ask yourself if there is a more basic right, in a democracy, than the right of the people to vote AND have ALL their votes counted.

    Now, I know a lot of you wish this little problem of Ohio would just go away. And many of you who wish this are Democrats. You just want to move on (no pun intended!). I can't say I blame you. It's rough to lose two elections in a row when the first one you actually won and the second one you should have won. And it seems this time around, about 3 million more Americans preferred to continue the war in Iraq and give the rich more tax breaks than those who didn't. No sense living in denial about that.

    But something isn't right in Ohio and more than a dozen members of the House of Representatives believe it is worth investigating.

    So on Thursday at 1:00pm, Rep. John Conyers of Detroit will rise and object to the vote count in Ohio. According to the laws of this land, he will not be allowed to speak unless at least one of you -- one member of the United States Senate --  agrees to let him have the floor.

    A very embarrassing moment during the last session of Congress occurred in the first week when none of you would allow the members of Congress who were black to have the floor to object to the Florida vote count. Remember that? You thought no one would ever notice, didn't you? You certainly lucked out that night when the networks decided not to show how you shut down every single member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

    No such luck this year. Everyone now knows about that moment of shame. Thank you? You're welcome.

    But this Thursday, at 1:00pm, you will have a chance to redeem yourself.

    Congressman Conyers and a dozen other members of Congress have some serious questions about how the Republican secretary of state in Ohio (who was also the state's co-chair of Bush's reelection campaign) conducted the election on November 2. The list of possible offenses of how voters were denied access to the polls and how over a hundred thousand of their votes have yet to be counted is more than worthy of your consideration. It may not change the outcome, but you have a supreme responsibility to make sure that EVERY vote is counted. Who amongst you would disagree with that?

    If you would like to read more about the specific charges, I ask that you read these two links: "Senators Should Object to Ohio Vote" --by Jesse Jackson and "Ten Preliminary Reasons Why the Bush Vote Does Not Compute, and Why Congress Must Investigate Rather Than Certify the Electoral College". I am asking everyone on my mailing list to send you a letter joining me in this call to you to do your job and investigate what happened before you certify the vote.

    It only takes one member of the House and one member of the Senate to stop the acceptance of the Electoral College vote and force a legitimate debate and investigation. Do you know why this provision is set in stone in our nation's laws? I mean, why would we allow just two officials in a body of 535 members to throw a wrench into the works? The law exists because nothing is more sacred than the integrity of the ballot box and if there is ANY possibility of fraud or incompetence, then it MUST be addressed. Because if we don't have the vote, what are we left with?

    C'mon Senators! Especially you Democrats. Here is your one shining moment of courage. Will you allow the gavel to come down on our black members of Congress once again? Or will you stand up for their right to object?

    We will all be watching.


    Michael Moore

  •  Partisan oversight is outrageous. (none)
    And there should definitely be a holiday for voting. And at least one more day sounds good. People are pressed in this culture of ours with demands for survival and sometimes emergencies, of course. The more access, the better. As for the lack of machines, that is simply untennable. None of these things are defensible as 'cant do's', esp when we see how much money is wasted on our current war, for example.

    Voting is not an emergency, it is an expected occurrence that has no surprises in coming round every four years. There is absolutely no excuse for the tawdry state of our elections, the NON democratic state of them, and to make them big glaring issues is the way to go toward correcting them. Because when held up to the light, they cannot be justified with a straight face or a sensible argument.

    Uniform procedures nationally sounds good, but I really dont know why we must go tech on the voting. Why the machines? Canada has simple paper ballots. They get thru it, no muss, no fuss.

    Kos' post made the argument against computerized voting and for optical scan, if I recall. I get his point, but I have also seen where optical scan (which I had previously thought might be best) is also too easy to tamper with in the central counting machine.

    This is why I am wondering if paper ballots wouldnt be the best, simplest way. If we all want PAPER to be the end result to making sure our votes got counted, why not just start with the paper and end with it? Could have a receipt in that case, too, for the voter to take.

  •  I really like your complaint box... (none)
    We tried to get some useful info about which complaint related to which polling location, and found that most of the time, polling location and/or precinct were not specified.  Your box could take care of that problem automatically.

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