I recently attended the Voting Rights Revival in Columbus, Ohio (October 13-15) and will attempt to summarize the election protection activities and voting reform efforts that were presented there.
The knowledge and passion offered by the presenters and participants of this revival was quite powerful for me to witness - and humbling. These people are doers. They are activists unified in action. I will be volunteering my time to help with voting reform, and I hope I can convince many of you to do the same. (Please bear with me - this is my first diary here.) Join me over the fold.
Steve Freeman, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, spoke on the discrepancies in the exit polling of the 2004 election. One of the foremost experts on exit polling, Steve wrote the 2004 report entitled The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy and now has a book entitled Was the 2004 Election Stolen? More about Steve's research, experience and credentials can be found here.
Video the Vote
Video the Vote is seeking volunteers to help with an organized effort to videotape problems on election day. These videos will be used on election day, via quick downloads to YouTube, to encourage media to share voting disenfranchisement experiences with the public. The videos may also be used after election day as evidence for potential litigation and as footage for documentary films. This is a non-partisan effort to observe and document election-day activities. Melissa Giraud spoke at the revival and requested volunteers in Ohio and throughout the country to assist with this nationwide effort. Ohio volunteers may contact Melissa at Melissa@videothevote.org.
There was a screening of the documentary, Eternal Vigilance, by David Earnhardt, whom I was able to meet. We discussed the power of combining statistical and expert evidence with the images of personal experience as evidence. I highly recommend this video, which chronicles the voting reform efforts in response to recent manipulated elections.
There will be a free screening of the documentary American Blackout, winner of the Special Jury prize at Sundance 2006, on Thursday October 26 at 7pm at the Drexel Gateway near OSU Campus (1550 North High Street) in Columbus, Ohio. Video the Vote organizers will be on hand to recruit volunteers and answer questions before and after the screening. As their promotional materials indicate, "American Blackout chronicles the recurring patterns of disenfranchisement witnessed from 2000 to 2004 while following the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney...who took an active role in investigating these election debacles...." The film is directed by Ian Inaba, a member of the Guerilla News Network.
One of the most inspiring moments of the conference was when Doris "Granny D" Haddock spoke to us about her efforts related to campaign finance reform. There was first a screening of her recently released documentary entitled Granny D Goes to Washington, and then she took the stage and so eloquently invited people to action (similar speech). If you haven't heard of Granny D, she is currently 96 years old, and at the age of 89 she walked from Pasadena, California to Washington, D.C. to promote campaign finance reform.
Other documentaries available and/or viewed during the revival include:
Stealing America: Vote by Vote, a documentary by Dorothy Fadiman that reveals the significant irregularities in the 2004 presidential election
Help America Vote on Paper, a briefing on the dangers of privately-owned electronic voting machines and what we can do to help (available online through YouTube and The Free Press store)
No Umbrella, an award-winning account of the 2004 election-day failures in a poor neighborhood in Ohio
Voting Rights for People with Disabilities
Two sessions were presented on law and voting with disabilities.
Mike Kirkman, an attorney with the Ohio Legal Rights Services (OLRS) discussed protecting the voting rights of Ohioans with disabilities. OLRS provides a list of FAQs and answers addressing voting rights of disabled persons.
Ruth Colker, a nationally-recognized expert in constitutional law and disability discrimination who works with The Ohio State University's College of Law, also presented information about voting rights and disenfranchisement of people with disabilities. Recent publications and media interviews by Colker include The Future of Accessible Voting: A Crossroad? and Election Monitor Assesses the Effects of Early Voting.
Representatives from the People for the American Way (PFAW) presented on election protection activities. Election Protection 365 is a non-partisan effort to protect voter rights. They conduct year-round and election season activities to assist African American, Hispanic, and other underrepresented communities who want their right to vote protected. Target states for 2006 include Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.
Michele Lawrence Jawando, Election Protection Legal Outreach National Coordinator and Staff Attorney, flew in from Washington, D.C. to rally the troops for their important work. Her contact information, for those interested in volunteering nationally, is: firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-467-2368 (office); 202-391-7642 (cell).
Shaun Tucker, African American Outreach State Coordinator for Ohio, also presented information. His contact information, for those interested in volunteering in Ohio, is email@example.com; 614-560-1441.
Their toll-free number for reporting election disenfranchisement issues, which will be the hotline on election day, is 1-866-OUR-VOTE. They are seeking volunteers to be at polling places as well as volunteers to help log hotline calls reporting problems related to registration, voter intimidation, deceptive practices, law enforcement activities, non-English language assistance, student voting, absentee voting, criminal status, disability access, and polling place issues.
Rady Ananda and Marj Creech presented on the Parallel Elections project and are seeking volunteers for election day. They need at least two people per precinct in Ohio as they plan to target the Pryce-Kilroy race for the 15th Congressional District seat.
What is a parallel election, you ask? You can download an 8-page training manual that explains the entire process. In brief, a parallel election involves volunteers sitting outside (100 feet) a precinct and asking voters to complete a secret ballot that matches the vote they just cast inside the official polling place. The goal is to compare the voting machine tallies from the official polling place to the secret ballot tallies in the parallel election. To volunteer in Ohio, contact Rady Ananda at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marj Creech at 740-940-5083 and email@example.com. For volunteers interested in helping with parallel elections outside of Ohio, check out the Landes Report for more information.
Adopt a Board of Elections
Adopt a Board of Elections. What exactly does that entail? According to the Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections (CASE), a non-partisan group of volunteers dedicated to accurate and fair elections, there are pre-election, election-day, and post-election responsibilities associated with adopting a board of elections.
Pre-election activities include formally requesting specific documents from the BOE and asking various questions associated with vote count auditing, voting machine allocation, voter purging, voter registration, absentee ballots, election day procedures, election challenger procedures, election monitor procedures, provisional ballots, and recount procedures. This will then lead to lobbying for improvements and contacting the media, if appropriate.
Election-day activities include election monitoring in as many precincts as possible including note-taking and photographing any irregularities.
Post-election activities include performing an audit of actual results and reporting on those results to the media.
Citizens interested in volunteering for CASE Ohio and the Adopt a Board of Elections Program should contact Pete Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Volunteers interested in serving as election observers can also contact Tim Kettler at TimKettler@sostim06.com.
Secretary of State Forum
Three of the four candidates for Secretary of State in Ohio participated in a moderated debate at the Voting Rights Revival. Jennifer Brunner (Democrat), Timothy Kettler (Green), and John Eastman (Libertarian) shared their ideas about, if elected to the office, how they would each reform the voting and election process in the state of Ohio. What struck me the most was the integrity each of these candidates displayed in direct contrast to the lack of integrity displayed in the past several years by Ohio's current Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell.
The Voting Rights Revival was a talent-packed, action-oriented gathering of people sharing concerns and raising voices for voting reform. I have not even mentioned all that was presented, but perhaps you may be able to find at least one place where you can also act on behalf of voting reform. I will be taking a personal day on November 7. Will you?