We need some major voting reform in this country, and this election makes this clear like getting a blow to the head.
2000 went ignored. This must not.
I've heard "paper trail" said so often it is starting to bug me. It's simply not enough, and I will tell you why. By screaming "paper trail," we give them an excuse to do that and declare "mission accomplished."
Why is a paper trail not enough? For two reasons - #1 It doesn't address any of the other voting rights, and #2 It doesn't make the system fully accountable. Why? Read on.
[This is a very long entry, as I am outlining a full plan for election reform as well as outlining the need. Please take the time to read it, it's a critical issue to our Democracy. Thank you in advance.]
I don't need to tell you about all the problems in this election, and the questionability of the results. However, I will do so for the most part, as I outline what I feel is necessary. Disenfranchisement is addressed in nearly all of the suggestions I make, but I will say that disenfranchisement is illegal and needs to be prosecuted. The (extremely likely deliberate, or gross negligence if not,) placing of less voting machines where they knew they needed more, when they had enough, is a clear example of this. This NEEDS to be prosecuted. As I said, best case scenario, gross negligence.
The Dems need to make this THE issue of the next 2 years. For one, it will show they are fighting for something real, something nearly everyone agrees on, and will make the Republithugs look like slime. Yes, there are other battles to fight, especially a Supreme Court nomination. However, even with a paper trail required, we may not have legitimate elections for a long, long, time, potentially allowing the Republicans to continue their alleged coup, and continuing one party rule - screwing us even more than the appointment of a conservative judge, especially if he's replacing Rehnquist. I will continue tell you why it's the former, when I will deal with the machines in #2, as #1 outlines the rest of my proposal.
So, here it is, my proposal, what I feel the solution is, what needs to be done, and what I feel the problems are. It's a 4-point plan.
#1 - National election standards, enforced by law, for any federal election. If there is one good thing to take out of Bush v. Gore, this is it. They essentially said it was consitutionally necessary if you plan on having a legitimate election. There are some states that vote using 10 different methods, in one single state, and it's downright unacceptable. Disenfranchisement and innacuracy is the inevitable result - hinted at (putting it lightly) by the international observers this year. If federal funds are necessary for any of this, so be it. I'm willing to spend it, and I'd even be willing to take a tax hike to get it done. However, none of that is necessary, as we are talking pennies in the grand scheme of things, and will save the states and to a smaller extend the feds alot of money over time that would be spent fixing problems that could be solved by an all-encompasing election reform bill. In fact, this could be viewed as a money saver.
#2 - OK, the meat and potatoes I spoke of. The machines. A paper trail is not enough, and we need to get rid of these, completely, period. (This includes ALL forms of electronic voting, including touch screen voting machines, optical scanners, and electronic tabulation systems, which are perhaps the shoddiest of all.) Why? Well, here it is.
I already stated that it doesn't make the system fully accountable. This is because in order to verify the results the machines are giving, you need a recount. Even today, a recount is highly in question in many states, only in NH is it looking likely, and a nationwide recount is out of the question, as is a recount in Florida for example (where it's desperately needed, considering the exit polls have been consistently wrong there ever since G.W. Bush has been on the ballot, and especially considering Jeb Bush is the Governor.) Partisan election officials are largely to blame here - see #3. Also, in this election, the vote tabulation systems and/or the optical scanners (which leave a paper trail) have given us the most questionable results, and were responsible for many of the glitches. On top of that, the current tabulation systems are probably the shoddiest equipment known to man. I honestly think I could have done better.
If we were to use machines, if you were to say it's ok if there were a paper trail, there are several other problems. For one, these machines have not been certified by any professionals in a transparent system. The one government study I know of, which was clearly done with corporate interests at heart, decided that vulnerability to hacking was "not applicable." [Whuuuut? Heheh.] On top of that, also showing corporate interests at heart, the source code, and even the compiled programs, are considered "proprietary information" (and even the audit logs, not like they are worth anything, can be deemed as such by the courts.) This is unacceptable. We need transparency in our voting systems, not the secrecy of corporate interests.
Luckily, some of the code/software has been leaked, and examined (unofficially, but on the record,) by professionals, and the consensus has been a unanimous "not suitable for use" (and that was one of the nicer things they had to say.)
Finally, we reach one very important point that was hinted at earlier. If we have one party rule, which we do, what's to say they will let us count the ballots, or even give us legitimate recount information (the second is a longshot, but things could get worse. Every day I see something I thought would be impossible, in politics that is.) If you're not buying it, then answer me this: what's to stop the Supreme Court from stepping, and appointing a President, like in 2000? Granted, Bush v. Gore was a "one-time shot that doesn't set a precident," but come on...remembering it makes me sick.
It is also important to note that the creation of machines and software that truly is legitimate and acceptable would take many years, being subject to rigorous scrutiny, including open source allowing hackers to do their worst - to uncover holes - and intensive testing. This would not be ready by 2006, and almost definitely not 2008, considering how long it takes Congress to act.
So it boils down, in part, to this: do you trust the Republicans? Do you trust the Government? Do you trust corporations?
We cannot TRUST the Government, and we cannot TRUST Coroporatations, to do the most fundamental and vital aspect of Democracy - counting the votes - and tell us the truth.
There is a final thing to mention regarding these corporations. Well, two. First of all, in regard to the "paper trail" arguement, a leaked memo from Diebold (who makes nearly all, if not all, of the no-paper-trail voting machines,) said not so elloquently that they would price-gouge us for this feature. Isn't that nice! And we continue to do business with the scoundrels!
Last but far from least, at least two out of three (major) makers of voting machines, are Republicans, with outspoken desire for G.W. Bush's re-election (Mr. O'Dell, CEO of Diebold, said he essentially would win Bush Ohio.) They are also Christian Fundamentalists, extreme ones. Both Diebold and ES&S have supervisors, whom are brothers, that were brought into the vote-count business by someone who believes in the Christian Reconstructionist Movement - that the Bible should be the rule of law in the United States (and not the nice parts we know, the most disgusting things that are in the bible, including - get this - slavery,) and said he would do whatever he could to achieve this goal. The TR movement isn't your average loony homebrew movement - they have established think tanks and major sources of funding. See this post for more (and there IS more, if you could believe it: http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2004/11/12/14626/428/26#26
You would HAVE to be a person of faith to trust in these machines. Once again: it is lunacy to trust the government and trust the corporations (these corporations, especially,) to run clean elections and give us legitimate results.
So, what should we do, if not machines?
I think we should use what New York State uses: Lever Machines. Some of these are 60 years old and are still excellent, nevermind if we make new ones. Why? I'll list the reasons, and knock off a few issues with voting in the process.
A - They are fool-proof. It is virtually impossible to screw up voting on one of these machines. You pull a giant lever which closes the curtain, pull down the switches which are immediately below the candidate's name, which is very clear at least here in NY - the model should be followed for all the "ballots". And BTW, you can't pull down more than one switch for any race so you can't double-vote. You then pull back the giant lever (which, I don't think you can pull back if you haven't voted, but if that isn't the case it should be implemented in new machines,) and the curtain opens and your vote is registered. So much for "spoiled" ballots. So much for mistakes. It is quick, quicker in fact than touch screens, and while for someone who never used it before it might seem a little complicated - they simply can't screw it up unless they were trying to - and they are free to ask.
B - They are accurate and they are (undetectable) tamper proof. They are mechanical, they have counters which registered how many votes are cast for each candidate, similar to a car's odometer, as well as counters for how often they have been used, and possibly others. Think of how accurate we could make these if we make new machines. The counters are verified to be zero before the voting, by an election official and a member of each party, and then the votes are verified at the end of the day in the same manner. Before the election, they are certified to be accurate and functioning properly, and then they are sealed (also much like a car's odometer.) So if there was fraud, if they were tampered with, all one needs to do is check the seal - quick and easy.
A recent accusation of fraud/recount in New York revealed the seals had been broken and the machines were tampered with. This was in a local race. These seals need to be checked after every election, when they record the tally, by an election official and a member of each party.
So, that's my plan. I think it's a good idea. I hope you agree.
(If any of the procedures I have listed turns out not to be exactly what happens - procedures, like for checking votes, not how the machines work, that I'm sure of, then the procedures should be changed as I have outlined.)
#3 - Partisan election officials? Partisan election judges? What in gods name was anyone thinking! This is UNACCEPTABLE! How we would best put into place legitimately non-partisan election officials, and election judges for that matter, I do not know. I do know that appointment by partisans is essentially partisan election officials. Running an election essentially requires someone to be, and can cause anyone to become, partisan. I am listening for suggestions. The situation in Ohio and Florida clearly outlines how this is a major problem that leads to disenfranchisement.
Also, in this vein, an important aspect of this, a national election board, comprised of non-partisan judges, to settle disputes that weren't solved at the local level - and one that needs to be active (and busy) on election day. And if it is not settled on election day, and the board rules in the plaintiff's favor, they should get to vote anyway, after the fact, within a timeframe of reason. The judges will have jurisdiction over all national election matters, and can try criminal cases that are in their jurisdiction. They may only be over-ruled by the Supreme Court, and only if it is appealed to the Supreme Court, for that matter.
I know all of this can be deemed a violation of state's rights as an arguement - but there are plenty of counter-arguements. The international observers, as I have said, as well as Bush v. Gore, have said having 50 different elections, using anywhere between 50-5,000 different voting methods, is a disaster that simply cannot work. I am a big fan of state's rights but don't find this an infrigement of state's rights. First of all, we are talking about national elections, the outcomes of which effect everyone in the nation, and second of all I feel this arguement is just a smoke screen to hide the real reason partisans don't want to lose their power over elections. Remember, electoral fraud is nothing new - and it's a heinous crime that needs to be stopped - and so does disenfranchisement and voter rights have a long way to go - and this is the only way to do it.
#4 - A constitutional amendment guaranteeing every American Citizen the right to vote. Yes, you heard me. It's not in the constitution. This was proposed by Jesse Jackson but got nowhere. It should also include basic voting rights. I will write a preliminary suggestion at a later time.
Obviously, this isn't part of the electoral reform law, but is something that is long overdue. Getting past the Feds is the problem - the states would easily pass this amendment, maybe even all of them.
I am wide open to suggestions, especially additions, to this proposal.
Unless we fight, none of this will ever happen. Please, help save our Democracy!
[Do not send this to any official until it has been fully discussed and we make something that we can agree upon - I'm likely getting ahead of myself with this statement, hehe.]