Neither Republican nor Democrat: regarding elections

  1. WashYaHands, "ust a side note.....did you know that more people vote for American Idol than for the President of the U.S?" (This from my 16 year old daughter)
    Seems like a topic to me.
    One commentators suggestions:

    Published on Friday, May 2, 2003 by the Baltimore Sun
    Democracy Unbalanced
    by Steven Hill and Rob Richie

    THE WAR in Iraq revealed a disturbing weakness in our democracy. Regardless of one's views on the war, it's hard to defend how Congress avoided debate about the administration's dramatic shift toward pre-emptive warfare.

    Lack of democracy at home is a grave threat to our national well-being and future. The data are stark.
    We rank 139th in the world in average turnout in national elections since 1945. It's been decades since even half of adults voted in congressional elections in a nonpresidential year.

    Our Senate has great powers but lacks a single African-American or Latino. A random group of 100 Americans would include 25 African-Americans and Latinos.

    The total percentage of women in Congress is stalled at less than 15 percent, and the percentage in state
    legislatures has declined.
    After blatant incumbent protection in redistricting, only four House incumbents lost to nonincumbent challengers in 2002 - the fewest in history.

    More than 40 percent of state legislative races have been won without major party opposition in each election since 1996.

    Congressional leaders repeatedly dodge big issues that don't have sound-bite fixes. Combined with the low voter, distorted representation and duplicitous, poll-driven campaigns in which many winners change their spots after the election, it's no surprise that government is dangerously adrift from the needs and desires of average Americans.

    Lack of democracy matters, not only in itself but because of its impact on policy. The United States is the most unequal society in the advanced democratic world, with that inequality having glaring racial, ethnic, age and gender dimensions. We are the world's lone remaining superpower, yet suffer from higher rates of poverty, infant mortality, homicide and HIV infection than nearly all other advanced democracies.

    When reformers link these realities to elections, it usually is through the lens of campaign finance, just as 15 years ago it was focused on voter registration. But the failures of American democracy are greater and more fundamental.
    Reducing the impact of money on politics and increasing voters on the rolls are important, but only two pieces of a much larger and desperately needed enterprise.

    An energized democracy demands, at a minimum, diverse representation, meaningful choices across the spectrum, full participation before and after elections, robust public debate, efficient election administration and accurate vote counting. Voters must hear from a range of candidates, have a reasonable chance of electing preferred representatives instead of "lessers of two evils" and have responsive government that improves their lives.

    The times urgently demand a stronger infrastructure for a pro-democracy movement. We need full-time advocates in all states to lobby for a vigorous agenda of exclusively pro-democracy issues.

    These 50 organizers would build strong networks among pro-democracy organizations and take advantage of resources provided by a more coordinated national approach. They would push for a range of reforms after setting priorities based on local opportunities for change. Given that states are taking very different approaches to implementing last year's federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), such an effort is all the more imperative to ensure that HAVA makes us more democratic, not less.

    The reform agenda will differ by state, but we call for the removal of barriers to voting, including full voting rights for the District of Columbia, effective voter education, holidays for major elections, Election Day registration, well-trained poll workers and modern voting equipment.

    These infrastructure reforms should be accompanied by fair ballot access laws, campaign finance reform, clean elections, free broadcast time for candidates, and fusion/cross-party endorsement.

    The most profoundly needed reforms are the replacement of our 18th century winner-take-all election methods - ones in which 49 percent of voters can be denied a voice - with full representation systems for legislative elections and instant runoff voting for electing executive offices. These powerful reforms would lay the bedrock for a multiple-choice, voter-centered democracy and allow the marketplace of ideas to flourish in campaigns as well as in government.

    Democracy can no longer take a back seat. Serious candidates must proclaim a real democracy agenda and serious reformers must develop a strategy for building a broad and enduring movement.

    Steven Hill is a senior analyst with Maryland's Center for Voting and Democracy and author of Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner-Take-All Politics (Routledge Press, 2002). Rob Richie is executive director of the center, which is in Takoma Park.
  2. 2 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    Jim Crow revived in cyberspace

    By Martin Luther King III and Greg Palast

    May 8, 2003

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Astonishingly, and sadly, four decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marched in Birmingham, we must ask
    again, "Do African-Americans have the unimpeded right to vote in the United States?"

    In 1963, Dr. King's determined and courageous band faced water hoses and police attack dogs to call attention to the thicket of Jim Crow laws
    -- including poll taxes and so-called "literacy" tests -- that stood in the way of black Americans' right to have their ballots cast and counted.

    Today, there is a new and real threat to minority voters, this time from cyberspace: computerized purges of voter rolls.

    The menace first appeared in Florida in the November 2000 presidential election. While the media chased butterfly ballots and hanging chads, a
    much more sinister and devastating attack on voting rights went almost undetected.

    In the two years before the elections, the Florida secretary of state's office quietly ordered the removal of 94,000 voters from the registries.
    Supposedly, these were convicted felons who may not vote in Florida. Instead, the overwhelming majority were innocent of any crime, though just over half were
    black or Hispanic.

    We are not guessing about the race of the disenfranchised: A voter's color is listed next to his or her name in most Southern states. (Ironically, this racial ID is
    required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a King legacy.)

    How did mass expulsion of legal voters occur?

    At the heart of the ethnic purge of voting rights was the creation of a central voter file for Florida placed in the hands of an elected, and therefore partisan, official.
    Computerization and a 1998 "reform" law meant to prevent voter fraud allowed for a politically and racially biased purge of thousands of registered voters on the
    flimsiest of grounds.

    Voters whose name, birth date and gender loosely matched that of a felon anywhere in America were targeted for removal. And so one Thomas Butler (of several in
    Florida) was tagged because a "Thomas Butler Cooper Jr." of Ohio was convicted of a crime. The legacy of slavery -- commonality of black names -- aided the
    racial bias of the "scrub list."

    Florida was the first state to create, computerize and purge lists of allegedly "ineligible" voters. Meant as a reform, in the hands of partisan officials it became a
    weapon of mass voting rights destruction. (The fact that Mr. Cooper's conviction date is shown on state files as "1/30/2007" underscores other dangers of
    computerizing our democracy.)

    You'd think that Congress and President Bush would run from imitating Florida's disastrous system. Astonishingly, Congress adopted the absurdly named "Help
    America Vote Act," which requires every state to replicate Florida's system of centralized, computerized voter files before the 2004 election.

    The controls on the 50 secretaries of state are few -- and the temptation to purge voters of the opposition party enormous.

    African-Americans, whose vote concentrates in one party, are an easy and obvious target.

    The act also lays a minefield of other impediments to black voters: an effective rollback of the easy voter registration methods of the Motor Voter Act; new
    identification requirements at polling stations; and perilous incentives for fault-prone and fraud-susceptible touch-screen voting machines.

    No, we are not rehashing the who-really-won fight from the 2000 presidential election. But we have no intention of "getting over it." We are moving on, but on to a
    new nationwide call and petition drive to restore and protect the rights of all Americans and monitor the implementation of frighteningly ill-conceived new state and
    federal voting "reform" laws.

    And so on Sunday in Birmingham we marched again as our fathers and mothers did 40 years ago, this time demanding security against the dangerous "Floridation" of
    our nation's voting methods through computerization of voter rolls.

    Four decades ago, the opposition to the civil right to vote was easy to identify: night riders wearing white sheets and burning crosses. Today, the threat comes from
    partisan politicians wearing pinstripe suits and clutching laptops.

    Jim Crow has moved into cyberspace -- harder to detect, craftier in operation, shifting shape into the electronic guardian of a new electoral segregation.

    Martin Luther King III is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Greg Palast is author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and his
    investigation of computer purges of black voters appeared in Harper's Magazine.

    Copyright 2003, The Baltimore Sun
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    I am admitting my ignorance by asking. Of course I could look it up and will if none of you answer. What political party is Representative Holt a member of?
    Rep. Rush Holt Introduces Legislation to Require All Voting Machines To Produce A Voter-Verified Paper Trail

    Washington, DC - Rep. Rush Holt today responded to the growing chorus of concern from election reform specialists and computer security experts about the integrity of future elections by introducing reform legislation, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003. The measure would require all voting machines to produce an actual paper record by 2004 that voters can view to check the accuracy of their votes and that election officials can use to verify votes in the event of a computer malfunction, hacking, or other irregularity. Experts often refer to this paper record as a "voter-verified paper trail."

    "We cannot afford nor can we permit another major assault on the integrity of the American electoral process," said Rep. Rush Holt. "Imagine it's Election Day 2004. You enter your local polling place and go to cast your vote on a brand new "touch screen" voting machine. The screen says your vote has been counted. As you exit the voting booth, however, you begin to wonder. How do I know if the machine actually recorded my vote? The fact is, you don't."

    Last October, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), groundbreaking election reform legislation that is currently helping states throughout the country replace antiquated and unreliable punch card and butterfly ballot voting systems. HAVA, however, is having an unintended consequence. It is fueling a rush by states and localities to purchase computer-voting systems that suffer from a serious flaw; voters and election officials have no way of knowing whether the computers are counting votes properly. Hundreds of nationally renowned computer scientists, including internationally renowned expert David Dill of Stanford University, consider a voter-verified paper trial to be a critical safeguard for the accuracy, integrity and security of computer-assisted elections.

    "Voting should not be an act of blind faith. It should be an act of record," said Rep Rush Holt. "But current law does nothing to protect the integrity of our elections against computer malfunction, computer hackers, or any other potential irregularities."

    There have already been several examples of computer error in elections. In the 2002 election, brand new computer voting systems used in Florida lost over 100,000 votes due to a software error. Errors and irregularities were also reported in New Jersey, Missouri, Georgia, Texas, and at least 10 other states.

    "A recount requires that there be a reliable record to check," said Holt. "Without an actual paper record that each voter can confidentially inspect, faulty or hacked computer systems will simply spit out the same faulty or hacked result. Every vote in every election matters. We can and should do this in time for the 2004 federal election."

    Key provisions of The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 include:

    1) Requires all voting systems to produce a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits and recounts. For those using the increasingly popular ATM-like "DRE"(Direct Recording Electronic) machines, this requirement means the DRE would print a receipt that each voter would verify as accurate and deposit into a lockbox for later use in a recount. States would have until November 2003 to request additional funds to meet this requirement.

    2) Bans the use of undisclosed software and wireless communications devices in voting systems.

    3) Requires all voting systems to meet these requirements in time for the general election in November 2004. Jurisdictions that feel their new computer systems may not be able to meet this deadline may use an existing paper system as an interim measure (at federal expense) in the November 2004 election.

    4) Requires that electronic voting system be provided for persons with disabilities by January 1, 2006 -- one year earlier than currently required by HAVA. Like the voting machines for non-disabled voters, those used by disabled voters must also provide a mechanism for voter-verification, though not necessarily a paper trail. Jurisdictions unable to meet this requirement by the deadline must give disabled voters the option to use the interim paper system with the assistance of an aide of their choosing.

    5) Requires mandatory surprise recounts in 0.5% of domestic jurisdictions and 0.5% of overseas jurisdictions.