Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thank You Sir We'd Like Another 

Well over a week ago the distinguished colleague formerly known as G.D. Frogsdong (a name that some found offensive; being an obliging fellow, he has since changed it to DBK Frogsdong) extracted from Yr. Mst. Bnvlnt. (if smwht. tardy) Dspt. a promise to throw our imperial heft behind a "blogswarm" in support of H.R. 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey. Consider that promise belatedly fulfilled:
But H.R. 550, described as the "gold standard" of verified voting legislation, is held up in the House Administration Committee and, to be quite honest, I think they are trying to kill it in committee rather than give it a fair hearing on the floor of the House. Numerous organizations have shown their support for this legislation, from the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform to VerifiedVoting.org, everyone is in agreement that H.R. 550 is one of the most important answers to the problem of unreliable election results. Please join the thousands of your fellow Americans who have already shown their support by signing Congressman Rush Holt's letter to Congress in support of H.R. 550.
You may add your name to Rep. Holt's petition by clicking here, where you will also find a precis of the proposed legislation:
The 2000 election was highly contested, but there was physical evidence - punch cards - through which the results could be independently confirmed. In 2004, more than 43.5 million voters (25%) voted on electronic voting systems that cannot be independently audited. While the 2004 election was also highly contested, there were even fewer audit trails to review than in 2000 (only 12.5% of registered voters voted on unauditable electronic voting systems in 2000). Thus, an aura of uncertainty remains about the result. We cannot allow another federal election to take place, and perhaps again be subject to dispute, without the availability of a voter-verified paper record for every vote cast so that the results can be confirmed and accepted with finality. Both the losing and winning candidates - and their supporters - deserve such confirmation. Our future as a democratic republic demands it.

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550) will:
  • Mandate a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election, nationwide; because the voter verified paper record is the only one verified by the voters themselves, rather than by the machines, it will serve as the vote of record in any case of inconsistency with electronic records;
    Protect the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act for voters with disabilities;

  • Require random, unannounced, hand-count audits of actual election results in every state, and in each county, for every Federal election;

  • Prohibit the use of undisclosed software and wireless and concealed communications devices and internet connections in voting machines;

  • Provide Federal funding to pay for implementation of voter-verified paper balloting; and

  • Require full implementation by 2006.
There are many politically contentious issues in election reform, but making sure votes are counted accurately is not one of them. Because of its narrow scope, its realistic goals, and its strong bi-partisan support, with 159 co-sponsors both Democrat and Republican, H.R. 550 is our best hope to restore integrity and voter confidence to our electoral process - the very foundation of a representative democracy.

We urge you to pass H.R. 550 as written immediately.
We do not doubt that you are quite capable of imagining many compelling and none-too-flattering reasons why certain Republican legislators might decline to endorse Rep. Holt's bill. But what about our party -- the party of confusion, timidity, and irrelevance? Why aren't we unanimously demanding an immediate return to physical ballots, counted openly? After the electoral horrors of 2000 and 2004, how could any sane Democrat continue to deny the obvious and undeniable fact that electronic voting systems are ripe with the potential for massive fraud?

In a HuffPo interview (commended to us by our venerated colleague Avedon Carol), Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon and, most recently, Fooled Again, addresses that very question:
BOB CESCA: Last month, John Kerry denied your report that he felt the 2004 election was stolen. First, what's your reaction to his denial? It seems to me as if Kerry has an opportunity to reform the voting system as a public servant fresh from the trenches and very battle-scarred, but he won't stand up for fear of being accused of something as trivial and historically irrelevant as "sour grapes". How many more questionable elections will it take before candidates and leaders like Kerry set aside their concerns over being accused of "sour grapes" and actually put democracy and the good of the nation first?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

I'm not kidding. The answer isn't clear, since what we're dealing with is an irrational refusal to confront, or even to perceive, a clear and present danger to American democracy. We're dealing, finally, with denial. Kerry's move -- "I did not discuss the last election with that man" -- may seem to have been merely prudent, cautious, self-protective, but it was actually insane. Kerry clearly thinks that he will run for president again. Now, let's pretend, just for the sake of argument, that any Democrats outside of his own family would support him after his abrupt concession on Nov. 3, 2004. Let's pretend that he could once again be nominated, and then run, again, in 2008. Let's assume as well that he would win (again). Why does he assume that the Republicans would not subvert that victory too? Does he think the system will perform correctly if it hasn't been reformed? Or does he plan to call for its reform? If so, when? If he wouldn't talk about it back when he was first ripped off, and if he still won't talk about it now, how could he then begin to talk about it as a candidate? The man is obviously out to lunch . . . .

Unless the Democrats get into it, they'll simply vanish as a party, just as Paul Weyrich and Grover Norquist and Karl Rove intend. The reason why the Democrats avoid the issue, even though the party's very existence is at stake, appears to be a bone-deep inability to face the very frightening implications of what really happened in 2004. The Democrats don't want to know that the United States is clearly not a democratic country, or that the Bush Republicans are dangerous extremists, intent on building a one-party theocratic state-so that the opposition now must go beyond the usual horse-race strategizing, and get re-acquainted with this nation's revolutionary heritage. Which means, I reckon, that the opposition has to move beyond the Democratic Party . . . .

By now we've generally conceded -- that is, the mainstream media concedes -- that Bush/Cheney lied us into a disastrous war, or else deceived themselves and all the rest of us to get us there. And we concede that Bush & Co. conspired to out a CIA agent who was working to prevent another terrorist attack on US soil. And we concede that this regime responded to Katrina, then to Rita, with (at best) depraved indifference, even though they knew exactly what was coming. And we concede that, prior to 9/11, they had lots of solid evidence of an impending terrorist attack right here at home, and yet did nothing to prevent it. (And, moreover, we concede that they've done nothing to improve security on our railways, on our highways, on our borders, in our ports or even in the air.)

And rational observers also will agree that Bush & Co. swept into Haiti and threw out that nation's first democratically elected government; that Bush & Co.'s Iraq is no democracy, since Jay Bremer drafted all its laws, its government was not elected, and Iraqis have no writ of habeas corpus and no freedom of the press; that Bush bends over for the oligarchy running China (he says he likes the way they treat their journalists); and that his regime whole-heartedly supports the tyrannies all over Central Asia and the Arab world (Iran and Syria excepted). Bush and his men have praised the leaders of "New Europe" for defying their electorates, and have assailed the leaders of "Old Europe" for trying to do what their electorates prefer.

Meanwhile, here at home, the Bush regime has thrown out habeas corpus, junked the Bill of Rights (we now have special "First Amendment zones" for dissidents), used public revenues to subsidize right-wing religious proselytizers (while giving nothing to religious groups that don't back the regime), handed the entire economy to its own corporate cronies, and veiled the workings of the federal government behind an iron curtain of illegal secrecy. We grant they've done all this-and yet it seems outrageous to suggest that they committed rampant fraud in the election? After they used Bush v. Gore, and other means, to steal the race four years before?

That's a loony argument.
UPDATE (via our august colleague Susie Madrak): Well, you can kiss Ohio goodbye:
A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal U.S. Senate seat in 2006, are about to end . . . .

HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.

The GOP is ramming similar bills through state legislatures around the U.S., starting with Georgia and Indiana.

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