Saturday, August 26, 2006

This is an e-mail discussion

between some friends and associates on the general subject of elections and legal attempts to make sure that your vote is not stolen.

Mr. B gave referance to a Pennsylvania Lawsuit filed in an attempt to have a verifiable vote.

Mr M then wrote this - "This is going to get fixed in some states and not in others, and stay goofy until some future Voting Rights Act Mark II or Mark III forces votes to be counted and certified at the local precinct level. It could take a generation or two, considering that no party or politician, not even startup Green parties or Ralph Nader, has anything to gain by having votes counted accurately.

As a practical fact, the mass of potential ballot casters is an almost anarchic entity, or can't really be controlled, or is susceptible to fluke events, like the Dems' first-ever success in turning out the vote from the large cluster of retirement homes in our precinct by renting buses and running them all day. The precinct officials actually had to coordinate the arrival of these buses to avoid a succession of human logjams in front of 8 machines. This was said by them to be a first-time event but somehow our final tally was basically a repeat of the 2000 tally to within 1% or so, allegedly with about the same number of votes cast, which made no sense. In 2000 turnout was extremely light and there's only a couple of thousand voters in the whole precinct anyway. The turnout in 2004 was probably up by a third or more. New voter registration was huge all across the region and I believe the vast majority of those entitled to vote actually tried to, in 2004. As Alan put in in light of the Scottsville precinct where all his buddies are, everybody desperately rushed out and registered and then tried to vote but it was 4 years too late."

Mr. B reiterated and added - "It's all reprehensible, but it's not going to get fixed unless lawsuits are filed. This case may well define the immediate future of challenges and perhaps the longer future of voting. I think it's a good sign."

Mr M continued - "The lawsuit you mention, which I believe is by no means the only one, is a very good sign. Critical reforms often begin with lawsuits, going back to Dred Scott and beyond. The lawsuits are vital and they will number in the dozens and scores over the next several years. We can count on it. But seriously, several more important facets of this situation:

1) Historically, the most tortuous kinds of vote manipulation and fraud are the norm, not the exception, in American history. It's just not new. Recall Davy Crockett's country store horseplay routine when he was canvassing for votes in his House race (see above). He had a raccoon skin with a string tied to it and he would ceremoniously offer the skin in exchange for the storekeeper's vote and then reel the skin back in ... point taken all over the frontier. Crockett won on the revolving coonskin platform. There will always be a few lone voices (I hope). But machines tend to rule.

2) There need to be lawsuits and I'm sure there will be but for the immediate future, the Supreme Court has picked the side it wants to be on, and it's not the voters. This could not have come to pass without the S.C.

3) What goes around comes around. Private entities cannot be defended from their stockholders. Diebold changed CEOs just last year, I believe. When the Bushes placed the electoral system in private corporate hands, they placed it in hands that actually exist for the purpose of being openly bought and sold.

4) When the Byrd machine fell apart in the early sixties (having existed ever since Fitzhugh Lee's last failed run for governor and the installation of the 1902 constitution without a vote), it collapsed because its own leaders and chief beneficiaries couldn't afford their own failures any more. There was no public organized opposition to it--every crack and cranny a political enemy might have exploited was long since stopped up and the machine simply functioned as a total dictatorship. But in its lack of dynamic tension even its graft was becoming intolerably inefficient. There was less and less to steal or give away. The machine broke up from old age, much like Fidel. Vigorous new "machinelets" sprang up all over the place--at one point a Progressive Labor candidate came within a few votes of the governorship! Mike, remember Henry Howell? Here's a brief blast from the past we all deserve to read:IN MEMORIAM NORFOLK'S HENRY E. HOWELL<---click

5) Finally, to cap for the moment what I hope was more essaylike than screedlike, whole shoals of people are just completely confused, like Matthew Arnold's "ignorant armies that clash by night." I see two separate "grand confusions" here that feed each other--

* Private confusion, whether from being spun out, ignorant, or just mentally sloppy. People just can't sort themselves out in all the hooraw. Just a couple of examples from recent conversations I was in--believe it or not I have a Republican brother-in-law, and I had the very interesting experience of hearing him explain that the Bush vote manipulations in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 only changed the totals by a few thousand votes, so the altered results still represented democracy in its purest form because "what's a few thousand votes one way or the other." Fascinating. In another case, I managed to create some completely blank looks--practically a brain-wipe--by pointing out that in the political debate over reproductive law, the only voices not heard from are the basic scientists and the leading clinicians actually working in the reproductive medicine field. Any deluded fundagelical with less knowledge of biology than a cat can go national with his opinion and it will be taken seriously, and any noteworthy libertarian who wants to evolve some verbal case out of Locke or Hobbes or the Constitution can get a page in the NYT without being able to tell you the difference between DNA and RNA or define mitosis, but the actual professionals in the field have simply been silenced--and no one in the Great Debate even notices they're missing. (That's because this very profitable unconstructive debate would end if they were ever heard from).

* Institutional confusion, or "photoferophobia" (fear of spreading light). You can get yourself a stack of major newspapers and then watch the news on every network, and you will find only one channel and only one paper that has given itself permission to simply call a lie a lie or state an obvious natural fact: the Comedy Channel and The Onion. The House, the Senate, the candidates, the courts and all, are in much the same state as the public organs of speech. The Bushites are so horrific, and have spread so much disaster, loss and waste, that virtually every public institution we have would rather wear a paper bag over its head than risk stating the obvious about the 500 lb gorilla in the room. The implications are so foul that the most tempting mental reaction is to just pretend it ain't happening. And there is a kind of monkey logic to that--maybe when the gorilla has eaten all the bananas it will go away."

Mr. R chimed in with this - "hey folks, i figure i'll throw my $.02 in.
as far as law suits are concerned, they are heard in a court presided over by a judge-most of the time. Those judges get to be judges in various ways, but federal judges are appointed, and subject to congressional scrutiny and approval. Now, if memory serves, i seem to recall that only 3 or 4 (it was 9) of clinton's appointments were approved, the rest were held up, and never seated."

Snippet of Statement of The Honorable Patrick Leahy
United States Senator Vermont May 15, 2003 Senate Judiciary Commitee

"During the years 1995 through 2000 Republicans in the Senate stalled action on judgeships for President Clinton to fill. Those few judgeships we were able to authorize were included as riders on appropriations bills, allowing 9 new district court judgeships in 1999 and 10 new ones at the end of 2000, which were for President Clinton’s successor to fill.

Last year during my chairmanship we included 20, including 15 new judgeships and five extensions of temporary judgeships, in an authorization bill, and thus we already have exceeded the new judgeships allowed President Clinton during his eight full years in office. In effect, we have authorized 30 additional judgeships for President Bush to nominate for, after Republicans allowed only nine to President Clinton, and after we had authorized 85 for the first President Bush and 85 for President Reagan. Does anyone discern a pattern and lack of balance? In the past two decades, Congress has authorized 200 judgeships for Republican Presidents to fill and only nine for a Democratic President. That is an unfortunate trend and one that should give any reasonable and fair person pause." Original Source <---click

Mr R continues - "and who can forget the pResident's belief that the judiciary is too "activist", and the hate delivered to liberal judges across the country. so, yeah, lawsuits may be the answer, or at least part of a solution, but i wouldn't bet the bank on this...unless we purge every last stinking mf-ing neoconservative, high and low, from our government. these looney toons are incredibly evil, and have endangered human civilization too many times in the last half century, but the heights of power they have achieved in the last decade are staggering. everyone of the neo-cons has to go. there is no place where they can be trusted. maybe bush's newly constructed internment camps can be used to good end, after all. thanks, halliburton.

the elite that run this country, and the world, will never change their minds and willingly give up power, or distribute power fairly to the people, and so, we are tilting at windmills, i think. yet, i find the engagement somewhat enthralling. maybe never in my life have things been so stark, and treacherous. certainly, the doomsday clock is closer to midnight now than it's ever been, i'd bet. i might lose because of the cuban missile crisis, but i don't think so. the forces of evil are certainly rampant, and unfortunately, most of them seem to be home grown. i wish it were otherwise.

i don't know if you guys know of this place, pretty comprehensive on news and legal actions regarding e-voting."

Human says - Add what you want to the discussion. As sited by Mr. R the Brad Blog is the premier place for news and information on E-Voting Machines and other issues.

The Davey Crockett pic is courtesy of Mr. M

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