Real Election Reform Supports Real Elections
The only election reform voting rights advocates should lobby for is that which will protect real elections by ensuring what Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting calls "the essential public processes":
- Who can vote (the public "voters list")
- Who did vote (the public polling place roster)
- Whether the votes cast were the same ones that were counted (public chain of custody)
- Whether the counting was accurate (public counting)
To this end, election reform efforts must have a laser-sharp focus. The legislation itself must be clearly written and very simple, just like the U.S. Constitution!
The Right Kind of Election Reform
By Nancy Tobi
What Do We Need from Election Reform?
In May 2006 when I was invited to speak at the "Cleaning up our Statehouses" Conference sponsored by the Progressive State Network, I spoke about the role that community and local involvement play in building our political structures. I began by telling about Democracy for New Hampshire, a statewide grassroots organization that I helped to found in the early days of 2004.
The sentiments I held then still hold true for me now and I include some of the words I spoke at that conference in this piece.
Organizations like Election Defense Alliance and Democracy for New Hampshire are true grassroots organizations. We are 100% volunteer-powered sustained by small donor funding. As a people-powered organization, we are intensely and directly connected to community needs and values.
In New Hampshire, we know a lot about the importance of community and community-based political engagement. We have the largest citizen legislature in the nation, our elected representatives are eminently accessible, in many of our towns we debate community and political decisions in open town meetings, and in 45% of our polling places we count our ballots by hand with community members and volunteers pitching in to keep the count honest.
Looking at electoral reform, we face three challenges directly related to this question of community-based politics:
1. How do we prevent a lot of hard work at the state and local levels from being swept away by federal mandates?
2. How do we bring more on-the-ground stakeholders into the process to reach solutions that really work?
3. What is the intersection between clean and honest elections and citizen participation in the process?
America finds itself today in an electoral crisis. Faith and trust in our voting systems have eroded to the point where the question of campaign funding almost becomes irrelevant. Indisputable testing and evidence have proven that the privatized computer-based systems controlling more than 90-95% of the nation's electoral outcomes are easily hack-able. Given this situation, it may not even matter how much money one does or doesn't spend on a campaign, if the outcome can be systematically altered.
This state of affairs, combined with the role played by money in our political system, is possibly the greatest threat ever posed to our democratic processes and therefore to the existence of the AmericanRepublic itself.
How did we reach this point, and what does it have to do with this notion of community?
Over the past thirty five years a series of national election reform legislation has progressively shifted power from community, we-the-people-based politics, to more centralized and questionable influences.