Monday, May 21, 2007

Less Than Two Weeks To Restore Your Inalienable Right To Kick The Bums Out!

From the department of Better Late than Never, your cold scribe presents extended excerpts from Paul Lehto's latest, an essay which amounts to an Election Integrity Manifesto. From BBV:
A bipartisan Congress will, in the next few days, attempt to violate your #1 Inalienable Right. [...] Although each person I've talked to understands they're being cheated by this, they just tend to think that other Americans won't listen, or think Americans too busy to preserve their own most basic rights.

Are Americans, in fact, too lazy or stupid to defend their own freedoms anymore?
That's one of the big questions, as it has been forever. But it's been the biggest elephant in the room for the past seven years.

Enough is enough! This is what it looks like when an election law attorney gets serious:
I don't particularly need this fight: I've been in the hospital several times in the last year for as long as a week, and though medical bills and devotion to this cause have emptied the savings, and although fatigue follows me daily, and with two young children to worry about, I am nevertheless convinced of the need to give this my all.

After having sought the counsel of some fellow citizens and lovers of democracy, and short of funds and energy for renewing my license anyway, I've let my attorney license expire as a form of resignation as a lawyer, I will not have clients any more – other than American Democracy. I feel that what I've learned about elections I can not ration and sell at $200 an hour, when as many as possible need to know some things, and soon.

In reaching this decision, I realized that the principles of our representative democracy are actually more important than life itself.

Otherwise, if this were not the case, how would you convince a man or woman to sacrifice their life for this principle of democratic self-government? By what other persuasion would we send our young to the front lines of war other than with some version of Patrick Henry's famous patriotic challenge:

"Give me Liberty, or Give Me Death?"

Americans believe that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
That may indeed be true. But most of us have not been very vigilant!
We the People have been eliminated from a meaningful role in elections, because nobody counts and nobody can watch the counting of the vote on the new electronic machines. After well over a century of successfully hand counting paper ballots under the supervision of the public and the parties, and although the number of workers it takes per thousand hand counted ballots has essentially not changed, we've grown fond of the wonders of computer and grown tired of Election Night labors for democracy. Various types of computers have come in to take up the slack, both optical scanners using paper ballots originally, and touch screen computers, counting well over 80% of our ballots in complete invisibility and secrecy.
There's a lot more on this tack but it boils down to this:
We the People are no longer able to keep our eyes on, or supervise, our own elections. We've been eliminated from elections by "modernization." The "modern" computers are amoral slaves that do whatever they are told to do without regard to law or democratic ethics. Their electronic hard drives operate invisibly. They might offer some convenience, but they also make us stand in line to wait for machines, and richer counties have shorter lines than poorer counties. As might be expected given the nature of computers, numerous studies establish that one person with access to one results disk for about one minute can place a virus that can alter an entire county's election results, or alter an entire state's election results. Though elections have always been under pressure because of their stakes, this increases enormously the amount of cheating one person can do, how quickly they can do it, and how easily they can erase the evidence of what they did.
So that means ...
With computerized voting, your inalienable right to kick the bums out, or your inalienable right to alter or abolish your government through elections, doesn't exist. It is not secured for you by your government. They are not guaranteeing this right for you. In fact any corrupt election insider could, for money, partisanship, pressure, threat or in the belief of doing a great justice to the whole Nation, alter the election results undetectably, erasing the steps along the way. As long as the total number of votes match up roughly, and one doesn't cheat more than say 20 percentage points, a whole industry of political pundits will chalk up the surprise victory to the last minute attack ad, or great get out the vote campaign, or a problem with the "loser's" platform, the weather, or any of dozens of other colorable excuses.

In short, with computerized voting by optical scanner or touch screen, your vote is simply whatever the invisible computer instructions say it is, computers can be programmed many months in advance, and instructing the computer to wait til election night poll closing before changing votes will defeat every test that ever happens, which are all with small amounts of votes anyway. With a computer, it is really irrelevant what it does in a testing period the day before or the day after, it matters only what the computers in the real election (and we all know which ones they are) are actually instructed to do, on Election Day and election conditions.

This means that you do still have the right to kick out an honest politician, you just don't have the right to kick out a crooked politician. But of course, that's precisely when the inalienable right to kick the bums out is most needed: with a no good cheating bum.
How timely!
The only kind of voting system that is compatible with your inalienable rights and mine is one the public can watch like a hawk, and one that the public controls, and that it can observe. Given it is the duty of government to secure and guarantee our rights, specifically including the right to kick them out, elections have no choice but to be publicly controlled.

Those are the principles. Now for the politics that get a little debatable with some people. Essentially in the only system that provides for public control and observable elections is known as precinct counted hand counted paper ballots. Simply put, this system is running unopposed in the democracy race. We do not have a choice of much completely different systems. The ability to peacefully preserve freedom and democracy through elections is far too valuable for any objection to it to have weight.

But the Congress won't listen. Neither party listens to the needs of democracy, so they must hear from YOU the citizens. On May 6, 2007 the House Administration Committee reported out a modified bill called HR 811, also known as the Holt bill. In that bill's markup in committee, it got better and it got worse in various particulars, if you follow the debate. One way in which it got much worse is that instead of source code for the computer that would be given away for any citizen's inspection, they committee put in language that made the source code a government-recognized trade secret, available only to "qualified" experts, and then only if a strict nondisclosure agreement is signed that incorporates trade secrecy laws of the states, which almost always contain harsh punitive damages and attorneys fees clauses for violating the secrecy.

This language is particularly ominous. I know of no time before that an American legislative body has ever tried to pass law to reinforce secret vote counting.
Wow! And it gets even worse!
On the same infamous day of May 6, 2007, the House Administration committee did more than just insert language that would give a specific statutory "anchor" or claimed basis in law for secret vote counting. On that day they also dismissed, without allowing discovery via the Congress or hearing any evidence in the Congress, 4 Congressional election contests.

Three were in Florida and one in Louisiana. A remaining fifth contest in Florida's 13thCongressional District was not dismissed but already has a state court ruling holding that "trade secrecy" overcame the need to investigate the truth in that Congressional election. In another, Florida's 24th, candidate Clint Curtis collected many hundreds of affidavits showing his official results were underreported by 12% to 24%. The House Administration Committee ignored and refused to hear this evidence, dismissing this and 3 other contests without any discovery of facts or any evidentiary consideration.
There's more, and Lehto touches on some of it, but he's aiming at more than a mere recap of the details:
Publicly controlled elections must be restored immediately, based on considerations of the values of democracy. If we only consider non-democratic values like convenience, we'll end up with a non-democratic system. Harry Truman laid it out straight: If you want just efficiency, you'll get a dictatorship. The most likely route to a loss of freedom comes when realizing that a successful election criminal gets to be an election official or set election policy. What if a bank robber got to be bank president and set bank vault policy? Thus, when protective of liberty and looking for suspect election criminals, look in office.

Our elimination from our proper role controlling elections? This is a crime against democracy. We need to remember who we are as Americans, and act soon to tell the House and the Senate in DC and in our state houses, that we will not stand for secret vote counting, that they most definitely will not pass laws purporting to authorize or legalize that even indirectly, that it is a shame of immense proportions for them to vote for secret counting of votes in their own re-election races, by simply amending the Help America Vote Act with HR 811 without abolishing secret vote counting. That this huge conflict of interest, voting on their own re-elections, ought to sensitize Congress to a great need to act against its own perceived interests, and that politicians who love representative democracy and their own constituents surely ought to be competing with each other to see who can restore more power to the people in elections than the other guy.

Because if they don't, if they keep the secret counting easily manipulated by insiders and their cavalier attitudes toward election contests, our #1 inalienable right to kick crooked bums out will remain violated and denied by our own government.

So if you feel as I feel, if you wish as I wish, that America will never become a banana republic with an out of control government, then talk to your fellow rulers, your fellow citizens, spread the word far and wide, and make the US House, the US Senate, and your state legislatures hear Freedom's bell, so they know what it sounds like. We are not the Slaves, we are in charge. We are watching. We demand control of our elections. We will not give up. Democracy and Freedom both depend on that.