A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
HAVA (Help America Vote Act) has been the single, solitary most destructive event in terms of Election Integrity that I can think of. It was a disaster of a bill and has made our system far worse than it was in 2000.
-- Brad Friedman, Election integrity citizen/journalist and blogger at BradBlog.com
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Since BuzzFlash started online in May of 2000, we have seen many tenacious, committed individuals who have been pursuing the goal of ensuring voting integrity in the United States, particularly after the multi-faceted attack on voter's rights -- and the private ownership, ability to manipulate results, and just plain unreliability of electronic voting machines -- that became apparent in the theft of the presidency from Al Gore.
Unfortunately, the voting issue is rather complicated and made even more confusing by the intentional strategic obfuscation of the Republican Party.
In essence, there are two basic categories of the GOP attack on voting rights: the disenfranchisement of non-Republicans and the manipulation of the actual vote (this is where electronic voting machines come in). Within these two broad categories, there are many techniques that have been employed for achieving these goals.
One of the key chroniclers of efforts to undermine our voting system is Brad of Brad Blog. Brad has been unrelenting in documenting the details of the dark side of our voting system. Unfortunately, many Democratic leaders have not taken the issue seriously enough, perhaps because they don't understand the depth of the problem, perhaps because they can't believe that the Republicans are as nefarious as they are.
BuzzFlash thought that on election day, it would be appropriate to once again focus on the ongoing need to reform our voting system, ensure every eligible voter gets a ballot, and end the privatization of our vote counting systems.
And so here is our interview with Brad Friedman.
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BuzzFlash: You are perhaps the top blog specialist doing first-hand reporting almost solely on what we call the GOP war to keep all eligible voters from voting, which is to say the Republican effort to keep Democratic votes from being cast or counted. Are we correct in saying that this is primarily a Republican strategy?
I've seen absolutely no evidence that Democrats are doing the same. I have seen extraordinary incompetence and utter denial from Dems, including the Barack Obama campaign's "election protection" effort when it comes to concerns about voting machines, and even about voter suppression and voter roll purging. But I've seen no evidence that Dems are interested in purposely keeping anybody's vote from being cast or counted.
Brad Friedman: Well, let's start with your language, actually. The concern is election integrity, not "voting integrity," in that it implies the voters are doing something wrong. They're not. They're doing fine. Let's leave them alone.
The elections on the other hand, and their integrity, are another matter entirely.
Voter suppression and concerns about wholly unverifiable, wholly un-transparent, outsourced and privatized control of our public elections are two sides of the same coin. You can't worry about one without worrying about the other. That there remains an extraordinarily self-defeating rift between some of the camps concerned about front-end voter suppression, and back-end concerns about electronic results has always been troubling to me. That gap must be bridged if we want to see real election reform.
If every legal voter who wanted to vote was able to vote, it wouldn't much matter if the results are not overseeable by the citizens so that we can have confidence they are correct. On the other hand, if we finally restore a transparent voting process, but voters are still disallowed from casting their vote, we've gotten nowhere either.
I'm frequently asked about "the most important concern" for Election Reform. I'll say "all of the above!" Driving a wedge between the two concerns is incredibly self-defeating, unhelpful and just plain stupid.
Brad Friedman: If you can't oversee it, you can't trust it. If the citizens can't look at the voter's intent for themselves, they shouldn't ever trust it. The insane move to fully un-transparent and completely unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting machines -- even those with fully unverifiable "paper trails -- has caused a tsunami of damage to our democracy.
The reliance on private companies to completely control and oversee our elections has become nothing short of a national security crisis. And that concern is true across the use of DREs, optically-scanned paper ballots (counted by no human beings, only greatly flawed, hackable, and unreliable secret software), and even in the voting roll and absentee ballot processes which have been similarly outsourced to private companies, held accountable by no one.
Brad Friedman: That they are destroying the most basic American value we hold: The right to have your vote counted, counted accurately, and in such a way that society can have confidence in the determination of elections -- the right that protects all others.
Brad Friedman: Provisional ballots are infrequently counted. A huge percentage of them are thrown out entirely, and voters are given little or no recourse.
Also, they are not counted on Election Night when preliminary results are released to the media, and reported as "fact." You need look no further back than Bush v. Gore in 2000 when the Republicans actually argued their client would be harmed if ballots were actually counted since the media had already announced Bush the "winner" of the election.
In general, whoever is announced the "winner" on election night, gets to be the winner, whether they've actually won or not. That's why we've got to get it right on Election Night. Period.
Brad Friedman: HAVA has been the single, solitary most destructive event in terms of Election Integrity that I can think of. It was a disaster of a bill and has made our system far worse than it was in 2000. While the lead author, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), eventually went to jail, Democrats such as Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (CT) also need to be held accountable for their co-sponsorship of the bill, and their continual denial to this day about the harm that it's caused and the hoax that it was.
Brad Friedman: Fight like hell. Make noise. Bring your video camera to document what's going on and send that video to VideoTheVote.org. Fight for your rights, courageously, boldly (and peacefully). But fight for them.
Document it well, and report what happened via official complaints to your county clerk, or Secretary of State, and call voter hotlines such as 866-MYVOTE1 and 866-OUR-VOTE. Then tell your local newspapers about it. And tell the bloggers.
Brad Friedman: The GOP's ACORN "voter fraud" hoax is exactly that -- a hoax from top to bottom. There is no ACORN "voter fraud". I have asked and asked for any evidence of same, at the UK's Guardian, at The BRAD BLOG, and elsewhere. So far, I've been given none, because none exists.
This is about fraud against ACORN (voter registration fraud, not voter fraud) -- not fraud by them.
But most importantly, it's about creating the fear of "voter fraud," since the Supreme Court has given the signal that it doesn't matter whether voter fraud exists or not (it doesn't, not to any substantive measure in a way that could affect an election). The SCOTUS has said, wrongly in my opinion, that merely the fear of "voter fraud" is enough to implement draconian Photo ID restrictions at the polling place, and other disenfranchising voter roll purges.
The GOP heard that message loud and clear, and has been doing all they can to create the chimera of "voter fraud" even where it doesn't exist, so that they can go to court and argue that, though they can't actually demonstrate any actual voter fraud, the public "fears it," and thus, new, disenfranchising anti-voter, anti-democracy laws are needed.
It's an insidious scam, well-exploited by the bad guys. But I've learned to expect no less from a party that has become wholly bankrupt of morals and ethics, hates democracy, and despises the life-blood of our most basic American values.
Brad Friedman: Not much. And I'm sorry to say it, but thank the Democrats in denial for that, and hold them accountable for it in the bargain. They've not stood up for us, even as a few private groups and citizens have (most notably, VoterAction.org) Groups such as People for the American Way, Common Cause, The National Lawyers Committee and others who are normally on the right side of most issues -- including several election reform organizations, such as Verified Voting and The Brennan Center who have been very good on other aspects of election reform -- have enabled the Democratic Party by allowing them to take the wrong steps, or no steps at all towards what needs to be done to truly reform this system.
Hate to name names, but we have to. If we wish to hold anybody accountable, we've got to start by naming "our own" and holding their feet to the fire first or nothing will ever change.
Brad Friedman: If I were King of Democracy? (I realize that's a bit of an oxymoron.) I would decree that every vote shall be cast on a hand-marked paper ballot (allowable exceptions for disabled voters, as needed); that it shall be placed in a clear box on a table in full public view until the polls are closed, that the box shall be opened and every ballot shall be counted in full public view by all parties and all members of the community who wish to participate right then and there at the end of Election Day; that results from those precinct-counted ballots shall be posted publicly before those ballots are moved anywhere.
That's an incredibly simple system, very inexpensive, fully transparent, easily re-counted again and again as needed, and very difficult to game in such a way that an election can be maliciously affected without the bad guys conspirators getting caught in the process.
Here endeth my decree.
Now get out there and vote, fight to ensure that every eligible voter in your community gets to vote, that their vote gets counted and counted accurately, and don't stop fighting this time until that happens.
After the dust has cleared, start holding everyone accountable to ensure this nation never faces these horrors again. We can either begin on Wednesday if things don't melt down on Tuesday (as I suspect they will), or on Jan 21, 2009 if we're still fighting for results we can believe in by then. Either way, it's time to get started. Please don't wait until September or October of 2010.
BuzzFlash Interview conducted by Mark Karlin.
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