Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Program To Restore Election Legitimacy

The following essay came out today in this week's Arcata Eye. Since not all content from this paper is posted on their site, I have uploaded a scanned copy into the GuvWurld News Archive.

A Program To Restore Election Legitimacy

What is it with elections in America today? Why do they keep creating such controversy? Is it even possible to find someone who has complete confidence in the system, someone who thinks things are exactly as they should be?

Elections, as a measure of the will of the people, should be transparent, observable, and create records that forever sustain unanimous agreement about the outcome. Current conditions do not permit US federal elections to be accepted beyond question. I'm not interested in proving that fraud has been committed or in overturning the results of any recent election. Instead, let us work to create conditions that will make our election process and results unquestionable and beyond reproach. Above all, we need to create a basis for confidence in US federal elections where none currently exists.

Last July, Arcata's City Council passed the Building Confidence Resolution. This is the beginning of the right idea but needs to go further. Just as the foundation of a house must be laid before the walls and roof are built, so too must a basis for confidence be created before voters will be justified in building confidence. I am looking forward, with hope and determination, to a comprehensive set of election reforms that benefits us all. This collection of proposed changes is contained in the No Confidence Resolution, recently submitted for consideration at both the Arcata and Eureka City Councils and available online at http://guvwurld.blogspot.com. These changes are as follows:
1) all private corporations are divested of ownership in election machines, and
2) clean money laws keep all corporate funds out of campaign financing, and
3) any future mechanisms for voting conform to a uniform national standard and produce a verifiable audit trail for every vote, and
4) all votes are cast on the same day, designated as a national holiday, with the exception of absentee ballots which will be granted to applicants meeting a narrow list of federally determined criteria, and
5) all votes are counted publicly in the presence of citizen witnesses and credentialed members of the media, and
6) equal time provisions are observed by the media along with a measurable increase in local, public control of the airwaves, and
7) presidential debates contain a minimum of three candidates, and are run by a non-partisan commission comprised of representatives of publicly owned media outlets, and
8) instant runoff voting (see H.R. 5293) and proportional representation replace the winner- take-all system for federal elections
Collectively, these reforms will ensure honest competition in the “free marketplace of ideas,” allowing us to vote our hopes not our fears. They will eliminate inherent conflicts of interest among voting machine manufacturers and the media. The voice of the people will be heard more clearly, and carry the preponderance of weight over corporations and other special interests. The means by which votes are recorded and tabulated will be standardized, secured, and held to account. And voter turnout will increase dramatically. In short, we can create a basis for confidence in US federal elections, restoring our faith, as voters, in the electoral process.

Of course, no City Council alone has the means to implement these changes to our federal election process. However, as a strategy for developing an overall national platform, organizing locally will harmonize the voices in our community, and then amplify the message through our recognized community spokespeople. Arcata is one of over 300 communities to pass an anti-Patriot Act resolution. There is sound precedent for anticipating a similar trend.

I understand that some people prefer our local Councils concern themselves only with local matters. Yet we are all affected by the results of presidential elections thus making them of local concern. If our views can't get a fair hearing by our most local officials, what possible reason is there to think those in positions of higher power will take us seriously? For that matter, what chance would a single Congressmember have of bringing the entire House around to undo the corrupt and undemocratic conditions that they themselves have helped to create?

If America ceased to be a democracy, would we be able to tell? Would we look only at our electoral system, or would we consider infringements upon basic rights, such as "free speech zones"? Is it fair game to ask who decides how our taxes are spent, and consider it undemocratic if the answer is not We The People? And how about all those seats in Congress that both parties consider "safe"? This is indicative of simulated competition. Surely this term also applies to bogus elections.

Some people may still argue that America is a democracy. But is there really any total number of examples to cite that would offset the fundamental ways in which it just isn’t so anymore? I don’t think this debate hinges on who makes more individual points. You can’t be a little bit pregnant and you can’t have democracy without free and fair elections, a right to petition leaders for redress of grievances, and a say in how the commons (not just taxes, but natural resources too) are treated in our name.

On the whole, most people in our community would likely agree that democracy is favorable and that we should want it and have it and protect it and nurture it. How true will we be to these ideals? Let us start by acknowledging that conditions do not currently exist for US federal elections to be beyond question. Let us recognize that this is the equivalent of saying there is no basis for confidence in the legitimacy of US federal elections. This notion is now married to forward-looking, solution-oriented reforms designed to offer universal advantages to all voters. Please let members of your local City Council know that you agree, and that they should take up and pass the No Confidence Resolution.



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