Saturday, November 10, 2012

Is The US of A Fated To Remain 'Comedy Central' in Terms of Holding Elections?

Scenes like this  in Florida, have revealed the US of A to be Comedy Central in terms of conducting national elections

To the point: Even if you were elated at Obama's resounding victory you have to be embarrassed at what fellow citizens endured to get their votes counted in assorted states across the country. Let's cut to the chase right now and dismiss immediately any nonsense that such shameless inefficiency of operation yielding the absurd long voting lines  "had to be expected" or was in any way "normal". It was not. Rather it was a monumental travesty! What gives?

Even as the comedians ramped up their jokes again about Florida, people are wondering. The election long since over  (by FOUR DAYS) pathetic Florida - "the Sunshine state" - is still left counting ballots thanks to the crass actions of Governor Rick Scott - in severely limiting early voting days, and the actions of a Repuke legislature in fabricating and adding at least a dozen amendments to some districts, increasing voting times on their own,

While Rick Scott's state blew its chance to help determine the presidency, it did win a fabulous booby prize: a starring role in late-night laughs. Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's popular 'Daily Show', looked on the bright side Wednesday night, noting that unlike during the infamous 2000 Bush-Gore race, the entire nation wasn’t waiting on Florida to figure out who won.

“Here’s the good news: The election was decided without them,’’ Stewart said, drawing a rousing cheer from his studio audience. “For once, Florida’s clusterfuckery is irrelevant

Obama's victory, welcome as it was, was thereby marred by the extreme suffering so many millions had to undergo to cast their votes. Even Obama, acknowledging this, noted that "We have to FIX that!" Yes, we DO - because the conduct of national elections at the state level is now more than a sorry joke - it's an ongoing threat to our democracy. There is not one iota of evidence, not one, that in any other major election year voters will stand and wait as long as they did in this election. Give credit to Barack Obama for inspiring so many to sacrifice so much. (Including one Hispanic woman in Florida who attempted THREE poll visits, for a total of 12 hours of waiting in Miami-Dade, before finally joining a line at 5 p.m. Tuesday and getting to vote by midnight.)  This is a damned disgrace.

But it isn't just Florida! Rachel Maddow in her Nov. 7 show, documented these other gaffes:

- In Arizona,  Gabriel Palanco made 4 trips to the polls, since Poll workers could not find his registration and they wouldn’t accept his ID

- In Chicago, hundreds of frustrated voters were shuffled from polling place to polling place – then asked for identification, and when they couldn’t exactly comply to specifications were yelled at by aggravated election assholes….errrr judges…and left holding the wrong ballots

- In Orangeburg County,  South Carolina, voters at one poll were asked their party affililation even though voters in that state don’t register by party.

- In Pennsylvania, one guy voted for Barack Obama but the machine kept yielding Mitt Romney (See e.g.  )

- In Racine, WI they ran out of ballots at several locations.

- Back in Florida, early voting went late into the night Tuesday. In Miami-Dade for example, voters had to wait until clerks printed out several pages of new ballots for each voter – and many ended up still waiting in line at 1:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, waits of 7 hours or more were common.  and to employ Rachel's parlance, "lines of Odyssean length were seen in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Maryland and North Carolina"  – to name a few.  According to many observers this was the ‘stay in line’ election with many political operatives tweeting those in line : “As long as you were in line when the polls closed you can still vote” with messages sent to #stayin line

This pathetic array of events has made the US of A the joke of the world. A supposed technocratic nation that can’t even execute efficient voting.  By all accounts, as Maddow and also Chris Hayes have noted, casting a ballot ought not take more than maybe ten minutes! And no one ought to be waiting in line more than fifteen, if that!

Voting, moreoever,  is a federal issue but elections are state affairs. To the extent these foibles are the result of state decisions (i.e. to cut short early voting dates as Rick Scott did in FL)they translate into state mistakes, too lengthy lines, etc. Hence, the upper level state instigators - i.e. governors, Secretaries of State, must be held accountable for these fuck ups.

But these things can be fixed! According to Richard Hasen ('The Voting Wars', Electionlaw blog), the problems of the long lines were largely due to Republican legislators cutting back on the days and hours of early voting. NO such problems existed in 2008 when ample early voting dates were available, hence it is passing silly to blame voters in Ohio, Florida, Virginia or anywhere else – for example- for “not getting to the polls early enough”. Case in point: A voter in Michigan, cited on Maddow’s Wednesday night show, arrived at her polling station at FIVE A.M. to find 200 already ahead of her. Clearly, the problems inhere in the flawed state electoral SYSTEMS not in the voters!

Hasen, on Maddow’s program the same night, notes that the Constitution gives congress the power to set the rules for congressional elections (such a the ‘Motor Voter’ law in 1993) and when they do so, the states basically all come along and change their rules with it. It's basically 'Follow the Leader' writ large.

As he notes: “The problem is not one of constitutional power but of political will.”

But what many of us can’t understand, is why congress fails to exert its will here, and is instead content to allow partisan political hacks in the states to turn our elections into fodder for comedic jokes, and comparing states like Florida to "flaccid male organs". This need not be so! Hasen has several recommendations, all of which could originate with some kind of federal legislation, including:

- Simple level: Congress could stipulate money for the states as incentives to implement early voting.

- Better: Just use a federal ballot for national elections which lists the choices for president along with the choices for Senator(s), congress.

- Congress can also mandate which form of tabulation and machines are to be used. It can also mandate regulation of standards for these machines. There is no excuse for not doing so, and it is yet another travesty that states such as New Jersey and Nevada can have commissions which set regs for slot machines but NOT voting machines!  If this were done we wouldn't have absurd situations such as a machine yielding the opposite choice to a voter's will, as shown in the link above.

- Finally, congress can set up a non-partisan agency to administer our elections – such as done in Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Thus, we let the federal government take over all voter registrations, and ensure the standards are met. For myself, I totally concur with Hasen's last endorsement of a non-partisan agency as manifest in other advanced nations, as opposed to leaving critical elections in the hands of party-partisan hacks like Rick Scott, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Jan Brewer or any other miscreants.

The states, then, can have at it with their local ballot choices, including their ‘books’ full of state amendments- which also contributed to long lines, in states like Florida. (Interestingly, many FLA voters took a swipe at the repukes for adding all those amendments, by rejecting most of them). Meanwhile, a single page national ballot - with just the presidential candidates and Senate-House picks can be tabulated in seconds by a regulated machine.

Interestingly, the 'Help America Vote Act' of 2002 was to have allocated nearly $4b to expediting streamlined standards in the states, but as Deforest Soaries pointed out on Chris Hayes' UP this morning, its advancement was torpedoed by the Reeps. Instead of getting the money and go ahead to implement it in 120 days, it turned out to be TWO years! This was then, January, 2004. By the time they got the money, only $400,000, they only had 6 months for the implementation and it wasn't enough to effect anything. The rest as they say is history, including the 2004 thieving of Ohio by Rove and Co.

Make no mistake that Obama's victory in Ohio this time doesn't mean Rove and Co. were not at work. After all, Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!  As Harvey Wasserman has noted (see also

"The simple truth of Barack Obama's victory is that if it had just come down to Ohio, Mitt Romney might have won. The gears of the election theft machine were well-oiled and running at top speed….until an "October Surprise" named Hurricane Sandy intervened.

Those now rejoicing over the Obama triumph should know that there is absolutely no excuse for leaving this sinister apparatus of electronic election theft in place. Election reform should be at the top of the progressive movement's list, led by the non-negotiable demands for universal hand-counted paper ballots and universal automatic voter registration. As Obama said in his victory speech in reference to the long lines in Florida: "We need to do something about that."

This year, as in 2004, the Rovian blueprint was simple if not clean: keep the election close enough that Ohio and Florida would be the deciders…and then do the deciding."

So what now? We need to work ourselves out of complacency and push congress to enact John Lewis "Voter Empowerment Act", which places the burden for correct registration where it should be, on the federal government. It also clears the path for other positive voting rights' changes, including giving felons back the right to vote after they've done their time. In terms of expediting correct voter information, Lewis' proposed system would use a high speed computing network similar to that implemented under the Patriot Act (i.e. connecting all police forces in a web across the country). Effectively ensuring rapid and accurate transfer of voting info to each state and between states (say if a voter's moved). No need for photo IDs, and no fuck ups regarding processing his or her information.

There is simply no excuse at all to allow our country to contine to be 'Bozo Central' when it comes to voting and citizens exercising their franchise. If our politicos aren't willing to make the needed changes to materially push for streamlined elections like other nations have, then we the People need to take on the mantle and push ourselves. And push hard!

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