In January 2008 New Hampshire held its first in the nation primary. I used to be so proud of this tradition, the state asserting its place in history, playing its pivotal role in determining the next president of the United States. Several years ago, enamored with and unwaveringly convinced of the honesty of the state's hand counted elections, I had written an op ed about how this tradition of fair and open elections justified NH's first in the nation primary.
Let other states, I wrote, rise to the level of open and honest elections found in NH's hand count elections, and then let them vie for first place in presidential politics.
I still believe this about the hand count elections taking place in NH's towns.
But what I failed to account for in my vociferous defense of the Granite State was that the hand count elections constituted only a very small percentage of NH elections. The rest were run by the private corporate election pirates.
During the years I was busy defending the state's open elections, I worked hand in hand in an unusual partnership with state officials to promote the NH method of hand counting. I wrote two hand count election manuals to share this tried and true method of publicly counting votes with the rest of the nation.
Even other election activists visiting New Hampshire would remark, upon observing our hand count elections, "Maybe democracy really does work here!"
I really wanted to believe that the state officials I worked with were good and honest people. Their doors were always open, after all.
But always something nagged at me underneath the rosy picture they
all tried to paint of themselves. They were always evasive and wouldn't
answer questions forthrightly about why they allowed the computerized
voting machines to be used in the state, even with all the scientific
reports showing how defective and insecure these machines were. They
were always a little too cozy with the corporate e-voting pirates.
They never used their position of leadership to help us restore hand count elections to every city and town in the state.
After the 2008 Primary, other national activists came to New Hampshire to observe the election recounts that had been requested by candidates of both major parties. I called them the Women's Brigades, because they were all women and they came to fight a democracy battle on the NH soil.
The Women's Brigade chased after state employees collecting paper ballots from cities and towns for the recounts. They staked out the state office buildings where the ballots were being stored prior to the recount. They filmed, videotaped, and documented everything they saw. And what they saw was shocking. "They're all dirty," the Brigade Captain told me one evening. "You have to distance yourself from all of them."
I had never heard her so rattled. I knew that whatever she'd uncovered, it was serious.
But I knew these guys, didn't I? I had been hanging out with them for years. But the truth is, all the while I was hanging out with them, they were going about their business running things the way they wanted to run them, pushing me off to their handler, keeping me out of their way.
When I finally reviewed all the evidence from the Brigade, there was only one conclusion I could reach: She was right. The whole election recount was a dirty and suspect operation.
My son is an organizer for the environmental movement. He excels where I have always failed as an "activist". I never did know how to organize people into action.
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