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Election Integrity a Priority in the DNC

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ELECTION INTEGRITY A PRIORITY IN THE DNC

By Michael Shelby, PDA Election Integrity Work Group Co-Coordinator, reporting
from the DNC summer meeting in Chicago, IL

"This [election integrity] is a priority for us," stated DNC Vice-Chair Susan
Turnbull at the opening of the Voting Rights Institute Round Table Discussion:
Preparing for Election Protections Plans 2006 facilitated by DNC Voting Rights
Institute Director, Greg Moore. Mr. Moore brought together grassroots and PDA
activists, lawyers, state chairs, and DNC decision makers for a discussion on
strategies for protecting the vote. Greg graciously complemented Tim Carpenter,
Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America, and other PDA activists
for leading the DNC in this movement. Asked to close a very successful
roundtable dialogue Mr. Carpenter remarked, "What happened here today was
revolutionary. We stood together in the DNC to make the last two days happen.
Together, we can make a difference."

As vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee Ms. Turnbull "Gets It!" She
gets it when she states, "What difference does it make [all our work to get
candidates elected] if you can't trust the vote count?" BRAVO Susie! Ms.
Turnbull was courageously honest when she told of her own odyssey from the 2004
election until several months ago; transforming her acceptance of the party line
at the time, let's just move on, to a full belief in GOP vote stealing as our
reality in the political world we live in today. She went on to give tangible
support for all our efforts in election integrity. She thanked Greg Moore for
his work bringing together a cross section of election integrity activists, the
PDA, and party regulars. She offered further support asking that we, "Give us
[DNC] information, keep in touch with us."

Mimi Kennedy, PDA Board Chair, said of Greg Moore's leadership and our
continuing challenge to plan for and act on election integrity, "Greg Moore's
work on Election Protection for the DNC Voting Rights Institute has raised the
issue of technological voter purges, vote suppression and electronic
vote-stealing to Stage Critical. Our Democratic agenda is winning wide
majorities in media polling; disgust with the GOP agenda and neoconservative
violence is strong. But the only poll that counts for the peaceful transfer of
power is the balloting in November. It must be honest. By publicizing and
opposing any and all attempts to disenfranchise voters-- before and during
Election Day -- Democrats fight for all Americans and block the worst effects of
Bob Ney's contributions to HAVA. By teaching voters how to safely vote in their
jurisdictions - on paper whenever possible; by keeping copies of their signed
absentee affidavits (or envelopes) before sending in; by answering exit polls as
a check and balance to e-voting machine tallies -- the Democrats can buoy
confidence and enthusiasm for a huge voter turnout. The DNC has joined the fight
for a fair fight at the polls. And both can be won for democracy's sake in
November."

At the last DNC meeting I attended in Phoenix in December, had you brought up
election integrity you might be viewed as being daft or out of touch with the
really important issues. This Chicago meeting of the DNC couldn't have been
more the opposite. Election integrity was part of each day's agenda. From
Friday's Association of State Democratic Chairs meeting and DNC election
protection training to Chairman Dean's numerous mentions of election integrity
and the DNC's commitment to stop voter disenfranchisement in his keynote speech;
to Rev. Jesse Jackson's recognition of the election injustices done in Ohio; to
the two candidates for Secretary's of State speaking at the closing session and
Vice-Chair Susan Turnbull who, in her speech to the delegates, added to the
framing of election protection by intoning the more assertive and proactive term
election integrity; the DNC showed its commitment to counting every vote by
having every vote counted.


During the roundtable discussion that lasted over three hours, a number of
strategies, explanations, tactics, and sharing of experiences from the panel and
the audience occurred. It's not insignificant to note that almost 10% of the
delegates and guests at the DNC stayed for this roundtable after the closing
general session. Panel members included DNC Vice-Chair Susie Turnbull, Peter Peckarsky lead trial counsel for the contest of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, PDA Board chair Mimi Kennedy, John
Brakey of AUDIT AZ, Vote Trust USA Executive Director Joan Krawitz, Co-chair of
the New York Lawyers Council Cindy Warner, and investigative journalist Brad
Friedman of www.BradBlog.com. In the audience were state party chairs, the
Chief Counsel for the DNC Joe Sandler, members of the DNC Lawyers Council, DNC
National Committee members, election integrity activists and interested DNC
guests from across the country. The dialogue, sometimes intense, covered a
number of critical areas relating to vote stealing, machine secur
ity, legal challenges, and strategies for proactive actions to protect the vote.

Perhaps the most common theme of the roundtable was articulated by Brad Freidman
when he expressed the need for the DNC to become proactive, to strike first, to
use the Lawyers Council, the DNC, state parties, and local activists to head off
voter disenfranchisement and machine caused election irregularities before they
happen. He also offered that, "Election integrity is a winning strategy [for
the DNC]." Brad gave information to the audience a Zogby poll to be released on
Monday that across every demographic conceivable, 92% of the American people are
opposed to electronic voting machines that do not allow for observation of how
the votes are counted. This amounts to a defacto observation that Americans
don't want to use electronic voting machines! In a poll by CNN's Lou Dobbs, no
bastion of lefty, liberal, rhetoric he, asked, "Should we stop using electronic
voting machines until we know they are secure?" The answer was a resounding yes
by 97% of the respondents. "The Ameri
can people get it," Brad went on to say. Voters get the meaning of election
integrity and know that not talking about election integrity, that the machines
can be manipulated and hacked, and that votes are stolen will suppress voting.
Previous DNC worries that talking about the multitude of problems with our
elections would suppress the vote are just wrong. It would appear that Donna
Brazile, Chair of the Voting Rights Institute at the DNC, who is trying to raise
$3 million for a national effort to prevent vote rigging this fall agrees with a
proactive approach (The Battle for Ohio Will Democrats Fight Back? By Tim
Dickinson, Rolling Stone, August 24, 2006). Parts of this plan were discussed
during the regular session at the ASDC/DNC Election Protection Training
conducted on Friday by VRI Director Greg Moore. From the Rolling Stone article,
Ms. Brazile went on to vent her aggravation with party leaders saying, "They
don't get it . . . it makes me want to smash something. I
want to go and have a conversation with [them]: 'You want to take back the
House? So what are you going to do to protect people's right to vote?' If you
want to win, it has to be a part of your campaign plan. Period." She gets it .
. . BIG TIME! David Waid, Arizona State Party Chair and Executive Director,
also gets it when he says, "If we wait on election protection until the last 15
days [of an election], we're toast!" Mr. Waid has been an active supporter for
election integrity in Arizona creating synergies between activists and the
party. His approach has been regarded by the DNC as a model for other state
chairs. Mr. Waid has actively supported the Arizona State Democratic Party
Election Integrity Committee, the first and only standing state committee for
election integrity in the nation. The EIC has been instrumental in creating new
election law in Arizona. Arizona election law now mandates a random manual
audit of 2% of the precincts electronic voting machines and d
esignates a paper record of the ballot as the only official means for audits and
recounts.

"Election integrity works as an issue," Brad continued on Saturday, but it is a
double edged sword that can be turned against us by the GOP. Joan Krawitz,
Executive Director of Vote Trust USA, discussed how the GOP was ready to scream
election fraud prior to 2004! We must take ownership of election integrity
before the GOP does. The GOP is ready to unload on democrats for stealing
votes, accusing us of vote stealing thereby turning the tables on us, and we
would just have to verify that yes votes can be stolen. We simply can't let
another Machiavellian/Rovian tactic, turning our own strength against us, happen
again. "Democrats must get on the offensive and off the defensive," intoned
Brad if we want to win elections by making election integrity an integral part
of the 50 State Strategy of the DNC.

Other discussions of the day included insights by Peter Peckarsky lead trial counsel for the contest of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio who takes the position, "If the Democratic Party is not willing to get rid of
electronic voting, how will the voters learn to trust us?" He further offered
proactive actions that states can take to protect the vote including motions for
injunctions, voting only absentee on paper ballots, and that the Help America
Vote Act (HAVA) is, arguably, unconstitutional. And, when you think about it,
since elections have consequences, ". . . [election integrity] is a national
security issue." Cindy Warner from the Lawyers Council discussed the need to
have an institutionalized legal function for election integrity within the
Democratic Party. She noted that the party is listening and that they are
working on preparations and plans for election day that the group expanded into
the request for the party to be proactive, not reactive. Many proactive steps
and explanations of how to head off pitfalls in electronic voti
ng and voter disenfranchisement are contained in the Voting Rights Institute
report Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio. The DNC's National Voter
Protection Plan can be viewed at it's website as well.

Perhaps one of the great values in the roundtable was that our DNC lawyers and
decision makers heard stories and felt the passion around election integrity
they may not have experienced previously. Alabama State Party Chair, Joe
Turnham, noted that although 19 states are not HAVA compliant the US Justice
Department singled out Alabama's democratic Secretary of State for
non-compliance with HAVA. A Bush appointed federal judge appointed a Republican
so-called "Special Master" to assume the election duties of the democratically
elected Secretary of State who then gave the election duties to the Republican
Governor's cabinet member and former Republican Secretary of State. The intent
of these shenanigans is to suppress the vote. This is where a state can really
use the power, expertise, and financial backing of the DNC Legal Council and
Chief Counsel Joe Sandler. Together, Alabama and the DNC would make a powerful
team in Alabama's appeal to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez
to expose that what has happened in Alabama is partisan abuse of HAVA. This has
one Alabama activist and Democratic Executive Committee member, Pam Miles,
really frightened. "I'm going to check on my registration every day until the
election because I'm afraid they will try to take me off the roles just because
I'm a democrat," exclaimed Ms. Miles. In North Carolina, party chair Jerry
Meek, who was instrumental in getting legislation passed that every machine must
have a paper trail, told of how in his state that the source code for election
machines is held in escrow for review. However, neither he nor his Republican
counterpart could find anyone in the state qualified to review and understand
the code. Providing certified and qualified computer experts is another place
the DNC could be very helpful. And, in the end, I think everyone saw that we
are all in this together. By building a solid partnership between the DNC, the
state party organizations, PDA, and those rag tag,
hard working, tenacious, and faithful election integrity volunteers who have
really kept this issue top of mind and hope alive; that working together we can
avoid the gaming of our elections as has been so obviously done in Florida,
Ohio, Arizona, and a host of states.

Finally, from Tim Carpenter, "What happened here today was important in bringing
the grassroots and DNC together to work for election integrity. PDA activists,
working with DNC leaders and members, are working to make a difference."

Together, America Can Do Better . . .

 

Michael Shelby is a voting activist in Arizona and a member of Arizona Citizens for Election Reform.

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