July 20, 2006
One year ago today, the City Council of Arcata, CA became the first in the nation to adopt the Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR). The Council, still comprised of the same five members, met last night. I used the public comment period to point out this anniversary and thank them again for the important statement they made. Council meetings are now shown live online, and archived too, so anyone can click here and select the July 19 meeting to observe what I'm describing. You can even use the awesome "jump to" feature to select the Oral Communications part of the agenda when I got to speak. (NOTE: as of this writing, I notified the City Manager's office that only part of the meeting was streaming; it was quickly removed entirely though I suspect they'll have it all available before too long.)
Beyond expressing gratitude, I presented the Council with an update on some of the ways that the "no basis for confidence" frame has been spreading. As I wrote just prior to joining the meeting, this was intended as somewhat of a tribute to the election integrity movement. Having not yet seen the video of these extemporaneous remarks I can't be sure exactly what I said though here I'll give you the gist, plus.
Shauna Wilson, Chair of Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission (HRC) has been the VCR's next best champion. The HRC adopted the VCR in February, with most of Arcata's language intact. Palo Alto's City Council has discussed it once but requested revisions. The HRC has sent it back to the Council again and it should be on a future agenda soon.
The VCR has received media attention all over the country and beyond. In September, the Lonestar Iconoclast--based in Mr. Bush's ranch town of Crawford, TX--published the transcript of a lengthy interview I gave to W. Leon Smith. Probably not much chance Mr. Bush read my statements about "his" government's illegitimacy. It still feels good to say. Go ahead, please, give it a try. Loud and proud, you know?
On Christmas, the New Zealand online news source Scoop wrote about a whole collection of tactics developed at GuvWurld, my former blog. The VCR was mentioned, but it wasn't the focus as much as the overall CA Unity Campaign, as it was called. It didn't have the prior planning or coordination to effectively organize people across the state, though it didn't go unnoticed either. Some have picked up on the suggested tactics, and the original piece made it into my book (see top right of page for free .pdf download, or go $10 for a hard copy).
What I was looking for with the CA Unity Campaign was something like what happened last month over the Bilbray/Busby election in San Diego. Brad Friedman's VelvetRevolution had endorsed the Unity Campaign, but that was not even close to Brad's work on the San Diego scene at BradBlog. No tribute to the election integrity movement is complete without a toast to Brad (though I have a nagging feeling I neglected to mention him to the Council).
What I did emphasize last night was the breadth of the support this message has now received. I cited the California Election Protection Network, Progressive Democrats of America, Election Defense Alliance, Oregon Voter Rights Coalition, Ohio's J30, and some of the current candidates for office: John Bonifaz, Kevin Zeese, and Clint Curtis. I belatedly recognize Tribune Media syndicated columnist Bob Koehler, The Commonweal Institute, and Velvet Revolution. If your group has a statement declaring "no basis for confidence" in current US elections, please contact me and feel free to post it in the comments.
In addition to the "no basis for confidence" team roster, I wanted to give the Council a sense of how far we've come in understanding the nature of our election conditions. I mentioned some of the things we've learned in the past year to further justify the VCR, indeed to conclude there is even less than no basis for confidence one year later.
We know that memory cards, of the sort used here in Humboldt County, can be manipulated in various ways that will alter the results of an election and leave no trace of the crime. Such attacks can occur with or without direct access to the card and even when the card is supposedly "sealed" in the machine. We also have David Jefferson, an expert relied upon by CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, saying on PBS: "This particular vulnerability is serious enough that you can affect multiple machines from a single attack." Major kudos to Ion Soncho, Bruce Funk, Harri Hursti, Black Box Voting and VoteTrustUSA for their work in exposing this information.
In closing my public comments last night, I pointed the Council to the fifth of the eight points in the VCR's election reform platform:
5) counting all votes publicly and locally in the presence of citizen witnesses and credentialed members of the media,With secret computer programming used to tally votes, an election is unverifiable, not only to the voters, but also to the media. I asked the Council to consider how they could take action to advance any of the reforms they advocated one year ago. An opportunity exists now, I told them, in talking to the media about reporting only what they can prove.
I've been emphasizing this theme since the Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) election day press conference. I can announce tonight for the first time that I have secured a commitment from KHUM to host a forum on media accountability. Mike Dronkers will host/facilitate and we'll fill their radio studio with local media decision-makers. We're not going to be able to have complete representation from all local media so I hope this will be part of a series. The date will be September 21 at 6pm so it is possible that we could arrange other installments prior to this. Ultimately everyone should be able to participate. My hope for it all is that the community redefines what is required of media to be considered credible.
Surely there is a lot more progress that can be cited in a tribute to the election integrity movement but unfortunately this brings to a close this year's presentation. If you didn't get mentioned, please know that your work is appreciated and needed and perhaps I'll have actual awards next year. Now please, print out this copy of the VCR, which comes with some planning suggestions on the back, and get your community organized to lobby your City Council. They won't be able to prove the results of the next election, nor will your local media, nor will you. There is no basis for confidence in those results. Everyone knows it, we're just helping them to admit it.
* * *
Extra special thanks to Paul Lehto: Keep doing what you're doing.