This week marks the six-month anniversary of my "Invisible Ballots " lending library project. For those few whose eyes are not glazing over from hearing about this "again? " I offer a few reflections.
The concept of serendipity definitely applies here. Who knew that when my friend Mick and I headed to the city one balmy night last summer, I was embarking on an adventure that would change the direction of my life? Andersonville Neighbors for Peace were showing "Invisible Ballots: a temptation for electronic vote fraud ". Mick and I (and a few others who didn 't make it to the showing) had worked hard for Kerry and traveled several times to Wisconsin during the 2004 campaign to get out the vote. I was not very political; in fact, my last activity was McGovern 's hapless campaign in 1972. It was not enthusiasm for Kerry as much as despair of another Bush 'victory ' which impelled me to make hundreds of phone calls for MoveOn to Wisconsin and Florida voters. My newfound phone buddies in far-off places seemed to agree. I was cautiously optimistic...
Many months later, I almost didn 't go to the showing. I was tired and cranky; I 'd had a long day. What difference would it make? In the spring, I had begun to write letters calling for a national push to raise awareness of what had befallen our elections and the need for fundamental election reform. I wanted a coalition of organizations (Common Cause, NAACP, unions, the League of Women Voters, etc.) to sponsor forums to examine all aspects of our current election 'reality ' with the idea of ultimately creating a grassroots movement for change. I was getting a few replies but, frankly, my effort lacked focus. I was, in a word, depressed.
When I saw "Invisible Ballots ", it immediately struck me that this could be a very effective tool in my campaign. A disparate group stayed for more than an hour for a lively discussion on what to do with what we now knew. I had to tear myself away. People were still talking when we left. The documentary had had the desired effect. It got people going.
In mid September, I started the lending library with three copies and the project has evolved as time has passed. Originally, I thought that I would just pass around the three copies, loaning them out again as they were returned. That strategy proved impractical as demand instantly outstripped supply. Rather than constantly curtailing operations while waiting for borrowers to return their dvds, I have gradually accumulated way over 100 copies. This afternoon, I packed up my last copy to send to a journalist in Naperville. That was number 211 and, as luck would have it, my next shipment arrived in time to send out #212 to a lawyer in New York who runs a blog on Ohio 2004. Usually, my timing is not as impeccable (in fact, never) and there is lag time while I do some fundraising to cover the expenses of the library or wait for a shipment to arrive.
My borrowers come from 30 states, Washington DC and four foreign countries so far. (Participation is thin through the South and west of the Mississippi, although it picks up again on the West Coast.) They number familiar names in the media, politics, public figures, activists, union officials, college professors, students and just plain fed-up citizens. Group showings have popped up across the country and almost daily I get letters and emails about how effective "Invisible Ballots " has proved in galvanizing public opinion.
My project brought me to the attention of Rob Kall and I have been able to use my role of Voting Integrity Editor to promote awareness of voting issues to the OpEdNews readership and beyond. That has been very gratifying. My new, lofty status has opened doors that "mother of three, concerned citizen and committed democrat " did not. I see myself in the same way I view the dvd: we are both catalysts. We make things happen by bringing together information and the people who need it in order to act.
As my project heads into the second half of its first year, The International Humanities Center has offered to sponsor my organization, Citizens for Election Reform. Donors will be able to get tax deductions for their support. I 'm hoping that my change in status causes contributions to go through the roof. Realistically, I 'd settle for enough to allow me to keep my project going as long as people are interested in watching the dvd and engaging in the debate. Once we have assured free, fair and transparent elections for all American voters, I will happily disband the library and pursue another project.
I 'd like to thank the bloggers and activists whose dedication and support have allowed this project to flourish. I am very grateful to a technology that I do not pretend to understand. Bless the internet! Writing letters and licking stamps would not have gotten me where I am, six short months later. This is especially important because of the silence of the corporate media. History will judge the media harshly. Rather than being watchdogs of democracy, they have been the lapdogs of this administration. In the meantime, we have their job to do as well. The voters will be outraged once they understand what is at stake. The trick is mobilizing against the powers arrayed against us: the electronic voting machine corporations, the millions of dollars spent lobbying on their behalf, the election officials ignoring the public will, apathy and ignorance.
I invite you to join my campaign. You 'd be amazed at how much we can accomplish: one dvd at a time!
Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor
Co-founder, Citizens for Election Reform
Mother of three, concerned citizen and committed democrat
If you would like to purchase a copy of "Invisible Ballots" (available in DVD or VHS form), visit www.InvisibleBallots.com. If you want ten or more copies, call their toll free number: 800-595-6596 and mention the Coalition for Visible Ballots discount: ten for $70 including shipping within the US. If you'd like to buy a single copy from me, it's $18 including shipping (less than the $23 from InvisibleBallots.com) or you can borrow a copy (if you promise to return it so that I can send it out again) for a suggested donation of $11 to keep the project going. Contact me at the email address below.