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Senator Feinstein's Election Reform Bill: A Constitutional Heresy

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Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill S. 1487, “T he Ballot Integrity Act of 2007,” was introduced on May 24, 2007. Some were expecting it to be a companion to, and improvement on, Representative Holt’s bill, H.R. 811. Far from an improvement, S. 1487 introduces surprising — and disturbing — new provisions.

The bill systematically dismantles government by the people, and it provides a legal excuse for expanding the disenfranchisement of “distinct communities”such as racial minorities.

What follows is a discussion of these disturbing provisions.

1. S. 1487 systematically dismantles government by the people.

Overview. The bill takes elections away from citizens, candidates, political parties, and States, and it places them under the control of the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and corporations.

Elections are the way “we, the people” exercise our rightful control over our government, which was established to be subject to the consent of the governed. However, provisions throughout this bill orchestrate what would be a perilous situation in which the election system, start to finish, is under the control of the EAC, in collaboration with voting system manufacturers, with a nod to the State and local governments.

In 2002, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) established the EAC as a temporary agency whose purpose was to assist the States in complying with new requirements spelled out in that legislation. Before HAVA, local governments made decisions about the administration of elections, thus allowing the people the greatest opportunity for control. HAVA took much of that decision making out of the hands of local government and placed it in the hands of State governments, where citizen control is remote and diluted, but still present.

S. 1487 places control of elections in the hands of four Presidential appointees, who have no direct accountability to the citizens and virtually no oversight. Under this bill, the EAC, in collaboration with corporations, would decide which voting systems would be allowed to record and count votes. The EAC would establish guidelines for how many such systems should be available at each poll site and for where early voting poll sites should be located. Corporations approved by the EAC would own and operate the proprietary (secret) software that records and counts our votes. The EAC, in collaboration with those corporations, would determine how to enforce that proprietary ownership. The EAC would determine who is accredited to observe at poll sites.

The EAC would also establish “model” procedures for the States to “consider” when conducting federally mandated audits. And, the EAC would review results of each audit and determine when election results could be certified.

The EAC would even decide the maximum undervote rate (no vote counted for a specific contest on a ballot) allowed for each jurisdiction, and it would rule on which jurisdictions would be allowed to report excessively high numbers of ballots with no votes for one or more federal offices.

The bottom line: S. 1487 would give the unelected members of the EAC ultimate control over elections.

Not even a nod to citizens.

More details about the dismantling are discussed below, divided into the following four sections:

1A. Every jurisdiction in the United States may have to upgrade its election equipment before 2010, and the EAC alone will decide which voting systems may be used.

1B. The “disclosure” provisions declare unequivocally that corporations, in league with the EAC, rightfully own and operate the secret counting of the votes in all states.

1C. The bill makes the EAC permanent, expands its authority into both enforcement and law-making, and gives these four Presidential appointees discretion that could impact the smooth conduct of elections and/or the outcomes of federal elections.

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Ellen Theisen is the founder and Co-Director of VotersUnite.Org.
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