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Life Arts    H1'ed 2/8/09

Following Up with Steve Heller, formerly known as the "Diebold Whistle-blower"

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2.  The paper ballots counted in a public, transparent, and verifiable manner at the local precinct level with citizen observation allowed by law;

3.  Precinct results posted publicly before those results are forwarded to any other location(s);

4.  Strict and clearly defined chain-of-custody procedures for all ballots and election equipment before, during, and after every election;

5.  And finally, we need to actually enforce the laws!  All too often election officials, candidates, and political parties fail to comply with various election laws that are on the books, and nothing happens.  There's no accountability.  This must stop.  There must be real accountability and serious consequences for anyone who fails to abide by election laws.

When you looked ahead, is this what you imagined yourself doing?

Oh, hell no.  I certainly never expected to be a middle-aged, unemployed, felonious political activist!  But while my life has definitely taken some pretty wild turns -- and whose hasn't? -- I'm very happy with where I'm at and proud of what I did.

Was the price you paid worth it?

Yes.  It was pretty scary for a while, and the financial fears were intense.  We came very close to losing our house.  But we managed to muddle through, and while we have no savings and we're still struggling financially, my wife and I are doing fine, we're hanging in there, and we have every reason to believe that things will get better for us.  We're really exceptionally lucky in many ways.

But mostly, it was worth it because it gave me an opportunity to serve and protect my country as a citizen activist, a chance to defend my democratic republic.  I was able to expose just a few of the crimes Diebold was perpetrating against our nation's elections.  Doing that was well worth the price my wife and I had to pay for what I did.

Would you do it again?

You bet, in a heartbeat.  I never would have forgiven myself if I, who up until that point had never really done anything for my nation other than pay my taxes and be a decent citizen, had turned away from the opportunity to expose serious crimes being committed against our elections and thus against our entire republic.  Yes, I'd do it again without a second thought.

But let me make this clear: I did commit a serious crime.  I stole and exposed attorney-client privileged documents, and that is a very serious violation of the law.  Even corrupt, criminal corporations like Diebold deserve under the law to have all communications with their attorneys and their attorney's work product kept secret, and I broke that law.  So I don't make light of the serious nature of my crime.

But what is illegal is not always wrong.

I pled guilty to my crime, and I accept responsibility for what I did.  I have been and am still being punished for it.  But I believe that in this single, isolated, discreet instance, what I did was illegal, but not wrong.  I sleep well at night.

Any words of advice to activists trying to break through the wall of the new administration?

I think there will be a lower wall, now.  The Bush (mis)administration was one of the most secretive in history, and their contempt for Congress and for the rights and liberties of the American people was horrific.  I don't think it will be like that with President Obama.  But of course getting the ear of those in power is always difficult, and the best advice I can give is to be persistent, and to organize with like-minded individuals.  Either join an existing group or organization that's fighting for the cause or causes that are dear to your heart, or start your own group.  The internet and social networking sites make organizing easier than ever.  Turn off the TV, get up from the couch, and get out there, get active.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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