I’ve been working with Nancy Tobi on election integrity issues for the last several years. Because of her extensive computer background, she has a special grasp of the problems inherent in computerized electronic voting. She sees the institutionalization of electronic voting through HAVA (the Help America Vote Act of 2002) as a giant Ponzi scheme with national implications. She has been a proponent of public, observable vote counting and the need to educate people to do it right. She has written extensively about this as well as other election-related issues. She and Bev Harris of Black Box Voting are heading to Washington DC this weekend to take part in the youth-based PowerShift 2009. I caught up with her this afternoon and she shared her thoughts on the conference and beyond.
What do you and your team hope to accomplish at PowerShift 2009?
We want to energize the next generation of election integrity activists so that we can propel the movement forward and keep up the fight to take control of our elections.
The youth environmental movement is composed of the children of the information age and they show it. They are smart, organized, and very savvy. They were the force that put climate change and green economy on the agenda during the last two presidential elections, and they are the force that got out the youth vote in record numbers to sweep Obama into the White House.
This generation has built on the hard work of previous generations and wrapped environmentalism with an armored flak jacket of idealism, practicality, realism, justice, and economics. They understand the interrelationships between justice, democracy, freedom, economics, and environmentalism. They understand that all of these factors need to be considered in order to achieve their goals.
The leaders of the youth environmental movement impressed me immediately with their quick understanding of election integrity issues that many "gray haired ponytails" in the election integrity movement are still arguing about.
Many "old-timers" in the current election integrity movement are still wasting a lot of time trying to play DC politics, trying to pass legislation like the Holt Bill. This legislation arises from the dead with every legislative session. It is positioned as a "compromise" but it actually undermines democracy, perpetuates corporate-controlled elections, and offers absolutely nothing in support of voting rights and democracy.
The younger generation understands, almost intuitively it seems, the value of standing for your principles to gain what you really want rather than compromising in order to gain questionable "wins" at any cost.
The new generation understands, for instance, the myth of clean coal as easily as they can understand the myth of verified voting. "Clean coal" is sold as a compromise to enable industry to continue practices - such as strip mining and burning fossil fuels - that are fundamentally destructive to the environment. "Verified voting" is sold as a compromise to enable industry to continue practices - such as replacing election night public vote counting with post-election spot checks of secret computerized vote counts - that are fundamentally destructive to democracy.
When I worked with them on Election 2008 Protect the Count, the youth organizers understood immediately that the most important thing was to get out there to the polls and practice citizen oversight on the elections. They understood immediately that citizen oversight is probably the most important of the founding principles of our nation and many of our state constitutions. They had no problem understanding that this is the highest priority we have in regaining control over our elections. And they suffered no delay in getting out there to protect the count! In New Hampshire alone, I had people coming in to protect the count from San Francisco, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Germany!
How did you have the idea to go to DC for this conference?
My son, Zohar, is one of the conference organizers. He works for the Sierra Student Coalition as the Northeast Regional Campus Organizer, and has been heavily involved in national planning as well. Zo is a great organizer, and I am not at all. So as I have been struggling along - limping along! - in my election integrity work, he always challenges me to work smarter to accomplish my goals. He encouraged me to connect with the youth movement for Protect the Count, and that is when I made my first connections with the leaders of their movement. I think they were very happy with the outcome from that partnership, and when it came to planning for Power Shift09, they decided to include an election integrity panel in their agenda and invited me and Bev Harris (of Black Box Voting) to speak.
Why do you see yourselves on a similar track as these youngsters?
As I stated earlier, the youth movement understands the inherent relationship between achieving a working democracy and their ability to achieve their goals. There can be no environmental peace or justice without world peace and justice, and there can be no world peace and justice until the good people of the United States have political representation that honestly reflects their electoral choices. Our tracks are not just similar. They are not parallel. They are one and the same.
What else do you want our readers to know?
I think it is telling that the youth movement gave themselves the moniker "Power Vote" and now "Power Shift." They know their power, they used their power in their vote, and now they intend to weild their power. Power is a beautiful metaphor for this amazing new generation. The Power Vote logo is pretty interesting. It depicts a windmill, that peaceful generator of sustainable power, but the logo itself, in its colors and form, evokes the clenched fist of the Black Power movement from the ‘60s. It is fierce and peaceful at the same time. It does not back down. It is unafraid. It does not need to compromise. This is the kind of movement that gets things done, and it is exactly the movement that America needs now.
Well, thank you, Nancy. I, for one, can’t wait to hear how it goes this weekend!
Learn more about Powershift 2009 here.