The following three synopses come from Jason Leopold, who has a hard copy of the texts. They represent the Democrats' proposals for election reform legislation, which Conyers introduced on Tuesday night.
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(My comments follow.)
The Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act (VOTER) will protect and expand voting rights in federal elections, as well as ensure the proper administration of federal elections by requiring, among other things, early voting, same day registration, proper allocation of poll workers and voting machines, and an Election Day federal holiday.
Co-sponsors: Nadler, Weiner, Schiff, Cohen, Gutierrez, Wasserman Schultz
The Caging Prohibition Act, one, requires election officials to corroborate their caging documents with independent evidence before a voter can be deemed ineligible, and two, limits all other challenges that do not come from election officials to those based on personal, first-hand knowledge.
Co-sponsors: Johnson, Nadler, Scott, Schiff, Gutierrez, Cohen, Wasserman Schultz
The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act prohibits the communication of false election related information with the intent to prevent another from voting and increases voter intimidation penalties.
Co-sponsors: Johnson, Nadler, Delahunt, Scott, Schiff, Gutierrez, Cohen
Of course we'll need to look at these proposals carefully, but it's already possible to ask if those particular reforms, per se, will do the trick--i.e., make our voting system truly democratic (or republican).
It's a good start, no doubt about it. Who--aside from those who want to block the vote--could quarrel with any measures that would make Election Day a federal holiday, make voter registration easier, inhibit caging and stiffen penalties for vote suppression?
All such steps are necessary (I am one of many who have often called for them), and so we should support them--while making clear that they are not enough to make our system truly democratic.
Because our voting system isn't just a little loose and creaky, and in need of tightening here and there. The system, as it's working now, is all wrong--by design. Since the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, our voting system has been snatched away from us, and placed behind a massive and ingenious double barrier that keeps us out of our essential civic process.
HAVA, first of all, computerized the voting process, mandating (indirectly) that the states all dump their current systems and replace them either with electronic (i.e., paperless) voting machines, or optical scanners, which are basically computers that count paper ballots. That master-stroke of digital "reform" has vastly altered the electoral landscape in this country, where non-computerized voting is a practice now all but extinct. In the last election, votes were either cast on, or counted by, computerized systems in a little over 91% of US precincts--and, as usual, both types of system functioned poorly: crashing, freezing, flipping and/or losing votes (and sometimes fabricating votes) from coast to coast.
Although op-scans have a lot of Democratic champions (while sales of paperless machines are in decline), the fact is that both systems are inimical to democratic government--because democracy depends on open vote-counts, with all sides there to watch the count of every single ballot; and such transparency is quite impossible in any digital election, where all the votes are counted secretly, whether they are paper ballots or mere bits of light.
Op-scans also have a lot of other strikes against them. Not only are they prone to glitches of all kinds, but they're a hacker's dream (as many studies and a lot of dubious elections have by now made very clear); and it costs many millions-- public funds that we no longer have--to purchase, warehouse, service and maintain them. And yet, again, what's worst about them is their absolute opacity.
We cannot know if their results are accurate, but must believe that the official
numbers are correct--a purely faith-based method that citizens of other
democratic countries rightly deem absurd (and one that random audits can't redeem).
And while those systems keep us all excluded from the voting process, their use has also helped set up a second wall between that process and ourselves; for all those systems--op-scans and paperless machines alike--are sold and
serviced by the same few private corporations: Diebold/Premier, ES&S et al.
Thus HAVA largely privatized the vote, with our elections handed over to a
tight network of companies all owned and managed by Republicans--in
many cases, quite ferocious Christianist Republicans. Of course, those firms
are not just highly partisan, but also absolutely unaccountable: like Blackwater, Halliburton, and Bush/Cheney's many other well-oiled private instruments of warfare, mass detention and surveillance.
Thus it is not We the People who control "our" voting system, but a nexus
--some dare call it a conspiracy--of party operatives, partisan technicians
and corrupt administrators, all of them answering to, and funded by, large
corporate interests fundamentally hostile to democracy (although they largely
own the Democratic Party). That it is they, not we, who call the shots is no
less true for John McCain's defeat, although a lot of people see Obama's
victory as proof that our election system "works" just fine.
Despite that win, Americans were disenfranchised by the millions on
Election Day, and fraud was rampant nationwide: not only in Florida,
and elsewhere in the South, but also in such unexpected places
as New Hampshire, and in Obama's home state, Illinois. Such vast
malfeasance arguably halved Obama's victory margin, which was probably
no mere "decisive victory" but a landslide. And there is solid evidence of
fraud in several House and Senate races--evidence that ought to be
investigated even where the fraud did not succeed (as in the Senate races
in Alaska and Minnesota).
Thus there is no reason for complacency--and, still, every reason to
demand reforms far larger, and far deeper, than those that the Democrats
are now proposing. What we need, to put it bluntly, is to get rid of HAVA;
halt the use of all computerized election systems (including electronic
voter rolls), and return to hand-counted paper ballots; and ban the participation of all private companies in our elections. (We also need a publicly supported exit polling system, like they have in other countries.) Only by such steps can we return our voting system to our own control, and so bring popular self-government to these United States.
p.s. For more on what we need to do to make US elections honest, accurate and transparent, see "A 12-Step Program to Save US Democracy," the addendum to my book Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008.
There's a link to the book at http://www.markcrispinmiller.com