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Michigan citizens gather evidence, expose elections issues

By Bev Harris, Black Box Voting  Posted by Joan Brunwasser (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 4 pages)   No comments
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America is not going to have election problems solved in November. It's going to be up to citizens to make the case. Black Box Voting is urging citizens to make November 2006 the biggest grass roots evidence gathering action in history. EVIDENCE = videotape, audio, photos and public records. Stories are not evidence.


Our "One-on-One" section on the Web is popular, but the most active individual work we've been doing is with an underground army of citizens who consult with us privately via e-mail and phone. These extraordinary citizens are on the front lines, working to put elections oversight back into the hands of the citizenry where it belongs. The next several lead stories at Black Box Voting will feature their achievements so far. We encourage you to borrow ideas and add your own imagination to your own local elections oversight.

LET'S TAKE A FRONT LINES LOOK at Tool Kit Module 7 - Hold your government accountable in action:

Neva Tice of Pullman, Michigan, is a citizen who spoke up at an Allegan County Board of Commissioners meeting on Mar. 9, 2006 in an effort to help prevent landfill permits from being issued. Nothing in the record indicates she was successful, but that didn't stop her from taking an active role in Lee Township when she noticed a $148,000 annual contract that appeared to be "perpetual." Lee Township citizens hadn't voted on it. She didn't just complain about it -- she led a successful recall of two public officials!

Tice led a group of citizens who gathered enough signatures to seek a recall of all five members of the Lee Township Board.

WHO CHECKS TO SEE THAT PUBLIC OFFICIALS ARE FOLLOWING THEIR OWN RULES? What can you do if they ignore the rules? Citizens are taking the initiative to make a case - with proof - by themselves, sometimes as lone individuals. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

While she was at it, Tice suggested that replacement board members might be representative of more diverse constituencies in the community. Maybe that will work - as it stands now, two board members were successfully recalled and may be up for replacement.

There are currently 2,049 eligible voters in Lee Township. The minimum number of signatures required to trigger a recall election was 144; Neva Tice and her organizers soon turned in 179 petitions. When the election was held Aug. 8, two board members were recalled, three were not.


Local citizens decided to get involved in overseeing the elections process itself: Pat Foster from nearby Ganges Township filed for a recount, citing irregularities.

Among the issues spotted by vigilant citizens: They allege that unqualified voters actually voted, that election challengers received hostile treatment by the election workers, there was an attempt to close the polls early and that a sample ballot actually showed people how to vote. Why did they have challengers? Because, they say, there are a lot of vacation homes in the rural Lee Township area, and those who live elsewhere can't vote in Lee Township while visiting second homes there.

Some Lee Township citizens contend that the township board is made up of affluent property owners, without much representation for senior citizens and the local Hispanic populations.

Several Michigan citizens showed up for the recount, and following advice in the Black Box Voting Tool Kit, had video cameras rolling and digital cameras clicking away. These Michigan citizens are going to take you right into the recount room for a rare glimpse of the recount process in action.

The evidence collected by these extraordinary citizens provides surprisingly powerful evidence that at least in this case, a recount using hand-counted paper ballots would have been faster, easier, and less expensive.


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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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