September 19, 2006
Voter Confidence Resolution ADOPTED By Palo Alto City Council
By Dave Berman
By a 5-3 vote on Monday night, the City Council of Palo Alto, CA adopted the Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR). Palo Alto joins Arcata, CA as the second city to declare that current election conditions ensure inconclusive results, and:
Whereas inconclusive results, by definition, mean that the true outcome of an election cannot be known, there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from such elections;Inconclusive outcomes and no basis for confidence are two of the three main points emphasized in the Guide To The Voter Confidence Resolution. The VCR is a template to be customized in each community. The Guide's third main point is that the legitimacy, or "just Power" of government, derives exclusively from the Consent of the Governed. This concept stems from the Declaration of Independence. The template and Arcata's language include this provision:
When elections are conducted under conditions that prevent conclusive outcomes, the Consent of the Governed is not being sought. Absent this self-evident source of legitimacy, such Consent is not to be assumed or taken for granted.In Palo Alto, the VCR has been championed through the public process by Shauna Wilson, Chairperson of the Human Relations Commission. Through all the revisions that led to Monday night, the above clause was left intact. However, in a compromise that apparently became necessary to win a majority Council vote, this final part of the statement was dropped.
No doubt the Consent of the Governed has not been considered by anyone to be withdrawn based on Arcata's adoption of the VCR on July 20, 2005. The point being that many such statements must be adopted to generate the cumulative impact that makes the point inevitably true. Of course, withdrawing Consent (and complicity) can be demonstrated in myriad other ways and we should not consider it a loss or lesser victory for Palo Alto to come on board minus this element of the resolution. In a phone conversation with Wilson shortly after the Council's historic Monday night vote, she said:
"The City of Palo Alto voted in support of all voters having an opportunity to realize their vote could count and would be counted."In addition to the removal of this Consent section, the Council also axed two of the nine submitted items in the election reform platform. These objections were benign. One had called for "Re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act before Congress as H.R. 9," which has already occurred. The other item called for support of Clean Money laws, and an earlier agenda item had already put the Council on record with this item. So, though I haven't seen the "official" version adopted by Palo Alto, the version shown below is an unofficial representation based on the submitted agenda item and known revisions.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Council's meeting, I was contacted by Brent Turner, founder of the San Mateo Election Integrity League and volunteer for the Open Voting Consortium. Turner had attended the meeting and wrote to share the good news. According to Turner, "We support this resolution as an obvious step in the proper direction." Turner spoke on the record before the Council, urging them to continue to show leadership in the future. Turner reports that Palo Alto Mayor Judy Kleinberg was in the majority that approved the resolution. The three dissenting Councilmembers' objections, according to Turner, were on jurisdictional grounds. This sounds similar to Arcata's Mayor Michael Machi who typically declines to join in statements that go beyond city limits.
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UNOFFICIAL TEXT OF VOTER CONFIDENCE RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY PALO ALTO CITY COUNCIL 9/18/06
Whereas a properly functioning election system should produce substantial agreement about the results indicated by a fixed set of unchanging records; and
Whereas recent elections have been conducted under conditions that have not produced substantial agreement about the outcome; and
Whereas future elections cannot possibly produce substantial agreement as long as any condition permits an inconclusive count or re-count of votes; and
Whereas inconclusive counts and re-counts have occurred during recent elections due in part to electronic voting devices that do not produce a paper record of votes to be re-counted if necessary; and
Whereas the lack of open source software in electronic voting devices restricts public verification of vote accuracy; and
Whereas the Secretary of State has the power to interpret, and implement state and federal elections laws, and set the standards for everything from the processing of voter registrations to the conduct of official recounts; and
Whereas when the Secretary of State is also a principal player in the re-election campaign under his or her jurisdiction, confidence in the Secretary of State's impartiality is questionable; and