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The Skeptical Patriot

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Voice of the Voters began instead of ended with John Gideon’s segment, so that across-the country news could be guaranteed airtime.

News there is, as always: in New Jersey the Sequoia DREs, a chronic bone of contention, were found to produce inconsistent results between their internal paper record and their software. The company first agreed to refer the problem to Princeton University’s Ed Felton and Andrew Appel, but then reversed its decision and threatened legal action if the experts did investigate.

New Jersey’s attorney general did not push for resolution of this well-publicized issue. The same Sequoias are used in two Pennsylvania counties.

In other good news, Secretaries of State Jennifer Brunner (Ohio) and Debra Bowen (California) both received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award.

Mimi Kennedy, founder and head of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) made her second appearance on the program this evening, interviewed by Lori Rosolowsky. The subject this time was poll working and involvement in general.

Mimi said she became a poll worker as a critic of how votes are counted, needing to understand how things work from the inside. She took the course twice to polish her abilities and ran a primary in Los Angeles with four working under her.

Her motivation, of course, was patriotism. In the true self-critical spirit of the United States (remember that from before election 2000?), she was exercising what she termed skeptical patriotism, as contrasted, for instance, with complacency with the way things are and unquestioning trust in the authorities in charge.

To become a poll worker, said Kennedy, go online to the site of your county registrar; there is a great need for poll workers. You will find a list of training classes along with the wheres and whens and should also obtain course materials.

Poll working is a healthy step in the right direction “toward a more perfect union” [quotations marks mine--MS].

Lori asked about what good could possibly come from the continued use of DREs. The skeptical patriot had a good answer: poll workers record incidents of malfunction; these add up, ammunition to strengthen arguments to junk this category of machine. The hotlines that receive these reports are set up by the political parties and nonprofits.

On the birth of PDA in 2004, Mimi said that it grew out of the Democratic National Convention; both Jim Hightower and Tom Hayden are board members. Their motivation was to continue that curious American habit of faith in the future and our influence in shaping the best of worlds for our children. They wanted to penetrate the party structure, turn it away from neoliberalism to progressivism.

And more on efforts to restore integrity to our voting system once there has been the change to paper ballots: transparency is imperative—there should be a substantial audit percentage. Mimi reminded listeners of the Double Bubble Trouble in the Los Angeles primary—how forty to ninety thousand votes were lost because of young voters’ misunderstanding of the ballot format.

The Coalition of Voting Integrity’s indispensable researcher Madeline Rawley was a featured caller who discussed her experience as a poll watcher and also reported on the most recent county commissioners’ meeting this morning, which lasted three hours.

Evidently there was a suggestion to switch from the fiercely disputed touchscreen system to vote by mail, perhaps a cynical comment from one of the commissioners. Madeline spoke of the importance of the voting experience, the meeting of friends and neighbors. For Lori, voting at the local polls is a form of athletic absorption that replaces her aversion to sports.

Jim Strait said that his efforts to become a poll worker have so far received no response. Madeline said that the job is hard, requiring long hours and little pay; there should be two shifts instead of one from dawn to midnight. The average age of poll workers is 72, Jim added. There is not enough effort to recruit new workers. Perhaps in Jim’s case there is too much awareness of his skeptical patriotism.

Jim emphasized the importance of ascertaining that you are registered to vote in this critical year. Pennsylvanians have until March 24 to register for the April 22 primary, an event that is certain to draw national attention.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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