By Victoria Parks
Down the election rabbit hole to Oz and back
I happen to know that immediately after the election of 2004, an aide to then Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, Mike Dawson, gathered editors at the Columbus Dispatch and basically told them there will be no investigations and not to bother with these many stories about the election. The message? "Everything went fine. Nothing happened. Nothing to see here. Move along now." It was at that time when I jumped down the rabbit hole and the adventures in election wonderland commenced for me. Wonderland was happening to us, without our consent. Alice was no longer in control. Suddenly We the People were not the ones allowed to write our own story.
Well, the stories tell themselves as it turns out. History sort of works out that way.
And, these stories keep telling themselves. We won't stop talking about them. These stories remain on our tongues and refuse to go away. We the People have had to rise in defense of our own democracy and we have paid dearly for it. We have been dismissed, denounced, demonized, demoralized, misrepresented, marginalized, minimized and ridiculed. Yet, We the People persisted and conducted our own investigations, uncovered evidence, crunched numbers, made phone calls, wrote letters, articles, emailed, archived, went to meetings, testified, filed lawsuits, etc. In fact, we were lambasted in the partisan media as "sore losers." We were told to "get over it." We were asked if we hadn't anything better to do with our time. Well, if today is not a good day to save democracy, when would be a good time? We have spent weeks away from our families, sacrificed going to our kid's soccer games to attend meetings, to organize?to demand redress for our broken elections.
HAVA, it was promised at the time, when it was being written in convicted congressman Bob Ney's office, with the aid of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and 275 thousand dollars from the Diebold Corporation, HAS NOT DELIVERED on its promise. The HELP America Vote Act has been misnamed. Realistically, it would be more aptly called the HACK America's Vote Act, or the HELP America's Vendors Act. This is not what we taxpayers, We the People, should be paying for.
HAVA has really just turned into another federally unfunded mandate as counties struggle with ridiculously exorbitant costs tied up in the maintenance, storage, transportation, and most troubling, the software service contracts on the voting machines. Who profits? And, why are all these companies owned and operated by partisan interests? The taxpayers are being ill-served. County Commissions are having to write huge checks to boards of elections to cover these new, unexpectedly high costs at the expense of other vital county services. All this was brought to us courtesy of HAVA. Therein lies the rub. There's the unfunded mandate. Voters, taxpayers, We the People, deserve better.
Meanwhile, Ohio county prosecutors seem not to take seriously the many provisions of O.R.C. Title XXXV that have been violated in recent elections. Election laws in Ohio are casually and routinely violated while prosecutors seem to turn a blind eye or drag their feet, while court dates are postponed and cases are merely dismissed or settled. Too many laws were broken to mention here. Too many broken laws have gone unpunished, while the media again, are rarely there to tell the story. Their disinterest is unfathomable. We the People are weary of this sort of thing.
Furthermore, HAVA was legislated to the point where it was unrecognizable, ultimately serving just the stated shell of its original purported intent. This also happened to Ohio H.B. 3. Now we are witnessing the same sort of meddling with the Holt bill that we saw with HAVA and Ohio H.B. 3, by political appointees that seek yet more federal control over what should be a locally controlled democratic process. We the People are weary of this sort of thing, too.
In all of this a great truth about the nature of a genuine democracy is always overlooked or simply forgotten. A real democracy is guided by a self-governing people. If methods and standards have been electronically streamlined to fit an agenda not of, by and for the People, then we are no longer a nation of laws, but merely of men, and certainly NOT a democracy.
Elections belong to the people, not to elections officials, corporations or their lobbyists, not to politicians or their political parties, not to technicians or private contractors of any variety. Elections are not to be used as a stepping stone to higher office. The role of elections administration is to assist the people in the conduct of their own elections, and that is all. Democracy was meant to be steered from the bottom up. Attempts to manipulate elections will always end badly until these manipulations are ended. Elections rely on a sound chain of custody, transparency and accountability, of which our current elections have not much to none. Our elections cannot and must not be privatized.
We the People are being required to accept, and pay for, a federally mandated alternate political reality with the system as it is now. It is a system that may only be enabled in murky shadows, without transparency, behind closed doors, without chain of custody respected. We the People have fallen down a rabbit hole into a wonderland paradigm where the truth is intentionally obfuscated; where we have been forcefully engaged in a game of croquet with the Queen of Hearts. And, having been handed a pink flamingo for a mallet and a hedgehog for a ball, we have been set up as the losers in a game we are not intended to win. We the People are being asked to believe a big lie, an illusion that we have fair and just elections, that electronic elections actually count our vote. And, all this could not have been done without a compliant corporate media painting the roses red.
We do have a solution to this problem, though. As in the land of Oz, we have blown the cover of the man behind the curtain and the game is over. We could save face, wake up from the dream, and return to reality right now if we choose. Hand Counted Paper Ballots at the precinct, with random audits, are the ruby slippers we have been wearing all along. They could take us back to Kansas, maybe not overnight, but we wouldn't be reinventing the wheel. I know we are not in Kansas anymore but, we are wearing the ruby slippers. We are the People. We've but to click our heels, then work our tails off organizing precincts, and we will have our democracy back. If we truly are a self-governing people, then we are the one we've been waiting for. Let's get to work.
Columbus, OH 43228
originally posted at Democracy for New Hampshire