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We NEED our HAVA money back

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The view of Ohio elections from the ground in Ohio is still not pretty. Last week in a broadcast interview [1], Secretary of State Brunner was asked, "would you pursue or implement litigation against vendors for product defect?" Brunner replied, "what my goal is in Ohio is to get us moved to what we need for the voters as quickly as possible with an eye toward negotiating with the vendors, a transition to equipment in such a way that we get some kind of compensation or accounting for what we've lost in the process in our purchase of new equipment. That's going to take some negotiation but we went through a lot of negotiation with the voting machine vendors and actually getting access to the source codes and information we used for the study and we are working to maintain a good communication and dialogue with them in the hopes that it can be a win/win situation for everyone." I would like to ask Secretary Brunner, do you really think we can "negotiate" our way out of this with thirty-one million more HAVA dollars spent on these same vendors? From what I understand from your statements, the ball is now in the legislature's court. My message to both yourself Madam Secretary and our Republican dominated legislature is this:

More of our tax money spent to enrich voting machine vendors is a really, really bad idea and is thoroughly unacceptable. What is desperately needed are strategies to increase civic participation in the election process because we are going to need a second shift of counter/observers when we audit our own paper ballots. It is coming. Nothing less will do. Whatever national standard Ohio adopts must be an affordable election system for cash-strapped counties. Even with the equally vulnerable precinct-based optical scanners purchased with yet more HAVA money, all I see here is more money down the drain along with democracy. Hundreds of millions for vendors who have treated voters so egregiously is just plain wrong. Why do we allow this to occur? Why would you?

The only verifiable, viable, economical answer is hand counted paper ballots counted in the precinct election night. The only thing missing in this reality would be We the People. Voter confidence and participation has lagged precisely because we feel, even though we vote, that we are being shut out of the process. I am a case in point. The first and last time I was a poll worker in 2004, though I felt pride in doing my civic duty, I also felt like I was aiding and abetting a criminal activity. I very well could have been. In order not to feel that way I have since not participated as a poll worker because I simply do not trust the people who are running our elections at the top. What confidence have they ever given me except a tired litany of excuses and mantra-like overtures of "just trust us", "everything went smoothly." Smoothly for whom? The vendors? Partisan corporations? The "winners?"

Let's briefly review the origins of the Help America Vote Act which brought us these democracy-killing DRE's. HAVA was drafted in convicted congressman Bob Ney's office. It was enabled by 275 thousand dollars from Diebold and funneled through the Law firm Greenberg Traurig when convicted felon Jack Abramoff was it's Political Director. If HAVA is the brainchild of the likes of Ney and Abramoff, what does that make HAVA? Just WHERE is our tax money going and to whom? I'd like to ask the jailbirds.

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We MUST start acting like we own our democracy and start defending it by participating in election audits as counter/observers. Ultimately, and unfortunately we may have already enabled the failure of our democracy because we allowed our elections to become privatized. As elections journalist/blogger Michael Collins recently pointed out, an '06 Zogby poll [2] revealed that 92% of us are against secret vote counts and don't want them. Well, it stands to reason then neither do we want the vendors. We do not trust them nor should we. The vendors should not be rewarded with more enriching contracts on the backs of taxpayers. Vendors should instead be sued while their voting equipment be immediately decertified. Vendors should be shut out of our election process now. Then taxpayers should get their HAVA money back.

[1]To hear entire 01/23/08 radio interview Voice of the Voters with Mary Ann Gould go to: http://www.voiceofthevoters.org/

[2] Michael Collins in "Scoop": http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0801/S00151.htm: Zogby Poll link: http://www.zogby.com/News/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1163
If you are inspired save to your democracy by volunteering to do something really simple, please take a moment to sign up for the Election Defense Alliance's I Count Corps. Democracy, use it or lose it! It doesn't happen without you!

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Victoria Parks is a life-long resident of Ohio; B.S. Broadcast Journalism from Kent State University; award-winning songwriter and performer; indie-producer; Penwoman; democracy activist; commentator; satirist; graphic artist. Parks has been (more...)

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