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Black Box Voting names Maine best in nation for voting rights

By       Message Bev Harris       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Black Box Voting has been researching nitty-gritty election issues state by state, community by community. Maine, it turns out, is a standout. Overall, Maine's current processes are better than any other state in America.

FRAMING THE ISSUES*

To understand why Maine's current processes are better than other states, and why certain federal legislative efforts threaten Maine's good processes, let's look at the core issues facing election integrity: Right to self-government ("Right to Know") and compliance with protective laws and procedures.

RIGHT TO KNOW: The key question is that of accountability to the people (put positively) or anti-secrecy (put in its negative form). If we allow any key process to be concealed in elections, we transfer power from the public to government insiders.

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Any voting system based on concealed processes (that is, processes that cannot be examined by the public) fails to recognize that the people are the sole legitimate and ultimate source of power. Concealment of any key election process violates the following:
(1) the Constitutional frame ("We the People...do hereby ordain...)
(2) the Declaration of Independence (governments are formed to "secure these rights" and "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed") and
(3) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (holding the sole source of legitimate political authority is the people of a nation).

Argumentation used to establish women's suffrage came from the Declaration of Independence. The argumentation for your right to public vote-counting goes like this:
Right to liberty: You can't have liberty without self-government.
Right to alter our governance: You can't have self-government if insiders count the votes in secret.
Inalienable right: You can't do away with these rights by passing a law. Laws that violate inalienable rights, like slavery, can be passed but constitute invalid law.

HOW MAINE PROTECTS RIGHT TO SELF GOVERNMENT / NEW THREATS

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1. MAINE HAS EXCELLENT RIGHT TO KNOW LAWS, permitting any person to examine records, including ballots (after the election), plus all election records and election accounting.

" The state of New Hampshire forbids anyone "" even candidates "" from examining the original ballots, even after the election, even after the 22-month retention period expires for federal elections.

" The state of Utah places not only ballots, but all accompanying election accounting documents under seal, forbidding the public and even candidates from examining them without court order.

" King County, Washington refused to provide certain accounting for absentee votes in the 2004 Rossi/Gregoire gubernatorial race. Five years later, the county was fined $225,000 for noncompliance.

" Pima County, Arizona does not permit either the public or party observers to watch vote tallying in the precincts for nonpartisan elections like tax, construction and bond issues.

" Maine has very few restrictions on Right to Know, allows the public (not just political parties) to observe polling place tallying, and has consistently responded to Black Box Voting public records requests quickly, fully and courteously.

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2. MAINE REQUIRES BALLOTS TO BE COUNTED IN PUBLIC and requires that the public be permitted to observe the proceedings. In contrast, many states have consolidated the counting into large, centralized locations with poor chain of custody during ballot transport, and obstructions to public observation. Several states limit observation to designated observers selected by political parties. (Note that our founding documents refer to "The People," not "The Parties.")

" Threats: A proposal for federal legislation, the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" (H.R. 2239 -- referred to by many in the election reform movement as "The Holt Bill") contains a shocking contract-steering clause, allocating nearly a billion dollars towards forcing every jurisdiction in America to place a special new high tech voting machine into every polling place. The bill requires the purchase and sets out specifications which only one manufacturer (ES&S) can meet, then effectively precludes any other manufacturer from obtaining certification by setting strict deadlines for purchase dates.

This is contract steering, and threatens to interfere with the way Maine runs its elections. It will also produce closure of polling places due to cost increases.

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Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.

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