Mary Ann Gould’s Voice of the Voters first celebrated the grassroots victory of New Jersey’s S. 507 on Monday, the voices that asserted themselves at the committee meeting when they realized no one planned to call on them. Kall on them? The next guest was opednews.com’s owner Rob Kall, whose page attracts 25 million hits a month, including half a million new visitors.
The New Jersey bill is meant as a precedent for the nation as Kall said his Web page has affected change.
And so the powerhouse of an evening began with a conversation with two guests from last week, New Jersey State Senator Nia Gill and Renee Steinhagen, Executive Director of the NJ Appleseed Public Interest Law Center. They were joined by “regular citizen” Frances Martin.
First conversing with Steinhagen, Mary Ann said that S. 507 could impact the nation; her guest explained that the bill introduced the statistical audit, based on the number of votes and the margin of victory involved. Nineteen out of the twenty-one counties in New Jersey have DREs, Sequoia Advantage machines, and none have paper trails except for Warren County. Only provisional ballots are hand-counted, said Steinhagen.
The hearing was successful in part, she continued, because of the barrage of phone calls to Governor Corzine after Mary Ann’s show, which included that call to arms from “we the people.” And so the attorney general, who wanted a capped statistical audit paid for by the candidate, withdrew his demand—also a moratorium on attaching printers onto the Sequoias to make them voter verifiable. Instead, if the bill succeeds, 100 percent audits will be conducted if necessary.
Senator Gill and Frances Martin next shared the mike. Gill detailed all of the grassroots organizations present, which included the Coalition for Peace Action. Stephanie Harris is now on their board, the gentlewoman farmer who played Rosa Parks by objecting strenuously when she was told at the polls that her vote may not have been counted by the Sequoia she used. She was obliged to attempt her vote four times before being told this.
Gill said that she was surprised at the turnout and how uninformed some of the municipal officials were, not knowing, for instance, that a law had been passed mandating voter-verifiable paper trails throughout New Jersey. The Sequoias had been purchased with the provision that they be retrofitted with printers. She gave “99 percent of the credit” to the citizens who attended the hearing with her.
She said that the activists provided the others present with a historical perspective on the issue, explaining the separate litigation in process that has accomplished so much. They were so compelling that another senator changed his vote and said “nay” to granting an extension on retrofitting the Sequoias. Gill said this exemplified how strongly the grassroots can affect events, and that she was privileged to be part of the effort.
"You’re singing my song," said Mary Ann. “Let’s celebrate!”
Now the effort must be directed at 507’s Assembly counterpart. The bill goes to the appropriations committee on Monday. Gill compared all the work to the Montgomery (Alabama) bus boycott. She said that passage of the two bills could impact election 2008.
Mary Ann said that election authority and computer scientist Rebecca Mercuri said that the Sequoias there don’t even comply with 2005 certification standards. The deadline for installing printers on the machines is now June 3, which will not be too late for the next election.
The senator said that ultimately the governor, not the attorney general should be held accountable for this.
At this point Frances, whom the senator had called “too modest,” said that there were so many elections between now and June and Sequoia has specified that it requires sixteen weeks to attach the printers to their machines. We must look to the use of paper. In California both DREs and optical scanners have been decertified.
A champion of optical scanners, Mary Ann pointed out that they are much easier to install than retrofitting printers.
Gill said that she wants the two bills signed in before January 1. A full senate vote will occur around December 17.
And what can we do to help? Write to assemblymen, Reed Gusciora, one of the leaders, in particular, specifying A 27-230 as the bill in question. The names and numbers of all the New Jersey assemblymen can be found at njleg.state.nj.us. Our message should be that the assembly bill should reflect the senate bill exactly and that no waiver should be granted. Gill is asking black and Latino caucuses for assistance also.