"A Margin of Error, Ballots of Straw"
Life is stranger than fiction when it takes fiction to imitate life. Don't ask me to explain that opening sentence as it makes my brain hurt to read it, but, Lani Massey Browns new book of fiction, "A Margin of Error, Ballots of Straw" has a plot line that uses as its prime theme the all too real possibility of elections being stolen by keeping the theft within the margin of error. It is the fear that all Americans should, but unfortunately do not experience. Frightening as it is, America seems content with the status quo.
The problems associated with Americas voting integrity issues were the subject matter of the November 28, 2007 broadcast of Voice of the Voters, airing on WNJC1360 in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania radio market and hosted by well known voting rights activist, Mary Ann Gould.
The discussion opened with Ms. Brown pointing out that the elections of 2000-2002-2004-2006 reveal that "people are not interested in election integrity". Being one of those that is greatly concerned, her book was her way of attempting to draw attention to Americas most pressing dilemma. Lani explained that, "If the "win" can be kept within the margin of error, then no one will ever be able to tell if an election was stolen". The book is a work of fiction with a story line that engages the reader on multiple levels, and includes the staple items such as murder, deception (Of course!; it's a voters rights book) kidnapping, and somehow a love story is mixed in. (I can only hope the love interest concerns the broken heart of a corrupt election official.)
Correctly, Ms. Brown believes that Americans are polarized; red teams against blue teams. Being a thoughtful American, Ms. Brown pointed out that the team should be the American team, voting integrity is an American issue. She is also fully appreciative of the connection between the investment of human life that enabled Americas democracy, and that of our modern responsibility to maintain our systems integrity. About that she could not be more correct, maintenance of Americas democracy requires citizen involvement; civic involvement, military involvement, and dare I say it, political involvement.
When pointing out that election officials are too quick to blindly accept election ballot technologies without a plan or procedures for testing the technology and the reporting system in total, she utilized a new favorite phrase of mine, "Pandora's big black box of Vapor ballots". Vapor actually has more substance than votes caroming around in cyberspace, at least vapor is quantifiable. But I do so love the analogy.
Mary Ann and Lani discussed the clear advantage of paper ballots over cyber votes. Ms. Brown used the 2000 election in Florida with the infamous hanging chads as an example of how paper allows for an after the fact examination of individual votes. When thinking about paper versus cyber, and then thinking of Ms. Browns book title "A Margin of Error, Ballots of Straw", and then thinking about recounts, verification, validation, accountability, transparency and integrity, it is b-a-f-f-l-i-n-g how election officials don't get it!
And get it they don't! Ms. Brown suggests that a "Silent Coup" has taken place and that "Individuals need to get involved and pay attention, talk about it, write about it". Yes, I could not agree more, however, we need to get the word out to those people that are not already members of the choir. Lani's book is one step in that direction. Maybe if we each buy a copy of "A Margin of Error, Ballots of Straw", read it, and pass it on to someone that is a neophyte to voting issues with the caveat that the new owner is to repeat that process, then maybe we can enable the voices of the uneducated. Snowball the book and its message.
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