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And The People Have Spoken...

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First of all let me take the opportunity to thank everyone in the country who answered my last plea for a change in direction for the United States of America. I'm sure it was my groveling that put the Democrats over the top in Congress, so I'll take full credit for that. Oh, who am I kidding... I had nothing to do with it. But, at least I can feel like I've spoken in the majority. The people in this country want a change in ideology, direction, and eventually leadership in the executive branch as well. The people in this country want accountability in our elected officials and real answers to the difficult questions that the Republican Congress refused to ask over the last six years. The people in this country want true checks-and-balances and Congressional oversight in our government. The people in this country are truly concerned about our economy, our environment, our veterans, our elderly, and our children. The people in this country have seen the gap between the wealthy and the middle class widen. The people in this country have paid through the nose in gasoline prices at the pump, while seeing the oil companies announce record (mind-boggling) profits. The people in this country have seen our sons & daughters getting slaughtered in Iraq for a cause that is not just. The people in this country have spoken, and we've sent a very clear message to the Bush Administration - "NO MORE!". It's Time To Call For Election Reform I started out on election day very, very nervous. I had heard about some of the problems leading up to election day, and then I read Greg Palast's column of "How They Stole the Mid-term Election" describing in detail about the voter fraud, voter intimidation, and the like. Keep in mind - this article was published at the beginning of election day. I thought "Great, there goes ANOTHER stolen election for the Republicans". But... I spent the whole day in denial praying that the Democratic turnout would overcome the Republican vote suppression. And that's exactly what happened. At this juncture, even though the Democrats successfully overcame the Rovian tactics and election fraud, I'm still calling for election reform. I think it would be hypocritical to "cut-and-run" from this issue which is so important to our democracy. Sure - Democrats out-voted the Republicans PLUS their dirty election trickery this time, but that doesn't excuse the dirty election trickery. So, here's my proposal for election reform:
  • NO election official should have a partisan affiliation. Some of my most satisfying moments in Tuesday night's election were seeing BOTH Kenneth Blackwell AND Katherine Harris go down in embarrassing defeat. There's a clear message here - that the people of this country want a fair electoral process, and even the appearance or perception of partisanship by an election official is unacceptable.
  • Same-day registration should be a Federal law. This is a carry-over from the last three elections where a multitude of evidence suggests (albeit 'proves') that there was a massive effort to suppress votes by deliberately mishandling the registrations. If the voter can prove citizenship & residence, they should be able to register and vote all in one fell swoop.
  • Election day should be a federal holiday. Along with that, let's take it a few steps further. I would advocate for more standardization in election mechanisms and infrastructure. For example, the allocation of voting machines based on the quantity of registered voters should be uniform to prevent long lines in less-affluent districts, etc.
  • There should be NO tolerance for dirty election trickery. The examples that come to mind are the massive reports of robo-calling to annoy voters, phone bank jamming, and the distribution of messages that the election was on a different day or different location, or that the voter would be arrested at the polls because they were supposedly registered in a different state, or that they didn't have to vote because they voted in the primaries. Will the people responsible for these slimy election tactics ever be brought to justice? Yeah, right.
  • ALL voting machines MUST be verifiable. NO voting machine should exist that records the vote and doesn't provide a paper receipt. All paper receipts should be retained as an audit trail to verify that machine's votes, should the totals be vastly different from the exit poll results in a close race.
  • REAL Campaign Finance Reform. The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act didn't even scratch the surface of how corrupt this system was and still is. Elections need to be publicly financed in order to ensure fairness and remove obligations between lawmakers and special interests.

My hope

My point is that we should not turn our backs on election reform now that we happen to win one election. The problem exists and will continue to exist in 2008 if we don't do something about it. My hope is that the Democrats in control don't fall into that majority party pitfall of corruption, fixing elections, and dirty tactics. My hope is that the Democrats in control will work to unite our country to progress forward for the betterment of all, instead of constantly dividing us against each other. My hope is that the Democrats in control will reach out to our international allies with an outstretched arm of cooperation and partnership, instead of a folded arms posture of arrogance and imperialism. My hope is that the Democrats in control will reign in the unbridled war-profiteering and privatization of our military.

I'm absolutely giddy with excitement after last night's election results. But the fight is not over. It's just gone into high gear.

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Scott Shuster is a progressive columnist, publishing since May of 2005. His liberal ideology is a refreshing diversion from 'politics as usual' in Washington.
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