Monday, November 14, 2005

The Exciting World of Election Reform

I spent a small part of Saturday afternoon hanging out with 100 old White people at the Unitarian Church listening to speakers on the subject of election reform. Yeah, I know, I'm one very, very hip dude. Besides the obvious attraction of hanging out with lots of old White people, I went primarily to hear about Election Day Registration (EDR), as advocated by State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino. EDR is the rare political initiative that is simple to the point of being eponymous, and Senator Ortiz y Pino outlined why he thought that EDR was probably the single most important election reform New Mexico could undertake in the wake of his successful election reform bill that snuck through the Legislature last session.

The Senator's remarks were too brief and I frankly got bored with the tin-foil hats types who followed talking about how voting systems are computer systems (hence full of bugs, viruses, etc.) run by large Defense Contractors, but I was glad I went anyway. I came away with the following impressions:

1. We've got to get more than just a bunch of old, White people in the room. Maybe these political activists events need to be held at rave clubs with free drinks instead of churches, but ain't nothing meaningful gonna happen without the young folks showing up. At the same time, serious work needs to be done to get broader racial/ethnic participation in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Right now, events like these tend to look like Northeastern Ex-Pat conventions with everybody being far, far too nice and talking about moving here for the sun and low humidity.

2. Having Jerry Ortiz y Pino is the Senate is pretty cool. He's articulate, reformist without wearing the tin-foil hat, and was able to get needed ideas such as a voting paper trail passed as part of the election reform. Now he's on the Election Reform Task Force, which is great if for no other reason than it gives us election reform nerds a one-stop shop to send pleading emails about paper trails, why electronic voting is the Devil, etc.

3. The "vast Right Wing conspiracy" aspect of election reform just doesn't work for me. In case you haven't heard the arguments from this angle, here's a representative perspective. I know, I know, the fact that Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors are writing the software for Diebold and the other Bush Family controlled voting system-makers is scandalous. I am intellectually slothful for not caring more, and missing the big picture. Maybe it's the hopelessness of staring down the military-industrial monolith, or maybe it's just the knowledge that elections have been rigged/stolen throughout U.S. history (Tracy Campbell has a new book on our ignoble history in this regard), but I'd rather just focus on the following in future elections:
  • Everybody is registered
  • The voting "precinct" is done away with. Why limit voters to only electorally bank at one smelly middle school gym? Voters should be able to at the voting branch of their choice.
  • No provisional ballots
  • No uncounted votes
  • A paper trail for every vote
  • A publicly-created organization to replace the antiquated County Clerk system. My biggest gripe with electronic voting isn't the system, it's the fact that our "smart bomb" voting system then interacts with a ball-and-musket 18th Century certification system.
  • A officially limited 30-day campaign (okay, I'm really into dreamland here)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First, you're right about there being too few younger or minority folks participating in progressive politics. They're probably all blogging and thinking that's being an "activist" or playing video games while the Republic burns.

Second, while Sen. Ortiz y Pino is terrific, it was actually the hard work for months and months by old White activists, many of whom were in attendence at the election reform event, that was pivotal in getting the NM election reform bill drafted and passed. Without this grassroots effort, I doubt it would have passed, or included such measures as the voter variafiable paper ballot requirement. Legislators like Ortiz y Pino and Linda Lopez would be the first to tell you that.

Third, you may believe it's the "tinfoil hat" crowd that believes the electronic voting machines are crap, but try reading the recent report of the venerable and nonpartisan GAO on the problems with the new machines. Brad Blog has a link with commentary: