Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Take On The Recent Supreme Court Decision

My friend from Hand Count Paper Ballots Now, Kathleen Wynne, recently wrote this fine piece, "How The American People Can Defeat
Unlimited Corporate Money and Influence in Elections" with her colleague, Karen Renick. She was kind enough to allow me to reprint it here in its entirety below
“There is a dangerous, misguided movement out there that if we just let business rule the nation, all will be well -- markets will take care of themselves, health care, jobs, just let business handle it. You know who says that the loudest? Business.

And now, it can say it even louder. It can shout down any candidate who opposes it. What happened to ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’?” (Excerpt from “Big Biz Needed No Help In The Election Game”, by Mitch Albom, columnist, Detroit Free Press.)

The country is rightfully reeling from the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s partisan 5/4 decision this past Thursday ruling that the “government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.” This decision, without question, continues the devastation of the power of the people in the elections process by ruling that corporations are “persons” who have a First Amendment Right to make campaign contributions without any kind of restriction.

What average citizen can compete with the lobbyists who already have overwhelming influence on our representatives, as well as compete with the deep pocket campaign contributions of our fellow “persons”, Big Business? Campaigns have already become “marketing” campaigns designed to sell a brand or personality more than be a campaign of ideas among the candidates. The American people already know that unlimited ability by a corporation to make campaign contributions to a certain candidate will surely undermine the “checks and balances” that our Founders intended for the elections process which were meant to be the sovereign province of “we, the people”, not “we, the corporations.”

The initial devastation of the essential balance of power between citizens and big business at the ballot box was the advent of voting machines in the elections process. These machines make it impossible for any citizen to oversee the counting of their votes due to the hidden counting by the voting software that runs the machines. Secret vote counting combined with the Court’s most recent decision has rendered a citizen’s role in the elections process virtually non-existent, which is tantamount to not having an election at all. How is this good for democracy?
Not surprisingly, citizens of all political persuasions are already protesting the Court’s decision because they can so clearly see the impending danger to the People’s role in elections and understand that the kind of money that corporations will use now to influence elections will most assuredly diminish, if not totally destroy, our freedom and way of life. In stark contrast, it has been so incredibly difficult for citizens to readily grasp that our right to control and visually witness the entire process of voting to know for certain that the persons truly chosen by the people have been elected has been stolen from us by government officials who cleverly convinced us to replace the ballot box of old with the way of the future -- computerized voting.

For years, election integrity advocates have compiled a mountain of evidence against the use of these machines to no avail. The voting machine corporations have spent large sums of money on lobbyists and marketing these machines and have far too much support from politicians, election officials, computer security experts and powerful interest groups intent on keeping these machines an integral part of our elections process. They are marketed as “faster, easier and more secure!” Is democracy preserved when voting is allowed to be marketed as “fast and easy” rather than “public and accurate”? Despite investigations that definitively uncovered the truth about the dangers these machines pose to election integrity, which were featured in the Emmy nominated HBO documentary film, Hacking Democracy, our government is determined to maintain the current status quo.

It is important to note that American election integrity advocates haven’t been the only ones protesting the use of electronic voting machines counting their votes in secret. Citizens of other democratic republics, such as, Ireland, The Netherlands and India, are but a few of the growing number of countries that have either banned e-voting or are presently fighting to ban them and demanding a return to hand counts and the kind of voting every citizen can oversee and understand. The most recent has been Germany.

In March 2009, Germany banned e-voting because two German citizens, Dr. Ulrich Wiesner and his father, Joachim Wiesner, filed a lawsuit declaring e-voting “unconstitutional” under the German Constitution (which, by the way, the final language put into their Constitution had to be approved by the U.S. after World War II). To further bolster their argument against e-voting, the Wiesners requested the help of a group of computer security experts, who were members of the Chaos Compute Club, to demonstrate for the Court technically how the voting system’s counting the votes was totally unobservable by the average citizen. In response to their lawsuit and the demonstration, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Wiesners. The Court even took it a step further. They also ruled that no amount of testing or government checks of any kind, such as post election audits or recounts, can substitute for public observation. Ultimately, they unanimously declared that e-voting was, indeed, unconstitutional because computerized, secret vote counting does not subscribe to the democratic standards of their country! All elections in Germany have now reverted back to the use of hand-counted paper ballots.

In direct contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s priorities, the German Court’s priorities were to guarantee a German citizen’s human right, which in this case is to be able to “see” their votes counted without the need for any specialized technical expertise in order to do so. They did so to protect “principles of transparency” and the “public nature of elections” as the priority in how elections in a democratic republic must be administered. It is a great example of the German judiciary using its power the way it was intended by protecting the best interests of its citizens in one of the most important processes - elections - available to them in a democratic republic. Despite the historic nature of this decision, our mainstream media chose not to cover this story. Why not? You would think that the “greatest democracy in the world” would consider this decision by the highest court in Germany a must read by the American people, as well as by our own high court justices and government officials.

Yet, here in America, over 95% of us are forced to have a computerized voting system count our ballots because our government officials unilaterally sanctioned the control of our elections to the voting machine corporations through the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 and have protected their software from public scrutiny by upholding trade secret laws. As a result, no one can guarantee even a single voter that his or her vote is being counted as cast.

What a disturbing and glaring difference between the German Federal Constitutional Court and our U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to asserting their power as intended -- to protect a citizen’s rights above all others. The German Court banned secret vote counting in elections and the U.S. Supreme Court gave corporations unchecked influence in our elections, in alliance with our government’s sanctioning of even further corporate control over our elections through the continued use of these voting machines. One Court protects the best interests of the citizens and the sanctity of their basic human rights in a democracy, the other protects the best interests of corporations.

Therefore, the most effective and pro-active action we, the People, can take in the wake of this horrendous decision by our U.S. Supreme Court is to immediately demand a return to publicly hand-counted paper ballots at the precinct level on election night and to posting the results at the precinct - before any ballots are moved - so the results can be publicly documented by citizens which will protect the integrity of the final tally at local, state and federal levels. When all is said and done, this is the only avenue left for citizens to be able to reclaim their rightful role in the election process. It will ensure that our vote – our voice – will be accurately heard as we bestow our consent to those we deem worthy of serving as the protectors of our rights and freedom. Our collective wisdom will see through the ruse of the corporation-backed candidates and elect those who will have the strength and courage to strike down this giant of corporatocracy and revive our quickly fading republic.

If the majority of American citizens can understand that free speech, as exemplified by the giving of financial support to candidates running for public office, should only be for people, not corporations, then it’s truly not a difficult leap for these very same Americans to understand that voting should only be “for the People, of the People and by the People” too. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. The very instant that the counting is hidden from view inside a machine, then voting ceases to be a public endeavor and becomes the domain of those with the financial resources and special expertise to create, program and run the counting devices means that “they” – not the People - will determine the election outcomes. This is not a prescription for democracy, but, rather, one for tyranny.

Demand hand-counted paper ballots now and we can defeat unlimited corporate money and influence, and the corporate machines that now control our elections. And so my fellow Americans, let’s say it together in one voice - ELECTIONS ARE FOR PEOPLE – NOT CORPORATIONS!

Contact: Kathleen Wynne (Founder HCPBnow.org and Former Associate Director of Black Box Voting.org) and Karen Renick (Founder VoteRescue.org) at: wynnekathleen@yahoo.com and karen@voterescue.org to learn more about hand counted paper ballots.

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us, Kathleen. Certainly food for thought, especially on the eve of Obama's first State of the Union address.



Anonymous said...

Kathleen and Karen are absolutely right, about everything. We need the petition at HCPBNow to go viral...I already signed, and am going to post the link to the article (found it at "Democracy For New Hampshire" site) and the link to the petition on Facebook and Twitter. And we need to demand from our Congress that they LISTEN TO US. I think we need to get Scott Brown involved...and Sarah Palin!

And we need to get people up off their asses and into action! If anyone thinks the Tea Parties had no results, just look at Massachusetts.

It's time for a revolution.

Mary Ellen said...

Wow- that was an amazing post! For a country that is supposedly so advanced and who send out people to over-see elections in the Middle East, we sure can't seem to get our act together with our own democracy, specifically voting.

Thanks for posting this, Rev.Amy...and thanks to Kathleen Wynne.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Amen, sister, it surely is. Thanks, SFIndie - please post the link here for the petition, too, and I'll add it in.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Thanks, Mary Ellen - yes, it really is amazing that we STILL cannot conduct elections that we can know, for a fact, are accurate. What does that say abt us?

Kathleen and Karen do great work, don't they? So glad they are fighting for us!

Anonymous said...

Rev, you've actually got the link to the petition right at the top of your post...it's the "Hand Count Paper Ballots Now" link. Takes you right to the website and there's a big "sign the petition"link right there.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

SF, Oops, right - I inserted the link when I set this up, but didn't click on it (I have been to the HCPBNow site before, of course, but just didn't click on it right then). I guess I read your comment too fast - sorry!!!

Thanks, SF!