Time For Tough National Election Standards

While Democrats haggle and speechify about little stuff like the minimum wage, examine their proposed legislative agenda and ask yourself, "Where's meaningful election reform?" Because if there's anything that the elections of 2000 - 2006 have proven it's that Americans no longer believe that their leaders can resist gaming the system--believe unquestioningly that their vote will be counted. Of all of the nasty, tragic things that have happened in the last 4 campaigns, this is the most tragic.

And how do we know that Americans have lost faith in the election process? Did you think you would live to see the day when citizens routinely take cameras and camcorders into the polling place to record their votes? Americans are voting absentee in record numbers. And why? Because they feel it's a way to ensure that their vote gets counted. Have you ever been turned away from a polling place? Waited in a 4 hour line to vote? Well...this sort of stuff happens frequently in urban areas. And what about the voter suppression efforts? Or the legions of lawyers ready to contest every outcome--poll monitors ready to contest every registration?

This nonsense has got to stop, and congress has the power to do make it stop:
  • The toothless and inadvisable Help America Vote Act needs to be scrapped.
  • Voting system certification should to be nationalized and handed over to a non-partisan board of experts.
  • Any accepted system must either have physical ballots or a physical audit trail.
  • Service levels for voting systems need to be developed that mandate "hours in service" without a crash or glitch.
  • Polling place capacity standards need to be developed so that urban areas don't get shorted on equipment or personnel.
  • Voter registration procedures need a uniform federal standard, and the registration process should produce a certificate (or ID) that is sufficient for demonstrating eligibility to vote.
  • And finally, penalties for tampering with any aspect of the voting process, from machine management to polling place procedures, need to be severe enough to deter the types of shenanigans we've seen in the last 4 elections.
Tell the Democrats that tough national election standards should be one of their first orders of business!


This has to be a key action for Congress. The Democrats won last Tuesday despite aggressive fraud and voter suppression. Senator-elect Webb would have won by a larger margin if several counties had not deleted his last name from the voting machines.

Vote fraud can swing close elections (Florida 2000, Ohio 2004) but can only narrow the margin in a landslide. Congress needs to insure fair elections and honest vote counts. The alternative is for Democrats to lose the next close election they win.
Froogy, you are right on every count, but that is just a start. A certain electoral administration I have foillowed over the years has all the safeguards in place, but it still doesn't stop crooked parties using other mechanisms.
The first thing that should be in place is/are independent electoral commissions which also administer redistricting.
There also needs to be an independent anti-corruption body, though that idea is problematic with the memory of J Edgar Hoover.
The point is, there are certain functions which must be outside the scope of politicians.
Absolutely, write your new Congresscritter people!!!
YES YES YES!! you hit the nail on the head!!!

first order of biz - makes sure another vote is never stolen again!
KightErrant, agreed I think that first thing is to do what Cartledge suggests and put together independent, non-partisan election commissions. That way, the kinds on nonsense that McPherson in CA or Blackwell in OH tried to pull won't happen again.

Fred, si, SI Senor!

AZG, thanks! I like to think that uniform voting standards would be acceptable to both parties, but I doubt it.
Very well said knighterrant.

That is exactly what I think happened this year. Besides the obvious, like leaving Webb's last name off, I think the close ones weren't close at all. I think that enough votes weren't siphoned off up front, is all.

I'm convinced this is why the Democrats "lost" in 2000 & 2004.
Great stuff, Kvatch! This really is a hugely important issue, and these are all excellent recommendations.
I agree -- the Dems need to make this an issue right away. It's been to the Repubs' advantage to suppress the vote the past six years; this year they couldn't overcome the tsunami. But in the future, that may not always be the case. With the right bit of rhetoric, there's no way the minority party in Congress (excuse me for a left-over bit of schadenfreude here) can argue against it and remain credible with the American people (not that that's stopped them before...).

Let's talk about this over a celebratory beer at Zeitgeist tomorrow, what do you say?
Chuck, verifying voting machines against a set of service levels and requirements would go a long way toward stopping the type of problems they allowed to happen in vA.

Tom, thanks! Time to get on talking to our representaive...the one not named Pombo. :-)

Generik, that's an excellent point. Voting reform and standardization should be like Apple Pie. No one should be against it. And...I'll be there!
Well said.

Notes to all Congresspersonages will be forthcoming!
I don't think it matters what you do, there will always be people who can think up new ways to cheat....which doesn't mean I think election reform is not in order...anything we can do to make it harder for them will help. Republicans in New Hampshire went to jail for jamming phone lines in 2004. This year one of their tricks was what they call Robo calls, identifying themselves as Democrats, harassing voters in an effort to make them so angry they either wouldn't vote, or would vote Republican. There was a report, I think it was in New Mexico, of men with video cameras and a gun attempting to intimidate Latino voters. I read that in one state, Republicans were giving leaflets to homeless people to hand out, and these pieces of nonsense identified Republican candidates as Democrats. Such was their desperation.

While I hear Ann Coulter is braying that this election was the won by Democrats with the narrowest margin in history, it would be interesting to know what the vote count would have been without all the dirty tricks.

But we won, and for this year, that's the bottom line. No matter how the Republicans try to diminish the victory, we have, for now, restored the two party system to America and we've declawed the dragon. We have two years to fix the problems, and I agree that this should be a strong focus of Congress.

I had only to read an article on England's "Guardian" a couple of days ago that said, "Thank you America" to know that it isn't only Democrats and Independents who are celebrating our victory. Surely this was the election heard round the world.
Vote tampering should be a federal offense with anyone caught losing their voting rights.
I was a poll worker last Tuesday (here in California), and it was very reassuring to actually count paper ballots. I'm of the mind that the low-tech way is best.

Even open-source code can be hacked, but of course the idea of proprietary software owned by rabid partisans for public elections is disgusting. They need to scrap all that crap and go low-tech.
Honest elections, what a concept. Its a shame that in what is suppose to be the greatest democracy in the world the people don't have confidence in the election process.

Most definitly lets have election reform laws that bite the cheaters in the ass.

God Bless all.
Screw the machines, period. Paper. Pencil. Hand count. Simple. I'm with Alicia on that one. Computers have been in the office environment for twenty years, and companies have to budget for replacements every 18 months to two years or risk obsolescence. Meanwhile, the post-it note is still one of the most effective communication tools.

I'd really like to see the Democratic legislature introduce a bill that at least guaranteed a paper trail. If the Republicans dared to oppose it in any way, the question as to their motivation would be obvious and dramatic. 'C'mon Mr. Bush, pull out your veto pen, I dare ya.' Talk about a rock and a hard place.

The Democrats should pursue this vigorously and vocally, not only for its own sake, but for the potential political gain. Sit back and wait for Limpbough, Oh'Really and Coulter to attack it. Then ask them why they hate and fear democracy.
Thanks Sewmouse! We've all got keep on the Dems about this.

Cranky...yeah, I had this to say about Robocalls. That was a low tactic, but anyone who would let it stop them from voting is a knob.

As for Coulter, she can make nonsensical arguments like that but the plain fact is that this election sweep was even more profound than 1994, as not a single Democratic seat was lost in either chamber. Something ol Newt can't claim.

Lew, felonies all IMHO.
Alicia, that's why I suggested that we've got to have paper or an audit trail. Either works for me. The main point being that the "true" result of an election can always be reconstructed.

Anon-P, I think that you and Lew are on the same page. Me too, for that matter. Stiffer laws, felonies for each election related crime!

SadButTrue, see the above comment to Alicia. But you're so right. Mandate the paper trail, and then just let Bush try and veto it!
Uh...Kvatch...did you know that you were picked up by the Daou report for this post? I just found it in his section for Left bloggers! Salon man...the Daou picked your blog...that's huge!
Sumo...I did know, but I didn't want to say anything. On the sly though, I've been grinning from ear to ear (do frogs have ears?) ever since yesterday morning. I've waited soooooo long for Salon to pick up something of mine. :-) :-) :-)
Dude...you have every right to be proud and puff out your frog puffer. You should mention it although I understand why you wouldn't. I was picked up on Topix back in July and it is still running in their forums. Last time I looked it had nearly 2500 comments IF I remember correctly. I didn't realize it until DBK emailed all of us at Blanton's and Ashton's where I cross-posted it. DBK was pleased because of the traffic it brought the blog. You can figure on the same. Many kudos to you, I didn't mention my thing either...I would have been embarrassed to self promote...it is easy to tell you to do it though. Huge really huge!
Sumo...so while we're dishing on Salon...my "San Francisco Values" post from a week ago was picked up for the "On the Radar" section of the Daou Report, and my traffic quadrupled and stayed up for about 4 days. This last post has increased my traffic (about double), but hasn't been the resounding success of the other one. Guess at the time people were more interested in finding out about our depraved natures over here on the Left Coast than they are about election standards.
"you have every right to be proud and puff out your frog puffer"

Just so long as you do it in private, please.
And add to the list of reforms, once per decade redistricting done by nonpartisan panels without regard to incumbency. Congress already has the power to mandate all this; they should do so within the Second 100 Hours.
I'm going to have to make sure I check my Salon Newsletter everyday from now on. I don't necessarily do it daily because I read LOTS of other things everyday too...but I will from now on! I'll be looking for ya!

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