You'd probably be shocked to know just how many little old ladies are in charge of democracy in America. Our elections have been caught in their surprisingly strong grip -- just try to pry it from them! -- since before most of Occupy Wall Street was in nappies. Thousands of poll workers are sweet, responsible, gray-haired ladies who, as this video proves, will lunge for your jugular and threaten you with arrest if you so much as question the nature of their work (which, btw, is your legal right).
The nature of their work is to efficiently manage secure, publicly observable elections.
But guess what, we don't have publicly observable elections anymore, because some people tasked with protecting our elections, have decided it's okay to hand the process of democracy over to private corporations who build computerized voting machines that now count all our ballots in secret.
Why is it not okay to count ballots in secret? Anyone?
Because we can't verify who really won, that's why!
Increasingly we're hearing the call to upgrade American democracy for the 21st Century. If we bank online, why shouldn't we vote online? Why not use smart phones and iPads to cast a ballot? This will make voting easy and cool! We can even have a Democracy App!
This well meaning but painfully misguided sentiment has found strong support most recently within the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Some Occupiers support the replacement of representational democracy with "direct democracy." Online voting, they reason, could allow for decentralization of our process, with citizens drafting their own bills and the public at large voting on them directly via computer.
The truth is, for those of us in the Election Integrity movement who have spent decades fighting the spreading democratic cancer of electronic vote counting, this idea makes us . . . how should I put it . . . insanely, desperately frustrated? Tear-your-hair-out, final straw, gonna lose it, hold me down crazypants? Or maybe I just speak for myself.
To lay out the fundamental argument against Internet voting and the final destruction of our actual ballots, I'm going to wisely use the words of someone who says it so clearly and unemotionally that I certainly can do no better.
Bev Harris, of Black Box Voting.org, is one of the most tenacious, effective, knowledgeable computer election fraud investigators of the past 10 years. Here is her response in an online debate to an OWS member who writes:
“as for my personal goals… I want an online voting system …”
I was once walking through a less than ideal section of Brooklyn; a grim, gray, sad street with shuttered stores covered in obscene graffiti – the iconic American landscape – and on a front stoop was a flowerpot. The only flowerpot on this sad, sad street. It was big, and it was literally chained to the stoop. A thick, heavy metal bike chain was wrapped around it and threaded through the iron stair railing. Because clearly, in this part of town, whatever isn’t chained down will be promptly carried off – even a bunch of half-dead daisies.
Meanwhile, far to the north in a similarly ill-favored area of Washington Heights, I once saw three men nearly kill each other over the accusation -- I gathered -- of stolen hubcaps. Right in the middle of the street, with half the neighborhood watching, they came close to summarily executing some poor dude next to a stripped low-rider.
Americans protect their shit, this we know. From the hubcaps of the downtrodden to the obscene home entertainment centers of the suburbs, to the obscener estates and multi-billion dollar investments of the upper classes – we guard our possessions with chains, guns, complex home alarm systems, even basement “panic rooms” where the wealthy can hide in a personal lockbox with the family jewels when the barbarians arrive at the gate.
We protect our borders with fences and cameras and military drone planes. We protect our airplanes with full body scanners and free-massage groping at the gate. We protect our kids with vaccinations, our pets with implanted chips, our merchandise with bar codes, our ideas with patents.
Such obsession with protecting what’s ours . . . except in one fascinating instance. Our vote. Our ballot. The one physical mechanism of our much vaunted -- some would even intone "sacred" -- democracy.
That? We don’t even think about that! Not once. Never.
Yesterday we witnessed an increasingly rare phenomenon: We the People won at the ballot box.
In Ohio and Mississippi voters successfully killed two bills that furthered the Union-Busting, Women-Hating agenda of the extreme right. Senate Bill 5 was defeated by a massive statewide labor coalition, fighting to reclaim their right to collectively bargain in the Buckeye State. In the Bible Belt, women -- and more than a few good southern men -- stood together to defeat an initiative that would have defined life at the beginning of fertilization, a head-on challenge to Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose.
We're happy, of course, for the workers of Ohio who still own their voices, and the women in Mississippi who still own their bodies. But there's a real downside to yesterday's news for progressive-minded Election Integrity activists.