[Update: I wrote this post while doing nine other things and failed to make elementary arguments supporting my claim that voting for Debra – or getting your friends to vote for Debra – will make a massive difference in how voting is handled in the U.S. (hint: it will; go see Brad Friedman at HuffPo – and remember that he’s a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist while I’m a committed debunker of those theories and we completely agree on this) and see my letter below.]
As an aside, if you live in California and are a registered Democrat or Independent, the most important thing you can do to improve voting is to vote tomorrow for Debra Bowen for Secretary of State.
There’s been an interesting and long (if thinly populated) comment thread on my post regarding RFK Jr’s risable Rolling Stone article.
Note that while I’m passionate about improving voting systems – meaning improving the accuracy, auditability, transparency, and trustworthiness of the systems (meaning human, physical, and technical) we use for voting, I’m very dismissive of Jr’s claims.
I’m dismissive because my biggest concern is building the political will to make the changes we need to make to get us where we need to go. And as long as the argument is framed as “we need to fix the system to keep your side from doing all the bad things you do” – which is fundamentally the position of two of the commenters – two things happen. Instead of a bipartisan reform movement (the only way it will succeed), we get a wedge issue. Worse, instead of an issue where we can calmly agree on facts and work outward to plans, we get a conflicting array of unproven (and unprovable) assertions which quickly degenerate (as the thread has) to “did so!” and “did not!”I’ll make my position clear – again – in saying that both sides have and do game the system, and that I do not doubt that both sides have committed fraud. If you’re a Democrat, you should want to fix the mechanics of voting to make sure that Ohio can’t happen again. If you’re a Republican, you should want to fix the mechanics of the system to make sure Washington State doesn’t get done to you again.
I think it is highly unlikely that there has been ‘massive’ organized fraud in recent elections. That doesn’t mean that elections – local and national haven’t turned on votes that were a) from people who shouldn’t have been able to vote; b) that never were placed, because of people who were unfairly kept from voting; c) that were – at a retail level (i.e. in the hundreds or thousands but not tens of thousands). Like bad calls in baseball games, I tend to see them as averaging out.
But the game is being watched more closely – there are cameras that can secnd-guess the umpires’ calls – and there is more at stake.
So we need to work together to determine what it would take to have a system in place that both sides – that all Americans – can trust.
As I noted at the top of this post, tomorrow there will be an election in California where we have a chance to mark the low point in electoral trust in this country, and to begin – not in arguments on blog pages, but in reality – to build a system that we all trust.
We’ll do it by voting for Debra Bowen. If this issue matters to you, and you live in California and can vote for her, do it.
If you can’t, find your friends who can, and tell them to vote for her.
That way we can turn this argument from sniping to building, and start debating the ways that we can build a system that each of us will trust.
That’s Bowen for Secretary of State.
[Update: Here’s the email I sent to 1,200 people in my address book. I got about 100 positive replies and about 50 dinner invitations…
I’m sending this to everyone I know in California, and asking you all to vote for Debra Bowen for Secretary of State in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.
Sending out mass requests isn’t usually my thing, but this is important enough for me to put that discomfort aside.
Why? Secretary of State is a downballot race that few, if any, people pay much attention to – which means that getting a small group to vote for Debra will make a big difference. And it will be a difference that will mean a lot to all of us.
Because one of the critical functions of the office is overseeing election procedures and technology in California.
In the last decade, the mechanics of elections – something that only the hardest-core of hard-core political junkies cared about – have suddenly become news. This month’s Rolling Stone has an article by Robert Kennedy Junior challenging the handling of the Ohio presidential balloting in 2004 (note that Mother Jones had an article in November that disproves many of his claims). But the article is evidence of a growing loss of faith in the mechanics of our political process.
[horrible metaphor alert!…I’m wincing reading this now…]
The fuel provided by this loss of faith combined with increasingly bitter partisanship on both sides is about to be ignited by the implementation of deeply flawed technology in the form of voting machines using technology and procedures that no corporation could use under Sarbanes-Oxley.
I believe, more than anything, that people’s faith in the electoral process is what ties us to our political system and provides legitimacy to our government at all levels.
To defend that we need voting systems – technology and processes – that can be defended when challenged, that are widely perceived to be fair, and that restore confidence in our political process.
Debra gets this.
She gets the nitty-gritty technical and procedural details that it will take to make this happen. I’ve listened to her opponent, Deborah Ortiz, and she doesn’t.
It’s important that you vote on Tuesday, but I’m asking you all to please, please vote for Debra because I think that it’s critical that in 2008 and thereafter you’re confident that your vote was actually counted.
Her campaign website is at http://www.debrabowen.com/ and it’s not too late to donate a few bucks, if you’re so inclined.
For those that I haven’t talked to in a while, howdy, things are going well, and please drop me a note and let me know how you’re doing.
To everyone, please understand that I wouldn’t send this if I didn’t think it was vitally important. Thanks for taking a moment to read it. Feel free to contact me with questions – this is obviously important to all of us.]