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Forum Post: FreeDA: Free Democracy Affidavits

Posted 8 years ago on May 1, 2014, 3:41 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

"If, then, control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of their republicanism, and I confess I know no other measure, it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interests require."

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Taylor dated May 28, 1816.

Free Democracy Affidavit Template

I, _ , certify under PENALTY OF PERJURY under the laws of the State of __ that the foregoing paragraphs are true and correct.

  1. To restrain the corruption that has possessed the United States government and to secure the blessings of liberty to the People of the United States, I fully acknowledge that in order for the People to be free, their elected representatives must be legally bound to serving the specific interests of the People rather than the general interests of the corporations. As such,
  1. I support that Patriot Dollars should be issued to voters for the sole funding of political campaigns at all levels of government to keep political campaigns free from the undemocratic influences of monied interests that should be prohibited from funding any political advertisements outside of political campaigns. In accordance with this, I shall only accept campaign contributions from voters and not from unions, corporations, or other organizations.
  1. I support that the offering or acceptance of any item or service of value including but not limited to the offering or acceptance of future employment involving a public official or candidate for public office of any branch or level of government should be prohibited and punishable with equivalence to an act of treason. In accordance with this, I shall not accept any gifts from special interests upon campaigning or holding public office.
  1. I support that all communication to take place between a lobbyist and a public official should be public and open to the press, the violation of which should be punishable with equivalence to an act of treason. In accordance with this, I shall make all communication between myself and lobbyists open to the press and the general public.
  1. I support that the separation of corporation and state being necessary for the independence of a democratic government in serving the needs of the people, no public service should be under the management of a private sector entity and all revenue for all levels of government should be deposited in public banks corresponding to each level of government. In accordance with this, I shall not maintain an account with a private bank but shall contribute the support of my personal finances to my local community through membership in a credit union.
  1. I support that representatives elected by the People should be legally bound to supporting the specific interests of the People. In accordance with this, as an elected representative of the People, I shall always vote in accordance with the majority will of the People that has been expressed through the Democratic Congress of the district I represent even when that will is contrary to my own position.

FreeDA: Establishing Political Accountability

As observed by Thomas Jefferson in 1816 and as confirmed nearly 200 years later by the 2014 study

"Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

the well funded business interests of the American elites behind elected representatives have sustained conditions of political unaccountability resulting in a corporate run government unfavorable towards the interests of the American people. Therefore, establishing political accountability through the application of Free Democracy Affidavits or FreeDA can be the grassroots solution for getting corporate money out of politics. For the People to be free, politicians must be legally bound to serving the specific interests of the People rather than the interests of the corporations. By refusing to vote for any candidate who doesn't sign an affidavit legally committing that candidate to supporting the will of the People, voters will be able to exercise their democratic power to hold the candidates who do sign and are elected, legally accountable. However, VOTERS MUST REMAIN UNITED ACROSS PARTY LINES IN THEIR REFUSAL TO VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WHO WON'T SIGN THE AFFIDAVITS. Voters across party lines must become FreeDA voters who will only vote for FreeDA candidates within the party of their choice. This trans-partisan cooperation is essential to the success of bringing about permanent political reform as a vote for a non-FreeDA candidate is a de facto vote for the corporate interests the candidate has decisively chosen to remain open to serving. People must be consistently reminded that YOU CANNOT VOTE FOR CORPORATE BACKED CANDIDATES AND EXPECT AN END TO CORPORATE RUN GOVERNMENT. Unless the vast majority of non-voters should decide to become FreeDA voters, the greatest support shall come from the participation of independent voters willing to forego partisan voting whenever partisan candidates are unwilling to sign a Free Democracy affidavit. If, initially, no candidates are willing to sign in the election in which the affidavits are first presented, it will only be a matter of time before both partisan and non-partisan willing candidates emerge from among the FreeDA supporters in subsequent elections. The consistent presence of FreeDA candidates under partisan labels will also serve to split the partisan votes until either all partisan candidates become FreeDA candidates or FreeDA candidates become the primary choice of the partisan voters. In support of FreeDA candidates both partisan and non-partisan, a FreeDA 501(c)4 PAC would receive contributions to fund ads for all of the FreeDA signers collectively.

What if an elected FreeDA signer declines to uphold an affirmation of the affidavit and the justice system declines to enforce the law? Since the elected official had the majority of the voters' support to win the election, the action to take place in response to a failure of justice will be by that same voting majority as well as by other FreeDA voters from throughout the state. The action that these voters take will have to result in the total shut down of their state capitol along with a demand of the appropriate legal penalties to be enforced against the state attorney general for declining to prosecute the affidavit violator on the grounds of perjury. It is a battle for justice that must be won as the outcome will establish the precedent for all future outcomes. Civil disobedience, a general strike among the non-legal profession employees of the state justice department, and other tactics will have to be well planned in advance on a scale rivaling that of the 2011 Wisconsin protests to see the battle through http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23473-rich-people-rule-struggle-lies-ahead . This voter solidarity across party lines in the use of affidavits and the demand for justice will be a people's revolution that either establishes democracy http://occupywallst.org/forum/a-democracy/ in America, setting an example for people of similar political situations to follow around the world, or fails and establishes the official American acceptance of the tyranny of corporate rule.

As a political condition that could be nationally implemented by the establishment of a National Democratic Congress http://occupywallst.org/forum/omni-organizing-municipal-national-initiatives/ FreeDA could liberate the public good from the subversive control of private interests.



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[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Reviving Government Of, By, and For the People

Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:22
By Fred Azcarate, OtherWords | Op-Ed


Here we are, 150 years after President Abraham’s Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg. Now, our democracy is imperiled not by guns and bullets, but by the greed of the rich.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the McCutcheon v. FEC case struck down federal limits on the overall campaign cash that big donors may give individual candidates, political parties, and political action committees.

How does that square with Lincoln’s 1863 declaration at Gettysburg that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”?

The McCutcheon ruling, combined with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, represents a one-two punch to the face of American Democracy. McCutcheon’s likely legacy will be the creation of mammoth “Super PACs,” financed by unlimited contributions from the wealthy and the corporations they leverage.

Our nation’s campaign finance system creates an inherent risk that politicians will care more about the people paying for their electoral bids with donations than the people who vote for them.

Together with other similar Supreme Court rulings, the McCutcheon and Citizens United cases are eroding our democracy in many ways.

First, they’re increasing the influence that money wields in politics. By raising the maximum contributions donors can make to election campaigns — both directly and indirectly — these rulings made it much easier for the deepest pockets to win support of politicians.

The buck doesn’t stop on Election Day either. These mega-donors cash in on their political “investments” once their man or woman gets sworn in (which is why many contribute to the candidates of both parties) to make certain their personal needs trump priorities for the general public.

Second, the heaps of money perverting our democracy make it harder for most people to run for office. Unless you’ve got your own personal fortune or a bunch of millionaire and billionaire buddies, you simply can’t run. Our leaders shouldn’t lead lives so removed from the challenges the rest of us have to deal with day-to-day that they identify more with rich people looking for another tax break than a working mom trying to find affordable child care.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

States across the country have taken the lead to get big money out of politics by passing comprehensive campaign finance reform that favors the public financing of elections — more than half of the states now have some form of this kind of law on the books.

In February, Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, introduced the Government by the People Act and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, introduced the Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate.

This legislation would transform the current system to reduce big money’s outsized influence. The bills would boost the clout of small donors and help millions more Americans play a key role in our politics.

USAction, the organization I lead, and more than 40 other national groups support this legislation. The McCutcheon ruling, which the Supreme Court handed down in early April, simply makes a bad system worse.

Congress must respond swiftly to salvage our democracy and create the conditions in which a government that is of, by, and for the people can flourish.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

In Spite of Corporate Lobbyists, Vermont Residents Organize to Raise the Wage

Thursday, 01 May 2014 10:01
By Jonathan Leavitt, Truthout | News Analysis


While legislators in the Vermont State House seem to more often be swayed by Koch-funded lobbyists than the concerns of their constituents, The Vermont Workers' Center and other activist groups are organizing to win livable wages in the state.

Montpelier, Vermont, with its two main streets, nary a McDonald's, ringed with restive hills of raw milk co-ops and back to the land communes, suffused with narratives of leading the country, is generally not the sort of town most people would imagine the Koch brothers having much sway over. Vermont legislators, as with statehouses across the country, have been overcome with a public inequality discourse fomented by images of erupting subaltern indignation from the US' poorest and most precarious introduced not one but four bills this year to raise Vermont's current $8.73 minimum wage to either $10.10, $12, $12.50 or $15 per hour. Yet a familiar constellation of corporate lobbyists employing a playbook used from Seattle to Washington DC to Annapolis: slow implementation, low as possible wage increases, carve outs of tipped workers and younger workers, and recasting large corporate front groups as the tiniest of businesses.

In the face of this, a movement of low wage Vermont residents are building power, sharing their stories and flooding the statehouse in an attempt to take back their democracy. "After testifying to a committee like you in 2007, I reached the breaking point and I filed for bankruptcy," said Heather Pipino. "Decades later, I'm still at this table testifying for the need for livable wages and paid sick days, which wasn't even considered this session. It's shameful to still be having this conversation when worker productivity has steadily increased over my lifetime, but wages are stagnant and declining. You have a duty to represent those who are scrambling to get by and have frankly given up on democracy."

Vermont social movements have so fundamentally shifted power that, "Awareness of the need to raise the minimum wage is so prevalent that Republicans have given up on fighting it and instead are looking for ways to make the change comfortable and reasonable for business." Whether the corporate lobbyists are successful limiting the final political expression into what organizers call a "poverty wage" or whether social movements are able to lay the groundwork for a livable wage will be decided in the coming days.

Corporate Lobbyists Versus Work With Dignity

In its current form (H.552) in Senate Appropriations, Vermont's minimum wage would only surpass the $10.10 mark in 2018 when it rises to $10.50. Travon Leyshon of the Vermont AFL-CIO, describes this as, "a poverty wage." According to the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office, the 2012 Vermont Livable Wage was $12.48 per hour.

Recapitulating national corporate lobbyists' talking points George Malek, President, of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce urged Mullin's economic development committee, "not to raise the minimum wage above the schedule already in statute. If you must do so, please keep the increase to the lowest level and phase it as slowly as possible." Shayne Spence, Outreach Coordinator for the free market think tank, The Ethan Allen Institute (which receives funding from the climate change denying, Charles Koch founded Cato Institute) cautioned the Committee about having any sort of minimum wage at all. Instead, Spence proposed carve outs from this ground floor for working class Vermont residents. "I would suggest that you go the other way," said Spence, "and provide an exemption in the minimum wage for those below 18." In a House General Committee hearing Spence detailed his concerns about gains made by raising the minimum wage would go to those who making more than the Federal poverty line of $11,670 per year for one person; people who, in Spence's opinion, "don't really need it."

Sean Crumb, Chairman of the Vermont Campground Association, asked that the bill "not be forwarded to the floor for further debate," effectively asking the committee to kill not only any minimum wage increase, but also kill the conversation about whether to raise the wage. Jim Harrison, lobbyist for the Retail and Grocers Associations, who helped defeat paid sick days this year, asked for multiple carve outs to the current minimum wage, to not increase wages in subsequent years relative to the increasing costs of household goods (Consumer Price Index), and an expansion of the high school student exemption to 22 years old.

The National Chamber of Commerce's provocative lobbying against climate change legislation and fighting to preserve CEO payouts for taxpayer bailed out corporations have caused even monolithic entities such as Nike and Apple to turn on it. While local Chambers don't always adopt similar corporate-friendly lobbying efforts, George Malick of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, channeled a controversial full page Wall Street Journal ad in his House General committee testimony. Intimating the same technology-will- replace-workers theme should something approaching a living wage be passed, Malick said, "Snow blowers can replace snow shovelers; automated voice messages can replace receptionists."

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Economic Development for Whom?

Republican State Senator Kevin Mullin of Rutland, Vermont being named the powerful Chair of the Vermont Senate Economic Development committee was controversial for Peter Shumlin, who has adroitly distilled the sentiments of social movements for single payer healthcare and ending nuclear power into an electoral mandate. Mullin is the Vermont Chair of the American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC), a scandal-plagued, Koch Brother-funded corporate lobby group described by Bill Moyers as "one of the most influential and powerful [organizations] in American politics" for its flood of over a thousand model bills tailored by corporations, for corporations and introduced in statehouses nationwide annually. A sampling of ALEC bills isn't exactly redolent of progressive Vermont values: Stand Your Ground which George Zimmerman claimed as a legal rationale for killing black teen Trayvon Martin, Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's controversial economic and social programs which dismantled public sector unions and limited non-white voter participation - and SB 1070 legislation to mandate racial profiling in Arizona. Yet in an interview with Truthout, Mullin describes ALEC as a "moderate" group. According to Mullin, during the debate on minimum wage, he "grabbed five copies" of an ALEC study Rich States Poor States and brought them into Senate Economic Development. "This whole fear of ALEC is absurd. It's beyond me," said Mullin.

In justifying why he sees minimum wage as the wrong solution for Vermont, a state which saw the fastest growth of income inequality of all states for 15 years before 2007, Mullin cites people like investment banker, venture capitalist, Sugarbush ski resort owner and former Merrill Lynch Executive Vice President, Win Smith. With one of the highest net worths in the world, Smith told Mullin how, "if we pass the house bill, he would immediately lay off 50 people. So we're taking a more phased-in approach." This phased-in approach is one of the most often used demobilization strategies corporate lobbyists are whispering in legislators' ears.

Interestingly, unlike the former Merrill Lynch Executive Vice President, small business owners like Phil Merrick of Burlington's August First bakery support going beyond Governor Shumlin's proposed $10.10 an hour to a livable wage. "I see it as such an obvious thing we should be doing, raising the minimum wage," said Merrick. "I think $10.10 is still ridiculously low. It's going to cost me money, but it's the right thing to do. "

"We Can't Afford to Wait"

Audra Rondeau, lives in Franklin County and describes friends getting jobs at local gas stations at $8.73 per hour as looking like they won a million dollars. As one of 7,500 low wage homecare workers employed by the state of Vermont, a profession notorious for the intersection of gender and poverty, Rondeau knocked on doors across the country and around the state to help score the largest labor victory in the US in 2013. Now, as the State of Vermont displays a marked reluctance to raise Rondeau and her fellow homecare workers out of poverty, Rondeau found herself in Mullin's committee, pleading for action. "We can't afford to wait; people are losing their homes. I'm $1600 behind on my mortgage. We're dying out there as it is. If we wait, more people are going to lose their homes; more families are going to be split up," she said.

"In my life as a worker, I've been an orderly in a hospital, cashier in a convenience store and a dishwasher in a restaurant," Tom Kingston told the House General Committee. "The fact that I'm a low wage worker doesn't mean I'm a bad person. The thing about raising the minimum wage is that the people who are going to benefit from this action are going to dump this money right back into the economy," said Kingston.

For three of the last four years, Keith Brunner has "been doubling up, in a bunk bed with other folks. We had ten folks living in a three bedroom apartment. It's probably not legal, but it's what a lot of people are doing."

Liz Beatty Owens has "been working in the foodservice industry" since she was 16 years old. Beatty Owens detailed to legislators how she has "to work two jobs to support myself as a college student. I can't even imagine what it's like for families. I don't think I'll have the opportunity to start a family for many many years - if ever."

Debbie Ingram of Vermont Interfaith Action described to legislators how, "People of faith, particularly clergy, feel the biggest single issue facing society today is the huge economic disparity in our country. All of our sacred scriptures in all our different traditions point to the dignity of work." Ingram detailed to Mullin's committee a Vermont full of stories like Rondeau's and Kingston's, of her clergy presiding over hungry congregations where even "the kids are working" and parents face "terrible decisions between paying for the gasoline in their cars or their gas bill or their medications or their mortgages or rent" - hungry congregations which "can't wait 2 or 3 more years."

In the absence of public policy to remedy these stories, empirical data reveals these experiences are increasingly common in the Green Mountain State. The University of New Hampshire Carsey Institute reported in 2007 that Vermont ranked second in growth of income inequality nationally. Sam Houston State University researchers found the wealthiest 1 percent of Vermont wage earners saw their incomes almost triple between 1970 and 2005. 81 percent of wage earners can't afford the median priced Vermont home. In the two years between June 2008 and June 2010, the number of hungry Vermont residents on 3SquaresVT, formerly "food stamps," rose precipitously from 23,000 to 43,000 households and 51,000 to 86,000 individuals.

It Will, Once Again, Take a Movement to Bend the Arc of History

In the past, the movement building of The Vermont Workers' Center has successfully challenged Montpelier's logic of what's politically possible. Governor Peter Shumlin said Single Payer Health Care was politically impossible in 2009, only to try to distill the dynamism of the Workers' Center's organizing in his Gubernatorial bid of 2010. Just a year later, as Act 48 was about to be passed, a divisive amendment was inserted by Senators Brock and Sears on a Thursday which would exclude people without immigration status from the "universal" healthcare system. It would have marked the first time racial discrimination would have been enshrined into Vermont statute. Workers' Center organizers were told by governor Shumlin's staff that there was a zero percent chance of removing the amendment. That Sunday, through an incredible amount of organizing a thousand people marched on the state, demanding that universal mean everyone. On Monday, in a massive display of the constituent power of Vermont social movements, the discriminatory amendment was removed.

"The legislature's failure to raise the minimum wage to a real livable wage triggers cuts to workers benefits," says Traven Leyshon of the Vermont AFL-CIO. Citing overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage to a livable wage and moving forward with Paid Sick Days legislation, Leyshon says, "There's a real disconnect between politicians and Vermont residents. I fear this will be proof working people need our own political voice."

James Haslam, Director of the Vermont Workers' Center, detailed how Vermont's Governor gets awards for being the most "progressive" Governor in the country, and "we have a supermajority of Democrats and Progressives in both chambers, and yet somehow the agenda is still primarily set by the Chamber of Commerce and the conservative business lobby. The game is set up to maintain the status quo where the vast majority of people live with the deck stacked against them." In this context Haslam says, it will again take a movement to bend the arc of history. "We're building power to change this, and despite the odds, we will have meaningful victories this year. We hope every Vermont resident will join us to march on the State House on May 1st, as we take back our democracy and demand our human rights," said Haslam.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Rich People Rule: Struggle Lies Ahead

Sunday, 04 May 2014 00:00
By Rivera Sun, Truthout | Op-Ed


A Princeton-Northwestern study confirms that wealthy individuals and business interests control US politics. Citizen movements need to use more powerful, effective forms of nonviolent and political action in order to make change.

If a dictator moved into the White House and condemned the populace to servitude, the US political situation might be a lot clearer. But beneath the lies, false campaign promises and empty rhetoric, this is, in effect, exactly what is going on.

"Rich People Rule," the Washington Post proclaimed on April 8, 2014, when the Gilens-Page study made headlines by confirming everyone's suspicions that the elected officials don't give a damn about government of the people, by the people and for the people.

In the study "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," Princeton researcher Martin Gilens and Northwestern University professor Benjamin Page spanned 20 years of Republican and Democratic Congresses and presidents, studying nearly 1,800 issues between 1981 and 2002. The results were startling. Politicians don't represent the average citizen, the study finds. They represent business interests and wealthy elites. Elected officials will not give the common citizen what he or she wants - not by petitions, phone calls, emails, letters, faxes, protests, marches or letters to the editor. Unless the moneyed interests happen to align with the public, politicians always voted against the interests of the citizens.

The implications of the study have only been compounded in the last decade. Since 2008, income inequality has skyrocketed, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Meanwhile, the 2010 Citizens United decision along with the recent McCutcheon ruling opened the door to the political influence of moneyed interests. Due to these factors, the rich are enjoying unprecedented access to political control. Monsanto pours millions into anti-GMO labeling advertisements. The Koch brothers fund climate-denial "studies." The Walton family makes more than the entire bottom 40 percent of the populace and tells their employees to apply for welfare. Billions are spent on presidential elections, making the fundraising efforts of ordinary citizens seem pitiful in comparison. Bake sales, car washes and Kickstarter campaigns don't add up to what corporations spend on a single politician. The average citizen doesn't have the same buying power as wealthy elites and business interests. With nearly 50 percent of the populace struggling at or below international standards of poverty, the odds are stacked heavily against citizens' movements.

This has profound ramifications for American citizens - and even more serious impacts for activists. Keystone XL protesters, Trans-Pacific Partnership objectors, and fracking opponents take note: Either social movements are going to need a lot of money to buy officials ... or activists are going to have to wage struggle where it counts.

If citizens want to see government of the people, by the people and for the people, they'll need to fight smarter, not just harder. The pervasive idea that "if we just shout loud enough, the politicians will hear us" has been thoroughly disproved by the Gilens-Page study. It did not matter if activists collected 100 or 100,000 signatures. Politicians did not respond to petition politics and symbolic demonstrations.

In addition to demonstrating incontrovertibly that we, the people, are not the constituents of the elected officials, the Gilens-Page study also shows that politicians serve the business sector and wealthy individuals remarkably well - which is why the rich and powerful fund campaigns, throw money into advertisements, buy up voting machines and hire lobbyists.

While the Gilens-Page study is evoking cries of "democracy is dead," it is important to note that United States democracy was aborted in 1789 when the government was organized as a representational republic. In this system, representatives were elected by the white, propertied males who made up 6 percent of the population. State legislators appointed senators until 1913. Contrasted to popular, direct democracy in which every citizen regardless of race, class, or age votes directly on the issues, the representational republic of the United States was - and still is - an anemic substitute for real democracy.

Nor can this representational republic be called a broken system. United States government works exactly as it was designed, keeping ordinary citizens disempowered while pandering to the wealthy elite. Without a powerful citizens' movement rooted in effective methods of nonviolent struggle, voting the current politicians out of power is not likely to resolve the situation. Currently, there is no indication that the next crop on Capitol Hill will behave any differently than the last. The Gilens-Page study empirically proves that both Democrats and Republicans behave exactly the same in regards to prioritizing the concerns of the rich. Ordinary citizens are fortunate the rich are not entirely monolithic.

If citizens wish to see their will manifested in this system of government, they will need to move beyond symbolic actions such as petitions and protests, and engage in effective economic, political and social sanctioning actions against politicians, corporations and wealthy elites.

Citizens must learn to attack politicians, corporations and wealthy individuals in response to legislation they oppose. Nonviolent economic sanctions can be applied to these groups by boycotting their companies and products, disrupting shareholder meetings, waging effective campaigns via social media to effect price drops in their stocks, pushing divestment campaigns and impacting the operational costs of their businesses.

Simultaneously, citizens can learn to define "legitimate government" as that which enacts the will of the people. By this definition, an elite-controlled government can be viewed by the citizens as "illegitimate." By refusing to cooperate, acknowledge, or consent to unjust laws, the people can deny officials legitimacy when they act against the will of the people. Nonviolent sit-ins and assemblies can shut down public offices and demand resignations. Citizens can non-cooperate and refuse necessary services, skills, knowledge or assistance to public officials and offices that act against the interests of the people. Eligible voters can, of course, vote a politician out of office, but they can also boycott an election that is rigged by the unfair influence of big money, thereby depriving the winners of the election the "mandate of the people."

Additionally, citizens can engage in acts of civil disobedience to unjust laws. State and local nullification of objectionable legislation can erode the validity of a law - and the authority of lawmakers - by making it unenforceable among the citizens. Police can be excused from enforcing the objectionable laws by local city councils and county commissioners. Likewise, nonviolent action by citizens can be fully protected at the local level.

These types of nonviolent sanctions can be applied effectively and with powerful precision. When used correctly, strikes, boycotts, divestments, non-cooperation and civil disobedience restore the system of checks and balances by putting social and political power into the hands of the people.

For the citizens engaged in the broad-spectrum struggles for social, economic, political and environmental justice that is becoming known as the Movement of Movements, the Gilens-Page study provides refreshing proof of the suspicions of many people: The political system serves the elite. More effective, powerful forms of nonviolent action are necessary to address the combined crises of political corruption, wealth inequality, corporate domination, economic depression and climate change. With this clarity about the political system, citizens can apply their efforts more effectively, teaching movements for social change, politicians and the nation that citizens can demand change ... and get it!

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Why Elections Still Matter, Except When They Don't

Thursday, 10 July 2014 10:40
By Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report | Op-Ed


Martin Luther King once talked about how a black person in the south was unable to vote, while one in the north had nothing to vote for. 50 years later, the south as become the north too. The two capitalist parties have gamed and subverted the electoral process to exclude real opposition and to make it meaningless, except for bestowing legitimacy upon their stooges. So why and when to elections still matter for the left, and when not?

Two years ago, I wrote a piece called “How to Waste Your Vote in 2012” in which I said:

Your vote really is your voice, and in the modern era, every government on earth claims to rule with the consent of the people. This bestows upon the vote a unique kind of legal and symbolic power. The gap, however, between this legal, this symbolic power of the vote and any real ability to change things for the better is a vast one. The authorities rightly fear the people's voice, and so have contrived law and custom to ensure that we are seldom heard and almost never heeded.

They would never dream of allowing us to vote on the price of gas, food, housing, credit or college tuition. But they don't mind at all letting us choose between corporate-funded Republicans and corporate-funded Democrats. The powers that rule our economy, our media and our politics won't let us vote on whether to bring the troops home from 140 countries and the seven seas, or whether to continue spending more on weapons of death and destruction than the other 95% of humanity combined. But they will let us choose between an ignorant, crazy or racist Republican who promises to give banksters, polluters and corporate criminals a free pass, and a sane, smart, level-headed free market liberal Democrat who does exactly the same thing, no matter what he promised.

The authorities won't let us vote on whether the broadcast spectrum should be privatized, whether we should have the right to start and join unions, whether to create millions of good-paying green jobs. They won't allow voters to decide whether corporations deserve more rights than flesh and blood people, or whether the president should be able to kidnap, torture, imprison and murder people without trials or even charges. But they will let us choose between a white guy and a black guy. As long as it's their white guy, and their black one as well.

All that is still true, and much, much more. The terrain of electoral politics is nothing like a level playing field. It's more like a briar patch, inside a labyrinth, built over a minefield.

Democrats and Republicans Have Created Ballot Access Hurdles

In states like Georgia where I live, third party candidates face incredible obstacles to even getting a candidate on the ballot. A Green congressional candidate for example, has to get 20-25,000 signatures on a nominating petition to appear on the ballot, and a statewide candidate needs more than 60,000, distributed in a complicated formula among several score counties, while Republicans and Democrats simply pay a nominal fee. These are laws passed on the state level by Democrats and Republicans working together.

Access to Media is Limited by Private Owners of Print, Broadcast, Cable Networks.

Cable networks are laid and maintained beneath public streets and roads, with massive public subsidies and gobs of corporate welfare, but privately owned by a handful of greedy corporations. Broadcast spectrum wasn't invented by any clever engineer working for a corporation, it's a property of the physical universe, like sunlight. But the same handful of greedy telecoms own that too, along with most of the print newspapers.

The private owners of these public resources have decreed that the only candidates and causes who can afford campaign commercials are those bankrolled by wealthy individuals and greedy corporations, often with legally anonymous cash. With no interest in an informed public, the billionaires who own print, cable and broadcast outlets have been firing reporters and spending less every year on journalism for several decades. Reporters refuse to cover third party candidates in partisan elections, lest their careers end prematurely. In nominally “nonpartisan” races like mayor in most medium and large cities, the owners of media all but refuse to cover the existence of candidacies not endorsed by local elites.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Legal Obstacles to Registration and the Vote.

Since 1992, when I was one of three field organizers in an Illinois voter registration drive that signed up 133,000 in the 4 months preceding the November election, rules in many jurisdictions across the country have been tweaked to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Florida is one of several states that made clerical and procedural errors on the part of registration organizers into felony vote fraud, thus causing outfits like the League of Women Voters to stop doing registration drives.

More recently many states have adopted voter ID laws specifically crafted to lower the number of eligible voters among the populations they'd rather not see at the polls, and felony disenfranchisement has always been a potent tool for declaring hundreds of thousands outside the electorate.

Without a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, registration and eligibility and how candidates are placed on the ballot and the votes counted are in the hands of 2,000 counties and hundreds of cities, each with the authority to make its own rules.

And There's Black Box Voting, Caging, and Official Manipulation of Turnouts and Results

And if you do organize a grassroots campaign, register your voters, perform a canvass that counts and identifies them before election day, and chase them out to those effectively, the last 25 years have seen the advent of unaccountable, faith-based computerized voting systems without paper trails which make the outright falsification of election results trivially easy.

So Why Bother?

So why bother with a an electoral process that's compromised from top to bottom, a maze full of dead ends, trap doors, toll booths, and rules that change at the whim of your well-entrenched opponents?

The answer is that a politics of transformation has to transform people and their understandings. It has to bring people together to understand that what neoliberalism, what capitalism want us to see as individual problems, like the inability of families to secure decent incomes, jobs, education, health care or housing, like the ruin inflicted by savage policing and the prison state, like the availability of more funds for war but none to make life better for ordinary people, that all these are collective problems with collective solutions, solutions that we must begin to construct from the bottom up.

Electoral campaigns are seasons in which people expect to be engaged on what problems really are collective ones, and how these will be addressed. Democrats and Republicans want desperately for the left to stay the hell out of those public conversations, and no, the terms “left” and “right” are neither meaningless nor obsolete, and no, Democrats are certainly NOT on the left, though they sometimes pretend to be.

Campaigns are Times to Raise the Questions Neither Dems Nor Repubs Can Answer

Repubs and Dems need to exclude Green and left parties from the public conversation in campaign seasons because they fear the questions we, our campaigns and candidates ask, questions for which they have no answers.

Why are stadiums and gentrification the only models for urban economic development? Why are we closing thousands of public schools and privatizing public education?

Why are we paying water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?

Why does the failed 40 years war on drugs still continue, and why can't we roll back the prison state that eats the heart of our families and communities?

Why can't we join unions, raise wages, shorten the work week, and run corporations from the bottom up instead of the top down?

Why can't we stop climate change by getting off fossil fuels?

Why can't we deliver health care, not just health insurance for everybody?

Why isn't college tuition and day care free, and why can't everybody who wants a job get one?

Why are US troops in 140 countries and why do we spend more on arms and war than the other 95% of humanity put together?

Campaigns and elections are our chance to bring these and similar questions which the two capitalist parties are utterly unable to answer before audiences. This is vitally important because the neoliberal order under which we live trains people not to even think such things, or if they do, to censor themselves.

Campaigns and elections ONLY make a difference when we use them to raise the questions that capitalism will not and cannot answer, but which absolutely must be asked for people to begin to think outside the matrix, to visualize the world that we have to build.

Can Electoral Campaigns Morph into Social Movements

The short answer is no. We have to avoid and actively argue against the delusion that electoral campaigns build social movements. They don't. I used to believe that under some circumstances they could. But I've seen twenty or more campaigns close up, in many of which some or the key participants hoped to morph into permanent bottom-up organizations capable of running themselves and holding candidates accountable. For reasons that require a book chapter to explain, it almost never works. I think I've seen it happen, sort of, once in my entire political life.

Electoral campaigns have been the graveyard of social movements, not once, but many, many times.

Wisconsin's state capital was on the verge of a general strike over the machinations of the state's governor and legislators, but instead they were directed into an electoral campaign to recall the governor and defeat a handful of state senators, in which huge sums of money were raised, countless volunteer hours expended, organizers deployed, and they lost, leaving few or no new permanent organized formations behind not beholden to the folks that sent them down the electoral road in the first place.

What if just a fraction of the money spent on Wisconsin's futile recall effort had gone to pay organizers' salaries and support for two years, and for ten or twenty photocopiers, with two year service agreements, available to grassroots organizations across the state? The movement in Wisconsin would be a lot broader, deeper, more diverse and more established. After electoral campaigns, win or lose, everyone pretty much goes home.

When Campaigns are a Good Idea, When They're Not.

At the very least, your social movements should already be well constituted and in conscious motion before and outside of electoral politics before you enter into a campaign, or else the campaign will swallow them. The campaigns and candidates have to persistently pose the kinds of questions Democrats and Republicans dare not ask, let alone answer. Crucially they must raise up candidates from their own ranks who are loyal enough to the organization and its principles to resist the institutional pull of elected office and the elevated status our political tradition accords even to candidates for office. When you get a candidate on the ballot, that person becomes your spokesperson. If she is NOT with the program, won't ask the questions that challenge capitalism, you've been a party to your own carjacking.

If you can do all those things, AND run a competent campaign, which is no small chore, it's worth it. If you can't, it's not. Supporting Democrats and so-called “fusion” efforts are never worthwhile. Your volunteers ultimately become theirs, or disillusioned, and your efforts lend unearned credibility to the same old folks, who really need your new bottom-up enthusiasm every two years a lot more than you need them.

Campaigns that don't ask the questions Repubs and Democrats shy away from aren't worth mounting and their candidates not worth voting for. If you're only demanding what the consultants say might actually get through the legislature in this or the next session, you're not demanding enough, and if you do get it, your establishment allies will get the credit, not you. But if you demand five times above and beyond what they're willing to give, asking the questions they dare not, any victory you win is yours.

Only fools dream that the establishment will allow us to vote them out of power. That will never happen. But until they're willing to break down our doors, put bags over our heads and frog march us off to solitary somewhere our obligation is to make the most of open work with all the tools available. Completely eschewing campaigns and elections makes no sense.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

99 Rise on the Move: The Occupation of Sacramento

Thursday, 19 June 2014 00:00
By Rivera Sun, Truthout | Op-Ed


Citizens plan to occupy California's Capitol if their demands to get money out of politics are not met by June 22.

Disempowerment is a far cry from apathy, as Kai Newkirk of 99 Rise is discovering on the 480-mile California March for Democracy. Citizens aren't apathetic about the corruptive influence of money in politics - they're steaming mad! The problem, Kai said on Occupy Radio, is that citizens feel disempowered and discouraged about their options in changing the situation.

The 99 Rise California March for Democracy is out to demonstrate that money can be kicked out of politics and ordinary people can make it happen. The march departed Los Angeles on May 17, 2014 and will arrive in the state capital, Sacramento, on June 22 with plans to occupy the Capitol building if their demands are not met. As they march through central California, they combat disempowerment by speaking practically about what can be done to get money out of politics.

As a first step, they demand that the California legislature take three urgent actions:

  1. Issue a formal call for a federal Constitutional Convention to propose an amendment outlawing big money corruption by passing Assembly Joint Resolution 1 (AJR1).

  2. Give California's voters the chance to formally instruct the US Congress to propose such an amendment and the California legislature to ratify it by passing Senate Bill 1272 (SB1272).

  3. Start reining in unlimited, anonymous big money in elections by passing the DISCLOSE Act to require the top donors to be prominently revealed in every political ad they fund.

99 Rise is working with over 30 different organizations, including Move On, Dream Defenders, Wolf PAC, San Francisco Green Party and several Occupy groups, and has been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Lessig, Dolores Huerta and several other individuals. Close to a thousand citizens have pledged to risk arrest by engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience for democracy. The march and occupation add tangible nonviolent direct action to a broad campaign to get money out of politics.

Will they be successful? The ambitious plan holds strategic merit. The 480-mile march is nearing successful completion. An occupation of the Capitol building will raise awareness not only of the issue of money in politics, but of the determination of citizens to get money out. In demonstrating tangible forms of nonviolent struggle, the California March for Democracy, regardless of whether the demands are met in this wave of the struggle or not, is breaking through the illusion of powerlessness that plagues the American people. From that standpoint, the California March for Democracy is already a success. On Sunday, the next chapter of the struggle will unfold.

Nonviolent struggle is a field of conflict in which numbers matter. To find out how you can participate and support the 99 Rise California March for Democracy, please visit: http://www.marchfordemocracy.org

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Realistic Solution to End Voter Lines and Intimidation

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 12:38
By Dina Rasor, Truthout | Solutions


This has not been a good decade for voting rights. The US Supreme Court decision that gutted much of the enforcement power of the Voting Rights Act opened up a Pandora's box of Republican energy to suppress voter registration and hinder people's ability to get to the polls. It seems like each state with a Republican governor and legislature has raced to see how difficult they can make it for people of color and poor people to vote.

States have cut voting hours, days of early voting and polling places. They have limited the number of voting machines in high-population areas, leading to ridiculously long lines. They are allowing partisan "election monitors" to show up in the polling area to look for "mischief" among minority voters.

There is also a push to make it harder and harder to register to vote. This hasn't been a homegrown patchwork of efforts by the Republican governors and legislatures. In fact, the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a task force that pushes sample legislation to impede certain voters from getting to the polls.

Before the Supreme Court altered the Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would have to approve election law changes in certain states before they were allowed to become law. Once the Supreme Court lifted that restriction, the DOJ has to take on the unconstitutionality of these laws through the federal courts – something that can take years of challenges and appeals while the elections they affect just keep being held.

There are now also partisan election monitors afoot, with a Tea Party-based organization called True the Vote, training volunteers to go into polling places and challenge voters' registration. Wisconsin, who used to pride itself on voter turnout, now has passed a law allowing these election monitors to be within a yardstick of voters and poll workers. Rachel Maddow humorously showed, with one of her producers, just how "creepy" that can be.

Some Democrats and others have been working to challenge these new draconian voter restriction laws before elections, and have been raising money and volunteers to do a massive get-out-the-vote effort for future elections. However, they are missing an important potential strategy: voting by mail.

Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, have already moved to all elections being done by mail. Oregon led the way, starting the process with Phil Keisling, Oregon's secretary of state in the 1990s. I interviewed Mr. Keisling about Oregon's breakthrough efforts and his work in advocating for more states to consider voting only by mail. Keisling has been frustrated that so much effort is being put into getting people to the polls, rather than allowing people to vote in the privacy of their homes.

In Oregon, the mail ballots are sent out to every registered voter 14-18 days before the election. Voters can mail in their ballots anytime after that or go to a ballot drop-off place until 8 PM on election day. Each county must have at least two drop sites for ballots, such as outdoor ballot boxes, or sites in libraries or city buildings. A county can choose to provide drop-off areas as soon as the ballots are mailed to the voters. Washington State and Colorado have adopted similar methods.

The all-mail voting has proven to be popular in Oregon, and participation is higher than in many polling place-based states. Even counties in red state Utah are experimenting with all-mail ballots. Based on all the voting horror stories we have witnessed over the past several decades, mail-in voting could lessen or eliminate many of the politically motived voter-access obstacles. In the 2012 national election, too many states had long lines that required the people in them to wait as much as eight hours or more. The get-out-the-vote organizers were telling the people in line that it was a civil rights stance and were helping the elderly and others with food and seats. President Obama, in his 2013 State of the Union speech lauded Desiline Victor, who, at 102 years old, stayed in a line for more than 6 hours to cast her vote.

It is shameful that people have to take a civil rights stance to get access to a voting place.

This is just one area where voting by mail would stop a lot of voter intimidation and harassment in its tracks. Long lines would be a thing of the past. All voters would have to do is fill out their ballot at their leisure, sign the outside of the envelope and drop it in a mailbox, post office or ballot drop before the end of election day.

Avoiding the Monitors

Based on the large amount of money that is being shoved into intimidation efforts like those of True the Vote, it could take years of work in state legislatures to try to keep partisan monitors out of the election cycle. If vote by mail were to become more universal, these groups would have no polling places in which to do their bullying.

• There has been an ongoing controversy over voting machines, punch cards, hanging chads and lack of a paper trail ever since the notorious 2000 Bush/Gore election. Replacing voting machines and attempting to make them hack-proof is also a worry in an electronic age when even using your credit card at a Target store is not safe. The Oregon ballots are straightforward and designed to be counted by a scanning machine with the original ballot being preserved. Universal voting by mail would eliminate expensive voting machines and the problems that have gone with them. There would also not be a lack of machines, so obvious in urban areas, which also leads to long lines.

• Not only have citizens who have voted for years been unable to register to vote due to the requirement of more and more identification, it has also been a problem for voters to have these same IDs at the polling place to vote. Voting by mail has the voter sign their registration to vote and then sign the vote by mail ballot on the outside of the envelope. The state workers then match the signature to the signature on the card. Ironically, this is a safer way to prevent the very small amount of people who ever try to cast a ballot with fake ID, because it is a lot easier to get a fake ID than it is to forge a signature while standing at a polling table.

• There have also been precincts that run out of ballots and have to take provisional ballots, which slows down the voting process. When voting by mail, everyone who is registered to vote automatically gets a ballot, and, if they don't receive one or mess up the one that was sent to them, there is time to request another one from the state before the election.

• Fewer polling places and more isolated polling places have been a problem in areas where some local voting boards are trying to keep people of color and poor people from voting. People who do not have access to cars and reliable public transportation are put at a distinct disadvantage to get to the polls on time. The United State Postal Service has outlets in even the most rural and otherwise isolated areas, and voting by mail could eliminate much of this problem.

• One of the most drastic changes that has happened over the past few years has been the cutting of early voting days and hours that polls are open. This has caused problems for voters working standard hours to be able to make it to the polls. Voting by mail would allow workers to read up on the issues and candidates for several weeks before the election and drop their ballot off before or after working hours.

Keisling told me that voting by mail could "bypass so much of the debate" on voter suppression and intimidation, and polling stations are like "iceboxes compared to refrigerators" when talking about the security and ease of voting by mail.

He also points out how a large amount of public funding of elections could be saved, while reducing the absurdly long waits at the polls, in an article he wrote for Governing Magazine:

But better polling stations and shorter lines require more money. New voting machines alone would cost $4 billion; more well-trained poll workers, working more days, would cost millions. Well-heeled jurisdictions, likely with the fewest problems, might not blink at such costs. But why force them, along with thousands of cash-strapped local governments, from red-tinged rural communities to blue-dominated urban areas, to redirect scarce resources to improve the polling place experience, when a long-proven, far less costly alternative - voting by mail - is so close at hand?

Absentee ballots have coexisted with polling places for centuries; more than 30 million voters cast such ballots in 2012. Having all voters receive their ballots through the mail, while often derided as absentee voting on steroids, should be viewed instead through the lens of "universal ballot delivery."

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

So the question might be: Why aren't we moving toward voting by mail? There are many Republicans who have already worked hard at restricting the vote to smaller and smaller groups of people so it is not surprising to see them rejecting making the vote easier and more universal. But, according to Keisling, there is a surprising amount of tacit resistance among some of the Democratic establishment.

There are several organized efforts that are looking at vote by mail as an answer to the current mess of US elections. The main organized national effort is called the Voting Rights Project, and they discuss vote by mail as one of their ultimate goals.

However, according to Keisling, there are some Democrats and academics who are concerned about security of the ballot and the loss of a "civic sense" of duty by going to a polling booth. Curtis Gans, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, American University, is worried that people will lose their privacy for how they vote and could be paid off or coerced to vote for someone else. He wrote in the May 2006 American Prospect (subscription required):

Mail voting and no-excuse absentee voting are the single greatest invitation to fraud and abuse of any aspect of the voting process. They have that dubious honor because they effectively eliminate the universal secret ballot and replace it with a voluntary secret ballot - a ballot that will be secret only if the citizen who possesses it wills it to be secret.

Any citizen in Oregon or who requests a no-excuse absentee ballot can feel free to share it with anyone of their choosing. This, in turn, has led or can lead to:

Sharing that ballot with someone who will pay money to see that it is filled out a certain way and then returned in its security envelope to the appropriate place; or buying votes, something that led an election to be declared void in a part of Illinois. Sharing that ballot with one's peers and friends in a living room ballot-signing party for a particular cause or point of view - a pressured ballot, pressure that could easily be resisted behind a closed voting place curtain but would be hard to resist among one's friends and associates. Giving the ballot to someone other than the voter to deliver or mail - which can lead to that deliverer discarding the ballots if he has reason to believe they were not cast the way which the deliverer wanted it to be. This is a particular danger in group settings such as retirement communities or nursing homes, where infirm citizens may either be pressured to cast their ballots a certain way or who may be grateful for assistance in delivering ballots, not knowing that they may not reach their destination.

Phil Keisling, who has been working with other skeptical vote-by-mail progressives, says that if they truly believe that many peoples' votes can be coerced, then you should not allow absentee ballots, which have the same alleged vulnerability. He said:

Name one example of a husband or wife accused (much less convicted) of "ballot coercion" during the 2012 election, among all of the Oregon and Washington voters who case ballots in this system (and the other 26 million who did so via absentee ballots in the other 48 states). And even if, there were one - or twelve - examples, what would we do? To hear opponents say it, we'd need to then abolish all absentee ballots, period.

I have to agree with him because most of our overseas military vote by absentee ballot. Based on what I know about the military, that bureaucracy would, if they thought they could be successful, pressure their troops to vote for someone who would endlessly raise the military budget. But those troops mark their absentee ballot in their barracks or homes, and the peer or military pressure, I believe, would be greater if we set up polling places on bases with soldiers standing in line and surrounded by officers as they vote.

Based on how complicated it would be to conspire to pay people to mark their ballots by mail or collect and/or coerce without people talking and finding out, I cannot imagine altering thousands or even hundreds of mail in ballots to flip an election. I can imagine hundreds or thousands of people discouraged from casting their ballots with hundreds of people in line with hours of waiting or feeling coerced with unfriendly election monitors a yardstick away questioning your citizenship because you don't look like them.

Some claim that there is the security issue of voting through the US Postal Service and your ballot getting lost. The Postal Service can lose items, but that bureaucracy does not have political skin in the game with ballots versus the local election boards, where the board majority is stocked with political appointees from the majority party in the precinct. I can imagine that my ballot would be safer in the hands of the postal service person, who takes them out of the mailbox with all the other mail, versus the election workers, who are overseen by a political local election board. Also, if someone has a concern about the postal service, they also have the option of taking their ballot directly to a voter ballot drop-off that is under the same precinct control that you would have if you were voting in a precinct.

Keisling was instrumental, as Oregon's secretary of state, in setting up the logistics of voting by mail. He says that all systems, the older traditional system and a vote-by-mail system will have vulnerabilities or problems. However, he believes that it is easier to oversee and safeguard the ballot in a vote-by-mail system where ballots go by mail to central locations where the signature on the outside of the ballot is compared to the voter registration signature. He thinks that precinct voting has its own vulnerabilities:

Across thousands of separate precinct sites, the odds of inconsistently applying elections rules - making mistakes, inadvertently disenfranchising people, etc. - is far greater when ballots are processed. In vote by mail, where all signatures are checked and voter information is verified in central locations, there are fewer mistakes and problems, not more.

According to Keisling, this romanticizing of the tradition and civic cohesion of the public polling place is more widespread than many politicians are willing to admit. The arguments remind me of the gauzy reminiscence of Norman Rockwell's early paintings of a homogeneous white America coming together to vote. In fact Rockwell did a painting called Election 1944 that looks like what many Republicans and some Democrats still see as the America they would like to remember and emulate. See this picture:

The late columnist Carl Rowan didn't see vote by mail that way. He saw it as liberating people who don't look like the people in this Rockwell painting. After the first large-scale, vote-by-mail Oregon vote, he mocked the people who decried the loss of the sacred polling place in a February 11, 1996 column (subscription required):

We're told that it allowed all people to vote without expending the small amount of energy and sacrifice of going to a neighborhood polling place, undermining the notion that "the vote is a precious thing."

This is swallowed by some as the sentimentality of patriotism, but it is, in fact, undemocratic gibberish that ought not override the fact that the Oregon election lifted the percentage of voters to about 65 percent of those eligible, a figure that made democratic participation almost as high as in European countries. It saved Oregon about $1 million. And it produced results that any Republican could applaud.

So we are to deplore this election as a violation of what "the framers" intended? I remember that the framers counted black citizens as three-fifths of a vote. And women as zero percent of a vote. Naturally, neither I nor my wife is much impressed by a reminder of what the framers believed about the semi-slave status of African-American males, or women.

The framers created a situation under which many states could decree that only the propertied could vote. When that idea and "poll tax" requirements were beaten down, polling places were located where millions of poor, ill minority citizens could not get to because they lacked transportation or couldn't leave their jobs.

Voting by mail is a way for our democracy to advance, widen the voting population, and make sure everyone who is registered receives a ballot and an easier way to cast that ballot without lines, humiliation and the prospect of losing work. All systems are going to be vulnerable, and there are going to be problems arising in any system of voting. There will be people who will try to game vote by mail, just like they are now gaming the precinct elections. As with any governmental process, it will be important to fix problems or mistakes as they pop up.

But we know about the problems in the precincts - statistics show that actual voting fraud in very small but the manipulation of the ability to vote has been greatly twisted to benefit a shrinking status quo. We know about the lines, the lack of voter machines, the partisan election monitors who can challenge people that they don't think look like Americans in the precinct system. If voting by mail is truly evil for democracy, then we need to start pulling back the efforts to expand the absentee ballot if you are going to be consistent in the argument that any vote by mail is dangerous.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Implementing the Vote By Mail Solution

Just saying that we all should embrace vote by mail and assuming both political parties will accept it in every state is wishful thinking. However, there is a way to advance the ability to vote by mail down the road, through the longstanding tradition of the absentee ballot. Many states make people have an excuse to be able to use an absentee ballot, but more and more states are moving to no-excuse absentee ballots.

Although my state, California, doesn't look like it will move soon to all vote by mail (all the candidates for secretary of state have declared they are against it), California not only has a no-excuse absentee ballot, but you can request that you permanently receive an absentee ballot for all elections. As more and more people get use to the convenience and privacy of casting their ballot that way, it can lead to the realization that voting by mail is what the public wants.

The bipartisan National Council of State Legislatures has a very useful interactive chart that shows what states have no-excuse absentee ballots and those who require an excuse to get an absentee ballot.

Looking at the chart, there are three states that do all voting by mail, 28 states that allow no-excuse absentee voting (some of these states allow vote by mail under certain circumstances) and 19 states that require an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot. Compared to the work it would take to negate so many of the restrictions that some of these states have put on voting at the polling booth, it would be much easier to work on getting the states with excuse-required absentee ballots to remove that provision and get the states that have a no-excuse absentee ballot to move to the permanent status option for an absentee ballot.

Some of the states that require an excuse for absentee ballots are purple or blue states like Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. These states should be open to allowing no-excuse absentee ballots. Meanwhile, get-out-the-vote efforts in all the states could be geared to encourage people to ask and vote by absentee ballot - just one step away from vote by mail.

As the emphasis in the next election is to get people to vote, it is apparent that it would be much easier to get people to ask for an absentee ballot and remind them to mail it in then to go out with cars to give rides to people to the polls when you can only offer them long lines and pushy poll watchers. As more and more people see the convenience of voting by absentee ballot, there may well be a push to make it a permanent status, and that, in turn, could lead to vote by mail as more people press for that option. Eventually, as more people get away from the old ideal of voting at a polling place, there will be a much more open mind about adopting voting by mail. This will mean that eventually many, if not most, of the states will be encouraging their voters to vote by sending out a ballot to each one of them, instead of discouraging the "wrong" voters to give up by using unfair laws that keep them home.

Based on what I have seen in the courts, especially on election finance laws and the gutting of the Voter Rights Act, I fear that if some of these states' absurd and drastic election precinct laws are challenged in the courts, we might end up with the equivalent of a "Citizens United" ruling by this US Supreme Court on these junk laws put in to intimidate or deter voters out of their basic rights.

The gradual adoption of vote by mail, using the existing absentee ballot structure, may be the fastest and cheapest way to overcome this shameful chapter in our history, where state governments have actively tried to inhibit some of their citizens from voting, for political reasons. To get a universal right to vote, we need universal ballots sent out to the voters with a modern and realistic way to getting their ballots back to the government. The bugs in a vote-by-mail system can be worked out as the system is adopted across the country. Eventually, vote by mail could restore the balance.

Copyright, Truthout.