Thursday, October 30, 2008

Check your Voter Registration Now

So, suppose you go to the polls and find out when you get there that your name is not on the list of registered voters? What do you do? Who do you call? Why ask this beforehand?

Election day is now only days away. Take this one action now--check to see if you are truly registered. We are at a turning point in American history in more ways than one, and having our vote received and counted is essential to our future. Among the many tricks in the book of election shenanigans is the old standard of purging the voter rolls at the last minute-- illegal, but a known maneuver. This apparently actually happened in St. Louis City in 2000, disenfranchising hundreds or even thousands of voters. You may remember the uproar. Since then a great deal of work has been done to prevent such an occurrence from happening here again. In fact this evening Jonah Goldman of Election Protection appeared on Channel 5 NBC News.

Still we have had reportedly ten percent of the voters in Missouri removed from the lists. Could you be among them?

Since 2002 a lot of changes have occurred in our voting systems, and one of them is the installation of Missouri Centralized Voter Registration (MCVR), with the Secretary of State-- or chief election officer-- keeping one computerized version of the rolls from all over the state. The object of this is supposed to be to keep any voter from voting in more than one place. Never mind that the statistical instances of this happening are virtually nil. It was written into the Help America Vote Act, the biggest recreant legislation Congress ever pulled over on the American people.

Naturally the new computerized data systems have been found to be faulty in some states, with suspicions surrounding them, as though the new voting machines were not already enough of a problem. The new software is really a middleman added to the more tried and true older methods of local control.

St. Louis City and County have used these new MCVR systems several times already to work the bugs out, and bugs they have had too. Fortunately we still have access here to the plain old voter sign-in books, and chances are that we will have smooth and cool poll workers in enough numbers to compensate, if we can all be patient with the process. If you happen to be voting late in the day, please stay to ask whether the number of votes counted is equal to the number of voters who signed the book. Say your "please" and "thank yous" to the poll workers, whom we often under appreciate.

But, before Tuesday arrives, if you are like me you might want to look up your name on the Secretary of State's website, if, like me, you had heard you could do that. Attempting to use it turned out to be futile, so that duty of confirming registrations has been punted back to the counties, after the website problems were reported to the SoS office.

When I called the County Board of Election Commissioners (BoEC), they had received so many new registrants (about 50,000) that they had already postponed using the Missouri Centralized Registration until after this major election.

This entire situation of numerous new voters and highest turnouts ever expected should alert us to the need to check your registration ahead of time, especially for new or changed registrations. Don't wait until Tuesday to call. The phone lines will be busy enough that day.

The County continues to use the system they have always used and found my name with my current address readily. The employee who spoke to me on the phone was terrific, and encouraged me to send others to the phone to check their own registrations if they feel the need. So in St. Louis County, if you have any question about whether you are properly registered. call them at (314) 615-1800. They are receiving massive numbers of calls, of course, so be patient, hang on the line until someone answers. And don't wait until election day to check-- call ahead of time.

The St. Louis City Board of Election reports that they have also received numerous calls from individual who could not find themselves listed on the MCVR. Therefore you are advised to call them at (314) 644-4336.

When you do finally go to vote the lines may be long, so request a paper ballot, which takes less time than the touch screens and is also hand recountable. Remember to bring along an ID that shows your current address, or a recently postmarked utility bill or government letter. If your registration is not on the list you can check to see if there are two election judges who recognize you from a previous election-- they can co-sign you into the book.

Or they may be able to look back in the book for your name. If not you can vote on a provisional ballot, although this should only be done as a last resort. You should never take a provisional ballot if you are at the wrong polling place. Instead, if you are unsure, vote early enough to have the time to go to the right place. A poll worker can look up your address for you to see if it is served by this specific polling place and send you to the right one. Some polling places have been consolidated, so confusion may occur. Your polling place is always listed on the card you receive from the BoEC a few days before the election, and that card is also a piece of government mail that can be used as your ID. Put it in your wallet the minute you receive it.

If you are certain you are registered and in the right place, but not being allowed to vote for some reason, your next move is to request a provisional ballot. The envelope it is in has a detachable ticket that gives you an 800 number to call later to be certain your vote was counted. In some cases you may be required to provide further documentation that you do live at the address you have claimed.

Never leave without voting! Read the signs about your voting rights and insist, politely, that you are here to vote. If you are time pressed and know you are in the right place but being told you are not on the list, request to vote on a provisional ballot. If all else fails and you cannot get help from the poll workers where you are, call Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR VOTE. Your call will be rerouted to the local advocates of Voter Protection Coalition in St. Louis where volunteer lawyers can answer your questions, speak to the election judges for you, and if necessary come to your polling place to intervene.

If you have been convicted of a felony but have served all of your time including parole or probation you are qualified to vote in Missouri although you must have been registered before the deadline, which is now passed.

This year the BoEC will mail you a card that has your complete ballot issues and candidates listed on it. You can also download this information ahead of time at
or (for city)

By the way, in some other states now, as in Ohio in 2004, the vote count online reporting is being funnelled through a software middleman. Bev Harris is asking people to use to record the vote counting. Perhaps if you have a press card the election directors will allow you to do this.
Or possibly candidates will be allowed to do so.

This is a turning point in our nation's history, and we are all responsible for increasing our vigilance over the voting rights that we have won over the centuries. Prepare ahead of time and make your voice heard through a PAPER ballot.
This information is provided as a public service and can be copied and distributed freely.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Missouri Election Protection On Track

Channel 5 news at 10 pm surprisingly showed a sound bite of U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway giving a phone number hotline for election fraud. I thought I heard her say strongly that election fraud will not be tolerated. That was not in this video of her full press release from Wed. morning.

This Platform blog by Eddie Roth appears to have been updated to reflect his conversation with Phillip, and also has a link to Phillip's prepared testimony for the BoEC. Congrats, Phillip! Outstanding work.

Here is one that was on the Tues. Fox 2 News featuring our beloved Goeke.

And another in the Wed. P-D about the BoEC meeting, with Goeke's argument continuing against Project Vote testimony to the contrary.

Reading between the lines I think perhaps someone or ones have already contacted Hanaway's office re: their concerns. Mr. Rove, you can stay home. You will not disrupt us here.

Missourians are not called the Show Me State for no reason.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A New Era in American History

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.
- Mark Twain

Thoughts have been running around in my head since that memorable day, September 19, when the stock market first crashed and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson danced out in front of Congress demanding we turn over all our money. This past week I heard more than once that we are now beginning a new era. George Soros appeared on Bill Moyers' Journal Friday evening, October 10, and he may have been the original source of the new phrase, since he said it there, and has written a new book. That idea rang true as perhaps the culmination of a whole new book genre written by multiple authors about the scandalous Bush administration and the loss of power in Congress.

The elephant in the room is not just a republican, it is “The War,” that illegal incursion and continued invasive occupation of Iraq that was illegal in the first place, illegal now, and ill conceived by global thieves. Representative Nancy Pelosi, current House Speaker, has been videotaped saying, “At the time it seemed like a good idea,” in reference to the secret change in administration policy which included spying on American citizens, only one in numerous violations of our cherished Constitution. This spending of 720 million dollars a day in Iraq, which has chiefly benefited questionable military businesses with connections to government, is the dark underbelly of our fall. We the People themselves have become a cheap commodity. Have we ourselves no inherent value compared to the oil our country drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

The Bush House and its advisers will be forever chiefly known as the robber barons who retreated into history under the guise of saving us from our own greed and addiction to oil by raping every corner of the earth for more, more, more. Act I, Scene I, as I well remember, opened in the first Bush administration, with journalist Dianne Sawyer confronting the then president, H.W., by initiating a question around a toy soldier on a White House mantle. He said, “I have not yet experienced my test of fire.” He sounded, to me, defiant to her critical gaze. When the Gulf War was later declared by him I spent half a day crying, remembering Viet Nam, and placed a candle in my window at night fall. Later on I noted another candle in a window across the street.

Since that time, if not earlier, we have been setting our sights on oil all over the world. To think we could save ourselves now by drilling in the Alaska wilderness or continental shelf is the last sputtering of an addict's demise.

This is not going to be easy, folks. It's like going off tobacco cold turkey. Every one of us is going to feel it in every corner of our individual little bodies. So you think you feel bad now, having lost a lot of money? So your paralyzed cilia are waking back up in your bronchial tubes and hacking up noxious mucus? If you have been in some position of power and responsibility all eyes are on you now. The “underclass” who have been living on less for their entire lives will be in a position of advantage to you, having developed survival skills you know little about. You can't miss what you have never had, and you do not have a desire for what you have never known. How many of us are ready to be good sports about this?

Imagine missing time spent standing with a few friends at a bus stop in a big city on one's way to a job in outer suburbia, where the development has spread further and further out, away from the decline of infrastructure, the rise of crime, the old, dominant brick buildings, the newer skyscrapers, the concentrated population and dirty politics, the white people on some streets and other colors on others, the endless cry for renewal, money spent on a new stadium while schools have been taken over by the state.

You would miss the neighborhood where you live in old flats made of nineteenth century brick. The street corner liquor store, that corner where the dope is sold. The little storefront now converted into a safe house or a church with an evangelical minister. The food pantry that you visit another short bus ride away so as to help your grandma who watches your kids while you spend ten hours at least including transportation time to go to work. The outdoor market where your cousin goes at the end of the day to collect the leftovers the vendors discard as garbage. That park where one of your uncles can be found with his bottle of whiskey in a brown bag, sitting on a bench until he notices the approach of a blue uniform. The old school yard where you played as a child, of the now boarded building. This neighborhood is filled with memories, and still houses those you know as family.

You take the bus way, way out there to the fringes of the metropolitan area through the city to the county, through the inner suburbs to the fringe where neighborhoods of new condos and houses built out of imported lumber from now deforested places in countries that have few environmental laws, and you step off at a high class shopping center where people spend the money they have “worked hard” for, in professional jobs in health care, education, business administration, or whatever, after earning doctorates in their respective fields. You do know where the IT jobs have gone, right? Well, think now back to the days of fifty students in a classroom. We are not going to be able to afford this continued high class/ low class division of labor, with the bus riders unpacking shoes in the back rooms for your preciously covered exquisite little feet.

Either we are going to have to move out to your house or you back into ours. All those highways that you built out to South County or West County (to create jobs, you reasoned) are not going to continue to be needed. We will have to consolidate again, ride bicycles, share rides, and invest in mass transit. Some of us have been saying this for forty plus years now, but most of you have become great fans of Walmart, where poor folks can buy work clothes to wear into office buildings, where they clean offices after you go home.

This is all going to be hugely emotional, and not only emotional. If you are one of the lucky ones who has been spending time in the gym you are unlikely to need to continue when you are depending more on your shoe leather to get you wherever. People in China are glad to hear this because they will be shipping us the footwear until we get back to the geographic reality of needing actual skilled labor and factories again right here where we live ourselves.

These are not easy things to consider, while contemplating the ravages of continued severe and unpredictable weather patterns which have just begun to emerge. The surface of the earth itself is warming up, and it may contribute to geological disturbances and water shifts with some contraction and expansion of solids being altered from recent into new forms. We never know until it happens.

What will tomorrow be like? It is the ever present question which keeps us focused on the mystery and pulls us into the future. These will be exciting times too, not just times of stress and conflict. These challenges may actually pull us together if we choose our leadership wisely and follow our hearts toward the possibilities, the potential for creativity and new communities of diversity as a replacement for our weaknesses and greed. Once again our culture will look to the Sun as a source of inspiration and power, as cultures of old universally did.

Yes, I agree, this is the beginning of a new era. Perhaps instead of Armageddon it will emerge as another marker that has been predicted for years by a different subculture than the extreme right. Reagonomics and Bill O'Reilly will be history.

We have now entered The Age of Aquarius in a tangible way. Celebrate!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dogpaddling in Muddy Elections

On April 3, 2007, for the first time, I voted on a touchscreen voting machine (DRE), because St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners did not offer any alternative method of voting that day. Such a wonder-- to click a button on a screen and my vote slips into the black box! Makes me want to run out and shout "Paper Ballots! They can be recounted!"

Our overworked Elections Director argues that the DREs save the municipalities money spent on paper in the smaller elections. (They also can be programmed with more than one ballot style for overlapping voting districts.) In fact they have a host of ongoing expenses the county pays for, and just ask any candidate who has requested a recount what they think of them. There is no way to recount electronic votes with assurance of accuracy. Run the electronic records back through again, and they will come out the same. Recounting the paper trail is of little use since people rarely think to check it, or do not notice errors, if they can read the faint and small print. Sometimes the machine eats the paper. Only hand counted hand marked paper ballots have been shown to be truly accurate.

How can we, as concerned citizens, assure the integrity of our elections? We want to boil it down to an assurance that each citizen of this state and this nation has the right to vote. That right includes having the vote accurately counted. Numerous ways of interfering with that right have been dredged up by jealous minds since humans first drew straws. American history is colorful with stories of election fraud methods and episodes.

The place where we live no longer looks to me like America, though. Does it to you? What has happened to us? Have we fallen to the bottom of the ocean like Atlantis? Are we entering the crux of a lost civilization, or do we still have time to turn around, to heal our water-inundated lungs of this corrupt government drowning in corporatocracy? We simply did not know how to swim in a global electronic age. Computers have become a new literacy test, whether in elections, the stock market, jobs or school. And we have lessons to learn about any process that is electronic.

Let's float with hope for a moment or two. In life energy terms a human who has fallen into cold, clear water has about twenty minutes before rescue efforts will no longer be able to revive the most susceptible neurological pathways. Dirty water, like we have fallen into, complicates the outcome. Magnify this one life into an entire society-- or its middle and lower classes-- and maybe we do still have time to forestall the worst effects. Some of the outcome may depend on faith and courage. A whole lot of it depends on a long course of difficult rehabilitation for the bad actors. Yes, we will have to work to fix our elections systems. And then we will have to start actually voting.

This can be viewed as an exciting time, though perilous. Currently a suit in Ohio seeks to bring to light the egregious web-based shenanigans that occurred in reporting the outcome of the 2004 elections. In 2006 in Sarasota County, Florida, 18,000 votes mysteriously disappeared. Other stories have been reported in many states. Since then two corporations who sell these machines have admitted problems with the equipment's functioning. How can we know how many elections nationwide may have been affected?

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the citizen journalists and activists who have hammered away at the truth since 2000, when outcomes that were outside of the expectation of exit polls became obvious. Our government, instead of making this evidence very public knowledge, has worked against us by stone walling, with news media taking years to recognize the problem. Now most of us know it exists. We owe it to ourselves to increase our vigilance.

Since the passage of HAVA (Help America Vote Act of 2002) the magnifying glass of reform has been showing questionable elections in many ways. Voter roll purging, especially in urban areas, is usually done under the fiction of preventing individual voter fraud. Consider St. Louis City in 2000 when 50,000 voters were removed from the rolls as inactive and at least hundreds of them thereby lost their right to vote. Let's be clear. "Voter fraud," in which one person tries to vote twice or misrepresent oneself as a qualified voter, is so rare that it does not threaten the outcome of our elections. Election fraud, on the other hand has had a long and vigorous life everywhere people vote, and may even be part of the human condition, the querulous competitive part that election laws are written to control.

In some states like Missouri we have open primaries not requiring voters to register with a party. Members of one party can encourage crossing the party line to vote in the opposite primary to defeat a candidate, often based on bigotry. Technically this is not illegal-- it's just dirty.

A particular problem in urban areas is the failure of any given state to make provisions for adequate numbers of qualified, trained personnel to work at the polls. This also constitutes an obstruction to the polling booth.

Posting confusing signs, wrong election dates and places or voting qualifications, threatening arrests or sending uniformed guards to polling places are all standard ploys in the election fraud toolkit. Stuffing ballot boxes and lying about a candidate's history or background fit into this category too. Voter caging, which involves sending out letters to voters and then challenging those whose letters are returned, has been reportedly used recently to challenge even the votes of some of our military service members. So these are some of the ways, from the ground up, that disenfranchisement is still accomplished nowadays.

Holding public office is such a plum position, partly because huge sums of money are paid by corporations to keep their very best friends in office.

More sinister yet is the apparent direct link between an "administration," corporate money, and the obfuscation of America's best interests. Sticking only to issues related to elections, we now know for sure that the U.S. Department of Justice has been diluting its responsibility to protect voting rights. Further, criminal prosecutions have been sought by politicians under nearly imaginary charges against candidates, officials, or organizations of the "wrong" persuasion; Vendettas were played out in the 2006 press against citizen activists in Kansas City who chose to work toward improving voter participation.The second term firing of eight U.S. Attorneys was, at its heart, intended to produce disenfranchisement, with one such incident here in Missouri implicating a Senator.

Since HAVA, newer methods of election fraud have surfaced. Particularly in Ohio fewer DRE voting machines than needed were delivered to some largely Democratic urban precincts, resulting in long lines and some voters unable to vote in the time available. Because each voter takes several minutes to fill out a touchscreen ballot, especially on long ballots typical of urban areas, lines formed covering blocks. DRE machines can break down, and were all that were offered to some voters, including in some precincts in St. Louis County since 2006 when poll workers were trained to direct voters to use them instead of the optical scanners.

Optical scan ballots are quicker and can be hand counted later if necessary. More voters can vote at once by using them.

At a polling place in November of 2006 in University City, Missouri, about eighty people were waiting outside the front door, plus another twenty inside. Individuals said it took them as long as an hour to vote. Can you imagine waiting like this if you are someone who gets around in a wheelchair? If you have small children? If you need to get to work?

One person, already inside the door, was told to use a provisional ballot, but that it was too late to get in a separate inside line. The rule is being in line by 7 p.m.

The use of DREs in and of itself constitutes disenfranchisement in two more ways. First, there is a digital divide. In New Mexico 2004 comparison studies of use of these machines in communities of people of color showed a huge number of undervotes, compared to in white communities.

Even more sinister, though, regardless of whether the machine has a paper trail or not, these machines employ an electronic ballot, which is neither visible nor verifiable by the voter. Who-- or what-- is doing the counting is the question when18,000 votes in Sarasota County, Florida “disappeared” in 2006.

The so-called "paper trail" of the DRE is not a ballot. It is not what is counted by the tabulator. What is counted is the ephemeral bit of information that one enters on the touchscreen, which then disappears into the black box. There it may be flipped to the other candidate, made to disappear, added, subtracted, or multiplied. None of this can be seen by the human eye. All traces of malicious or mistaken programming can be eliminated before forensic examination of that machine. And the corporate holders of the trademarks for the machines claim the right to refuse government oversight of the computer code.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, an audit of the spring 2006 primary by Election Science Institute showed that the sums recorded on four sources, 1) the paper trail's computer generated total, 2) the hand counted individual votes on the paper trail, 3) the memory card, and 4) the computer's ballot archive (hard drive file), did not match each other! Four separate but unequal totals were found! These internal inconsistencies were found in all the DREs. No total could be trusted as the correct one.

Thus, it is readily apparent that the effects of HAVA have cost the states more than they imagined possible. Some of the principle players in passing it are now convicted felons (under other corruption charges). The Election Assistance Commission created by HAVA is appointed by the President and has functioned in a partisan way. Benefits to disabled voters of using “more accessible” DREs have not been realized. And it has been largely left up to the states to fix this mess. The vendors of the new machines pocketed the federal funds.

Optical scanners also have problems. The ones we now have in use are programmed with secret code too, which means corporations refuse public review of the computer code. They are also vulnerable to hacking or invasion by viruses, some even by remote wireless connections. And any election administered by private industry is open to corruption.

When a friend and I went to observe the post-election vote counting in St. Louis County in 2006 we were allowed to see a limited view, without audio, while two of the vendor's representatives were inside the room helping with the process. Who might the vendors want elected? Who is doing the oversight?

At least optical scanners do have the paper ballot,
though, which can be hand recounted. And the voter, by filling the ballot out by hand, verifies the vote as part of the process, a safeguard that has been proven elusive with the DREs.

HAVA left us all dog-paddling or even on the verge of drowning, whether in the Missouri River, the Gulf of Mexico, or any other body of water touching the United States. We will not arrive back to dry land unless each of us who votes notices what is going on and reports any suspicions to an oversight group, e.g. Election Protection, by calling 1-866- OUR VOTE. If the majority of us participates as citizen witnesses we might just make it onto some safe shore. Keep on hollering "Paper Ballots! They can be recounted!”

revis. Oct. '08

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Trouble the Water"

This film, which is currently running at the Tivoli in University City, is a must see for anyone who recognizes Hurricane Katrina as a major turning point in American history. The initial video is a bit rough, but hold on as it gets better and tells the story of a transformation of the key characters, who recognize how they have been victimized and are empowered by their own faith and character to rise above their circumstances.

It is something that will stay with me for a long time. One of my friends who saw it with me was relating the story to one of the families the Quakers sponsored here in St. Louis, as she recognized parts of the Ninth Ward from photographs she had seen. She also updated me on how they are doing now.

And the sad truth is that we will have more of this occurring as climate change continues and people continue to cling to their homes in dangerous places. What choices will people have left now that the economic landscape is so ravaged?