By Mark Crispin Miller
January 30, 2008
Certainly the outlook for democracy seems pretty bleakand how could it be otherwise? The surest way to make a problem worse is to pretend it isn't there, which is exactly what our press and politicians have been doing; and the rest is, unfortunately, history.
But history can be changed, as We the People have continually learned, from our refusal of colonial subjection, to our (partial) establishment as a democratic republic, to the abolition of slavery, to the enfranchisement of women, to the end of formal segregation and the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
After that, our progress seemed to stop, and it must now resume: for history can be changed, and for the better, but only through our own unbreakable commitment to, and action for, enlightened policies for the renewal of our democracy. Based squarely on America's first principles, such policies would not be wholly new, however revolutionary they must sound in these bad, backward times. As it was certain policies that got us into this horrific situation, certain other policies can get us out.
The fact is that We the People are in lousy shape, and must get straight as soon as possible. For we are all addicted to the horse raceand we can't win, because it's fixed. And so, before we end up losing everything, we need to pull ourselves together, face the music, and then take all necessary steps to change the tune.
A 12-Step Program to Save US Democracy
- Repeal the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
This step will inevitably follow an in-depth investigation of how HAVA came to be.
- Replace all electronic voting with hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB).
Although politicians and the press dismiss this idea as utopian, the people would support it just as overwhelmingly as national health care, strong environmental measures, US withdrawal from Iraq, and other sane ideas.
- Get rid of computerized voter rolls.
It isn't just the e-voting machines that are obstructing our self-government. According to USA Today, thousands of Americans have had their names mysteriously purged from the electronic databases now used nationwide as records of our registration.
- Keep all private vendors out of our elections.
With their commercial interests, trade secrets and unaccountable proceedings, private companies should have no role in the essential process of republican self-government.
- Make it illegal for the TV networks to declare who won before the vote-count is complete.
Certainly the corporate press will scream about its First Amendment Rights, but they don't have the right to interfere with our elections. When they declare a winner when we don't yet even know if the election was legitimate, they delegitimize all audits, recounts and even first counts of the vote as the mere desperate measures of "sore losers."
- Set up an exit polling system, publicly supported, to keep the vote-counts honest.
Only in America are exit poll results not meant to help us gauge the accuracy of the official count. Here they are meant only to allow the media to make its calls.
- Get rid of voter registration rules, by allowing every citizen to register, at any post office, on his/her 18th birthday.
Either we believe in universal suffrage or we don't.
- Ban all state requirements for state-issued ID's at the polls.
As the Supreme Court smiles on such Jim Crow devices, we need a law, or Constitutional amendment, to forbid them.
- Put all polling places under video surveillance, to spot voter fraud, monitor election personnel, and track the turnout.
We're under surveillance everywhere else, so why not?
- Have Election Day declared a federal holiday,
requiring all employers to allow their workers time to vote.
No citizens of the United States should ever lose the right to vote because they have to go to work.
- Make it illegal for Secretaries of State to co-chair political campaigns (or otherwise assist or favor them).
Katherine Harris wore both those hats in Florida in 2000, and, four years later, so did Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Jan Brewer in Arizona. Such Republicans should not have been allowed to do it, nor should any Democrats.
- Make election fraud a major felony, with life imprisonmentand disenfranchisementfor all repeat offenders.
"Three strikes and you're out" would certainly befit so serious a crime against democracy.
This comes from Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, a new collection of writings by the major Election Integrity people, which IG Publishing will be bringing out in early April.
Author's Bio: Mark Crispin Miller is the author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform, which is now out in paperback from Basic Books, with over 100 pages of new material. He may be reached through his blog at markcrispinmiller.com. A movie based on his off-Broadway show, A Patriot Act, is available on DCD at www.patriotnation.com.