Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Elections In America

I love to laugh about conspiracy theories. I have created and propagated some myself! In discussing elections in the USA, I am not putting forth any theories that the election was fixed, I do not believe the 2004 presidential election was any more or less tampered-with than any other presidential election.

Still, I think it is important that every republic that declares itself free and insists to the world that its processes are democratic, should be open to the notion that disinterested parties can monitor its elections.

Americans, of course, don't feel that way.

Pax Christi USA (according to their website) wanted to send election monitors to Florida and Governor Jeb Bush, one of the great articulates, said: "This is all part of some politically motivated thing that tries to scare people to somehow think their vote is not going to count," said Governor Bush. "That's hogwash, hogwash."

So, a Christian social justice agency wants to monitor the elections in their own country and an elected official refers to it as a 'politically motivated thing' and 'hogwash, hogwash.' (I guess it REALLY is hogwash if he says it twice.) Nice command of the language there, guvnah! What exactly is a 'politically motivated thing'? Is it like a politically motivated thingie? A politically motivated thing-a-ma-jig? It's scary that this is how the next American president responds and articluates (yes, I believe Jeb Bush will be president from 2008-2016).

According to USA Today at 6:43 A.M. on Election Day:
Election monitors ready to go: The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe plans to have about 75 observers at selected voting sites across the USA. They will monitor the opening of the polling places, the voting and counting of ballots. The United States belongs to the OSCE and invited it to send an observation team. There has been some local resistance. Last week, election officials in two Ohio counties rejected a request for international monitors to be present at voting precincts because they said state law allows only poll workers, party representatives and police officers to be present.

Ohio didn't want their election monitored. Even though they will allow representatives of the political parties onto the premises, they do not want to allow disinterested monitors. What does the government of Ohio have to hide? Please note that the United States is a member of OSCE, and its current chair is an American. It's not as if a group of anti-American Europeans were coming to sabotage our democratic process!


The twenty-strong team includes David MacDonald, formerly Canadian Minister of Communications and Secretary of State, and Brigalia Bam, Chairperson of the South African Independent Electoral Commission. British representatives are Caerwyn Dwyfor Jones of Wrexham County Council and Terence Humphreys, Chief Executive of Electoral Reform International Services. The team has been invited by US NGO Global Exchange which has itself carried out election monitoring in Latin America and other countries.

In discussing the importance of a paper-trail in conjunction with electronic ballots, Mr. McDonald said: "people can know their vote is secure and will be registered and if there is a need for a recount it can be done."

In Mexico, which I know is not the United States (except when it comes to our need for cheap labor) the electronic voting machine failed 25% of the time. 48,000 votes were cast and 36,000 were recorded! Why do we trust that the American technology used in the Mexican election would be any more accurate when used in America?

Some organizations that provide election monitoring services will not even participate in an election that has no paper trail, because there is no real way to audit the vote tally.

Happily, the BBC reported that our election was "mostly free and fair" and "mostly met" standards for freedom and fairness

Election monitors have historically visited nations that expect to have a difficult election. They oversee the process to ensure that something resembling a democratic process transpires. To be eligible for the services of international election monitors, the host nation must meet minimum requirement for free and fair elections. These requirements include inconveniences like a paper trail that can be used to audit the vote, and voter registration procedures that invite rather than preclude citizen participation. Some states would not meet the minimum requirements for free and fair elections. Still, some organizations have agreed to participate.

The following article neither proves nor disproves that we have free and fair elections, but it sure is amusing!

Florida Decides Council Race by a Coin Toss

Fri Nov 12, 6:00 PM ET Strange News - AP
By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press Writer
Reprinted without permission

GROVELAND, Fla. - Florida, the state that decided the 2000 presidential race with hanging chads and botched ballot designs, added a page to its history of electoral quirkiness Friday: a city council race that was decided by a coin toss.

G.P. Sloan, 77, and Richard Flynn, 75, each received 689 votes in the Nov. 2 election. Two recounts didn't determine a winner, so the candidates and three dozen supporters gathered Friday in the community center of this town of 4,400 residents located 25 miles west of Orlando.

"This is a very unusual occurrence in this day and age when we have such sophisticated mechanisms to vote on, such as a touchscreen computerized voter system," said Mayor Connie Fleetwood. "We've come down to a coin toss."

Later the mayor said she would have preferred a special election. "I think it's so primitive," she said of the coin toss.

Florida law provides that candidates "draw lots" to determine a winner in the event of a tie. The law has never been applied to a statewide race, although it has been used several times in local races, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State.

County election supervisors can determine the method of drawing lots, and Lake County in the past has used a coin toss. Most recently, a coin toss determined a town council race in Montverde in Lake County in 1999.

Many other states have similar laws to settle a tie, said David Orr, clerk of Cook County in Chicago, who also is first vice president of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks. In the 1990s, city council races in Nebraska and New Mexico were determined by drawing from a deck of cards.

"Courts and political systems aren't eager to have elections all the time so chance does its role," Orr said.

Sloan, a retired minister and Army veteran, and Flynn, a retiree who owned hardware stores in Maine before moving to Florida decades ago, said they thought the method for choosing a winner was fair.

"I would just as soon shoot an eight-ball or shoot balls from the foul line or have a game of hearts," Flynn joked.

During the campaign, the candidates took starkly different views on growth, an issue that has vexed this town in transition from an agricultural hamlet once surrounded by citrus groves to a bedroom community where many of its residents work in Orlando's hospitality industry. The town currently lacks a movie theater, a dentist, a pharmacy and a national grocery store chain.

Flynn, who previously had served on the city council and other civic boards in town, was considered the pro-growth candidate. Sloan, a first-time candidate and native of Groveland, had vowed to keep the city's small-town feel and protect the nearby Green Swamp.

They stood on either side of city manager Jason Yarborough for the coin toss, surrounded by a semicircle of television cameras.

Yarborough held a sealed envelope in his hands that had come from the bank. He ripped it open and took out the bicentennial dollar coin that had President Eisenhower on its face and the Liberty Bell on its back. Minutes beforehand, the candidates agreed that Flynn would make the call — heads or tails.

"Here we go," Yarborough said. "I don't want to miss."

He flipped the coin. Flynn shouted "Heads."

Yarborough caught it and flipped it on to the back of his hand.

"Tails it is," Yarborough said.

Cheers, clapping and whoops went up from the crowd. Sloan and Flynn shook hands and then hugged each other.

"There's nothing I can do about it," Flynn said afterward. "He flipped the coin and I lost."

I say we dispense with all the ballots and voting booths and Diebold Fraud Automation Machines, and simply have each election decided by a coin toss!

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