"A few days before the November 2004 election, Jimmy
Carter was asked what would happen if, instead of flying to Zambia or
Venezuela or East Timor, his widely respected international
election-monitoring team was invited to turn its attention to the
United States. His answer was stunningly blunt. Not only would the
voting system be regarded as a failure, he said, but the shortcomings
were so egregious the Carter Center would never agree to monitor an
election there in the first place...The American political system
wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standards, for several
reasons." From the first page of "Steal
this Vote" by Andrew
Gumbel (Winner of the Project Censored Award.)
"...election fraud has been a common component
of our nation's electoral history, and, in the aggregate, undermines
the only check that the people have over their leaders." from Deliver
the Vote by Tracy Campbell
“When you exclude third parties from the election
process, third parties that the vast majority of Americans would like
to see in the presidential debates, you’re not only denying those
people the right to choose who they want to run for president and who
they want to vote for, but you’re denying the very fundamental and
critical issues that, in a generative democracy, we need to have aired
in from of tens of millions of voters.” —George
The absence of a federal right to vote coupled with the Supreme Court's
to value procedure over real-world voter behavior has dramatic
consequences for America's elections.
Voter-registration requirements are convoluted.
Voter rolls are purged chaotically. Ballot design
is unregulated and amateurish. Polling hours are haphazard. Voting
equipment ranges from
high-tech to derelict. Vote-counting and recounting systems are
unsystematic. In 1964, the Supreme Court
proclaimed that "no right is more precious in a free country than that
of having a voice in
the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens,
we must live."
But under the decisions of this Court, voters can perhaps be forgiven
for feeling occasionally more like
mice in a maze than like citizens of a democracy. Victoria Bassetti,
The Supreme Court's
Citizens United decision guaranteed that the influence of money in
elections will be more powerful than people's votes and, if not
reversed, it will cost us our
republic. Most of the money goes to media
so you won't hear about it from broadcasters.
We have this strange election system in which we vote for a
person, not an agenda. Often the candidates,
once elected, do not do
what they said they would. (etch-a-sketch) The best we can hope for is,
candidate announces his agenda, he will have the integrity to act on
it. The worst case is increasingly likely: we will get a strong man
head of state who is above the law and capable of destroying us all.
The first phase of US elections is an auction
to see which candidates click their heels for the highest bidders. US media
is interested only in the candidates who
raise the most money because, for them, elections are a profit tsunami.
Since a large part of campaigning is spent on media advertising, the
broadcasters and other news outlets are strongly conflicted to favor
the fund raising winner. The candidate(s) with the most dollar votes
are the most likely primary winner for the two major parties. Third
parties are, using our election procedures, spoilers, so it is
counter-productive to vote for them.
covering the election as if it were a horserace, marginalizes
candidates who are not raising a lot of money, declare the front
runners winners, and pretty much force out lesser known candidates (or
those who do not agree with the party lines)
with very few votes cast. Since media conglomerates have been better
funded by Republicans, their bias is obviously to Republicans.
The agenda is not for people and the Federal budget proves it.
It is corporate. Money sometimes is speech, but in large quantities it
can be exceptionally corrupting. Citizens United needs to be overturned.
U.S. media selects the issues to be
addressed in the election
discussion. Most often the news is concentrated on the certifiably
It has determined that the
is the problem, not healthcare,
education, media concentration,
election fraud, income distribution,
scales, loss of benefits, disappearing pensions, empire
building, torture, renditions, climate change,
or an uncontrolled President that
threatens the Constitution.
"Issues, never a strong suit in our politics, are
seldom alluded to. Only money - who raised how much and from whom -
interested the media, and the politicians." Gore Vidal, Point to Point
accomplish little since the candidate has been selected
well in advance.
The assumption that two parties are the only legitimate
competitors is one of the most effective techniques to assure that the
status quo will not be challenged. We have dysfunctional government
because neither party wants the other to accomplish anything. Better voting techniques would enable
multi-party competition. The dialog would improve. Minor parties
are, right now, spoilers and can only make prospects for their
opponents even brighter.
Qualifications are irrelevant (Bush is
an example.) If you were hiring for a high office, you would look for
someone who speaks well, has traveled widely, has diplomatic expertise,
academic excellence, and a distinguished record. (Bush
had none of these. Thanks Republicans.)
After reviewing many such resumes, you might find an acceptable
candidate. That's not how we do it.
As we saw in Florida and Ohio, partisan bureaucrats can rig
elections wholesale by controlling voter registration lists,
tricks, manipulating media, allocation of election machines, hacking
machines to fix vote totals, and, as Republicans are doing in many
States, making it harder
In a real democracy, our
government would support an agenda
that is democratically agreed upon. That is NOT the case. That is why
torture, renditions, secret detention facilities, secret
revocation of habeas corpus, empire, war
profiteering, are all more
important than fixing health care or
providing real security for people. No US institutions are democratic.
Important issues are not discussed.
Is it coincidence that terror alerts occur just before
US elections are rigged well before the votes are cast in a
variety of ways: party insider dealings, loaded media, gerrymandering,
registration, large moneyed
interests, primaries where special
interests can dominate, strange differences in state
procedures, plain dirty tricks, misleading attack ads, rigged voting
miscounting, or even partisan court decisions... and so on.
The person who manages to get 'elected' is the one who gets to
set an agenda...whether most of the people agree with him or not. If it
wasn't for Bush, would we have gone to Iraq ?
there have been an
initiative to privatize everything including Social Security,
healthcare, utilities, or even the military ?
If the US was a democracy and was
influenced by its people, the US budget would
be open and transparent, since most people favor peace,
we would not be
building an empire, we would not torture,
pre-emptive war would be criminal (as it was found at Nuremburg.) and international law would be considered
valid. Most people favor health care reform,
more equitable income distribution,
limits on corporations (like Walmart),
US government does not work for the people. Priorities expressed in the
US budget are the opposite of those of the
Real democracy would allow
people, not oligarchs,
to set the agenda, but the likelihood of our seeing any of these
things is so slim as to be non-existent.
...over the past twenty years, we have let
corporations into our polling places, locations so sacred to democracy
that in many states even
international election monitors and reporters are banned. With the
implementation of "black box voting" (the use of electronic voting
machines), these corporations are recording our votes, compiling and
tabulating them, and then telling us the total numbers - and doing it
using "proprietary" hardware and software that we cannot observe,
cannot audit, and cannot control. If the vote-counting corporation
says candidate X or candidate Y won the vote, we have no means of
rebutting that, and they have no way of proving it. We're asked simply
to trust them.
From Thom Hartman's book Threshold
The US election process needs a complete
Primary elections are a Rube Goldberg
contraption that make the politically weird State of New Hampshire one
of the most influential. The Manchester Union Leader is one of the most
conservative newspapers in the US.
Iowa caucuses appear to be ideal for
arranging the outcome. Candidates selected in the primaries are not the
best qualified. See Bush for an example.
Candidates, to a large extent, are not
really selected in primaries. They are funded by wealthy donors well
before the primaries for very high
stakes donations. That explains why both parties candidates are
from almost identical backgrounds, why they are so dedicated to the
corporate interest, and also why the US is more a plutocracy than a democracy. Electing candidates from
dynastic families creates
massive conflict of interest. (See Bush.)
Do not underestimate the media's ability to remove candidates from
consideration and to swing elections. Remember how Reagan was
characterized as 'teflon man' because in spite of Iran-Contra criminal
activities, the mining of harbors in Nicaragua (which the World Court
ruled against the US), or the huge waste incurred in the military
buildup to counter the Soviet Union, there was never any serious press
review. Likewise media
was a cheerleader for the war in Iraq and never
looked at it critically. This is because Fox News is, for
all practical purposes, a branch of the Republican party, CNN uses 'conservative' experts, NBC is
owned by war profiteer General Electric, ABC has links to the CIA, and
so on. There is no doubt that US news is seriously compromised, voters
are not given good information, and Americans are misinformed,
distracted, and misled on important issues, .
Worse, public policy is increasingly
determined in secret. Since the Bush
administration made secrecy
a value, there is probably not enough reliable information to
support real democracy anymore. Even the Congress is incapable of oversight for lack of
alone, can end the republic.
Concentrated corporate, right-wing media has dumbed down information to trivialized
sound bites. Media has become, with FCC assistance, more concentrated.
This is no accident. Privatized corporate media, has taken almost all
meaningful discourse from public policy discussion. Big media
only pays attention to candidates with buckets of money (the real
election is up to the fund raisers), discussion of issues is limited
because only two similar parties debate, voting machines can be easily
hacked, and election apparatus is in the hands of partisans
it is no wonder that our democracy seems
Campaign finance reform appears to be an
initiative to channel tax payer dollars to corporate media. Media
expense has made serious fundraising a requirement for elections and,
as a result there have been many initiatives for campaign finance reform.
Campaign ads, like Pharma ads, look a lot like media extortion. It's
the price we pay for privatized media. The public media sector is all
The two party monopoly on elections
effectively suppresses public dialog. Issues discussed often are of
little importance: for example Bush's (lack of) military experience,
Kerry's war record.
Even though it is clear that better voting procedures could be used, they are not
even up for discussion. Probably because they would interfere with the
two party monopoly. If it comes to a choice between parties or
the Constitution, the parties need to be checked. For all practical
purposes, we are not really allowed to have more than two parties. It
is all but impossible for third parties to be other than spoilers. We
could change that by implementing range voting.
Presidential debates are run by the two
and everyone else is excluded. On major issues, such as the
war in Iraq or healthcare, there is little difference between the
parties reducing voting to a matter of personalities. People have no
say in substantive issues. During the Republican Bush years we have
seen that the party that controls all three branches can trump
Constitutional checks. Two party dominance is official public policy.
One tenth of African Americans are disenfranchised. The US has
one of the highest prison populations per
capita in the world.
Gary Webb reported on CIA complicit drug smuggling into Los Angeles
and he was for all practical purposes fired from the San Jose Mercury
News for doing it. Not only was this a branch of the Iran-Contra
illegal war, but it had the effect of making a large number of the
(mostly democratic voting) minorities ineligible to vote. In many
states felons can't vote.
Iran, not noted for its democracy, has its elections on a
holiday. If the US did this working people would have a lot easier time
voting. What does it say that we have not done this ?
Michael Winship writes: "What's the real motive for knocking
off those eight, now nine, maybe more, US attorneys - Republican
appointees all - apparently replaced for insufficient fealty to the
Bushie party line? In part, the truth may be lurking in the upcoming
Senator Hillary Clinton has been an outspoken critic of the
caucus system, saying that the limited time allotted for voting
disenfranchises too many workers who are on the job during those hours.
It seems though that in Nevada Clinton has had
a change of heart.
"Machine Politics" has a whole new meaning, with the spread of
electronic voting machines that were designed to be capable of being
skewed without evidence to throw elections in one direction or another.
(Remember: the Chairman of Diebold promised "to deliver
the State of Ohio for President Bush" -- when his voting machines
were tallying that election. And sure enough, Bush got it.) But whether
you're a Republican *or* a Democrat, being able to buy an election
ought to appall you.
"Yes, all times are bad but some times are worse than
others. This is one for our country. A Michigan congressman, John
Conyers, minority - that is, Democrat - leader of the House Judiciary
Committee, went to Ohio with several other members of Congress and a
number of staffers to determine whether on not in the late presidential
election of 2004 the overexuberant local Republican Party had stolen
the election for George W. Bush. The result was a report by Conyers
which a Chicago firm published with a preface by me. Yes, Virginia, the
election was well and truly stolen and the Conyers team spells it all
out in considerable detail. Since the Republican Congress will not
allow hearings on what went wrong, Conyers had no recourse other than a
in detail how the theft was effected with collusion among high
officials and shadowy executives of electronic voting machine
Vidal: Point to Point navigation. pg 159.
"In the months leading up to the November (2000) balloting,
Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his secretary of state, Katherine Harris,
ordered local elections supervisors to purge fifty-eight thousand
voters from registries on grounds they were felons not entitled to vote
in Florida. As it turns out, only a handful of these voters were
felons. The voters on this scrub list were, notably, African
Americans (about 54 percent), and most of the others wrongly barred
from voting were white and Hispanic Democrats." from Greg Palast's
essay in "Into
Doubts about the Florida election were cleared up by a
partisan Supreme Court. Think that's justice ? Remember that the
Supreme Court can't tell the difference between speech and money, and
they can't tell that there's any difference between people and
corporations. Each of these decisions, as well as the one deciding the
Bush election, does damage to democracy and favors the corporate
agenda. The partisan Supreme
Court has no business deciding elections.
irregularities became obvious, Congress took action and passed the HAVA
(Help America Vote Act). Although the HAVA
did little to actually address election problems, it likely made them worse
how the Bush team stole the Florida election is
documented. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was
co-chair of the Bush campaign in Florida and a close associate of
Bush's brother, deliberately blocked careful checking of the list of
felons, with the result that thousands of Black people who were not
felons and were legally entitled to vote were
blocked from voting.
An Angolan friend of Joe Wilson (his book the Politics of Truth)
remarked: "One candidate loses the popular vote by over 500,000
ballots, but his brother is governor of the one state where the outcome
is too close to call. The effort to count the ballots is disrupted by
the Washington staffs of elected representatives from the candidate's
party, and the court that ultimately adjudicates the outcome is made up
largely by people appointed by the candidate's father. Sounds a lot
like an election in Africa." pg 281.