by Pamela Powers Hannley
Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but the US needs serious election reform.
It should have happened after President George Bush and Florida's hanging chads stole the 2000 election. Remember, that was the year that Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote by 271 vs 266, with one abstention.
For decades, people have grumbled about the Electoral College and how out of date it is. In more recent elections, layers of complaints have been heaped on the pile-- complaints about the long, drawn out campaign season; the stupid primary/caucus system; the over-reliance on the opinions of voters in two tiny white states (New Hampshire and Iowa); the unending and increasingly nasty commercials; the evil robocalls and push-polls; the lies and spin (which the current Republican presidential ticket has taken to new heights); hackable electronic voting machines; and-- this year in particular-- the obscene amount of secret, dirty money that is being poured into the elections.
Is anyone ready for real reform yet? Do you need more evidence that our "democracy" has been stolen by crony capitalists and big money?
Well... here you go, then...
Rigged Elections for Romney? from The Agonist...
A group of independent researchers caught a pattern of apparent vote flipping during the 2012 Republican primaries that consistently favored Mitt Romney. A form of election fraud, vote flipping occurs when votes are changed from one candidate to another or several others during electronic voting and vote tabulation... [more]
More examples of our broken system, some reform ideas, and a video after the jump.
Tagg Team: The Romney Family Recipe for Crony Capitalism from The Nation...
...What Tagg [Romney] lacked in experience in the world of high finance, he made up for with a vast network of political connections forged through his father [Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney], who seeded the firm with $10 million and was the featured speaker at its first investor conference in January of 2010. Romney also reportedly gave strategic advice to the company, which secured prominent campaign donors as some of its first investors.
Unlike most private equity firms dedicated to analyzing and buying companies, Solamere specializes in something else: billing itself as a “fund of funds” with “unparalleled networks,” it provides investors with “unique access” to an elite set of other private equity firms and hedge funds. Sun Capital Partners, the fund founded by Leder, is one of at least thirteen Romney-linked firms in Solamere’s network, according to a prospectus circulated among potential investors and uncovered by The Boston Globe last year. Solamere also has an investment relationship with Bain Capital, the pioneering fund founded by Mitt Romney.
Solamere, a firm predicated on its founders’ relationship with Romney, presents a channel for powerful investors to influence the White House if he wins. Private equity executives looking to lobby a Romney administration may very well have a leg up if they are already doing business with the firm that the president created for his son... [Emplasis added.] [more]
A financial interest held by Mitt Romney’s son in a voting machine company whose systems are being used in Ohio threatens public confidence in the election’s integrity, according to Jennifer Brunner, the state’s former top elections official.
“It doesn’t look good for a presidential candidate’s son to be an investor in a voting machine company,” Brunner told MSNBC.com. “That has to do with public trust in the process.”
Hart Intercivic supplies voting machines that will be used in Hamilton County, Ohio, one of the state’s most populous counties. In 2008, Barack Obama won the county with 209,000 votes—his third highest vote total among all Ohio’s 88 counties.
H.I.G. Capital, a large investment fund, is a “significant investor” in Hart Intercivic, according to an announcement put out last year by Hart. And H.I.G., in turn, is one of the largest partners, with nearly $10 billion of equity capital, of Solamere Capital, the investment fund founded and run by Tagg Romney (pictured), Mitt’s eldest son, The Nation recently reported*... [more]
Kochs to workers: Vote Mitt or else! from Salon.com
This week brought the second of two exposés that illustrate the twisted state of American labor law, which seemingly permits managers to urge and cajole their employees to donate to and even vote for their favored candidates, and workers to be fired for their political views, even if they express them only outside of work.
On Sunday, Mike Elk of In These Times revealed a political packet mailed to the 45,000 employees of a Koch Industries’ subsidiary, the Atlanta-based Georgia Pacific. The packet included a list of Koch-endorsed candidates and warned that electing the wrong people could be ruinous to the economy. The company also requires that workers get permission before running for office or joining the boards of nonprofits. One worker told Elk that a supervisor told him he wouldn’t get a promotion because he was “too political.” A local union official told Elk that he was getting calls from Georgia Pacific employees who were afraid they’d be fired for appearing in a photo with a local Democratic state Senate candidate outside their union hall, because the plant where they worked was visible in the backdrop. [Emphasis added.] [more]
Mauled by Attack Ads, Incumbents Weigh Tighter Rules from the New York Times...
WASHINGTON — An onslaught of negative political advertisements in Congressional races has left many incumbents, including some Republicans long opposed to restrictions on campaign spending, concluding that legislative measures may be in order to curtail the power of the outside groups behind most of the attacks.
While Democrats have long denounced a 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the gates on unlimited spending on advertisements, some Republicans are now growing more disenchanted with the system that has allowed the barrage of ads, often by shadowy groups, and the effects it has had on what they see as a sullen and disenchanted electorate... [That's me... sullen and disenchanted... seriously.]
The decision has appeared to benefit Republicans over all this election cycle, as Republican money has poured into the presidential contest. Democrats say their third-party allies have also been outspent, by about two to one, in Senate campaigns. But the impact of Citizens United has come with complications, with some Republican incumbents in the House at a disadvantage.
Earlier this month, before Republicans surged ahead with an additional $25 million, the total spending and reservations for ad time in the House campaigns has been dead even at $89 million, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. [more]
(Isn't there a better use for this money? If the 1% has this much money to throw into the elections, doncha think they could afford a return to Clinton era tax levels? Doncha think we would "fix" Social Security by raising the gross income subject to FICA tax above $110,000? CEO pay in the US averages at $9 million per year, and they don't pay FICA on income over $110,000. WTF? Tax the rich, already.)
Add to the above inpropreities in our "democratic" system the multiple state initiatives to supress voter turnout in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and others + county voter fraud like what is happening now in Maricopa County and you have a seriously inequitable, broken election system. Where's the United Nations? The US needs independent election moderation to protect our rights as voters!
In the long term, the US needs far more to fix our system. Here are a few suggestions... from Europe and the rest of the world.
1- Take elections out of the hands of county and state partisan bureaucrats. Elections are far too important to be controlled by the elected officials that benefit from the system. Ohio's corrupt Secretary of State (the guy who wanted to give Republican-controlled counties more early voting days than Democrat-controlled counties) or Florida's governor (the guy who was knocking hundreds of thousands of mostly young, elderly or minority voters of the rolls) could be poster children for this idea.
In most democracies in the world, elections are run by independent, non-partisan commissions-- not elected officials. For example, in the United Kingdom, the independent commission regulates party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections.
And when the US switches to an independent elections commission, I suggest they: dump the Electoral College; dump the caucus "system"; reform and standardize OR replace the primary system; end voter suppression and discrimination in voting.
2- Redistricting should be controlled by independent commissions-- not state legislatures. Arizona is actually in the forefront of this-- no thanks to the Arizona Legislature who fought redistricting tooth and nail. When state legislatures control redistricting-- which is mandated by federal law with each census-- the citizens are subject to gerrymandering by the political party in control.
3- End Citizens United and corporate personhood and set up publically financed campaigns. Corporate control of elections and the media is destroying our democracy. (Examples above.)
4- Hackable voting machines should be banned, and voting mechanisms should be standardized across states and counties. (This goes with #1.) This should be a no-brainer. If corrupt bureaucrats can flip votes, our system is screwed.
5- Restore the independence and integrity of the media. One big reason our political system has spun out of control is the dismal state of journalism in the US. Investigative journalism is all but dead in the US. Just look at the state of the Arizona Daily Star. Mere shadow of its former self, the Star lopes along with a skeleton crew of writers. Anymore, it appears to be primarily an outlet for advertising and press releases. Big corporations can no longer make money on newspapers, so they are letting them die.TV news has been reduced to a combination of political spin, celebrity news, and book/movie promotions.
Blogs, social media, and alternative news sources have filled the void for some Americans, but there are no standards. Independent, non-profit news collectives are the wave of the future and may be our salvation.
Where do we go from here? If we want to save our democracy, we must be brave enough to fight for change.