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Will Stein See a Dime?
31 May 2002
Modified: 04 Jun 2002
Gubernatorial candidate Dr. Jill Stein has leaped the first two hurdles in her run for election: she succeeded in getting on the ballot and garnered enough contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funds. But will the Legislature let Greens get state campaign dollars? Not if House Speaker Finneran has anything to say about it.
Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein has collected enough individual small contributions to qualify for state funds under the 1998 Clean Elections Law. At a time when the Greens should be celebrating their success in mobilizing to collect more than 6000 qualifying donations, they now face an even tougher challenge: making the Legislature honor the law. If Big Money Democrat Thomas Finneran has his way, Stein may never see a dime.

Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted to delay enactment of the Clean Elections Law after House Speaker Finneran intensified his anti-clean money siege with yet another sabotage tactic. Initially, Finneran and his dirty money allies ignored the Clean Elections referendum, which was favored by 67% of the voting public. After that, mostly-Democrat opponents of the law said it was flawed, and that the naive voters did not understand what they had done by passing it. Finally, in recent months, fat cat Finneran's expedient mantra has been that the state cannot afford to enact the law.

If all this sounds unconstitutional ("If it's a law, then how can the Legislature refuse to honor it?") that's because it is unconstitutional. When the voters passed the clean money law, funds that now total over $23 million were set aside to provide public funding for state and legislative campaigns. But the Legislature refused to release the money--until Warren Tolman, a Democrat candidate for governor, Massachusetts Voters for Clean Elections, and other election reformers sued to force the state to do just that.

Amazingly, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts came down on the side of participatory democracy. The court ruled in January that by neither repealing the law nor funding qualifying candidates, the Legislature was acting contrary to the Massachusetts Constitution's Article 48 mandate that the Commonwealth must appropriate "such money as may be necessary to carry such law into effect." The decision went on to state that the effect of the Legislature's actions is not just to harm the qualifying candidates, but that it "frustrates the will of the majority of the people who elected to provide an alternative, assertedly more democratic system of campaign financing . . . than the current private financing scheme." Finally, the case was remanded to Justice Martha Sosman, who was to ensure that Tolman and other qualifying candidates got the funds they earned.

Sosman tried to do this in part by ruling in April that if the Legislature would not release the $23 million in earmarked funds, then state assets would have to be auctioned to raise the money. She asserted that the state has acted in "flagrant violation" of the Constitution, and cited the legislature's bad faith as necessitating such a drastic remedy.

In the meantime, Finneran and his allies have reportedly been putting pressure on the courts to do their bidding. In what has been seen by some as retaliation for the court's bold rulings on this election issue, the Legislature cut millions from the court system's budget, requiring massive layoffs that would have to take place in the coming months. The layoffs, according to some judges and clerks, would severely weaken the courts' ability to administer justice.

And that brings us up to the present state of affairs. On May 17, the Legislature voted 139-12 to use the $23 million that has been collecting interest since 2000 to pay the salaries of state college employees. Of course, it did this because Finneran presented lawmakers with a false choice between Clean Elections funding and state employee salaries under existing contracts. The only option for the Greens and other reform candidates will be to petition the courts for enforcement of the auction order, and laboriously collect whatever piecemeal funds they can.

Massachusetts is the third worst state in the nation for lobbying expenditures, according to the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. We have the most State Legislature elections with unopposed incumbents, and we have more than three lobbyists for every one member of the Legislature. When the people spoke out for campaign reform in 1998, the people spoke loudly. Clean Elections was meant to get special interest funding out of the statehouse and put the people back into democracy. The Clean Elections Law has as its aims:

1. To affirm the principle of "one person, one vote" and give all citizens meaningful participation in the democratic process.

2. To encourage an open and full debate on issues of public concern.

3. To strengthen public confidence in democracy and eliminate the danger of corruption caused by the private financing of public elections.

4. To increase the accountability of public officials to the voters.

5. To allow candidates to spend less time fundraising and more time talking about issues to voters in their districts.

Despite the repeated public scorn directed against the Greens by state Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston, who accuses Stein of doing for Romney what some accused Nader of doing for Bush, and despite Democrats who claim that Clean Elections funding was not meant to help "marginal parties" with no meaningful chance of success, a clean money third party campaign will satisfy every noble goal of the law.

It is critical for progressives and liberals to remember that the means of an election are at least as important as the ends; with a third party competing with Democrats for the large left vote in Massachusetts (after all, Nader scored more than 3% here), Democrats will be forced to take a stand on issues about which they have been increasingly centrist in order to please the funders in whose pockets they sit. The Greens should also loudly question the very meaning of "marginal" as applied to them, when legislators have scoffed at the will of a 2/3 majority of the voters by sabotaging the Clean Elections law. The only interests served by thwarting campaign reform are those of the elite. And the only marginal party at work right now is the party of Democrats hell-bent on eliminating the threat of competition from the Greens.

When Jill Stein moves to collect the clean funds Greens worked hard to earn, Greens must be prepared for an uphill battle against the propaganda and publicity stunts of their Democrat detractors (such as a certain Representative removing his office furniture as a stunt to protest the auctions). But in the long run, if Finneran acts to outright repeal the Clean Elections Law, as some say he may now finally do, liberals may have the last laugh. House lawmakers who vote to repeal the law will have to face the same voters who approved the law in large numbers, and even while they bravely undermine the will of the people behind closed doors, it is doubtful that many want to champion the demise of campaign reform in public.
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Does It Make a Difference?
01 Jun 2002
Without even getting into the issue of whether Jill Stein (a nice person) is really a Green (neither "right" nor "left", but ahead) or just an old-fashioned lefty Democrat, at least two other vital issues need to be addressed before this red herring of so-called "clean election money" wastes more time and effort of active citizens.

First is the fact that bribery is unlawful:

Therefore, most of "our" elected politicians are criminals:

Second is the fact that the private and monopolistic Federal Reserve Bank creates so-called "U.S. dollars" our of nothing and effectively manipulates "our" government:

Third is the fact that most of the election machinery in Massachusetts and throughout the USA is controlled by private corporations using proprietary electronic vote-tabulation machines:

You might as well ask transnational criminals and terrorists like Henry Kissinger, John Deutch, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Paul Wolfowitz, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and the CIA (Criminal Ignorance Agency) to be counting your so-called votes.


Continually neglected by the corporate media, the Republicrats, and even most Greens and Libertarians is the fact that Election Fraud 2000 was not isolated to the Florida fiasco and the Bush-Cheney gang.

Election Fraud 2000 - aside from the usual bribery and blocking contenders from the Presidental "debates" - was a nationwide conspiracy by transnational corporations to CONTROL THE COMPUTERIZED VOTE-TABULATION SYSTEMS.

In other words, when you vote in these PROPRIETARY systems, you might as well be asking the CIA or ExxonMobil or Citigroup to be counting your vote.

As Joseph Stalin said (or was it Joseph Lieberman?), "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who COUNT the votes decide everything."

In real democracies, the votes are manually cast on paper ballots and counted by citizens, not private corporations.

Democracy Under Stress

by Ronnie Dugger

SOMERVILLE, MASS. -- Never before November 2000 has a major political party contended that computers' vote counts are more accurate than those of people looking at the ballots and at each other looking at the ballots.

James A. Baker III, leading the charge of the George W. Bush campaign to stop people's recounting of their own ballots in Florida, righteously exclaimed that the "precision machinery" that counted and recounted the votes for president in the state was more accurate than the recounts by people provided for in Florida law. Manual counting, Baker said, entailed subjective decisions, human error and politics. Rejecting the idea of the people of Florida recounting all the votes they cast for president, which would take about a week, Baker said that would just be extending a flawed process statewide.

The vote-counting systems in Florida are not precision machinery, such as adding machines. They are computers, which are machines that obey orders. The antique Vote-O-Matic punch-card voting systems in use in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where the canvassing boards are recounting ballots, have been associated for 25 years with inaccuracies caused by slipping card feeds and "hanging chads," which are tiny scraps of punched-out vote holes that do not fully detach from the vote card. In effect, the Bush campaign has declared that computer vote counting
precludes citizens' recounting their own ballots in the third of the country where the rickety, often error-prone Vote-O-Matic machines are used in elections.

Last week, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), which has been studying Vote-O-Matic-type counting systems for more than 10 years, said that the Vote-O-Matic system "has inherent accuracy limitations" and that "careful manual counting of Vote-O-Matic ballots should always be more accurate than machine counts."

In this system, voters punch out holes beside candidates' names on a card, and the card is passed through a card reader that shoots light through the holes and counts up the votes--that is, the points of light coming through the holes--for each candidate.

Sometimes, CPSR said, two ballot cards are sucked into the system's card reader at one time. "Hanging chad can flip open and close. Detached chad can become stuck in the feed path, increasing double feeds and misfeeds. . . . Detached chad can jam over the light or sensor, causing holes [that is, votes] to not be read until the chad blows out of the way."

Peter Neumann, a senior computer scientist at SRI International and one of the leading authorities on computerized vote counting in the country, was similarly skeptical of precision vote-counting machinery. "The Vote-O-Matic is not accurate enough; there's hanging and floating chad and so on," he said. "But hand counting is substantially more accurate in reporting the true intent of the voters."

More in point, Neumann says, is the comparability of what happened to former Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay of Florida in his 1988 race for the U.S. Senate, which he lost by fewer than 35,000 votes out of more than 4 million cast.

"Undervotes"--the failure of votes to register on a voted ballot--occurred on about 10,000 ballots in Palm Beach County this year, where Vice President Al Gore has strong support. In 1988, in MacKay's four Democratic stronghold counties, there were 210,000 people who voted for president but did not vote in the U.S. Senate race. In a comparable U.S. Senate race in a presidential-election year--1980--in the same four counties, three out of every 100 presidential voters did not vote for senator; in 1988, 14 of every 100 did not. In the entire state of Florida, excluding the
four MacKay counties, fewer than one of 100 presidential voters--25,000--were not recorded as also voting in the Senate race. Three of the MacKay counties in 1988 are among Gore's big four recount counties.

MacKay believed "very strongly" that the Senate election was stolen from him. He suspected, as a reason for the vote drop-off, the use, in the questioned counties, of a ballot layout that crowded the Senate race onto the bottom of the same page with the presidential race. The voting electorate for president dropped to 86% for the Senate, then jumped back up to 97% for secretary of state. Suspecting, too, "a problem in the [computerized vote-counting] software," MacKay asked that his campaign be permitted to examine it in five counties, but was refused on grounds that it was the secret property of the election-business companies. "A damned outrage," he said of this.

Had Bush accepted Gore's offer to consent to and abide by a manual recount of the entire state of Florida, such a recount would also have provided a statewide test of the computer codes used to tally Floridians' votes, and any vote-counting codes that came into question would have become primary evidence in the fight for the presidency. Neither side has sought to impound the codes, even though they are part of the evidence of how the votes were counted and should be protected from tampering, just as the ballots are. Perhaps especially in Miami-Dade County, where the
canvassing board has voted not to conduct a hand recount of all the votes, the vote-counting codes should be sequestered for testing.

Never before in this century have Americans been so mesmerized by vote counting. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) are all calling for a study or investigation of computerized voting machines. This is indeed the time for a thorough reconsideration of the whole U.S. voting landscape, which has grown wild in the shadows as 10,500 local election boards have selected their vote-counting equipment from a fast-changing variety of private vote-counting companies in what is called "the election business," a minuscule, but politically important subdivision of the computer industry.

About one-third of Americans still must cast their votes on the Vote-O-Matic punch-card system. The only reason it's still in place in so many jurisdictions is the cost and trouble of replacing it. Election officials well know that it is an inaccurate system--some of them speak laughingly of
"chadology"--but some states have required mandatory recounts in close elections, and the ballots are always available to recount. As many Americans probably would agree now, the use of this system should be outlawed.

"Mark sense," "optical-scan" systems are, in effect, the Vote-O-Matic without the punch card. The voter is given a paper ballot and votes with pencil or pen; the ballot is run through a card reader, which tabulates the marks. One important question about these systems is the error rate--how many ballots are misread or disqualified because the card readers don't like the way the voters marked them or because of stray marks on them? In any event, the retained ballots are available for manual recounts. About 27% of Americans now vote on such systems.

Old 1,000-pound mechanical-lever machines are still used in some jurisdictions, including New York City, where Board of Elections leader Doug Kellner estimates that 1.5% of the voters lose their votes because they don't know they are supposed to leave down all the levers they press until they pull down the red handle to record their vote. But in the mid-1980s, New York City embarked on a misbegotten scheme to replace the lever machines with the very latest thing in
vote-counting equipment.

That is the "direct-recording electronic" (DRE) systems in which the voter literally votes on a computer and all tabulation and audit trails are contained within the computer. The voter marks no ballot; there is no audit trail outside the computer. With officious bureaucratic and political fanfare, the city signed a $60-million contract with Sequoia Pacific Systems in 1993 for the technology. But
Kellner, Neumann and others refused to believe the
system could be made secure. This summer, for a variety of reasons, the city canceled its contract, sustaining a loss of about $17 million.

This was an enormous setback for DRE voting systems, but they are now reported to be voted on by 9% of the American people. Wherever they are in place, citizens are voting blind and accepting insiders' announced vote counts while having no way of double-checking them with manual recounts.

With New York City facing the question of what to do now, Kellner has called for a new study of the technologies available. He warns that electronic vote counting "is almost completely unverifiable because of the technical complexity. Electronic machines are the equivalent of having a pair of computer technicians take a paper ballot box into a sealed room and then telling us the vote totals without anyone able to observe the count." But he indicates his tentative preference for "a scannable paper system, where the ballot is scanned at the poll site and retained by the scanning machine for subsequent verification and hand
recount, if necessary," a system of decentralized computerized vote counting.

I am wondering, myself, about vote counting, what the hell is the hurry? The media demand instant results, but that has nothing to do with good government. The last line of the official, back-to-the-wall defense of computerized vote counting is, "Trust us." But in vote counting, we should trust no one. That is why we watched each other counting the votes in the old days.

Computerized vote counting is simply an inappropriate use of technology in a democracy. I suggest that people throw out Vote-O-Matics and DREs and consider going back to counting their own paper ballots. Let's have a revolt in some of our precincts. Tell the politicians and the election companies, Hey!--We are going to count our own ballots together. Election night, we'll bring in coffee and doughnuts, pizza, and have a party, as if we can still enjoy democracy with our neighbors. Will they put us in jail for counting our own ballots? Let's find out.

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