Category Archives: Election Reform

‘Election Integrity’ Commission Eliminates Middleman in Giving Trump, Republicans Tools to Steal Elections

Trump’s “Election Integrity” commission should be less focused on whether there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast, than how Russia – and any future cybercriminal – hacked 39 states’ election rolls. The fact it isn’t, points to its true purpose. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

While everyone was obsessing over the latest Trump twitter outrage, his administration was moving forward with the latest assault on democracy and American rights. His Orwellian-named  “Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity“  (which is anything but), otherwise known as the Voter Fraud Commission, sent out a letter signed by Kris Kobach to every state’s election official “requesting” (since the commission has no real authority or power) their entire voter database, including party registration, a decade’s worth of voter history, address, partial social security number, birthdate, military service and felony convictions, and whether  the voter is registered in more than one state.

Indeed, Secretaries of State, be they red, blue, purple or green, are horrified at the notion of transmitting this information, which, contrary to Kobach’s claim, is not “public.” Moreover, there are “protected classes” such as victims of domestic violence, whose private information is shielded. Louisiana told the commission to “jump in the Gulf”; Kentucky’s said “there isn’t enough bourbon” that would make her deliver this information.

But Kobach’s “request” sounds less like an effort to find out whether our elections are honest and fair, versus a data mining operation for Trump and the Republicans so that they can expand upon their tactics of the 2016 campaign – focusing on fake news, social media trolling in pinpointed districts where just a small nudge could tilt the balance in their favor- which is why a mere 70,000 votes across three states trumped a loss of 3 million popular votes for Hillary Clinton nationally.

That is what is at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation – and what Kobach and his commission, if he is really interested in “election integrity” should be examining, but clearly they are not, because Trump was the beneficiary and because it contradicts his claim of a “mandate” to unleash his ultra-rightwing agenda.

And what if they find that there are 5 million or even 10 million people who have registered in more than one place – like Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon – or that there are 1 million “dead people” still on the rolls? Unless they voted twice or if a dead person sent in an absentee ballot, they did not alter the result.

What is more, Kobach is demanding this data be sent over unsecured email servers, an engraved invitation from this inept administration for malevolence, when even government agencies as secure and cyber-sophisticated as the NSA, Pentagon, Office of Personnel Management, the Secretary of State’s office, indeed the election rolls of 39 states, have been hacked.

The cyberattacks are getting more and more dangerous, moving closer and closer to infrastructure – like shutting down utility plants, the power grid, air traffic control, rail switching stations, and yes, voting  databases and machinery. Putin’s goal was to foster suspicion in the democratic process – and he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination, helped by candidate Trump’s constant claims of a “rigged election” and urging his minions to strongarm their way into polling places to make sure that “those people” don’t vote (which had the strategic effect of preventing Democrats to scream “foul” afterward, since they had already made pronouncements that the elections were fair).

The states’ election machinery – made worse after the “Help America Vote Act” that followed the 2000 pregnant chads controversy – is woefully inadequate, and was even in 2004 when Walden “Wally” O’Dell, CEO of Diebold, the black box manufacturer promised to deliver Ohio to George W. Bush, and he did (see story)– and if the NSA, Pentagon, banks, utilities could all be hacked, why would elections not be?

The argument here is that elections are so decentralized, the results could not be altered sufficiently. In the first place the weak link is where the various election districts electronically send their results to a single center for tabulation. And the 70,000 versus 3 million vote tally which gave Trump the White House is proof enough that the argument that decentralization is what protects the sanctity of the democratic process is specious. (See: Russian hackers’ election goal may have been swing-state voter rollsRussian Hacking on Election More Widespread Than ReportedElection Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say)

There is something wrong in America with voter turnout rates of 60% in the presidential election (higher than 2012, as it turns out, but less than the 62.2% that turned out in 2008) as controversial and consequential as 2016. (And how much of that was voter suppression or outdated voting lists?)

States that made it easier to register to vote had higher turnout – such as Oregon, Connecticut, Alaska, Vermont and West Virginia, where eligible citizens who interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles are automatically registered to vote. Similar laws are taking effect in California and Colorado. No wonder Republicans will use the commission to find an excuse to roll back the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the motor-voter law, which has registered millions of voters, as Richard Hasen writes in Slate, Trump’s Voter Fraud Endgame.

In Oregon, automatic voter registration added an extra 225,000 people to the rolls; in Wisconsin, which Trump “won” by a mere 25,000, voter suppression tactics reduced turnout by 200,000.

Kobach’s “election integrity” commission is about voter intimidation, on top of the voter suppression tactics that Republicans have put through in the states they control, because Republicans realized long ago that low turnout favors their candidates. The problem isn’t over voting, it is under-voting – and this is exactly how the data that Kobach is mining could be weaponized. There are already enumerable examples of Republicans committing election fraud.

Instead of the non-existent voter fraud issue – 44 instances out of more than 1 billion votes cast between 2000-2012, a rate of 0.0000044% – there needs to be reforms made to voting, which though a function the constitution leaves to the states, should still include federal minimal standards for access to voter registration and polling places (to satisfy the 14th Amendment providing for Equal Protection as well as the 15thAmendment, the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged)  – where located, people served, hours of opening, minimal number of voting machines per voters, provisions for early voting and absentee voting; requirements for security for electronic, black-box voting devices, back-up paper ballots and auditing after each election, as well as requirements for mandatory hand recounts if the margin is 1% or less; a requirement that when a person is “purged” from voting rolls, a letter be sent informing them, with a remedy for correcting the record; making tampering with voter registration, rolls or elections, including giving fraudulent information about voting places, hours, accessibility a felony crime; and yes, a provision for nullifying an election which has been demonstrated to have been substantively tampered with.

Also,  a reason why young people do not vote in the numbers they should: they are too fearful of breaking a law if they vote absentee in their home districts after having moved to a new place for a job. And moved. And moved again. There needs to be clarification of rules allowing people to vote where they were last registered, or regularly vote, and provisions that require people who have not voted in a district for, say, 10 consecutive years, to reregister or be removed.

On this July 4th, even Trump supporters should be standing up for the basic principle of a government established for and by its people. Which means promoting voting, not suppressing it.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

To Get to a More Perfect Union, Reform Electoral College, Promote Access to Ballot Box

Electoral College reform and a greater federal role in setting minimum national standards for access to the ballot box are necessary to insure that Americans get the president who reflects the will of the majority in a free and fair democratic election © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Electoral College reform and a greater federal role in setting minimum national standards for access to the ballot box are necessary to insure that Americans get the president who reflects the will of the majority in a free and fair democratic election © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

There is no question that the will of the majority was thwarted in the presidential Election of 2016 – but if ever there was a time when the Electoral College should have proved its purpose, it was this election.

Instead, the Electoral College demonstrated the worst of all anti-democratic worlds: denying the popular will while also enabling the exact sort of candidate that Alexander Hamilton described in justifying the Electoral College: so “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” and to prevent a “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils”. Trump fails on all accounts.

And here, you have not only Hillary Clinton receiving nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump – the most in history for any candidate who did not go on to win the presidency – but you have clear evidence of foreign manipulation (the Russian hacking, very possibly with collusion by the Trump campaign), fake news, not to mention voter suppression (interesting that every battleground state where Clinton lost was also where Republican legislators had imposed measures designed to suppress the vote of groups inclined to vote Democratic; in Wisconsin, 300,000 registered voters lacked the photo ID necessary to cast their ballots. Indeed, two weeks after the election, a federal court struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map as illegally partisan. And,  “on Election Day, there were 868 fewer polling places in states with a long history of voting discrimination, like Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina,” (www.thenation.com/…)

The result was that Democratic-leaning voters had hours-long waits which many could not afford. And then there was the call-out by Donald Trump for vigilantes to police “you know which” neighborhoods. Turnout was affected. Indeed, despite historic levels of engagement in Election 2016, the number of votes cast in Ohio was down 1.1% and down 4.0% in Wisconsin – more than the margin of victory for Trump. That’s the art and the science of voter suppression, which was the primary strategy for the Trump campaign.

But instead of serving properly as a check-and-balance, everything that is undemocratic and archaic about the Electoral College (devised to give disproportionate power to slave-holding states and small rural states) was in play. As a result, a single voter in Wyoming is worth 200 times a voter in California, rendering this country’s notion of “one person, one vote” and “equal justice” a fraud.

(Why is it that only rural, white Middle Americans are considered “Real Americans,” but coastal, urbanites, professionals, college-educated people are considered “elites” not deserving of a say in their governance?)

Its malfeasance justifies the rising calls to abolish the Electoral College altogether – which would require amending the Constitution which is unlikely. Instead, there are calls to dramatically reform it to more properly address 21st century America, through changes that the states can make to the regulations that bind their Electoral Voters, now termed “faithless” if they vote against their state’s popular vote.

The predominant reform is for states to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact would require participating states to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. It wouldn’t take effect until enough states joined in to add up to the 270 electoral votes required to elect the president– ten states and the District of Columbia have already signed on, totaling 165 electoral votes.

If the compact were in place, Hillary Clinton, who received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump, who only won the Electoral College by winning the slimmest of margins (less than 1%) in a few battleground states (amounting to about 70,000 votes altogether, the result of concerted voter suppression actions by Republicans), would have been President.

But this election also demonstrated how easily even a 21st century populace can be manipulated by fake news, social media and a populist snake-oil salesman, not to mention the possibility of hacking the election architecture. Indeed, it would seem that the Electoral College does have a purpose as envisioned by the founders of the Republic, as a check on populism.

Still, there are ways to make the Electoral College more democratically representative, while still functioning as a “check and balance.”

First, there needs to be an end to “winner take all” which basically erases the votes of millions of voters. Instead, states should apportion their electoral votes based on the popular vote in the state. That would be a much more representative method and more efficiently make each state and each person’s vote count.

During this election, we kept hearing how discouraged and disaffected those who would vote for third-party candidates, and their complaint that the two-party system is what is so detrimental to a true democracy. But multiple candidates virtually guarantee that the winner does not represent the majority, as is clear in 2016, where the scant votes for Jill Stein in Michigan gave the state to Trump, putting him over the Electoral top despite winning only 46% of the national popular vote.

So the second element is to allow the lowest vote-getting candidates to give their Electoral Votes to one of the top two candidates.

Another idea which would be very possible in the age of sophisticated electronic voting, is for “second choice” weighting, and if no candidate gets 50.1%, then a run off of the two top vote getters (as is the case in some primaries).

The end to “winner-takes-all” and allocation by popular vote in a state could not happen until virtually all the states (and not just Blue states or Red states which have voted for a Democratic president) have approved the policy.

Federal Government Needs to Guarantee Minimum Standards for Voting

It may surprise people to realize the federal government has no authority over elections, which are controlled by states – even within states, counties may have different rules (so much for Equal Protection). Indeed, the Constitution does not actually provide a right to vote at all, and the Roberts right wing Majority on the Supreme Court did its damage to remove what oversight the federal government had when it eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

There needs to be a new Voting Rights Act that protects the essential principle of one-person, one vote and the federal government, under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, should have the ability to establish minimum standards for access to the ballot box. It should protect more than racial discrimination, but should acknowledge partisan discrimination as a threat to the spirit and essence of democracy.

What else is needed to reform a weakened election system in these days of technological sophistication, a sprawling and diverse voter population, and the huge stakes to controlling the political reins of power? Here are more ideas:

  • An end to partisan-control of drawing district lines; standards that affirm – as the Voting Rights Act did – that districts have to be contiguous and make sense
  • And end to partisan control of state elections (like Katherine Harris, Secretary of State in Florida 2000 and also the chair of George W Bush’s campaign who purged voting rolls of 20,000 people and did all she could to insure Gore never got a fair count)
  • Requiring notification to every voter before an election confirming their registration, voting place and hours, and if a voter has been removed or purged or changed for any reason, timely notification with a process to challenge
  • A standard to allow voters to vote where they were last registered
  • To address the very real possibility of hacked black-boxes, require a paper trail and mandatory audits of a certain number of voting places to confirm the veracity
  • Minimum national standards for where polling places can be designated, how many voting machines per voting-age population, minimal number of hours open, early voting days, including spreading voting to the weekend before Election Day, and making Election Day a national holiday
  • A requirement that if a voter moves and re-registers, that notice be sent back to the prior voting place to be removed
  • Clearer, more uniform regulations about where people can vote if they are in college or have moved (for example, allowing people to vote by absentee at the last previous registered place)
  • Automatic sending of voter registration materials upon 18th birthday
  • Establish criminal penalties for interfering with voting, whether fraudulently telling people the wrong date, time or place to vote, ripping up voter registrations or interfering with voter registration; penalties for states that impede voter registration such as failing to process registrations in a timely way
  • Restore reasonable controls on spending – by wealthy donors and corporations – eliminate SuperPacs, pass the DISCLOSE Act, overturn Citizens United
  • A new Voting Rights Act that goes beyond racial discrimination but includes any type of systematic discrimination to dilute “one-person, one-vote”
  • Constitutional amendment that affirms the right to vote (the Constitution doesn’t actually provide it now)

None of this will happen because the Republicans have realized they can keep power without ever having to worry about the demographic shifts and pesky things like needing a majority. Putting a gate at the ballot box has worked very well.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Appeal to Electoral College Voters: You Can (Should) (Must) Save US and Elect Winner of Popular Vote, Hillary Clinton

The Electoral College voters need to have courage and show they are true patriots and elect Hillary Clinton, winner of the popular vote, the next president © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Electoral College voters need to have courage and show they are true patriots and elect Hillary Clinton, winner of the popular vote, the next president © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Petitions are circulating such as this one from Credo:

“Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president and did not win the support of the majority of the American people. Hillary Clinton is set to win the majority of the vote by more than 2 million votes despite widespread voter suppression and the FBI’s interference in the election. Honor the majority vote and elect Hillary Clinton on Dec. 19.”

I’m wondering how many of the electoral voters are actually Never-Trumpers, and now, since they have seen how Trump would govern, who he intends to appoint to run the country (a climate denier to run the EPA; an anti-public education billionaire to run Education; an unhinged fired General to run national security), might be having a twinge of remorse, especially given the fact that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes (most ever for a candidate who didn’t actually win the presidency), and new revelations about Trump’s conflicts of interest, his lack of transparency and his pay-to-play approach to foreign relations (an echo of Richard Nixon’s, “If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal”).

Nor did Trump “win” the key swing states that put him over 270 electoral votes fairly.

Reports of Russian interference that turned the tide of the election should be a grave concern to Electoral College voters, if they consider themselves patriots. Throughout the campaign, it was clear the Russian government was actively working to influence the outcome in Trump’s favor. State-sponsored Russian hackers provided troves of damaging emails and documents to WikiLeaks and other websites. Paid Russian trolls disseminated fake news across US social media sites to spread misinformation favorable to Trump. And though Trump lied about it, his campaign was in direct contact with the Russian government throughout the election, including his strategist Roger Stone (who cut his teeth on the Richard Nixon campaign).  Trump has well established connections to Russia through many business dealings, and he spent considerable time during the campaign praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Now that Trump has access to classified intelligence and the nuclear codes, we can’t trust what he will do with them. His presidency is a clear threat to American democracy and our national security,” writes Josh Nelson, Deputy Political Director for CREDO Action from Working Assets.

Moreover, there is strong evidence of voter suppression aimed at likely Democratic voters (minorities), including making it difficult to obtain newly required voter ID materials, closing polling places and reducing early voting.  In Wisconsin, where Clinton lost by only 27,000 votes, 300,000 eligible voters lacked the strict forms of ID needed to vote, and the state saw its lowest turnout in 20 years, especially in Black communities. And across the country, Black people were forced to wait in line twice as long on average as white people.

In North Carolina, there were 158 fewer early voting polling places in Black communities, and Black turnout was down 16 percent. And by the way, how is it possible that the Democratic won the Governor’s race, but that Clinton at the top of the ticket didn’t win? – why is there no challenge to that vote, as the losing Republican Governor has waged?

“It’s entirely possible that without voter suppression, Clinton would have won the Electoral College along with the popular vote,” Nelson states (though it is harder to prove voter suppression than lie about the existence of voter fraud).

Indeed, Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million – a bigger margin than many elected presidents won by, and the biggest margin of any person who did not go on to actually become president (Al Gore included). Trump has already proved he will dismiss the will of the majority. Why is it that the “Real America” disqualifies urbanites, women, minorities, professionals, college educated people, especially Ivy Leaguers?

In just the first week since seizing the election, Trump has demonstrated that he will be exactly who he showed himself to be, starting with the Team of Thugs, Reprobates, Misogynists, Corporatists, Racists, White Supremacists, not to mention those who are totally inexperienced to carry out the functions they are tasked with, he has surrounded himself with and who he is naming to cabinet and key offices. It is emerging as a “Team of Billionaires and 1-Percenters,” who built their financial empires on the backs of the very white working class people that Trump pretended to care about.

He has shown that he will protect his own business profits at the expense of the national interest – unabashedly doing business and extracting favors from foreign dignitaries, evoking Richard Nixon’s line, “If the president does it, then it isn’t illegal.” There is no doubt that he has realized he could leave office $100 billion richer. He absolutely doesn’t care about conflicts of interest. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had done anything remotely like that upon becoming the president-elect. They would have impeached her before inauguration day (Republicans mounted a special investigation into the Clintons’ Christmas card list when Bill took office).

Trump already showing he will trample transparency and a free press, preferring to continue to tweet outright lies should also have the Republican electors who claim to be the guardians of the Constitution quaking. That he will attack the press and a Hamilton actor appealing for his administration to just consider all Americans, but not condemn the Neo Nazis who are cheering his victory with a Hitler salute, that he dictates to the media how they will photograph him, and shuts out media that he feels don’t represent him well, are only the preview to the propaganda he will wage.

And now Trump declares he would take away citizenship and jail anyone who burns the flag, which the Supreme Court has already ruled is protected free speech – further evidence that he aspires to follow Vladimir Putin’s model. Trump doesn’t know and doesn’t care about civil rights or the Constitution.

And those Electoral Voters should be downright shaking about the fact Trump has declined taking the daily Presidential intelligence briefing (instead obsessing over convincing Carrier Air Conditioners not to move to Mexico), and from all accounts, dismissive of Obama’s advice to him on such critical topics as the urgency of keeping North Korea in check – an echo of George W. Bush’s dismissal of President Clinton’s intelligence advisers warning him of Osama bin Laden as a grave threat, only to stand by as four hijacked planes, circling around for hours, hit their targets on 9/11 without any defense. But Trump believes, “I know more than the generals” and yet, he was shocked to hear General Mattis tell him that torture doesn’t work. Shocked!

The Republican electors may be cheering Trump’s plan to install climate deniers to run Energy and Interior and overturn climate action, the Iran nuclear deal, cancel international agreements,  repeal Obamacare and women’s reproductive rights; that he will voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security, create a registry for Muslims, and install one billionaire to destroy public education and another billionaire who amassed his fortune taking advantage of bankrupt companies to be Secretary of Commerce – but they who claim to be patriots should have concern that Trump will do all of this without care, awareness or interest of the larger consequences to the majority of Americans who rejected him.

But the Republican electors should be downright quaking in their proverbial boots over Trump’s irresponsible, erratic and ignorant foreign policy, already demonstrated in how he praised the Philippines President (for his extrajudicial murders), antagonized China in speaking directly to the President of Taiwan (when China could instantly crash the US economy and move more aggressively into Asia-Pacific territorial waters), dismissed the nuclear threat from North Korea, even as South Korea’s presidency is toppling, and embraced Putin, effectively giving him license to stampede through Ukraine and into the Balkans.

And the only reason Trump will be president is for the voter suppression and likely election (not voter) fraud tactics (not to mention the unprecedented intrusion by FBI Director James Comey just 11 days before the election) that managed to tilt key swing states by the 1-2% margin for him to hit the magic number of 270 Electoral Votes despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. You only needed Russia to tamper with a few votes here and there in precincts in the swing states to swing the election – indeed, only 100,000 votes among three battleground states that were polling in Hillary’s favor just before the election: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And so I write this as a last-ditch appeal to the Electoral College voters to do the right thing, the moral thing, and in those narrowly decided battleground states, vote for Hillary Clinton. This isn’t a violation of the Constitution; at most, they would have to pay a $1000 fine for respecting the will of the people. A chance to show courage and be a true patriot.

It is clear that along with the myth of the American Dream, the US has never actually been a democracy, even in present times – between the limits on access to the polls, gerrymandering, the ways that money influences elections, and the Electoral College. And instead of getting better – with the 15th, amendment giving black men the right to vote, and the 19th amendment giving women the vote – those who would obstruct democracy have only gotten more lethal, devious, and technological.

Face it, the Founders weren’t gods from Apollo, they were human beings, embarking on a great experiment in governance and were skeptical of actually giving power to ordinary people. In fact, the Constitution only gave the vote to white property-owning men. How did it happen in Jacksonian times that white men without property all of a sudden got to vote, without a amending the Constitution, while non-white males and women had to wait for Constitutional amendments?

Now, in a capitulation to the idea that 2016 may be a done deal, a movement is underway to democratize the election in time for the 2020 presidential contest.

It may be time to abolish the Electoral College but that would require amending the Constitution but since that is not likely (look at how miserably efforts to amend the Constitution to overturn the notion that corporations are people and cash is free speech). Or, since that is not likely given the fact that the party is power has benefited so royally, the Electoral College needs to be modified, which can happen at the state level.

This nation was founded as an imperfect union, set on a journey to become a more perfect one. We have yet to get there, but over time, there has been movement toward the ideal of one-person, one-vote democracy.

The Electoral College is yet another archaic relic of the Founders’ experiment and concession to small states and slave-holding states in order to keep a fragile union together. But while the furor over the 2016 election has people talking about a Constitutional Amendment to abolish it, that won’t happen because it has worked so effectively for the party in control, along with gerrymandering, Citizens United, Voter ID and all forms of anti-democratic, voter suppressing tactics.

The electoral votes awarded to states are not even reflective of the state’s population, once again giving small, rural (white) states (that Republicans like to call “The Real America,” effectively dismissing the citizenship of urban-dwellers, college-educated, professionals, women, non-whites, non-Christians) disproportional representation (like the US Senate) and moving this nation even further away from the mythical principal of “one person, one vote.”

Indeed, if California was apportioned electoral votes based on its population, it would have 200 votes instead of the 50.

“Today, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is four times as powerful as the vote of a citizen in Michigan,” Lawrence Lessig writes in the Washington Post. “The vote of a citizen in Vermont is three times as powerful as a vote in Missouri. This denies Americans the fundamental value of a representative democracy — equal citizenship. Yet nothing in our Constitution compels this result.”

For this reason, Republicans, who, in their 2012 “autopsy” only feigned concern for Hispanics, women, blacks because they believed the demographics were going against them, have realized that, just like in controlling the House and Senate, they can control the White House very effectively without a popular majority. They can advance policies that go against the interests of most Americans (so much for the white working class “finally” getting their populist advocate).

“Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president,” Lessig writes, arguing that the Electoral College should vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump and not veto the people’s choice. “That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.

“The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that ‘the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].’ But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, ‘a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice’ — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about ‘winner take all.’ It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule ’the people’ or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.”

And so I write this as a last-ditch appeal to the Electoral College voters to do the right thing, the moral thing, and in those narrowly decided battleground states, vote for Hillary Clinton. This isn’t a violation of the Constitution; at most, they would have to pay a $1000 fine for respecting the will of the people. A chance to show courage and be a true patriot.

See also:

Election Irregularities Demand Audit Before Vote is Certified

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Election Irregularities Demand Audit Before 2016 Vote is Certified

An audit of election results in battleground states, deemed “too close to call” on Election Night, is necessary so Americans can have confidence the right candidate takes oath of office on January 20, 2017 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
An audit of election results in battleground states, deemed “too close to call” on Election Night, is necessary so Americans can have confidence the right candidate takes oath of office on January 20, 2017 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Let’s be clear: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes (the largest number for anyone who didn’t actually win the presidency) and pretty much by the margin that was forecast. She wasn’t a “bad” candidate. It wasn’t that she didn’t talk enough about an economic policy that would lift up everyone, or that she didn’t have enough policies. It wasn’t that she didn’t offer the so-called white working class a vision of a better future. The election was stolen.

Yet, she lost every “toss-up” battleground state by the narrowest of margins, only 1-2%, resulting in Trump winning the Electoral College votes (theoretically; there is still hope the voters will do the right thing and cast their ballot for the winner of the popular vote).

Does anyone doubt that if the situation reversed and Trump won the popular vote by millions but failed by thousands to win the Electoral Vote that Trump would have fought the result up to the Supreme Court (a la Bush v Gore), and his minions would have taken to the streets with guns? Even now, he is fomenting the lie that three million votes were cast illegally. This is who claims the presidency?

But in a brilliant manipulation, Trump railed about how the election would be stolen (from him), forcing Democrats –and particularly Hillary Clinton – to assert that American elections have integrity, and that any challenge would undermine the essence of a democratic republic, a peaceful transition of power, in order to prevent any contest. They were played, as is apparent with Trump replaying Clinton’s own statements (omitting the fact that it was Green Party candidate Jill Stein, not Clinton, who is demanding recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania). This isn’t up to Hillary Clinton or anyone. The voters need to know if the votes were accurately counted.

Meanwhile, Trump is now trumpeting – without any proof – that 3 million votes were cast illegally (the only person I have heard who was caught casting 2 ballots was a Des Moines woman who voted twice for Trump).  And if he believes that, he more than anyone, should be demanding recounts.

It is apparent that the shortfall in Electoral Votes was chiefly the result of Voter Suppression, with states unleashed by the weakening of the Voting Rights Act, and voter repression tactics in key sections of swing states designed (successfully) to shift 1-2% of the votes. This was clear in Wisconsin and North Carolina. But there is evidence also that in some key districts, the electronic voting machines may have been hacked in order to give the win to Trump, which demands proper audit and recount to assure Americans the rightful outcome of the election.

Add to this the reports that Russia hacked some state elections rolls, interfered with the election by hacking into Democratic National Committee and by paying trolls to disseminate false news (viewed 15 million times). Is it so implausible that a few – not an entire state – but enough precincts which rely on electronic voting without a paper trail could be hacked?

“Americans should demand this simple step to ensure that the machinery of democracy worked.

DFA members have spent years working to ensure our elections are fair, accessible, and verifiable,” Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America, wrote in an email.

This shouldn’t even be controversial. There should be routine audit after every election to assure that the electronic tallies conform with paper ballots, and full recounts where less than 2% margin separates the winners. Most urgently, given the fact that we have now seen cyber warfare with penetration of even the most secure government sites including the National Security Agency, electronic-only voting systems should be replaced with systems that generate a paper trail.

The Department of Justice was mum when I asked whether or how many complaints have been filed – whether voters found they were purged from the rolls when they arrived to vote, or whether long lines or inaccessible polling places kept them from casting their ballot.

“The Justice Department does not tally the number of callers to determine whether federal action is warranted. Investigatory decisions are based solely on the facts and evidence as they relate to the federal statutes the department enforces.”

But with Republicans now content they have found the means to control power without needing to secure a majority of voters – not for the House, the Senate or now the White House – necessary election reforms will never happen. And Trump is already signaling further attacks on voting rights, under the guise of promulgating the lie of rampant “voter fraud.”

That’s why this audit is so important now. And why the Electoral College should make the moral choice and cast their votes for Clinton.

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Lesson of 2016: Election Reform is Urgently Needed. Here’s What Needs to be Done

The 2016 Presidential Election has underscored the need for urgent reform of the election process © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The 2016 Presidential Election has underscored the need for urgent reform of the election process © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This unprecedented 2016 Presidential campaign has raised doubts and heightened cynicism about this nation’s election process – which itself depresses turnout if people believe their vote does not matter, or who are fed such a negative impression of a candidate that they cannot bring themselves to vote for either one.

Reform of the election process is urgently needed if, in fact, this country is to remain a democracy in more than myth or nostalgic longing. Already, this election has invited worldwide mocking, with the United States being  held in the same regard as a Banana Republic, especially with the language of Donald Trump, who threatened to unilaterally assign guilt and jail his opponent, weighed whether he will accept the results (“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win.”) thereby undermining the basic pillar of America’s democracy, a peaceful transition of power, and actually pronounced, “Let’s cancel the election and just give it to Trump.”

It’s been part of a tactic – to depress turnout by making people think their vote doesn’t count, and anyway, the election is rigged so why bother. Certainly, smearing an opponent so viciously, as Trump has done, is part of the campaign strategy, as his own officials have boasted, that they are targeting voter suppression of three groups: white liberals, young women and African Americans.

And, indeed, elections can be rigged and elections have been stolen – the elections of 2000 and 2004, which provide textbook cases of how to steal an election, come to mind. (George W. Bush, who actually lost Florida, the Electoral College and the popular vote, is truly the only illegitimate president this country has had.)

Indeed, because of the systemic “rigging” – including gerrymandering and voter suppression programs masqueraded as “protecting the integrity of the ballot” from voter fraud, in 2014, despite a million more votes being cast for Democrats in Congress, Republicans were still able to retain a massive majority – 56% in the House, the largest majority since the 71st Congress of 1929-31. Voter suppression tactics as well as the dark money – anonymous funding from outside sources (thanks again to the SCOTUS Right Wing Majority Citizens United decision) make it easy for wealthy partisans and corporations to literally buy a small population state’s Senators, where media costs are much lower than say California or New York. Because states no matter how small or large each have two Senators, the Republicans have 54 seats (54%) but represent 47% of the population.  So even though a majority of Americans vote Democratic, it’s Republicans who have controlled. Hardly a mandate for right-wing policies and obstruction they have heaped on the American people.

It may surprise people to realize the federal government has no authority over elections, which are controlled by states. Indeed, the Constitution does not actually provide a right to vote at all, and the Roberts right wing Majority on the Supreme Court did its damage to remove what oversight the federal government had when it eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

There needs to be a new Voting Rights Act that protects the essential principle of one-person, one vote and the federal government, under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, should have the ability to establish minimum standards.

What else is needed to reform a weakened election system in these days of technological sophistication, a sprawling and diverse voter population, and the huge stakes to controlling the political reins of power? Here are more ideas:

  • An end to partisan-control of drawing district lines; standards that affirm – as the Voting Rights Act did – that districts have to be contiguous and make sense
  • And end to partisan control of state elections (like Katherine Harris, Secretary of State in Florida 2000 and also the chair of George W Bush’s campaign who purged voting rolls of 20,000 people and did all she could to insure Gore never got a fair count)
  • Requiring notification to every voter before an election confirming their registration, voting place and hours, and if a voter has been removed or purged or changed for any reason, timely notification with a process to challenge
  • A standard to allow voters to vote where they were last registered
  • To address the very real possibility of hacked black-boxes, require a paper trail and mandatory audits of a certain number of voting places to confirm the veracity
  • Minimum national standards for where polling places can be designated, how many voting machines per voting-age population, minimal number of hours open, early voting days, including spreading voting to the weekend before Election Day, and making Election Day a national holiday
  • A requirement that if a voter moves and re-registers, that notice be sent back to the prior voting place to be removed
  • Clearer, more uniform regulations about where people can vote if they are in college or have moved (for example, allowing people to vote by absentee at the last previous registered place)
  • Automatic sending of voter registration materials upon 18th birthday
  • Establish criminal penalties for interfering with voting, whether fraudulently telling people the wrong date, time or place to vote, ripping up voter registrations or interfering with voter registration; penalties for states that impede voter registration such as failing to process registrations in a timely way
  • Restore reasonable controls on spending – by wealthy donors and corporations – eliminate SuperPacs, pass the DISCLOSE Act, overturn Citizens United
  • Ultimately, all states should adopt proportional voting to allocate Electoral College Votes that more accurately reflect the will of the people, rather than winner-take all.
  • A new Voting Rights Act that goes beyond racial discrimination but includes any type of systematic discrimination to dilute “one-person, one-vote”
  • Constitutional amendment that affirms the right to vote (the constitution doesn’t actually provide it now)

See: How the 2016 Presidential Election May Well Be Stolen

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin