Jun 19 2009

How much is the security of your vote worth?

Posted by Steve Ross in elections

It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.
Tom Stoppard, Jumpers (1972) act 1
British dramatist & screenwriter (1937 – )

Since the beginning of this legislative session, the efficacy of your vote has been under attack. HB0614/SB0872 sought to delay the implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

The Act, passed in 2008, mandates a “Paper Ballot” rather than the unverifiable “Electronic Ballots” that are currently in use in 93 of 95 Counties here in Tennessee.

Mary Mancini at Liberadio! has been all over this issue, both through her posts and the Facebook Group she and several others created and maintained.

Thankfully yesterday, the last day of the legislative session, HB0614/SB0872 failed to get a majority in the State Senate by 1 vote, and was sent back to the Calendar Committee. Since the session is now over, the legislature can no longer try to delay the implementation of TVCA.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Newly appointed State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has stated that his office will go to court to stop paper ballots if necessary. Citing a dubious at best fiscal note which has been thoroughly debunked, Goins’ intentions seem less about stifling your right to vote, but more about hindering the verification process mandated in the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

Goins says he’s an advocate for paper ballots, but also says

“I’m a friend of paper ballots,” he said again, “But when you push your friends too far, sometime they bite back.”
And, he added, “I’m this close to biting back.” (source)

Nice, so statewide confidence and verifiability of the whole voting system hinges on whether or not an appointed administrator feels pressure to do the job he was appointed to do. Be still, my beating heart. (/snark)

It seems certain that the State will go to court to delay or otherwise challenge the implementation of a verifiable paper ballot in Tennessee, and in doing so, call into question the voting systems here in Tennessee, the motives of the Republican appointed State Administrators.

The question facing Election Commissions in 97.8% of the counties in Tennessee is a much more practical, “What next?” Are they going to hang back and wait to see what happens in court…should any case appear, or are they going to start making plans to comply with the law? What about all the training that will be necessary for their employees? This stuff doesn’t just happen overnight. It seems to me that in order to be in compliance with the law, as it stands now, Election Commissions have to get going on this, no matter what happens or could potentially happen. So I decided to ask around and find out some answers.

Turns out, it’s not only been on their radar, they’ve been looking at solutions since the beginning of the delay debate. Shelby Co. budgeted money to deal with any shortfall that may from HAVA funding not that there should be any. Obviously, it sucks for the taxpayers that Shelby and some 92 other counties have spent scads of money on touch screen voting machines, but there are lots of lingering questions out there about these machines, and Diebold the company that makes the machines we have here in Shelby Co., hasn’t done ANYTHING to answer these questions.

These allegations would be less unsettling if there were some other mechanism than just the “word of the computer and its programmer”. Unfortunately, the idea of using a receipt printer or some such other device isn’t within the letter of the law, and to my knowledge, no such device is certified under the necessary standards. So, it looks like some unfortunate state is going to be buying a whole bunch of used touch screen voting machines from Tennessee Election Commissions…or not Turns out nobody wants these so the market may be saturated with these unwanted beasts. In short, we may just have to let them rot in some warehouse somewhere.

Of course, until Mr. Goins makes a decision on whether to take this case to court, all of this is just speculation. It is good to know that, at least here in Shelby Co. someone’s thinking about the consequences and ready to deal with it when they become reality. I just hope, for the safety of our votes that we don’t have a long and costly legal fight on our hands.

Like the quote at the beginning of this post says, “It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.

Jun 19 2009

SCDP Meet and Greet This Evening

Posted by Steve Ross in Memphis, Shelby County

The Shelby County Democratic Party announces it’s first “Meet and Greet” since the April Re-organization.

Friday, June 19, 2009 (that’s today people)
5:30pm to 7:30pm

Hattiloo Theatre
656 Marshall Ave.
Memphis, TN

Appetizers and Cash Bar
Suggested minimum contribution benefits S.C.D.P.

829-3377 or 830-3283

Host Committee:

Van Turner
Dave & Diane Cambron
Ron & Barbara Williams
Carla Stotts-Hills
Desi Franklin
Jonathan Cole
Carlos Bibbs
William Gillon
Adrienne Pakis-Gillon
Chris Taylor
Nancy Greenwalt
Cathy Hailey Kent
Will Kent
Willie Boddie
Nancy Kuhn
Mitzi Gatewood
Norma Lester
Jim & Jeannie Johnson

Come out and support your local Democratic Party!

Also join the new Facebook Group.

Jun 18 2009

The Ghost of Nominees Past

Posted by Steve Ross in activism, National Politics, Policy

Affordable, portable healthcare has been an issue in American politics since long before the 1990’s. Unfortunately, little, if anything has been done in that time to ensure that Americans have access to insurance coverage, despite a great deal of support for reform. Today NBC News and The Wall Street Journal published a poll stating that 76% of Americans polled support a “Public Option”.

In this space we’ve covered The Public Option and a Trigger mechanism for the Public Option proposed by conservative Democrats as a hedge against real reform favored my the majority of Americans.

While the debate continues in Congress, and on the airwaves, a bipartisan group of former Senators have come together to promote a plan of their own.

As part of the plan, former HHS nominee Tom Daschle argues against the Public Option saying

“We’ve come too far and gained too much momentum for our efforts to fail over disagreement on one single issue,”


The plan endorsed by Daschle would give states the duty of establishing “public options”. This may be favored by Republicans, but it creates a serious problem in establishing nationwide portability. Further, as we have seen here in Tennessee, as budgets get tighter, state funds for such programs dwindle and the working poor suffer. Finally, the plan also makes any savings that would come from establishing a nationwide risk pool and throws them out the window.

In short, this is a stupid idea that will likely result in no real savings, or expanded coverage for the 47+ million uninsured, who, like myself, who cannot afford insurance due to sheer cost or pre-existing conditions.

I’ve always liked Senator Daschle. I feel he brings a lot of knowledge and experience to this debate, and I was hopeful about the possibility of true healthcare reform when President Obama nominated him to HHS. In light of his current position, I find myself questioning his motives. You may remember that in the two years before he was nominated he banked some $200,000 from the healthcare industry. I don’t want to sully the man’s reputation, but it raises serious questions about his motivation and intentions.

In the end, there is overwhelming public support for a “Public Option”. If our elected officials in DC are too scared to pass something that has the support of 76% of Americans, they need to get their butts spanked by their constituents. We have the political will to get this passed, the question is, “Will they do what’s right or what’s easy?”. Right now they’re leaning toward the easy.

Most importantly, we can’t let the ghost of a past nominee derail the reform that we, the people are in favor of.

Do what’s right, pass the “Public Option” or suffer the ire of your constituents. This reform is way overdue.

Jun 17 2009

We All Live in the Same Glass House

prejudice |ˈprejədəs|
1 preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience :

I was kinda sorta trying to avoid this whole topic completely, but since I’m defining words today, I guess I don’t have any choice. Maybe I should go back to school and major in linguistics.

I’m going to tell you a secret, that you may or may not know, but that is a truth, whether you like it or not. You ready? Ok, here goes:

we are all prejudiced.

We are.

There’s nothing you can say that can defend against that statement. We are fallible. We do things for reasons we don’t understand. We are all prejudiced…end of story.

I’m not saying we’re all racist, or sexist, or homophobes, or age-ists. We each carry our own strain of the disease. At the end of the day, we’re all prejudiced, and none of us can hide from that reality.

What brings this up is the story that was broke Monday by my sister by another mister.

This thing made the national news, in a day and age where this kind of stuff is becoming more prevalent, or at least more noted every day.

There’s been much discussion about the story, but at the end of the day, the story is a symptom of the disease.

We, as humans, encounter racist, sexist, PREJUDICED stuff every day, regardless of who or what we are. Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism provided some just yesterday, and, in a stretch of irony, he’s the guy that proposed the far reaching Shelby County non-discrimination order. Prejudice is a reality of our world, and our task is to defeat it, not try to make political points off of it.

Prejudice is wrong, and I’ll admit that I’m as guilty of it as anyone. The key question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are we trying to get better?”, or “Are we using it to promote a political agenda?”

In the end, we all live in the same glass house. As long as this is a political issue instead of a social issue, we’re throwing stones at ourselves, and ultimately bringing the glass house down around us.

Jun 17 2009

Lone Wolf or Terrorist?

Posted by Steve Ross in National Politics

Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller at the beginning of June, and the attack on the Holocaust Museum, many on the left have characterized these actions as “Terrorism” and warned that they are likely to continue as long as the “Hate Speech” that motivates these actions go unchallenged. Just yesterday, Solon at Open Pen wrote a great piece about the rise of hate groups in the US, as well as here in Tennessee. In today’s USA Today, writer Jonathan Turley challenges the assertion that this amounts to “Domestic Terrorism”. From the article:

The fact is that Roeder and von Brunn appear to be murderers, not terrorists. Many people kill strangers out of hate for their race or religion or some other association. Colin Ferguson killed six people and injured 19 in 1993 on the Long Island Rail Road in a race-based rage. Last July, Jim Adkisson shot and killed two people at a church in Knoxville, Tenn., because he hated liberals. These are acts of loners or rogue operators who seek to satisfy a blood lust against different groups.

Perhaps Mr. Turley is unfamiliar with the definition of “Terrorism”

terrorism |ˈterəˌrizəm|
the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

lone wolf
a person who prefers to act or be alone.

Mr. Turley and I may be arguing two definitions of “terrorism” (ie, the difference between how the word is defined, and how the law defines it) but to say that these actions are not in pursuit of a “political aim” is to say these actions are purely random, despite evidence to the contrary. I won’t go so far as to say that these individuals are part of a coordinated campaign of violence about to be unleashed on the American public, but calling it anything other than “terrorism” is to ignore the facts. By Mr. Turley’s standard, a lone wolf is just a criminal, even if he/she is politically motivated. That’s just ignoring the definition of “Terrorism”.

For terrorism to occur, you don’t have to have people firing rockets into another country, or strapping a bomb to their body. Terrorism occurs when violence is committed for political gain. There is no question that this is the case.

Let’s not try to “make this better” or candy coat reality. There are potential terrorists on all sides of the spectrum. The difference is the action. Once the action is committed, it becomes terrorism. It doesn’t have to be coordinated…it just has to be political.