Last Thursday, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Common Cause had their day in court, and the result was something of a standoff. While Chancellor Perkins declined to force Hargett to buy optical scan vote counting machines, he did rule that the law as passed does not mandate that Hargett purchase machines that are not in fact available, as Hargett has been insisting.
I found it interesting that, when Hargett filed a brief with the court asking for dismissal of Common Cause’s suit, he did not attack their premises, he just attempted to claim sovereign immunity for the state, and questioned Common Cause’s standing to sue. For those of you who don’t speak legalese, that means he said he couldn’t be sued over this, and if somebody could sue him, it wouldn’t be Common Cause. As the first rule of lawyering says, “when the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law is against you, argue the facts. When they’re both against you, attack your opponent’s character.” Hargett didn’t quite stoop to ad hominem attack, this time, but he definitely had the facts against him., and he knew it.
And I’m betting that, as I was writing this on Friday afternoon, our Secretary of State and his minions were working hard to figure out how to keep dragging their feet, hoping that when the legislature convenes in January, the Republican majority will take them off the hook by delaying implementation of the bill until 2012, a move that failed by only one vote in the last legislative session. It’s quite a change of heart from the near unanimous, bipartisan support the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which mandated a return to recountable ballots, received in 2008. What’s going on here?
I think that a look at a couple of things that happened in Texas will answer that question. The first is the famous (in some quarters, anyway) Texas redistricting struggle of 2003, when Texas’ Republican-dominated legislature did its best to redraw the state’s congressional districts to insure a permanent Repuglycan majority in the state’s Congressional delegation. They only succeeded in doing this because the Bush junta disregarded a memo from US Justice Department lawyers saying the scheme was illegal–and not only did they disregard the opinion, they put a gag order on the attorneys who wrote it. Ah, the Bush years….
And, what do you know…Tennessee will be redistricting after the 2010 census…and the Repugs would sure like to be in charge of that.
The other Texas story that bears on our situation here in Tennessee is what Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator calls “the three percent solution.” This refers to successful efforts to suppress minority voting in order to shave a few points off likely Democratic vote percentages, insuring Republican victory. The Repuglycan attack on ACORN and their repeated raising of the straw man of “voter fraud” are just the tip of the iceberg, it seems.
In Texas, the county tax assessor is responsible for registering voters as well, and the position is an elected, partisan office. In Houston, a Republican registrar rejected voter registration forms for such picayune reasons as failure to check a box stating that they would be 18 on the day of the election, even though applicants gave their birth date just a line or two further down the form.
We could jump to Ohio at this point, and recall that the Republican Secretary of State there rejected voter registrations that were not on the right kind of paper.
What am I getting at? Many Republicans in Houston won their races by the proverbial hair: 50.01%, 50.15 percent–you get the picture. In effect, they won by denying the vote to individuals they thought likely to vote Democratic.
That’s how we get back to Tennessee, where Republicans are using every delaying tactic they can find to keep using easily-hackable, unrecountable electronic voting technology. They don’t have to do anything blatant, just switch a few votes here and there, and they can insure that they wil be the ones with their hands on the wheel and their fingers in the till in Tennessee for the foreseeable future.
OK, so why did Democrat-appointed Secretary of State Riley Darnell pimp for computerized voting, and where was the state Democratic party when he supported what the Repugs are now clinging to? As for Darnell, he seems to have been enjoying perks from the touch-screen voting cabal–according to verifiable voting advocate Bernie Ellis,
Darnell served on the board of “The Election Center,” a group founded with start-up funding by the voting machine companies which continues to promote nonverifiable voting systems that are now being rejected nationally.
And rejected internationally, too. In a recent decision, Germany’s highest court ruled that electronic voting machines are unconstitutional in Germany because the votes are counted in secret, a story that for some strange reason attracted little notice here in the U.S.
As for why most Dems went along with Darnell on this, it’s the same stupid solidarity that gives us right-wing wannabes like Jim Cooper, Lincoln Davis, Phil Bredeson, and Harold Ford, Jr. and gets insulted when some of us refuse to support them. Many of those involved in this fight are active, left-wing Democrats, none of whom have a prayer of ever getting nominated for elective office. One Democratic functionary told peace activist Chris Lugo, when he offered to be the Democratic candidate for US Senate, to “go to hell,” and that’s probably the inner circle of the party’s attitude toward my trouble-making friends in the fair election movement, although they will be tolerated as long as the hay they’re making can be thrown at Republicans.
Hey, guys and gals, why dontcha come join the Green Party, where you’ll be appreciated and can be in charge and able to make a difference? The door is open….
music: Frank Zappa, “A Lie So Big”