VOTING RITES AND WRONGS

13 08 2006

I confess: I flaked out. I voted electronically—and on a Diebold machine. I asked for a paper ballot, tentatively, “Can I still get a paper ballot?”, and they said they couldn’t give me one, and I decided not to make a fuss. I had just enough time to vote quickly before my dentist appointment if I didn’t make a fuss. I really wanted to get to my dentist appointment…..yeah, right! Well, I did…consider the alternative…ouch! Whoa, I’m digressing already….

I did ask if there was a paper trail, to which the election officials cheerfully replied, “no!” Well, this was not an election that anybody was likely to jack—the only close statewide race was the Republican Senate campaign, where two foaming-at-the mouth fascists, Bryant and Hilleary, were unable to stop the Lamar-Alexander-clone smoothtalking fascist, Bob Corker, from winning. It wasn’t even close, since the two foaming fascists were unable to curb their egos and figure out who should step aside to go one-on-one with Corker. Together they outpolled him by a slight margin. Maybe this is an opening to get Republicans to back instant runoff voting? Anyway, nobody was complaining about the validity of that election, and I’m sure they would have kvetched if they thought it would do them any good. I hear there was a local race out in East Tennessee where it appears that in some precincts every single voter turned out, and, guess what! most of them voted for the incumbent! With no paper trail to back the voting machine’s assertions, it is going to be difficult to figure that one out, although the 100% turnout in a local/primary election has been labelled “statistically unlikely.”

In one local state house race, longtime Tennessee House member Edith Taylor Langster was unseated by metro councilwoman Brenda Gilmore. That was in the district next door to mine, and the election was not even close, so it was probably honest, eh? Brenda campaigned on a platform of more economic development in her district, which makes me uneasy for the green spaces left in my quarter of Nashville.

The good news/bad news was that the “Memphis meltdown” didn’t occur; many anti-electronic voting machine campaigners were hoping that the twelve-page ballot would combine with Harold Ford’s popularity in Memphis to create long lines and lots of complaints, but no such luck.

The twelve page ballot was kind of a joke. There were very few choices to make, truth be told. Most races were uncontested, and many asked for a yes or no vote on appointing some guy I didn’t know anything about to a job whose description was unclear to me. I like to think I’m better informed than the average citizen, but nowhere in my normal perusal of the news had I encountered most of the names I was being asked to judge. I mean, I hadn’t even seen their campaign literature. Actually, I probably voted against my own best interests in many of those cases, because I voted to approve a whole flock of judges and I am reasonably certain that every one of those judges would not think twice about enforcing laws against victimless crimes that could in theory be applied against me. But, I digress. Again.

One of the Terrible Things About Russia that was drilled into my head as a child was that there, they had choiceless elections, because dissent was brutally suppressed. Wow—we’ve managed to do the same thing here just by creating widespread apathy—although police drug raids involving officers with concussion grenades, body armour, and automatic weapons might count in some quarters as brutal suppression of dissent—but not in any court in Tennessee, you can just about bet. And there I was, blithely voting for judges who would put me away and think “good riddance.” I embarrass myself at times.

Well, the cavalry is sounding their trumpets in the distance. What a racist metaphor! How ’bout, there’s help on the way? Paradise waits, yeah….

Bobby Kennedy, Jr. has filed the lawsuits he promised, but for legal reasons it’s all being kept very hush-hush, officially. Unofficially, Bradblog claims that Kennedy has filed fraud lawsuits against Diebold—not about the results of any election, nothing partisan, no, simply claiming that the machines did not perform as advertised. And what was it they did? Well, it seems you could program them so that when someone pushed a button that was supposed to vote the straight Democratic ticket, the machine would record a vote for every Democratic candidate but the President. You could also program them so that any vote for a third party presidential candidate would be recorded as a vote for Bush.

OK, you Democrats, you were right. A vote for Nader was a vote for Bush. At least on some voting machines. But on other machines—maybe some of the same ones–a vote for Gore or Kerry was a vote for Bush, too.

Bobby is reputed to have insiders at Diebold who are willing to testify on these issues, and I’m sure that’s some of why this case is so shrouded. I would be very, very nervous if I were one of those Diebold insiders. They could have Karen Silkwood-type accidents.

So, Bobby isn’t swinging for the fences, as I trumpeted last month—or rather, he doesn’t appear to be. It’s just a little ol’ bunt down the third base line….just pulling one string that’s going to start the whole fabric of the American political landscape unraveling.

Meanwhile, down in Mexico, with no electronic voting whatsoever, they’ve had a stolen election and millions of people are out in the streets—demonstrating peacefully, so far, thank goodness. Many American writers are praising the Mexicans’ spirit, saying things like, “not only are they showing us how to work, they’re showing us how to be concerned citizens of a democracy.” Everybody wonders why you can’t get a million and a half concerned Democrats converging on Washington.

I’ll tell you why—it’s because we Americans are too chained to our treadmills to peel off and put our asses on the line, and because the Mexicans are already out on the street anyway. Know what I mean?

Too many of us (and I mean us, me included) are too sucked into our paycheck-to-payment lives, running as hard as we can to stay in our middle-class place, to go sit down en masse in Washington and demand that those in charge quit padding their own nests and do something to pull the planet out of its nosedive. Let’s face it–we’re all afraid of the financial mess we’d come home to if we dropped what we are doing and embarked on an indefinite political demonstration, even if in some way we succeeded in our political goals.

Mexicans, especially Lopez Obrador’s supporters, have already lost that middle-class place, if they ever had it to begin with. NAFTA has destroyed the low end of the Mexican economy, leaving millions of people with a choice between street peddling, heading for el Norte, or raising hell. “When ya ain’t got nothin’, ya got nothin’ to lose,” if I may quote Bob Dylan, far from his original context. So—camp out in downtown Mexico City for a few weeks—or months? no problemo—might as well be homeless there as anywhere, eh?

So, maybe we’ve still got it too good to raise a fuss in this country….I do, anyway. Maybe some day, I—and we—will rise to the challenge.

(music: Robyn Hitchcock, “Filthy Bird”)

Comments

Every eight years, we are invited to vote Yes or No on appointed Supreme Court Justices and Appellate Court Judges. (Not sure what parts of those titles were unclear to you.) The reason you didn’t see any campaigning from them is that these positions do not campaign for office. The judicial retention system (called “The Tennessee System”) is not typical around the country. Most appointed judges never have to face voters in any way. Our high court judges have the chance of being voted out, though it has rarely happened.
Posted by Joe Lance on 08/14/2006 02:50:16 AM

thanks for the clarification–there were also a bunch of democratic party committee posts and things like that…how does one keep track of these judges? thanks again m
Posted by brothermartin on 08/15/2006 01:18:41 AM








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