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The Independent Media, the GAO report and "Invisible Ballots"
by Joan Brunwasser (rafijoan [at] comcast.net, http://www.CountEveryVote.BlogSpot.com)
Monday Nov 21st, 2005 5:38 PM
The mainstream media has virtually ignored the release of the recent GAO report critical of the electronic voting machines, despite a bi-partisan Congressional press conference (novel in itself these days). The combination of Democratic paralysis, the silent press and the hammering by the Republicans of any dissenters have created a blackout which keeps the public ignorant about the now validated concerns regarding the new voting technology. "Invisible Ballots" examines the perils of electronic voting and should be seen by all. 50 minutes long (with a longer, ninety-minute version). I have a free lending library and have distributed over fifty copies of the movie since mid September when I began this project. I invite your participation in using this vehicle to begin a national debate on election issues.
November 21, 2005

I recently read “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. If you haven’t yet had a chance to read it, I highly recommend it. I find it heartening that he feels that change is possible and that “little things can make a big difference.” I find this concept of great interest in terms of promoting social action. I am looking for a tipping point regarding election issues. I just stumbled upon you online and found your goals to be right on target, especially in these days of media silence. That is why I am writing to you about my idea for a nationwide campaign for voting education and election reform. To me, nothing is more crucial to the public welfare (and, particularly, people of color, the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly) than the integrity of our electoral system. Without it, our democracy is nothing but an empty shell. Are you familiar with Mark Crispin Miller from NYU? Have you read his new book “Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Do It Again (Unless We Stop Them)”? We cannot afford to be sanguine about 2008. Without fundamental election reform, throwing the scoundrels out will be technically impossible. I’m interested in your feedback. I'm a novice at this activism 'thing'.

I am a life-long Democrat and progressive who worked hard for Kerry, traveling to neighboring Wisconsin several times to canvass and get out the vote (working through the local Union headquarters). I made over four hundred phone calls to Wisconsin and Florida voters through Move On. Naturally, I was extremely disappointed when the election results did not mirror the exit polls.

After two disputed national elections, many believe that the various tactics reported in Rep. Conyers’ Congressional hearings: “What Went Wrong in Ohio” were used to suppress voting (primarily black voters) and ultimately affected the election outcome. I hope that you’ll agree that it is in the best interest of all of our citizens if each of us can vote and be assured that our vote is counted accurately. The integrity of our voting system is the cornerstone of our beloved democracy. With all the flurry of controversy about the electronic voting machines, it is disappointing that there is so little discussion in the mainstream press. Since 2000, there have been many claims about voting irregularities. Inevitably, this has led to an increased distrust and cynicism about our politicians and the elections.

Therefore, a thorough investigation of all voting methods and their reliability is not only reasonable, but a must. This summer, I saw a well made, thought provoking, nonpartisan and very disturbing documentary called “Invisible Ballots, A Temptation for Electronic Vote Fraud.” I have urged every member of the press to see it and evaluate its findings. This is the proper time for a lively and exhaustive discussion on voting, election reform and how best to achieve maximal participation with minimal disruption and fraud. There is a stampede to spend millions (actually billions) of tax dollars before the January 1st deadline and there is little guidance on what to buy or how reliable it is. Defying all logic, the guidelines will come out after January 1st. In the biggest irony, at the same time that some municipalities are making big purchases, others who already had problems with these machines are discarding them. Is this not a tremendous waste of our limited resources, especially as the administration slashes social programs and public services?

As long as complaints of voting irregularities have come from those who could be portrayed as ‘lefties’ or sore losers, they could be easily ignored, turned aside or ridiculed. Now, the nonpartisan GAO has entered the fray by releasing a report very critical of the electronic voting machines. The report concludes that just a few individuals with rudimentary computer knowledge could have easily switched enough votes to change the outcome of the election. Isn’t this story important? Shouldn’t we all know about it? What happened to the obligation of the press to critically analyze the administration’s policies and actions, and why aren’t journalists doing it? The shameful silence and acquiescence of the press (and, to our shame, the Democratic leadership) is the huge unreported story of recent times.

Since mid September, I have accumulated more than 40 copies of “Invisible Ballots” and have started a free lending library for groups interested in showings and writers/journalists/activists/groups who agree to ‘view and review’ with the idea of publishing/giving lectures/speaking out or whatever action will lead to more discussion on election reform. I would be honored to lend you a copy.

You would be in good company. People who have agreed to ‘view and review’ include Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Congresswoman Julie Hamos, Helen Thomas, the Community Renewal Society, the National Association of Letter Carriers, Thom Hartmann, the UAW, Bob Fitrakis, David Swanson, Anthony Wade, Stirling Newberry, Mark Crispin Miller, Larry Scott, Robert Koehler, Sheldon Drobny, Rob Kall of OpEdNews, the IWT (Independent World Television), and local politicos. (You can read the first review, by Anthony Wade in Op Ed News, which appeared online a few weeks ago.)

I hope you agree that it is hard to concentrate on other matters when the issue of voting is so ignored or glossed over. Please see the movie for yourself. Then, please share your experience and urge your readers/colleagues/friends to see it also.

I have written many letters in the last few months, among them, to many public figures, journalists, politicians, community activists and I am now writing to you. I hope that you will respond. Voting rights and vote accuracy are crucial to everything else. Without them, democracy is a sham and our future looks bleak, indeed.

Just because people are uninformed and apathetic doesn’t detract from the urgency of the issue. One reason for the public’s ignorance is that there has been very little press coverage of election issues, for a variety of reasons. We need to counteract that silence by stirring up a groundswell of interest and activism for change. Sitting back and doing nothing is simply not an option. Can you please help? Maybe if you saw the movie and urged others to do the same, you could single-handedly stimulate a local debate, which could spread throughout the country. What could be more worthwhile: a veritable civics lesson on a national scale.

Any advice or guidance would also be greatly appreciated. I am only one person with one small voice. Together, we are more than the sum of our parts. Together, our reach is wider, our aspirations closer to being realized. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you. I hope that you can dedicate fifty minutes to this project. Without comprehensive election reform, I’m afraid that our democracy is sunk. Voting integrity isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a partisan issue. It’s vital to all Americans equally, whatever our political persuasion. With your active participation, you could redeem your mainstream media cohorts who have so far abdicated their responsibility to be watchdogs for/of the people.

Cathleen Falsani, the religion writer for the Chicago Sun Times wrote an amazing column recently. “Bush administration’s moral compass is lost” talks about her prior silence on the subject, for fear of “appear(ing) unduly partisan… But there comes a time when silence is immoral. Now, I believe, is the time.” So do I.


Sincerely,

Joan Brunwasser, mother of three, concerned citizen and committed democrat
4247 W. Grove St., Skokie, IL 60076
rafijoan [at] comcast.net, CountEveryVote [at] gmail.com, http://www.CountEveryVote.BlogSpot.com

Fifty copies of “Invisible Ballots” in my lending library have circulated since I started this project two months ago. I have chosen this film as a vehicle for change because a movie is easy to watch, doesn’t take a long time commitment (as opposed to a book), it’s being offered for free and group viewings can generate a buzz about election reform, and what is at stake for our beloved democracy. The first step on this uphill battle is to wake people up. Please help!