Friday, April 22, 2005

Election Reform Moved To The Back Burner

(Via The Brad Blog) DeForest Soaries - not the guy from Star Trek though he is a doctor - resigned from the Election Assistance Commission today. A baptist Minister, Dr. Soaries is a former Democrat but now a Republican as well as a former secretary of state under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. The commission came about as a result of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (which came about as a result of Selection 2000) as a conduit for states to adapt voting reforms.

"Chairman of Voting Reform Panel Resigns" by Associated Press writer Erica Werner obtained some juicy quotes from the pissed off Doctor/Minister:

"All four of us had to work without staff, without offices, without resources. I don't think our sense of personal obligation has been matched by a corresponding sense of commitment to real reform from the federal government."

"It's bad enough to be working under extremely adverse circumstances, but what throws your thinking into an abyss, as it were, is why you would be doing that when, for instance, you have to beg Congress for money as if the commission was your idea."

"There is so much more work to do to bring federal elections to the standard I think that the citizens expect, and there doesn't seem to be a corresponding sense of urgency among the policy-makers in Washington. Nor does there seem to be a national consensus among leaders of the states about what success looks like."

"Someone's got to wake up every morning with the mission of improving federal elections in a way that assures the voting public that they can have confidence in voting."

Last June, six months after being elected the commission's first chairman by his co-chairs, Dr. Soaries didn't sound much different ("Frustration Dogs Election Commission"):

“When the media really starts getting on this issue, they’re going to start calling us and looking at us. ... I plan to let the world know that we’re doing our best with what we have, we’ve stated our case to Congress, and anything that does not happen in November, don’t blame it on us.”

“If this were a foreign country with the exact same setup, we’d be highly critical of their understanding of democracy.”

On November 3rd, 2004, Dr. Soaries gave thanks to the "margin of victory" for saving our asses. But he did have this interesting observation in an MSNBC interview: "“I’m thrilled the electronic machines did not create a stir, but to be completely honest I think it’s my job to say we don’t know what we don’t know.”

(It was hard to decide which title to use for this post so I decided to save "We Don't Know What We Don't Know" for a future story on our election deform; this title is taken from today's A.P. story in which Dr. Soares told the A.P. writer that election reform was on the front burner until 9/11 but there is no direct quotation)

Now before some of you go thinking that we lost some kind of champion for election reform from this committee, I'd like to show one more quote by the good doctor from a letter he wrote last July:

"Unlike New York, the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election."

CNN's "Officials discuss how to delay Election Day": "Newsweek said the discussions about whether the November 2 election could be postponed started with a recent letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge from DeForest Soaries Jr., chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission...Ridge warned Thursday that al Qaeda terrorists were planning a large-scale attack on the United States "in an effort to disrupt the democratic process."

Hopefully they'll replace Dr. McCoy with someone who is actually familiar with the Constitution (Article 2 Section 1 specifically designates Congress as the agency with that authority). But I'm not sure that familiarity with the Constitution is a job requirement for Bush appointees.

In related news, I forgot to link to Congressman John Conyers' take-down of the Baker-Carter election commission: "The remarks of Mr. James Baker, III, which were echoed by a number of right wing political operatives called as witnesses, seemed to have a singular purpose of spreading hoaxes and conspiracy theories about ineligible Democratic voters being allowed to cast votes. The remedy was cleverly repeated like a broken record, “photo ID, photo ID, photo ID.” Right wing pundit John Fund was called as an “expert” witness by the hearing and offered racially charged proposals with racially charged rhetoric."

Yesterday Rep. Conyers called Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog to thank him for all of his work and to announce that he is "on the case":

"Today, I had a lengthy, substantive, and frank meeting with Dr. Robert Pastor, Executive Director of the Carter-Baker Election Commission. I shared my concerns about the Commission with him. Among other things, I remain concerned about the involvement of Mr. James Baker, III, in this Commission, and the emphasis of some of the Commission's work thus far. In this meeting, Dr. Pastor displayed great familiarity with my report on the 2004 Ohio Presidential election and expressed his strong commitment to election reform. Dr. Pastor has established an open channel with me to continue discussing these concerns, and I intend to continue this dialogue. I also intend to attend future meetings of the Commission, and personally meet with President Carter and other Commission members. In sum, I want to assure you that I will be monitoring this Commission and its work very closely. In other words, I am on the case."

Finally, make sure to tune in this Saturday from 7 until 10 PM for the second episode of The Brad Show (I missed the first show last weekend so I'm hoping that it will be archived soon). The show which is broadcast over the IBC Satellite Radio Network is produced in conjunction with The Raw Story so it's gotta kick major ass!

One of the guests scheduled for this saturday is BlogActive Blogger & Raw Story Q Editor Mike Rogers who might be forever immortalized as the blogger who dared to ask Jeff Gannon the following question at the National Press Forum conference a few weeks ago: "Did you sleep with anyone on the White House Staff?" (which took place right before Wonkette exchanged business cards with the propaganda plagiarist, a fact that was left out of most of the post-sham pro-Wonkette reviews)


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