The world has now endured the horrific consequences of two consecutive stolen presidential elections. So millions of Americans are asking how to stop it from happening again.
There are many things the average citizen can do. But much of it boils down to three simple phases:
1) Before the Election: Register People to Vote, Confirm Their Registrations, and Help Them Get Photo ID
There are millions of eligible American citizens who have never voted. They are young and old, black and white, men and women, ethnic and native, Republican and Democrat, green and otherwise.
The nation has now been subjected to a focused national campaign to keep these folks from registering. There have also been mass purges of voter rolls staged through shady computer operations and by other means. In Florida 2000, more than 100,000 alleged ex-felons were purged from the voter lists, almost certainly giving George W. Bush his first term. In Ohio 2004, more than 300,000 citizens were purged from the registration lists, a significant factor in giving Bush his second term.
In the lead-up to election day 2008, your commitment to registering new voters and working with ones who believe they are registered to confirm that belief could make a huge difference. Some states have gone to the trouble to suppress voter registration drives, which gives an indicator how important this really is.
By all means, spend as much time as you can getting people signed up and confirming the validity of the registrations from those who have voted before -- or who were denied the vote in 2004.
In Florida's 2000 presidential election, people with names similar to felons or ex-felons or the same date of birth were not able to vote, even thought they never committed a crime themselves. One-by-one, these people must be re-assured, and registered or re-registered. In Ohio in 2004, 22 counties gave former felons bad information concerning their voting rights. Many were told incorrectly that they couldn't vote if they were on probation or in a halfway house, or they needed a judge to sign off on their registration.
Now, with the blessing of the US Supreme Court, a new barrier has been added: photo ID. In states such as Indiana and many more, photo ID will be required for voting this fall for the first time. We have already witnessed too many voters being excluded from the spring 2008 primaries due to a lack of ID never before required.
So election protection activists are needed to help as many registered voters as possible to obtain the necessary identification for casting a ballot this November.
You can also work at or monitor the local board of elections to make sure that everyone who requests an absentee ballot is mailed one.
2) On Election Day: Be a Poll Worker
Ultimately, there is no better way to monitor the conduct of an election than to help do it.
The need for poll workers increases every election year. Poll workers have historically tended to be elderly, and their numbers are diminishing.
In many cases, being a poll worker is a paid position. It also gives you the right to see -- and document -- what is going on when the votes are cast. If partisan "observers" show up to harass voters, you can drive them away. If voters are being short-changed paper ballots, you can be there to provide them. If poll workers are pitching provisional ballots in the trash, you will be there to retrieve them. If voters are forced to vote provisionally instead of on a regular paper ballot, you can correct the problem. If election officials try to close the polls early, you can be there to keep them open -- and to document those who are violating the law.
In many cases, as a poll worker, you will also be party to counting the votes. Bring your cameras. And your cell phones.
3) After the Polls Close: Be a Vote Count Observer
Poll workers have the right -- even the obligation -- to help with the vote count. If you are a poll worker, you can observe and record how the ballots are treated after the polls close. If the votes have been cast on electronic machines, you can do your best to penetrate the corporate control of these machines of mass vote theft. More on that later.
Both major parties are by law allowed to send observers to watch the counting of votes. So is the media.
If you are not already established as a poll worker, you can file with one of the parties to join their vote count monitoring team.
You might also register as a representative of a media team assigned to observe the vote count. In either capacity, you have a right to access the vote counting.
In locations where electronic machines are in use, your vote count observation duties will be complicated. You would do well to thoroughly verse yourself in the ins-and-outs of these hackable, unreliable machines. Your abilities to penetrate the deliberately opaque wall surrounding these vote theft devices may be limited. But anything is better than nothing.
We need to put videographers at each polling location to document any problems and to interview voters about irregularities they may experience. Pictures are definitely worth a thousand words as the "video the vote" project proved in the 2004 election.
On weekend of September 26-8, we will co-convene a national conference in Columbus, which we plan to web-cast (see www.freepress.org). We will offer workshops in how to do all the above, and to crack, as best we can, the election theft machines that are called e-voting devices.
We cannot guarantee success. But we have already seen what can happen when elections are stolen. And we doubt the nation can survive it happening again.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, co-convenors of September's National Conference to Protect the 2008 Election, are co-authors of How the GOP Stole American's 2004 Election and is Rigging 2008, which is at at www.freepress.org, where their new As Goes Ohio will also soon be available.
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