THE BLOG
05/26/2006 01:02 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Debra Bowen For California Secretary of State

"It's not the people who vote that count... it's the people who count the votes." -- Stalin (allegedly)

While the Wise Men of Washington warn us against the folly of a 50-state strategy, Republicans keep plugging away with their own.

Here in California, one of the bluest of blue states, the Republican machine is pushing insecure, hackable electronic voting machines, as brought to us by those democracy-lovers at Diebold. And at the same time, they're doing everything they can to disenfranchise voters before they ever get to those machines.

Unlike many states, but like Florida and Ohio, voting in California is under the supervision of the Secretary of State. It's one of those down-ballot offices that are far below the public consciousness-- but the outcome of this year's Secretary of State election might determine whether voting here will be clean or corrupt for a long time to come.

The current Secretary of State, Bruce McPherson, is an Arnold appointee and Republican functionary. (He got the job after his elected Democratic predecessor, a holdover from before the Schwarzenegger Putsch, resigned amid a trumped-up scandal.) Good Republican that he is, McPherson has been doing his best to erode voting rights.

Last year, McPherson signed an agreement with the Justice Department to install a new statewide voter registration database, programmed to insist on exact matches with names as listed on driver's licenses or other official documents. The result has been a stupendous rejection rate for voter applications, often because of discrepancies between maiden names and married names, or variant spellings. Recently, over 14,000 new registrations from L.A. County were rejected en masse-- a 43% rejection rate, compared with a typical 1-2% nationwide. Worst of all-- under the previous system, virtually all of these applications would have been accepted.

Not only that-- McPherson has re-certified Diebold's voting machines in the state, in spite of numerous horror stories during their use here. (When McPherson initially de-certified the Diebold machines, he cited an error rate of more than 10%.) The re-certification was done without public comment, and in defiance of both state and federal laws. In short, it stinks.

Because voting systems in California are selected by local election officials rather than statewide, there's a lot of pressure on those officials to go with the cheapest alternative. That's Diebold, who markets the voting machines the way Gillette markets razors: sell 'em cheap, and they'll be buying your blades-- or voting on your corrupt machines-- from now on. And that's where the real profits come from.

State Senator Debra Bowen is running for Secretary of State, with voters' rights as her number one issue. Bowen has a great legislative and voting record in the State Senate, and she's a leading opponent of privatized, corrupted voting systems. She's won endorsements from many heavy hitters, including the California Democratic Party (there's a long list at her web site).

Before Bowen can take on McPherson, though, there's a serious hurdle just ahead: the June 6 Democratic primary. Bowen is in a two-candidate race, against another State Senator. Here's the catch: Debra's opponent is named Deborah-- Deborah Ortiz. At a fund-raiser over the weekend, Bowen worried out loud about losing votes to confusion over the names.

Obviously, neither candidate's name recognition will change over the next few days. So Bowen is counting on her supporters getting the word out through emails and personal contacts. And this is the word:

The election for California Secretary of State is a crucial one. Debra Bowen is the candidate to back. If you're a Californian, get out and vote for her in the primary on Tuesday, June 6.

Cross-posted at Howie Klein's DownWithTyranny!