Choice Becomes More Clear; Carole P. Kaye for Florida House District 86



Carole Kaye Democrat for House 86

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

“I don’t really want to stop the show,

But I thought that you might like to know,”


That the choice becomes clearer.

“So let me introduce to you

The one and only”
Carole Kaye, Candidate for Florida House District 86

Local Election Days are upon us.  For months now candidates for elected office have roamed their regions.  Everyday people have had ample opportunity to meet, greet, and yes, even eat a meal with aspirants.  Often, one challenger’s name is better known. He or she may be an incumbent, or closely associated with one. Consider the Florida House race in District 86. Dissimilar Democratic candidates Carole Kaye and Lori Berman appear on the ballot. Who are these office seekers?  What will they do for my community, commerce, our children, and me? Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, and parts of Boca Raton constituents, who have not made politics their lives, search for answers as they travel to the polls.

Citizens are inundated with “information.”  Posters dot the landscape.  Banners fly on Boulevards.  Constituents don pins and place placards on their lawn.  Windows and automobile bumpers have not escaped unscathed.  Today, the message heard on avenue is “The time is now.”  Indeed, it is.  Early voting began on August 9 and will continue through August 22, 2010.  In Florida, while technically Primary Election Day is August 24, 2010, in reality it is today. In Palm Beach County House District 86, Primary Election Day is the final deciding date. Democrats with different styles compete for state House 86 seat.  There is no Republican challenger in this race.  The winner of the Primary will represent South Palm Beach County communities. Yet, many people do not feel equipped to decide.  Whom might I cast a ballot for, the much lauded Lori Berman or the lesser known, highly qualified, Attorney, Educator, and person who for years has shared and cared for my backyard, Carole Penny Kaye.  

Bit of Background


Perchance a bit of background might help me, the voter, more than the hype.  For a Democratic aspirant, a District with an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency can be quite attractive.  Fifty-four [54] percent of the people who reside in District 86 are registered Democrats, However, this was not the reason Carole Kaye decided to run for public office in the region.  This territory was and is her home.  From the first, and throughout her life, Ms Kaye has personified a commitment to her community.  

After college, she became a Teacher.  One score and five years later, Carole Kaye returned to the classroom, this time as a student.  Kaye capably completed her law degree.  Since then she has served as an Immigration Attorney.  Ms Kaye, through her skills, and abilities gives voice to persons who are guaranteed due process rights by the United States Constitution.  Carole Kaye believes the rights of her clients must be protected; that calling is her greatest responsibility.  As a Representative she will see herself as a civil servant.  Ms Kaye also affirms that, if elected, the populace she represents will be her principal priority.

Lori Berman, by contrast, is a non-practicing attorney. Originally, Ms Berman entered the race in her home District, 87.  Republican challenger Bill Hager also sought the peoples’ vote in that region.  However, a window opened. Maria Sachs, who had represented District 86, declared herself a candidate for the State Senate seat vacated by Ted Deutch, Ms Berman’s friend and one-time employer. Hence, Ms Berman slammed the door to District 87 shut. As Lori Berman recounts, at the request of her well-connected acquaintance, Representative Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach Democratic legislator, she chose to abandon her plans and run for the seat in District 86. Thus, the now 86th District hopeful, Berman, left her home community and the campaign she began behind.  The opportunity in the new district was hard to refuse.  

Ms Berman, an abundantly funded one-time Legislative Aide to former United States. Representative Robert Wexler and to his successor, Ted Deutch, understood that in a region where only 21 percent of registered voters are Republicans and 23 percent are without a party affiliation, she has an enhanced chance.  The likelihood of a win in this locality was thought far better than it might have been in the race she fled. Soon, Lori Berman will know whether her bet paid off.

Carole Kaye will also learn; is this the year that people take back their elections, or will politicians again exert their power? Will ample contributions and connections trump a genuine commitment?  Only citizens can decide.

Candidates. Campaigns. Community and Commitment.


During the course of the campaign each candidate spoke to fellow Democrats on the issues of import.  Berman and Kaye put out position pages and papers. These too reflect the disparity, the difference between these candidates and the variance in their dedication.

Each has identified them selves as a grassroots campaigner. However, even a local periodical which endorses Ms Berman questions this truth. The Palm Beach Post points to Lori Berman’s well-established network of politicos.   Many on Ms Berman’s list of impressive backers are powerful persons with whom the candidate associated with professionally.  

Carole Kaye also has gathered and accepted endorsements. The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance officially stated the organization stands with Carole Kaye and her candidacy.  Democracy for America’s Palm Beach County affiliate, and the United Haitian American Democratic Club also offered formal statements of support.  The acknowledgement of these also reflects what is real.  Carole Kaye connects to   a broad group of persons in her District.  She takes every opportunity to express her appreciation for her community as she did just days ago.

As was true for other local hopefuls, Ms Kaye was given an opportunity to seek an endorsement from the Palm Beach County Chapter of Democracy for America.  The District 86 Democrat participated fully in a comprehensive evaluation process.  

Hopefuls were first seen and heard at many neighborhood candidate forums.  Those who were thought viable Democrats received  announcements from DFA.   Aspirants were asked if they would wish to submit a required application for endorsement.  Respondents were also given survey questions to answer.. Also,  exhaustive interviews were mandated. After all the criterion was met, assessments were made.  

More than satisfied with candidate Carole Kaye’s performances and positions, the Chapter then offered their official statement of support.  Ms Kaye  was thusly invited to publicly meet, greet, and eat with DFA members. At this dinner meeting, she would have an opportunity to accept her endorsement, Humbly she agreed to appear.  On that occasion, Kaye stood in front of dedicated Democrats and offered her thanks.

There are many things that I am grateful for in this race for the State House.  I am most grateful that I have not been compromised by the process.  I am grateful that I am firm enough in my positions to withstand the seduction of interest group endorsements and the promise of their donations, I am blessed by the strangers who have become friends and supporters, and I am comforted by the understanding of all who I meet who know, first hand, how difficult it is to run as an outsider in a county where democracy is not always practiced.

I have been asked to leave the race, threatened for staying in.  As they say, win or lose, after running one is never the same.  But I entered because of issues of social justice and intend to win because those issues are too important to come in second . . .especially in District 86.

I am thrilled that it is the voters who make the decision of who will serve…regardless of how the process is manipulated.   The district belongs to those who live in it.  As a resident of District 86, I intend to serve with great respect for the needs of those who live in my backyard.  

I am in this race to win; therefore, I must acknowledge the members of Democracy for America for their treasured endorsement.  Their confidence in me literally made my heart sing.  In the face of so much opposition, DFA’s belief in me gave me the courage to continue to fight.  Because the principles of the group are so close to my own, I am proud that the recognition was strong and unwavering.  I am proud to be the true progressive in my race, to not be, once elected, beholden to any special interest group, set of elected officials or party ideology.  I believe that everyone must have a voice in our democracy.  That ideal will serve as the guiding principle of my term as State Representative for District 86.

Thank you Hillary and Tom and to all the members of DFA.  You have given me the greatest gift—the gift of trust.  I will not disappoint.

Given a chance, those in attendance had faith that Carole Kay would be true to her word. Countless constituents authentically believe the choice has become clear.  A candidate committed to the people is far preferable to one who is but another Party loyalist, lobbyist for professional politicians, and partisan who carries the same old pail.  

Still, there are the many who have not had the time or energy to peruse the periodicals, to probe the candidates’ perspectives, or to authentically assess other than what is seen on the streets.   Elections have begun and so too might we.  People at this event, and others who were able to avail authentic information, today, could choose to do more than cast a ballot.  We might speak to those who are undecided and unfamiliar with Carole Kaye or Lori Berman.  Persons as devoted to a common cause could say, “Citizens who travel to the polls, may I introduce to you Carole Kaye, candidate for House District 86.”

Election Day and the Electorate


Now, we vote, with our hearts, our heads, and staunch determination to do what others think hard.  We work.  We watch. We wait for a novel truth; government of, by and for the people, not partisan promoters.  We hold our collective breath or exhale; express our commitment to our community and Carole Kaye who shares our interests.  As citizens throughout District 86 cast a ballot, we can do more than just hope that this overture did not arrive too late.  

Please remember, in Palm Beach County numerous neighborhood polling places have been open for days.  Tomorrow is another day. We can make this moment a new beginning. Least we forget, most who will go to the polls may have had little time to research, and read anything about the candidates, let alone this treatise.  For them, the choice was not well defined. This introduction is offered as an opportunity to further refine your understanding of the choice presented in District 86 and spread the word.  Contribute in whatever way you can. Volunteer. Take a friend to the polls.  Make telephone calls.  Chat with neighbor, or donate dollars.  

The decision is yours, mine, and ours.  By August 24, 2010 the decision will be made, the die cast.  Carole Kaye can,, with your help, represent us in Florida House District 86., Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, and of Boca Raton. Let this elections begin with you.

References for a favorable reality; government of, by, and for the people . . .

The Computer Ate My Vote

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

“The dog ate my homework,” said young Jonathan.  In those tender years, he hoped an authority figure would trust the statement to be true.  As an adult, Jonathan grumbled in frustration, “The computer ate my vote.” The concerned citizen wanted to hear no excuses.  Just as he knew the sweet little pup on his lap never digested the paper he did not write, Jon understood; the central processing system did not devour the votes.  Constituent choices were not read or recorded accurately.  

In January 2008, Jonathon, a New Hampshire resident, cast his ballot for Barack Obama, as did his wife, and their adult children.  When asked by exit pollsters, Jon’s parents proudly proclaimed, “We each voted for Obama.”  Neighbors on either side were loyal to Edwards.  Colleagues were mixed.  Dennis Kucinich was a favorite for Julie, Helene, and Amy.  The three were outspoken in their support. While sentiments were mixed, very few supported the former First Lady, Senator Clinton.  As Jonathon assessed all he heard and read he believed as  the pundits predicted, Obama would Win by 18-20%.  However, that is not what happened.

Post Primary Election Day the results in New Hampshire are being questioned.  By an overwhelming majority Barack Obama was expected to triumph.  Clinton would not see her presumed coronation.  People such as Jonathon and the pundits asked, “What happened?” Conspiracy theories abound.  Americans are reminded, in the last three elections, a ballot cast through circuitry may not be a reliable tally.

Critics, cynics, those who rebuff the idea that any authoritarian agenda might have caused, or effected, the capricious vote count offer evidence that the current system is clean.  Experts evaluate, it is not the method, but the map that produced the unexpected.

Preliminary analysis from Edison/Mitofsky, however, indicates that the difference between the two types of precincts goes back at least two elections. As Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Media Research, wrote in an e-mail, “unless there has been hidden election fraud in New Hampshire for the last three presidential primaries the ‘evidence’ being used by these fraudsters probably does not hold up to any rigorous statistical analysis.”

Moreover, attributing all the differences between these townships to their choice of vote-counting procedures misses other potentially important differences among voters (e.g., proportions independent, highly-educated).

Update: The table below has been updated to reflect new numbers from the Secretary of State.











Vote By Type of Equipment Used
      Optical scanners Paper ballots
2008 Clinton 40.09 33.74
2008 Obama 35.84 39.77
2008 Margin Clinton +4.25 Obama +6.03
2004 Kerry 39.52 32.40
2004 Dean 24.74 34.43
2004 Margin Kerry +14.78 Dean +2.03
2000 Gore 50.35 45.80
2000 Bradley 45.03 49.13
2000 Margin Gore +5.31 Bradley +3.33

Reports that substantiate the validity of what is do nothing to diminish or dismiss the underlying veracity of what might also be true.  There are plenty of questions and the rate of replies grows exponentially.  An analysis begs speculation.  Might the optical scanners appear in affluent areas.  In these communities, people may be less dependent on landlines, and more tied to a cellular telephones.  Possibly conventional means for vote computation occurs in neighborhoods where people are home and accessible to canvassers.   It might be that those polled did endorse Obama in greater numbers.  However, even if this theory is accurate, it does not explain the vastness of the gap.

Jonathon muses, “No one polled me.”  His mother and father were not reached.  Edwards supporters in his neighborhood were not contacted.  Julie, an activist, yearned to offer her opinion to a campaign researcher  She waited for a call.  None came.  Granitite State local Helene wanted nothing more than to declare her support for Dennis Kucinich.  This lovely lady in the “Live Free or Die” state had much to declare.  She and her friend Amy welcomed a call from a pollster.  Indeed, when each was presented with a list of candidates and then asked whom they might vote for, Helene and Amy inquired, “Why was Dennis Kucinich not included in the rooster?”  Many ruminate, the survey amongst voters might reflect more than a margin of error.  Andrew Kohut, President, of the Pew Research Center argues the polls were perfect.  The reviewers are “Getting It Wrong.”

The failure of the New Hampshire pre-election surveys to mirror the outcome of the Democratic race is one of the most significant miscues in modern polling history.  All the published polls, including those that surveyed through Monday, had Senator Barack Obama comfortably ahead with an average margin of more than 8 percent.  These same polls showed no signs that Senator Hillary Clinton might close that gap, let alone win.

While it will take time for those who conducted the New Hampshire tracking polls to undertake rigorous analyses of their surveys, a number of things are immediately apparent.

First, the problem was not a general failure of polling methodology . . .

Second, the inaccuracies don’t seem related to the subtleties of polling methods . . .

Third, the mistakes were not the result of a last-minute trend going Mrs. Clinton’s way . . .

Fourth, some have argued that the unusually high turnout may have caused a problem for the pollsters . . .

To my mind, all these factors deserve further study. But another possible explanation cannot be ignored – the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for black candidates among white voters, particularly white voters who are poor.

For Andrew Kohut, a man who makes a career of research, those who conduct polls, and calculate statistical information gathered, are not to blame for discrepancies.  The data is flawless.  The people who respond to a survey are the problem.  Kohut claims humans lie to hide their bigotry.  The rift is realized in race relations.  

That conclusion might be also be disputed.  Indeed, we can hear the quarrel now  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and their respective spouses spew venom, as they discuss the role of Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King Junior   America revisits the achievements of a peaceful African-American leader, and we discover perceptions differ.

Nonetheless, we cannot negate what has been an obvious concern long before this recent election, electronic elections are not fully certifiable.  The process New Hampshire authorities adopted  is arguably better than the techniques many other States use, still the optical scanners are a less than a secure system.

Perhaps, we must consider that charts and editorial information furnished, while interesting, do not lessen the need for our shared concern.  For those that think there is a well-crafted campaign to conspire, we are likely to hear, “Hackers would not wish to leave an easily observable trail.”  For those who do not necessarily fear a plot to alter or obfuscate the results, there is a consensus humans are fallible.  Programmers are not perfect.  Nor are locks.

One brand of machine leads in market share by a sizable margin: the AccuVote, made by Diebold Election Systems. Two weeks ago, however, Diebold suffered one of the worst kinds of public embarrassment for a company that began in 1859 by making safes and vaults.

Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home.

When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes – and hotel minibars.

Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? That is one of the questions that Professor Felten and two of his students, Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Halderman, have been investigating. In the face of Diebold’s refusal to let scientists test the AccuVote, the Princeton team got its hands on a machine only with the help of a third party.

Even before the researchers had made the serendipitous discovery about the minibar key, they had released a devastating critique of the AccuVote’s security. For computer scientists, they supplied a technical paper; for the general public, they prepared an accompanying video. Their short answer to the question of the practicality of vote theft with the AccuVote: easily accomplished.

The researchers demonstrated the machine’s vulnerability to an attack by means of code that can be introduced with a memory card. The program they devised does not tamper with the voting process. The machine records each vote as it should, and makes a backup copy, too.

Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.

Computers, cared for, corrupted, and programmed by people, can be as a compulsively confounding as a poll worker.  A central processing unit, by rote, will remove the excess waste as mindlessly as a human might endeavor to do.  In days of old, poll-workers were the problem.  A misplaced bag of ballots or a box filled to the brim with bogus paper ballots was the reason anxious Americans sought a better system.  Mechanical means were thought to eliminate human error or manipulation.

Some elections officials next adopted lever machines, which record each vote mechanically. But lever machines have problems of their own, not least that they make meaningful recounts impossible because they do not preserve each individual vote. Beginning in the 1960s, they were widely replaced by punch-card systems, in which voters knock holes in ballots, and the ballots can be stored for a recount. Punch cards worked for decades without controversy.

Until, of course, the electoral fiasco of 2000. During the Florida recount in the Bush-Gore election, it became clear that punch cards had a potentially tragic flaw: “hanging chads.” Thousands of voters failed to punch a hole clean through the ballot, turning the recount into a torturous argument over “voter intent.” On top of that, many voters confused by the infamous “butterfly ballot” seem to have mistakenly picked the wrong candidate. Given Bush’s microscopic margin of victory – he was ahead by only a few hundred votes statewide – the chads produced the brutal, month long legal brawl over how and whether the recounts should be conducted.

The 2000 election illustrated the cardinal rule of voting systems: if they produce ambiguous results, they are doomed to suspicion. The election is never settled in the mind of the public. To this date, many Gore supporters refuse to accept the legitimacy of George W. Bush’s presidency; and by ultimately deciding the 2000 presidential election, the Supreme Court was pilloried for appearing overly partisan.

Partisan politics is perhaps the truer issue.  Even those that do not ascribe to conspiracy theories, doubt their opponent.  The “enemy” in an election may be the corporations, the rival candidate, the government, or anyone who might garner support in opposition to a particular voter.  Jonathon marvels at the foes that lurk in the shadows.  People he does not know and perchance, personally, never will, are those he does not trust.

In New Hampshire, the electorate attempted to approve the best of both worlds.  Paper ballots are used in every precinct.  Granted, all votes are cast on traceable tallies.  However, recounts, such as the one now proposed by Presidential hopeful, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, may not be possible in the way a verification of the vote once was.  

Consider the plight of Elections Director Jane Platten, in Cuyahoga County Ohio., At 3 in the morning on November 7, at the “end” of a twenty-two hour workday, the too-tired public service official said, “I guess we’ve seen how technology can affect an election.”  The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were once again a source of trouble, and the reason for more time spent on the job.

All went well for a while.  Voter turnout was light on that fateful day.  About 200,000 voters strode through the polls, tapped their choices onto the county’s 5,729 touch-screen voting machines, and gladly turned in their electronic memory cards ready for the count.  All security procedures were followed.  Then the fun began.  

Suddenly, at 10 Post Meridian the server froze, as did all operations.  No votes could be counted.  Technicians gathered.  A young, and well-dressed employee from Diebold, the company that manufactures the equipment used in Cuyahoga elections , entered the scene; yet offered no solutions.  No one could figure out what was wrong. Ultimately, the election workers did what people do.  They cut the power.  The hope was the machine would clear its “mind,” rest a bit, return refreshed, and then begin the calculations anew.

This seemed to work, until the system crashed a again. Once more, the staff rebooted the computer and resumed the count. Gleefully, the computation was completed.

Worse was yet to come. When the votes were finally tallied the next day, 10 races were so close that they needed to be recounted. But when Platten went to retrieve paper copies of each vote – generated by the Diebold machines as they worked – she discovered that so many printers had jammed that 20 percent of the machines involved in the recounted races lacked paper copies of some of the votes.  They weren’t lost, technically speaking; Platten could hit “print” and a machine would generate a replacement copy.  But she had no way of proving that these replacements were, indeed, what the voters had voted. She could only hope the machines had worked correctly

 

As demonstrated repeatedly, the readable receipt may have been altered. The tangible total may not be as accurate as presumed.  Evidence of the discrepancies is everywhere.  

The infamous Diebold [now Premier election solutions] optical scanner voting machine is used to tally fifty-eight [58] percent of the votes, or 175 of New Hampshire’s 301 precincts ballots.  The AccuVote optical scan machines were the only mechanisms independent-minded New Hampshire residents would accept.  Nonetheless, even this apparatus is troublesome.  Persons such as Jonathon, a man anxious for change, and committed to the democratic process of elections, has had many a sleepless night since realizing his vote may not count.

Jonathon, his wife, children, parents, friends, and neighbors may need to be contacted, to vote again if we are to establish how they voted.  Even then, others would wonder; will the truth be told?

Jonathon understands as do many concerned citizens, the Diebold trail, regardless of how secure the equipment is advertised to be, can be diverted.  Diebold itself has done much to redirect the flow of information.

On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits.

In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

In spite of attempts to alter any information available on Diebold, the company continues to garner much attention.  Each election cycle generates greater concerns than the one preceding it.  The New Hampshire primaries are no exception.

This method is highly vulnerable to error and manipulation; although many may quibble the authenticity of this claim.  Nonetheless, after much scrutiny and many experiments, the truth was told.  Jonathon recalls the news report.

Election Whistle-Blower Stymied by Vendors

After Official’s Criticism About Security, Three Firms Reject Bid for Voting Machines

By Peter Whoriskey?

Washington Post?

Sunday, March 26, 2006; A07

Miami — Among those who worry that hackers might sabotage election tallies, Ion Sancho is something of a hero.

The maverick elections supervisor in Leon County, Fla., last year helped show that electronic voting machines from one of the major manufacturers are vulnerable, according to experts, and would allow election workers to alter vote counts without detection.

Now, however, Sancho may be paying an unexpected price for his whistle-blowing: None of the state-approved companies here will sell him the voting machines the county needs.

“I’ve essentially embarrassed the current companies for the way they do business, and now I believe I’m being singled out for punishment by the vendors,” he said.

There are three vendors approved to sell voting equipment in Florida, and each has indicated it cannot or will not fill Sancho’s order for 160 voting machines for the disabled. Already, he has had to return a $564,000 federal grant to buy the machines because he has been unable to acquire the machines yet.

“I’m very troubled by this, to be honest — I can’t believe the way he’s being treated,” said David Wagner, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who sits on a California board that reviews voting machine security. “What kind of message is this sending to elections supervisors?”

The trouble began last year when Sancho allowed a Finnish computer scientist to test Leon County’s Diebold voting machines, a common type that uses an optical scanner to count votes from ballots that voters have marked. Diebold Election Systems is one of the largest voting machine companies in the United States.

While some tests showed that the system is resistant to outside attack, others showed that elections workers could alter the vote tallies by manipulating the removable memory cards in the voting machines, and do so without detection.

A Diebold spokesman scoffed at the results, and compared them to “leaving your car unlocked, with the windows down and keys left in the ignition and then acting surprised when your car is stolen.”

State officials similarly played down the results.

But last month, California elections officials arranged for experts to perform a similar analysis of the Diebold machines and also found them vulnerable — noting a wider variety of flaws than Sancho’s experts had. They characterized the vulnerabilities as “serious” but “fixable.”

“What he [Sancho] discovered was — oops — that the conventional wisdom was all wrong,” said Wagner, a member of the panel that reviewed the Diebold machines. “It was possible to subvert the memory card without detection.”

Rather than take responsibility for a system gone bad, voting machine manufacturers would rather not sell to any Supervisor that might question the quality of the hardware or software.  It seems obvious to all, regardless of the excuses, or rationalizations, no matter the method or the map, vote counts are always prone to error.  

Thus, Jonathon wonders is his will stronger than the way of these machines and the persons who program them.  The villainous touch-screen voting machines, were thought too problematic for New Hampshire voters.  Jon, his friends Julie, Helene, and Amy were among the vocal residents who expressed a need for caution.  However, these activists did not have the influence they hoped to have on official decisions.

In New Hampshire, as in much of the nation, technology was considered manifest destiny.  Throughout the country, the use of electronics to tally ballots was employed at great expense.  The cost in dollars can be overshadowed only by the lose of liberty.  Countrywide, Americans ask . . .

Can You Count on Voting Machines?  For Jane Platten, Head of  Poll Worker Training and Voter Education Programs in Cuyahoga County, Ohio says, “No!”

In the lobby of Jane Plattten’s office in Cleveland sits an AccuVote-TSX, made by Diebold. It is the machine that Cuyahoga County votes on, and it works like this: Inside each machine, there is a computer roughly as powerful and flexible as a modern hand-held organizer. It runs Windows CE as its operating system, and Diebold has installed its own specialized voting software to run on top of Windows. When the voters tap the screen to indicate their choices, the computer records each choice on a flash-memory card that fits in a slot on the machine, much as a flash card stores pictures on your digital camera.

At the end of the election night, these cards are taken to the county’s election headquarters and tallied by the GEMS server. In case a memory card is accidentally lost or destroyed, the computer also stores each vote on a different chip inside the machine; election officials can open the voting machine and remove the chip in an emergency.

But there is also a third place the vote is recorded. Next to each machine’s LCD screen, there is a printer much like one on a cash register. Each time a voter picks a candidate on screen, the printer types up the selections, in small, eight-point letters. Before the voter pushes “vote,” she’s supposed to peer down at the ribbon of paper – which sits beneath a layer of see-through plastic, to prevent tampering – and verify that the machine has, in fact, correctly recorded her choices. (She can’t take the paper vote with her as proof; the spool of paper remains locked inside the machine until the end of the day.)

Under Ohio law, the paper copy is the voter’s vote. The digital version is not. That’s because the voter can see the paper vote and verify that it’s correct, which she cannot do with the digital one. The digital records are, in essence, merely handy additional copies that allow the county to rapidly tally potentially a million votes in a single evening, whereas counting the paper ballots would take weeks. Theoretically speaking, the machine offers the best of all possible worlds. By using both paper and digital copies, the AccuVote promised Cuyahoga an election that would be speedy, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.

Little of this held true. When the machines were first used in Cuyahoga Country during the May 2006 primaries, costs ballooned – and chaos reigned. The poll workers, many senior citizens who had spent decades setting up low-tech punch-card systems, were baffled by the new computerized system and the rather poorly written manuals from Diebold and the county. “It was insane,” one former poll worker told me. “A lot of people over the age of 60, trying to figure out these machines.” Since the votes were ferried to the head office on small, pocketsize memory cards, it was easy for them to be misplaced, and dozens went missing.

On Election Day, poll workers complained that 143 machines were broken; dozens of other machines had printer jams or mysteriously powered down. More than 200 voter-card encoders – which create the cards that let voters vote – went missing. When the machines weren’t malfunctioning, they produced errors at a stunning rate: one audit of the election discovered that in 72.5 percent of the audited machines, the paper trail did not match the digital tally on the memory cards.

This was hardly the first such incident involving touch-screen machines. So it came as little surprise that Diebold, a company once known primarily for making safes and A.T.M.’s, subsequently tried to sell off its voting-machine business and, failing to find a buyer, last August changed the name of the division to Premier Election Solutions (an analyst told American Banker that the voting machines were responsible for “5 percent of revenue and 100 percent of bad public relations”).

Researchers at Princeton University are not surprised.  A comprehensive study, Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine, released in September 2006 revealed the hardware and software in question are not dependable.

Ed Felten [among the  authors of the report] is a computer scientist at Princeton University, and he has become famous for analyzing – and criticizing – touch-screen machines. In fact, the first serious critics of the machines – beginning 10 years ago – were computer scientists. One might expect computer scientists to be fans of computer-based vote-counting devices, but it turns out that the more you know about computers, the more likely you are to be terrified that they’re running elections.

This is because computer scientists understand, from hard experience, that complex software can’t function perfectly all the time. It’s the nature of the beast. Myriad things can go wrong. The software might have bugs – errors in the code made by tired or overworked programmers. Or voters could do something the machines don’t expect, like touching the screen in two places at once. “Computers crash and we don’t know why,” Felten told me. “That’s just a routine part of computers.”

It is true. Each day, many compatriots swear at electronic gadgetry.  Yet, as a nation, we spend millions in hopes that electronic equipment will work on Election Day.  Americans rely on these erratic electronic marvels to calculate our votes.  Citizens of this country count on defective Diebold voting machines to accurately compute what might be considered the most important decision, we, the people make.  Faulty software and hardware determine who will represent our country, and us.  

More than Jonathon has experienced a moment of frustration with a computer.  Election Boards are familiar with the scenario.

One famous example is the “sliding finger bug” on the Diebold AccuVote-TSX, the machine used in Cuyahoga. In 2005, the state of California complained that the machines were crashing. In tests, Diebold determined that when voters tapped the final “cast vote” button, the machine would crash every few hundred ballots. They finally intuited the problem: their voting software runs on top of Windows CE, and if a voter accidentally dragged his finger downward while touching “cast vote” on the screen, Windows CE interpreted this as a “drag and drop” command. The programmers hadn’t anticipated that Windows CE would do this, so they hadn’t programmed a way for the machine to cope with it. The machine just crashed.

Even extremely careful programmers can accidentally create bugs like this. But critics also worry that touch-screen voting machines aren’t designed very carefully at all. In the infrequent situations where computer scientists have gained access to the guts of a voting machine, they’ve found alarming design flaws.

In 2003, Diebold employees accidentally posted the AccuVote’s source code on the Internet; scientists who analyzed it found that, among other things, a hacker could program a voter card to let him cast as many votes as he liked. Ed Felten’s lab, while analyzing an anonymously donated AccuVote-TS (a different model from the one used in Cuyahoga County) in 2006, discovered that the machine did not “authenticate” software: it will run any code a hacker might surreptitiously install on an easily insertable flash-memory card.

After California’s secretary of state hired computer scientists to review the state’s machines last spring, they found that on one vote-tallying server, the default password was set to the name of the vendor – something laughably easy for a hacker to guess.

But the truth is that it’s hard for computer scientists to figure out just how well or poorly the machines are made, because the vendors who make them keep the details of their manufacture tightly held. Like most software firms, they regard their “source code” – the computer programs that run on their machines – as a trade secret. The public is not allowed to see the code, so computer experts who wish to assess it for flaws and reliability can’t get access to it. Felten and voter rights groups argue that this “black box” culture of secrecy is the biggest single problem with voting machines. Because the machines are not transparent, their reliability cannot be trusted.

For years, there has been much concern and more delay.  In 2007, the Senate decided to hold hearings on the security of voting machine.  Citizens who have long yearned for a viable paper trail inquire, why the wait.  For too long, Americans have known when electronic voting machines record the votes, counts are frequently flawed.  Nevertheless, we continue as we have.  

Currently, in the United States, approximately eighty-seven [87] percent of the votes are frozen in computer chips.  Elections remain entrusted to miniature wires, soldered into plastic boards, and so too is America’s future. Adults in the United States are told to vote; our participation makes a difference.  So, cast your ballot with confidence, and know that even if your vote is counted, it may not count.

Sources, Secret Codes, Software, and Scanners . . .

Specific Suggestion: General Strike. Give Peace A Chance


John Lennon – Give Peace A Chance

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

In Iraq, the war is waged.  Bombs and bullet soar overhead.  Often a missile lands, a mine explodes, and people perish.  Daily life in the Persian Gulf life is perilous.  I claim to care, and in actuality, I do, deeply.  However, a casual observer would never know.  I live well with the knowledge that those in Iraq die daily in heart, mind, body, and soul.  The contrast between the quality of my life and the life of those in the Middle East haunts me.

There must be some action I can take, a movement that makes a difference.  I do what I think reasonable.  I protest.  I stand on corners and advocate peace.  Nonviolent marches are amongst my missions.  I publish tomes.  The topic is end hostilities, live in harmony.  I plead to members of Congress, “Cut the funds.”  Stop the war.  Bring the troops home.  Let the Iraqi people create tranquility in a manner best for them.  Yet, as I protest, I ponder.  Perhaps, much to my distress, I remain ineffective.  My life choices reflect an active apathy.  I must consider what I accept in my daily existence.

Each day I awake.  The sun shines on my face.  A gentle breeze blows through my window and across the bed sheets.  I look around and see the luxury that is my life.  As an American, I am not affluent.  I am not even average.  My income perhaps, is paltry.  Yet, life is good . . . here in the States.

In the early morn, in the calm of my home, I begin my day.  I disrobe.  I place my pajamas in the hamper, or immediately put them in the washing machine.  I press a button and the electricity flows through the cables.  Water enters the basin through hoses.  I wash my sleepwear in a way most persons in Iraq cannot.  I pitter and patter without a care, or at least appearances might suggest I have none.  In truth, I have great angst, not for the calm that is my day, but for what the sunlight hours and the evening darkness must be like for those in war zones.

I iron.  I bathe; I dress.  My clothes are clean and pressed.  I prepare for work, play, for hours of consumption.  I do all that I can to maintain the “norm’ that is America.

Outside the birds sing.  The squirrels scatter.  Animals gather their food with delight.  The butterflies and bees find nourishment in the flowers.  Mine is a fine life.

While I may not be wealthy, I own an automobile.  I put gas in the tank and drive freely about town.  I listen to people complain of the cost of petroleum fuel, and I wonder.  The price is dear.  People die so that we might toddle about.  I go hither and yon.  Yet, as I do, I ruminate.  How might my actions reflect my disdain for what we, Americans do and do not.

Some say, the war effort is not done in their name.  I disagree.  The battle is mine.  My inertia allows the combat to continue.  My sense that I cannot influence the military industrial complex that controls the battle defines me as complicit.  My belief that I am but one small, insignificant being, and cannot change what Congress or the President does, is counter to my faith in people.  That I allow myself to invest in a world establishes all I disdain demonstrates that I am part of the problem and not the solution.

If I do little more than protest in word and deed, while I continue to live my life with glee, then what have I really done to make a statement?  As a single person, perchance, I do not have the power to be heard above the fray.  Nevertheless, I can try to make a difference.  Indeed, I must do more than endeavor.  I must organize; bring people together, so that the exertion of one will have the effect of many.

I must generate human energy, excite the empathetic sensibility that lies still within each of us.  I must do all that I can to bring the troops home, and ensure that the allied forces exit Iraq.  If I can help make an impression globally, then perhaps the war will end.

I propose we, the people of this planet take our power back.  I invite you dear reader to consider the wisdom Garret Keizer expresses in a Harpers notebook.  Might we prepare for peace and act in love.  The Specific suggestion: [A] General strike. 

Please ponder the possibility.  On Election Day, cast a ballot for regime change.  Act to end the war.  Refuse to work; do not help maintain the status quo.  Stop shopping.  Do not serve the combative corporate structure that funds this armed engagement.  The time is now, not in 2013 as Presidential hopefuls claim.  We must move as one if we are to live together.

I hope to see you on the streets of America on November 6, 2007.  Collectively, let us sing and act as though the elusive dream is possible.  We can “Give Peace A Chance.”

Specific suggestion: General strike
By Garret Keizer
Harpers.
October 2007

Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust.
-Isaiah 26:19

1.
Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as its plundering of hope.  Iraq will recover sooner.  What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy-a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of American power-has achieved its greatest and perhaps its only lasting success in the American soul.  You will want to cite the exceptions, the lunch-hour protests against the war, the dinner-party ejaculations of dissent, though you might also want to ask what substantive difference they bear to grousing about the weather or even to raging against the dying of the light-that is, to any ritualized complaint against forces universally acknowledged as unalterable.  Bush is no longer the name of a president so much as the abbreviation of a proverb, something between Murphy’s Law and tomorrow’s fatal inducement to drink and be merry today.

If someone were to suggest, for example, that we begin a general strike on Election Day, November 6, 2007, for the sole purpose of removing this regime from power, how readily and with what well-practiced assurance would you find yourself producing the words “It won’t do any good”?  Plausible and even courageous in the mouth of a patient who knows he’s going to die, the sentiment fits equally well in the heart of a citizen-ry that believes it is already dead.

2.
Any strike, whether it happens in a factory, a nation, or a marriage, amounts to a reaffirmation of consent.  The strikers remind their overlords-and, equally important, themselves-that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on.  Camus said that the one serious question of philosophy is whether or not to commit suicide; the one serious question of political philosophy is whether or not to get out of bed.  Silly as it may have seemed at the time, John and Yoko’s famous stunt was based on a profound observation.  Instant karma is not so instant-we ratify it day by day.

The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn’s early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what’s going on in our collective life.  The poet Richard Wilbur writes of the “ripped mouse” that “cries Concordance” in the talons of the owl; we too cry our daily assent in the grip of the prevailing order- except in those notable instances when, like a donkey or a Buddha, we refuse to budge.

The question we need to ask ourselves at this moment is what further provocations we require to justify digging in our heels.  To put the question more pointedly: Are we willing to wait until the next presidential election, or for some interim congressional conversion experience, knowing that if we do wait, hundreds of our sons and daughters will be needlessly destroyed?  Another poet, César Vallejo, framed the question like this:

A man shivers with cold, coughs, spits up blood.
Will it ever be fitting to allude to my inner soul?
. . .  A cripple sleeps with one foot on his shoulder.
Shall I later on talk about Picasso, of all people?

A young man goes to Walter Reed without a face.  Shall I make an appointment with my barber? A female prisoner is sodomized at Abu Ghraib.  Shall I send a check to the Clinton campaign?

3.
You will recall that a major theme of the Bush Administration’s response to September 11 was that life should go on as usual. We should keep saying that broad consensual Yes as loudly as we dared.  We could best express our patriotism by hitting the malls, by booking a flight to Disney World.  At the time, the advice seemed prudent enough: avoid hysteria; defy the intimidations of murderers and fanatics.

In hindsight, it’s hard not to see the roots of our predicament in the readiness with which we took that advice to heart.  We did exactly as we were told, with a net result that is less an implicit defiance of terrorism than a tacit amen to the “war on terror,” including the war in Iraq.  Granted, many of us have come to find both those wars unacceptable.  But do we find them intolerable? Can you sleep?  Yes, doctor, I can sleep. Can you work?  Yes, doctor, I can work. Do you get out to the movies, enjoy a good restaurant? Actually, I have a reservation for tonight.  Then I’d say you were doing okay, wouldn’t you? I’d say you were tolerating the treatment fairly well.

It is one thing to endure abuses and to carry on in spite of them. It is quite another thing to carry on to the point of abetting the abuse.  We need to move the discussion of our nation’s health to the emergency room. We need to tell the doctors of the body politic that the treatment isn’t working-and that until it changes radically for the better, neither are we.

4.
No one person, least of all a freelance writer, has the prerogative to call or set the date for a general strike. What do you guys do for a strike, sit on your overdue library books? Still, what day more fitting for a strike than the first Tuesday of November, the Feast of the Hanging Chads? What other day on the national calendar cries so loudly for rededication?

The only date that comes close is September 11.  You have to do a bit of soul-searching to see it, but one result of the Bush presidency has been a loss of connection to those who perished that day.  Unless they were members of our families, unless we were involved in their rescue, do we think of them?  It’s too easy to say that time eases the grief-there’s more to it than that, more even than the natural tendency to shy away from brooding on disasters that might happen again. We avoid thinking of the September 11 victims because to think of them we have to think also of what we have allowed to happen in their names.  Or, if we object openly to what has happened, we have to parry the insinuation that we’re unmoved by their loss.

It is time for us to make a public profession of faith that the people who went to work that morning, who caught the cabs and rode the elevators and later jumped to their deaths, were not on the whole people who would sanction extraordinary rendition, preemptive war, and the suspension of habeas corpus; that in their heels and suits they were at least as decent as any sneaker-shod person standing vigil outside a post office with a stop the war sign.  That the government workers who died in the Pentagon were not by some strange congenital fluke more obtuse than the high-ranking officers who thought the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea from the get-go.  That the passengers who rushed the hijackers on Flight 93 were not repeating the mantra “It won’t do any good” while scratching their heads and their asses in a happy-hour funk.

An Election Day general strike would set our remembrance of those people free from the sarcophagi of rhetoric and rationalization.  It would be the political equivalent of raising them from the dead.  It would be a clear if sadly delayed message of solidarity to those voters in Ohio and Florida who were pretty much told they could drop dead.

5.
But how would it work? A curious question to ask given that not working is most of what it would entail. Not working until the president and the shadow president resigned or were impeached. Never mind what happens next.  Rather, let our mandarins ask how this came to happen in the first place.  Let them ask in shock and awe.

People who could not, for whatever reason, cease work could at least curtail consumption.  In fact, that might prove the more effective action of the two.  They could vacate the shopping malls.  They could cancel their flights.  With the aid of their Higher Power, they could turn off their cell phones.  They could unplug their TVs.

The most successful general strike imaginable would require extraordinary measures simply to announce its success. It would require sound trucks going up and down the streets, Rupert Murdoch reduced to croaking through a bullhorn. Bonfires blazing on the hills. Bells tolling till they cracked. (Don’t we have one of those on display somewhere?)

Ironically, the segment of the population most unable to participate would be the troops stationed in the Middle East.  Striking in their circumstances would amount to suicide.  That distinction alone ought to suffice as a reason to strike, as a reminder of the unconscionable underside of our “normal” existence. We get on with our lives, they get on with their deaths.

As for how the strike would be publicized and organized, these would depend on the willingness to strike itself.  The greater the willingness, the fewer the logistical requirements.  How many Americans does it take to change a light-bulb?  How many Web postings, how many emblazoned bedsheets hung from the upper-story windows?  Think of it this way: How many hours does it take to learn the results of last night’s American Idol, even when you don’t want to know?

In 1943, the Danes managed to save 7,200 of their 7,800 Jewish neighbors from the Gestapo. They had no blogs, no television, no text messaging-and very little time to prepare. They passed their apartment keys to the hunted on the streets.  They formed convoys to the coast.  An ambulance driver set out with a phone book, stopping at any address with a Jewish-sounding name.  No GPS for directions. No excuse not to try.
But what if it failed? What if the general strike proved to be anything but general?  I thought Bush was supposed to be the one afraid of science.  Hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusion-are they his hobgoblins or ours?  What do we have to fear, except additional evidence that George W. Bush is exactly what he appears to be: the president few of us like and most of us deserve.  But science dares to test the obvious. So let us dare.

6.
We could hardly be accused of innovation.  General strikes have a long and venerable history.  They’re as retro as the Bill of Rights.  There was one in Great Britain in 1926, in France in 1968, in Ukraine in 2004, in Guinea just this year.  Finns do it, Nepalis do it, even people without email do it . . .

But we don’t have to do it, you will say, because “we have a process.”  Have or had, the verb remains tentative. In regard to verbs, Dick Cheney showed his superlative talent for le mot juste when in the halls of the U.S. Congress he told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to go fuck himself.  He has since told congressional investigators to do the same thing.  There’s your process.  Dick Cheney could lie every day of his life for all the years of Methuselah, and for the sake of that one remark history would still need to remember him as an honest man.  In the next world, Diogenes will kneel down before him.  In this world, though, and in spite of the invitation tendered to me through my senator, I choose to remain on my feet.

“United we stand,” isn’t that how it goes?  But we are not united, not by a long shot. At this juncture we may be able to unite only in what we will not stand for. The justification of torture, the violation of our privacy, the betrayal of our intelligence operatives, the bankrupting of our commonwealth, the besmirching of our country’s name, the feckless response to natural disaster, the dictatorial inflation of executive power, the senseless butchery of our youth-if these do not constitute a common ground for intolerance, what does?

People were indignant at the findings of the 9/11 Commission-it seems there were compelling reasons to believe an attack was imminent!-yet for the attack on our Constitution we have evidence even more compelling. How can we criticize an administration for failing to act in the face of a probable threat given our own refusal to act in the face of a threat already fulfilled?  As long as we’re willing to go on with our business, Bush and Cheney will feel free to go on with their coup.  As long as we’re willing to continue fucking ourselves, why should they have any scruples about telling us to smile during the act?

7.
Between undertaking the strike and achieving its objective, the latter requires the greater courage. It requires courage simply to admit that this is so. For too many of us, Bush has become a secret craving, an addiction. We loathe Bush the way that Peter Pan loathed Captain Hook; he’s a villain, to be sure, but he’s half the fun of living in Never-Never Land. He has provided us with an inexhaustible supply of editorial copy, partisan rectitude, and every sort of lame excuse for not engaging the system he represents. In that sense, asking “What if the strike were to fail?” is not even honest. On some level we would want it to fail.

Certainly, this would be true of those who’ve declared themselves as presidential candidates and for whom the Bush legacy represents an unprecedented windfall of political capital. One need only speak a coherent sentence-one need only breathe from a differently shaped smirk-to seem like a savior. Ding-dong, the Witch is dead. Already I can see the winged monkeys who signed off on the Patriot Act and the Iraq invasion jumping up and down for joy.  Already I can hear the nauseating gush: “Such a welcome relief after Bush!”  Relief, yes.  But relief is not hope.

How much better if we could say to our next administration: Don’t talk about Bush.  We dealt with Bush. We dealt with Bush and in so doing we demonstrated our ability to deal with you. You have a mandate more rigorous than looking good beside Bush. You need a program more ambitious than “uniting the country.”  We are united-at least we were, if only for a while, if only in our disgust.  If only I believed all this would happen.

I wrote this appeal during the days leading up to the Fourth of July.  I wrote it because for the past six and a half years I have heard the people I love best-family members, friends, former students and parishioners-saying, “I’m sick over what’s happening to our country, but I just don’t know what to do.” Might I be pardoned if, fearing civil disorder less than I fear civil despair, I said, “Well, we could do this.” It has been done before and we could do this. And I do believe we could. If anyone has a better idea, I’m keen to hear it. Only don’t tell me what some presidential hopeful ought to do someday.  Tell me what the people who have nearly lost their hope can do right now.

We can act in love, work for peace.  What we have done to this date has not helped bring peace.  Let us stand tall, stand strong, sing and serve the cause of peace.  Profits can wait; the world cannot!

References . . .

  • Specific suggestion: General strike, By Garret Keizer.  Harpers. October 2007
  • pdf Specific suggestion: General strike, By Garret Keizer.  Harpers. October 2007
  • Call For Change; The Battle Cry Continues ©

    In the spirit of Veterans Day, a revolutionary election, and a society that is now more reflective, I pose this question, “Why Billy; Why?”

    I did ask Donald.  I questioned George.  I queried Dick; I sought answers from my representatives. 

    While the system shows us change is possible, I acknowledge it is slow.  I believe we cannot be solely celebratory.  We must remember there is much work to be done and if we, as individuals, do not do it, who will?  If each of us does not choose to begin independently of what others, think, say, do, or feel, who will start the process.  We must believe and act on our beliefs.

    The war is not yet over.  The issues still haunt us.  Health care, wages, Social Security, voters’ rights, election dilemmas, immigration issues, and education are all beckoning.  Please heed their call.  Please contact Congress; call your neighbors.  Speak to your friends, your family, and familiars.  Write to anyone and everyone.  We never know who might be reading our words.

    I invite you to join in this domestic deliverance.  The struggle did not end on Election Day or with the Rumsfeld resignation.  Please continue to Call for Change.

    Please reflect; ponder this presentation, Why Billy Why?
    I realize, and hope we all recognize, there are still needs, and desires for answers.


    Review the References.  Choose your position.  Pursue, as you will . . .

  • Health, A Right or a Privilege For The Few, Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
  • General Information on the Minimum Wage. The Economic Policy Institute.
  • An introduction to Social Security. The Economic Policy Institute.
  • Introduction To Federal Voting Rights Laws. United States Department of Justice
  • Keeping the Voting Clean, By Richard L. Hasen. New York Times. November 11, 2006
  • It is the Economy [or Education], Stup**!, Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
  • Bush immigration plan has new chance, By Dave Montgomery. Detroit Free Press. November 12, 2006
  • MoveOn 2006

  • Single Women. The First Time. ©


    The idea first entered my consciousness at the age of five.  I overheard my parents having a passionate conversation.  I had never seen them so animated.  I wanted to feel as they did in that moment.  By the time I was a teen I had read much.  I knew; I was ready.  How long would it be before I too felt the excitement and the energy I witnessed?  I wondered.

    When the time came, I was anxious, expectant, and so eager.  I did not know that I could do it in my own home.  I was young and naïve.  I walked outside the house into a driving rain.  I hitchhiked to meet my destiny.  Once I completed the act, I was elated.  I could hardly wait for the next time, then the next, and the next.  All these years later, I still love doing it.

    “You want me to tell you about my first time . . . I like doing it in the morning . . . When was it?  What year was it?  Well, it’s kind of personal . . . I felt grown up.  I wasn’t a kid anymore . . . Once I did it in an old woman’s garage.  You have all of that energy flowing inside.  You go in.  You commit.  It is a beautiful thing!”

    These women, Felicity Huffman, Marg Helgenberger, Angie Harmon, Rosario Dawson, Tyne Daly, and Daphne Zuniga are speaking of voting, as was I.  They are reflecting on their first vote; their virginal experience as an electorate.  A recent television advertisement campaign, sponsored by the Women’s Voices, Women Vote, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, District of Columbia, is attempting to appeal to single women voters.  Apparently, according to a recent study, there are approximately twenty million of these.

    In this election year 2006, single women are considered the group to get.  They are the voters that candidates wish to attract.  These lovelies are the silent, sweet minority.

    In recent years, each election has been marked with a group of swing voters — 1992 was the year of the woman, 1994 — the year of “angry white males,” 1996 — the soccer mom, and 2000 — waitress moms.

    According to [Daron Shaw, PhD., an associate professor at the University of Texas,] Shaw, the swing voter becomes more legitimate when you can picture them as a group.  The waitress moms, branded as blue-collared women who were typically single mothers, were an easy group for people to visualize — Helen Hunt in “As Good as it Gets,” a movie that came out only a year before the election.

    Heading into this election year [2004], a media buzz has surrounded one group in particular — NASCAR dads — a term used by Democratic consultant Celinda Lake in 2002 to describe white, conservative NASCAR fans.

    Though the legitimacy of NASCAR dads as a swing vote is debated, in February President Bush, decked out in a racing jacket, flew on Air Force One to the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest annual event.
    “Our message to them (NASCAR dads) is Democrats are not going to take away your guns, but Republicans are taking away your jobs,” said Lake, the Democratic pollster, who worked as a consultant for the Clinton/Gore campaign.

    Some pundits, however, have argued that NASCAR dads as a swing group is nothing more than hype.

    Today the group to capture are single women.

    I am among them.  Yet, I have done it for decades.  I am a dedicated voter.  Unlike the twenty-two percent of eligible single female citizens that forfeited their right to vote in the 2004 Presidential election year, I cast my ballot.  Contrary to the expected 24 percent of single, adult women that are not expected to vote this year, I will again select my representatives.

    Single women are now being defined as slackers.

    By contrast, [Joe Goode, Executive Director of Women’s Voices, Women Vote] Goode said, “married women comprise 28 percent of the voting population, but their participation was 31 percent in the last presidential.”

    Who are these fair ladies?  Are you among them?  if so, please share your sentiments; what are you thinking, feeling, and why.  I want to understand.

    Seriously, for me, at the age of five I felt passionate about politics.  My natural father was a right-winged, radical Republican.  My Mom is a Democratic Socialist.  One day the two were engaged in a heated exchange as they discussed the candidates.  I witnessed this and thought, “Wow, I can hardly wait to care so much and have the power to bring about change.”

    I grew up in a quiet home.  This discussion for me was unusual, electrifying, exhilarating, and lively.  I listened intently.  The dialogue, and the moment, was unforgettable.  Since that conversation, which was my introduction to issues, the parties, and political campaigns, my interest has never wavered.

    My Mom later divorced my biological father.  She married a Liberal Progressive.  Political demonstrations became a part of my life early on.  I participated in the process long before I could vote.  In Wisconsin, at the age of seventeen I was able to cast a ballot in the primary.  In the Badger state, if you were going to be eighteen at the time of the general election, you were eligible to vote in the preliminaries.

    At the time, I was a college student.  I moved after registering.  In order to  vote, I needed to drive, in my case hitchhike to my former precinct.  It was far.  The weather was awful.  Not only did I drudge out during a thunderstorm, I repeated the process in November in the midst of a blizzard.  Nothing deterred me.

    Yet, according to experts single women in America have many reasons for not voting.  Time and money seem to be major concerns for this population.  Somehow, this effects their partaking in the process. 

    According to Joe Goode, “Fifty percent of these single women live in households that make less than $30,000 a year.  They are very economically depressed.” 

    I relate.  I would think that this state of affairs would stimulate a desire to vote, to take action.  These women, more than most need a good government to assist them.  With representatives such as our current compassionate Commander, they are certain to falter.  Statistically speaking, I am in this group.  I know how hard life can be when the money in your pocket cannot fill a molehill, let alone a mountain.

    Thus, I trust that life for these women must be a challenge, it is for me!  I acknowledge that day-to-day doings are made more challenging by a non-responsive administration.  I know that; this is my experience!

    Many single women “may be struggling just to get ahead.  They may be single moms.  So their support network just isn’t the same as married women who tend to be upper-income and a little more established in terms of where they live.”

    Oh, this is so true.  For me, there is one income and it is shaky.  My support system is quite limited.  My network is likely smaller than those that meander in and out of meaningful exchanges with their spouse and “his” associates.

    One reason for this disparity, Goode suggests, is that “single women tend to be more mobile.  A third of them move every two years or less.  They might not even know where to go to vote.  A lot of them are under 30 and a lot of them are over 60.”

    Whatever their age, these are women with concerns about affordable health care, the cost of education and pay equity.

    So true Mr. Goode.  Health care concerns have haunted me as long as I can remember.  Though I loathe moving, I seem to be more mobile than my married counterparts.  On the topic of pay equity, I can only say, please.  If I begin to share stories on this subject, I will go on endlessly.  I often wonder do married women and single women receive equal pay.  I will leave that research for another time.

    Once again, with all that effects single women directly, why do so many of  these magnificent beings choose not to vote.

    Sara Grove, a professor and Chair of the Elsie Hillman Politics at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, is sympathetic; she understands the large burdens many students shoulder today, single women among these.

    Ms. Grove states, “If you are attending college … this is one of the last things you are paying attention to.”  The Professor cogitates, ‘many students carry 12 college credits so they can obtain health-care benefits while also working a full-time job.  They wind up struggling to stay afloat academically and financially.’

    Grove continues, “That is increasingly becoming the dilemma more and more students face.”  Yet, I wonder; does this justify not voting, not turning to those that might better the system.  I too attended college, often working full-time while carrying a full load.  I did struggle and every aspect of my life suffered.  Thus, I saw a need for being active.  For me, voting was meaningful.  It gave me a voice.  When I cast my ballot, then and now, I felt and feel empowered.  I was making a choice and attempting to improve life in America.

    Barbara DiTullio, program manager for Women Vote PA, said Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation where women are less likely than men to be registered to vote.  One way to draw more women to the polls, she said, is to hold elections on weekends.

    “Why does it have to be on a Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. when people are working and children are in school?  If we really want to engage people, we have to make it easier for them to vote.” 

    Wow!  Originally, I am from Pennsylvania.  However, as you might surmise, as a single woman, I have moved many times in my life.  I no longer reside in what once was my home state.

    Nevertheless, the scheduled Tuesday vote is to me almost a non-issue.  Years ago I learned of the power of an absentee vote.  I was working as the Democratic Party Representative on election eve.  Members of the Grand Jury and people from each political party were at the Registrars to monitor the vote count.  I befriended the Sergeant of Arms, the Republican representative.  He informed me, to ensure that the ballots would be cast, the Republican Party encouraged people to vote from home, well in advance of the election.

    I thought what a great idea.  After assessing this dynamic, I began to do as he advised.  On many occasion, this has helped me immensely.  Voting can be a leisurely well-researched project when you mark your ballot from home.  The days and times for an “election” are ones a voter can choose.

    What for me is more fascinating and more real is the lack of awareness among people entitled to vote, and those that volunteer during campaigns.  Only days ago, my telephone rang.  The caller represented the Democratic Party.  She sounded young; she seemed to have a script.  she read from it and asked if I had received a white card, an application, allowing me to vote from home.  I mentioned the “absentee ballot option.”  She said “No, not that.” 

    At the time, I was rushed and did not have time to retrieve the document.  The staff person and I parted ways.  Later, I did go and look at the brochure the woman spoke of.  There it was, printed right at the top, “Absentee Ballot Application.”  I am new to this state and thought perhaps there were processes and pamphlets that differed from those that I am familiar with.  Perchance there are.

    Here, in Florida, Early Voting polling places are available.  People, citizens have been casting their ballots for weeks on days other than Tuesday.  Thus, again I ask, if you are a single woman and are not voting, if you have not voted in the past, please help me to understand.

    As a single woman whose income is low, who struggles to make ends meet, as a female that finds it difficult to survive, that fears the need for medical assistance, as one that knows a minor or major health concern could change my life drastically, I ask why would unmarried women not vote.  Why would those that need to live in a society that cares for its weaker wonders not wish to ensure that all is well?  I am so confused.

    Single women of America, please scream out.  Participate in the process.  I plead; I beseech you.  I am willing to say, “I need your help!”  Please support the candidates of your choosing.

    Your Sample Ballot . . .
    Single Woman Vote. YouTube
    My First Time. Issues. Dreams. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
    Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
    New Survey Finds. Women’s Voices. Women Vote. February 21, 2006
    WVWV Leadership Team. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
    Women Talk About the ‘First Time’ ABC News
    12 Days and Counting: Will Women Show up at the Polls on November 7? By Romi Lassally, Yahoo News October 26, 2006
    Organization trying to get more single women to vote,By Marylynne Pitz. Knoxville News Sentinel. October 22, 2006
    Politics 101: Swing Voters. The Online NewsHour’s Vote 2004. Public Broadcasting Services
    Women Really on Their Own, By Ruth Rosen.  The Nation October 28, 2004
    Cable News Network Election Results
    Healthy, Wealthy, & Wed,By Amy M. Braverman. University of Chicago Magazine.
    Women’s Earnings, Work Patterns Partially Explain Difference between Men’s and Women’s Earnings. United States General Accounting Office
    Sacramento Women: Women Vs. Women, By Dayna Dunteman. Sacramento  Magazine October 2006
    Democrats Push to Counter G.O.P. in Turnout Race, By Adam Nagourney. New York Times. October 29, 2006