It Don’t Mean a Thing If You Ain’t Got That Vote
By: George John Jacobs | Our Voice Contributor
Much excitement has been generated by the rise of various political movements intended to counter the corporate neoliberal and neoconservative alliance that occupies our legislative branches. Potential paths are constantly debated, a slew of new grassroots organizations have popped up, and the Democratic Party has recently suffered the loss of hundreds of thousands of registered members. Their recent efforts at fundraising have been lackluster at best.
Various organizations and movements, whether DemExit, Justice Democrats, Draft Bernie, or the creation of new progressive parties have generated various levels of excitement as well as some necessary debate. All of this is taking place in the shadow of the existing Democrat and Republican duopoly, which constantly attempts to marginalize, black out, or splinter such efforts. This can certainly be deemed as a promising, healthy sign that the American populace, after decades of relative apathy and political non-involvement, has finally awoken at this critical time.
However, there is one major aspect of our current political reality that has received very little attention. It is an occurrence that even most informed progressives are unaware, yet it is as significant to the vote as the Supreme Court’s 2000 Bush v. Gore decision.
In January of 2017, after months of machinations by the outgoing Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security designated the National Election System as critical infrastructure, thus removing election systems from the constitutionally-prescribed jurisdiction and oversight of the States.
This can arguably be considered a seizure of our national voting apparatus by a federal body that already has very little oversight or transparency. From the announcement:
“The new designation will cover storage facilities, polling places, and centralized vote tabulation locations used to support the election process, as well as information and communications technology like voter registration databases, voting machines and other systems used to manage the election process and report results.”
In other words, voter registration databases and vote tally infrastructure are now under the umbrella of DHS.
Voting rights advocates and others, including some secretaries of state, have argued that such a move is unconstitutional and violates the 4th amendment. However, to date, no grassroots movement nor challenge from any State appears to have been launched to challenge this.
In 2016, one may recall that Dr. Jill Stein introduced the idea of wresting back the voting systems via state ballot initiatives that would introduce features, such as ranked-choice voting, and demand voting apparatus systems be replaced.
This was a promising plan as it was based upon the notion that voters could, via extant state ballot proposition processes, demand and bring about a change in the actual vote recording and tallying apparatus used by each state. The potential to replace unaccountable ‘black box’ systems was promising.
If state by state plebiscites could reinstate more easily verifiable paper trail systems, where vote tallies could be openly challenged or confirmed, this would certainly reverse the highly dubious national context that has been in place since before 2000.
For those who like playing connect-the-dots, please observe: For the DHS to claim the reclassification of a national system as critical infrastructure there must exist some sort of international, as opposed to domestic, threat.
If you wondered, as I did, why the DNC would finger Russia for ‘hacking’ the 2016 election then the seizure by Obama’s DHS, later given approval by the Trump administration, provides the answer.
Besides the Russian narrative deflecting responsibility from the Democratic party’s utterly reprehensible manipulation and failure of the 2016 election, the introduction of the premise that an enemy outside our borders threatened our voting apparatus was all that was needed for the DHS to have grounds to seize the infrastructure.
There is already a sullied history of questionable vote tallies since Bush’s 2000 victory. The 2000 Florida recount fiasco, the Conyers report on the flawed Ohio 2004 tally, Georgia’s denial to allow Cynthia McKinney access to the official data and tallies when she lost her seat in the 2002 Dem Primary, et cetera. As the more recent 2016 primary, and Stein-supported 2016 general election recounts indicated, prior to 2017 it was already exceedingly difficult to confirm the veracity of official results. All this occurring prior to the DHS seizing control of the voting infrastructure.
Whether Americans are unaware of this or simply are exhibiting what Gil-Scott-Heron termed selective amnesia is unclear. The seizure has been damned both by left and right-wing media. How often does ZeroHedge and Breitbart agree on anything? Or the Huffington Post and the National Review? However, except for the occasional mention at Sane Progressive and some general info buried on the ElectionJusticeUSA website, the topic is strikingly absent from our political discourse.
While there are national and global election integrity groups and organizations, ignoring President Trump’s laughably titled Election Integrity Commission, no such bodies in the US have initiated any challenge to changing existing systems. Rather they concentrate their focus on gerrymandering, voter suppression laws, and voter fraud. All important issues, but perhaps a case of missing the forest for the trees.
This situation poses the most obvious question: Does it matter what type of candidates are ultimately drafted, or put forward in either the primaries or general? Whether state, municipal, or federal, if the integrity and confirmation of the vote tally is now potentially more obstructed and obfuscated than it has been in the past, is it even legitimate?
With recent election day histories illustrating the dubiousness of official results, the question as to which populist political path forward is best becomes secondary. With the legal boundaries of the DHS seizure remaining undefined, and questions regarding the specifics of state control persisting, now is the time to test the waters.
Tim Canova’s organization recently made a foray into this by filing suit at the county level, demanding that the Georgia 6th District special election be done via a paper ballot system and hand-counted. This was summarily dismissed by the county judge, on the basis that plaintiffs had not illustrated the current system in place was faulty or insecure despite Georgia’s own secretary of state having revealed that the DHS attempted to hack into the state’s voter registration rolls. So as an initial legal challenge, at the county level, this did not yield a favorable result.
What if, rather than legal proceedings, the grassroots pushed in some states resulting in ballot initiatives requiring current unaccountable ‘black box’ paperless systems be replaced by paper ballots with the tabulation being audited by hand? Could such an initiative make a state ballot now? Or would it be summarily denied?
If such an initiative proceeded and passed, would it be implemented by the state?
Or would the state file suit against it? Would the federal government or the DHS file suit against it, because the voting apparatus is no longer under the jurisdiction of the state? If so, would such a confrontation be heard in state court? Federal court?
This seems the manifest challenge which needs to occur to clarify and define whether the DHS seizure is constitutional, and define who has legal authority and control over the voting infrastructure. This is the inevitable path which must be initiated if Americans ever wish to secure the accountability of our elections.