Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kloppenburg's defense of the integrity of our elections should be applauded

The Journal Sentinel, Prosser and other Repubs, and lots of their supporters got it all wrong when responding to JoAnne Kloppenburg's request for a statewide recount. The April special election, like several elections before it, have revealed that there are some pretty serious issues with the voting process itself - and I don't mean the bogus voter fraud all the rage in the world of the Walker/Fitzgerald regime, the faux issue they are using for voter suppression in this state.

No, the real issue has to do with the integrity of the process itself, and the possibility that computers, vote counts, and even ballots themselves have fallen under a cloud of uncertainty raises the most fundamental issue of all - are our votes being counted accurately and securely? Are the clerks in charge of the count truly non-partisan and above all suspicion? And since it turns out that this is not the case - Waukesha County being the most glaring example right now, where a partisan former Prosser colleague, Kathleen Nickolaus, keeps the vote tally on a computer at home and allows no one to examine it - Kloppenburg has just done our state a great service by insisting on the full statewide recount.

I have been wanting to hear from her, felt we really needed her voice in this, and today we have. The woeful Journal Sentinel gave her space on their Op-Ed page and you can read her essay here. An excerpt:

This election was close, and there were many who have expressed doubts about whether it was clean. The right to vote is fundamental. It is a right that courageous people fight and die for every day. In America, that right carries with it a promise: that elections are fair and open, that election results are untainted by deceit or fraud and that the electoral process provides every eligible voter with an equal opportunity to privately and independently cast a ballot.
In order to make that promise real, there are appropriate and established steps that help make sure the outcome of elections, when in doubt, can withstand scrutiny. That, no more and no less, is exactly why this recount is so important.

Yes.  And then, YES! While JS and Prosser people lament the money spent, the time consumed, I can think of no more important function of government than to defend the vote against all possible assaults on its integrity.

Still, the fact that Nickolaus's computer has still not been ceased and analyzed by competent federal investigators - since the state refuses to do it - means that Waukesha County's vote count will remain under a cloud as long as she is allowed to operate in this fashion. The article in the JS about her the other day only increases reasons for concern.

Yes, Kloppenburg has done our state a great service. The importance of the recount was not about whether or not she wins in the end, it's about whether or not the result is accurate and trustworthy.

Since the advent of computerized voting, problems have arisen all across the country. Some programs have proven to be quite 'hackable,' and the companies making the machines have also been way-too-close to the Repub Party (one example, and here's another, and another). Now let's couple this story of the vulnerability of computerized vote tallies with Nickolaus's refusal to allow her computer to be examined, her practice of keeping it at home, and her old relationship with Prosser and other Repubs - and, sorry Repubs, if there are no problems here then let the Feds at it so that this can be proven and we all can be reassured.

As with the JS editorial board's opposition to the recount, you have to wonder who is really defending democracy here. A minority of eligible voters helped create a rightist regime in this state with what has turned out to be a deeply unpopular agenda. In the face of the mounting opposition, they are trying to ram through this agenda as quickly as possible. They continue to use undemocratic means to do so.

Again, the latest example - Senate Bill 95, which proposes sweeping changes in state mandates on education. You can read the substance here. For the purpose of this post, my concern is this:

Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) noted that details about the bill were released only one business day earlier, on Friday, by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
"I'm pretty sure if there had been more notice on this, this room would have been packed," she said, looking at the meager crowd of about 30 people.

Once again, Assembly and Senate Repubs are trying to pass their agenda by stealth, moving things through so quickly and with the kind of timing that ensures no one can mount a meaningful pushback. This is an old nefarious practice of undemocratic players holding majorities in legislatures - put the stuff out late on a Friday and surprise everyone with hearings and votes on Monday.

The Walker/Fitzgerald regime does not want popular democracy to function, friends. They do not want it to function. The media - the JS and TV stations - are all complicit, virtually ignoring a rally of 10,000 folks on a cold windy Saturday called out in just 2 weeks time. They completely ignored the voices that spoke out there, from Sen. Jon Erpenbach to Mahlon Mitchell of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin to Sarah Lloyd of Family Farm Defenders to an undocumented high school student and more, but most of all the constituencies represented by those 10,000 people.

People operate in the shadows when they fear democracy, when they have hidden agendas, when they know they are viscerally unpopular but want to control us for the sake of that agenda. By requesting a recount, JoAnne Kloppenburg has helped put a spotlight on one of the greater dangers to our democracy - the threat to the integrity of the vote. I thank her for that.

Photos: Margaret Swedish

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