Sheila S. Kennedy

Not Sexy, But Important

Filed By Sheila S. Kennedy | April 23, 2007 11:29 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, election campaigns, TPMMuckraker, voting

Whenever I talk to a group of students, or speak to an organization, and bring up the mechanics of our voting structure, I can count on the same reaction: eyes glaze over, hands go up to mouths to stifle polite yawns. The subject has no sex appeal. I know that--but we can't ignore the fact that it matters greatly.

I've written before about the pernicious effects of partisan gerrymandering, the growing inequities of the electoral college, the unreliability of electronic voting machines, and efforts to "game" the system by intimidating minority voters. This last subject just got a whole lot more pertinent, thanks to the investigation (finally) of the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales.

Talking Points Memo's Muckraker website has an eye-opening expose that is really a "must read." It begins with the following paragraph:

If there's one good thing that's come out of the U.S. attorneys scandal, it's that it's shining a bright light on the Justice Department. And as a result, it's become clear that the most grossly politicized section of the department is the Civil Rights Division.
The rest of the post details the obsessive efforts of the administration to suppress the votes of African-Americans, the poor and other constituencies that are likely to cast their votes for the "wrong" party.

Let me try one more time to underscore the significance of this. If we lose confidence in the accuracy and fairness of the system, we will no longer be a democratic republic. We will be a banana republic. And on a number of dimensions, we are getting uncomfortable close.

Go to tpmmuckraker. Read it and weep. Then, dammit, go do something to help fix it.

On a totally different note, this will be my last post for a month or so--I'm taking a breather. (Call it a vacation for my blood pressure.) I'll resume early in June. Meanwhile, please keep up the good fight!

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Zach Adamson | April 23, 2007 12:35 PM

I dont know if I can go read more about it.. I dont think my mental stability could withstand such a traumatic blow.

Most of these things I would venture to say, we already know, or have suspected all along. My main issue, as it always is, What do we do about it. Sheila rarely has any trouble getting me all foaming at the mouth mad and ready to take on the world, but I never know what I, me, myself, should be doing.

So many of the events I attend are great because we can hear people articulate the feelings we share. And Sheila does a great job of that. I often think her column needs an 'Amen choir" in the back. However, I cant count the number of times I have left a meeting and felt that all we did was point out what everyone already knew was a problem. A preaching to the choir But the main problem with all that is, it almost never comes with a "what do I do about this" section. We're left with no clear directions on changing things and most important, what things would look like when it was fixed. We won't ever know if we have accomplished our goals unless we are able to identify success.

I'll never be as good as Sheila at articulating though. I am good at rallying the troops. But I need a direction to send people. A direction that will be impactful and effective. People want to be involved and fight the good fight, but lack the drive to devise a road map to success.

We need to know not just what the problem is, but also what the solution to the problem looks like and what needs to happen to make it so. Then let us hit the road running. If we can master this, I believe, there's nothing going to hold us back..

Can I get an AMEN!!!

Marla R. Stevens | April 25, 2007 4:49 PM

Amen -- and hallelujah.

Things to do:

Survey your neighbors to find like-minded ones about the wisdom of voting reform that requires a voter-verified paper trail for voting machines, then hold a coffee-klatch with your state legislators to discuss the issue. Invite the lobbyist who tends to take the lead on this stuff at the statehouse. Consider joining the lobbyist's organization.

Write your U.S. Congressional delegation about how they've been doing on Federal Prosecutor-Gate and ask how they're going to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Follow-up as necessary.

Fight the underlying destruction of democracy in America -- the Military Commissions Act that includes habeas corpus repeal and the Patriot Acts that have facilitated our government's spying on us. The ACLU and Amnesty International both have good websites full of things you can do about those.