Tuesday, February 16, 2016

American Democracy Today?

Democracy having a bad hair day in America (Image source)

Being a British citizen living and voting in Britain I am both fascinated and mystified by the arcane American electoral system. However even before learning that despite his having obliterated Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire democratic Party primary last week, Bernie cannot hope to emerge from the process with more delegate votes than Hillary when it comes down to the final nomination process, due to the influence of 'Super Delegates' I decided this blog ought to take a closer look at the way things are done.

And what I found was the system is as unfair and undemocratic and as biased towards preserving the status quo as our archaic and broken system in Britain.

Now like most Europeans who take a passing interest in American politics I was aware that money is a major factor in US elections and so was aware that the so called Super PACs are a way of avoiding legal spending limits on candidates campaigns. I was curious to know more about superdelegates and being a survivor of a long career in Information Technology wanted to know just how easy it is to hack the voting machines. (Quick guess: an eleven year old could do it).

Here's an article from former green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney that a lot of people will find informative.

 Ian R Thorpe.

Super PACs, Super-Delegates, & Hacked Voting Machines.

from an Op Ed by Cynthia McKinney for RT

(This piece has been edited for brevity, although we are sure the significance of the content has not been altered - Editor)

According to the New Testament, Jesus once remarked to a wealthy man that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven.”
Today, we could amend the words of that Biblical reference with the US presidential race underway:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a voter in the US to know and understand the rules regulating the administration of all elections, including elections for President of the United States.”
Let’s start with the phenomenon of what is called a “minority president.”  A minority president is one who has failed to win a plurality of the votes cast in the race for president, and yet is still able to become President of the United States. This is the exact opposite of what a true democracy would require.

The United States has actually had several minority presidents in its history, while the 21st century began ominously enough with yet another minority President: George W. Bush, the Republican who failed to secure the most votes cast by the people [in the 2000 election, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, decided the victor of the race after moving to halt the recount process in the state of Florida].

Both the US House and the US Senate are charged with counting the Electoral College votes, and this is a process in which I have participated. It’s not the people who have the last word in US elections. It’s a non-democratic construct called the Electoral College that does, except in those rare instances when it doesn’t.

The Electoral College was created by the framers of the US Constitution to ensure that the votes of the plebes did not supersede the interests of the landed gentry. That’s not just my opinion. For example, according to FairVote, an organization with which I have worked in the 2000 Presidential election, a whopping 78 percent of the votes cast were rendered unimportant due to the arcane rules of the Electoral College. They estimate that in 2008, the figure still topped 70 percent.

In order to be declared the winner of the presidency, 270 Electoral College votes are required. But the process is not what could be called transparent. For example, veteran Pro Se litigator Asa Gordon has demonstrated how the Black vote in the US is rendered less relevant by the arcane apportionment rules of the Electoral College.

Add to the above debacles, the US Congress and the election authorities in the 50 states have authorized and encouraged the use of hackable electronic voting machines that are used for vote casting and vote tabulation. Bev Harris and her company, Black Box Voting, has accumulated horror stories surrounding the non-transparency of US elections.

Such a scenario is what led former President Jimmy Carter to comment he “absolutely” could not be elected today under such conditions, going so far as to characterize the United States as an oligarchy, not a democracy.
In the US, votes and vote tabulation processes are done without any traceable back-up procedures. In other words, there is no paper trail - no receipt of a vote, as it were - whatsoever. In one of my Congressional elections in which the electronic voting machines “failed,” not only was I unable to obtain the election data despite a lawsuit having been filed, an expert witness for the state of Georgia testified that voters have to simply “trust” that the announced winner is the actual winner. Meanwhile, candidates have no access to the raw election data because that information is “owned” by Diebold—the company that produced the electronic voting machines and the software used by them (The documentary ‘American Blackout’ tells my own personal story with US elections). It is difficult to place trust in the US election system when we learn about the number of votes cast that go uncounted. In the 2000 Presidential election between Bush and Gore, between two million and five million Americans went to the polls and voted, yet their votes were thrown out, disqualified for any number of reasons. Half of those uncounted votes were cast by Black Americans.

Add to these procedural vagaries, the influence of private money in US elections and even the pretense of holding transparent, free, and fair elections is stood completely on its head. As I wrote in a previous post, the rules have given rise to super-wealthy individuals who lurk in the shadows while becoming the power behind the public faces of candidates: Marco Rubio has Norman Braman as his closest and most important backer. Hillary Clinton has Haim Saban as one of her top donors; Sheldon Adelson is a “player” at the Presidential level in US politics. Billionaire Donald Trump self-finances his Presidential bid and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is rumored to be willing to spend one billion dollars in his still-to-be-announced independent presidential run.


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