Candidates should appear on the ballot if:

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Honest Vote Count: New Developments

Consider this an addendum to the previous post on An Honest Vote Count.

Before the Voting Begins

Entry for July 27, 2007

Control of elections begins long before the voting actually occurs though the actions of the coalition of parties-in-government principally in their legislative and judicial capacities.

An excellent overview how how this came about is presented in a paper by Adam Winkler " Voter's Rights and Party Wrongs" here:

As Winkler concludes in his paper, " remains an open question whether early electoral reforms still serve to protect voters from confusion." I would state it more strongly as parties-in-government manipulation, Winker says, "Minor parties have become occasional spectacles instead of vibrant competitors, campaigns are candidate-centered (as opposed to issues), voters have diminished party loyalty, and the presidential nominating system is skewed so that races are effectively over after only a handful of states have held their primaries or caucuses." Italics inserted.

Because voter loyalty is so ephemeral, the parties-in-government have sought to lock in "their" voters with regulations to suppress defections to competing parties and force dissenters into non-voting. The principle right of voters today is to put up or shut up.

Winkler correctly points out that "Resolving these issues may require a reconceptualization of the right to vote and of the nature of party associational rights similar in spirit and ambition to that of reformers at the turn of the last century."

Spirit and ambition, Reconceptualization not a recapitulation. Before proceeding further it would be best to download and study Winkler's paper.

Citation: Winkler, Adam, "Voters' Rights and Parties' Wrongs: Early Political Party Regulation in the State Courts, 1886-1915" . Columbia Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 3, April 2000 Available at SSRN:

Monday, July 23, 2007

An Honest Vote Count

Entry for July 24, 2007

Even supposing that voter's have an opportunity to choose freely among all willing candidates, it means nothing unless there is an honest ballot count. The present system of voting is unreliable, insecure and unacceptable. We can do better.

Just as access to the ballot has been suppressed by centralized administration, the opportunities for rigging the count have also been centralized by political administrators of the ruling coalition. Legal immunities and centralized counting minimize the counting from public scrutiny. The ultimate shield for abuse is the proprietary voting counting machine. Much recent controversy involves the idea of a voter verified record as a check on electronic voting and vote counting computers. The controversy indicates how flimsy the public trust is of the current system and in the traditional claims of legitimacy by the official regime.

The best solutions are often the simplest. A jury of voters to physically count physical ballots after the polls close in each precinct. The jury vote count would involve twelve persons chosen from among the voters in each precinct on election day. The jury would be compensated and independent. The counting in each precinct would be subject to documentation by video with each ballot imaged and the record retained for twenty years and freely available as a public record.

With this check in place at the ballot box level, it would be acceptable to electronically process the tally from the precincts using open source software which is open to public inspection at any time. The tally records from each precinct and the centralized count would be posted on the internet by both precinct jury counters and the centralized administrators.

This procedure would allow transparent verification of the results by any and all interested persons.

Once all disputes, if any, have been resolved the paper ballots would be recycled for the next election. The manufacture and printing of official paper ballots should also be re-privatized. The form or layout of the ballot would be regulated and the specification would be an open standard such that anyone could produce their own (unmarked) ballot and cast it. Voter may wish to cast their ballots in such a way that no fingerprints or DNA material would tie them to the ballot. One simple method to accomplish this is simply to allow voters to exchange blank ballots among themselves before casting their vote.

This example just came in today.

Next before the voting begins....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Candidate Access to the Ballot as a Voter's Right

Entry for July 22, 2007

Dissatisfaction with the American system of elections is pervasive. Which previous reforms have brought us to this crisis? Is reform possible, and, if so, which reforms are really needed?

Americans, by tradition, are wedded to plurality, winner-take-all elections. Alternatives are available, but their adoption does not seem likely any time soon.

Here I focus on possible reforms within the context of the American democratic tradition and the distortion of that tradition by Progressive era reforms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These reforms culminated in the campaign finance reform legislation mania of the 1970s and still wreaking havoc.

The first issue to address is the progressive concept of the secret or anonymous ballot. I support the secret/anonymous ballot as an essential element in securing voter privacy. What I criticize is the misuse of the secret ballot to centralize control of elections. This centralized control entrenched two parties into a coalition to control all electoral access and thwart accountability to the voters. This strategy of centralization of the two party coalition led directly to further entrenchment by prohibitions on funding political campaigns outside of their regulatory monopoly.

The whole progressive scheme has been an agenda to channel with carefully engineered dikes and levies all political activity into two parallel channels. This mindset is consistently indoctrinated into the minds of the public by political elites.

It would not have endured for a century without the active support of those who have profited most. Political faces come and go and are expendable, the process seems immortal. But it isn't. To challenge this 'system' is one of the most dangerous of political heresies. It is more dangerous than advocating the assassination of a political leader; such people are easily and readily replaced. Challenging the sanctity of the electoral system undermines all traditional claims for governing authority. Challenging the electoral system is but one step removed from the advocacy of either anarchy or primitive dictatorship. If democracy has become a fraud, then it is merely a trapping for dictatorship. Democracy cannot be a cover for anarchy.

The secret/anonymous ballot does not require centralized control of the administration of elections. A ballot cast anonymously by an individual is a discrete event. Such balloting has been done for centuries in various ways. The secret ballot does not require massive regulatory administration which serves to limit free voter choice by restricting which citizens can be candidates for representation and which cannot. The clear aim for the last century has been voting by everyone on carefully controlled options.

Restrictions on candidacy are restrictions on voters. The first reform needed is to remove all non-constitutional restrictions on candidacy. The only constitutional restrictions are citizenship and age, and for the Presidency native birth. There are no other constitutional restrictions. Therefore, all restrictions like petitioning for permission are illegitimate. Universal suffrage means universal eligibility for candidacy. This concept is so simple that it is revolutionary by comparison with current practice. Many civil libertarians have difficulty of grasping the obvious logic. So much time is spent negotiating "reasonable" restrictions.

The difficulty with this "reasonable" approach is that the negotiations must be carried on within the terms of the Progressive centralization mindset. The jurists who serve as guardians of this mindset are typically beholden to the two-party coalition. They cannot be independent and impartial except at great personal cost.

The solution to this bottle-neck is direct public challenge by voters themselves. For example, in some states it is possible for voters to remove judges from the bench by voting for "non-retention". The judges must be placed in a position of being on the side of voter's choice or party entrenchment. Either way there must be political consequences for their decisions.

It is not illegitimate for voters to seek to mitigate the centralized control of the ballot by seeking easier ballot access for candidates as independents or new parties. If one wishes to bear the unjust costs of such tactics, one can do so. I think such efforts are less fruitful and inherently discriminatory than a direct challenge by a principle of equal justice of all voters and candidates. Given the opportunity to vote for reduction in restrictions to candidate access to the ballot I will do so, of course. But it does not undermine my opposition to such restrictions anymore than accepting a tax refund undermines my opposition to the tax system.

More reforms, such as honest vote counting, will be discussed in the future.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

No Judicial Barons

A pattern seems to be emerging from recent court decisions - it's not only Oklahoma. The 2008 election means big trouble for candidates of the entrenched parties at the federal level and maybe deeper. The judges are ruling on cases to keep insurgent parties and independent candidates off the ballot in 2008. The Supreme Court signals it will back up these decisions. Look at the details on Richard Winger's Ballot Access News for just the last few months.

Perhaps before the 2008 General Election a coalition will emerge to reject all state judges up for retention who have demonstrated a zest for ballot access suppression. Oklahoma is only the worst of the worst. It getting worse all over. Expect more case law in the next few months to suppress defections from the entrenched parties. It would be interesting and gratifying to see a dozen or so judges lose their jobs in 2008. It would certainly pack more political punch than a "third party" or independent presidential candidate getting a few million votes no matter which way it tips the electoral college - if at all.

What might the fall out be? A flurry of constitutional amendments from state legislatures to remove judges from the reach of the voters probably. And more law journal articles about how crappy American election law is. Can the entrenched establishment get away with election nullification? When a ruling class becomes really desperate, their actions can provoke revolution. The ruling coalition starts to break ranks and run for cover and another "evil empire" bites the dust. Maybe...

Overall, 87% of state court judges face the voters either through direct or retention election, according to the National Center for State Courts ( However, the most common way to gain a seat on the bench is through a midterm appointment – more than half of all state judges initially take the bench this way. Currently, there are six methods or combinations of methods for selecting judges for both appellate and general jurisdiction courts:
• Sixteen states use some form of merit selection through a nominating commission;
• Six states use gubernatorial or legislative appointment without a nominating commission;
• Eight states have partisan elections;
• Thirteen states have nonpartisan elections;
• Nine states – including Missouri – combine merit selection with elections for different levels of court and jurisdictions; and
• Nine states using elections have merit plans only to fill
mid-term vacancies on some or all levels of their courts.

These people aren't barons. They are parolees serving to protect the rights of citizens. If they fail to show 'good behavior', their paroles should be revoked and they can go back to being just lawyers.

I think an evaluation of the rulings of sitting judges and justices on issues of electoral equity could produce a 'ten most unwanted list' for rejection at the polls. Initially three nominees for 'most unwanted' are three Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2008 - Colbert, Lavender and Watt. It shouldn't be too hard in the next 12 months to find seven more in the country.