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Abe Lincoln on Corporate Corruption

What Lincoln Foresaw:
Corporations Being “Enthroned” After the Civil War
and Re-Writing the Laws Defining Their Existence

by Rick Crawford, crawford@cs.ucdavis.edu

Here is a sobering quote by Abe Lincoln:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

—U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia: The Spoken and Written Words of A. Lincoln
Arranged for Ready Reference, Archer H. Shaw (NY, NY: Macmillan, 1950)

Some people expressed doubts about its authenticity, given Lincoln’s work as an attorney for railroad corporations! It was an interesting job tracking it down and verifying its authenticity.
The first ref I heard for this quote was Jack London’s 1908 Iron Heel. And although the quote indeed appears there (near p. 100), Jack London offered neither context nor source.
More recently, David Korten’s book, When Corporations Rule the World (1995, Kumarian Press), sources the quote to Harvey Wasserman (America Born and Reborn, Macmillan, 1983, p. 89-90, 313), who in turn sources it to Paha Sapa Reports, the newspaper of the Black Hills Alliance, Rapid City, South Dakota, 4 March 1982. But given Wasserman’s ties to Howard Zinn, and his status as co-founder (?) of the Liberation News Service, citing that kind of trail is like waving ared flag for the skeptics 😉
Fortunately, after some burrowing in the university library, I was able to confirm its authenticity. Here it is, with more surrounding context:

“We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end.
It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . .
It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes
me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war,
corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places
will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong
its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth
is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety
of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.
God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

The passage appears in a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.
For a reliable pedigree, cite p. 40 of The Lincoln Encyclopedia: The Spoken and Written Words of A. Lincoln Arranged for Ready Reference, by Archer H. Shaw (NY, NY: Macmillan, 1950). That traces the quote’s lineage to p. 954 of Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait, (Vol. 2) by Emanuel Hertz (New York: Horace Liveright Inc, 1931).
Based on about 3 hours of research, it appears Lincoln has been extensivelySANITIZED FOR OUR PROTECTIONThe Hidden Lincoln; from the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon, by Emanuel Hertz (New York: Viking Press, 1938), details how Herndon (Lincoln’s lifelong law partner) collected an extensive oral history and aggregated much of Lincoln’s writings into a collection that served as the basis for many “authoritative” books on Lincoln.
By all accounts, Herndon was scrupulously honest and plainspoken. Hertz quotes Herndon’s characterization of the various “big-name” authors who relied on his collection for primary source materials:

“They are aiming, first, to do a superb piece of literary work; second, to make the story WITH THE CLASSES AS AGAINST THE MASSES. [my emphasis added] It will result in delineating the real Lincoln about as well as does a wax figure in the museum.”

In several books, I found numerous places where Lincoln spoke about Capital and Labor (“Workingmen”). Lincoln re-used his own material frequently, and virtually identical passages appear in several places. Lincoln praises the moral rightness ofboth Capital and Labor, but this is invariably in the context of a nation where NO MORE THAN ONE MAN IN EIGHT is a Capitalist or a Laborer, ie, where 7/8 of the population are “self-employed” on their own farms and homesteads.
This social context of general self-sufficiency would explain how Lincoln could serve for years as a railroad corporation lawyer with (apparently) no qualms, yet pen the “corporations enthroned” passage to Elkins.
A final Lincoln tidbit, although it pertains to one very specific case:

“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.”

speech to Illinois legislature, Jan. 1837.
See Vol. 1, p. 24 of Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln,
ed. by Nicolay and Hay (New York: F.D. Tandy Co., 1905)

It’s Time for Citizens to Take Control of Our Democracy

alg_turmoil_polls

 

North Carolina doesn’t want you to vote if you live in a college dormitory in that state. They don’t want you to vote if you don’t have a special state identification card. There is a provision in state law that polling places can serve a maximum of 1500 voters, but in Boone, where college students nearly caused the parish to go for Barak Obama, you must now travel out of your way to the one polling place left, which serves over 9,000 voters. With only 45 parking spaces the parking lot will need to fill and empty every 6 or 7 minutes to accommodate everyone.  Of course, accommodating all the voters is the last thing this Republican controlled local voting board has in mind.

Throughout the South and in other conservative stronghold around the country the story is pretty much the same.  Since the United States Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act an ideologically obstinate Republican Party, which is in demographic  decline, is responding to growing pluralism and power sharing by rejecting democratic majority rule in favor of vote manipulation and dirty tricks.  In one voting precinct in Texas, changes to the distribution of voting machines would have predominately African-American polling places handle ten times the number of voters as predominately White polling places.  In every Republican controlled state the voting districts have been redrawn to make it nearly impossible for them to lose their incumbency.  And all these changes are not random developments but elements of a nationwide plot to project conservative power and suppress opposing or alternative social views.

Admitting  that there is a problem with our democratic process is difficult enough. Fixing it will be even harder. Elections are the province of state governments, each with unique constitutions, chapter laws and administrative policies. In a previous post [http://wp.me/p2WIGz-7B ] I reported on the results of a survey I conducted of the constitutional voting rights articulated in every state constitution. The results were disturbing.  Most of the rights we think we have are not supported in the language of most state constitutions and no state constitution has adequately defined voting rights.

Voting is, of course, the cornerstone of democracy.  It is the means by which political power is aggregated and distributed within a democratic society. Each vote is a transfer of power collected by the chosen candidate.  The integrity of the voting process is therefore critical to a democratic society. It is too precious to entrust in partisan hands. The administration of the election process should be pre-partisan, outside of total government control.  It should be directly under citizen control.

Our present system of election relies on election administrators appointed by the party in power.  In most states that means the State Secretary of State. Keeping in mind that most states don’t have constitutionally secure voting rights, the legislatures have significant control over election procedures and the Secretary of States have great leeway over how these laws are implemented. Among the strange consequences this has cause is the turning over of elections to private voting companies. Most or our votes are cast and counted by private companies using electronic machines run on proprietary software. The voting companies are accountable to no one. We citizens didn’t ask for this and there was no discussion about this prior to hiring these private firms to collect and count our votes.  Since these companies have taken over the election process we have had some of the most unusual and controversial elections in modern times.  I have written extensively on this subject in the past (see below).

How should we protect our voting rights? By electing non-partisan, independent citizen boards to run our elections.  All voting policies and procedures should be approved through public referendum developed by these citizen Boards of Election.  Citizens on these boards should have no party affiliations and should not hold any public office.  These citizen boards should be responsible  for everything from drawing congressional districts, maintaining voter registrations preparing ballots, assigning polling places, etc. right down to training poll workers and monitoring elections. Any significant changes in voting policy should have to be put to a public vote.  If private companies are to be hired to count our votes, it is the voters who should decide whether or not to use them.  In my view, there should be nothing involving the franchise that isn’t itself subject to direct citizen approval.

The candidate who collects the most votes wins the consent to govern. In the bargain, the candidate in a representative democracy is expected to represent everyone, even those opposed to him or her.  In exchange, all the people consent to be governed by majority rule even if there candidate didn’t win. Representatives should do what is right for the greatest good even if it isn’t what is popular at the moment or aligned with the interests of those who supported the candidate.  Of course, this is the ideal, not the practice.  But today, the basic bargain that makes a Republic work has broken down. Elected representatives are narrowly pursuing the interests of their political donors and party constituents almost exclusively. The Republican minority in the Senate no longer accepts majority rule, using filibusters to forcing super-majorities on nearly every vote. With this same disregard they are making it harder for citizens who don’t agree with them to vote in public elections. Governments and powerful interests have broken faith with democracy.  It’s time for ordinary citizens to take back control over the democratic voting process.

MY BLOGLIOGROPHY ON VOTING ISSUES

The sorry state of voting rights in America, a 50 state comparison
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/sorry-states-of-voting-rights-in.html

How voter ID laws might block you from voting
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/seven-ways-voter-id-could-block-you.html

Republicans have a 5% election fraud handicap built into the voting system
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/08/republicans-have-5-election-fraud.html

Many state are unprepared for a fair and free election
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/many-states-unprepared-for-fair-and.html

Outsourcing or privatized voting process overseas
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/outsourcing-our-privatized-voting.html

Voting rights denied to a record number of “felons”
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/voting-rights-denied-for-record-numbers.html

Ireland Scraps Electronic Voting Machines for Good
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/06/ireland-scraps-electronic-voting.html

Secret flawed voting software discovered and exposed
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/06/ireland-scraps-electronic-voting.html

Does voter suppression have a new target in Florida (Latino’s)
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/05/does-voter-suppression-have-new-target.html

To know your Voting Rights you must know your state constitution
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/voting-know-your-rights-know-your-state.html

Can a convicted, or formerly convicted felon vote? Lots of confusion
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/04/can-convicted-felon-vote-major.html

Colorado sues for voting privacy, but do we have that right
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/colorado-group-sues-for-vote-privacy.html

A private company has the first peek at election results
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/company-wprivate-access-to-vote-totals.html

Voter suppression in America to get a hearing at the United Nations
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/voter-suppression-in-america-to-get.html

Caucus voting flubs highlight election system flaws
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/caucus-voting-flubs-highlight-our.html

South Carolina out sources vote count to Spain
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/01/south-carolina-outsources-vote-count-to.html

A voters “Bill of Rights”
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2011/10/voters-bill-of-rights.html

America’s Social Contract And The Measure of Our Commitment

(Note: contains some material from prior posts)

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

A key element in America’s social contract is the idea that government derives its authority from the consent of the people. So the question should occasional be asked, is our mutual consent to be governed wearing thin? There is evidence to suggest a growing restiveness in certain populations. Some symptoms of declining consent include gridlock in congress marked by an inability to pass any legislation on a simple majority vote, the resurgence in states’ rights activism, calls in some states for secession, citizens arming themselves in fear (or perhaps the  hope) of armed resistance and wide spread efforts to manipulate elections.  Perhaps the best, most quantitative way to judge the degree to which we  consent (or commitment) to self-government is by our willingness to pay taxes.

The attitudes we have towards paying taxes, and the extent to which people and organizations will go to avoid them, is an underappreciated index of our consent to be governed. Just as taxation without representation was a rallying cry leading up to the Revolutionary War, the Tea Party and many other popular reform or resistance groups today rally around taxes as a central point of contention. Objectively speaking, the Tea Party’s opposition to taxes makes no sense since their complaint corresponded with the lowest federal tax rate since the Eisenhower administration. It isn’t until we understand that our attitude towards taxes is a barometer of our consent to be governed that the Tea Party’s tax objections become clear.

For the sake of discussion it is helpful to identify different segments of the population that are particularly opposed to taxes. But keep in mind that our personal attitude towards paying taxes is just as valid an indicator of where each of us falls on this measure of consent.

Let’s begin with those who see themselves through the lens of American individualism. They value self-reliance and see this as a patriotic duty. They tend to think less of those who are more collaborative, more dependent or less successful. They tend to discount the contribution of the public commons to their own welfare and don’t often recognize how massively interdependent advanced societies really are. They believe that less government is best for everyone. These folks are less willing to contribute to tax supported government services other than for military defense. They are ideological individualist. This group may include some libertarians and on the extreme fringes may also include some anarchists or survivalists.

There are those who are suspicious or uncomfortable with American pluralism. These folks tend to live in parts of the country where there is little diversity or just a single predominate minority group.  However, folks who hold this belief can be found everywhere. They believe a disproportionate amount of their taxes go to support other ethnic or cultural groups whose members don’t share their same values or work ethic. They may fear that these other groups are taking advantage of government largess. As a result, they are more resentful of paying taxes and more critical of what they see as wasteful government spending. These folks are pluralism-adverse and at the extreme fringes  this group may include racists or hate groups. A highly nationalistic subset of this pluralism-adverse group believe their government has already broken faith with them and is threatening their liberty. For them, paying taxes is akin to paying tribute to a foreign potentate. The most extreme of these consider themselves to be soverign citizens.

There are some religious fundamentalists who believe all secular government is evil. Some fundamentalist sects focus on The Book of Revelations and an apocalyptic view of the world in which governments plays a role in the rise of the false prophet. For these groups anything that expands government is evil as well, including increased taxes. They are usually considered to be on the fringe of the Christian community, but they have an impact beyond their numbers.

Then there are those who believe taxes compete or interfere with commerce and free markets. They believe that taxes reduce the capital available for businesses investments. They fear that more taxes will lead to more government regulations and further hinder commerce. They don’t see government spending as simulative for the economy. For them, the provision of government services to those who aren’t successful contributors is an unfair redistribution of wealth. Members of this group are more likely to have higher incomes and a sense of entitlement. They may pride themselves in their ability to avoid paying taxes. At the extreme fringes of this group members tend to see society as being made up of the have and the have nots, the makers and the takers. They are often contemptuous of taxes and government.

Next, there are the disaffected and those too self-absorbed to care much about government. For this group all taxes are an annoyance to be avoided.  This is a large and diverse group that is often underrepresented in our national conversations. They include many who are poor, but also many who are middle class folks working hard just to make ends meet. They tend to be swing voters when they vote and their grasp of politics and government policies are more maliable. The underground cash economy is significant for them.

The impact of this growing reluctance by some citizens to pay income taxes is huge. According to a GAO report called  “HIGH-RISK SERIES, An Update”, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that the gross tax gap–the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid on time–was $450 billion for tax year 2006. The IRS estimated that it would collect $65 billion from these taxpayers through enforcement actions and late payments, leaving a net tax gap of $385 billion. This doesn’t include the loss of tax revenue due to the underground cash economy and foreign US cash transactions. These  create an additional tax gap estimated to be between $400 billion and $540 billion annually. There is also the tax gap created when wealthy investors hide their money in off shore tax havens. According to a study by the Tax Justice Network  the world’s super rich have at least $21 trillion secretly hidden away in tax shelters as of 2010. This is equivalent to the size of the Japanese and United States economies combined, according to The Price of Offshore Revisited report. Further, the amount of secretly hidden wealth may be as high as $32 trillion.

Arguably the most tax resistant groups, which also have the greatest fiscal and political impact, are businesses and corporations. The largest loss of tax revenue, representing the lowest level of consent to be governed, comes from the corporate sector. The shift in the percentage of total federal income taxes paid by individuals verses businesses has grown substantially over the years. Individual income taxes raised 41% of the total tax revenue in 1943 while business income taxes made up the rest, or more than half of the income tax receipts. Compare this with today where 79% of total revenues comes from individual income taxes. This shift in tax receipts from corporations to individuals cannot be explained by a shift away from C corporations (who pay the corporate income tax) to S corporations (who don’t). According to the financial site NerdWallet, the 10 most profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of just 9 percent  in 2011. The group includes such giants as Exxon Mobil, Apple, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase and General Electric. The Economist recently posted a graphic by the Bureau of Economic Analysis that depicts the decline in corporate taxes juxtaposed to the rise in corporate profits.

The inability of the federal government to collect taxes from the nation’s elite and its biggest corporations is a serious sign of trouble. It signals a real strain in our social contract and severly limits the ability of the government to serve its people. The problem is compounded by the fact that anti-tax sentiments are being exploited by wealthy business interests to ferment dissatisfaction and distrust of our government. A coalition of the most anti-tax, anti government constituents from the various tax adverse segments of society described above would look very similar to the Tea Party base of today’s Republican Party. The power we invest in civil government is the only check we have to balance the power of the largest corporations to do as they wish in pursuit of profits. It would be a mistake to weaken our commitment to good government now when it is under assault.

There are still many who believe taxes are the price we must pay for a just and robust society. Paying taxes is our civic duty and evidence of our commitment to one another. It reflects confidence that our government is representing us and upholding the social contract. The present IRS scandal over the targeting of Tea Party groups for selective scrutiny of their 503(c)4 tax status is really a minor but convenient distraction from the real tax crisis we face. We are facing a crisis of confidence in self-government. It is a challenge of our time to rekindle a popular passion for civil government that is truly of, by and for the people.

Voting Rights, a State by State Analysis

What voting rights do you have in your state? 

This is an uncommon question.  We mostly assume that voting rights are contained somewhere in the US Constitution, but this isn’t true.  What the Federal Constitution does say, in several different amendments, is that states cannot use race, religion, gender or the age of anyone 18 years old or older as a means to disqualify a US citizen from voting.  The actual right of suffrage, or the “franchise” as the election process is sometimes called, isn’t a federal right at all. Elections and the voting process are the purview of each sovereign state.

There is a table below which lists the basic voting rights spelled out in our state constitutions.  You will see how voting rights differ significantly from one state to the next.  Before reviewing the table, however, it is important to acknowledge that most states honor a host of voting “rights” and privileges beyond what is articulated in the constitutions. These unarticulated voting rights are often expression in state chapter laws or in the states voting procedures.  

Many of us have come to view voting rights as “unalienable”, but they are not.   Unlike explicit constitutional language, laws passed by legislatures and voting procedures established by the state executive branches of government can be changed or reinterpreted in novel ways. When elections run smoothly no questions are raised.  But should something ever go unexpectedly wrong we need explicit state constitutional protections to redress our grievances. A discussion of each basic voting right contained in the table below will follows, along with a table that summarizes how common these rights are in America. 

 

Basic Voting Right Articulated in State Constitutions

 

RIGHT TO HAVE EVERY VOTE COUNTED –  The first voting right listed on the table above is the right to have every vote counted. California is the only state that has this protection in their constitution. This right may seem obvious or unnecessary at first,  but there are documented instances where absentee ballots have gone missing and uncounted.  One example took place back in 2008 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when garbage bags believed to contain missing ballots were impounded by police but not opened because it was unclear if the missing ballots had to be counted.  This right, then, isn’t about hanging chads or undecipherable ballots, but about the obvious expectation that ballots properly cast are ballots properly counted, even if doing so doesn’t change who won. 

GENERAL RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE –  Many state constitutions have high sounding language about how all power is derived by the people, but only 9 state go on to guarantee the right of suffrage.  Suffrage, according to Wikipedia, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process, It is the political franchise, or simply the franchise, which is distinct from mere voting rights. A  right of suffrage forecloses the possibility of a state one day declaring a state of emergency and suspending elections.  This is a seemingly remote possibility, but not so remote that 9 states have included this protection in their constitution. 

RIGHT TO FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS – “In any State the authority of the government can only derive from the will of the people as expressed in genuine, free and fair elections held at regular intervals on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage.”  So said the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 154th session in Paris26 March, 1994.  Here in the US, the State Department was actually very helpful in sharing their view on Free and Fair Elections with nations whose democracies are less advance than our own.  They provide the following guidelines:   

Free and fair elections require:

— Universal suffrage for all eligible men and women to vote – democracies do not restrict this right from minorities, the disabled, or give it only to those who are literate or who own property

— Freedom to register as a voter or run for public office.

— Freedom of speech for candidates and political parties – democracies do not restrict candidates or political parties from criticizing the performance of the incumbent.
— Numerous opportunities for the electorate to receive objective information from a free press.
— Freedom to assemble for political rallies and campaigns.
— Rules that require party representatives to maintain a distance from polling places on election day – election officials, volunteer poll workers, and international monitors may assist voters with the voting process but not the voting choice.
— An impartial or balanced system of conducting elections and verifying election results – trained election officials must either be politically independent or those overseeing elections should be representative of the parties in the election.
— Accessible polling places, private voting space, secure ballot boxes, and transparent ballot counting.
— Secret ballots – voting by secret ballot ensures that an individual’s choice of party or candidate cannot be used against him or her.
— Legal prohibitions against election fraud – enforceable laws must exist to prevent vote tampering (e.g. double counting, ghost voting).
— Recount and contestation procedures – legal mechanisms and processes to review election processes must be established to ensure that elections were conducted properly.

 

Many of our soverign states could learn a lot from what the State Department has been preaching abroad. Only 44% of Americans can claim Free and Fair Elections as a constitutional protection in their state. It is ironic that the government Website from which the above information comes contains the following disclaimer: 

NOTE: The America.gov website is no longer being updated.

 

RIGHT TO VOTE BY BALLOT – There are many ways to vote if you think about it.  You can have a show of hands.  You can call for the yeas and nays and judge the outcome by the volume of shouts.  You can even draw straws.  Ballots, on the other hands are unique to each voter, often secret and never shared by more than one voter. They are usually pre-printed paper, but increasing voting is by electronic ballot.  This is a pre-programmed selection on an electronic device.  Hopefully the results aren’t also pre-programmed (see Blackboxvoting.org for much more on this scary thought)  Originally, voting was conducted using black or white balls, black being no and white being yes.  The voter would pick up the ball of his choice and drop it into a container (or ball lot?).  An important point about ballots is that they can be secret, unlike other methods.  Voting by ballot is a protection found in 26 of 50 state constitutions.

RIGHT TO SECRET VOTING –  The secrecy of our vote is among our most cherished rights, except it isn’t a right at all for more than 146 million American citizens, or at least it isn’t a constitutional right.  Secret voting is essential to assure that how we vote can never be used against us, yet only 21 states have explicit constitutional language to guarantee secrecy in voting.  Several other states guarantee the right to vote in private, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?

 

RIGHT TO PUBLIC VOTE COUNTING – Stalin has been credited with saying, “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything”.  This speaks volumes for both the right to have our vote counted and the necessity to have all vote counting conducted in public view.  This is especially true when ballots are cast is secret or when they are electronically invisible.  Public vote counting is even more important as we rely more and more on private corporations to count our electronic ballots.  They claim that the software they use to count or votes is so proprietary that even state election officials are not allowed to peek.  Coupled with a trend among election officials to view with suspicion any voter who wants to observe the process, it is shocking that only 3 states constitutionally protect this essential right.

FREQUENCY OF ELECTIONS –  It is one thing to guarantee that the government will hold elections and another thing to actually schedule them.  Ask anyone from a parliamentary democracy about this and how it can be manipulated to benefit incumbents.  Perhaps more to the point there should be a performance standard by which to judge whether we have a right to suffrage.  That standard for 15 states is some clear constitutional language about when, or how often elections are to be held.  While 100% of Americans know when to expect their elections, only 30% of them have this guarantee in writing. 

 

PRIVILEGE FROM ARREST AND EXCEPTIONS –  Imagine yourself heading out to perform your civic duty on election day.  You show up to vote and notice a police presence out front.  Maybe you have some outstanding parking tickets or a warrant for not paying child support.  Maybe you missed a municipal court date on some trivial matter.  Do you walk past the police and risk arrest, or do you give up your vote to right out of fear of being arrested?  This is the predicament that a privilege from arrest is designed to resolve.  Unless your crimes are so felonious or treasonous, or unless you cause a public disturbance at the polling site, a  privilege from arrest while going to, coming from or being at the polling place is constitutionally

guaranteed in 21 states.  It should be all 50 states because this scenario is all too common.  We should not see a police presence at or near the polling places.  We are all presumed innocent unless actually convicted of an offense.  No law enforcement authority should prevent anyone from exercising their right to vote.  The absence of this constitutional privilege can have a disproportional impact on minorities and the poor, yet only a third of our citizens are covered by this protection. 

 

RIGHT TO ACCESSIBLE POLLING PLACES –  “… polling places shall be easily accessible to all persons including disabled and elderly persons who are otherwise qualified to vote,” says the New Hampshire State Constitution.   Is this right necessary?  After all, don’t we have the Americans with Disabilities Act?  Yes we do, but does the Americans with Disabilities Act strictly apply?  It’s an open question.  More broadly, do we have a right to expect adequate polling places and voting machines in every community without undo commutation hardships or excessively long lines?  We could do better.  Only New Hampshire has this provision but something more broadly stated would be a good idea for every state constitution.

 Here now is a summary of findings regarding state constitutional voter rights:

   

VOTING RIGHTS ARTICULATED IN US STATE CONSTITUTIONS

Number of States With This Right

Percent of US Population WithThis Right

GENERAL VOTING RIGHTS

1

9.7%

Right to Have Every Vote Counted

9

10.5%

General Right of Suffrage

21

44.0%

Right to Free and Fair Election

26

55.3%

Right to voting by ballot

21

46.7%

Right to secret vote

3

5.6%

Right to Public Vote Counting

15

32.6%

Frequency of Elections Right

21

36.5%

Privilege from Arrest during voting

21

36.5%

Privilege from Arrest Exceptions

2

1.6%

Right to accessible polling place

 

 

 

Number of States With This Right

Percent of US Population WithThis Right

QUALIFICATIONS and EXCEPTIONS

49

99.6%

Must be A US Citizen

46

91.2%

Must be Registered to vote

20

27.6%

State’s Deployed Solders Can Vote

37

83.9%

Felony Exception

12

15.5%

Treason Exception

13

30.9%

Incarceration Exception

33

69.5%

Mental Capacity Exception

2

0.5%

Moral Conduct or other Exception

23

34.0%

Restoration from Exception

10

17.6%

No quartered solders

2

1.8%

Right to Appeal Voter Ineligibility

 

 

Can a Convicted Felon Vote? And other voting oddities…

Voting rights in America are mostly defined by state constitutions, not our federal Constitution.  A look at all 50 state constitutions finds considerable variation from state to state as to which voting rights are actually protected by explicit constitutional language. All state constitutions include some language which specifies which individuals can and cannot vote.  For example, 49 states say you must be a citizen to vote and 46 states require citizens to be registered before voting. On the other hand, only 20 states constitutionally guarantee that their residents in US military service retain a right to vote in their state when deployed elsewhere.  The other 30 states may well have statues that grant this privilege to solders, but the right isn’t locked into their state constitutions.  Below is a table which shows how common various voter qualification and disqualifications are in the state constitutions.  The article is just another example of how confused we American’s are when it comes to our voting rights.

Number of States WithThis Right
Percent of US Population With ThisRight
QUALIFICATIONS and EXCEPTIONS
49
99.6%
Must be A US Citizen
46
91.2%
Must be Registered to vote
20
27.6%
State’s Deployed Solders Can Vote
37
83.9%
Felony Exception
12
15.5%
Treason Exception
13
30.9%
Incarceration Exception
33
69.5%
Mental Capacity Exception
2
0.5%
Moral Conduct or other Exception
23
34.0%
Restoration from Exception
10
17.6%
No quartered solders
2
1.8%
Right to Appeal Voter Ineligibility
The greatest variation among state constitutions involves voter disqualifications.  Thirty-seven states don’t allow felons to vote and twelve states also include treason as a voter disqualification, but there are differences in how broadly or narrowly these exceptions are defined.  In Alabama, for example, the Constitution states that a person cannot vote if they have been convicted of a felony “involving moral turpitude.”  Next door In Mississippi, a person who, “has never been convicted of murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy” may vote.  Some state simply state felons can vote and leave it to the legislature to define what this means.  Other states constitutions give their legislature the right to define voter disqualifications, such as in Ohio’s state constitution, which states, “The General Assembly shall have power to exclude
from the privilege of voting, or of being eligible to office, any person convicted of a felony.”
In thirteen states the loss of voting rights for felons extends only while they are incarcerated or on parole.  Another twenty-three states have some language regarding the reinstatement of voting to felons (or those found to be mentally incompetent).  In some cases the restoration process is simple, or unspecified while in other state the bar is very high.  In Massachusetts a convicted felon cannot vote only while incarcerated while in Louisiana the voting rights of a convicted felon can only be restored by a Governor’s a pardon.
There is a great deal of confusion about voting rights because our national dialog tends to gloss over the differences between states.  This confusion apparently  even carries over to discussions of voter rights within a state, as the article below demonstrates.
The author’s intent is to clear up misconceptions about Indiana’s voting rights for those with felony convictions.  In doing so the article actually reinforces some common misconceptions.  In discussing a felon’s right to vote the author implies that the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution somehow apply.  The US Constitution is actually silent on this category of voter disqualification. The US Constitution doesn’t apply here.  Secondly, the article doesn’t make clear  what the Indiana Constitution actually says, which is, “The General Assembly shall have power to deprive of the right of suffrage, and to render ineligible, any person convicted of an infamous crime.”  Instead, readers are told that, “Indiana law restores a person’s right to vote after he or she is no longer incarcerated.”  This may be so, but this isn’t a state constitutional guarantee.  The people of Indianarely on the beneficence of their legislature in granting that privilege.  Nevertheless, the article below reflects the widespread misconceptions about our voting rights.  At some point America should address the larger question of why anyone not actually under state control in a prison should be denied a right to vote.

Felons’ voting rights restored
http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120406/EDIT05/304069992/1021/edit
Gilbert Holmes

Recently, I took it upon myself to conduct an unscientific poll.

I’ve asked colleagues, political activists and friends whether a Hoosier convicted of a felony can vote.

Most said no, and others were uncertain.

That tells me that it’s likely that the majority of Hoosiers are under the impression that if you’ve committed a felony, when it comes to voting it’s one strike and you’re out.

That mistaken impression has led to thousands of disenfranchised voters in Indiana who think that because they’ve been incarcerated, they can no longer take advantage of the voting rights guaranteed them by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

This de facto voter disenfranchisement ripples across generations and communities, creating entire classes of people who don’t exercise their right to vote.

Indiana law restores a person’s right to vote after he or she is no longer incarcerated.

One reason it’s so common to think that former felons are permanently barred from voting is that 35 states have stricter voting restrictions than Indiana for felons, and in 13 of those states, a felon can permanently lose the right to vote.

But in Indiana, the loss of suffrage applies only during the actual time of incarceration.

Why should you care? People who vote are more likely to volunteer, give to charities and attend school board meetings.

Former felons who vote are less likely to be rearrested, because voting helps people connect and become part of something positive.

The disproportionate number of blacks affected by voter disenfranchisement, more than 1.5 million across the nation, is an even more stunning number when you consider that one in every 15 black men age 18 and older is incarcerated, and the zero-tolerance policies in our schools have created a pipeline straight to prison for many black teenage dropouts in our communities.

When such a large portion of the community is locked in the criminal justice system, you can be sure their interests are not represented either at the polls or in the halls of power.

If you’re a felon, and you’re no longer incarcerated, you have the right to vote.

If you’re on probation, or on parole, you have the right to vote. If you’re placed in a community corrections program, or subject to home detention, under Indiana

law, you still have the right to vote. Voting is a constitutional right, and it’s one all Hoosiers should be proud to exercise.

Gilbert Holmes is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. He wrote this for Indiananewspapers.

Outsourcing Our Privatized Voting Process Overseas

 

DATA DRIVEN VIEWPOINT: We need to wake up and take back our voting processes.  Voting has to be taken out of the control of government and political parties.  This is insane.

Bev Harris, Blackboxvoting.com

NEW CERTIFICATIONS, PLANNED EXPANSION: Black Box Voting has been investigating and reporting on this disconcerting trend for nine years now. Everything we’ve been reporting has not only turned out to be true, but is increasing. A press release today about the planned expansion of Unisyn into more USA locations renews attention on foreign ownership of corporations selling voting systems into the United States. Unisyn is owned by a Malaysian gambling outfit.

Another major elections industry player, Canada’s Dominion, purchased the massive Diebold Election Systems division (which it shares with ES&S); Dominion also owns Smartmatic, which handles electronic vote-counting in the Philippines and Belgium.

Military voting is now handled in several states by Barcelona, Spain-owned Scytl. In January 2012, Scytl acquired the largest election results reporting firm, SOE Software. Accenture, now based in Dublin Ireland (formerly headquartered in tax-haven Bermuda), claims copyright over the massive electronic voter registration/voter history databases used in several states, including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Colorado, Wisconsin and Arkansas.

Accenture purchased its voter registration unit from Election.com, a Saudi-owned company based in the Cayman Islands. Because a computer will only do what it’s programmers and administrators tell it to do, whoever issues the commands gains ultimate control over how it receives, counts, and reports votes, voter registrations, and voter histories. UNISYN: According to Barry Herron (formerly of Diebold Election Systems), now Director of Sales for Unisyn, “Unisyn and our business partners are actively supporting installations in the States of Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi, and Virginia. We intend to expand into other states in late 2012 and early 2013.” Unisyn also recently made inroads into Puerto Rico.

Another Unisyn election product called “Inkavote” is used in 4 million-voter Los Angeles County (Calif) and in Jackson County Missouri. IS THERE A PROBLEM WITH FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF USA ELECTION SOFTWARE? Not if you don’t mind some unknown guys working offshore controlling whatever they choose to in the software processing votes and voters.

For more on Malaysian, Chinese, Canadian, Spanish, Saudi, Cayman, Irish ownership of USA election software, see full Black Box Voting article with supporting documents and links: http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/8/82176.html  * * * * We APPRECIATE the wonderful support many of you have been providing over the years! It is the sole reason we still exist. Permission to reprint or excerpt granted, with link to http://www.blackboxvoting.org

Voter Suppression Humor: NJ-ACLU Cartoon Contest Winner

I was the winner of the NJ ACLU’s 2012 cartoon contest to come up with the best caption or punch line for a cartoon drawn by syndicated cartoonist, Drew Sheneman.  Below is my winning entry.  Thanks to NJ ACLU and Mr. Shenemen for the opportunity to participate in this fun.

South Carolina Outsources Vote Count to Spain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3_xFb1sWKU

DATA DRIVEN VIEWPOINT – Most Americans still don’t understand that we have allowed politicians to privatized our democracy.  We rely on private corporations to electronically collect and count our votes.  We allow a few malleable electrons, representing the most important transfer of power in a democracy, to be bounced around the globe where private companies secretly decode them and beamed back to our television set the aggregate vote totals that tell us who won.  No one else on Earth can corroborate these votes totals or the resulting transfers of political power. Is this how  we protect democracy in America?  Is this how we should exerciser our right to vote?
This story is about how the vote counting process was conducted in South Carolina during the recent Republican Primary, but it is worth reading because it provides valuable insight into the potential vulnerabilities of democracy’s most fundamental component – Voting.
(SC) 1/12 – 100% OF SOUTH CAROLINA VOTES GO THROUGH SCYTL

By Bev Harris
The genius of democracy is dispersed public control.

As we saw in Iowa when alert public citizens captured evidence of the actual vote count BEFORE it was reported by a centralized state committee, the state Republican Party and the news media initially claimed victory for the wrong winner. They only corrected this mis-call two weeks later, buying the favored candidate half a month of fund raising prowess and prestige.

In South Carolina, 100% of election results will be redirected through a private Barcelona, Spain-owned company, Scytl/SOE Software, before being reported to the public.

There is only one way to immediately find out whether Scytl/SOE reported the right results*, and that is for members of the public to capture evidence of reported precinct results when polls close tonight. Think of it as a giant neighborhood watch.

Precinct results should be posted at each polling site. In addition, during poll closing the public has a right to be in the polling place watching and videotaping what goes on.

Here is a four-minute video showing exactly what to do:

By the way, the results will be published here:
http://www.enr-scvotes.org/SC/36831/63425/en/select-county.html

Compare photos of what you capture at polling places to the results reported at the above link.

For computer buffs, there’s another thing you can do. (The above steps are easy and can be done by anyone.) But for tech buffs, you can download multiple times during the evening, and there are even Web snapshot tools to expedite this. It is not uncommon to see results change or disappear midstream.

In Broward County FL, the results reported by Scytl-owned SOE Software in 2008 showed an entire candidate, who was winning, disappear into vapor in the middle of the count, and in Hillsborough County FL and Dallas County TX, votes that had been reported began to disappear.

The way to see this is to download “time slices” — snapshots at various points in time, and compare them. More information for those of you who like technical stuff is available in the Black Box Voting Tool Kit – http://www.blackboxvoting.org/toolkit.pdf

Follow Black Box Voting for further developments.

* Well, you have to put an asterisk alongside “the right results” because in South Carolinia you get a two-fer. Results could be incorrect at either end of the pipeline — from the ES&S iVotronic paperless touchscreen voting machines, which have a history of incorrect totals, or from the private results reporting firm Scytl/SOE Software, which has centralized control over what gets reported. More


And As For IOWA…

(USA) 1/12 – THE TRAGIC TALE OF EDWARD TRUE AND JAMES FALSE -Permission to excerpt granted, with link to http://www.blackboxvoting.org
By Bev Harris

The actual Iowa winner may “never be known”, and one of the “dead” voters in New Hampshire has now shown up — alive.

It matters, and it’s called journalistic malpractice. TV networks announced that Romney won Iowa, and newspapers pronounced his 1-2 “wins” as “historic.” Candidates dropped out, donors dried up or rushed to send cash to the reported “winner”.

Now we are being told that the Iowa results “don’t matter.” They matter, regardless of any rent-an-expert who shows up in the press. Misreported results manipulated the candidate field from which the rest of America can choose.

The Des Moines Register is now reporting an even greater malfeasance: that the final, certified Iowa result may “never be known.” There were several typos, they say. Some precincts will never be reported, they claim.

That we got a heads up at all about bogus media results was due to an alert Iowa citizen, Edward True, who captured evidence of the 20-vote misreport in his Appanoose County precinct. That people like Edward True were stationed all over Iowa capturing results before they hit the state Republican Committee tabulation was due to Black Box Voting, where the need to do this was explained, and to radio hosts and sites like Bradblog and Facebook, where the word went out.

Mainstream media then began its next act of theatre: They started spinning the false result that THEY THEMSELVES announced as — instead of their own foolishness — “making Iowa look foolish”.

But if we’re looking for truth, here’s what we will find: The mistakes saw light of day because the Iowa caucus was conducted in open public meeting allowing citizens to watch ballots as they were hand counted.

At least it WAS an open system, until the Republican State Committee pitched the bizarre idea that some precincts might never be reported in the final certified result, and the media failed to bay like bloodhounds tracking the truth.

But there is some good news in this: It’s great that public citizens are starting to understand their role in the “neighborhood watch” component of election integrity.

AND NOW FOR JAMES FALSE, OF THE ANTONYM ORGANIZATION “PROJECT VERITAS”

In New Hampshire, media hammertime revolved around James O’Keefe and his “Project Veritas”, who reported that dead people were allowed to vote, “proving” it by sending people around the state to impersonate the dead. He’s basically getting fat grants from fat cats who don’t want so many (real, live) people to vote. He admits to receiving $50,000 for the New Hampshire piece. They are busy manufacturing evidence to manipulate public opinion in favor of voter ID legislation.

Problem is, another alert citizen — who they were reporting as dead — called them on their malfeasance. Robert William Beaulieu is on the video as a successfully impersonated dead voter. Embarrasingly for Project Veritas, Robert William Beaulieu is very much alive.

It seems that Project Falsum Project Veritas did not even bother to check birthdates to match names to dead persons. They mistook a 23-year old for an 80-year old.

Now, we recently saw an article coming out of South Carolina alleging that 900 dead persons voted, and that should immediately call into question how the match was made. By name only? Name and birthdate? Or Social Security number?

Matching by name only doesn’t pass the sniff test, and it turns out that matching by name and birthdate is trickier than you might think. I found 130 people named Mary Williams in a Shelby County (TN) database. Two had the same birthdate. In fact, any time you have a common name, with 100 or more instances, you will find the same birthdate as often as 1 in 3 sets. In a statewide database like South Carolina, it would not be surprising to see 900 name/birthdate matches.

The only way to do a match is with Social Security number, and this is not available to public interest groups.