Sunday :: Jun 4, 2006

Election and Voting Reform


by eriposte

Farhad Manjoo at Salon.com has a takedown of Robert Kennedy Jr.'s Rolling Stone piece on Election 2004. Manjoo argues, in some cases compellingly, that Kennedy's article is flawed but he makes the mistake of giving the Ohio GOP an "incompetence" defense for the vote suppression they carried out. Vote suppression has been part of the Republican Party's ideological make-up for a long time and one really needs to overlook history to ignore that. [Malcolm at Daily Kos has a partial response to Manjoo's article]. Unfortunately, I don't have time to do a detailed analysis of all these articles but let me say this.

In late 2004 and early 2005 I was tracking stories on vote fraud and vote suppression in much more detail at Vote Watch 2004 - so some of Kennedy's claims are not new to me. Here's what I conclude based on my understanding of the data:

  • I don't know enough about polling methodologies and statistics to make an independent judgement on the implications of the 2004 exit polls. Perhaps they are indicative of vote fraud, but perhaps they are not. I simply don't know enough to say for myself. In fact, you can go take a look at Mystery Pollster's observations (from Nov 2004) and Prof. Steven Freeman's response right here since that probably best sums up the possible interpretations of the exit polls [and this other post has Mystery Pollster's FAQ on Exit Polls].
  • There is no doubt that vote suppression (of Democratic votes) occurred to a significant degree in Ohio in 2004. What remains is the question of whether that was sufficient to flip Ohio to the Kerry column. I think that the amount of suppression was large enough to warrant the possibility that Kerry may have won Ohio in 2004. That said, since I have made a point of saying that Gore won the popular vote in 2000, I would be quite mindful of sounding hypocritical about using a possible Kerry win in Ohio in 2004 as a point of serious argument.

That said, I would like to change the terms of the debate from whether "Election 2004 was Stolen" to what we can do about the unbelievably screwed up electoral system and voting laws in the United States. We are in 2006 and the latter is far more important now than the former. The latter depends on the progressive blogosphere, progressive readers and progressive interest groups to drive voting reform. Voting reform is not going to happen otherwise. We cannot trust the Republican party to do what is right on voting and we cannot trust the Democratic Party to right the wrongs on their own. They have neither shown the will, nor have they demonstrated they have learnt the lessons of the past.

So what can we do? I suggest you start by reading this post by Chris Bowers at MyDD. Additionally, I suggest bookmarking and reading The Brad Blog - one of the few progressive blogs that has championed the cause of voting reform in the U.S.

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