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By Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity   
April 25, 2006
Following right on the icountcoalition’s Lobby Days for HR 550 , New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt’s election integrity bill, VoteTrustUSA held its national strategy workshop for election activists. Representatives of election integrity groups from all across the country met at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. April 7-9 to trade ideas and get advice from people who have been fighting this fight for years.

Carole Simmons and I represented Iowans for Voting Integrity. We heard more valuable ideas for promoting election reform than I can enumerate here. Among the most important and practical:

(1)The most obvious— be a pollworker or a pollwatcher. See the Poll Monitors’ and Poll Workers’ Guide to Electronic Voting for ideas on what to observe. In Iowa ballot counting is public, so you don’t need to be either a pollworker or pollwatcher to observe the counting of the votes. Show up where the votes are being counted and record events. Be very alert to what you see, but be polite and respectful to election workers. Some election activists have developed remarkably productive relationships with local and state officials by simply being nice and knowledgeable. Challenge what you think is wrong, but you are not there to say “gotcha.”


(2)Write yourself a pithy, 30-second speechon the election integrity issue. Be ready to go into detail, but be able to make your point quicky. Example: “In this country, we have several companies running our elections on behalf of our governments. You wouldn’t believe how secretive these companies are and what little power any level of government has to regulate them.” Plenty of people can do better than that example speech, but it gives you an idea.


(3)Watchdog your county election system. John Washburn, a software tester and election activist in Wisconsin, describes four things you can do about voting integrity in your county:

*Show up at the offices of the county commissioner for the L&A testing of the software. No need to help— just show up and record the proceedings.
*Examine the purchase documents to confirm the system your election administrator is buying or has taken delivery on is actually state-approved.
*If the state-approved system has conditional use requirements (e.g. security protocols), ask your election administrator for documentation the conditions of use are being met.
*Show up at the precinct canvassing of votes and or the county-wide tabulation. Again, no need to help just show up and record the proceedings.
These are the most specific and local actions an election integrity advocate can undertake. We still need state and federal laws requiring truly independent testing of voting equipment, voter-verified paper ballots, random hand audits, and fully disclosed vote-counting software. But nothing does more for our cause than the close observation of elections and election equipment in your own area. After all, it is a mountain of specific and local examples of hackable voting machines, careless procedures, and other oddities that is moving election reform ever closer to the country’s front burner.


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