Tuesday, September 19, 2006
By a 5-3 vote on Monday night, the City Council of Palo Alto, CA adopted the Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR). Palo Alto joins Arcata, CA as the second city to declare that current election conditions ensure inconclusive results, and:
Whereas inconclusive results, by definition, mean that the true outcome of an election cannot be known, there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from such elections;Inconclusive outcomes and no basis for confidence are two of the three main points emphasized in the Guide To The Voter Confidence Resolution. The VCR is a template to be customized in each community. The Guide's third main point is that the legitimacy, or "just Power" of government, derives exclusively from the Consent of the Governed. This concept stems from the Declaration of Independence. The template and Arcata's language include this provision:
When elections are conducted under conditions that prevent conclusive outcomes, the Consent of the Governed is not being sought. Absent this self-evident source of legitimacy, such Consent is not to be assumed or taken for granted.In Palo Alto, the VCR has been championed through the public process by Shauna Wilson, Chairperson of the Human Relations Commission. Through all the revisions that led to Monday night, the above clause was left intact. However, in a compromise that apparently became necessary to win a majority Council vote, this final part of the statement was dropped.
Since the very first time I ever wrote about the concept for this resolution, on April 3, 2004, I have always emphasized as a matter of strategy that we must shatter the assumption of our Consent and create an ongoing impact that becomes cumulative through the question: Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET? Think of this as a frame of inevitability - it is not a matter of IF the Consent has been withdrawn but rather a matter of WHEN.
No doubt the Consent of the Governed has not been considered by anyone to be withdrawn based on Arcata's adoption of the VCR on July 20, 2005. The point being that many such statements must be adopted to generate the cumulative impact that makes the point inevitably true. Of course, withdrawing Consent (and complicity) can be demonstrated in myriad other ways and we should not consider it a loss or lesser victory for Palo Alto to come on board minus this element of the resolution. In a phone conversation with Wilson shortly after the Council's historic Monday night vote, she said:
"The City of Palo Alto voted in support of all voters having an opportunity to realize their vote could count and would be counted."In addition to the removal of this Consent section, the Council also axed two of the nine submitted items in the election reform platform. These objections were benign. One had called for "Re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act before Congress as H.R. 9," which has already occurred. The other item called for support of Clean Money laws, and an earlier agenda item had already put the Council on record with this item. So, though I haven't seen the "official" version adopted by Palo Alto, the version shown below is an unofficial representation based on the submitted agenda item and known revisions.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Council's meeting, I was contacted by Brent Turner, founder of the San Mateo Election Integrity League and volunteer for the Open Voting Consortium. Turner had attended the meeting and wrote to share the good news. According to Turner, "We support this resolution as an obvious step in the proper direction." Turner spoke on the record before the Council, urging them to continue to show leadership in the future. Turner reports that Palo Alto Mayor Judy Kleinberg was in the majority that approved the resolution. The three dissenting Councilmembers' objections, according to Turner, were on jurisdictional grounds. This sounds similar to Arcata's Mayor Michael Machi who typically declines to join in statements that go beyond city limits.
I will be attempting to make contact today with more official sources in Palo Alto and ideally will be able to promote this excellent development with a press release later today or perhaps tomorrow.
Whereas a properly functioning election system should produce substantial agreement about the results indicated by a fixed set of unchanging records; and
Whereas recent elections have been conducted under conditions that have not produced substantial agreement about the outcome; and
Whereas future elections cannot possibly produce substantial agreement as long as any condition permits an inconclusive count or re-count of votes; and
Whereas inconclusive counts and re-counts have occurred during recent elections due in part to electronic voting devices that do not produce a paper record of votes to be re-counted if necessary; and
Whereas the lack of open source software in electronic voting devices restricts public verification of vote accuracy; and
Whereas the Secretary of State has the power to interpret, and implement state and federal elections laws, and set the standards for everything from the processing of voter registrations to the conduct of official recounts; and
Whereas when the Secretary of State is also a principal player in the re-election campaign under his or her jurisdiction, confidence in the Secretary of State’s impartiality is questionable; and
Whereas in the absence of federal or even state standards for voter roll purges, and number of voting machines and poll workers per registered voter, the United States has many municipalities with as many possible standards; and
Whereas exit polls have been used to verify the authenticity and integrity of elections all over the world, and yet exit polls in some recent elections in the United States indicated a landslide victory for the candidate that tallied votes registered as the losing candidate; and
Whereas inconclusive results make it impossible to measure the will of the people in their preferences for representation; and
Whereas the money necessary to run campaigns for state and federal elected offices often requires extensive fund raising and encourages the influence of special interest groups and wealthy donors, while limiting candidate’s ability to interact directly with the public; and
Whereas the Declaration of Independence refers to the Consent of the Governed as the self-evident truth from which Government derives "Just Power"; and
Whereas inconclusive results, by definition, mean that the true outcome of an election cannot be known, there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from such elections;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
The following is a comprehensive election reform platform likely to ensure conclusive election results and create a basis for confidence in U.S. federal, State and local elections:
1) A voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast and additional uniform standards determined by a non-partisan nationally recognized commission, andIn passing this resolution, the City Clerk of the City of Palo Alto, California will follow the above guidelines, where possible, to protect, and ensure voter confidence. This resolution will be sent to California State and Federal legislators, the California Secretary of State, and the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
2) Voting processes owned and operated entirely in the public domain, and
3) A requirement that the top elected official responsible for overseeing elections in each jurisdiction not serve in any capacity in any political campaign over which he or she has jurisdiction, and
4) Consistent national standards for security, including physical and electronic security of election systems, including tallying systems, and
5) Uniform and inclusive voter registration standards and accurate and transparent voting roll purges, based on fair and consistent national standards, and
6) Consistent national standards for the number of voting machines and poll workers per 100 voters in each precinct, to ensure reasonable and uniform waiting times for all voters, and
7) Counting all votes publicly and locally in the presence of citizen witnesses and credentialed members of the media, and