Dems Must Use Successful Midterm as Opportunity to Improve Elections, not Reason to Stop Fighting

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS

The dust has settled and it is time to step back and look at voting irregularities across the nation. Unlike their counterparts, Democrats have long championed electoral reform, especially after the Florida debacle in 2000 that cost America its duly elected president. Now that Democrats have secured a decisive victory and control Congress without dispute, they should fight even more aggressively to improve elections since they can no longer be dismissed as merely sore losers.

We did not see a catastrophic meltdown last Tuesday as some feared, but there were clearly a plethora of serious problems. Many irregularities stemmed from faulty equipment. For example, about 18,000 touch-screen votes in one county were not recorded for the contest over Katherine Harris’ old House seat, which was decided by a razor-thin margin. Some New Jersey machines began pre-selected for a candidate and responded erratically when changed.

We also know that registration issues turned many people away. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) were the two most infamous cases of such troubles, and even Chelsea Clinton was told that her name was not on the rolls. If these three high profile voters had problems, there were surely countless more whose stories are not being reported.

Additionally, there was also blatant voter intimidation. Virginians in Democratic areas were told over the phone they would be “charged criminally” if they showed up to vote, while other voters were subjected to far worse:

“In Arizona, Roy Warden — an anti-immigration activist with the Minutemen — and a handful of supporters staked out a precinct in the city of South Tucson and questioned Latino voters as they entered the polls to determine if they spoke English.

“Armed with a 9mm Glock automatic strapped to his side, Warden said he planned to photograph as many Latino voters entering polls at as many as 20 precincts in an effort to identify illegal immigrants and felons.”

A quick browse around the internet or a recollection of Tuesday afternoon news reports reveal many other significant issues, such as voters waiting several hours in line. It will be easy for the new Democratic Congress to forget about all of this since they won, but there is still substantial urgency. Given the amount of time it takes elections officials to act, it is not too soon to start thinking about 2008, when the White House will be at stake and the hacks at Diebold will have even more reason and opportunity to rig the outcome.

There is simply no institution in a democracy more vital than the election process. As we saw this week, the people can stand up against a corrupt government and instigate solutions to nearly any problem. With such a long way to go before truly free and fair elections, Democrats should not mistake the 2006 midterms as a reason to cease electoral reform but rather an opportunity to finally begin it effectively.

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS

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