Sunday, January 08, 2006

Is Michigan Next?

I just got back from the talk by Bob Fitrakis (links), sponsored by Washtenaw County Democracy For America, and hosted by Mary Shindell.  The talk was entitled: Is Michigan Next?: Ohio Election Fraud and the Diebold Debacle.  Mr. Fitrakis gave an overview of the evidence that the Presidential election was tainted by election fraud in Ohio, in 2004.  

I did not take notes, being rather new at the activism stuff, so I apologize that I can't name everyone else who spoke.  After Mr. Fitrakis spoke, we heard from several concerned citizens who filled us in on the voting rights situation in Michigan. Jan BenDor spoke at length about this, and was very informative.  The good news is that Michigan does not have some of the same bizarre election laws that Ohio does, thus it is more difficult to perpetrate election fraud here. 

I don't mean to imply that Michigan voters should be complacent.   Legislation has been proposed that would strengthen voter protection in Michigan.  Senator Liz Brater is leading the charge in Lansing, having proposed SB 0005, SB 0006, SB 0144, and SB 0145.   However, she has run into some serious opposition: the legislative committee (Committee on Government Operations) that is responsible, will not sign off on it.  Therefore, there is little chance of it getting an up or down vote; this is an ominous sign.  

Voter protection is not a partisan issue.  It was mentioned, at the event tonight, that many persons from both the Democratic and Republican parties support election reform.  Yet, in Michigan, it is Senate committee members from only one party that are impeding the reform legislation.  So far, I have not been able to come up with a good explanation for that.  I am tempted to conclude that it is not a good sign.  Fortunately, there are groups ready to respond by mounting a petition drive, in the event that the reforms are buried in committee.  One such group is the Women Progressive Activists.  They handed out a flyer describing their proposal for changes to Michigan election law.  A PDF version (163KB) is available here.  I encourage all Michigan citizens to go read it.  Consider signing their petitions, too.

(For the sake of clarity, I should add that election reform legislation has been proposed not only in Michigan, but also on a federal level (S 450/ HR 939).  The US Senate bill was introduced by Hillary Clinton; the House bill, by Stephanie Jones.)

Ann Arbor City Clerk (and Register of Deeds) Larry Kestenbaum chimed in with some clarifications about Michigan voting law.  He mentioned that in Michigan, a voter's criminal record is irrelevant.  Apparently, one tactic for voter suppression is for unscrupulous groups to misinform those who have been indicted or convicted of crimes, telling them that they cannot vote, or that they will be arrested if they try to vote.  That is not the case.  

Bob Alexander got up and spoke about some changes that he would like to see in how the Michigan Democratic Party chooses the candidates that will get financial support for their campaigns.  His impression is that too much money goes to those who will almost certainly win anyway; not enough to those who could mount a credible challenge but who face an uphill battle.

Ron Suarez spoke a bit, and emphasized the need for people to make use of social technology such as video blogging and Upcoming.org to maximize the effect of their efforts.  He added that it is still a good idea to talk to people face-to-face, too.  

Overall, it was a good event, in that it was well attended, and there was a lot of lively discussion.  Not everyone who wanted to speak got enough time.  That is unfortunate, in a way, but it is good to see that there are people out there who have something to say.   And like I said before, I did not take notes, so I apologize to those who spoke, whom I did not mention by name.  

Links pertaining to Bob Fritakis:
  1. http://www.bobforohio.com/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Fitrakis
  3. http://www.freepress.org/index2.php