Top down, or bottom up?

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The following is a letter from David Van Os to one of his core supporters following last week's SDEC meeting, where the existence of a campaign/GOTV budget of $400,000 for the 2006 cycle was discussed by finance chair Dennis Speight, prompting questions from several SDEC members.

I asked DVO for permission to reprint it here. I removed only the name of the party to whom it was addressed in order to preserve that person's confidentiality.

I would be interested in BORers' thoughts regarding the ideas advanced here.

The statement that the $400,000 raised by Boyd Richie was “for the statewide candidates” is a falsehood. Whoever told you that lied to you. I am not trying to fight with you, ______. I am informing you that someone lied to you. I have my supposition as to who that someone was — let's just say the individual is probably one of the SDEC standing committee chairs and part of Boyd Richie's leadership team.

This lie about the $400,000 is one of the party lines they have come up with to try to deflect the grassroots anger over the state party's nonsupport of the statewide ticket. The money was used to support the races of the reportedly 17 state rep candidates who were selected by the TTLA, HDCC, and/or the Trust, i.e., the consultantocracy of Ed Martin, Russ Tidwell, and Matt Angle. The statewide candidates' names, with no message information, were perfunctorily added to “vote straight Democratic” fliers in those districts to give the lip service it was felt would be needed to deflect the anger.

The other party line the insiders are using as a deflection tactic is, “there just wasn't enough money to give any to the statewide candidates.” It's not about the party giving money to candidates! It is about the party promoting an environment of support and confidence about the candidates and their messages through its public and press communications. In politics, money follows excitement and hope. It wasn't the TDP's job to give money itself to the statewide or any other candidates. (Though it no doubt did so to some of the favored 17.) But it was the state party's job to build an atmosphere of excitement and hope to motivate potential donors. Some who read this will try to insult my intelligence — and the intelligence of the fellow statewide candidates to whom I am cc'ing this email — by claiming the TDP did use its communications abilities to promote the statewide candidates. My fellow statewide candidates and I say that it consciously and deliberately did not seriously do so. I will publicly debate this point, with evidence, anytime and anywhere the insiders want to do so. Ideally, it should be debated in front of the SDEC at the next quarterly meeting. So to anybody who's ready to challenge me publicly and in person — I'm ready; let's get it on.

I am not talking about promoting just Chris Bell for governor. I am talking about promoting the whole ticket, all the statewide candidates. They were all selected by Democratic voters in the Democratic Primaries. No party officer or staffer has the prerogative to decide that any Democrat nominated by Democratic voters in the Democratic Primary is not worthy of his/her candidacy and message being promoted by the party with vigor and confidence.

Every election the inside consultants and staffers decide which Democratic nominees are worthy of support and which aren't. The party then promotes press coverage and donor interest for those who are selected and tells the others, you're on your own. The process is the most closely guarded ugly little secret in Texas politics.

And what happens? Year after year, good Democrats who offered themselves up for the intense level of activism involved in running for office see that their participation wasn't wanted, so they go away instead of staying around to contribute what they learned in their campaigns to the party's store of knowledge and experience. Likewise, their networks of supporters and volunteers, discouraged at the way the party treated their candidates, go away and don't come back.

And so the downward spiral of non-inclusion goes on and on, and eventually Texas Democrats find themselves unable to defeat an incumbent Republican governor who can't top 40% when a large number of should-be Democratic voters record their accumulated frustration over insider politics by voting for independent candidates.

The issue that arose toward the end of the January 8 SDEC meeting is at the heart of the matter. The Texas Democratic Insiders Consultant Money Party is going to fight tooth and nail to try to beat the pending motion to put the TDP's general election GOTV campaign strategy and budget in the hands of the SDEC. If the SDEC takes control of the process on behalf of the Texas Democratic Party of the People, the favored consultants won't be able to deliver the goods — favored targeting — to their principals. If the SDEC takes control, the big money special interests — such as the mega-trial lawyers — won't be able to control the party's political expenditures. And — heaven forbid! — we might end up with grassroots-directed general election campaign strategies that actually make a whole lot more people who don't have special interests in the process but just want to take our state back feel included and get involved. Then statewide Democratic tickets might actually carry the whole state!


David Van Os
Fight 'em on the ice.

About Author


  1. I had such hope for many on the ticket.
    I had blockwalked and many Republicans were unenthusiastic about their candidates or said outright that they were not going to vote for them.  When the elections results came in, I honestly thought that there had been manipulation or fraud.

    After reading this letter, I thought about the support I observed.  County parties were there, but I never felt a state party presence. 

    One example, Judge Bill Moody was clearly more qualified, and was endorsed by most of the major cities' newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle.  We couldn't get a candidate like that elected??  I'm still learning about Texas politics, but even I know that's pathetic.

  2. Who exactly is the “favored” consultant?
    I've been involved with the SDEC for over a year and I know everyone at the TDP. I even toured the TDP headquarters in search of a secret back room filled with cigar smoke, evil trial lawyers and puppet masters. I just saw a bunch of underpaid young Democrats trying to make a difference in Texas. The “pending motion” David Van Os refers to concerns the operating budget – what we need to keep us going. If I understand correctly, that money is not dedicated to any campaign fund. The TDP hasn't raised any campaign money to my knowledge. The focus of any successful state Party is on staff, communications/marketing, the convention and yes, the Executive Committee meetings. In a Presidential election year, we will need marketing collateral like signs and bumper stickers for the national ticket. But please, correct me if I'm wrong, and tell me what state has run a coordinated campaign for its candidates. The Republicans, with all of their money, haven't even done that.

  3. Party of the People?
    Much respect and love for my friends at TDP, who work hard and do an excellent job…

    However, it would be naive to deny that some “prioritizing” does occur among party officers and certain consultants close to them.  Is this such a bad thing? I certainly hope that we continue to give our officers the discretion to give due attention to candidates like Juan Garcia, as opposed to any random fruitcake who pays a filing fee (Rhett Smith, anyone?)

    That being said, I have heard plenty of criticism of TDP's direction and decisions under Chairman Richie, including from a county chair in a major urban area.  With all respect to Mr. Van Os and the frustrations he surely experienced, there IS accountability in this process.  Our next state convention is not far off, and the person elected or re-elected as Party Chair will have wide discretion over the future direction of the TDP offices.

    • I remember that line.
      It's surprising that no one yet has asked him, “well, how's that working out for you?”  He's run three times now — it boggles my mind that he's still willing to say that.  Seems like such a bright guy; you'd think he'd learn.

      My take on the letter is up on The Texas Blue.

  4. top down…..
    I have known David Van Os for over 20 years,since he was a lawyer at AFL-CIO and I was Oscar Mauzy's briefing attorney. I admire his fighting spirit and ideals. The anger he feels toward the Democratic Party leadership, consultants, and chairman Boyd Ritchie is misplaced.
      As a fighter on the ground in Dallas during last November's election,I can tell you the state parties assistance was extremely helpful to the outstanding local effort turning out the straight ticket
    Democratic vote that was instrumental in sweeping in every countywide Democratic candidate. I understand they provided similiar help to Houston and other areas. These Democratic votes were part of the vote total of all our statewides as we targeted increasing straight ticket votes and suceeded. Texas Democrats picked up 5 (and nearly more) House seats. It was our best showing in years. Leadership does not deserve all the credit, but they certianly deserve their fair share for organizing, modernizing,and putting the party back in the black.
    David got 39.89% in a supreme court race in 98; 40.76% in a run for the court in 04 and 37.21 in his run for AG.
    The downtick in David's numbers is disconcerting but is more likely due to his
    “fight`em on the ice” message failing to resonate with moderate voters.
      Our failure to capture statewide office cannot realistically be laid at the feet of the hardcharging volunteers and staff of our underfunded overworked state party; none of which were in place when we lost control.(Not that it would be fair to place all blame on those who were)
    Our best state-wide showing was for Bill Moody at 44.81. It is not credible to say a change in party strategy, given the limited financial resources they control, would have moved the needle sufficiently to push any of our statewides over the top. Conversly it certainly could have cost us some of our victories.
    I am also a member of TTLA. Most of the money we trial lawyers give in elections is not given through TTLA's PAC. It is given by individual trial lawyers who personally believe in the candidate's vision and chances without seeking clearance from anyone. All the money the party gets from trial lawyers comes from individual members. The trial lawyers I am close to do not seek to control the party ,rather we support it because we believe in its principles.
    Democratic sweeps reversing years of Republican domination in Dallas and Hays County as well as our % gains in Harris, Bexar and elsewhere are extremely encouraging.
    As with any race or election; there are things we can all learn from and do better next time. I know Boyd Ritchie and everyone in the state offices is breaking down the data from 06 to determine what worked and what didn't. I encourage David and all of us to take a critical look at what we personally did in the campaign to see what worked and what did not. Lets share that information on these blogs and continue moving forward. 

  5. VanOS
    This was my first time to really get involved with my party. I once thought voting was all I was responsible for. However, 2000 brought a change of heart. In 2006 I became a precinct chair and attended the Convention. I was devastated by the experience. I know in my head politics is corrupt but my heart was not ready to accept it. People said they wanted a change not just the same old thing we had been dealing with. However, when it came time to vote there were a lot of people voting for Richie simply because it is what they were told to do. Others voted for Richie because their arms were twisted and they were promised that Richie would bring money to our areas. Some were allowed to vote who didn't even bother to make the drive. Those who were doing the arm twisting were allowed to count the votes. I resigned my chair position, I quit going to the meetings of our groups. I continued to support those I believed were best for the positions for which they were vying. Democrats are no different from Republicans when power is involved, they will lie, cheat, steal, and trample all over you to get what they want. I was a lot more impressed with David VanOs and his ability to be honest and forthright than I was with Boyd Richie. I did a lot of research on the candidates for State party chair and found Richie wanting. Others did no research at all; this way of voting is what has left us with the leadership in the Whitehouse. I have no doubt that only the favored received money from the TDP.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective
      I don't doubt there are many who had the same reaction.

      I hope, however, you'll reconsider getting active with the party in some way.  Nothing changes without a lot of concerted effort, and we need to have as many talented, dedicated people working with us as we can.

      • ProveOurDemocracy on

        boadicea, what remedy to arm twisting/bullying in the future?
        This sounds just like the tactics described in “Conservatives Without Conscience” by John Dean about the authoritarian personality capacity to bully because they have nothing else to offer.

        And, on our team.

        What Remedies for next time so that we welcome new and protect all our Democratic activists. We want the force of ideas to win…not force itself.

        A contest of ideas, a contest of remedies?

  6. ProveOurDemocracy on

    Top Down–Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy which is incompatible with democracy
    via Digby:
    The Aristocrats

    What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

    Philip E. Agre
    August 2004

    Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

    Q: What is conservatism?
    A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

    Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
    A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

    These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves “conservatives” have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

    //1 The Main Arguments of Conservatism
    From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

    The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

    The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy. In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

    Conservatism in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions of conservatism today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today is sufficiently democratic that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice.

    Before analyzing current-day conservatism's machinery of deception, let us outline the main arguments of conservatism. Although these arguments have changed little through history, they might seem unfamiliar to many people today, indeed even to people who claim to be conservatives. That unfamiliarity is a very recent phenomenon. Yet it is only through the classical arguments and their fallacies that we can begin to analyze how conservatism operates now.

    1. Institutions

    According to the first type of argument, found for example in Burke, social institutions are a kind of capital. A properly ordered society will be blessed with large quantities of this capital. This capital has very particular properties. It is a sprawling tangle of social arrangements and patterns of thought, passed down through generations as part of the culture. It is generally tacit in nature and cannot be rationally analyzed. It is fragile and must be conserved, because a society that lacks it will collapse into anarchy and tyranny. Innovation is bad, therefore, and prejudice is good. Although the institutions can tolerate incremental reforms around the edges, systematic questioning is a threat to social order. In particular, rational thought is evil. Nothing can be worse for the conservative than rational thought, because people who think rationally might decide to try replacing inherited institutions with new ones, something that a conservative regards as impossible. This is where the word “conservative” comes from: the supposed importance of conserving established institutions.


    After all, the conservative order had gone to insane lengths to deprive them of the education, practical experience, and patterns of thought that would be required to operate a democracy. They could not invent those things overnight.

    Even so, the argument about conserving institutions is mostly untrue. Most institutions are less fragile and more dynamic than conservatives claim. Large amounts of institutional innovation happen in every generation. If people lack a rational analysis of institutions, that is mostly a product of conservatism rather than an argument for it. And although conservatism has historically claimed to conserve institutions, history makes clear that conservatism is only interested in conserving particular kinds of institutions: the institutions that reinforce conservative power. Conservatism rarely tries to conserve institutions such as Social Security and welfare that decrease the common people's dependency on the aristocracy and the social authorities that serve it. To the contrary, they represent those institutions in various twisted ways as dangerous to to the social order generally or to their beneficiaries in particular.

    2. Hierarchy

    The opposite of conservatism is democracy, and contempt for democracy is a constant thread in the history of conservative argument. Instead, conservatism has argued that society ought to be organized in a hierarchy of orders and classes and controlled by its uppermost hierarchical stratum, the aristocracy. Many of these arguments against egalitarianism are ancient, and most of them are routinely heard on the radio. One tends to hear the arguments in bits and pieces, for example the emphatic if vague claim that people are different. Of course, most of these arguments, if considered rationally, actually argue for meritocracy rather than for aristocracy. Meritocracy is a democratic principle. George Bush, however, was apparently scarred for life by having been one of the last students admitted to Yale under its old aristocratic admissions system, and having to attend classes with students admitted under the meritocratic system who considered themselves to be smarter than him. Although he has lately claimed to oppose the system of legacy admissions from which he benefitted, that is a tactic, part of a package deal to eliminate affirmative action, thereby allowing conservative social hierarchies to be reaffirmed in other ways.


    The issue is both narrow and enormous: no aristocracy should be allowed to trick the rest of society into deferring to it.


    The real discovery is that democracy is a particular kind of social organization of knowledge — a sprawling landscape of overlapping knowledge spheres and a creative tension on any given issue between the experts and the laity. It is not a hierarchical divide between the knowledge-authorities in the professions and a deferential citizenry; instead it democratizes the skills of knowledge-making among a citizenry that is plugged together in ways that increasingly resemble the institutional and cognitive structures of the professions. This generalized application of entrepreneurial skills in the context of a knowledge-intensive society — and not simply the multiplication of associations that so impressed Tocqueville — is civil society. The tremendous fashion for civil society as a necessary complement and counterbalance to the state in a democracy, as launched in the 1980's by people like John Keane, has been one of the most hopeful aspects of recent democratic culture. Indeed, one measure of the success of the discourse of civil society has been that conservatism has felt the need to destroy it by means of distorted theories of “civil society” that place the populace under the tutelage of the aristocracy and the cultural authorities that serve it.


    This work emphasizes knowledge and the very general social conditions that are required to produce and use it. Simply put, knowledge is best produced in a liberal culture. This is why the most prosperous and innovative regions of the United States are also the most politically liberal, and why the most conservative regions of the country are also the greatest beneficiaries of transfer payments. Liberals create wealth and government redistributes it to conservatives. This is, of course, the opposite of the received conservative opinion in the media, and indeed in most of academia. But it is true.


    Lastly, an important innovation of democracy during the sixties was the rights revolution. Rights are democratic because they are limits to arbitrary authority, and people who believe they have rights cannot be subjected to conservatism. Conservative rhetors have attacked the rights revolution in numerous ways as a kind of demotic chatter that contradicts the eternal wisdom of the conservative order. For conservatism, not accepting one's settled place in the traditional hierarchy of orders and classes is a kind of arrogance, and conservative vocabulary is full of phrases such as “self-important”. Institutions, for conservatism, are more important than people. For democracy, by contrast, things are more complicated. The rights revolution is hardly perfect. But the main difficulty with it is just that it is not enough. A society is not founded on rights alone. Democracy requires that people learn and practice a range of nontrivial social skills. But then people are not likely to learn or practice those skills so long as they have internalized a conservative psychology of deference. The rights revolution breaks this cycle. For the civil rights movement, for example, learning to read was not simply a means of registering to vote, but was also a means of liberation from the psychology of conservatism. Democratic institutions, as opposed to the inherited mysteries of conservative institutions, are made of the everyday exercise of advanced social skills by people who are liberated in this sense.

    //5 How to Defeat Conservatism

    Conservatism is almost gone. People no longer worship the pharaohs. If the gentry were among us today we would have no notion of what they were talking about. For thousands of years, countless people have worked for the values of democracy in ways large and small. The industrialized vituperations of conservative propaganda measure their success. To defeat conservatism today, the main thing we have to do is to explain what it is and what is wrong with it. This is easy enough.




  7. ProveOurDemocracy on

    HR 550, if reintroduced, Amend or End because of its capacity to give the Executive Branch Complete Control Over all Elections
    Sonia, complete agreement on voting on paper ballots that are then hand counted thereby Proving Our Democracy. More about EDA's idea to get there follows. However, first I have included another important idea to consider about HR 550.

    Hopefully, there is recent movement among election intregrity groups to see the following corrected, if HR 550 is reintroduced:


    Stop the Executive Branch from Taking Over our Elections: Amend or End HR 550

    What's wrong with the Holt Bill in three easy bullets

    Common Cause,, TrueMajority,,, and many other large election reform groups are pushing – and pushing hard – for passage of HR550 (the Holt Bill), national legislation aimed to amend the Help America Vote Act. The bill is being sold as a way to put “auditable paper trails” into national law. Sounds like a great idea. But many activists disagree with the approach to support “paper trails” that might be audited when what we want are real paper ballots that are – not might be – counted.

    The other problem with HR550 is that it is about much more than paper trails. Read below the dangerous details that the groups pushing for passage of HR550 “as written” aren't talking about.

    The democratic processes of the American Republic are based on decentralized power. Centralized power led to the American Revolution. Centralized power is the antithesis of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

    1. Centralization of Executive Power-White House Control over Counting the Votes: HR550 extends beyond the existing expiry date the power and authority of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), establishing a Presidential Commission authorized to control the counting of votes in every election–federal, state,and local–in the nation.

    2. Centralization of Executive Power-Crony Appointments: The potential for stacking of the EAC is evident in the scenario already played out under the current Administration. In early 2006, the Bush White House made numerous recess appointments, putting political cronies into positions of power and authority without any Congressional oversight or checks and balances. Of the eight recess appointments made on January 4, 2006, three were Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission. Two of those appointed Commissioners are known for their opposition to voting rights and clean elections. The third is a political crony of Senate Minority Leader Reid of Nevada. (Nevada is now positioned to take a lead role in the Democratic presidential nomination process. For this privilege, Nevada has promised to play the nomination process by Party
    rules, financed by the Casino industry.)

    3. Centralization of Executive Power-Regulatory Authority: Federal regulatory authority means the federal entity preempts state and local authorities. The EAC was created as an advisory commission with one exception: it was granted regulatory authority over the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The EAC has been steadily positioning and even suing to assert its regulatory authority in other areas under its domain. Even if it does not succeed through litigation, the EAC could, with the insertion of a single line of text in ANY congressional act, become regulatory. This is how the FEC gained regulatory powers. A regulatory EAC means that a Presidential Commission-potentially stacked with political cronies-would have legal decision making and enforcement power over the following areas, for every state in the nation:

      * Which voting systems are approved for use in our elections
      * Who counts the votes in every election
      * How votes are counted in every election
      * How recounts are administered and how their outcomes are determined

    A recent editorial in the New York Times, entitled “Strong Arming the Vote” (August 3, 2006) describes how the Department of Justice under the Bush Administration has been heavily involved in partisan ploys to negate necessary checks and balances in election practices. HR 550, if passed as written, will establish a whole new arm of Executive power with dangerous authority to subvert the entire democratic process of elections that supports our system of government. It would result, in effect, in a bloodless coup.

    People often ask, so what DO you support?

    Here's an amended bill that might gain grassroots support:

    We, the grassroots, can support the Holt Bill when it is amended to remove those dangerous provisions that centralize Executive power and expand Judicial election decision making authority. A Holt Bill that amends HAVA and provides real solutions to the problems in our election system need only include three items:

      * The incontrovertible and legally defensible system of verifiable elections through the use of real, voter-marked and verifiable paper ballots (as distinguished from paper trails)

      * The elimination of secret vote counting through the use of black box voting products.

      * An extension of all HAVA mandated deadlines pending a complete independent investigation, analysis, and audit of HAVA monies distributed and spent on electronic voting systems, the outcomes thereof, with said investigation including information on the most advanced system of checks and balances for elections: hand counted paper ballots.



    Computer Security and Statistical Analysts Describe a Simple and Powerful alternative


    Today the Election Defense Alliance released a report describing the practical implementation details of a simple, unimpeachable method for ensuring the accuracy of electronic voting systems by a public handcount of paper ballot records. This “Universal Precinct-Based Handcount Sample” (UPS) is a simple, feasible method of hand-counting a sample of paper ballot records in-precinct, on election night, by citizens themselves. It not only returns oversight of elections to the American people, where it rightfully belongs, the UPS is also far more accurate than alternative election audit proposals-where only a few percent of precincts are hand-counted, often in secret, and always after the fact. (Download the full report at )

    The simple, practical UPS validation approach detects fraud or error from any source altering the electronic tally by as little as one percent (1%) with a minimum ninety-nine percent (99%) level of confidence.

    In our current political climate, any challenge to a corrupt election must be timely and have very strong justification, or candidates risk being labeled “sore losers” and accompanying ridicule. The UPS validation, by virtue of being accurate to such a high degree of confidence, enables any candidate of any party to contest any Outcome-altering problems with the electronic tally. And since the UPS hand count is done in-precinct on election night, its findings would be available on election night, enabling candidates in federal or statewide elections to challenge a corrupted tally before the election's outcome becomes a foregone conclusion in the mind of the public, and before the results are officially certified.

    The report describes the specific means of effectively conducting a public hand count of 10% of the paper ballot records in 100% of the precincts in federal and statewide races. The UPS is to be conducted “in-precinct” on election night, by citizens representing all concerned political parties, and open to general public observation. Because it is conducted in-precinct, the UPS avoids the difficult task of protecting the chain of custody of paper ballot records in 180,000 U.S. precincts. In fact, all the alternative after-the-fact “spot-audit” schemes (such as HR 550, often referred to as the Holt bill) impose this monumental burden – since in all those protocols, all precincts must safeguard ballot records until just a few percent are “randomly chosen” some time after the election. Integrity of the chain of custody will be especially suspect, of course, in just those suspect elections which such audits are proposed to safeguard. Since a 10% hand-count sample would be drawn in 100% of precincts on election night, the UPS also eases the transition to decentralized, citizen-monitored hand-count verifications of elections, placing responsibility for the integrity of the vote count in the hands of the American people, where it rightfully belongs.

    Most importantly, the UPS is inherently resistant to manipulation. The report describes how any attempt to systematically manipulate the UPS audit would be extraordinarily difficult to conduct and to conceal. Not only would it require a very large number of participants, any effort to skew the 10% paper hand count in favor of a candidate would be very likely to increase the overall discrepancy, not decrease it. The UPS provides a simple, effective, and vastly more powerful alternative for election validation than does the proposed HR 550 audit, and all such “spot-audit” proposals. The UPS provides a decentralized hand count, reduces chain of custody concerns and provides citizens and candidates a clear and timely warning of fraud or error. Therefore Election Defense Alliance recommends UPS as an alternative to the HR 550 audit.

    In order to restore and maintain citizen trust in the integrity of American democracy, it is critical that wherever electronic vote tallying is performed, paper ballot records must always be produced and must always be checked by the best possible “security mechanism” – the American people, working together in public.


  8. ProveOurDemocracy on

    Bottoms Up: 14 Million Online Politics Activists, Says Pew
    Getting to be a very big base.

    14 Million Online Politics Activists, Says Pew


    by Micah Sifry


    The Pew Internet & American Life Project is releasing another of its ongoing reports tracking Americans' use of the internet today (and someone leaked me an advance copy), and this report contains some really important news:


    By far the most interesting discovery from their survey: 23% of campaign internet users has either posted their own political commentary to the web via a blog, site or newsgroup (8%); forwarded or posted someone else's commentary (13%); created political audio or video (1%); forwarded someone else's audio or video (8%). “That translates into about 14 million people who were using the 'read-write Web' to contribute to political discussion and activity,” the study's authors Lee Rainie and John Horrigan write.

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