Chaos of Election 2012 Shows That We Need a REAL Voting Rights Act, with Teeth

This isn't a developing country.

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Voter impersonation fraud is nearly nonexistent. Election fraud, on the other hand, is rampant.Florida in 2000Ohio in 2004, scattered incidents nationwide today (see, e.g., this example this morning in Pennsylvania); election fraud is becoming endemic -- which is not acceptable in a democracy.

As @ixh wrote on Twitter: "If we can land @MarsCuriosity a 2000 pound robot on Mars, don't you think we can make voting easier, accessible & fair?"

To advance the discussion, I offer the following (tongue-in-cheek... mostly) model for new federal voting rights legislation:

The Help America Vote Act, ver. 2.0:

1) Every citizen not incarcerated in a state or federal penitentiary on Election Day has the inalienable right to vote in every federal election.

2) Election Day is declared a federal holiday. Every state receiving federal money for any purpose shall allow at least two (2) full weeks of early voting, including at least 36 hours of early voting on the weekend immediately preceding the election.

3) Every state receiving federal money for any purpose shall ensure that in every federal election, there is at least one working voting machine per 500 voters in each voting precinct. Specific machines shall be distributed statewide on the basis of a lottery conducted publicly.

4) The Secretary of State in any state receiving federal money for any purpose shall be a full-time professional public servant holding at a minimum a graduate degree in public administration, and shall be appointed (not elected) by a bipartisan panel. All subordinate elections officials shall be nonpartisan, and no person who in the previous five (5) years has served in political office, is immediately related to any person who has served in political office, or who has worked for pay for a political campaign may serve as an election official at any level.

5) Vote tallying may be done electronically, but all ballots shall be on paper. All software and firmware used in any federal election must be published publicly at least six (6) months prior to the election, and no subsequent patches are allowed. If software flaws make the vote tallying unreliable without patching, then vote tallying will be done manually and the software maker fined $5,000,000 or the actual cost of such manual tallying, whichever is greater. All recounts shall be done by visual inspection of the paper ballots themselves, in a public place, on live television, without recourse to tallying software.

6) Altering or tampering with other citizens' votes, election machines, voting software, or vote tallies (collectively "election fraud") is an act of treason. Persons indicted for such crimes  shall be detained at Guantanamo Bay. Election fraud shall be triable in a military tribunal and punishable in all cases by public execution during daylight hours in the center of the World War II Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

There, was that so hard?


M.S. Bellows, Jr. is an attorney and mediator. His writing about law, politics and negotiation strategy has been published in AlterNet, Huffington Post and The Guardian.

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