Voting machine lawsuit dismissed

On Oct. 5, Federal District Judge Cameron Currie dismissed Brett Bursey’s complaint against the voting machines used in South Carolina. Bursey had argued that the machines, which do not produce a paper ballot that can be recounted, violate federal statutes.

Bursey is the Director of the South Carolina Progressive Network, a 16-year-old coalition that promotes good government and civic participation.

“The voting machines we use have been decertified in other states, for the very reasons we believe they are unreliable and unverifiable,” Bursey said.

Federal law requires: “The voting system shall produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity for such system (Help America Vote Act 42 USC 15481).” The voting machines in South Carolina do not produce a permanent paper record, nor do they allow a manual audit, or recount.

Federal laws also require the preservation of all records in federal elections for 22 months. Since the machines in use in South Carolina do not produce a paper record, and the original memory cards in the machines were erased two weeks after the June 8 primary, Bursey asserted that they violate federal laws.

“We presented the court with expert testimony that the results of the June 8 primary in the US Senate race were statistically improbable,” Bursey said. The questions surrounding the unusual vote totals and patterns could not be resolved, because the machines don’t produce a paper ballot that can be recounted.

“Voters in South Carolina have lost confidence that their votes are counted accurately,” Bursey said.

Judge Currie dismissed the lawsuit against the Election Commission, ruling that Bursey doesn’t have a “private right of action” to enforce the statutes on voting records; only the US Attorney General does.

“I provided the judge with a time-line of my efforts to get the US Justice Department to take up the case,” Bursey said. “I noted that the US Attorney told me that the case was ‘too politically charged’ for him to intervene.”

In dismissing the case, prior to hearing arguments on the merits of the complaint, Judge Currie wrote, “While this court takes no position on whether South Carolina is in compliance with the statute, the fact that a federal statute may have been violated and some person harmed does not automatically give rise to a private cause of action in favor of that person.”

Bursey said, “We presented expert testimony to the Election Commission in 2003, prior to the purchase of these machines, that they were unreliable. We remain convinced that contracting our elections out to a private company, with proprietary codes and software, is contrary to an open and transparent democracy.

“The good news, is that the malfunction rate of these machines is so far beyond the guidelines set by the US Election Assistance Commission, that they need to be replaced. We will be introducing legislation this year for a voting system that doesn’t depend on secret software, produces a voter verifiable paper ballot and is much cheaper to own and maintain.”

One Nation Working Together, under a groove

By Kerry Taylor
Charleston, SC

For a few hours on Saturday, they were one nation under a groove as thousands of labor and progressive activists rallied for jobs, peace, and affordable education at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. With little time to spare before the November elections, more than 400 organizations, including the NAACP and dozens of national unions, organized “One Nation Working Together” to boost enthusiasm on the left and counteract the high-profile forces of reaction. According to many pundits, conservatives are poised to make strong gains in the November elections, undermining the possibility of progressive reforms. This past August, on the 47th anniversary of A. Philip Randolph’s historic March on Washington for jobs and civil rights, right-wing populists Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin headlined a massive demonstration on the same spot intended to give focus to the white-hot anger that has emerged since Barack Obama’s November 2008 election.

An hour before the scheduled noon start of Saturday’s program, six burly and animated Cleveland-area autoworkers boarded the Washington Metro and chatted with curious passengers, who were surprised that they had not heard of the demonstration, but expressed support and provided tips on navigating the Metro system. Making their way across the Mall, the autoworkers brushed past canvassers representing various causes and socialist groups before joining their United Autoworkers sisters and brothers, who were easily identified by their Navy blue T-shirts. Other workers joined their respective seas of purple (Service Employees International Union), green (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) and red (Communications Workers of America).

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were among the high-profile speakers at the demonstration. But singer and actor Harry Belafonte, a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and a participant in the 1963 march, provided the sharpest rebuke of the Tea Party, accusing members of “moving perilously close to achieving villainous ends.” Belafonte dubbed Saturday’s gathering “America’s wake up call” and an indication that “the giant called democracy is at last stirring again.” Gregory Cendana, interim deputy director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, reminded the crowd of the interconnectedness of struggles for workers’ rights and LGBT equality, immigrant justice and access to quality education.

For the president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, Donna DeWitt, the demonstration could not have come a moment too soon. “We needed this infusion of energy,” said DeWitt, noting that several young union members were ecstatic about having had the experience of marching in Washington. “Something big is going to come of this,” she predicted. “The national labor leaders have seen the potential of this kind of mobilization.” South Carolina activists packed six buses and made special efforts to include students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities, according to DeWitt. Dozens of other union members living near the border traveled with North Carolina delegations. One bus from Charleston became a mobile classroom, as longshore worker Leonard Riley distributed packets of educational material provided by the national organization and led discussions on current workers’ struggles and political issues facing the labor movement.

NAACP activists Mable and Brad Brown flew up from Miami to take part in the demonstration. As a former educator, Mable Brown said she supports all of the demonstration’s stated goals, but is especially concerned about high unemployment, school reform, and police brutality in South Florida. According to the Browns, the Miami Branch NAACP sent a small delegation of young people to Washington, but that many more activists made the trip from northern Florida.

National unions and the NAACP did an impressive job of mobilizing their members who provide the Democratic Party with much of its activist base. Unaffiliated young progressives and white college students, however, were largely absent from Saturday’s event. They will surely be out in greater numbers for the Oct. 30 “Rally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive” organized by Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but a demonstration combining forces would more closely mirror the winning coalition forged by the Obama campaign two years ago and would serve as an effective counterpoint to both the Republicans and the timid wing of the Democratic Party.

By 4:30 p.m., when most of the demonstrators were packed away on buses bound for the Bronx, Raleigh, and Rock Hill, funk legend George Clinton and friends assembled on stage at Lincoln’s feet. Smiles broke out across the crowd and Abe’s stone toes appeared to wiggle as Clinton ripped into his 1978 hit, “One Nation Under a Groove.” After nearly 10 minutes of P-Funk, the simulcast screens went black and the engineers cut the sound system. Unfazed, Clinton’s band segued into “Give Up the Funk,” the strains of which could barely be heard just a few hundred feet away. It mattered little to the dancing stragglers — black, white, Asian and Latino, gay and straight, old and young — their insistent demand for “funk!” offering what may be the best response to this mean political season.

A history professor at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., Kerry Taylor co-chairs the board of directors at the Institute for Southern Studies, publisher of Facing South.