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Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director,
paul(at)fairvote.org, (301) 270-4616
In a Nutshell:
FairVote is well known for our advocacy of better electoral
methods and improvements to the way people vote when they go into the
polling place that foster equality and choice. But what happens before
and after a ballot is filled out can be critically important as well--if
votes aren't counted, using a fair voting method won't make a
difference. Today the machinery of American democracy (literally) is
increasingly dependent on one large corporation with little interest in
transparency, competition or innovations that might affect its bottom
line. For years FairVote has proposed publicly controlled voting
processes, ideally with transparent administration and clear lines of
accountability grounded in publicly owned voting equipment. As FairVote
called for in a November 8 letter in the New York Times,
at the very least the concept of a "public option" needs to be
transposed to the often-murky debate over voting equipment, ensuring
that our local and state governments always have a public interest
alternative. We also should revamp certification processes to improve
equipment, encourage transparency and reward innovation.
In September, the United States' largest voting equipment vendor Election Systems & Software (ES&S) announced the purchase
of Premier Election Solutions, our nation's second largest vendor--and a
product of the Diebold Corporation's North American operations. If this
sale goes forward, ES&S will control a huge majority of the voting
equipment market in the United States. According to Verified Voting,
more than 120 million registered voters live in American jurisdictions
using one of these two companies' systems. In contrast, the nation's
third largest elections vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems, provides
equipment in jurisdictions with only some 26 million registered voters
(and seems to be on shaky ground, having been sold several times in
recent years and still waiting to have its latest optical scan system
certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission). ES&S--then
called American Information Systems--previously attempted to consolidate
the voting industry in 1997 with a purchase of Business Records
Corporation (BRC), but the U.S. Department of Justice on anti-trust grounds required that acquisition of BRC be split between ES&S and Sequoia. Some groups like Voter Action
are seeking to hold vendors legally accountable for past failures to
uphold election integrity, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, chair of the Senate
Rules committee, has announced his intention to conduct a review of this
latest merger through his Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
An October 29 New York Times editorial
rightly sounded the alarm on this dubious bit of conglomeration,
calling upon the Justice Department and state attorneys general to take
action to block the sale, writing, "We fear that if any one voting
machine maker is allowed to dominate the market, there will be even
greater reasons to worry about the nation's flawed voting system." In a
ES&S president Aldo Tesi wrote, "Citizens should be confident that
local officials administer fair and honest elections. As our customers,
we know they are." This is a misdirection, because it's not the local
officials that monopolize the very mechanisms by which our democracy
runs, and it is not they who are being criticized by the Times--it's companies like Tesi's ES&S.
The Times' description of our voting apparatus as
"flawed" is accurate mainly because we run democracy on the cheap at the
national level, and pay for it with lost votes, untrustworthy software
and exorbitant costs for public interest improvements, mainly due to
companies recouping expenses by abusing their local monopolies. FairVote
has long suggested a full public ownership model,
similar to that of Oklahoma and those of other nations. Along these
lines, we should at least pursue a "public option" to compete with
private vendors. We can also consider additional ways to gain control of
the election process and foster better, more reliable equipment.
Looking forward, one interim step would address a glaring
problem: the process of certifying equipment. To open up the market to
more competitors and secure certain basic rights of transparency and
quality control, the public should pay for at least some of the costs of
certification in exchange for more control over the product. Better
certification processes for voting equipment of course are absolutely
essential, as underscored by more rigorous certification processes in
recent years that have exposed major problems with proposed equipment.
Election results also continue to demonstrate how systems already
certified for our most important elections can have serious flaws. For
example, the Humboldt County (CA) Election Transparency Project discovered that a Premier/Diebold optical scan paper ballot system dropped 197 ballots in 2008, while a FairVote analysis earlier this year found that the same system dropped 0.4% of ballots in an election in Aspen (CO).
But companies have to scramble to keep up with each new
revelation and each new good idea for updating certification standards
at the federal and state level, which can stretch out the timeline for
certification and greatly increase costs. Paying for companies'
certification expenses would cost taxpayer dollars, of course, and
should have reasonable limits that avoid frivolous costs and vendors
using the certification process to allow onto the market equipment and
software they know is flawed. But any upfront costs promise to pay big
dividends for our democracy in the long term. It would allow new
companies to get a competitive product on the market before they know
for sure they will be able to sell it--resolving the catch-22 that today
makes it so difficult for any new company to compete with the dominant,
entrenched companies. It also would make it easier to justify ongoing
updates to the voting standards, rather than essentially adding new
"unfunded mandates" on the vendors who either go out of business or,
more typically, give up after barely getting started. The quality of
voting equipment and software should also rise as companies would be
required to do more than just "get by," and county and state governments
would pay less for better equipment and upgrades--right now they
typically face excessive fees for equipment, ongoing services and
upgrades from vendors trying to recoup their certification costs and
able to take advantage of their near monopoly of the industry.
In exchange for paying for the certification process, the public
would need to secure greater rights of transparency and general
ownership of the process. For example, New York State's latest contracts
for new equipment include a sensible provision that any additional
contracts for services and new features involving the equipment will be
open to competitive bidding, rather than the jurisdiction simply having
to accept the vendor's monopoly power. Taxpayers also should require
much greater access to the software code, if not full open source
software, as well as a requirement for "modular" components that would
make it easier to piece together separately certified systems for an
election, rather than relying on just one company for all election
Exclusive focus on pre-election certification will never be
sufficient, as we must also focus on post-election verification and
audits. By verifying all election counts, the certification process
would become part of a "belt and suspenders" approach. With the latest
optical scan paper ballot systems having the capacity to create
redundant records of every ballot, these records can be made publicly
available, as they are in cities from San Francisco (CA) to Burlington
(VT). When coupled with manual audits and appropriate privacy
safeguards, they will allow the public to verify vote tallies and
immediately identify errors.
The bottom line is that the existing regime is broken. Let's
stop outsourcing democracy and make sure that citizens are in control.
_ _ _ _
Other notable links:
FairVote acts to transform our elections to achieve universal access to participation, a full spectrum of meaningful ballot choices and majority rule with fair representation for all. As a catalyst for change, we build support for innovative strategies to win a constitutionally protected right to vote, universal voter registration, a national popular vote for president, instant runoff voting and proportional representation.
"It is atrocious that yet another family has to mourn their child because of our collective inability to fix our broken immigration system," lamented one activist in response to the death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez.
A coalition of migrant advocacy groups on Monday mourned and demanded justice for an 8-year-old Central American girl who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody earlier this month.
The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights remembered Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, an 8-year-old girl who came to the United States with her Honduran parents, following her death on May 17 after CBP agents "neglected to heed her parent's requests for medical assistance," according to the coalition.
"Anadith deserves to be alive today," said #WelcomeWithDignity interim campaign manager Bilal Askaryar. "Border Patrol staff ignored the minimum safeguards for protecting the lives in their custody."
"Anadith's parents should be preoccupied with helping their 8-year-old daughter prepare for her new life in the United States and making the journey to meet her aunt in New York," Askaryar added. "Instead, they are grieving an unspeakable tragedy and trying to raise money to take Anadith's body to their new home with them."
\u201cNew details regarding the preventable death of an 8-year-old girl in CBP custody last week show that the child\u2019s mother repeatedly asked agents to take her daughter to the hospital, but her pleas were ignored. Anadith had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia.\ud83e\uddf5\ud83d\udc47\ud83c\udffe\u201d— The Young Center (@The Young Center) 1684623052
Reyes, who suffered a congenital heart condition and sickle cell anemia, was a Panamanian citizen who traveled with her Honduran parents and her two older siblings to the southern U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas. The family was detained by CBP agents on May 9 and held for more than a week.
On May 14, Reyes' mother Mabel Álvarez took the child to a treatment area after she complained of abdominal pain, nasal congestion, and a cough, CBP said. Reyes tested positive for Influenza and was given medications including Tamiflu and Zofran. CBP said she was also given acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Reyes and her family were then transported to a CBP facility in Harlingen, Texas, which is "designated for cases requiring medical isolation for individuals diagnosed with or closely exposed to communicable diseases," according to the agency.
Medical records show that Álvarez took Reyes to the Harlingen station's medical facility three times on May 17. On the last visit, Reyes appeared to be having a seizure. After her body went limp and she began bleeding from the mouth, medical staff started CPR and CBP had the girl rushed to Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen. She was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
"They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day-and-a-half without being able to breathe," Álvarez claimed in an interview with the New York Daily News. "She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn't do anything for her."
"They never listened to me just because I am an immigrant," Álvarez said in a separate interview with Noticias Telemundo. "We want this not to go unpunished. We don't want this to happen to any other child."
\u201cHumanitarian reception for asylum seeking families, not jail/detention/custody, is what most countries offer with far less resources to those seeking protection. This was preventable. These policies are reprehensible and must end. #RestoreAsylum #WelcomeWithDignity @POTUS\u201d— Christina Asencio (@Christina Asencio) 1684642426
#WelcomeWith Dignity members from numerous advocacy groups joined Reyes' family in demanding justice.
"We are heartbroken to learn of another child's tragic death in government custody. No child should be locked in a jail, no matter where they were born," said Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, deputy director at Americans for Immigrant Justice.
"There is a long andwell-documented history of systemic abuse and mistreatment of children in CBP custody," she added. "In a landscape barren of rights for unaccompanied children, babies, and children coming to the United States with their parents, it is imperative that these vulnerable individuals are greeted with compassion and respect as they seek refuge and a better life in the United States. How many more children must die for CBP to effectuate change?"
Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director at America's Voice, said that "it is atrocious that yet another family has to mourn their child because of our collective inability to fix our broken immigration system."
"Our hearts are with her family, and tens of thousands of other families whose pursuit of a better life ends in tragedy," she added. "The CBP needs to learn from this tragedy and take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn't happen again."
\u201cCBP is an agency that should have nothing to do with children. No child should ever die in government custody again, and no parent should have their pleas for help be ignored as they watch their child's condition worsen. \n\nOur hearts go out to Anadith's family and loved ones.\u201d— Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (@Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project) 1684790817
Reyes is the first known migrant child to die in CBP custody during the Biden administration. At least two other Honduran minors—17-year-old Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza and a 4-year-old "medically fragile" girl—have died in U.S. custody in recent weeks.
The children's deaths come as the Biden administration rolls out controversial migrant policies following the expiration of Title 42, which was invoked by both Biden and his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, in order to deport millions of asylum-seekers under the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It is cruel that another set of parents had to beg the CBP for medical help for their child and then watch her die because of CBP negligence," argued Ronnate Asirwatham, director of government relations for #WelcomeWithDignity member Catholic Social Justice. "We call on the Biden administration to end this cruelty and to swiftly end the practice of long-term CBP custody for immigrants."
"We encourage the IPCC to maintain its credibility by taking steps to ensure that Big Agriculture and the global meat industry have no influence over future reports."
As the United Nations marked International Day for Biological Diversity on Monday, advocacy groups and activists underscored the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the Earth's climate, while urging a leading U.N. panel to rebuff efforts by the meat and dairy industries to water down key processes and publications.
In recent letter to Hoesung Lee, who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 98 groups and individuals noted how the IPCC in 2021 removed language from its Sixth Assessment Report underscoring the urgency of reducing meat consumption—especially in developed nations—and shifting to a plant-based diet as a crucial means of combating the climate emergency.
"The provision was reportedly heavily contested—and actively lobbied against—by the global meat industry via Brazil and
Argentina's delegations," the letter states. "Our organizations, representing millions of individuals who are concerned about the future of our planet, are deeply troubled by the potential influence of the meat industry's years-long campaign of interference on any climate recommendations that include plant-based diets as a solution."
\u201cLast week, RDP and 80+ allies sent a letter to the IPCC demanding that it boldly uplift climate science & defend the public interest \u2014 even & especially when it conflicts with the private interests of notorious super-polluters like the global meat industry https://t.co/HebhKYsxdS\u201d— Revolving Door Project (@Revolving Door Project) 1684768855
"We are writing to urge the IPCC to fully recognize the scientific evidence that shows the role of food and agriculture in driving the climate crisis and to ensure that future reports specifically highlight plant-based diets as a key climate strategy," the letter states. "Furthermore, we encourage the IPCC to maintain its credibility by taking steps to ensure that Big Agriculture and the global meat industry have no influence over future reports."
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture produces 16.5% of global greenhouse emissions. On its own, the global livestock industry—which emits the methane equivalent of 3.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually—would be the world's third-largest greenhouse polluter.
Nearly one-third of Earth's ice-free land is currently used for livestock production. Beef production alone is responsible for more than 40% of the world's tropical deforestation, while a single quarter-pound beef burger requires the equivalent of 460 gallons of water to produce.
\u201cYour regular reminder that beef has a huge climate impact and we should try and eat less of it. https://t.co/lhxbNSRtRL\u201d— Zeke Hausfather (@Zeke Hausfather) 1683150459
The letter continues:
Meat and dairy industry actors have long obfuscated the negative climate impacts of their practices while putting up roadblocks against healthy and necessary regulations. In fact, the industry's tactics seem to be modeled on the fossil fuel playbook, using its tremendous lobbying power to pressure lawmakers to prevent regulations.
While the IPCC has historically managed to recommend plant-based diets, mention of plant-based diets was notably lacking from this year's report. The scientific community and the public at large deserve to have the IPCC's recommendations be unbiased, untainted, and undiluted by interference from industries that are financially incentivized to undermine science. The IPCC's recommendations would be more powerful and more effective with the assurance that there was no interference [from] industry lobbyists and political actors who prioritize their industry over the common good.
The letter's signatories recommend "avoiding meat and dairy products" as "the single-biggest way to reduce an individual's environmental impact on the planet."
According to the letter, if the world's biggest meat-eaters limited their beef intake to 1.5 hamburgers per week, "they could
avoid about 5.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year—twice the annual emissions of India."
\u201cIt's the #InternationalBiodiversityDay!\nIndustrial agribusiness boosted by generous subsidies produces plenty of #meat. Meat production requires large areas & takes space from wild nature.\nSo let's eat less meat, and help to revive #biodiversity!\n#BiodiversityDay #forests #beef\u201d— Seppo (@Seppo) 1684752831
Additionally, "if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road."
"We urge you to take steps to prevent both any potential future interference by the meat and dairy industries, and the appearance of such interference, in a manner that could weaken these necessary recommendations around the urgent need to reduce meat consumption and production," the letter concludes. "The world is counting on the IPCC to communicate the most accurate science and most effective solutions for the safekeeping of our planet's future."
"All Asian Americans will feel the stigma and the chilling effect created by this Florida law, just like the discriminatory laws did to our ancestors more than a hundred years ago."
Accusing Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of enacting an unconstitutional law that would not have been out of place at the turn of the last century, a group of Chinese American immigrants on Monday filed a lawsuit against the state over S.B. 264, which restricts most Chinese citizens from purchasing homes in Florida.
The law is set to take effect on July 1, but the plaintiffs and the groups representing them—including the ACLU, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA), and the ACLU of Florida—hope to block the measure in the courts.
"Florida's discriminatory property law is unfair, unjustified, and unconstitutional," said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project. "Everyone in the United States is entitled to equal protection under our laws, including citizens of other countries. If S.B. 264 goes into effect, it will profoundly harm our clients and countless other immigrants in Florida."
DeSantis has said the law is meant to protect the state from the Chinese Communist Party, even though, as the ACLU said, "there is no evidence of national security harm resulting from real estate ownership." Citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Iran, and North Korea would also be restricted from purchasing homes in Florida.
\u201cThe new law harkens back to the anti-Asian land laws of the past century, which barred Chinese and Japanese immigrants from owning property in many states.\n\nThose laws violated the fundamental right to equal protection \u2014 just like Florida\u2019s does.\u201d— ACLU (@ACLU) 1684779796
The law is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Housing Act, said the ACLU. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing due to national origin and race as well as religion, sex, gender identity, and disability.
The plaintiffs also warned that the law will "cast an undue burden of suspicion on anyone seeking to buy property whose name sounds remotely Asian, Russian, Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, or Syrian," and is likely to prompt harassment of Asian American people seeking to buy property.
"All Asian Americans will feel the stigma and the chilling effect created by this Florida law, just like the discriminatory laws did to our ancestors more than a hundred years ago," said Clay Zhu, co-founder of CALDA. "We shall not go back."
Despite DeSantis's claims that the law is meant to protect the state, "The reality will be that any seller, when they see a Chinese name... will think, 'Too much trouble,' and they'll refuse to sell," Echo King, a Chinese American attorney based in Orlando, Florida, toldVox last week.
S.B. 264 harkens back to the so-called "alien land laws" of the early 1900s, which prohibited Chinese and Japanese immigrants from becoming landowners. In addition to harming these communities financially, the laws "severely exacerbated violence and discrimination against Asian communities living in the United States" before they were finally struck down by courts and legislatures across the country.
"We have repeatedly seen how policies in the name of national security have harmed Asian Americans—from immigration restrictions, to the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans in camps, and post-9/11 surveillance," said Bethany Li, legal director for AALDEF. "Failing to call out the discriminatory impacts means our community will continue to experience racism, violence, and the erosion of rights."
DeSantis is the first Republican governor to sign a discriminatory housing bill targeting Chinese people into law, but more than a dozen state legislatures have proposed similar bills.