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Twenty-three House members endorse vote-tabulation divestiture campaign

RawStory

By Jesse Kanson-Benanav | RAW STORY Managing Editor

Twenty-three members of the United States House of Representatives will announce on Monday their support for the Velvet Revolution “Divestiture for Democracy” campaign. The initiative, launched in February by a coalition of more than 80 progressive organizations, seeks to ensure transparency and accountability in American elections by forcing companies that manufacture vote-tabulation systems to open their technology to greater public scrutiny.

The effort has been spearheaded in the House by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), both of whom were early supporters of the Velvet Revolution effort. The Representatives authored a letter expressing their support for the demands of the campaign. In particular, Waters and Conyers have endorsed the move to withhold Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money from any vote-tabulation company that refuses to comply with the accuracy standards set forth by the Velvet Revolution.

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Since Waters and Conyers distributed the letter last Thursday, 23 of their fellow Democratic Representatives have agreed to co-sign. Though at present only Democrats, the endorsers represent a diverse group of states in all regions of the country.

Brad Friedman, Co-Founder of Velvet Revolution, welcomes this most recent development. “This just seems to be common sense,” said Friedman. “In a democracy -- who would want to stand in the way of transparency and fairness?”

Friedman maintains that in a divestiture campaign of this sort complete withholding of government funds could be the most effective method for ensuring participation by vote-tabulation companies. With millions of dollars budgeted to help state and local governments purchase new equipment by 2006 Friedman hopes “these companies will come around quickly and realize the standards are simply common sense.”

“Good for the country first of all,” said Friedman, “but frankly, good for their business.”

The following U.S. House members signed the letter: John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Sam Farr (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), William D. Delahunt (D-MA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Robert Wexler (D-FL), James Oberstar (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Barney Frank (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), George Miller (D-CA), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ).

Friedman expects support from more public officials soon, including “big names” in the Senate.

In February, the Velvet Revolution sent letters to executives of all nine vote tabulation companies, announcing the launch of their “Divestiture for Democracy” campaign. These letters ask that the companies to join the coalition to “help make the electoral process fully transparent and trustworthy” by agreeing to nine chief demands. Among these considerations are an insistence they make public all hardware and software used in their vote taking and tabulating machines, institute auditable, voter-verified paper ballots for every vote cast and a paper trail of all tabulations made by the voting machines, and institute a zero tolerance corporate policy prohibiting all executives of the companies from supporting any candidate for public office in any way.

The Velvet Revolution will allow the targeted companies a full 60 days to respond to the inquiries, after which time any company refusing to participate will face “a massive and sustained divestiture campaign,” according to Friedman. Drawing upon the large constituency reached by the 80 affiliated organizations, the coalition hopes to wreak economic havoc upon the uncooperative companies by urging anyone with a financial stake to withdraw their support – including stockholders and investment banking companies.

This is the first major initiative of the Velvet Revolution, a coalition that runs the full gambit on the left, from Democratic to Green Party organizations, as well as progressive non-partisan groups like the Democracy Now and Code Pink. For the sake of full disclosure, RAW STORY is a member of the coalition but holds no financial stake.

Originally published on Sunday March 20, 2005.

 


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