Monday, February 12, 2007

Another Day on Capitol Hill - Election Talk

February 12, 2007

Just another day on Capitol Hill
Part 1
Election Problems in 2006

Small Group starting out for a day on Capitol Hill together this a.m. -- only four of us: Medea, Barbara (returning from CA), and totally new arrival Joeann from Mill Valley, CA .I am glad I was among them as we walked to the Capitol even though I awoke to lethargy and a bit of sad resignation about the move I will be making to care for my elderly mother. The desire to return to my family in AZ for just another few days with them before I have to leave for Indiana tears at heart. But, there aren’t enough of us doing this – and we have to do everything we possibly can to end this war this year with immediate withdrawal beginning asap. Family versus actions per women’s council is an age old rift in women’s hearts I’m sure – but it is new to me and breaks my heart.

The four of us plus two other women, locals, had a meeting for basic planning for today last evening at the Pink House…. But not that much appeared to be happening legislatively today, so our first stop was for breakfast with the folks at "Elections: Looking Ahead" a panel that was put together by LCCR Common Cause , Center for American Progress, and the Century Foundation that was at the US Capitol building.

Getting in to the Capitol was our first patience and decorum check of the day. As we walked up to enter the House side of the Capitol, a guard (Capitol Police I believe) stopped the four of us and asked a couple general “why are you here” questions. We informed him that we were there for a panel discussion reporting on Election Integrity. He informed us that we needed to wait right there, about 50 ft. from the entrance to the Bldg.; this of course was while he allowed others to enter. After he asked us to stay where we were while he went inside to check something. We complied for about a minute before we decided we would wait at the door, inside, if there was waiting to do. Being profiled because we were wearing pink seemed the obvious illegal reason for our being kept out in the cold. When we were in the building we had to wait for a few more minutes while he checked with someone as to whether to allow us entry. Pink profiling. Grrrr, and this for a simple meeting we’d been invited to by a member of one of the sponsoring organizations. Finally we were “allowed” to enter the building and get some breakfast. Thank heavens there was still coffee left. It would not have been a pretty picture if I’d missed my morning coffee that I was counting on getting at the meeting and a migraine has started due to lack of caffeine because of the improper, and I believe illegal, delay.

We did arrive after the breakfast mingle had commenced, but at least we had a few minutes before the meeting started. Christine from DAWN grinned and greeted we four ladies from CODEPINK as we entered HC 5. DAWN (DC Anti War Network) had partnered with CODEPINK on many occasions. Medea of course knew many of the folks there. We neophytes on the hill just ate and chatted a bit.

The actual presentation began.

Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau made introductory remarks.

Ralph Neas PFAW addressed Findings from the Election Protection Hotline

Efrain Escobedo National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials reported on Election Day Problems in the Latino Community

Dan Seligson of gave a Review of the 2006 Election.

Kathleen Barr replaced the scheduled Heather Smith as speaker for Young Voter Strategies in a report on Election Day Problems Among Youn Voters

Terry Ao with the Asian Aerican Justice Center reported on the Asian American Vote in 2006

Christina Galindo-Walsh with the National Disability Rights Network spoke on Disability Accessibility Issues.

Melanie Campbell - Coalition for Black Civic Participation – addressed Findings from 1-866-My Vote1 Voter Alert Line

Briefly, the reports of this panel stressed that there is a crisis in elections in this country, that suspicion and cynicism are high and growing on the part of the people, that problems such as missing votes (e.g. 18,000 in FL,) students continuing to be unable to vote where they live in many states, poll worker lack of knowledge on identification requirements (or non-requirements) as well as the lack of knowledge about the election language hotline were all found to exist in significant number or size in the 2006 election. Questions I noted as interesting came from Neas’ answer to a staff member’s mention of the likelihood of election legislation by this summer. From Jim Dixon’s comment to the panel that we can either wait until 2010 for the process of election technology over site and approval to take place or we can lower our standards.

I regret to report that I didn’t get to stay for the second panel on Critical Election Reform Issues for the 110th Congress, but I had lobbying to do. So I can’t report on this panel moderated by Tova Wang other than to say that resisting restrictive voter identification laws and proof of citizenship requirements, deterring and punishing voter intimidation and suppression, insuring accessible, accurate, and secure voter registration system and making sure that there is a fair and accurate voter registration system, as well as preventing conflicts of interest in election administration were all covered.

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