Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Job One...Fair and Open Elections

My Mom was a Deputy Director in the Georgia Secretary of State office. Her last Secretary if State was Max Cleland and before that a string of undistinguished people who served in the shadow of the man who may have been the greatest Secretary of State in American History, Ben Fortson.

Mr. Ben was crippled by a car accident and spent the greater portion of his life in a wheel chair. I never saw the man when he wasn't smiling and he remembered my name after one meeting. I was always, "Betty's boy, Steve" followed by a bigger grin and a handshake. The Georgia Capitol building is covered with a facade of gold leaf, but being gold plated didn't stop the offices from being cold and dank so Mr. Ben always had a light blanket covering his useless legs.

Georgia politics are no more corrupt than most and certainly no less. Early on, folks learned to shake hands with politicians and transfer tens and twenties with grace and a smile. My Dad pointed this out to me when I was a grade schooler. "Watch him put his hand back in his own pocket after he shakes hands with Grampa." I don't remember who the politician was but this very tradition got Senator Herman Talmadge disgraced after he chaired the Watergate hearings that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.

"Huhman's" dad, Eugene, was serving as Governor and had just been reelected when he just plain up and died. Lot's of people suddenly claimed that they were the rightful successor, the Lt. Governor Elect Melvin Thompson, Eugene's vanquished opponent current Governor Ellis Arnold, and curiously, Herman Talmadge, who claimed the Governorship by divine right since he was Eugene's son and the plan all along was for Herman to take over when Eugene was finished.

Herman Talmadge had the support of the State Patrol and took over the Capitol building by "Military Coup" in essence. He went about the process of crowning himself Governor but needed, if not the actual support of the Secretary of State Ben Fortson, at least the State Seal of Georgia in order to make the decree "legal" according to State law, which though confusing on succession, was very clear on this point. Mr. Ben looked everybody right in the eye and told them he couldn't find the Great Seal and needed them to help him look. For days every inch of the Georgia Capitol was searched by the State Patrol and Herman waited impatiently. In the meantime, the Ga. Supreme Court was reviewing things and a race was on between finalizing Herman's ascension and the Court delivering their ruling. Unable to find the Seal, the Court delivered the ruling against Herman and for the Lt. Governor, whereupon Mr. Ben lifted up the blanket covering his withered legs and displayed the Great Seal of the State of Georgia, hidden in the one place no one either though of or dared to look.

It is too bad that the current Secretary of State has fallen from the lofty esteem of her predecessors. In a duplicitous Sate government, the Secretary of State in Georgia has always held the people's will to be paramount. I am now ashamed of my birth state's Secertary of State.

Georgia's Secretary of State's office has filed an injunction to stop a citizen from reviewing public election records. Before Diebold became involved in Georgia, election records were fully accessible to the public. The argument being put forward by the Secretary of State is that the election information is proprietary to Diebold.

Who owns our Vote?

One item that needs to move to the top of the list for the First 100 Hours is to outlaw proprietary software in electronic voting machines. This is unthinkable in other countries and we should never allow it here. One must emphaticly question the motives of a Secretary of State who prevents her electorate from examining their own vote!



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