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January 15, 2008

Connected Diss: Electoral dysfunction, Round 1

As we ushered in 2008 earlier this month, it occurred to me that I am deeply grateful for the good fortune not to live in Iowa. While the rest of us were returning gifts from Aunt Mildred and slugging back eggnog, those poor, crazed caucus goers were all but overwhelmed by the first attack of our quadrennial episode of electoral dysfunction, a media-enhanced farce of democracy brought to us live by some 2,500 members of the fourth estate.It really ought to give us pause that a state that probably has as many cows as people and that controls a whopping 1 percent of the nation’s delegates to the political conventions matters at all, never mind that their bizarre caucus process can make or break a candidate. And why is it that the Wyoming caucuses a few days later don’t count for diddly, but the New Hampshire primary is SO critical. Then to add insult to injury, by the time Kentuckians mosey along to the polls, it is already a done deal and our votes don’t count worth a lick.One of the most disturbing casualties of this politico-media dog-and-pony show is that the more marginal candidates are cast aside much too early in the game. It is a true disservice to this country that we only get a cursory chance to listen to the likes of Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul or Mike Gravel. Excluding Kucinich’s UFO remarks, they all sound like thoughtful men with the courage to break with the political status quo. ABC’s decision to exclude Kucinich from the New Hampshire debates and the Texas Democratic Party’s refusal to put him on their ballot speaks volumes to the utter lack of integrity in what passes for democracy in this country. The Longhorn state’s excuse? Kucinich wouldn’t sign a loyalty oath swearing to support whoever won the primary. In the state of Texas, that sounds like a mighty astute political judgment to me. The only way to put a stop to this nonsense of cattle farmers and maple-syrup makers presuming to speak for us all is to have a national primary. But it will take much more than that to truly cure our national case of ED. We need to take steps to ensure that all who have the right to vote are allowed to do so and to make sure that every one of those votes is counted fairly. There is every reason to believe that the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen. Yet little has been done to properly safeguard electronic voting machines from being hacked or tampered with or to ensure a verifiable voting record. In Franklin County, Ohio, where an election official was recently found guilty of profiting from voting machine contracts, the tough sentence came down — community service and a small fine. This should make us wonder just how seriously we take the validity of our elections.Until we gain the political will to demand that our votes count and that all candidates are given a fair chance, our electoral process will continue to be a sham rather than the exercise of democracy by we the people, which it was meant to be.Meanwhile, closer to home … The year got off to a good start for women in Kentucky with Gov. Steve Beshear’s appointment of the eloquent and capable Eleanor Jordan to head the Commission on Women. Leave it to former Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Bill Stone, however, to characterize Jordan as a “perfect fit” for heading a body that he feels is “government silliness.” Memo to Mr. Stone: There is nothing silly about women in Kentucky being ranked 33rd in the nation for median income, 49th in education, 36th in poverty and dead last in health. Here’s hoping Jordan’s appointment is a sign that the Beshear administration will address these issues with the seriousness they deserve. Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org. Contact her at lucindamarshall@feministpeacenetwork.org