Thursday, February 16, 2012

Colorado Group Sues for Vote Privacy, But Do We Have That Right?

Most people probably think that voting is a guaranteed right in the U.S. Constitution. They would be wrong. The Constitution does say states cannot deny a person the right to vote based on race, religion, or gender. The Constitution does imply that you must be a citizen to vote, but citizenship is not defined and a general right to vote is not in our Constitution. There are federal laws that prohibit certain states from charging poll taxes, but states are free to deny a person the right to vote because they were once convicted of a crime, or because they have no state issued picture ID or for any other reason not prohibited by the Constitution. 

Contrary to the implication in article below from, we also do not have a right to a secret ballot. And, while we are at it, there isn’t a national right to have your vote counted once it is cast. Voting is the bedrock of democracy and a huge part of our social contact in America, yet our rights regarding voting have never been fully enshrined in law.  What we really need is a voters bill of rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Black Box Voting.

Public officials now admit they can see how you voted and link it to your name. This issue affectsColorado, almost all of Washington State, as well as some locations in California, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia and likely other states as well.

In Colorado, election officials have been trying to cover up this inconvenient (and unconstitutional) issue, by preventing the public or the media from examining ballots -- ever, even after elections are over. The Hart brand ballot scanner, widely used in CO, WA, and TX, affixes a unique identifier bar code to each ballot. With mail-in ballots, this produces a mechanism for the government or its vendors to download how you voted into a database.

The Colorado nonprofit Citizen Center group is now seeking a federal court ruling prohibiting the government from placing marks on the ballots, or otherwise using mechanisms to identify your vote choices. This requires no new law; these practices were put into place in violation of the Colorado Constitution. PRESS RELEASE - Citizen Center –


1) By implanting a unique number or bar code on each ballot, compromising ballot privacy for millions of absentee voters at a time;

2) By creating a large number of small voter subsets; then, identifying sets with homogenous votes. Small subsets are created with some mail-in and vote-center systems.

Also see article linked below about Indiana voter privacy theft. This uses a third mechanism, implanted by the vendors into voting machines at the behest of the state of Indiana. If officials admit this now in Colorado and Indiana, and citizens found this in Washington state, one wonders how pervasive vote harvesting is and why this functionality has been kept secret from the public?

Recount prompts vote center questions - Fayette County won't use vote centers in this year because of privacy concerns ..."The bipartisan board would tell the vendor to cancel a number," [Wayne County Clerk Jo Ann] Stewart said. "The clerk can't individually go in and cancel a vote. I don't have the password. Only the vendor has it to protect the integrity of the election."

Only the vendor? (In Indiana). Only the government? (In Colorado). The issue of linking vote choices to voter is going to grow much bigger than Colorado. The core of the Colorado Clerk's arguments revolves around an abhorrent belief that the government has a right to see how you voted. The Citizen Center lawsuit correctly argues that under the Colorado Constitution NO ONE has that right. Indiana is still scratching its head about this.

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 (from Wikipedia)

The issue of voting rights in the United States has been contentious throughout the country's history. Eligibility to vote in the U.S. is determined by both Federal and state law. Currently, only citizens can vote in US elections (although this has not always been the case). Who is (or who can become) a citizen is governed on a national basis by federal law. In the absence of a federal law or constitutional amendment, each state is given considerable discretion to establish qualifications for suffrage and candidacy within its own jurisdiction.

When the country was founded, in most states, only white men with property were permitted to vote (freed African Americans could vote in four states). White working men, almost all women, and all other people of color were denied the franchise. At the time of the American Civil War, most white men were allowed to vote, whether or not they owned property, but literacy tests, poll taxes, and even religious tests were used in various places, and most white women, people of color, and Native Americans still could not vote.

The United States Constitution, in Article VI, section 3, stipulates that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." The Constitution, however, leaves the determination of voting qualifications to the individual states. Over time, the federal role in elections has increased through amendments to the Constitution and enacted legislation, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[1] At least four of the fifteen post-Civil War constitutional amendments were ratified specifically to extend voting rights to different groups of citizens. These extensions state that voting rights cannot be denied or abridged based on the following:

-  Birth - "All persons born or naturalized" "are citizens" of the US and the US State where they reside (14th Amendment, 1868)

-  "Race, color, or previous condition of servitude" - (15th Amendment, 1870)

- "On account of sex" - (19th Amendment, 1920)
-  In Washington, DC, presidential elections after 164 year suspension by US Congress (23rd Amendment, 1961)

- (For federal elections) "By reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax" - (24th Amendment, 1964)

(For state elections) Taxes - (Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966))

-  "Who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age" (26th Amendment, 1971).

In addition, the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of United States Senators.

The "right to vote" is explicitly stated in the US Constitution in the above referenced amendments but only in reference to the fact that the franchise cannot be denied or abridged based solely on the aforementioned qualifications. In other words, the "right to vote" is perhaps better understood, in layman's terms, as only prohibiting certain forms of legal discrimination in establishing qualifications for suffrage. States may deny the "right to vote" for other reasons.

For example, many states require eligible citizens to register to vote a set number of days prior to the election in order to vote. More controversial restrictions include those laws that prohibit convicted felons from voting or, as seen in Bush v. Gore, disputes as to what rules should apply in counting or recounting ballots [2]

A state may choose to fill an office by means other than an election. For example, upon death or resignation of a legislator, the state may allow the affiliated political party to choose a replacement to hold office until the next scheduled election. Such an appointment is often affirmed by the governor.[3]

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