Two-party choke hold prohibits true democracy

By Kevin Zeese and Linda Schade

Citizens from across the political spectrum in Maryland worked together for a dramatic reversal in how Maryland votes. Since 2002 Maryland has experimented with paperless electronic voting. That experiment will end in 2010 when Maryland adopts a paper-based voting system with optical scan recounts.

This is a dramatic turnaround for a state that spent more than $100 million on paperless voting machines. Five years of citizen pressure has resulted in the shift. Why?

Voters wanted a transparent voting system and the ability to recount the original intent of the voter. The new system avoids machine problems seen with touch-screen voting including machines failing to start or freezing in the midst of voting, and machines producing blank memory cards. And it avoids the security problems of a computer-based system security experts described as filled with holes.

Work is still needed. Maryland needs to require routine audits of a percentage of precincts to ensure the op-scan machines count correctly. Marylanders working with TrueVoteMD will work on that in 2009.

Election integrity advocates with TrueVoteMD have turned their attention to an emergency bill approved by a House committee to provide funds for paper-based voting and to require mandatory audits. Democracy advocates are focusing their attention on Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, majority leader, who can schedule a floor vote.

The successful activism of thousands of Marylanders contrasts with poor participation in American democracy. Baltimore voter turnout is typically about 30 percent of registered voters. The United States ranks 139th out of 172 countries in voter turnout. Low turnout indicates problems with democracy in a country told its democracy is the greatest in the world.

Why don’t people vote? Surveys of nonvoters find they see no difference who they vote for. In fact in many parts of the country it is easy to predict which of the two established parties will win. It is especially easy in Baltimore, where despite the serious problems in the city, the same party always wins. Only Democrats have been elected to the City Council since the 1930s, and only one non-Democratic mayor has been elected over the last 50 years. Is Baltimore reaching its potential? Or is Baltimore underperforming on crime, education, economy and taxes?

Maybe Baltimore is not doing well because it is a one-party government with no checks and balances. Political discrimination against alternative parties is pervasive in America, and prejudice is built into Maryland’s laws. There are four legal political parties in Maryland, but only two are allowed to have primaries. And those primaries are paid for by taxpayers. Similarly the Board of Elections only includes Democrats and Republicans even though 20 percent of voters are not registered with either party. Similarly election judges can only be Democrats or Republicans. Maryland laws are filled with political favoritism for the two parties. And Linda Lamone, the elections administrator, is an ardent Democrat.

The United States faces challenging problems - the need for new clean energy, the development of a postindustrial economy and workers who can compete in a global market. And we face intractable problems at home, including Baltimore’s four generations of heroin addiction, schools where barely a majority of students graduate and a consistently high homicide rate.

Maryland needs to end one-party rule, open up its democracy, remove prejudice against alternative parties and allow more participation and new ideas. Then, there will be a better chance of solving those problems. The experience of TrueVoteMD, turning Maryland away from its massive investment in risky voting technology, provides hope that citizens working together can solve seemingly unsolvable problems and face the challenges of the future.

It all starts with democratizing our democracy.

Kevin Zeese and Linda Schade are co-founders of Additionally, Zeese Kevin was nominated for Maryland’s 2006 U.S. Senate race jointly by the Green, Libertarian, and Populist Parties.

5 Responses to “Two-party choke hold prohibits true democracy”

  1. disinter Says:

    Democracy Is Not Freedom

  2. Dave Williams Says:

    Maryland & the District just plain suck ass. Crooked asshole cops, gun bans, tax payer funded stadiums, that guy that smoked crack while getting a BJ from a ‘K’ street hooker…what was his name , oh yeah, Marion Barry…(Went to the penn, got out, was re-elected over & over again….what a fucking disgrace to have the Mayor of the nations capitol embarrass the shit outta the citizens of this country.)

    “Maryland needs to end one-party rule, open up its democracy, remove prejudice against alternative parties and allow more participation and new ideas.”

    No, Maryland needs a fucking enema.

  3. Joseph Marzullo Says:

    What Maryland needs is the Libertarian party. Let’s start to repeal the stupid laws and let’s bring back some fiscal sanity.

  4. Dave Williams Says:

    Enema first Joe, enema first….hahahahaha

  5. Daniel Ong Says:

    While verifiable voting will help prevent voting fraud and increase voter confidence, the main problem facing third parties is the voting system used, or the mathematical method used to count votes and determine winners (Richard Winger at Ballot Access News does a fine job covering the ballot access angle).

    Our current plurality voting system (vote for only one and then shut up) is very subject to the spoiler candidate problem—most voters won’t vote for a third party if they think the candidate can’t win, so they will vote for one of the two major party candidates so they won’t be “wasting” their vote.

    Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), a ranked voting system also subject to Arrow’s Impossibility theorem (no ranked voting system is perfect) and being implemented and considered in many localities and states, including Colorado, largely eliminates the spoiler problem if there are only two major parties but still leads to two-party domination. Many alternative parties in Australia are opposed to the continued use of IRV. See Duverger’s Law, linked at my name.

    Range Voting, or score or rate all candidates with the highest average winning, is the only voting system which will not reduce the impact of third parties, and is projected to even help them when they are small. It is the most expressive voting system and also happens to be the best voting system using computer simulation to determine “Bayesian Regret” or statistical divergence from optimal voting.

    Incidentally, I was an election judge (and supply judge, the chief election judge at a precinct) for a decade and a half, before becoming a candidate, as a registered Libertarian in Colorado. This was with punched ballots and before recent implementation of electronic voting machines and paper ballots with optical scan counting.

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