Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Open Letter to US Ambassador to the United Nations

I sent the following letter to Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the United Nations December 17, 2012, with copies to Attorney General Holder and Honorable Martha Doggett, Deputy Director, Americas and Europe Division, Dept. of Political Affairs, United Nations.  Ambassador Rice has not replied nor have I received response from Atty General Holder or Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) to whom I sent copies. If Ambassador Rice or the other recipients assumed my letter was an political gesture of some kind they were very wrong.  I am deeply concerned that a very great many Americans will be deprived of the opportunity to cast ballots in the 2012 election and it does not appear the US Government is taking meaningful steps to address this crisis. I included a brief bio about my own background to disabuse them of the notion I was some kind of crack pot.  IF YOU SHARE MY CONCERNS, PLEASE COPY THIS LETTER AND SEND IT TO OTHER BLOGS AND NEWS OUTLETS.  

Dear Madam Ambassador:

REQUEST: I am writing to you regarding the peril into which the American 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections are being placed, and seeking assistance from the United Nations to assure fair elections.  As a US citizen in good standing who has voted in every presidential election since 1960, I am seeking your assistance via the United States Mission to the United Nations and the Office of the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, because I am deeply concerned that the legitimacy of the 2012 US presidential and congressional elections is in serious doubt.  Because of failure of individual US States and the US Federal Government to adequately assure equal access to voting, fair and representative elections will require the independent supervision of an outside organization such as the United Nations to assure their validity. This may sound melodramatic, but it isn’t. It reflects emerging political reality of the electoral system in the United States.

AUTHORITY: This request is being made Under the Rule of Law- Democracy and Human Rights provision of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, an agreement to which the U.S. Government is a signatory:

Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy.  These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, recognizes the integral role that transparent and open elections play in ensuring the fundamental right to participatory government. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 21 states:  Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.

FAIR ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY:  Regrettably, free and fair democratic elections are in increasingly in doubt in our country, despite the Obama Administration’s belated efforts to assure protection of electoral rights through the Civil Rights Division of the Office of the Attorney General.  The importance of support from the independent United Nations Electoral Assistance Division of Department of Political Affairs cannot be overstated, as the 2012 presidential and congressional elections are only a year away.  This assistance is needed to aid in the observation and supervision of elections within the United States and verification of election results, including coordination and support for international and national electoral observers.  I, as well as many other Americans have no confidence, based on the emerging events within the United States at the state level, that fair elections will be possible otherwise in 2012. It appears many Americans’ who have the right to vote, will be selectively deprived of that right, by new state laws and regulations enacted within the past year.

Thirty Republican State Legislatures and governors within the United States have either already passed, or are in the process of pushing through legislation that would dramatically restrict the voting access of racial and ethnic minorities, college students, rural voters, senior citizens, people with disabilities and those who are homeless. As part of an effort to suppress voting, new photo identification laws that would suppress turnout of Hispanic and other minority voters are in the process of being passed.  In many parts of the country very few elderly voters have drivers’ licenses or picture identification. In some states people who have moved or changed addresses or names (e.g. married women) will be unable to vote. Voter registration opportunities are being curtailed, including early voting, voting on election day, and reductions in number of voting sites in poor neighborhoods. Plans are being developed to systematically deny large segments of the United States electorate access to free and unfettered voting in the 2012 elections via organized state action led by the Republican Party and their wealthy donors. In some states as many as 50,000 people who voted in the past may find it nearly impossible to vote in 2012.   According to New York University’s Brennan Center on Justice, “The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.”

Laws in several states, such as Arizona and Texas would even make it difficult for President Obama’s name to appear as a candidate on the ballot. This has arisen from false claims that he is not a U.S. Citizen.  While those claims are absurd on their face, some states are nonetheless passing laws that will make it very difficult for the President to satisfy all of the criteria required to be a candidate for president. One of those criteria is that Mr. Obama would have to present his original birth certificate, not a copy, in order for his name to appear on the ballot in that state. The President may have no original birth certificate; it is possible only copies exist. That is yet another way to attempt to rig the election.

PAST PATTERN OF VIOLATION OF VOTING RIGHTS:  Within the United States, a variety of techniques have been used in past elections to suppress voting by minority groups, college students, elderly and disabled voters, and it appears are being greatly expanded again for the 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections, including:

Creating Unrealistic Hurdles to Voter Registration:  In Florida, a new law is making its way through the legislature that would make it nearly impossible to conduct voter registration drives, which greatly affects voter registration in Hispanic, racial minority and other low income areas.

Voter Deception: Deceptive practices include misinforming voters about whether they can vote, where to vote, when to vote and how to vote. A Common Cause report on the 2008 election pointed out that these practices have expanded from flyers and phone calls to include online practices. From the report,

"Most of these emails said that given the high turnout expected, Republicans were to vote on Tuesday, Democrats on Wednesday. An email went to the entire student body of George Mason University that appeared to be from the provost of the school making this same claim.”

Partisan Election Administration: In many states, the officials responsible for overseeing elections are themselves partisan elected individuals, some of whom also hold positions of responsibility in the same campaigns they are charged with overseeing. This creates a natural conflict of interest. The most well-known instance of this is Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in the 2000 election, who was also co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida; she oversaw the removal of tens of thousands of names from the voter rolls based on admittedly-inaccurate lists, the vast majority of whom were minorities or from primarily Democratic precincts. Many Americans continue to believe George W. Bush was not legitimately elected president because of partisan interference with the electoral process in Florida.

Inequality in Election Day Resources:  By providing more polling places, poll workers and/or voting machines in some precincts than others election officials can create long lines that discourage people from voting, while making voting easy for others. In Ohio during the 2004 elections minority areas were provided with fewer resources than areas that tended to vote for conservatives, resulting in very long lines.

Felon Disenfranchisement , the policy of not allowing those with felony convictions to vote. The United States is one of the only democracies in the world with this system, and laws vary from state to state. It disproportionally affects African American men, with approximately 13% of the total population nationwide unable to vote, seven times the national average for other groups.

Voter Purges: Officials strike voters from the rolls through a process often shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.  Manipulation of the process can be a way to deny potential opposition voters access to the polls. Partisan election officials have been known to use the process to remove large numbers of targeted voters from districts that heavily represent the opposing party from the voter rolls.

SUMMARY:  The foregoing concerns are neither exaggerated nor hypothetical.  I, along with a great many other Americans, am deeply concerned at the prospect of serious nefarious interference with the electoral process in 2012.  While scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department in overseeing the upcoming electoral process is urgently needed, it will likely be criticized by partisans as being politically biased, which will limit the ability of the Justice Department to do its job. Vigilance by non-partisan investigators and observers will be required to assure these types of anti-democratic manipulation do not occur. I am requesting that your office initiate the necessary steps to obtain assistance form the United Nations Department of Political Affairs and the support of the Carter Center in Atlanta, in monitoring the 2012 Congressional and Presidential Elections.

Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to learning what steps will be followed to assure all of the citizens of the United States of America will have access to a fully free and fair election in 2012.

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