Friday, April 22, 2005

U.S. Elections Official Resigns - Congress Hems, Haws, Holds Back Funds, Reform

this is an audio post - click to play

As Erica Werner of the Associated Press reports in The Washington Post, DeForest Soaries resigned his post on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today, citing footdragging and underfunding by Congress. "I don't think our sense of personal obligation has been matched by a corresponding sense of commitment to real reform from the federal government," Soaries said.

The EAC was created as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, after the 2000 elections revealed flaws in the nation's voting systems. Its intended mission was to help states transition from punch card voting machines and to provide assistance and information about other voting reforms.

Soaries' belief that Congress was underfunding the EAC is nothing new, and he had even threatened to quit before, so today's announcement is not much of a surprise. Soaries' resignation does serve as a nice reminder of the arrogance of elected officials when it comes to fixing problems in the system that put them into office. If they're in office, the system must work.

This truism also applies to reducing the influence of wealthy donors on elections to more accurately reflect the makeup of society. Five billionaires ought to have the same say as any other five Americans, not a million times more. But, any time you start talking about making changes for the good of American principles and democracy, many an elected official jumps like a startled deer and starts spouting excuses.

91% of the members of Congress outspent their opponents, which means that when 91% of Congress thinks back to past campaigns and how the result would have been affected with different campaign finance rules, they rightly determine that their chances would be hurt. It is this dynamic which led Congress to insist on doubling the amount of money they could get from each contributor in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. It is this dynamic which makes it imperative for any meaningful campaign finance (or electoral) reform to come from the people of the United States, not the self-interested politicians.

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