If you were a commissioner

If you were a commissioner
A locomotive and cars - Downtown Minneapolis, August 29, 2023

Two dozen people seated in a rectangle, half in suits, half in street clothes. The county’s elections manager is reading what seems to be a response pre-cleared by (if not written by) his manager and the county attorney. It’s a reply to questions the local election reform group has posed.

The big reveal has droned along for perhaps twenty-five minutes of the alotted thirty. But now, finally, we are talking hand counts. This ought to be good…

Apparently, the hand count would take weeks and cost half a million dollars.

I look around. I can’t believe no one has said anything. So I remain patient for just a bit longer and scribble something in my notebook to pass the time… Once the elections manager comes to a stopping point, I just have to ask:

“So, are you saying you’re in favor of hand counting?”

Next to the elections manager, the county attorney tries to mute my interruption: We are not taking comments during this meeting. (LOL!)

But I’ve got the election manager’s attention and for one moment the auditor speaks for himself: He says he doesn’t mind either way (tabulators or hand counts). Which prompts a commissioner question, How did we hand count in the past?

And the conversation went on… although the 30-minute limit was soon eclipsed.

Episodes like the above are a reminder of how a simple question can interrupt a spell being spoken.

What was being read was in my opinion likely approved by an attorney working for the county given the time delay in this meeting being set up and the responses given… Given that it may have been written by an attorney, the listener is cautioned to be on the look out for lawyer speak, which routinely gives common words slippery meanings, and in the final analysis, is basically used to deceive the listener or provide plausible deniability (cover).

Having told this story from one point of view, my own, let’s shift to another.

Months after the fact, I am lately having more empathy for the difficult position many inside election offices find themselves, possibly even for the lawyers, although I haven’t found one to relate to quite yet. (Many government employees and [s]elected officals may actually want fair and transparent elections like so many Americans.) Yes, nationwide and within Minnesota there are examples of overt subversion of elections or election data or obfuscation of data or deliberate misdirection from employees and [s]elected officials themselves. It’s easy to throw hands up and demand they all be tried for treason (some may yet be). But if we are focused here on solutions, it will require some combination of We the People encouraging and coming alongside well-meaning commissioners, clerks, and auditors. If the enemy wants to divide, then we can strive for its opposite.

It could be argued people in these roles have one of the toughest tasks ahead in our country’s cleanup. Several months back I wrote a short story about one of these clerks who spoke knowledgeably bout cast vote records (the internally stored and automatically generated tabulator receipts) and hand counts and read it to a crowd of current university and post-grad MFA folks, surprising the organizers and boring some of the attendees—but seeds can be planted anywhere.

Now, for a point of comparison with the election offices, I’ve recently started working as a contractor for a company of 45. Even there, things don’t move quickly, even when the CEO is in meetings with us and agrees to add a to-do… someone still has to find time to prioritize the to-do in a separate meeting, and then the work has to get planned, scheduled, and completed, with all the roadblocks waiting during the actual implementation.

But at least I can speak openly about changes that could happen despite having only joined the company less than two months ago. And the questions and ideas are both heard and sometimes considered.

Now imagine being a commissioner or an auditor in a county office where there may only be one or no others that agree with you on an issue where commissioners have been removed (in obscene ways, see Couy Griffin in Otero County) for challenging the status quo. Maybe there are allies but they don’t have the courage that you do. Imagine tip-toeing through every commissioner meeting as election reform advocates show up week after week, month after month, year after year, providing yet another round of damning information on the current systems lack of security and transparency. You agree with the advocates but feeling the need, perhaps warranted, to keep your opinions to yourself for the moment. (It could be that the public comment rules actually deny you the chance to share an open dialogue with the presenters.) So, you reason, perhaps it is necessary to wait until another commissioner wants to come along. Or until the auditor has shown some willingness to help, if for instance, the indications of a solution to the mess, like hand counts and paper pollbooks (see Gillespie County, Texas), begin to materialize.

With elections, there is the process, the electronic system, the election statutes (laws, some corrupt), and all the local politics of the county offices and relationships with various influences and influencers.

Since subverting a country’s elections has been put by nation-state vulnerability experts like Jeffrey Lenberg as a better option than nuclear weapons to take over a country, it is expected that bad people with a business plan, carefully drawn up, would be able to accomplish what they’ve done in quite a sophisticated way. If you were going to try such a coup (across decades), wouldn’t you be sure to hide your tracks?

And in many ways, they have, at least from the perspective of hard evidence that is admissible in court. But the courts are mostly corrupt anyway, at certain levels. Then again, I heard there was a court case coming up on March 4, 2024. Maybe we’ll hear more about our nation’s elections then…

Until that juncture, I can’t think of a better way to work toward change—transparent elections—than to speak with the decision makers, being as helpful as possible and exuding positive energy in every interaction. Sometimes, just by showing up, the people around you find their strength and courage.

I’ve seen it many times. Haven’t you?

Post written while listening to To be a Man and God’s Eyes by DAX

Thank you to everyone involved in any way with helping their commissioners eventually make decisions that will bring transparency. If you are working, remember you’re not alone, and there’s hundreds of counties around the country where We the People are consistently doing similar good work, most of it unnoticed and unwitnessed except by those paying attention. It’s a price to take time off work to do this, but the worth far exceeds that price. Godspeed to everyone coming back after Labor Day to continue these efforts in their county commissions on Sept 5 and beyond.

Absentee ballots will one day, not too far away, be very restricted, to perhaps less than 1% of total ballots if not much less