29 April 2014

Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH 11) will be fighting for democracy again on May 7th when she opens the CASE (Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections) teach-in in Columbus, Ohio. CASE, along with many watchful Americans, is convinced the full story has not been told about the elections in Ohio in November of 2004.  So they are working with other local groups (including Americans for Democracy) to bring concerned people together for this teach-in about Fighting for Election Justice and Integrity. The people who have led the battle for discovery and reform will work closely with concerned individuals to tell their stories. They will explain why they are concerned, what they have done, and how they have done it. They will ask that people in the workshop groups stay networked, keep informed, and continue to work with the workshop leader to broaden the work already begun. The plan is to build a more informed public core and enlarge the group of activists working on election issues.



CASE began when concerned citizens gathered to testify before the Ohio Joint Committee on Ballot Security in March 2004. As the committee heard 22 hours of testimony about the need for a VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail), several individuals who were there to witness and testify, saw others there that shared a common interest. Fourteen met after the second session in the basement cafeteria of the statehouse and formed the association of activists that has been successful in keeping the issue of fair and open elections before the public for much of the past year.



After the Joint Committee on Ballot Security voted 8 to 1 in favor of VVPAT the newborn CASE thought for a few days that their work was done. They quickly realized that many obstacles remained. Even after the Ohio Senate voted unanimously for VVPAT in HB262 and the House followed with a nearly unanimous vote, it was clear that there were many forces set against the election. The new legislation did not require VVPAT implementation until 2006 and many counties were set to purchase equipment in 2004 that they could upgrade if upgrades were available. CASE kept the issue before the public and Secretary of State Blackwell and the county boards backed down and decided to wait.



They organized rallys and protests, sent information packets to all the Boards of Elections, and wrote to and visited representatives and senators. Their relationship with Ohio lawmakers has been an important part of the success so far in working for better election systems in Ohio. Lawmakers would support CASE when they had a rally, and CASE would show up when lawmakers needed support. Never organized in any traditional sense, but relying on the internet and phone to network, they reached out to nearly 100 concerned citizens, and could form a crowd when necessary.



CASE was active again through the elections focusing on registration irregularities and working with several others (including Americans for Democracy) to document the extent of the problems and resolve the many unanswered questions.



Through all this, CASE has remained a loose association of activists which fosters to a certain creative spontaneity that is the spirit of the activist. But this lack of structure also poses problems. So principles within CASE are forming CASE_America which will be small, structured, and organized as a 501.c.3. With the ability of raising funds, CASE_America will be able to provide grants and loans to CASE_OH as well as others for election work.



Right now, the Ohio legislature is preparing to introduce legislation that is expected to attack the VVPAT, define jurisdictions making it harder for the mobile young and poor to vote; require personal picture IDs that are difficult for many, especially the  elderly and poor; and raise the cost of a recount so high that it may never be attempted again in our lifetimes. In Ohio's case, it is the Republicans who are attacking fair and open voting, but reportedly, where the Democrats are firmly in power, they attempt similar tactics.



Sadly, the need for CASE and organizations like ours continues to grow.  Fortunately, there are hundreds, even thousands who continue to give of their personal time and resources to try and protect our dwindling democracy. And thank goodness for defiant defenders of democracy like Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.