The Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) held a Summit in Washington, DC this past weekend at the kind invitation of Shelly Broderick, the Dean of the University of the District of Columbia Law School. The three day event was made possible by the organizational talents of Joe Libertelli and Tim Carpenter and many volunteers from the Carolinas to California. Washington was in a declared state of emergency for the frigidity, but inside the Conference, the warmth was overcoming as many diverse groups shared common vision, strategy and blue wrist bands. The PDA mission is ambitious; with faith in the unseen, they are building an umbrella coalition of many organizations with common purpose; Peace, Justice and Electoral Integrity and Reform. Whatever your first issue is foreign policy, environment, women’s rights, etc. your second issue, we are reminded, has to be Election Integrity and Reform. Without the later, it doesn’t matter how brilliant or right you are in the first; your strategy in those areas will be quickly deflated to hot air without the ability to guarantee that you can actually elect the people who will be instruments for needed change. That simply can’t happen if all we get are rigged elections.

The star studded event featured the likes of Mimi Kennedy, Darma’s mother in Darma and Greg; Tom Hayden, a lifelong Peace activist; David Cobb, the Green Presidential Candidate who insisted on the Ohio recount which unturned the rock that exposed the swarming maggotry of election deception; Bob Fitrakis, the lead investigative sleuth in the Ohio voting fraud litigation; Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. and many others.

The conference was awash in pink scarves as Code Pink proclaimed that they would not tolerate an endless war under the pretext of pretend popular will when there is no evidence that we had the minimum of electronic security protecting our vote that should give anyone confidence in any mandate. Words like “E-Coup” resonated. For the first time since the Election, a group of hundreds of people gathered and agreed; there was something so foul and tilted in the Presidential Election that we have to take immediate dramatic action or the “Tilt” light will soon read “Game Over.”

The Case Ohio group that promoted the Ohio Election litigation announced its expansion into “Case America” to take on these challenges across the country in every State. Working with the Ballot Integrity project, its lobbying arm, they put out the siren’s call to activate the grass roots to mobilize into supporting bills in Congress toward Verified Paper Ballots for every electronic vote cast.

The PDA realizes that all roads lead to Congress and therefore work “inside” as well as "outside". Ted Kalo and Joel Segal, Hill staffers with John Conyers, addressed the crowd on the importance of keeping the debate alive and well researched. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. gave perhaps the most passionately riveting address in which he reminded us all that no patch in a quilt is big enough to keep us all warm, but sewn together it can cover the whole country. No amount of worthwhile progress was ever won without people demanding it and suffering to some extent. While the listening crowd, proudly wearing T-shirts saying “The machine ate my vote” “Jesus was a liberal Jew” and “Grow a spine” looked like the ragtag patchwork of the electronically disenfranchised that they are. The quilting started at the conference and it looks like its coming together for us to make, as Jackson noted, a "more perfect union." Fitrakis reminded us that what is at stake is no less than whether our government by the People, for the People, will "perish from the earth."

Jesse Jackson, Jr. takes a position at odds with at least one prior Supreme Court opinion but consistent with Scalia in Gore v. Bush in declaring that there is no affirmative Constitutional Right to Vote and so he wants an Amendment stating just that. Other constitutional scholars argue that while it may not be explicit it is certainly already a “penumbral” right, while it’s not clear that it is a Federal or State right.

Tom Hayden gave historical perspective on how to end a War. He noted that Congress should be called upon to reject any supplemental funding and eventually pull the plug on all check writing. Congress needs to just stop writing checks. He also urged that the veil of legitimacy on a clearly pretextual war has to be lifted by the DNC establishment. If it wasn’t clear from the web of lies conning the country and Congress into Iraq, it should be more than evident after Bush’s inaugural address that Bush’s mission in War is perversely self-annointed evangelical and megalomaniacally messianic and has no fewer boundaries than the Roman Empire. It has little to do with terror. After all, we mobilized and created terror where it did not previously exist by bombing into oblivion our rouge "nemesis".

William Rivers Pitt, the independent journalist who runs the “TruthOut” website spoke on the irrelevancy of mainstream corporate media that doesn’t report on the real news any more but promotes an agenda. He urged that we get computers and internet networking to rural and poorer areas for broader expansion of access so that people can get their news through the Internet to fight the conglomeration and centralization of the media agenda.

David Cobb reminded all that the Fortieth Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act is this year. In paying tribute to the first generation of Voting Rights reformers who insisted that Blacks not be disenfranchised, we should join the Rainbow-Push Coalition organized march from Montgomery Ohio back down to Selma to see what progress we have really made. Greg Moore of Ohio, with Rainbow Push’s Voting Project, noted that the games they still play to intentionally disenfranchise people are shameful. He noted, for example that J.Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio Secretary of State, cut off arbitrarily the date by which the polling books had to all be compiled earlier than the registration deadline in Ohio. This one simple executive decision kept tens of thousands of people from appearing on the rolls across the State forcing them to vote either provisionally or in a “spoiled ballot” fashion -- not at all.

Spontaneously erupting from the Conference throughout the weekend was a series of workshops and break-out groups and sessions. People wanted to speak and address the lawyers in the audience about the illegalities and irregularities that they observed. One woman, a computer programmer from Georgia with an impressive resume that includes a stint at MCI, noted with alarm that Georgia is a 100% Diebold state. She recounted how she learned that Diebold machinery was stolen fully loaded with Election software, which would have allowed anyone to reverse engineer the software and steal an Election. She noted with dismay that the elected representatives of Georgia went from being almost all Democrat to all Republican in a matter of roughly four years as Diebold was given all the contracts for electronic voting in the State. She also noted that the she saw IP addresses indicating that there was two-way communication between the networked Georgia Secretary of State office and the local boards of elections and other troubling matters which she deemed a complete breakdown in the “chain of custody” of electronic voting rendering the “black box voting” not worthy of any self respecting Democracy.

In truth, it is irrational to trust that with the complete lack of “chain of custody” security in Black Box Voting that the tallies are accurate without a paper verified ballot as the Ballot of record. In Dominican monasteries they have had full Democracy to select their Prior since the thirteenth century. They count with beans; black beans and white beans. The simplicity is appealing. While the efficiencies of optical scanning and computer memory cards may solve some concerns, they raise other more profound ones; and gaps in electronic security big enough to drive a fraud through.

The Conference challenged us all to think in cycles longer than two years and Keep the Faith and the Republic. There is a lot of work to do.