Nader Charges Democrats Offered to Pay Him to Stay Off Ballot in 2004

Ralph Nader

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Ralph Nader was offered money by Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Terry McAuliffe to drop out of the presidential race in 2004. Nader said in an interview that McAuliffe offered him money–which he believes were Democratic Party funds–that he could spend in 31 states if he agreed not to campaign in 19 “battle ground” states. Nader said that he immediately rejected the offer, saying that “It’s completely inappropriate. The inappropriate behavior cannot be rationalized.”

Terry McAuliffe is currently running for governor of Virginia and his campaign has denied the allegations. A McAuliffe advisor said that he “engaged in a conversation with Nader to try to convince him not to run, or at the very least to not compete in the targeted battleground states” but that he did not offer Nader money. According to media reports, McAuliffe did offer to send Nader around the country to talk about issues–on the DNC’s dime–if Nader agreed to limit his campaign. Under federal law, that is legal, although it’s pretty hard to imagine being able to justify such an offer.

While it has largely been forgotten, Democrats engaged in an aggressive campaign to keep Nader off the ballot in 2004. It included lawsuits, public appeals, and other tactics–most of which was justified under the guise that Nader was simply a “spoiler” and that he “cost” Al Gore the presidency in 2000.

How’s that for democracy? It’s the kind of slimy, anti-democratic behavior that makes so many people swear off electoral politics.

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Silver Line Bus Millage Fails

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The millage for the “Silver Line” bus rapid transit (BRT) system that was proposed by The Rapid was defeated yesterday. The proposal was defeated 52% to 47% overall, with Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids being the only cities to vote in support of it. Grandville, Walker, and Wyoming all voted against it.

The millage had decent bi-partisan support from various politicians and organizations, but in the end it didn’t have enough support from the voters. While the increase wouldn’t have taken effect until 2012, the millage’s supporters say it likely failed because of the current economic situation.

The Rapid needed the millage to secure $32 million in federal funding for the project. According to the Executive Director of The Rapid, the money may no longer come to Grand Rapids.

The Rapid can place the millage on the ballot next year if it wants, but at the current time its future is unknown.

Vote Today

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For those living in the Grand Rapids and Greater Grand Rapids area, there are a number of different local elections today. There is a Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education election, the Rapid Silver Line millage proposal, and the Grand Rapids Community College Board elections.

You can find your polling location on the Kent County website and you can read more about the elections by consulting the following items on MediaMouse.org:

May 5 School Board Voter Guide

Grand Rapids League Of Women Voters GRPS School Board

In response to the notoriously low voter turnout for Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) school board elections, the League of Women Voters Grand Rapids has launched a new effort aimed at increasing voter turnout.

Focusing on the upcoming May 5 elections (which also have an important transit proposal), the League of Women Voters has prepared a voter guide for the election that compares the candidates and is organizing a candidate forum. The voter guide compiles information about the individual candidates running for office as well as general information about how to cast a vote and how what the Grand Rapids Board of Education does.

In addition to the voter guide, the group is holding a candidate forum on April 16:

April 16, 2009

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Rev. Lyman Parks Campus Auditorium (formerly Franklin Auditorium)

Join us for the 2009 Candidate Forum, a nonpartisan, informational event offered free to the community. Learn more about how the candidates view their role with the Grand Rapids Public Schools and their ideas for improving the district as a board member.

Voter Guide Responses

In the interest of providing information about the candidates, the questions and their answers are reprinted below:

Why are you running for the Grand Rapids Public Schools School Board?

Tony Baker: I have been a strong advocate for public education for decades, and this has only increased as my children have been in the district. Since I have had one year on the board I am even more convinced that I can impact the district. I have also enjoyed it.

Wendy VerHage Falb: I care deeply about the future of GRPS. I have two sons in the system and know that the quality of these programs will determine the quality of our city. I am committed to making the education in our public schools the best that it can be.

Senita Lenear: GRPS is facing serious financial and educational challenges. We need a forward-thinking leader who embraces innovation and can bring the district and the community together in the interest of common goals. We need a leader who is independent from special interests that seek to control taxpayer dollars. I’m that leader!

Arnie Smithalexander: I am an incumbent board member running because I believe change is a process not an event. Since I was elected significant change has occurred, and I have significantly contributed to that change. Therefore I need to be on the board to finish the progress we have started.

Kevin Weiss: I hope to make a positive impact on the quality of education available to the citizens of Grand Rapids. I would also like to work to settle the labor dispute that is currently over 2 years old.

What experience do you bring to the Grand Rapids Public Schools School Board?

Tony Baker: I have extensive experience researching and teaching about community and schools. At Ferris, I am a respected campus leader on issues of education and diversity. I work at Ferris and in Grand Rapids to build community collaborations. The experience I have had on the board this year has increased these skills.

Wendy VerHage Falb: I have many years of teaching experience in a variety of institutions, a secondary education degree, and a doctorate in English. I have led the PTA, the district’s parent involvement task force, and the successful marketing of our school in the community.

Senita Lenear: I have already served on the GRPS Board in an interim capacity. I am a parent and have experience in labor relations, community relations, hu- man resources, creating budgets and non-profit experience. Most impor- tant, I’m 100% committed to doing what is best for the children of Grand Rapids .

Arnie Smithalexander: I am an incumbent board member running because I believe change is a process not an event. Since I was elected significant change has occurred, and I have significantly contributed to that change. Therefore I need to be on the board to finish the progress we have started.

Kevin Weiss: I bring not only the experience of working in several different professions but also the experience of doing my student teaching at Union High School where I became personally acquainted with some of the issues that students and teachers face on a daily basis.

How would you balance the needs of the district with the current economic situation?

Tony Baker: Many positive changes are occurring in the district. The teachers and administrators are creating some very innovative strategies to improve learning. We must move to a common ground between the teachers, the board and the administration. Personal animosities threaten positive gains. I have and will work very hard to bridge these differences.

Wendy VerHage Falb: This is an ongoing challenge for urban school boards. While the specifics are constantly changing, the “needs to dollar” ratio seems increasingly more difficult to balance. I am eager to work toward advocacy on a legislative level to accomplish a more just distribution of our education dollars.

Senita Lenear: In this country, there are 2 million children already falling through the educational cracks. We need school board leaders who are not just seeking more money, but rather seek more innovative and creative approaches to education; approaches that work within existing budgets.

Arnie Smithalexander: By law, we must balance the budget. To balance the budget members of the board, along with me, have made a commitment not to cut teacher service or increase class size. GRPS are developing more public and private partnerships, along with leveraging all available resources.

Kevin Weiss: There are always ways to cut costs without the quality of education suffering. Reducing waste would be the first area to attack. While the edu- cators are working diligently to have the students experience success they need to have that success the first time through the system.

How will you help to make the Grand Rapids Public Schools a community priority?

Tony Baker: I am impressed with the many groups and individuals that work for the schools. Kids Food Basket, Schools of Hope, and the YMCA are a partial list. We do need to work to further facilitate these partnerships. I have tried to assist by serving on community boards and engaging city/ county officials in the work of GRPS.

Wendy VerHage Falb: I firmly believe that Grand Rapids is a community that can roll up their sleeves and bring about important change, but we’re not always clear on what needs to be done. I am eager to convey to public at large that the work is “doable,” exciting, and rewarding.

Senita Lenear: In a global economy, our citizens have no choice but to make education a priority. The U.S. has the highest high-school drop-out rate of any country in the world. The school board is the vital link between the future of our country and the economic future of our community.

Arnie Smithalexander: A priority is set if every child who leaves our schools, and his/her parents, can say a quality education was received. Schools can only become a priority when all parents feel their child received a quality education. As a board member I will set policy to facilitate that process.

Kevin Weiss: Through personal visits to the buildings and a better connection with the students, staff, educators and administration I feel I will be able to bring the actual building experience to the board members. I believe that in order to make intelligent decisions about a school system you should first know…

Voting Reforms Needed in Michigan

Michigan Voting Reforms

The Michigan Election Coalition has released its post-election report and is calling for changes in the way Michigan conductions its elections.

The report–which looks at problems on Election Day and in the lead-up to the election–says that many voters continue to face intimidation, harassment, and other barriers when they attempt to vote.

To curtail these problems, the Coalition says that the state should adopt no-reason absentee voting, early voting, and update Michigan’s registration laws. According to the report, Michigan’s registration laws are confusing and often serve to disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters. Strict residency requirements and dropping voter registration after a voter fails to vote in two consecutive federal elections lead to disenfranchisement.

On Election Day, the Coalition reported problems with:

  • Registration Issues – Many citizens registered to vote but were not in the poll books, nor could they be found on the Qualified Voter File (QVF). Many others showed up at the wrong location or were informed when trying to cast their votes that they were removed from the voter rolls for inactivity.
  • Student Voting Issues – Many student voters had problems with their registration showing that they were registered for their “home” address and were told that they had to return home to vote.
  • Long Lines – Understaffed polling locations as well as problems with voting machines and staff contributed to long lines.
  • Malfunctioning Voting Machines – There were many complaints concerning either broken tabulators or jammed ballots in malfunctioning tabulators throughout the state of Michigan on Election Day.
  • Disability Accessibility – Many polling places failed to adequately accommodate voters with accessibility issues.
  • Inadequate Resources for Poll Workers – Several voters complained that poll workers were not adequately trained and/or lacked the resources to help them.

Headlines: Key Democrats Waver on Employee Free Choice Act; Supreme Court Limits Voting Rights Act

Democracy Now Headlines: Key Democrats Waver on Employee Free Choice Act; Supreme Court Limits Voting Rights Act

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Obama Lifts Stem Cell Research Ban

President Barack Obama has overturned a ban on federal funding for stem cell research, reversing the policy of his predecessor George W. Bush.

President Obama: “When it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research, and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”

Religious conservatives have generally opposed embryonic stem cell research, because it involves destruction of embryos, which they view as human life. On Monday, President Obama said the research will not be used for cloning humans.

President Obama: “I can also promise that we will never undertake this research lightly. We will support it only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted. We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse. And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society.”

Supreme Court Limits the Reach of Voting Rights Act

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has refused to expand the protections for minorities under the federal voting rights law, a decision that may affect the redrawing of legislative boundaries after the 2010 Census. The court’s conservative majority ruled only electoral districts with majority of blacks or other minorities are to be protected by a provision of the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights groups said the ruling could result in more districts with minorities constituting less than half the population, diluting their voting strength.

35,000 Jobs to Be Lost After Pharmaceutical Mergers

In business news, the pharmaceutical giant Merck has announced plans to buy one of its chief rivals, Schering-Plough Corporation for $41 billion. The move comes just weeks after Pfizer said it would buy Wyeth. The two mergers in the pharmaceutical industry are expected to result in 35,000 job losses. Questions have been raised over the link between the mergers and the taxpayer bailouts of the banking industry. Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School said the mergers are only happening now because the drug companies can get the money from the banks thanks to the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. Abramson said, “The TARP money is supposed to be loosening up credit and keeping Americans employed. They shouldn’t be using bailout money to get rid of people.”

Obama Administration to Review Bush Signing Statements

In other news from the White House, the Obama administration has called into question the legitimacy of all signing statements issued by President Bush. The New York Times reports Obama has ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric Holder before relying on any of them to bypass a statute. However, President Obama has refused to rule out using signing statements himself.

At Least 25 Die in Iraq Bombing

In Iraq, at least twenty-five people died today when a suicide bomber attacked a group of tribal leaders as they left the mayor’s office in the town of Abu Ghraib. Police officers, soldiers and journalists were said to among the dead.

Dalai Lama: China Has Turned Tibet into “Hell on Earth”

The Dalai Lama marked his fiftieth year in exile earlier today by demanding “meaningful autonomy” for his Tibetan homeland, where Chinese authorities have tightened security to stifle protests against their rule. The Dalai Lama slammed China for bringing “untold suffering and destruction” to Tibet and turning the region at times into a “hell on earth.” His words came on the fiftieth anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese troops, which led to his exile.

Pro-Tibetan Protesters Rally Outside White House

Protests are being held today around the world to commemorate fifty years of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule. On Monday, pro-Tibet activists gathered outside the White House.

Tsering Palden, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress in New York and New Jersey: “Today fifty years ago, the Tibetans in Tibet have voluntarily rose up against the Chinese occupation. So that resistance still continues, and we wanted to keep this force of resistance alive and be the voice of those Tibetans inside Tibet, because they don’t have any voice outside, because they closed Tibet from the outside world. No foreigners are allowed. No journalists are allowed. The whole of Tibet has been militarized. It has become virtually–Tibet is under virtually martial law.”

Yangchen Lhamo of Students for a Free Tibet also spoke.

Yangchen Lhamo: “We’re here really with tens of thousands of Tibetans and supporters around the world today to mark this anniversary by taking these fifty years of resistance, the spirit of the fifty years of resistance, to the streets of our cities and our towns and to urge–here in our nation’s capital, to urge the US government to increase the pressure on China to meet with the Dalai Lama and engage in meaningful negotiations and also just to immediately withdraw all of the troops that have been deployed in Tibet.”

China & US Trade Accusations Over US Navy Spy Ship

China and the United States are trading accusations after five Chinese ships approached a US Navy surveillance vessel off the southern Chinese island of Hainan. China accused the US of violating international and Chinese laws by conducting illegal surveying. Pentagon officials said the ship was in international waters. The US accused the Chinese of harassing the spy vessel.

Key Senate Democrats Waver on Employee Free Choice Act

The Wall Street Journal reports key Senate Democrats are wavering in their support of the Employee Free Choice Act, dealing a potential blow to organized labor. The bill would stop employers from demanding secret-ballot elections and require them to recognize unions if a majority of workers consented. The bill has been fiercely opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. At least six senators who have previously supported the proposal now say they are opposed or not sure. Senators on the fence include Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and both of the Democratic senators from Arkansas, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln.

Ford and UAW Agree on New Compensation Plan

In other labor news, Ford and the United Auto Workers have reached a deal where the union has agreed to cuts in their compensation package, including a freezing of wages and restructuring retirement benefits. In exchange, Ford made commitments to the UAW to seek sacrifices from its executives, salaried employees and bondholders. The new deal is expected to save Ford millions of dollars.

British Aid Convoy Arrives in Gaza

A British convoy carrying aid for Palestinians arrived in Gaza Monday. The convoy left London last month and traveled through at least seven countries in Europe and North Africa. Members of the “Viva Palestina” convoy included British parliamentarian George Galloway.

George Galloway: “We have brought with us many vehicles, much equipment, much medicine–everything we could carry. And we will hand it to Ismail Haniyeh, the elected prime minister of Palestine.”

Top US Cyber Security Chief Resigns

The top cyber security chief at the Department of Homeland Security has resigned and has accused the National Security Agency and the military of trying to take control of the government’s cyber security efforts. Up until last week, Rod Beckstrom served as head of the National Cyber Security Center. Beckstrom opposed efforts by the NSA to move the National Cyber Security Center to its base at Fort Meade in Maryland.

McClatchy Newspapers to Eliminate 1,600 Jobs

In media news, the McClatchy newspaper chain has announced plans to eliminate 1,600 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce. Newspapers affected by the layoffs include the Sacramento Bee, the Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Fresno Bee. Meanwhile, the New York Times has announced it has sold twenty-one floors in its fifty-two-story headquarters in Times Square in an effort to raise $225 million. Under the terms of the deal, the paper will lease back the floors for the next fifteen years.

Bolivia Expels Senior US Diplomat

The Bolivian government has ordered a senior US diplomat to leave the country after President Evo Morales accused him of participating in a “conspiracy” against his government. Morales said Francisco Martinez was in contact with opposition groups involved in anti-government unrest. Martinez was the second secretary of the US embassy in La Paz.

Lawmakers Urge US to Take Neutral Role in El Salvador Election

Thirty members of the US House of Representatives have sent President Obama a letter calling for US neutrality in Saturday’s presidential election in El Salvador. Polls indicate the leftist FMLN party will beat the right-wing ARENA party, which has ruled for the past two decades. Historically, the ARENA party has had close ties to Washington. Five years ago, the Bush administration was accused of threatening to cut off aid to El Salvador if voters supported the FMLN.

Police Officer Shot Dead in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, tension is rising after another member of the security forces has been shot dead. A police officer was killed last night in County Armagh after he responded to a call for help. This marked the first murder of a police officer in Northern Ireland since 1998. The shooting came two days after a pair of British troops were shot dead outside a British military base in Northern Ireland. The dissident republican group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility. On Monday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams condemned the killings.

Gerry Adams: “Just make it clear, on the one hand, that the people who carried out this attack don’t have any support within the broad republican family or the broad republican constituency and that Sinn Feinn will go toe-to-toe and ensure that there is no ambiguity around the unworthiness of this action and the fact that this action should not have taken place.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Northern Ireland on Monday and said the peace process cannot be shaken.

Gordon Brown: “What I’ve seen this morning is the unity of the people of Northern Ireland and the unity of the political parties, that they stand united behind the peace and political process that they’ve been building for many, many years, that they are going to continue to work together, and they want to send out a message to the world, as I do, that the political process will not and never be shaken. In fact, the political process is now unshakable.”

Ward Churchill Trial Opens in Denver

Opening statements begin today in Denver, Colorado in Professor Ward Churchill’s trial against the University of Colorado at Boulder. Churchill sued the school after he was fired in 2007 on charges of research misconduct. But Churchill maintains that the allegations were a pretext to remove him for his unpopular political views. In 2005, he described the September 11 attacks as a response to a long history of US abuses and called those who were killed on 9-11 as “little Eichmanns.”

Mass Transit Use at 50-Year High

And more people rode the nation’s public buses, subways and commuter trains last year than in any year since 1956. This according to a new report by the American Public Transportation Association. The trade group estimates Americans took nearly 10.7 billion rides on public transportation in 2008.

ACLU Challenges Unlawful Voter Disenfranchisement in Michigan

The ACLU of Michigan Filed a Lawsuit over Unlawful Voter Disenfranchisement

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan filed a motion last week on behalf of a Michigan resident who was disenfranchised by Michigan’s unlawful voter purging program.

According to the ACLU, Lisa A. Blehm was disenfranchised because she obtained a driver’s license in Georgia. Blehm registered to vote in Michigan in 2006 but moved to Georgia temporarily in 2007 to join her husband who was stationed there temporarily as a Marine. Blehm obtained a driver’s license in Georgia but specifically declined to register to vote because she intended to return to Michigan. She returned to Michigan in June of 2008. When she tried to vote in November, she as told by a poll worker that she was not registered to vote and could not vote in the election. The poll worker failed to give her a provisional ballot.

Blehm was the victim of a statewide voter purging program that removes approximately 72,000 voters from Michigan’s voting rolls each year. The program removes Michigan voters who receive driver’s licenses in other states without issuing any kind of notice.

The ACLU contends that this violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993.

In October of 2008, US District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III ruled that this program did indeed violate the NVRA but the state refused to reinstate purged voters.

Limited Voting Problems in 2008, but Racial Disparities Remain

A new survey has found that voters had generally positive experiences voting in the 2008 presidential election. Unfortunately, like so many things in the United States, those feelings were less likely if you were not white. People of color reported longer lines and being asked for ID more often than white voters.

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Earlier this month, MediaMouse.org reported that voting problems were not nearly as widespread as they were in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Now a new survey conducted by the Pew Center on the States, AARP, and MIT has confirmed this.

The survey found that overall voting in the 2008 presidential election went smoothly. 91% of those surveyed said that it was easy to find their polling place, 83% said their polling place was well run, and 75% said that they were “very confident” that their vote was counted.

However, despite the generally favorable assessment, there were concerns and problems, particularly along racial lines:

* On Election Day, African American voters waited more than twice as long to vote (29 minutes) than all other voters, who reported an average wait time of 13 minutes to vote. Early voters said they had to wait an average of 20 minutes to vote, but African Americans again reported an average wait time more than twice as long–43 minutes;

* Latinos said they were asked to show ID more often than whites or African Americans in states that require ID;

* More than half of the states require no ID to vote, yet 12 percent of voters in these states not requiring ID said they were asked to present an ID. Meanwhile, in states that require a photo ID, 20 percent of voters said they were never asked for one.

Beyond racial disparities, confidence in the voting process was also lower among early voters. Only 61% of absentee voters believed that their ballot would be accurately counted.

The survey was unveiled at a conference where Secretaries of State, election officials, and election experts were gathered to discuss electoral reform.

Voting Problems Nowhere Near as Widespread as 2004, Opportunities Still Exist for Improvement

Far fewer voting problems were reported in Grand Rapids and the country as a whole compared with 2004, but there are still several opportunities to reform the voting process according to the nonpartisan group Election Reform.

Unlike the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, there was relatively little discussion of voting problems this year. While scattered problems were reported across the country–and in Michigan–the problems were largely under reported in light of Obama’s substantial victory.

In Grand Rapids, there were several reported problems. Most of the problems had to do with excessive lines at Alexander Elementary School. At the school, voters waited as much as two hours to vote in Precinct 17 of Grand Rapids’ Ward 3. The City of Grand Rapids blamed the delays on the high number of voters in the precinct and record turnout. However, given that similar problems occurred in the 2004 election, these problems should have been prevented. Beyond these problems, The Grand Rapids Press also reported that there were some problems with Republican challengers.

Across Michigan, problems were reported with long lines–especially in Detroit. In Detroit, voters reported waiting as long as three hours to vote. In addition, there were reports of faulty voting machines. The nonpartisan group Election Protection received reported receiving calls about 569 problems in Michigan with the majority being classified as “polling place problems.” This broad category included everything from voters being told they couldn’t vote at a polling place to polling places running out of ballots.

However, despite the absence of major problems this election, Election Protection says that there are still a number of reforms () that would help enhance voting rights. These include:

IMPROVE VOTER REGISTRATION PROCESS

The most prevalent and alarming challenge to our electoral process today came in the form of voter registration problems. Voters across the country arrived at the polls to find that their registrations had never been processed, that their names had been purged from voter lists, or that they had missed the registration deadlines altogether. Our first priority for improving this flawed system should be to make the registration process fair, accurate and efficient.

COMBATTING DECEPTIVE PRACTICES

Voters in nearly a dozen states today received misinformation about polling locations, times and rules. It’s easier than ever to disseminate deceptive information quickly – and with new mediums – and our election system needs to adapt accordingly to combat these practices and minimize the effects of partisan tricks.

UPGRADE THE ADMINISTRATION PROCESS

Today in Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and numerous other states, eligible voters were forced to cast provisional ballots because of ballots shortages, and were hampered by poorly trained poll workers, and broken voting machines. These problems could have been avoided if the administration of our electoral process provided officials and poll locations with the resources needed to handle the weight of full participation.

EXPANDING THE VOTE

We saw fewer problems in states with early voting. Early voting takes pressure off the system by easing the crush on Election Day, and by providing a margin for error when testing new systems of election administration. Today’s voters should not be constrained to a single day in which to cast a ballot.

On its website, Election Protection features a detailed report that advocates particular reforms that would address these areas.

Here in Michigan, the Michigan Election Reform Alliance is advocating many similar reforms.

Obama Wins Presidency, Michigan, and Kent County

Democrat Barack Obama has won a significant victory, becoming the nation’s first black president by a substantial margin in an election with record turnout. Obama also made substantial gains in Kent County, winning the county for Democrats by a slight margin.

While a few states–Georgia, Missouri, and Virginia–remain to close to call, Democrat Barack Obama won a major victory last night. Obama became the nation’s 44th president–and first black president–by a substantial margin (338 to 168 electoral votes). In addition, the Democrats gained seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Here in Michigan, Obama won 57% of the votes compared to 41% for McCain with 99% of precincts reporting. Third parties did not gain a substantial number of votes, with independent candidate Ralph Nader receiving the most votes at 33,207. Following Nader, the next highest vote getter was Libertarian Bob Barr with 23,871. Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney received only 9,081 votes.

USA Today is reporting that Barack Obama won Kent County by a slim but significant margin. They have Obama at 49.4% (149,855 votes) and McCain at 48.9% (148,305). In 2004, Republican George W. Bush won by an almost 19% margin.