Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean It

Cross Posted on Dailykos

Wherein I tell those people who demand election reform to stop looking to others to solve the problem and to solve it themselves.
There has always been something that bothered me about the "stolen election" dairies that have a tendency to rocket up the diaries at Dailykos. I'm sure that part of it stems from how the "stolen election" sentiment online began by calling me, and several other bloggers, cowards for not blogging about it all the time after the election. Part of it stems from the clear nutjobbery of some of the early leaders of the movement, such as Bev Harris. Part of it stems from the "stolen election" claims often pushing the idea that Kerry won the popular vote and not just the Electoral College. One is entirely plausible--the other is pure conspiracy theory based on nothing except exit polls and tin-foil related claims on paperless DRE's that completely ignore the fact that over 85% of Bush's gains in the popular vote margin from 2000 came from outside of the swing states, especially in California and New York (let me know how the vote rigging conspiracy was carried out in San Francisco or the Bronx). Part of it comes from the desire for helpless that it seems to generate--they own the election system, so we are screwed no matter what we do. However, even though all of these factors play a role, reading OneCrankyDom's diary today finally crystallized for me what really bothers me about these diaries and the culture surrounding them: laziness.

Let me be elliptical for a moment. Back on May 16th, I joined hundreds of reformers in Philadelphia as I won my first election for Democratic Party office. In fact, I actually won two elections that day, one for local ward Democratic committee, and the other for statewide Democratic committee. It was not easy, and I have blogged about my efforts over at MyDD in detail. Election Day itself was particularly taxing, not just because I had to stand outside my polling place all day or because I had to run around the city helping out people who were volunteering for my campaign. My campaigns were also made difficult by a number of faulty voting machines in Philadelphia on that day.

Along with a half dozen other machines in neighboring divisions (precincts), both of the machines in my division were unable to accept write-in votes from the moment the polls opened. I called the board of elections six times that day. In a few divisions, the machines did not work altogether, and everyone who voted was forced into using provisional ballots. Needless to say, this was a complete disaster for my write-in campaign, which was centered around a dozen or so precincts in my neighborhood. I spent much of the day calling the board of elections to complain about the problem and to demand that someone come to our local precincts to fix the problem. In fact, form 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., I called the board of elections more times than I can remember, but usually being told that the problems I was facing were not a high priority. The judge of elections in my division offered up a stop-gap solution, where people wishing to cast a write-in vote would sign a piece of paper and write the names of the people they wished to write-in. We did that for around 16 voters in my division alone, and at the end of the day had the papers notarized.

There were other problems too. At the end of the day, I noticed that many people had written my name differently. Some included my middle initial, some did not. Some wrote my shorter online name "Chris Bowers," instead of my full name, "Christopher J. Bowers." I became worried that not all of the votes would be counted for me. Combine these tow problems with issues surrounding illegibility, and even though around 200 intended to vote for Kevin and I (we only needed 100), and I was more than a little worried that in the end, when the votes were "counted," we would not be certified as new state committee people.

To resolve the problem, on the Friday after the election, I personally went down to the board of elections (which is in a very out of the way place in Philadelphia), and spent a couple of hours waiting in line to ask for permission to be present when all of the votes for my race were counted. I also sought legal advice on the different spelling of my name on the write-in votes. Eventually, I had my time before the board, was granted permission to be around when the votes were counted, and left a detailed note with my contact information and the nature of my campaign.

The next Wednesday, the board of elections had finally reached the point where I could be present at the counting of the ballots. So, once again I went down to the board of elections to review the votes. Because of my previous efforts, I was allowed to sit down with an election worker and--get this--go through the results of every voting machine in my district one by one. That process took about an hour and a half, but at the end both the Board of Elections and I ended up with a detailed record of the votes in the write in campaign Kevin and I were running.

After that was done, I again waited in line to talk with the judge on the board. I made three specific requests. First, I asked that the various spelling of my name and of Kevin's name all be counted for Kevin and myself. Citing the appropriate case law, the judge agreed. Next, I requested that the sixteen votes in my division that were written on unofficial sheet of paper, but were notarized, be counted for both Kevin and I. The judge ruled against his motion, because the vote count I had just conducted with the election worker had revealed that we each had more than 160 votes--well over the amount required. The third motion was for all of the "illegible" votes to be counted for us (another eight votes). Again the judge ruled against, although he said the ruling might be different if the votes were anywhere close to determining the outcome of the election. Since Kevin and I had clearly won anyway, he preferred that the matter be closed.

Why am I blogging about this excruciating, laborious task I went through to make sure that all of the votes in my election were counted properly? Because of this quote from OneCrankyDom's diary:
This is finally being told by a Magazine somewhat in the mainstream.
And this one:
I can only hope some of the Big Papers run with this.
Is that really the goal--to get the extremely disturbing tale of vote suppression and possible vote fraud in Ohio and elsewhere into the Mainstream? Is the hope that when the Big Papers run with it, then the problem will be solved, because even Republicans in Congress will be shamed into passing good election reform legislation? And why are the "Big Papers" and the "Mainstream" capitalized anyway? Are we supposed to show them some sort of deity-like reverence?

I can sense something really depressing at play here, similar to what I wrote about in my recent dairy Draft Gore--But Only If You Mean It. All of complaints that the Big Bloggers were not writing enough about election reform, the desire to see election reform talked about in the Mainstream Big Papers, the desired hopelessness at play in some "stolen election" threads--I can see where this is all leading now. The mentality surrounding the "stolen election" diaries has the clear stink of looking for someone else to solve the problem for you. There is no sense of "Do It Yourself" grassroots action to fix the problem in these dairies. In the same way that these diaries imply individual voters are being denied by a great outside power of some sort, the same dairies look to a great outside power to solve the problem.

This laziness cannot stand. Over the past year, I have been involved in what Jerome first termed "the silent revolution," the national effort by grassroots democrats to retake the Democratic Party by running for local and statewide Democratic Party office. The term "silent" for this effort is important to note, because while thousands of progressive activists have won Democratic Party office in this campaign, it has received virtually no press coverage whatsoever. This revolution is so silent that I wonder how many people here are aware that it has already completely succeeded in five states--Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina and Oregon--and is on the brink of succeeding in several more (most notably, Texas). This is a massive nationwide movement involving tens of thousands of activists, but the Big Papers, the Mainstream, and even most Big Bloggers have hardly covered it at all. That, however, has not stopped the revolution form taking place. In fact, I'm not even sure what a lot of mainstream coverage would do to help the movement. Would editorials help more people find their local Democratic committee meeting times'? Would they help form new grassroots organizations to recruit and network new committeepeople? I am going to go with "no" on both counts. This is a revolution that does not need press in order to succeed.

The thing is, any real election reform movement would be carried out in precisely the same fashion as the silent revolution is being carried out. People interested in election reform and worried about stolen elections need to become judges of elections in precincts and counties all around the nation. They would go down to their local board of election, as I did, and go through every single result from ever single voting machine in whatever district was in question. Before Election Day, they would inspect the voting machines in every precinct in their neighborhood, as me and my fellow committee people did. On Election Day, if there were any problems, they would spend all day on the phone with the Board of Elections, demanding someone come fix the problem and making sure their complaints were on the record. In short, a real movement for election reform would not give tow shits whether or not the Mainstream, the Big Papers, of the Big Bloggers were writing about their concerns. A real election reform movement would be actively taking control of the voting infrastructure throughout the nation, just as real grassroots Democrats are actively taking control of the party infrastructure nationwide.

That, however, is not happening. What we have instead in a culture that blames a Big, Outside Power for the problems in our election system, and look to another Big, Outside Power to solve the problem. People need to wake up and realize that is not going to happen. If you want election reform, then have the guts and the willingness to get active and take control of your local voting infrastructure. That is the only way anything is ever going to get done. No major problem in this country has ever been solved nationally without first having a nationwide movement to rectify it at the local and statewide level first. For example, women had already secured the right to vote in more than thirty states through more than thirty separate campaigns before their right to vote was finally enshrined into the Constitution in 1920.

I wrote a snarkier diary along these lines eighteen months ago. I'd like to close this diary by quoting from some of the excellent comments people left in that diary. After the 2000 elections, we demanded reform. We got it, Republican-style: it was called HAVA. It was worse than worthless. Now everyone is demanding that we repeat the process. Don't look to the media to fix the problem--look to yourself.
Reform is great, though I tend to agree with Chris. We can't come up with a "total" plan and march it up to the front door; we have to take back the process one chunk at a time and from different, multiple angles than congress. Gorilla reform. Insurgent activists.
Don't look to Congress to fix the problem--look to yourself.
The GOP Congress wants nothing more than an excuse to rig the vote even more by PRIVATIZING the damn thing and the Democrats are stupid enough to say, 'uh...see...we did something!' This is pretty much what happened with that pathetic HAVA from 2001.

Real change in election reform has to happen at the state and county levels, which is good for us because Democrats still hold significant power at the state and county level - even in the South.
Don't look to Republicans to fix the problem--look to yourself.
Somewhere along the road, we've gotten into our heads that we can shame the GOP into acting responsibly. Somewhere, we figured they'd somehow see the light of day and work everything out in the interests of equity and representative government.

If we've learned anything in the last 4 years, it should be that the GOP will lie, grab, shove, and do anything they damn well please, in whatever manner they (or their special interests) please.
Don't' look to Big Outside Powers to fix this problem--look to yourself. If you want election reform, then take control of your local voting infrastructure, the way so many grassroots Democrats have taken control of their local party infrastructure. If you are looking for someone else to solve the problem through editorials in the Washington Post and so called "moderate" Republicans in Congress, you have already lost. Don't look to someone else to solve the problem--look to yourself. Don't just thrill at your identity being validated by RFK Jr. in Rolling Stone--take control of your local electoral infrastructure. For God's sake, realize that you have the power.

Tags: Activism, desired helplessness, election reform, Silent revolution (all tags)

Comments

45 Comments

why is it one or the other?

I applaud your efforts to fix problems with the voting in your local precincts.

However, you can't be serious if you are suggesting that we should all focus on this kind of reform rather than getting the Bush fraud story into the mainstream media.

If the mainstream media begin to pick up the thread of election fraud in 2004, then they might write fewer boilerplate features about why Democrats keep losing, and they might stop treating the GOP as the party that naturally appeals to ordinary Americans.

Also, the more we undercut Bush's credibility the harder it will be for him to get more of his horrendous laws through Congress (though sadly, he's already done enough damage to last for my whole lifetime).

Not all the problems with vote counts can be solved by activists at the local level. A lot of decisions made at the top (which kind of voting machines to buy, how many of them to allocate to different precincts) make a big difference too. For these things to change, genuine election fraud would have to become a major national news story.

by desmoinesdem 2006-06-01 09:06PM | 0 recs
Re: why is it one or the other?
"Not all the problems with vote counts can be solved by activists at the local level. A lot of decisions made at the top (which kind of voting machines to buy, how many of them to allocate to different precincts) make a big difference too. For these things to change, genuine election fraud would have to become a major national news story."

Actually, those edecisions are made at the ocunty level, which is still pretty grassroots.

I ahve sen loads of complaints that people are not covering the story, including myself, but basically no grassroots effort to take control of electoral infrastrcture. To me, the "movement" seems more aobut whining than about actually engaging in reform. That needs to change.
by Chris Bowers 2006-06-02 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: why is it one or the other?

Chris, I tend to agree with the critique of this commenter.  Galvanizing people to action means telling a widespread story about a) the problem and b) the solutions.  I spend a lit of time organizing netrrots people to action, in a consultative fashion, and this is my take on it.

By setting up an early dynamic of opposition to fruad theories and evidence, Markos and others creatied an unnecessary festering wound.  The only way this got partially resolved at dkos was through the leadership of Armando from the front page, issuing his challenge to offer publicity in exchange for credible evidence, and georgia10, who compiled the credible eviidence as it existed at the time.  If they had not stepped into the breach to lead, far more community damage would have been done.

I just don't get all this argument about laziness when we, in my view, equally have a responsibility to our online communities to help people put their anger and passion into effective action.  

Chris, I think you're making a substantial point about taking action - one I often make in my appeals at Firedoglake for Roots Project volunteers - but not at all examining the role of other leadership to step in and help people organize their efforts.  What you've done locally can also be done in our online comunities.  But not if front plage bloggers launch preachy screeds about laziness every time this issue comes up.  

It may comfort us to vent some spleen, but it incurs a huge opportunity cost, pushing talent and energy away from us when we could be channelling and using it.

by Pachacutec 2006-06-02 07:48AM | 0 recs
This is True in Every Sense - here's a list

Here's a list you can do, to keep your elections honest.

1. Bring a video camera to the polling place, and record as much as you can. Also record on your cellphone.

2. Check to make sure voting machines are being operated properly - and in a non partisan way. Elections are non partisan.

3. Do a straw poll at the end, stand around and poll people on how they voted. Remember the vote count - you may get a skewed result if you don't do too many people, but at least you'll have a rough idea

4. Have someone from your precinct do a full exit poll - just have someone get the lucky number to do it - and keep it on your community blog. this will verify things.

5. Ask the local elections board some key questions - esp. the protocols they use in their diebold machines. These things are notoriously unsecure. All procedures should be public info.

6. Write to your congressman if you feel things aren't kosher. Election problems hurt both parties.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-06-01 09:46PM | 0 recs
And one key issue..

Almost forgot, one key issue - come out in support of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

It deepens the field of candidates and makes it easier for a larger base of people to express their views - it will act directly on the problem of havin g to vote for tweedledum, or tweedledee- you will feel free to vote for whom you really want to win regardless of lamer "party" ties.

Partisans try to rig things like elections. They are the ones never to be trusted. There is no such thing as a democrat polling booth. Neither a republican.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-06-01 09:49PM | 0 recs
Re: And one key issue..

So-called "IRV" sucks. All of the infinite forms of "IRV" (they all look the same to the voters -- but they are counted in different methods.) bear the catastrophic Black Hat Syndrome. Which is to say that if, say, a Bush and a Kerry are running in a race with a Nader, you cannot give your first-rank vote to Nader (assuming you like Nader the most) without, of course, failing to give it to Kerry. And that could result in the election of the Bush. This is a disastrous defect. It does not exist with sequential (separate runoff) approval voting, which is the only reasonably simple solution.

by blues 2006-06-01 10:34PM | 0 recs
it doesn't work that way

Let's take your hypothetical Kerry/Bush/Nader election, with Nader supporters backing Kerry over Bush.  If Bush gets >50% first round votes, that means there weren't enough Kerry+Nader voters to beat him.  It doesn't matter how many of them vote for Nader #1 vs. Kerry #1.  If, on the other hand, Bush gets <50% first round votes, Nader is eliminated, and all the Nader votes switch to Kerry.

In other words, Nader voters who prefer Kerry over Bush can't possibly swing the election to Bush by failing to give Kerry their #1 votes.  If Bush has enough to win in round one, they're irrelevant.  If Bush doesn't have enough to win in round one, their #2 votes will be counted.

by cos 2006-06-01 11:02PM | 0 recs
Re: it doesn't work that way

Arguing about "IRV" is like arguing about quantum physics. Everything that is "obvious" turns out to be insanely tricky. Years ago, I spent WEEKS arguing with some folks on a forum, before it dawned on me that their arguments (which were in opposition to mine) were in fact based on juggling a set of subtly different -- and utterly incompatible (!) -- counting methods. (And I do not think they themselves were even aware that they were doing this!) The one thing that ties all the myriad counting methods of "IRV" together is the presence of the (subtly slippery) 50% + 1 concept.

Well, yes, in all known forms of "IRV" counting, if someone gets "50% + 1" in the first "round," they win. But no one will ever even get this magical number if, say, Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds vote for only their own folks, and they happen to each make up 1/3 of the population in some given town. But in all but the most convoluted forms of this "IRV," by giving a first-rank vote to a Nader instead of a Kerry, you will in fact increase the likelihood of the eventual victory of a Bush. By the way, there are many, many people -- who disagree with each other -- who will gladly provide you with volume after volume of game theory formulas when taking sides in this argument.

by blues 2006-06-01 11:35PM | 0 recs
Re: it doesn't work that way

Forget IRV.  Why?  Because to most voters, it looks like one more damned gimmick that a bunch of eggheads are trying to push on them.  If we want to be the party of the average voter, rather than just an egghead elite as opposed to a monied elite, then we should drop-kick this shit right out the window.

You want runoffs (and I'm all for them), go with regular, old-fashioned runoffs: if nobody gets 50% + 0.5 (to be an egghead about it ;-), the top two candidates do it over again a week or two later.

I like runoffs because they empower the voters.  Without some sort of runoff, a third party aids the major party most unlike the third party, which is a massive disincentive to taking the bull by the horns and starting a political movement outside the two parties.

And I think one thing progressive Dems should be running on is citizen empowerment - increasing the number and power of tools that citizens have to take matters into their own hands and start solving problems without waiting to be rescued from On High.

But Chris is right - we've already GOT a decent starter toolkit, that of getting involved and being active where we are.  Let's do that and see how far that gets us.

Finally, I'm not sure how much good we can expect the conventional media to do us.  I think we should keep on leaning on them, sure, but one of Al Gore's fundamental insights after 2000 is that it's better to find ways to bypass them entirely than to try to get them to report honestly.

The traditional media will eventually be supplanted by independent online media, at least if we preserve Net neutrality.  There's bits and pieces of it already, and there's a great deal more we in the blogsphere could do in the way of independent reporting RIGHT NOW, mostly without ever leaving our computers.  Legendary reporter I.F. Stone became a legend how, you ask?  By going through government documents and reporting on what he found.  Stone had to go to goverment offices, request documents, pore through paper copies of them, and take handwritten notes.  Now most of that stuff is online - each one of us can be an I.F. Stone if we want.

If we do, maybe the MSM will pick up on it, and maybe not.  But if we find anything interesting, we can post to our own blogs, or to Kos diaries, and the word will circulate further.  Let's be our own media.

by RT 2006-06-02 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: it doesn't work that way

That's just plainly and simply false.

The simplest case is this:

  1. Some voters vote for Bush
  2. Some voters vote for Kerry
  3. Some voters vote for Nader #1 and Kerry #2

There is abolutely no way that moving some votes from category 2 to category 3 would help Bush win.  It's ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE.

Add some other candidates and other votes and whatever else you want, but the simple fact is, there is no practical way that someone's vote would help Bush win if their ballot meets these two simple conditions:

  1. They do vote for Kerry somewhere on the ballot (not necessarily #1)
  2. they don't vote for Bush
It's very simple.

I've seen a lot of crackpot critiques of IRV, but all of them pretend that IRV requires you to to "rank all the candidates in order of preference," which is ridiculous BS invented by people who wanted a simple way to analyze it mathematically to compare to other voting systems, without paying attention to reality.

If you "rank all the candidates in order" that means you're voting for candidates you oppose!  The solution to any such problems is simple: don't vote for candidates you oppose!.  Period.

We have IRV as part of a proportional representation system here in Cambridge, for city council elections.  We had 18 candidates running last year.  A majority of voters voted for fewer than 10 of them.  Fewer than 1 in 10 voters actually "ranked all the candidates".  Voters for the most part understand that you shouldn't vote for the candidates you don't want to vote for.

by cos 2006-06-02 11:41AM | 0 recs
Amend National Popular Vote.

A form of IRV could be instituted by twelve states on a national level by amending the National Popular Vote movement to require a majority not just a plurality. The amendment would state that if no candidate got a majority then the losing candidates could direct their votes to the winners until one had a majority. It would make third parties instantly viable.

But while I have called my state rep to amend the Illinois version I am still too lazy to keep calling until he returns my call.

I know exactly what Chris is talking about because it is me.

by Jeff Wegerson 2006-06-02 03:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

Chris:

I keep dropping the same message:

1)  Get rid of all computer voting. Just use hand counted ballots, since you get ten tons of opportunity to cheat for every ounce of "convenience" afforded by computer voting.

2)  Have the results announced by every polling station by at least six people who are put in charge of overseeing the count before those results are tossed in with all other ballots on the night of the election.

3)  Make those "six people who are put in charge" of the count at each polling station be randomly selected citizens, not people selected by the politicians themselves.

AND -- Regarding the concept you brought up in the part about:

Part of it comes from the desire for helpless[ness] that it seems to generate--they own the election system, so we are screwed no matter what we do.

I see things quite differently. Nothing will disparage people from voting. For the same reason that nothing will stop people from resisting the U.S. military in Iraq. People vote for precisely the same reasons they fight in wars. They do care about the odds, nor do they think that their little sacrifice will necessarily bring about victory. They do it simply because it is what they believe in, and they will never be stopped by perceived helplessness.

by blues 2006-06-01 10:52PM | 0 recs
From someone who means it...

On election day 2004, I was at the Election Protection call center in Broward County, Florida, in charge of coordinating response to reports of voting machine incidents.  Anyone who called 866-OUR-VOTE in Broward and reported a voting machine problem was directled to me unless I was too busy with other calls.

In the past few years I've also been a poll-watcher for progressive campaigns in several special elections, and/or been a precinct captain training and coordinating poll watchers, and I've participated in a recount for a progressive write-in candidate for Democratic State Committee (we gained 3 votes in the recount, putting our candidate in an exact tie with her opponent - though the Boston part of the district did not count write-in votes and we know our candidate got some there, while her opponent probably didn't; the opponent won the coin toss).

... and yet, I still think we need more national media attention.

Now, I'm not pushing the "2004 was stolen" idea as a certainty.  I think it's possible that Kerry got more votes in Ohio, but not very likely.  I think it's certain that urban voting was suppressed, and that there was no accurate count of the Ohio vote, and that this is a big problem even if Bush really did win that state.  (I left out of the things I did last year: standing at a bus stop in downtown Cincinnati, registering mostly poor people to vote)

MoveOn recently sent all its members a ballot to vote for their top three priorities for the next year.  "Elections that can't be bought" and "Accurate elections" are two of the items on the list.  Please, everyone, vote for both of those!

As for me, this year I'm working for John Bonifaz for secretary of state of Massachusetts.  Wherever you are in the country, this race should matter to you.  Here's someone who's been fighting the election reform fight, down in the trenches, more than any of us, someone who has shown real national leadership.  Put him in charge of elections in an influential state, and election reform will get a major push nationally.  National leadership is in his platform, the Voters Bill of Rights.

by cos 2006-06-01 10:58PM | 0 recs
Re: From someone who means it...

Well, cos, you sure seem to be doing a lot to try to help. As for me, I am just kind of stuck here in the forgotten leafy wilderness of Western Massachusetts. My usual tactic is simply to do lots of research, and only get super active in close races that involve significant consequences. Actually, my main idea is to effectively "educate" people around me -- not so much by informing them about the "TRUTH," though I do that occasionally.

I am mostly interested in the idea that people can learn through being exposed to "stimulation," even if no particular knowledge or opinion is provided in my messages. To me, this looks to be a huge opportunity, since there seems to be no other way to make up for the military-style education (psychic occupation, really) that they have been forced to endure under corporate rule over the mass schooling system.

by blues 2006-06-02 12:10AM | 0 recs
Re: From someone who means it...
Well done.
by Chris Bowers 2006-06-02 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

You way, way, way off base this time, Chris.

My son, who was totally apathetic politically at the time, had two roommates in Chicago that got some change from the Progressive Party.

When the girl came home in tears from being a poll watcher and being harassed by Daley's crew, Pat took on the job of poll watcher for a former Black Panther running against The Machine.  Though Pat knows no Spanish, he seemed to be able to speak the lingo his South American roommate didn't in a Latino district. Maybe it was his years of martial arts training that produced a certain fluency.

The Machine won, of course, but the vote in favor in the precinct was down considerably.

I think it is not reason and logic that dismisses the exit poll data but a desire to fit the facts to your theory, Chris.

I don't know what the facts are or that the election was stolen.

But I think it is risky to dismiss as trivial what you do not wish to see.

by terryhallinan 2006-06-01 11:36PM | 0 recs
You're Way Off Here on this point..

Well, the reason this issue rockets to the top at DKOS is that if the vote is compromised then nothing else that we're working on makes much sense! Plus, the Republicans act like squirrely vote stealers! Of course its important. Actually, try to do something more complicated in Philly: audit the vote. Go ahead I dares you. I double dares you. You actually probably can't be sure that you won in any district that used a voting machine that doesn't leave a trail.

By the way, it wasn't just some crazy statistician that smelled a rat with the exit polls (smaller discrepancies turned over the Ukraine vote by the way) it was a whole team of stat guys, plus Kathy Dopp, plus four books, plus America Votes, plus Greg Palast's new book...this stuff is well researched and generally unrebuted by the right...! Smell a rat why doncha...

by pshropshire 2006-06-02 02:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

By the way, I don't think becoming a committeeman means too much if the GOP can "disappear" about 300000 thousand votes like they did in Ohio. And: please rebut that charge if you  will. No name calling. No insults about us weak minded people who can't see through that hack Greg Pallast...probably one of the greatest investigative reporters of our time, who of course works for the BBC.

I think the answer, quite frankly, lies outside of nice DLC political moves. We need to do what the masses did when they tried to depose Chavez, or what the Paris kids did when they tried to turn their employment status at will or what thousands of latin American immigrants did when they were threatened with being turned into felons...Massive demostratations. Worker's strikes. And they need to be big...of course, they can't be big if we insist that there's not a problem with mostly black people having their vote disenfranchised....

by pshropshire 2006-06-02 02:18AM | 0 recs
huh?

No one can rebut a charge which you have provided no evidence to support.

by Adam B 2006-06-02 05:14AM | 0 recs
Re: huh?

Like the evidence that Bush has subverted the legal system, there are stacks of volumes of information detailing irregularities in Ohio and Florida compiled by researchers such as Palast. We can't just republish them all here. Nor could you refute them all, as there are just too many of them...

by blues 2006-06-02 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

One more point: We're tried your way for two consecutive presidential elections...(Kerry didn't even bother to see if he actually won! He had the resources to join the Green Party. Guess it wasn't important enough. I'm sure 30000 dead Iraqis agree with you...too depressing I'm sure.)

I don't think its working too well.

by pshropshire 2006-06-02 02:29AM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

I'm rather shocked by the misinformation spread by people who are opposed to IRV.  It seems to me that they decide that they're opposed to it, pull some reasons out of the air as to why they oppose it without ever learning anything about it.  They then refuse to learn anything about it and continue spread misinformation.  IRV is really simple.

I'll go over the basics right now:

Voters rank their candidates in the order that they prefer them.  If no candidate gets 50% +1 on the first ballot, there is an instant runoff.  The bottom candidate is dropped and the voters who chose the candidate who dropped have their votes redistributed to their second choice.

Florida in 2000 would have had a very different outcome!  I'm guessing that most Nader voters would have preferred Gore over Bush.  On the second round of IRV, Gore would have likely had 50% +1.

Up here in Minneapolis, we're busy with a city ballot initiative to get Instant Runoff Voting on the ballot this November.  I'm on the organizing committee.  We've garnered tons of endorsements including the City DFL (MN version of Dems) and just last week the city council approved it for the ballot.  If any of you would like some facts on IRV, I suggest going to the campaigns website:

www.betterballotcampaign.org

The site isn't that great, but it does have a large amount of information about IRV.  San Francisco, Burlington, VT and Cambridge, MA already use it.

The Big E
www.mnblue.com

by The Big E 2006-06-02 05:50AM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

The Big E said:

I'm rather shocked by the misinformation spread by people who are opposed to IRV.  It seems to me that they decide that they're opposed to it, pull some reasons out of the air as to why they oppose it without ever learning anything about it.  They then refuse to learn anything about it and continue spread misinformation.  IRV is really simple.

Now this is going just a bit far. As I stated, there are many, many distinct ways of counting ranked ballots (and distinct ways of counting with "IRV" "50% + 1" rules). Let's take a look at what looks, to me, like the best "IRV" counting scheme.

You (and maybe your mom and dad) give your first-rank vote to Nader, your second-rank vote to  Kerry. As a result, Kerry ends up having exactly 50% (but NOT 50% + 1) of the votes in the first round. If the weakest candidate's 1st-rank votes are "added upward" into his or her second choice, and all other candidate's 1st-rank votes are "added upward," that could cause the Bush to win with 50% + 1 in the second "round." So, you have elected Bush by giving your 1st rank vote to Nader instead of to Kerry. And this is a pristine example of the Black Hat Syndrome.

Not only that, but if the "best" "IRV" counting method just cited is used, a database structure containing all information from every single ballot must be transferred to a central national tabulation facility, and this will guarantee chaos. There are some "IRV" counting methods that do not require this, but they have worse problems of their own.

by blues 2006-06-02 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

'Scuse:

If the weakest candidate's 1st-rank votes are "added upward" into his or her second choice, and all other candidate's 1st-rank votes are "added upward," that could cause the Bush to win with 50% + 1 in the second "round."

Should be:

If the weakest candidate's 2nd-rank votes are "added upward" into his or her second choice, and all other candidate's 2nd-rank votes are "added upward," that could cause the Bush to win with 50% + 1 in the second "round."

by blues 2006-06-02 09:18AM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

Blues,

I have no idea what kind of thing you believe IRV to be, however, IRV does not work the way you describe and what you described definitely is not IRV.  When I refer to IRV I am referring to the way that IRV works in San Francisco, Burlington, VT & Cambridge, MA plus as proposed for Minneapolis, MN.

Let's pretend that me, my mom and my dad ranked Nader first when we lived in Florida 2000 and selected Gore as our second choice and didn't rank Bush cuz we hated him.  Let's pretend that Nader got 10%.  Let's say Gore and Bush each get 45%.  Since nobody has a majority (50% +1 vote), Nader as the bottom candidate it dropped.  

Now a second round of runoff voting occurs.  The people who voted for Nader as their first choice have their votes redistributed to their second choice.

So, let's say that Gore picks up 9.5% of the 2nd choices and Bush picks up 0.5% -- this is from the 10% who voted for Nader in the first round.  Gore then has 54.5% and wins.

What is complex about this?  What is confusing about this?  

The Big E

by The Big E 2006-06-02 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

What you're claiming makes no sense.  Let's say that Kerry has exactly 50% on the first round, as in your example.  As weaker candidates are eliminated and those ballots are reassigned to other candidates, the overall pool of ballots does not increase.  Kerry can't lose any votes, since he's the strongest candidate.  It's possible that some ballots are exhausted (that is, they have no more ranked choices), in which case the pool shrinks, and Kerry's 50% becomes >50% even if he gets no more ballots, and he wins.  If no ballots are exhausted, rounds will continue until at least one new ballot gets reassigned to Kerry, at which point he wins.  But there's no way to push him below his percentage on the first round, so he can't lose.  It's simply impossible.

Let's modify this a little bit, for a more illustrative example: Kerry gets 50%-1 votes on the first round.  Now it is mathematically possible for Bush to win in a subsequent round ... but only if all other ballots vote for him, and none of them rank Kerry higher.  So the presence of ballots with Nader #1, Kerry #2, can only help Kerry, not hurt him.

The way IRV plays out in practice matches common sense, so the explanation to voters is simple.  You seem to have looked at mathematical analyses that misrepresented what IRV is, and have twisted your perception of how it works to something much more complex, but also incorrect.

by cos 2006-06-02 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

The election involves, Bush, Kerry, Ralph Nader, and Ross Perot. You gave Nader first rank, Kerry, second rank. Kerry gets exactly 50% in the first round, but not 50% + 1 he would have had if you had given him your first rank vote. So it goes to round two. Perot gets eliminated, and his votes go (in general) to Bush, who now has "50% + 3" (a pseudo-majority), and thus wins. If you had given Kerry your first rank vote, he would have won instead. The Black Hat Syndrome.

by blues 2006-06-03 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

Umm, no.  You're ignoring basic math.  If Kerry had 50% in the first round, and you haven't increased the total number of ballots, it doesn't matter how many other ballots from other candidates get transferred to Bush - Kerry will still have at least 50%.  Bush can't surpass 50% without getting some ballots from Kerry, which he can't get because Kerry is ahead of him.  And you can't increase the total number of ballots through instant-runoff rounds, only decrease.  So the scenario you describe is simply impossible.

by cos 2006-06-03 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

See, I told you that this stuff was tougher than rocket science! Here is what I said:

So it goes to round two. Perot gets eliminated, and his votes go (in general) to Bush, who now has "50% + 3" (a pseudo-majority), and thus wins.

Now, if someone wins 50% + 1 in the first round, we can say that they have a true majority. But the thing they might have in the second round, if they get at least "50% +1" is not a true majority. It is (as I mentioned) a pseudo-majority, which has no direct relationship with a true majority at all. So it doesn't have to respect the logic that would apply to a true majority. It's a case of apples and oranges. Yes, Bush could end up with a 50% + 1 pseudo-majority even if Kerry had previously obtained a 50% (true) near-majority. Otherwise the rule would be "whoever gets 50% (sans the one additional vote) is the winner."

by blues 2006-06-04 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: IRV Misinformation

The scenario you describe is simply impossible, and all you're doing is restating it, not explaining how it could happen.

Show me any set of ballots you can concoct, in which Kerry has 50% of the #1 votes, and loses.  (The rule isn't "50% wins" because a tie is still possible - but only if everyone who didn't vote for Kerry #1, did vote for Bush).

Shoe me any set of ballots you can concoct, in which Kerry and Bush are the top two candidates in #1 votes, where the switch of any number of Kerry #1 ballots to Kerry #2 - with Bush not marked on those ballots - throws the result from Kerry to Bush (that is, Kerry would've won if those same ballots had listed Kerry #1 instead of #2).

by cos 2006-06-18 07:04PM | 0 recs
Chris Dead On Right

Great post Chris.  I have had two personal experiences that validate your post.

1 - A little over a decade ago I worked for an elected official who had managed to win without the support of the local political machine which was very powerful.  Needless to say, in every election we were very paranoid about voter fraud and took steps to make sure the election was as above board as possible.  We were permitted to inspect the voting machines prior to their shipment to precints and did so by going to a warehouse and going through thousands of machines writing down the ID numbers to make sure extra votes had not been added.  We had "poll watchers" at every polling place to prevent voter fraud.  We had legal advice ready at the drop of a hat for any trouble.  You can minimize fraud by doing the hard work and being vigilent.  It's not easy but it is doable and it is all done on the local level so everyone can make a difference.

2 - I moved back to my home of NYC about 5 years ago.  Believe it or not, there were parts of Manhattan that were solidly "Rockefeller Republican" up until 2000.  In 1995, my home Congressional district had a Democrat but almost every other local office was held by Repubs.  Over the course of a decade, we either defeated or replaced Repub incumbents with Dems in the state legislature and city council.  The most exciting part about it is we have replaced the Repubs with a group of young, energic reform minded Dems.  

You can change the local landscape but it takes time and hard work like Chris has described.

by John Mills 2006-06-02 07:06AM | 0 recs
Butterfly Ballot

The butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County in 2000 is another point to back up Chris's point that being active and changing things locally is important.  That ballot was designed by the local board of elections controlled by Dems and was clearly not well tested as it was universally described as being confusing.  

I have seen estimates that Gore lost 3,000 votes from that poor ballot design and since he lost Florida in 2000 by 527 votes a better designed and tested ballot would have made him President.  Local participation and vigilence does make a difference on all levels as the butterfly ballot proves.

by John Mills 2006-06-02 07:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

Thanks for writing this. I've cringed at the "stolen election" diaries since November 2004. Deep down, I think much of this emotion comes from the fact that some folks invested so much time and heart in to defeating W that they literally can not accept that WE lost and THEY won. And your point about Kerry losing the popular vote, regardless of the shenanigans in Ohio (or NM, or NV, or IA) is spot on. That is the real clincher for me.

Thanks again.

by DaleInMinnesota 2006-06-02 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

With the 1,000,000 shenanigans that went on, how could anyone be convinced that Kerry lost the popular vote? Even by a slim margin? How?

by blues 2006-06-02 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

Um...because Kerry lost by 3 million votes.

by DaleInMinnesota 2006-06-02 09:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

Over 30% of the votes, especially in the "red states," were cast into the æther via "touch-screen" computer voting contraptions. And this was probably not even the biggest factor. And not one of those voting computers was owned by a Democrat.

by blues 2006-06-02 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

What we can't accept, is that Bush got 3,000 votes in a precinct with 700 registered voters.  What we can't accept, is that for the second election in a row, the whole ball of wax hinged on a state whose election was being run by an outspoken Bush partisan.  What we can't accept is that since exit polling has been established as reliable, it has accurately predicted the winner (usually within a percentage point) in every election it's been used in, everywhere in the world, except for the two Bush ran in.

If Kerry had gone down in a Dukakis-style landslide, that I could accept - we ran a lousy candidate, people didn't like him, the other guy is a great leader, etc.  But the fact is, there was clearly and transparently fraud in 2000, the fact that the Democrats' attitude was "well, if we wait politely for four years, I'm sure they won't steal the next one," and there was clearly and transparently fraud in 2004, and there will be in 2008 and 2012 and 2016 until the country as a whole - not just the netroots, not just the local election volunteers, but the whole damn country - wakes up and realizes that.

As for Chris' overall point of "we don't need national attention, we need local involvement"... what better way to encourage local involvement than with national attention?  People aren't going to line up to solve a problem they don't know about because they don't read this site and DKos every day.

by schroeder 2006-06-02 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform

Hey Chris:

As said in School of Rock, "Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach.  Those who can't teach, teach gym."  (just a joke)

Anyway, not everyone is in the same place as you, being liberated (philosophically, not neccesarily financially) by blogging to devote yourself to activism.  We're lucky that you and so many others have done so.  Many relatively unknown folks running for committee person, school board, or other local offices.

Nor are all of us good at politics, for one reason or another.  But the idea that we all must chip in and stop waiting for someone else to pikc up the story or finally have an epiphany is valid.  

We do what we can:  we host house parties, we contribute funds, we help arrange book tour events, or Drinking Liberally chapters.  

Well, that's about it...keep up the good work.

by lutton 2006-06-02 08:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform

Are we really seeing a lot of what you describe?  How many people even take the time to vote, let alone have a house party or go to one?

I was actually thinking of writing along these lines ("Are you a good citizen?") as well, since it  is a perpetual-seeming problem, and Chris makes a great point that people have to get involved to solve the problems since no one else is going to solve them for us.

Is it just laziness?

So many forces would be expected to be at work, that pointing to just one is difficult.  Personally, I believe the laziness is built into the structure of our corporate-sponsored society, and that alienation from the political process would be a natural outcome :)

by Jude the Obscure 2006-06-02 09:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform

If I rant about it, it's proof in some peoples minds that I'm not doing anything about it.  Cuz I have trouble doing two things at once, you understand.

What gets silent revolutions rolling, apparently, is deafening silence.

By dismissing "stolen election" diarists as politically naive whiners, the big blogs did nothing to help direct the anger and frustration after the 2004 election into grassroots election reform. And now they treat R.F.K.Jr.'s piece in Rolling Stone as a non-event.

Thanks for the pep talk.  Very helpful.

by jexter 2006-06-02 09:17AM | 0 recs
Chris, this is a reductive argument.

not all of us who advocate for verified voting are doomsayers who do no actual work.

Some of us have been doing work at the grassroots level before 98% of the people in the blogosphere even knew or cared what these machines were.

The problem, in my mind, is not because you and others like you aren't "doing enough", it's that there is no discussion at all over an issue that... somehow has become divisive, but is obviously very important to a large amount of folks here in the blogosphere.

Even if it was a monthly: "state of verified voting" front page post running down different states and regulations and progress, etc.

It isn't that there isn't enough discussion it's that there isn't ANY, other then a dismissive roll of the eyes at all of the "fraudsters" out there.

Also, I can't speak for everybody, but the reason I get so concerned about this isn't because of the past, it's because of the future... and yes, having people take care of things at the local level is good, and necessary and leads to greater things, but an absolute blackout on discussion on an issue where there is no argument against it is just foolishness.

Let me put it another way:
Want to see all of these diaries go away? Then let's have a reasoned and intelligent discussion on verified voting with direction towards action and resolution. And if we could do that without all of the normal sneering, namecalling, and superiority power trips... even better.

-C.

by neutron 2006-06-02 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

As I said above: Get rid of all computer voting. Just use hand counted ballots, since you get ten tons of opportunity to cheat for every ounce of "convenience" afforded by computer voting.

Remember, state laws are now being passed that say that paper trail receipts are not official ballots, and cannot be recounted, but only used for academic studies.

by blues 2006-06-02 10:12AM | 0 recs
An Excuse for Failure, or a Reason for Action?

Chris,

Agree with a lot of what you said:  In particular:

I can sense something really depressing at play here, similar to what I wrote about in my recent dairy Draft Gore--But Only If You Mean It. All of complaints that the Big Bloggers were not writing enough about election reform, the desire to see election reform talked about in the Mainstream Big Papers, the desired hopelessness at play in some "stolen election" threads--I can see where this is all leading now. The mentality surrounding the "stolen election" diaries has the clear stink of looking for someone else to solve the problem for you. There is no sense of "Do It Yourself" grassroots action to fix the problem in these dairies. In the same way that these diaries imply individual voters are being denied by a great outside power of some sort, the same dairies look to a great outside power to solve the problem.

but I disagree with some other premises:

People interested in election reform and worried about stolen elections need to become judges of elections in precincts and counties all around the nation. They would go down to their local board of election, as I did, and go through every single result from ever single voting machine in whatever district was in question
.

Everyone should be interested in election reform if it it is not working properly. but it it not only not working properly because of a lack of people going thru every single vote, it is not working properly because we have foolishly decided to use machines that are not 100% verificalbe, in place of paper ballots (I dont' understand the point in the comments below about how fraud would be easier to carry oru with paper trails.  It would be harder, and oversight would have a much more robust effect than on machine tallies which could themselves be inaccruate).

this is the overriding issue, and it does not get addressed only by excessive manpower. it gets addressed by the appropriate legislation. that legislation will come from public pressure and the election of moderates. unfortunately, a small fraction of the republicans in Congress are moderate, by any standard.

why is Congress so far right wing? mainly, misinformation. Both of these issues together, and others,  will be addressed by better mainstream coverage. to the extent "big papers' amnd big media report on these things, is the extent to which mainstream america knows about them.

thus, here is what your blog misses MOST OF AMERICA DOES NOT KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW. they find out what they do know, through the the mainstream media.

again, more national awareness leads to better legislation and attention.  In turn, better represetatives, in turn also lead to better laws.

more importantly, it is poor information that has allowed rhetoric heavy campaigns to help elect far right wing extremists (there's a particular Senator from your state, PA, who leaps to mind), who then govern in Congress while getting sugarcoated mainstream press as if they were "moderates."  

it's about process. processes in America matter, more than anything else. One of those fundamental processes is voting. manpower is great, but the underlying issues have to be addressed, as well.

Back to your key premise. the tendency to come up with an excuse for failure. a tendency to want something else to blame, or to solve.

there is a lot of awareness on blogs now of the poor nature of mainstream media coverage of the important issues of our day. still not enough I say.  but the tone is closer to what you describe, rather than the tone that right wing republicans started to take over a decade ago. namely, that "the press is baised against us, and we are going to do something about it." they did, orchestrating a national movement, that continues to this day, revoling around this concept, and that continues to have a disproportionate effect on the media and on their coverage of events and issues.

democrats, on the other hand, echoing what you aptly suggest, bemoan the media, how it is poor, biased,unfair, and then don't seem to want to do anything about it.  worse is the defeatist attitude that "it won't do any good," when one suggests to constantly make these points, effectively and courteously, to various major media sources.  

somebody who is a leading expert on the media, wrote me on this point yesterday, saying "When someone tells you contacting media outlets doesn't do any good, give them [[something clearly designed to have them reconsider their thoughts]. They absolutely have to be kept under pressure, constant pressure, to do the right thing."

taking your points about defeatists attitudes, finding reasons for failure, things to blame, and not wanting to do anything, and combining it with the tremendous energy otherwise flowing on some of these issues, it needs to be rechanneled to the heart of the matter.  


this diary
addressed the issue of the media.  it didn't stop at blaming the media, though, but went further and tried to address the most critical reasons as to why, and suggested that democrats take a proactive approach to poor coverage of issues. It received 3 comments.  

a democracy is only as strong as the quality of its mainstrem information (not info people get by actively seeking it out on websiste, but what they get, by the tens and tens of millions, passivly, from the radio and tv airwaves, and to a lesser extent the newspapers and their associated websites that have become a part of our nations routine). And America's mainstream information has been poor.

Readers of excellent sites such as this can effect the way that the media, overly corporatized or not, presents news, and help them do a better job -- by constanty making the effective case to them.  It's not so much that they don't want to do a good job, its that they have fallen into the pattern of not doing a good job. one of these reasons is because of constant pressure from the right, that has convinced America that the media is "liberal." This makes it even more importantl to constantly and persuasively make the case otherwise, on non parisan websites and sources, and most importantly, to the media itself.  

by Carter 2006-06-04 11:05AM | 0 recs
by tino 2006-10-17 05:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean I

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by bombi 2006-12-23 02:11AM | 0 recs

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