Election and onward: Notes and comment

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IN MCPHERSON County and other paper ballot locations, voters
sign in at each polling station with pen and ink in a large book
that lists all registered voters. After the polls close, the votes are
counted and compared with the number of signatures. The numbers
must match or there has been a mistake. The certified paper
records do not lie.
In counties with electronic voting, citizens sign in electronically
on a screen. There is no paper trail, no way to count the number of
votes and verify with a paper record of the number of signatures,
no way top know how many Republicans or Democrats voted.
There are many ways, as any rudimentary hacker knows, to
change an electronic record. There is no way to fiddle with the
paper record in a registration book. (And get away with it.)
*
OVERHEARD on election night: “The best thing about Pat
Roberts’ election victory is that we probably won’t see him in
Kansas for another six years.”
*
WE’RE WAITING for the bill, promised by Roberts more times
than we can count, to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is
time, in the waning days of this congress, to get something in the
hopper. Taking our cue from among Pat’s many other campaign
promises, we also begin the countdown for sealing our borders –
building that border wall and deporting at least most of the 11 or
12 million illegal aliens now in our country. Get it done. We don’t
expect them to be gone tomorrow – the day after is soon enough.
The clock is ticking.
With new majorities in Washington, we expect Republicans
there to get busy. Besides junking the Affordable Care Act, we
have promises to outlaw all abortions, without exception, before
the second trimester, to move ahead with the Keystone Pipeline
and shut down the EPA, or most of it, for starters.
Now that power comes with the promise, there is no reason to
expect anything but results.
*
THE ELECTORATE has granted Kris Kobach another four-year
term as Kansas Secretary of State, and already he’s dusting off his
Napoleon’s wish list, insisting that he must have more power. We
still see no alien hordes slithering into our polling places and onto
the registration lists, but Kobach has a special vision. Although
it’s never been proved, voter fraud is alive and well in Kansas.
Just ask Kris.
Legislators blindly followed the lie two years ago, granting Kris
permission to write Jim Crow back into our voting laws, creating
two-tier elections in Kansas – one for those who can wind their
way through a fogbound maze to prove their clean bloodlines
and ancestry, and another separate election for those who cannot.
Put another way, state and federal elections for the white establishment,
and federal ballots only for the non-members – the people
who don’t check “Caucasian” on their census forms.
Now that we’ve reestablished ethnic cleansing as part of Kansas
voter registration, Kobach wants sole power to prosecute those
who seek to sully the process. “It’s the final piece in the puzzle
in terms of preventing voter fraud,” Kobach told the Associated
Press.
Those who point out that Kansas has never suffered an outbreak
of voter fraud are laughed away, consigned to the ranks of killjoys
and undesirables, the same naysayers who might suggest that the
attorney general has all the power and expertise we need to pursue
irregularities at the polls, if or when there are any.
But power is an intoxicant and Kobach a special case. He and
his loyalists, by denying certain truths, reveal their intense intolerance,
an almost pathological hatred of truth and learning. They
embrace that special politics founded on the fanning of hatred, the
first and last resort of demagogues, and the suppression of truths
(and voters) so inconvenient to their cause.
*
ELECTRONIC VOTING machines, as hinted at the beginning of
this commentary, are anything but good for our elections. Years
ago, the people who make the machines rolled into town, furled
the canvass at the back of the wagon and, as the rubes gathered
‘round, began their pitch. It took only a moment to make the first
sale. Since then, the cure for our imagined headache has become
the headache.
Consider Saline County. During the November election, a “malfunction”
left voting machines spluttering away, spitting more than
5,200 votes into the cyber netherworld, vanished into the mists. A
50 percent voter turnout became 35 percent – until the “malfunction”
was discovered in a “triple-check” on November 10, nearly
a week after the polls had closed and the races decided.
Officials said the error was relatively harmless because no races
were close enough to have been affected. How can we be sure?
Saline County Commission Chairman Randy Duncan said the
foulup was “scary. That makes me wonder about voting machines,”
he told the Salina Journal. “Should we go back to paper ballots?”
Electronic voting is a fool’s choice and a crook’s dream. It also
is reason to wonder if those pre-election polls – the ones that forecast
far different results – were so far wrong, after all.
We shouldn’t need to wonder. And we wouldn’t, with paper
ballots.
*
THREE WEEKS after the November 4 election, Gov. Sam
Brownback said he was surprised that the state is deep in red ink
– a current budget shortfall of $279 Million, which will grow to
more than $700 million by the end of next fiscal year. This was all
news to him, the governor said.
Is the governor lying, or is he a halfwit?
Brownback promoted and signed legislation eliminating income
taxes for small business owners and dramatically cutting income
taxes for the upper bracket incomes. He has, for four years, championed
his infamous “Glide Path to Zero,” the course to eliminating
all state income taxes, on grounds that new business will
stampede into the state, creating countless new jobs and bolster
the economy, which so far has been anything but bolstered. (We’re
still not sure where the state wins with all these new jobs, since the
payrolls will go un-taxed.)
Nonetheless, the governor’s economics, and the state’s downward
financial spiral, were central issues in the recent gubernatorial
campaign, yet Brownback claims he knew nothing about any
red ink.
And that campaign issue, the state’s drowning in red ink?
Garbage, the governor said. “They’re just trying to paint a
‘Chicken Little Sky is Falling’ situation, which is not true. It’s a
bunch of lies,” he said in October.
The chicken has hatched. Legislators now face tides of accumulating
red ink over the next 18 months. Because the constitution
says Kansas cannot spend money it doesn’t have, a $279 million
shortfall must be resolved by more cuts in state programs, or
enhanced revenues (tax increases), or a combination of both. With
no action, the deficit could grow to $715 million for the 2015 fiscal
year, which begins July 1.
How could a governor miss that much red ink?
Brownback expects the citizenry to believe that he could, truly,
let it slip by. We’ve believed his other … stories, like our soaring
economy, all those new factories and jobs, how the wealthy are
crushed by taxes and the poor are suffocated by regulations, how
both corporations and fetuses are real people, among others.
We believed all those stories, and we reelected the man. He must
be telling the truth.
*
WITH ELECTIONS, we must learn the old lessons over and over
again, like learning a fugue.
Among them:
– Politicians reach public office not because they are diligent, or
candid, or even honest. Nor do they make it by merit alone. They
are chosen mostly for their power to impress and enchant the intellectually
underprivileged. How else can we explain our governor,
our legislature?
– Politicians promise every man, woman and child in the country
whatever he, she or it wants. They look for ways to make the
poor rich and the rich, poor, to cure warts by saying words over
them, to turn deficit into surplus with money that no one will have
to earn, and to turn truth to fiction and fiction to truth with a simple
waving of tea leaves and a curtsey to the tea party.
– A politician once told the writer and critic H.L. Mencken that
in politics, man must learn to rise above principle. (And) when the
water reaches the upper deck, he said, “follow the rats.”
– JOHN MARSHALL

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