Election officials have an important role to play in protecting election integrity. Citizens, too, need to ensure their local voting processes are safe. There are two parts to any voting system: the computerized systems tracking voters’ registrations and the actual process of voting – from preparing ballots through results tallying and reporting.
Before the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, voter registration in the U.S. was largely decentralized across 5,000 local jurisdictions, mostly county election offices. HAVA changed that, requiring states to have centralized online voter registration databases accessible to all election officials.
It’s not clear that any information was corrupted, changed or deleted. But that would certainly be one way to interfere with an election: either changing voters’ addresses to assign them to other precincts or simply deleting people’s registrations.
A more sophisticated attack could use voters’ registration information to select targets based on how likely they are to vote a particular way and use common hacking tools to file electronic absentee ballot requests for them – appearing to come from a variety of computers over the course of several weeks. On Election Day, when those voters went to the polls, they’d be told they already had an absentee ballot and would be prevented from voting normally.
There are two important defenses against these and other types of attacks on voter registration systems: provisional ballots and same-day registration.
When there are questions about whether a voter is entitled to vote at a particular polling place, federal law requires the person be issued a provisional ballot. The rules vary by state, and some places require provisional voters to bring proof of identity to the county election office before their ballots will be counted – which many voters may not have time to do. But the goal is that no voter should be turned away from the polls without at least a chance their vote will count. If questions arise about the validity of the registration database, provisional ballots offer a way to ensure every voter’s intent is recorded for counting when things get sorted out.
Same-day voter registration offers an even stronger defense. Fifteen states allow people to register to vote right at the polling place and then cast a normal ballot. Research on same-day registration has focused on turnout, but it also allows recovery from an attack on voter registration records.
Both approaches do require extra paperwork. If large numbers of voters are affected, that could cause long lines at polling places, which disenfranchise voters who cannot afford to wait. And like provisional voting, same-day registration may have more stringent identification requirements than for people whose voter registrations are already on the books. Some voters may have to go home to get additional documents and hope to make it back before the polls close.
Further, long lines, frustrated voters and frazzled election workers can create the appearance of chaos – which can play into the narratives of those who want to discredit the system even when things are actually working reasonably well.
Voting machine manufacturers say their devices have top-notch protections, but the only truly safe assumption is that they have not yet found additional vulnerabilities. Properly defending voting integrity requires assuming a worst-case scenario, in which every computer involved – at election offices, vote-tallying software developers and machine makers – has been compromised.
Based on that experience, some election officials have told me that they suspect the current generation of scanners may be misinterpreting 1 vote in 100. That might seem like a small problem, but it’s really way too much opportunity for error. Voting simulations show that changing just one vote per voting machine across the United States could be enough to allow an attacker to determine which party controls Congress.
Recounts are expensive and time-consuming, though, and can create illusions of disarray and chaos that reduce public confidence in the election’s outcome. A better method is called a risk-limiting audit. It’s a straightforward method of determining how many ballots should be randomly selected for auditing, based on the size of the election, the margin of the initial result and – crucially – the statistical confidence the public wants in the final outcome. There are even free online tools available to make the calculations needed.
Elections must be as transparent and simple as possible. To paraphrase Dan Wallach at Rice University, the job of an election is to convince the losers that they lost fair and square. The declared winners will not ask questions and may seek to obstruct those who do ask. The losers will ask the hard questions, and election systems must be transparent enough that the partisan supporters of the losers can be convinced that they indeed lost. This sets a high standard, but it is a standard that every democracy must strive to meet.
TWITTER FUMBLE: CNN suspended pundit Roland S. Martin indefinitely following the uproar over his offensive tweets during the Super Bowl. (Photo: RolandMartin.com)
So GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has gotten someone suspended again. This time it’s political pundit Roland Martin, who was sacked by CNN “for the time being” from his contributor’s gig. I know Roland. I sent him a text of prayerful encouragement to “hang in there … take in the lessons learned … this too shall pass.”
However, despite being his friend, this is actually an easy commentary to write.
Roland deserved the penalty flag. Period. He admitted as much in his statement on his website. He’ll take from this setback that not everyone is anticipating his every tweet, nor is it in his best interest as a public figure to thumb type every impulse in his head — comedic, philosophical or otherwise — out to the Twitterverse.
CNN had little choice but to suspend Roland. Most legit news organizations have some type of morals clause that basically says an employee or associate of the organization must always be on their game, even when the cameras aren’t officially on. Roland knows this.
In a series of comments during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Roland, an award-winning journalist and devout Christian, tweeted the following that landed him on GLAAD’s hit list:
“If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!”
Not exactly something Jesus would say — and, frankly, not that funny. GLAAD, not surprisingly, wasn’t amused, which is why they called for CNN to kill Roland’s contract. Though Roland is not anti-LGBT and was simply being playful, the comment is still from another era — like when most TVs were black and white. I liken it to a joke about my wife being better off in the kitchen with the gals making punch and clam dip than in the living room with the fellas watching the game. The fact is, my wife was in the kitchen and other than when our sons played football, she could care less about watching muscle men in tights grabbing and pushing each other for an oddly shaped brown ball and then patting each other on the butts. Nonetheless, the joke’s unintended sexist connotation is obvious.
So, yup, Roland fumbled and should’ve been suspended. But fired? C’mon now, GLAAD. Is there a black man pattern here? A few years ago it was actor Isaiah Washington, last year it was NBA star Kobe Bryant and comedian/actor Tracy Morgan, now Roland. Black men certainly aren’t the only ones getting into this kind of hot water with the PC Police, but the pattern sure is curious.
GLAAD is definitely right to fight anti-LGBT rhetoric and violence. In fact, we Christians should be defending the rights of all of God’s creations, especially those made in His image — even if we disagree with how some of our brothers and sisters exercise those rights. (We’re not calling for bans against divorce are we?) Sadly, Christians are often the tail instead of the head regarding human rights, cherry-picking the sins we deem most contemptible. As Americans we should never be for restricting the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness of other Americans, because to do so puts our own liberties at risk.
Roland knows this and simply dropped the ball this time. (I suppose the New England Patriots weren’t the only ones.)
GLAAD, on the other hand, is running the risk of undermining its own mission by over-pursuing every misdirected play.
What’s also curious is where the black gay organizations, like the National Black Justice Coalition, stand on this? Will they call for TV One and the Tom Joyner Morning Show (Roland has contracts with both) to suspend Roland too? What does it say about GLAAD that they apparently only focused on the majority white-owned CNN and not the black media outlets? Are the black gays “punking out?” (Oops, can I say that?) Or are they simply wise and more reasonable?
Perhaps a bigger question is whether in this Internet age, where thoughts in a living room can spread globally in an instant, we are going to have to lighten up on PC. Most “tweets” are not fully constructed thoughts like a letter, op-ed, essay, or book. They barely qualify as sentences.
Stringing together a list of someone’s tweets over a period of time does not necessarily construct a reliable narrative of their views either. Haven’t people been doing this with the Bible for centuries, pulling passages together out of context to fit their agendas?
We’ll either have to lighten up on people, or we all better learn fast to tightly script everything we type. Or, maybe we need to realize that not all of our witty musings are profound or interesting enough to post publicly and should just remain in our heads.
Roland knows part of being good at dishing it out is being able to take it.
Roland can take it.
He may no longer be as funny on Twitter, but he’ll be a wiser man.
Now there’s word that GLAAD aims to enlist Roland Martin in its cause against anti-LGBT violence and is no longer calling for Martin’s firing.
GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said after the suspension, “CNN today took a strong stand against anti-LGBT violence and language that demeans any community. Yesterday, Martin also spoke out against anti-LGBT violence. We look forward to hearing from CNN and Roland Martin to discuss how we can work together as allies and achieve our common goal of reducing such violence as well as the language that contributes to it.”
Ferraro added early Thursday, ” . . . Our goal is to ensure better coverage that works toward ending anti-LGBT violence.”
CIVIL SERVANT: President Barack Obama shakes hands with Speaker of the House John Boehner before delivering the State of the Union address earlier this year. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“The uniqueness of His meekness is too deep to speak / and if you think meekness is weakness try being meek for a week.” – ShaiLinne, “Mic Check 1 2 (featuring Stephen the Levite & Phanatik)”
Let me state a few things up front, so this doesn’t devolve into something from my highly refined, literary alter ego, Captain Obvious (And His Adventures in Missing-The-Point-Ville).
Obviously, President Barack Obama is not Jesus. Our 44th president is not, nor should he be, exempt from criticism. It does not make anyone a bad Christian to publicly criticize his actions or ideas, from either the political right or the left.
So I hope that neither LZ Granderson nor Roland Martin, both professingChristians whom I respect greatly, will take offense when I say that as Christians I think they’re dead wrong about Obama.
Specifically, they’re wrong about how President Obama should respond to House Speaker John Boehner’s latest act of insubordination regarding his upcoming jobs speech.
For the uninitiated, the White House publicly requested a joint session of Congress to assemble on the same day that the Republicans were planning a debate, also surrounding the topic of jobs. In response, Rep. Boehner asked instead for the date to be pushed back, citing security issues.
“Don’t cave to Boehner,” pleaded Martin. Then after the White House rescheduled the date. Granderson lamented Obamas failure to respond to a diss to the presidency, as if the primary responsibility of the President of the United States is to avoid being punked. Then Martin lamented further, claiming that the president’s biggest problem is that no one fears him.
I beg to differ.
The primary responsibility of the president is not to show people he’s in charge. His job is to lead people as effectively and prudently as possible. It’s not that he “needs a spine transplant,” and is therefore incapable of standing up for himself. It’s that when it came to this particular issue at this particular time, he chose a more expedient path of action.
He doesn’t need to show people who’s boss, because he’s already the boss. Posturing is what one does when they’re auditioning for the role campaigning for the job. But as the POTUS, Obama must be the boss. He has a very complex and subjective set of priorities to address and keep in balance at all times. It shouldn’t be a surprise that saving face wouldn’t be the highest thing on his list.
The Uniqueness of Meekness
Consider the example of the Christ Jesus to whom Obama has publicly, repeatedly declared his fidelity.
Jesus often gets a bad rap in our popular culture for being weak and effeminate (which is one of the reasons why preacher Mark Driscoll is so popular, but that’s for another column). If you read your Bible, though, you’ll see that nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was constantly challenging and confounding both the religious and political establishment. When he felt like street vendors were making a mockery of the faith, he destroyed their operation. There was a reason why they eventually conspired to kill him.
However, Jesus was not the revolutionary that his followers expected. He never made a play for political office. At the point where his followers thought they were on the brink of an armed revolution, Jesus rebuked one of them for resorting to violence. And then he acquiesced to his accusers, knowing full well the result would be a sham of a trial followed by a brutal crucifixion.
If I would’ve been one of Jesus’ disciples during this time, I’m sure the sense of frustration and disappointment in the air would’ve been absolutely palpable.
Why is he letting them DO THIS?!?!
Jesus was not happy about the events that had transpired. A bit earlier, He prayed to the Father for another way out. But in the end, He chose to be obedient, knowing that there was a larger objective that He was given to fulfill, one that required enduring the cross and all of its horrors.
Believing what Christians do about the resurrection, it’s hard to argue with the result.
When Jesus said “blessed are the meek,” in the Sermon on the Mount, the Greek word he used that we translate today as “meek” is one that referred to a sense of a great strength under useful control. It’s like a fierce fire that could warm a great castle, but that could just as easily be reduced to a pilot light. Or like a wild stallion capable of galloping 100 miles an hour, lightly sauntering under the master’s control.
Meekness is anything but weakness.
Strength Under Control
Meekness is keeping your cool because losing it could jeopardize the prize ever set before you.
It’s the difference between I’m-doing-this-because-I-can and I’m-doing-this-because-I-should.
In my opinion, this is the kind of strength under control where President Obama excels. Sure, it was disrespectful for Boehner and House Republicans to respond the way they did. And sure, Obama probably felt more than little vindictive about it. But Obama has a larger set of priorities in mind, among them being re-election in 2012. And acting out of a desire to be vindicated is something that might win the battle but lose the war.
So no, he’s not Jesus. And no, he’s not infallible.
But if you’re a Christian, and you think Obama is weak just because he chose not to flex his muscles over a scheduling conflict, then either you don’t read your Bible, or you haven’t been paying attention.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: Pastor Zachery Tims' body was found in a NYC hotel in Times Square.
Investigation into the death of megachurch Pastor Zachery Tims, 42, continues as mass online condolences accompany few details of his Aug. 12 passing in a New York City hotel room. Police reportedly found Tims, pastor of the 8,000-member New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla., near Orlando, unresponsive on the floor of his room in the W Hotel in Times Square early Friday evening. As of Sunday night following his death, reports said police did not suspect foul play. Even as they awaited autopsy results Monday afternoon, police reportedly had no plans for a criminal investigation.
Many had heard of Tims’ death through Facebook and Twitter postings before mainstream media began reporting additional information Monday morning. By noon, tweets expressing grief over Tims’ death flooded Twitter at about 25 tweets per minute, trending in Orlando. Beyond shock, other posts mentioned the impact Tims had even beyond the walls of his church.
“I know the word, but I am still stunned over the death of Pastor Zachary Tims,” tweeted Rev. Charles Jenkins, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Ill. “He texted me encouragement every Sunday.” Other nationally known church and gospel music personalities posting their sentiments included CeCe Winans, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Fred Hammond and Jonathan Nelson. Commentator Roland Martin informed followers of the latest information, even though little was available beyond initial reports. The latest news reports claim a white powdery substance was found on Tims’ body, leading authorities to suspect that his death was drug related.
Originally from Baltimore, Tims earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Towson State University and another in theology from Maranatha Baptist Bible College, both in Maryland. He founded New Destiny in 1996 with six members. As church membership grew, the congregation continually expanded its facilities to ultimately hold its 8,000 members. He is survived by his ex-wife and four children.
CLOUD OF SPECULATION: Bishop Eddie Long addresses his congregation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta. (Newscom photo)
After Bishop Eddie Long’s decision to settle lawsuits against him out of court, questions have emerged about his motivations, namely: did he settle because the allegations of sexual misconduct with four young male parishioners of his church were true?
But rather than offering answers to his congregation, Long has announced plans to expand his ministry. The Christian Post reported that Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is starting a new church in Birmingham, Ala., in addition to other locations in Lithonia, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., Oakland, Calif. and soon Denver. Long asked congregants for $500 to $1,000 donations.
Since the settlement, many Christians around the web have shared their thoughts and feelings. While refraining from calling him guilty or innocent, most denounced Long’s failure to be transparent. Some of the commentators used to attend New Birth. Here’s a sampling of the discussion.
Roland S. Martin, a journalist who used to attend New Birth, wrote an editorial for CNN on Saturday declaring that Long could not be let off so easily.
In it, Martin said he was “one of the committed Christians who poured a seed into [Long’s] ministry.” Martin attended New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for three months in 2000 and continued to support Long’s ministry afterward. He said he has quoted Long’s sermons, donated to his church, bought and read his books and sermon tapes, and written about his outreach to black men in his book.
Martin argued that people who supported Long’s ministry over the years deserve an explanation.
“After his refusal to address the issue publicly, openly and truthfully, I don’t see how any pastor could participate in a conference with Long on the rostrum,” Martin wrote. “I don’t see how any gospel musician could go to his church and stand in the pulpit with him to sell their CDs. As a churchgoing man, there is no way I could sit under the spiritual leadership of any pastor who was unwilling to stand before his congregation and address the issue head on.”
Richards said he went to New Birth in college more than 10 years ago, writing that the ministry and people there “were very instrumental in my formative years as a young man who had re-dedicated himself to Christ.” Although Richards wrote that he appreciated his experience at New Birth, he said the recent controversy had saddened him.
In his legal analysis, Richards discussed the different reasons why Long might choose to settle out of court, from avoiding negative media attention to protecting the other defendants (New Birth and LongFellows Youth Academy) from liability.
In his spiritual analysis, Richards offered a more personal take.
“I believe there were some very bad decisions made and, to some degree, there was a lack of accountability,” Richards wrote. “This is a sad, sad situation. I’m continuing to pray for all parties involved. In the end, this may have been a blessings (sic), because the trial would have been quite ugly and may have done more harm than good.”
Religion writer the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds told the AFRO the settlement looks like a cover-up to her, although she said there’s no way to know the truth.
“It looks like he did what the Catholic Church has been doing for decades,” she told the AFRO. “I thought that [Long’s initial statements] meant he would go to court and fight in court.”
“Let’s be clear: Settling a case does not imply guilt,” Watkins wrote. “But Bishop Long’s promise to his congregation that the truth would eventually be exposed is contradicted heavily by the fact that he has shared almost nothing.”
In the Florida Courier, guest columnist Morris W. O’Kelly cited Scripture while asking Long a series of questions.
“How will I know when to stop mentally subtitling all of your sermons as ‘Do as God Says … Not as I Do and Have Done?’ ” Mo’Kelly wrote.
Mo’Kelly had previously warned of the consequences a private settlement would have in March: “Being able to ask your spiritual leader about the mysteries of the Bible but not about the realities of the allegations can and will prove problematic for some members.”
Will Long’s lack of transparency hurt his congregation? Can his new churches in Birmingham and Denver succeed in spite of the recent controversy? Share your comments and opinions below.