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Tammy Messina: Election integrity matters

Posted: February 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Elections have consequences. It’s a phrase we often hear. Getting the right people in office to represent us is a critical function of our citizen-led government.

Too often, the citizens forget about the role they play in every step of this process.

From our local political clubs to our state government all the way up to the president of the United States, we each have a part in this process. When we don’t do our part, the process breaks down and the wrong people rise to power.

Most people think all they need to do is simply vote. And, yes, that’s a crucial part of the process, but it isn’t the whole process.

Take the local political clubs, for instance. This is where activists begin their work.

They’re the grass roots. Clubs are roughly modeled after our own government systems with elected officers, checks and balances and constituents (aka members).

With the Santa Clarita City Council races in full swing, the clubs are actively holding forums and endorsing candidates.

I know what you’re thinking — I’ve thought it myself: “What impact can a political club have on an actual election?”

The answer is plenty. Gaining a club’s endorsement opens up a world of new donor possibilities — especially in elections where there are contribution limits — through political action committees. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that money wins elections.

And here’s where integrity in the voting process comes into play. As with our local, state, and federal elections, all aspects of the voting process must be transparent. Otherwise, it is subject to abuse and misuse.

When all aspects are transparent and open to the public, the outcome cannot be questioned. It’s our job as voters to ensure that transparency and accountability are maintained.

Check your club processes, especially as they relate to voting and endorsements. Hold your elected officers accountable to be fully transparent in every process.

Remember, those who are elected work for us, the voters. We hire them. We can also fire them, with our vote!

At the local, state and federal levels, what can you do? I hear people say all the time that their one little vote can’t make a difference. They’re wrong. So many races have been won, or lost, by one vote per precinct.

That’s less than one vote per neighborhood! If you had just taken your neighbor to the poll with you, you might have changed the outcome of an election.

And it really is just that simple. It’s also the reason it’s so important that we maintain integrity in the voting processes.

Keeping our elections fair and honest should be a concern for every citizen. Election outcomes affect our lives and our children’s futures. So what can you, Joe Citizen, do to help?

To start, get involved with local clubs and local campaigns to help get honest people elected.

When Barack Obama ran for president, it wasn’t his first campaign. He started locally and worked his way up.

Get to know the candidates. Weed out the undesirables, and work hard for good candidates.

Next, get involved in the voting process. Did you know that — while we cast secret ballots — the ballots are really not that secret? In all of our governmental elections, the entire ballot process is open to the public.

Constituents and candidates alike are able to closely monitor and observe the handling of ballots and voter rolls, from the time the ballot is cast at a polling location until the final count is performed by the governing agency.

Not only are we “allowed” to do it, it’s actually our “job” to do it. Be a poll worker, observer or volunteer with a grassroots group like www.electionintegrityproject.com.

Over the years, we’ve lost sight of that civic responsibility. We’re all busy with life in general. But it’s time we wake up, especially here in California.

Our voter rolls are a mess. Computer systems are outdated and databases are less than accurate. It will take a citizen uprising to clean them up.

And until that happens, our elections will continue to be subject to fraud and abuse.

One way we can improve election integrity under the current systems is by requiring photo identification at the polls and when registering to vote.

It’s a simple measure to ensure one vote per person, and there’s a ballot initiative under way now. Get involved collecting signatures.

And, yes, it will make a difference.

This isn’t a party issue, it’s a people issue. It matters to anyone who votes.

For more information, go to www.GuardMyVote.org.

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita, a local business owner and a producer for “The Real Side Radio Show.” She can be reached at tmessina@wildcat.la.

 

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