We’ll have to observe ourselves

Paul Kekai Manansala is a concerned Antelope resident

International observers from Europe predict trouble in a certain country’s upcoming elections. A large number of non-governmental organizations from that country request additional U.N. observers.

Which “banana republic” is making these recent headlines? The poll in question is the U.S. presidential election set for November 2.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say they are worried about new paperless voting machines. If a recount is necessary, these devices will produce Florida-like election problems. They warn that the lack of consistency in rules for provisional ballots “may cause post-election disputes and litigation, potentially delaying the announcement of final results.”

To make things worse, on October 11, seven grassroots U.S. organizations requested U.N. observers to prevent Florida-like anomalies. This came after a failed earlier petition by 13 U.S. congressional representatives, led by Eddie Bernice Johnson.

For many immigrant Americans, these stories may revive unpleasant memories of former homelands. These perceptions are compounded by the Constitution-bending Patriot Act. In many semi-democratic countries of the world, leaders often establish “special security measures” that last indefinitely. The new powers increase central-government authority and erode citizens’ rights.

One can only marvel at human ingenuity in corrupting the vote.

A series of recent articles in The New York Times helped highlight the requests for observers. Columnist Bob Herbert exposed the use of Florida state troopers under the umbrella of “homeland security” to frighten elderly black voters from using absentee ballots.

In other countries, real action by the people usually occurs only after years or decades of apathy. One has to hope that will not be the case here.

The people in power now, including John Kerry and George W. Bush, are mostly those of the “flower children” generation. A sizable portion of those holding them accountable are children of the era of rampant consumerism. When the young are apathetic, it’s hard to start a revolution.

Fortunately, there are signs that people are becoming active at grassroots levels like never before. Even people who never voted before are getting involved.

The lesson we can learn from abroad is that we cannot depend on our “leaders” to assure honest elections. The people themselves must make this happen.