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Photo by BlueShift 12 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It was surprising when Donald Trump declared he would make fixing the U.S. Postal Service one of the top personal priorities of his four-year White House adventure. It quickly became obvious, though, that he was using the word "fix" in the same way your veterinarian uses it when you bring in your dog.

Yes, Trump was saying, "Let's fix this puppy," and he wasted an inordinate amount of his presidential power and prestige in a failed attempt to neuter an agency that literally delivers for the people. Think about it: For a 55 cent stamp, America's extraordinary postal workers and letter carriers will take your piece of mail and deliver it by truck, car, airplane, boat, motorbike, mule — and, of course, by foot — to any address across town or across the country. The post office is a public system that works; it is both essential and effective. Indeed, the U.S. Postal Service ranks at the top of federal agencies in popularity, with 91 percent of the public approving its work. Thus, an uproar of protests (including by Republicans) spread across the country, killing Trump's attempt to gut the agency.

When it comes to bad public policy, however, failure is just a way of saying, "Let's try the back door." Trump was defeated, but he left behind an undistinguished Postmaster General named Louis DeJoy, who had only two qualifications for the job: He was a Trump megadonor, and he was a peer of corporate powers that've long wanted to privatize the Postal Service. In March, before the new Joe Biden presidency had taken charge of the postal system, DeJoy popped through the back door with his own "10-year Plan" to fix the agency.

Rhetorically, his plan promised to "achieve service excellence" by making mail delivery more "consistent" and "reliable." How? By consistently cutting service and reliably gouging customers. Specifically, DeJoy's plan was to close numerous mail processing facilities, eliminate jobs, reduce post office hours of service, and cut the standard of delivering first-class mail from three days to five. Oh, and to potentially raise stamp prices.

Delivering lousy service at higher prices is intended to destroy public support for the agency, opening up the mail service to takeover by private profiteers. That's the real DeJoy plan. And who gets joy from that?

Corporate ideologues never cease blathering that government programs should be run like a business.

Really? What businesses would they choose as the ethical model for governing our democracy? Pharmaceutical profiteers? Big Oil? Wall Street money manipulators? High-tech billionaires? Airline price gougers?

The good news is that the great majority of people aren't buying this corporatist blather but instead valuing institutions that prioritize the Common Good. Thus, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans have stunned smug right-wing privatizers like DeJoy by specifically declaring in a recent poll that our U.S. Postal Service should not be "run like a business." Indeed, an overwhelming majority, including 49% of Republicans, say mail delivery should be run as a "public service," even if that costs more tax money.

In fact, having proven that this 246-year-old federal agency can consistently and efficiently deliver to 161 million homes and businesses — day after day, year after year — it's time to let the agency's trusted, decentralized, well-trained workforce provide even more services for our communities. One service it is uniquely capable of delivering is so-called postal banking. Yes, the existing network of some 31,000 post offices in metro neighborhoods and small towns across America are perfectly situated and able to provide basic banking services to the one out of four of us who don't have or can't afford bank accounts. The giant banking chains ignore these millions, leaving them at the mercy of check-cashing exploiters and payday-loan sharks that extract exorbitant profits for their Wall Street backers.

The post office can offer simple, honest banking, including small-dollar checking and savings accounts, very low-interest consumer loans, low-fee debit cards, etc. The goal of postal banking is not to maximize corporate profits but to serve the public. Moreover, there's nothing new about this: Our post offices served as banks for millions of us until 1967, when Wall Street profiteers got their enablers in Congress to kill the competition.

We the People own this phenomenal public asset. To enable it to work even better for us , rather than for the forces of corporate greed, go to AGrandAlliance.org.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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The Arizona 2020 election "audit" under way

Screenshot from azaudit.org

As ongoing threats by Trump loyalists to subvert elections have dominated the political news, other Republicans in two key states—Florida and Arizona—are taking what could be important steps to provide voters with unprecedented evidence of who won their most close and controversial elections.

In both battleground states, in differing contexts, Republicans are lifting the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key stages of vetting voters, certifying their ballots, and counting votes. Whether 2020’s election-denying partisans will pay attention to the factual baselines is another matter. But the election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking road map for confronting the falsehoods that undermine election results, administrators, and technologies.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing rules to recount votes by incorporating digital images of every paper ballot. The images, together with the paper ballots, create a searchable library to quickly tally votes and identify sloppily marked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to resolve the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide the hard evidence to individuals who want to find the truth,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among those on a January 4 conference call workshop led by the Division of Elections seeking comments on the draft rule and procedures manual revisions.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s paper ballot would be immediately rescanned by an independent second counting system—separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in that tabulation process, an image of every side of every ballot card, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks as it counts votes. Several Florida counties pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that it has overcome opposition from the supervisors of elections is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology doesn’t cost much in this case. Everyone has scanners in their offices already because every voter registration form by law must be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.”

The appeal of using ballot images, apart from the administrative efficiencies of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” voters’ intent, which builds trust in the process and results, said Larry Moore, the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology would be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is unfolding in a fraught context. In 2021, its GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it may be offering more transparency at the finish line but is also limiting participation upstream.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be worked out are when campaign and political party officials and the public would observe the new process, because the election administrators do not want partisans to intentionally disrupt the rescanning process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers on the teleconference.

The Arizona Template


In Arizona, Maricopa County issued a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry.” The report is its most substantive refutation of virtually all of the stolen election accusations put forth by Trump loyalists who spent months investigating the state's presidential election.

Beyond the references to the dozens of stolen election accusations put forth by pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented road map to understanding how elections are run by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explained how Maricopa County, the nation’s second biggest election jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. It also explained key cybersecurity features, such as the correct—and incorrect—way to read computer logs that prove that its central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters had claimed in Arizona (and Michigan).

“I’ve never seen a single report putting all of this in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist, who has sued Maricopa County in the past and routinely files public records requests of election data. “Usually, it takes years to understand all this.”

Taken together, Florida’s expansion of recounts to include using digital ballot images, and Maricopa County’s compilation of the data and procedures to vet voters, ballots, and vote counts, reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize election participants and results.

For example, Maricopa County’s investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in its 2020 general election, one batch of 50 ballots was counted twice, and that there were “37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots”—most likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter had died. Neither lapse affected any election result.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots cast out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “This is the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it had accounted for all but 37 out of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to account for virtually every voter were also used by the political parties to get out the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these data sets—voter rolls and the list of people who voted—offered a template to debunk voter fraud allegations. This accusation has been a pillar of Trump’s false claims and is a longtime cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said that he had voted for Trump, and was fully endorsed by Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to review the findings.

In other words, the report is not just a rebuttal for the Arizona Senate Republican conspiracy-laced post-2020 review. It is a road map for anyone who wants to know how modern elections are run and how to debunk disinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single accurate claim contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR’s analysis of Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment and EMS [election management system],” the reportsaid, referring to accusations that counts were altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to Maricopa County’s template the introduction of a second independent scan of every paper ballot in future Florida recounts, what emerges are concrete steps for verifying results coming from Republicans who understand how elections work and can be held accountable.

Of course, these evidence trails only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political revival is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to be recognizing that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022, as Trump keeps saying that their votes don’t matter.

“You’ve got Republican buy-in,” said Florida’s Sancho, speaking of his GOP-ruled state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone else, should be concerned about whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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Michael Carvajal

Photo by Tom Williams via Reuters

The search is on for a new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons after Michael Carvajal announced on January 5 that he’s retiring from his appointed post and will leave when the Department of Justice finds his replacement.

The Biden Administration needs to replace Carvajal with a person who knows prisons inside and out: someone who’s been incarcerated before.

When President Joe Biden announced his first round of cabinet picks just weeks after being elected in 2020, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said: “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America – that reflects the very best of our nation.

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