By Kris Pierce
I never thought that in my lifetime I would see acts of tyranny practiced in this country, but when I look back at the 2012 election season, I see so many things that unfortunately fit that definition. Thomas Jefferson once said, “When the people fear the government there is tyranny”. I can tell you that there are many in our community, Republican, Democrats and Independents alike that fear for the integrity of our elections here in Douglas County.
So, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary; 4th Edition:
Tyranny (n.): very cruel and unjust use of power or authority
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps used his unilateral authority to keep voters from casting votes when gerrymandering was not enough. Samuel Adams said, “The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.” Closing polling places, putting up barriers to voters and outright denying citizens the right to cast a vote during an election is not a partisan issue; it affects all voters despite their political affiliations.
The Phipps Plan: OPERATION CONFUSION
• While insisting to neighborhood protest forums that he was simply following the law, Mr. Phipps, after the election, boasted about having written 95% of the law himself.
• Just weeks before the Primary Election Mr. Phipps announced the closings of 166 of 352 polling places. Those closed were disproportionally in heavily minority-populated areas.
• Mr. Phipps attempted to placate angered community groups by reopening only 7% (27) of closed polling locations.
• Mr. Phipps intentionally sent multiple and incorrect voter registration cards, to every voter in Douglas County. Some voters received as many as 4 cards in 2012.
• Mr. Phipps sent each voter an official Election Commission Office Vote by Mail Application, before each election in 2012. Some voters felt compelled to complete and return that application in order to vote in the upcoming May and November elections. Generally unknown to voters is that when a voter returns this application their name is removed from the voter rolls and will not appear as a legitimate voter on Election Day.
The Phipps Aftermath:
• Voters went to their polling place on election day to find they were not on the official voter rolls because they had sent in the Election Commissioner application to vote by mail.
• Voters were asked for Photo ID in order to vote when none was required
• Voters were required to show their voter identification number in order to vote
• Voters were denied the right to vote provisionally
• Polling places had the incorrect ballots for voters to use
• When a voter arrived at the wrong polling place, they were not told the correct place to vote
• When poll workers could not reach the Commissioner’s office to solve problems, voters were told to come back later
• Not enough provisional ballots were provided at polling places
How can a single government official have so much unchecked authority to effect citizen’s ability to cast a vote? The answer is simple and unfortunate; lack of accountability. Mr. Phipps is accountable and answerable to no one but the Governor of Nebraska. Not even the state’s Chief Election Officer, Secretary of State John Gale, has authority over Mr. Phipps, or any policies he may implement. When the poll closing plan was made public, Secretary Gale sent a warning to Gov. Heineman.
Secretary Gale stated; “Our understanding was that that was going to be a longer term process, maybe a five-year process, a ten-year process…So I guess I would say that it is probably too soon, too fast and I think that’s what has caused some of the controversy.” Even with this warning from the top Election Official, the Gov. Heineman did nothing.
This past election year we have seen a government official who answers to no one misuse his power and authority to systematically deteriorate our election process. A government official who used confusion and deliberate actions to negatively affect citizens from actively participating in the greatest and most sacred right our founding fathers guaranteed us, the right to vote.
If Gov. Heineman does not take action to remove Mr. Phipps, then he is telling not only Douglas County, but the entire State of Nebraska, that he fully and consciously supported and approved of the voter suppression tactics of Mr. Phipps. If the case is truly that not even the Governor of our state has authority over this position after appointment is an even greater issue that must be resolved.
There must be a change in the process by which the Election Commissioner is chosen in the three most populace counties; Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster. Why is it that the largest populated counties are denied the rights so many other Nebraska counties enjoy, the right to hold their election official accountable for their actions and policies? Gone are the days we can allow a single person to have unfettered authority to suppress the vote of the citizens they have the responsibility to serve. To have a chief election official with no accountability by any other member of the government or by the very people they are to serve is unacceptable and this past election year proves that point clearly.
Sign the petition to remove Dave Phipps by clicking here