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Let’s create a paper trail

In 2011 there is still ample evidence that a segment of the population is not fully committed to democracy.

I believe it was in 1972 and I was attending a business luncheon. A white, middle-aged businessman sitting across from me was talking and I was only half listening until I heard him say, “People who did not own property should not be allowed to vote.” That got my full attention. I wasn’t shocked at his attitude since we had just gone through a bitter battle in the sixties to secure the right for African Americans to vote in areas of the south.

In 2011 there is still ample evidence that a segment of the population is not fully committed to democracy. They don’t say this openly, but I learned a long time ago to judge people by their actions and not by what they say. When I see a concerted effort by politicians to suppress the vote by requiring photo ID, purging voter rolls of those who have not voted recently and denying ex-felons the right to vote, it’s obvious that they are not committed to democracy. Even in our foreign policy our government has promoted free elections and refused to recognize the winner because we did not agree with their politics. But that’s another article.

At this point, what worries me more than the efforts to suppress votes is the plan to steal them. When you can pump gas in your car and get an instant receipt detailing the price per gallon, amount pumped and amount paid, there is no excuse for using voting machines that do not provide a paper trail. In fact, there is only one reason for public officials to use such machines – they plan to steal votes.

Without a paper trail you can believe that votes were stolen but you can’t prove it. However, there is nothing to prevent us from creating one. I am proposing a national effort to create a paper trail wherever voting machines do not provide one.

What I am proposing is not very difficult to accomplish. A political party, labor unions, civic groups or candidates can come together and organize a program to staff voting locations with individuals who will provide voters with paper ballots to fill out and “sign.” This can be a full ballot or abbreviated ballot. This program has to begin during early voting. An advertising program designed to alert the public of the need to sign a paper ballot should begin weeks or months before voting begins. If voters understand that their vote might be stolen because the machines do not provide a paper trail, a high percentage would be anxious to participate.

I also believe it would have a chilling effort on plans to steal votes if it is known that there would in fact be a paper trail. Let’s get busy.

(Memphis businessman Mabra Holeyfield is an owner of Bluff City Partners, LLC. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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