As has been discussed elsewhere, the Democrats enter office this January with a slim majority and no sense of mandate from a highly polarized public. Though "decision 2006" bore all the hallmarks of a 21st century American election: vote suppression, electronic malfunction, lost votes, and zero accountability, the Democrats and the Left in general have been a great deal less outspoken about these problems – in large part because it's hard to be heard above the cheers, Champaign corks, and clinking glasses.
But now, more than any other, is the moment for real electoral reform. With control of the Congress, Democrats have the political power to force effective legislation through. With voters still fairly incensed over the scandals, corruption, and access-buying that plagued the last twelve years of Republican rule, the voters, rather than special interests, have a fair shot at reasonable legislation. Fresh off of a Democratic victory, no one can call "sour grapes" on an election reform initiative.
Pelosi and the newly minted Democratic leadership are no doubt well aware of the nearly subterranean Congressional approval ratings and that – come January – they'll be Democratic approval ratings. With the right-wing talking heads from Rush to Michael Savage prattling on about the lack of outcry over election irregularities in the wake of a Democratic win, a preemptive political strike at the issue makes not just moral and legal sense, but political sense as well.
It's not as if the issue has gotten substantially better since the 2000 or 2004 elections. The Florida seat vacated by Katherine Harris (of Bush v Gore fame) was won by fewer votes than were lost or not counted by the election systems in place. Voter suppression and intimidation in Virginia was at near epidemic levels with thousands threatened and lied away from the polls.
All the while, millions of Americans cast their ballots on systems which rely on faith – and little else – to ensure that votes are counted, tabulated, and reported correctly. With no paper trail, no open verification of proper functionality, and no way of performing a meaningful or substantive recount, the Democrats hold the House and Senate because a machine tells us they do.
Now, more than ever, the Democrats have the opportunity to change this. Though elated today, the American Left would be foolish to forget the suspicion and outrage that met the results of the 2004 election. An election reform bill, passed by a newly victorious Democratic House and Senate would be very hard for Bush to veto. Passage would legitimate Pelosi and the rest of the ranking Democrats as leaders of the nation and not just their own party.
In contrast, letting the issue rest casts doubt upon the Democratic ability to lead, to say nothing of the sincerity and legitimacy of a new majority ostensibly elected to bring about reforms in the wake of scandal and corruption. Now, Speaker Pelosi, would be an excellent time to do the right thing.