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El voto por correo se ha convertido en un tema controversial en las elecciones presidenciales estadounidense. Donald J. Trump ha cuestionado, sin evidencia, la transparencia del voto por correo, alegando que facilitaría un fraude masivo que le podría costar la reelección. No voy analizar la validez de las alegaciones del Presidente, pues ese no es el objetivo de este blog. Lo que pretendo hacer es colocar el tema en su contexto  compartiendo un breve artículo de Jessica Pearce Rotondi titulado “Vote-by-Mail Programs Date Back to the Civil War“.  Publicado en la revista History, este ensayo confirma la antigüedad y utilidad que el voto por correo ha tenido en la historia de Estados Unidos.


War 

 

Jessica Pearce Rotondi

 

History   September 24, 2020

 

Voting by mail can trace its roots to soldiers voting far from home during the Civil War and World War II. By the late 1800s, some states were extending absentee ballots

to civilian voters under certain conditions, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Oregon became the first state to move to an all-mail voting system. Here is everything you need to know about the history of absentee voting and vote by mail.

What Does the Constitution Say About Voting?

There is no step-by-step guide to voting in the United States Constitution. Article 1, Section 4 says that it’s up to each state to determine “The Times, Places and Manner

of holding Elections.” This openness has enabled the voting process in the United States to evolve as the country’s needs have changed.

The Founding Fathers voted by raising their voices—literally. Until the early 19th century, all eligible voters cast their “Viva Voce” (voice vote) in public. While the number of people eligible to vote in that era was low and primarily composed of land- owning white males, turnout hovered around 85 percent, largely due to enticing voting parties held at polling stations.

The first paper ballots appeared in the early 19th century and were originally blank pieces of paper. By the mid-1800s, they had gone to the other extreme: political

parties printed tickets with the names of every candidate pre-filled along party lines. It wasn’t until 1888 that New York and Massachusetts became the first states to adopt pre-printed ballots with the names of all candidates (a style called the “Australian ballot” after where it was created). By then, another revolution in voting had taken place: Absentee voting.

The first widespread instance of absentee voting in the United States was during theCivil War. The logistics of a wartime election were daunting: “We cannot have free government without elections,” President Abraham Lincoln told a crowd outside theWhite House in 1864, “and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.

Captura de pantalla 2020-10-03 a la(s) 17.59.53.png

 Union Army soldiers lined up to vote in the 1864 election during the American Civil War.
Interim Archives/Getty Images 

 

“Lincoln was concerned about the outcome of the midterm elections,” says Bob Stein, Director of the Center for Civic Leadership at Rice University. “Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, pointed out that there were a lot of Union soldiers who couldn’t vote, so the president encouraged states to permit them to cast their ballots from the field.” (There was some precedent for Lincoln’s wish; Pennsylvania became the first state to offer absentee voting for soldiers during the War of 1812.)

In the 1864 presidential election between Lincoln and George McClellan, 19 Union states changed their laws to allow soldiers to vote absentee. Some states permitted soldiers to name a proxy to vote for them back home while others created polling sites in the camps themselves. Approximately 150,000 out of one million soldiers voted in the election, and Lincoln carried a whopping 78 percent of the military vote.

By the late 1800s, several states offered civilians the option of absentee voting, though they had to offer an accepted excuse, most commonly distance or illness. The passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 and 19th Amendment in 1920 expanded the number of eligible voters in the United States, but it would take another war to propel absentee voting back into the national spotlight.

Absentee Voting in World War II

Absentee voting re-entered the national conversation during World War II, when “both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman encouraged military voting,” says Stein. The Soldier Voting Act of 1942 permitted all members of the military overseas to send their ballots from abroad. Over 3.2 million absentee ballots were cast during the war. The act was amended in 1944 and expired at war’s end.

Captura de pantalla 2020-10-03 a la(s) 18.01.36

GI’s on the fighting fronts in Italy, Capt. William H. Atkinson of Omaha, Nebraska, swears in Cpl. Tito Fargellese of Boston, Massachusetts , before Fargellese cast his ballot for the 1944 election.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Legislation passed throughout the next few decades made voting easier for servicemen and women and their families: The Federal Voting Assistance Act of 1955; the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) in 1986; and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment, or MOVE Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

 

States Expand Vote by Mail

“Before the civil rights movement., it was largely members of the military, expats and people who were truly disabled or couldn’t get to their jurisdiction who were permitted to vote absentee,” says Stein. While most historians cite California as the first state to offer no-excuse absentee voting, Michael Hanmer, research director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, says it was actually Washington state that made the switch in 1974.

Other Western states soon followed: “Western states are newer, have the biggest rural areas, the most land and are doing the most pioneering work,” says Lonna Atkeson, Director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy at the University of New Mexico. “Their progressive values played a role in their political culture.”

Oregon became the first state to switch to vote by mail exclusively in 2000. Washington followed in 2011.

EAVS Deep Dive: Early, Absentee and Mail Voting | U.S. Election Assistance  Commission

Did You Know? It took The Vietnam War for the voting age to be lowered to 18 with the ratification of the 26th amendment.

2020 Election: Which States Offer Voting by Mail?

The 2020 presidential election takes place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, when concerns about virus transmission in crowds caused lawmakers to rethink rules around appearing in person to vote. For the first time in history, at least 75 percent of Americans are able to vote absentee.

In the 2020 election:

· Thirty-four U.S. states offer no-excuse absentee voting or permit registered voters to cite COVID-19 as their reason to vote absentee.

· Nine states and Washington, D.C. mail all ballots directly to voters: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

· Seven states—Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas—require voters to give a reason other than COVID-19 to vote absentee.

How to Vote by Mail

Ballots that go through the mail can be divided into two categories: Absentee ballots, typically requested by people who are unable to vote in person for physical reasons, and mail-in ballots, which are automatically provided to all eligible voters in states with all-mail voting systems.

The rules around voting by mail vary from state to state.

“When are ballots due? Postmarked? Federalism is a beautiful thing, but it’s complex because each state does something different,” says Atkeson. “In the end, access and security make for a well-run election and makes people feel that their vote is counted.”

How does vote-by-mail work and does it increase election fraud?

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impeachmentEl actual proceso de residenciamiento del Presidente Donald J. Trump ha provocado una serie de interrogantes no sólo políticas, sino también históricas. Debe recordarse que en más de doscientos años de historia de la república estadounidense, esta es la tercera vez que un residente de la Casa Blanca es residenciado (el triste honor lo comparten Adrew Johnson y William J. (Bill) Clinton).

El residenciamento de Trump contiene un elemento innovador, pues las acusaciones en su contra provienen de un informe redactado por un agente de inteligencia, preocupado por el comportamiento del Presidente y sus implicancias para la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos. Las denuncias de este whistle-blower (informante) podrían costarle la presidencia al magnate neoyorquino.

En el siguiente texto, la periodista Olivia B. Waxman analiza el origen de esta frase y el papel que han jugado los informantes en la historia estadounidense.


Before the Trump Impeachment Inquiry, These Were American History’s Most Famous Whistle-Blowers

Olivia B. Waxman

The episode that now has President Donald Trump staring down a House impeachment inquiry began, as many important moments in American history have, with a whistle-blower.

A U.S. intelligence official has accused Trump of urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to seek out evidence of wrongdoing on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The claim relates to calls that took place in July and August, and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson alerted House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff about the complaint on Sept. 9.

Trump has called the conversation he had with Zelensky a “very friendly and totally appropriate call,” but as Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, the whistle-blower’s complaint has been made public — and it will be up to lawmakers to decide if they agree.

Trump-Zelensky

While the whistle-blower’s identity is still not publicly known, he or she has been praised in the court of public opinion. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe hailed the decision to bring the complaint as an act of “incredible courage.”

America’s history with whistle-blowers is as old as the country itself, but the popular idea that they are courageous hasn’t meant whistle-blowing isn’t still risky, says Tom Mueller, author of Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud, out Oct. 1. And in the intelligence community, where sharing secrets is a loaded idea, whistle-blowing is even more complicated.

The origins of the term “whistle-blower” are murky — one theory holds that it’s a reference to the whistle blown by British policemen when they saw foul play, and another says it’s a sports reference to the whistles blown by referees — but the principle dates back to medieval England by way of Roman law. Central to the existence of whistle-blowers is the concept that sometimes individuals, not governments or law-enforcement, need to be the ones who raise the alarm about wrongdoing.

At a time when there was no national police force, people who noticed transgressions could report them to the King’s representatives, under what was known as the qui tam provision. (That name comes from the phrase Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “He who sues on behalf of our Lord the King and on his own behalf.”) To incentivize this kind of whistle-blowing, and in recognition of the negative social consequences that might come with it, the government made it a lucrative proposition: if a conviction followed, the person who did the reporting got some of the bounty. The earliest known example of the application of qui tam is King Wihtred of Kent’s 695 declaration: “If a freeman works during the forbidden time [i.e., the Sabbath], he shall forfeit his healsfang [i.e., pay a fine in lieu of imprisonment], and the man who informs against him shall have half the fine, and [the profits arising from] the labor.”

Esek Hopkins

Esek Hopkins

These English provisions about whistle-blowing carried over to the British colonies in North America. The federal government, even in its early stages, recognized whistle-blowing and the need to alert Congress as soon as possible about wrongdoings by people working with or for the government. On March 25, 1777, Marine captain John Grannis told the Continental Congress that he and nine other sailors saw the commander-in-chief of the continental navy, Esek Hopkins, treating British prisoners inhumanely aboard the USS Warren, and that the commander would refer to Congress as “a pack of damned fools.” On July 30, 1778, legislation was passed declaring that anyone who served the U.S. had the duty to tell Congress as soon as possible about any “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors” committed by others in government service.

But the major case that shaped American whistle-blower law came during the Civil War. The rush to outfit the troops for war led to shortages of horses, wool and gunpowder — and a rush for companies to make money by selling shoddy goods to the needy Union Army. New York Congressman and abolitionist Charles H. Van Wyck questioned hundreds of witnesses to such fraud, putting together a report that led to the 1863 passage of the False Claims Act. The law established fines for contractors who cheated that system, and said that a whistle-blower who started a False Claims suit — the person this law termed “a relator” — would get 50% of the money if the case was successful.

“It has this qui tam provision that allows an individual, a private citizen, to become a private attorney general and actually prosecute the case on behalf of the ordinary people,” says Mueller.

The law was nicknamed “Lincoln’s Law” after President Abraham Lincoln said he hoped it would empower a different kind of army of “citizen soldiers,” or whistle-blowers, to keep a watchful eye. This law is still on the books.

Defense contractors succeeded in weakening the False Claims Act during World War II, claiming it would hold up the production of matériel — but during the 1960s and 1970s, as trust in government plummeted, several high-profile whistle-blowers, both within and outside government, reminded Americans just how much of a key role whistle-blowers could play.

Ernest Fitzgerald testified that Lockheed Martin was overcharging the government by billions of dollars. Frank Serpico exposed bribery in the NYPD. Karen Silkwood, who was killed in a car crash en route to deliver documents in the case, exposed hazardous conditions at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant in Crescent, Okla. Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, secret documents revealing that the government was mismanaging the Vietnam War and lying about it, to the New York Times. And of course, the Watergate informant known as “Deep Throat,” Mark Felt, helped bring down Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Mark Felt

Mark Felt

Hollywood movies about whistle-blower cases, such as 1976’s All the President’s Men and Meryl Streep’s 1983 turn in Silkwood, further increased awareness and public respect for whistle-blowers.

Reacting to sweetheart deals being cut between the government and defense contractors at the height of the Cold War, Congress strengthened the False Claims Act in 1986. Penalties for making false claims were increased, requiring offenders to pay triple what they overcharged the Treasury. Since then, over $60 billion in ill-gotten tax dollars have been returned to the Treasury via whistle-blower complaints filed through the law.

While the False Claims Act mostly pertains to people in the private sector who work with the government, it’s been more complicated for people in the intelligence and national security field to come forward. The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections Act of 1998 established the process that the whistle-blower who raised concerns about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president went through, in that he filed a complaint that was routed to the U.S. Inspector General’s office.

However, despite having “protections” in the name, people who work at national security agencies who have gone through this process have not always felt as if this process is a secure one for them. For example, in 2002, Tom Drake and Bill Binney were part of a group that reported to the Inspector General’s office concerns that government efforts to monitor Americans’ Internet activity would invade their privacy. When news came out related to their allegations, the FBI raided their houses.

Tom Mueller interviewed about 200 whistle-blowers for his book and found that the “overwhelming majority” haven’t been able to work again because they were blackballed in their industries; perhaps the most famous recent American whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, is still in exile in Moscow. “It’s career suicide,” he says, arguing the treatment of whistle-blowers in real life is more of how society views them, versus the praise they receive at a distance or on a screen. He argues there’s a two-faced attitude towards whistle-blowers in American society.

“We have a completely dual attitude,” he says. “We applaud them in the theater but we go home and allow industries and governments to destroy them, their careers, their health, their lives.”

And yet their influence is undeniable.

Cynthia Cooper

Cynthia Cooper

TIME made three whistle-blowers Person of the Year for 2002 — WorldCom accountant Cynthia Cooper and Enron executive Sherron Watkins for exposing corporate fraud, and FBI agent Coleen Rowley for her memo to then FBI Director Robert Mueller about the mishandling of security threat warnings before 9/11 — for risking everything “to bring us badly needed word of trouble inside crucial institutions” and because they believed that the truth is one thing that must not be moved off the books, and for stepping in to make sure that it wasn’t.”

“We shouldn’t need a special word, some weird legal status, for doing the right thing, for doing our jobs. The fact that we have that [term] is a bad sign. Whistle-blowing is democracy,” Tom Mueller says. “It’s freedom of speech. It’s independence of conscience — the kinds of things the framers had in mind.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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El  Grupo de Trabajo Estudios sobre Estados Unidos del Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales  (CLACSO)  acaba de hacer público su segundo boletín, titulado Trump en su tercer año: incertidumbre e irrupción. Coordinado por Leandro Morgenfeld, Marco A. Gandásegui y Casandra Castorena, este boletín contiene cinco ensayos dedicados al análisis de la política exterior de Donald Trump, con un énfasis en América Latina. Los autores de estos trabajos son estudiosos latinoamericanos de la nación estadounidenses, especialmente, del Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y sobre Estados Unidos (CEHSEU) de la Universidad de La Habana. Quienes estén interesados en estos temas puedan acceder al boletín aquí.

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Huellas2

Ya es una tradición de esta bitácora dar la bienvenida a cada nuevo número de la revista Huellas de Estados Unidos. En esta ocasión se trata del número 15, que incluye una variedad interesante  de temas. Entre ellos podemos mencionar la crisis  de los créditos subprime, la política de la administración Trump hacia Cuba, el estado policial, la OIAA y la Política del Buen Vecino y la política externar de Trump. Este número incluye una sección titulada Los indeseables – Estudio sobre as minorías  silenciadas. Esta consiste de dos entrevistas: la primera, al Pantera Negra Emory Douglas y segunda a la profesora Keenga-Yamatha Taylor. Completan este número dos reseñas.

Felicitamos a los amigos de la Cátedra de Historia de Estados Unidos de la UBA por este número

Norberto Barreto Velazquez

Changsha, China, 24 de octubre de 2018

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