California legislators want to stop the use of all paperless electronic voting machines in the state, fearing the same type of fiasco that plagued Florida in the 2000 election. State Sens. Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate election committee, have written a letter to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, urging him to decertify all paperless touch-screen voting machines before the general election. The March 2 primary "was a test-flight of widespread use of these machines.
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and PR giant Burson-Marsteller are launching "Help Ohio Vote," a state-wide, 18-month, $15.3 million PR and advertising campaign "educating Ohio voters about new [electronic] voting machines." The massive campaign includes focus groups, media tours, ads, direct mail, and an "embedded" media program.
Diebold Election Systems has launched a five-year, $1 million "outreach campaign" to educate Maryland residents about its voting machines. The campaign, which will include radio and TV commercials, a website, more than 1.5 million brochures, and voting demonstrations, begins just prior to Maryland's March 2 primary.
The UN is pushing for the arrest on war crimes charges of General Wiranto, Indonesia's former military leader and a strong candidate in July's presidential elections. Wiranto has "hired American campaign advisers and published an English translation of his memoirs" to "burnish his image internationally." Major U.S.
Indonesia will hold its first-ever direct presidential elections in July 2004. Noting that Indonesia is "a thriving democracy where public opinion matters," a partner in the Jakarta-based PR firm Maverick writes in today's Jakarta Post that "the more forward-thinking" candidates "have already appointed their image gurus." Not every candidate will clean up well, though.
With little fanfare and almost no media coverage, Congress recently passed House Resolution 3077, which threatens academic freedom by imposing rules on what professors can and can't teach. HR 3077 focuses in particular on "area studies" (university programs that study international culture and politics in specific regions of the world).
"Freedom of the press is beginning to smell a little rotten in the new Iraq," reports Robert Fisk, listing some of the fatwas that U.S. Proconsul Paul Bremer has issued against Al Jazeera and other Arab media. "Things are no better in the American-run television and radio stations in Baghdad. The 357 journalists working from the Bremer palace grounds have twice gone on strike for more pay and have complained of censorship.
Addressing the National Endowment for Democracy, George W. Bush said that "the United States must commit itself to a decades-long transformation of the Middle East and termed the U.S. occupation of Iraq a turning point in the future of worldwide democracy," the Washington Post reports. "Bush's speech was the latest effort by the administration to stop the slipping support for the U.S. occupation of Iraq at home and abroad.