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Please donate to ensure Allegheny County gets the best Voting Machines

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e need your help to make sure Allegheny County gets the best voting machines.   OpenPittsburgh.Org worked during 2017 in consultation with cybersecurity and computer experts and with input from voting rights advocates to propose an ordinance that would create an expert Voting System Review Commission which would determine the best system for the County to acquire.   But the County Solicitor would not let County Council consider it.   So we appealed to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court.

The litigation required hiring a law firm to file the appeal, incurring the accompanying filing and attorney fees.   We have paid around $10,000 so far, but the remaining balance is roughly $33,000 which we need your help to pay.   Anything you can give will help ensure we obtain the best and most secure voting machines possible with voter verified paper-backed voting.   Please donate.

As an alternative, we have also prepared an ordinance to restructure the current Board of Elections as an independent Board of Elections and Registration which separates the oversight of elections from incumbent elected officials and requires some of its appointed members have expertise in computers, cybersecurity, and the needs of people with disabilities.   Half of the new Board would need to have experience as Judges of Elections to make sure a number of its members have prior hands on experience administering elections..   We will be collecting the signatures of 500+ registered Allegheny County voters in order to submit the proposal to County Council.

Open Government Amendment to the Pittsburgh City Charter

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n 2016, OpenPittsburgh.Org managed to obtain enough signatures to place a comprehensive City Charter Amendment on the fall ballot after acquiring a federal injunction that enabled using professional canvassers to collect petition signatures.   However, the Mayor's Chief of Staff objected and sought to have the Amendment removed from the ballot.   Though the objections were filed well beyond the mandatory challenge period, nonetheless, Judge Joseph James rejected 70 years of case law and allowed the objections to stand, then withheld his ruling in the expedited case until over two weeks later, issuing it just two days before the ballots were sent to the printer, making a successful appeal virtually impossible.

While being removed from the ballot was at first a huge disappointment, we quickly recognized it created a tremendous opportunity.   Despite the Mayor's statements of support for open government to the contrary, we could clearly see we would be ill-advised to expect the administration to implement the Open Government Amendment effectively if it were ratified.   We can now revise the Amendment, splitting it into two referendum questions, the second being to establish a new, independent Open Government Office with a non-partisan elected director.   The new office would be responsible for implementing the City's new Open Government requirements; for establishing a citywide Citizen Advisory Panel; and for providing the support needed to ensure effective proactive public participation -- all of which in the Amendment's earlier versions was to have been the responsibility of the mayor.

You can get involved and help with drafting the final provisions for the new Open Government Office by contacting OpenPittsburgh.Org today.

Donating to assist voting machine litigation

Can you contribute to help the important voting machine litigation?

To conduct the current Commonwealth Court appeal or a subsequent Supreme Court appeal requires your help. Donors have already paid $10,000 of the legal fees incurred through the appeals so far. But there remains $33,000 more that is currently owed. Any amount you can give will add to the financial assistance from others and enable meeting these expenses in order to continue this important case. A win on appeal will be a huge step toward assuring that Allegheny County gets the optimum voting system we deserve and that we do not end up saddled with another inferior voting system again.

$20 for 2020

You can help ensure Allegheny County uses paper-backed voting machines in the 2020 presidential election by giving $20.   Your help is needed to cover the costs for litigation that would allow you to vote on the matter as provided by the Election Code and for collecting signatures to place a referendum on the Spring ballot that would have Allegheny County provide new, safe, and secure voting machines that use a human readable paper ballot or record for audit and recount purposes.   Please consider giving more if you can or less if you will.   It will combine with the donations of others to make this effort successful.   You can make a safe and secure donation online through our Paypal link.

City Council hearing update

The August 30, 2917 public hearing about having City Council place a referendum question on the election ballot went very well.   There is a truncated video online which unfortunately cut off the beginning of the hearing.   Followup action by concerned citizens is still needed.   See the revised City Council public hearing notice article for what you can do.

Important public hearing!

Post hearing follow up:   Still write and call; same info below applies.

Pittsburgh City Council Public Hearing

on creating a referendum to have

the County provide new voting machines

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 2pm

City Council Chambers
5th Floor, City-County Building
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

For more information call: (412) 532-8338

Your action still needed:

  • Write – Send an email to your City Council member or a letter urging him or her to support the referendum.   Use our contact form to email your comments to us too.

  • Call – You can speak to your City Council representative or their staff by phoning the City Clerk at (412) 255-2138. Ask for your Council representative and let them know you want City Council to put the voting machine referendum on the ballot.

Agenda Initiative dismissal appealed

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n appeal was filed Monday, August 14, 2017, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas contesting the County Solicitor's disallowance of a proposed ordinance that could ultimately result in use of a new human-recountable voting system for Allegheny County in time for the 2020 presidential election.   The proposed ordinance, submitted through the home rule charter's Agenda Initiative procedure, would create an expert commission to review the County's voting process, make recommendations, and identify the optimum voting system for use in Allegheny County; a referendum would then be held for voters to approve or disapprove its acquisition.   Nearly 800 signatures were submitted, of which nearly 700 were determined to be valid County voters with 500 being required, but the Solicitor ruled against the ordinance on legal grounds which OpenPittsburgh.Org, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), and several individual appellants contend in their appeal are unfounded.   Oral argument and an evidentiary hearing are scheduled for October 20, 2017.

Top-down Politics vs Bottom-up Change

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he 2016 election year brought to the polls large numbers of first time voters and those who seldom vote.   The overblown hype and distrust sown in the lead up to the election proved to be quite divisive and has wasted energies which could be put to more productive use.   By focusing upon the selection of public officeholders, in general, and specifically upon the nation's highest office, we keep hoping in vain for meaningful solutions to trickle down.

Electoral democracy's inherent nature of top-down governance is simply insufficient to address today's challenges.   While electing good candidates is important and not to be discounted, it's time that we pursue a new bottom-up approach.   Real solutions can only come when average citizens are provided with a structural and operational framework that enables them to work together within the halls of government where they can better monitor and hold it accountable and, at the same time, proactively catalyze needed changes.

4 pillars of the Open Government concept

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hen most people hear the phrase "open government." they think of "transparency," but, while that is essential, it's only one part.   There are actually four essential pillars -- transparency, notification, public participation, and accountability -- all of which are necessary for truly open government.   By implementing comprehensive reforms at the municipal level, first with Pittsburgh and then other interested communities, we can build a base of open government from which the model can eventually be expanded to higher levels of government too.

Pittsburgh Open Government Amendment

Synopsis

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ew Article 6 -- The Amendment deletes the present Article 6: Community Advisory Boards which is now irrelevant because City Council abolished all of the City's Community Advisory Boards, effective December 31, 2000.   In its place, the Amendment will substitute a new Article 6: Open Government which expands upon the recent Open Data legislation passed by City Council, providing greater opportunities for public participation in the governance of the city, including an ability for individuals to be notfied about legislative and administrative actions before they occur and assuring that Council and the Mayor give more attention to resident's input.

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