Ballot stuffing + Censorship – Integrity = Bogus election
Today is the start of Round 2 in change.org’s Ideas for Change in America project. It should be known the Ideas finalists did not result from grass-roots driven democracy. Rather, the process has been tainted by unfair tactics and strategies by participants and organizers alike.
Despite recent disclaimers that they are a “private” venture, many of us who participated in the Idea project were led to perceive the site was somehow connected to Obama. Perhaps it was the pull-quote at the top of the page: “I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your own democracy again.-President Elect Barack Obama”.
Change.org partnered with Myspace to launch the “Ideas for Change in America, a groundbreaking citizen-driven effort to help define President-elect Barack Obama’s presidential agenda.” According to a press release they have also “partnered with 2500 non-profit organizations to provide outlets for powerful action.” (link)
…change.org has created an open platform at http://www.change.org/ideas that allows anyone to submit an idea for how they would advance change on an issue of importance, discuss ideas with others, and vote on the best ideas from around the country. MySpace has also created a parallel site at http://www.myspace.com/changedotorg that has the ability to enable nearly 118 million monthly active MySpace users around the globe to directly submit video ideas for the change they would like to see.
Dozens of existing, more established organizations have lent their names to bolster credibility for the Ideas home page with their logos. From the same press release:
The San Francisco-based social entrepreneurship venture operates a network of blogs covering more than a dozen major social issues and has partnered with more than 2500 leading nonprofit organizations to provide outlets for powerful action. For the Ideas for Change in America project, Change.org has convened more than three dozen nonprofit partners, including Amnesty International, HELP USA, People for the American Way, Save the Children, Public Citizen, Campus Progress, Energy Action Coalition, Mobilize.org, Refugees International, Democracy in Action, Not for Sale Campaign, Rainforest Action Network, Institute for Policy Studies, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Earthjustice, Share Our Strength, Rainforest Alliance, and Focus the Nation.
These endorsing organizations have helped lend credibility to change.org in exchange for an opportunity to advance their own issues in the competitive market for attention of donors in cyberspace and to hitch their wagon to the fundraising potential change.org promises. In fact, the only questions addressed in the FAQ deals with the site’s fundraising mechanism.
As it progresses, the Ideas project looks more and more like a self-serving promotion designed to whip up excitement and donations for endorsing causes, than a fair and objective exercise in democratically promoting important changes for our country.
Am I the only one scratching my head over the results of Round 1, which ended New Year’s Eve? There is evidence of vote fraud, censorship and manipulation of membership numbers that cannot be ignored by change.org management. This unethical conduct reflects on sponsoring organizations as well, as many of them actively participated in aggressive promotion of Ideas they supported or sponsored.
Stuffing the Ballot Box
Here’s what Martin Barnes, whose Idea in Global Health was in 2nd Place two hours before the competition ended was told via email from change.org (italics added):
We wanted to send you a note about an idea you submitted on in the Ideas for Change in America competition titled “Take a new look at the cause of AIDS.” After reviewing the voting totals from the first round of the competition, we uncovered voting irregularities by several supporters of this idea, with a number of users creating multiple accounts under the same name to vote for it in rapid succession. This type of manipulation is against the spirit of the competition and artificially contributed at least 10 extra votes to the idea. We have removed these 10 votes, leaving your idea in 4th place with 148 total votes. Only the top 3 ideas for each category qualify for the final round of the competition, and we therefore regret to inform you that your idea has not qualified for the next round. (link)
Supporters of some other Ideas however, also appear to be aware of this weakness in the change.org site that allows anyone with a computer and Internet connection to stuff the ballot box. Supporters of Pass the DREAM ACT now, which became the #1 Idea in Immigration, were informed publicly how to stuff the ballot box on the DREAM Act portal as early as December 11. “Senior member” Ready_to_serve wrote:
So first round ends on December 31st, as long as Dream Act is in the top 3 in immigration category it goes to the final round and new voting begins on January 5th. Right now Dream has a sizable lead in the immigration category, lets start creating email accounts ppl, if you have time, at least create 100 and we’ll win this……lol (link)
This makes it clear that change.org is not the only group aware of vote fraud, though they alone apparently know how to track it and “compensate” for it by deleting votes… or entire Ideas… just not all Ideas that practiced voter fraud. No one knows just what these apparently arbitrary selection criteria are.
While some Ideas lost their ranking, others have been deleted completely from the site, allegedly for similar reasons. Here’s an email from change.org to “Joan”, whose idea was competing strongly with more compassionate Ideas in Immigration (italics added):
We wanted to send you a note about an idea you submitted on in the Ideas for Change in America competition titled “Enforce Our Immigration Laws.” After reviewing the voting totals from the first round of the competition, we uncovered widespread voting manipulation by supporters of this idea, with a number of users creating multiple accounts under the same name to vote for it in rapid succession. This type of manipulation is against the spirit of the competition and artificially inflated the idea’s total votes beyond those received by competing ideas. As such, we regret to inform you that it has been disqualified from the final round of the competition. (link)
They also delete ideas they claim fall outside the group’s mission and “overall spirit”, or that they think will not be seriously considered by the administration or legislature, such as this big voter getter (until it was deleted), suggesting the abolition of the Federal Reserve in the category Economy (italics added):
We wanted to send you a note about an idea you recently submitted on in (sic) the Ideas for Change in America competition titled “Return to a Constitutional and Sound Monetary Policy.”
We welcome you to directly petition the Obama Administration about this matter, which you can do at http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople. However, this unfortunately lies outside the scope of the Ideas for Change in America project, which is focused on identifying solutions that can, through a grassroots lobbying effort, receive serious consideration from the Obama administration and/or Congress. Regardless of its merits, it is our judgment that this idea will not be seriously considered by the administration or the 111th Congress regardless of the intensity of our lobbying effort, and it is therefore not eligible to enter the second round of the competition… (click)
Finally, when faced with their own hypocrisy in punishing some cheaters, while rewarding others, change.org switches justifications, only to stick their other foot in their mouth. Backing away from vote fraud as a reason for deleting Martin Barnes’ idea to Take a new look at the origin of AIDS, a second change.org email stated (italics added):
We wanted to send you a note about an idea you recently submitted on in the Ideas for Change in America competition titled “Take a new look at the cause of AIDS.” We support calls for truth and transparency in our government on every subject and welcome you to directly petition the new administration about this matter, which you can do at http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople. However, this is unfortunately outside the scope of the Ideas for Change in America project, which aims to offer specific policy solutions rather than investigations into past government action. As such, it is not eligible to enter the second round of the competition. We understand that good people may disagree with our vision. But this is a private effort not connected to the Obama campaign or transition team, and we reserve the right to keep the competition and its content aligned with the stated mission and overall spirit of the project. Thank you for your understanding. As mentioned above, we welcome you to directly petition the Obama administration about your proposal at http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople. And we hope you continue your work to advance change. Best, – The Ideas for Change in America TeamChange.org
The Idea Appoint a Special Prosecutor for the Crimes of the Bush Administration is still listed as the #2 Idea under Government Reform. If that isn’t advocating “investigations into past government action”, what is?
Stacking the Deck-Misprepresenting Membership Size
There were only a few hours left in Round 1 voting when I first discovered I could create multiple membership accounts (and consequently votes) as fast as I could create disposable email accounts on gmail. I presume some of these votes were later discovered and deleted from Ideas that change.org didn’t want to advance. After posting my newfound knowledge on my change.org profile, my primary account there was deleted. Interestingly, the other “disposable” accounts remain in force. If change.org is committed to addressing the voter fraud issue, why did they not delete these obvious bogus accounts? What would happen to their reported “membership” numbers if all the fake accounts were deleted?
These are just the examples of inconsistent judgement calls and technical weaknesses of change.org Ideas campaign that I’ve managed to uncover since the close of Round 1. As a “private effort”, the organization is not required to make its practices more transparent, though these issues should be considered when conveying credibility to any claims they make.
The Top 12 Ideas for Obama (Round 1)
Another way to evaluate the Ideas project might be to review the top ideas from Round 1. If these 12 top vote-getting Ideas represent the best or most important ideas from a truely democratic grassroots effort, I can only ask: What the hell’s wrong with this picture of America?
If my list of the top 12 vote-getters overall below proves to be inaccurate, it may be because change.org is deleting some votes and even Ideas, so it could change. Why 12? For one thing, these happen to be the Ideas that received more than 2000 votes. OK, I confess that had I stopped at 10, I could not have included puppy mills, or single payer health care, for that matter. Forgive me.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with any individual idea. It’s just that very few of them deserve to be at the top of Obama’s agenda, which I thought was the point of this exercise. Upon review, it will become clear that coordinated campaigns of voter fraud explain how some of these Ideas got such high ratings.
# 1 with 5023 votes in Criminal Justice
Legalize the Medicinal and Recreational Use of Marijuana – Jose Torres (1546 comments)
OK. I have been fond of “420” in the past myself, and have also found it to be beneficial medicinally. It should definitely be legalized. But really. Really? Really! How many stoners does it take to make this the #1 issue for the Obama administration? The change.org crew is going to be really, really busy during Round 2 to come up with a list that won’t laugh them out of the press room when they present their results.
# 2 with 3363 votes in Other
Appoint Secretary of Peace in Department of Peace and Non-Violence – Stephen Zendt (468 comments)
I actually like this Idea and can see how it got a lot of votes. It has a real warm-fuzzy feel to it and just the title implies Obama will turn the country 180 degrees and for the first time in our history we’ll wage peace! Dreamers need love too.
# 3 with 2889 votes in Gay Rights
Pass Marriage Equality Rights for LGBT couples nationwide – Jen Nedeau (165 comments)
Disclaimer: I’m gay and been with the same guy for 30 years. We don’t want or need “marriage” rights. We do want our relationship to be respected. Personally, I liked the Idea to repeal all marriage rights and institute equal domestic partners laws. The religious sanctity of marriage would still be available at the corner church. Having said all that, having this show up in third place lends weight to the suspicion that the three cute white guys at the top of the heirarchy that is change.org are… oh well, never mind.
# 4 with 2809 votes in Economy
Save Handmade Toys From the CPSIA – Cecilia Leibovitz (288 comments)
I could hardly wait to get to this one! 4th place overall… and 1st place in Economy… the ECONOMY. I don’t want to say any more and spoil the fun of your own reaction. Did change.org check this Idea for “voting irregularities”?! Oh… yet another decriminalize marijuana Idea came in 3rd in this Category, btw. I think that idea was proposed about a hundred times in various ways.
# 5 with 2468 votes in Education
Accept and Sign ” The Autism Reform Act of 2009″ – Michael Robinson (380 comments)
An excellent example of what may be a very good Idea that I don’t feel qualified to comment on other than to ask if it really reflects the most important thing that needs to happen in American education?
# 6 with 2428 votes in Agricultural Policy
Legalize Milk – Charles N. Rutledge (293 comments)
The pathetic state of our food supply probably should be one our top priorities which is why I voted for this one myself, hoping that it might result in a review of all our food sources for nutrition and health. I think of it as a health issue, but the comments from small farmers in this group is pretty compelling stuff.
# 7 with 2361 votes in Government Reform
Bridging the Empathy Gap – Yes we can! – Jori Manske (217 comments)
Wowz. Did the people who voted for this Idea really understand what it is calling for? How the hell could this Idea be allowed to remain in 1st place when other Ideas are deleted because they “will not be seriously considered by the administration or the 111th Congress regardless of the intensity of our lobbying effort..” (stated above). Don’t get me wrong, I love the Idea, but I’m confused about the criteria for implementable ideas and dreamy ideals.
# 8 with 2219 votes in Immigration
Pass the DREAM Act Now! – Dream ACTivist (863 comments)
There is strong evidence that this Idea made it to the top by telling their supporters how to stuff a ballot box on change.org (above) and is a dramatic testament to the flawed voting system. If our national elections were run like this one, Obama would never have been elected President and this would be a moot exercise.
# 9 with 2172 votes in Education
Introduce Esperanto as a foreign language subject in schools – Oleg Izyumenko (622 comments)
Ummm… Two Ideas in this category make the Top 12 overall vote getters. Education must be important to Americans. When I asked my friend the teacher what she thought of this being the second most important education Idea for the Obama administration to address she was apoplectic.
# 10 with 2171 votes in Criminal Justice
Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties – Jon Pincus (38 comments)
Criminal Justice was the only other Idea category to get two Ideas to the Top 12 overall. In 2nd place, restoring the Fourth and First Amendments to the Constitution was way less than half as important as legalizing maryjane however.
# 11 with 2159 votes in Health
Free Single Payer Health Care – Jared S (317 comments)
This Idea may be the most believable one to make it to the Top 12 in an unrigged poll and it didn’t even make the Top 10.
# 12 with 2107 votes in Animal Rights
Pass the Puppy Uniform Protection Statute to Help Stop Puppy Mills – Carie Lewis (191 comments)
This is the other reason I chose to list the Top 12, rather than Top 10. Almost as funny as the #4 Idea.
Middle of the Road/Causes
If increased Federal regulation of dog breeders made it into the Top 12 list of Ideas at change.org, how did other Ideas and Categories fare? That Categories such as Race, Women’s Rights, Global Anything and the Iraq War are suspiciously under-represented lends credence to effects of voter fraud in other, better organized competing categories.
(mostly alphabetical order)
Totalling all the votes for the top three Ideas in this category (1890 votes) would not have put it in the Top 12. Perhaps this isn’t the best site to promote voter value issues. (ahem)
The #1 Idea was Make the grid green in 10 years (1335 votes). An ambitious idea first proposed by Al Gore.
Maybe Rob Wheeler was a bit ambitious when he posted his Idea, Develop & Implement a National Strategy for Sustainability (988 votes). Or maybe the environmental movement didn’t organize their members to vote as well as other causes. Oh well, there’s always round 2 Rob. Start creating those extra email accounts now.
Close Guantanamo prison camp (1111 votes)
Wake me up when they find a cure for AIDS. This would have gone into the “snooze” pile with the other DOA Global Ideas except that it warrants attention for a controversial idea that deserves more attention, imo. Barely 500 votes for three top Ideas in the category. Total. The most notable Idea in this category is Take a new look at the origin of AIDS, mentioned above as one of the Ideas being punished for alleged voting “irregularities”. It’s only a coincidence that it was also controversial enough to draw 438 comments… more like the debate it was asking of the Obama administration.
This topic is hotter just about everywhere except change.org. Idea #1 is ReBuild and RePower America with a Green Stimulus Package (1078 votes). Wait a sec… didn’t we already see this Idea? Oh yeah, under Energy. Oh well.
WTF. #1 Idea here is Leave Iraq Now, a “self-explanatory concept”, according to the author (818 votes). Add a couple more Ideas concerning the care of disabled and returning veterans and the entire Category gets an unexpectedly wimpy 1514 votes.
Peace in the Middle East
Stop supporting Israeli apartheid!! (391 votes) (emphatic punctuation in the original) End the War in Iraq and Fight Terrorism With Nonviolent Principles (323 votes) and First Step — Speak Up for Peace (276 votes). All sound, rational (tongue-in-cheek) Ideas from change.org voters that make it to Round 2.
WTF?… again. End the Practice of Racial Profiling in America (a measly 161 votes) comes in at #1. We are all Americans (133 votes), posted by a self-defined “older woman who lost income” is less an Idea to be implemented than it is a rant against racial identifications, such as “African American”, but maybe change.org allowed it to continue to Round 2 because it is an entertaining read. Or maybe because of what came in 4th! (laugh) Third place Idea won’t even get mentioned here because the sponsor spammed me and every other member of change.org to promote his Idea. I tried to tell you that people don’t like that shit, Joseph.
Three close Ideas, each with more than 500 votes. Two were created by… well, entrepreneurs it looks like. Not sure about #3, a MIT graduate.
Ding ding ding… attention change.org owners: Move the country towards transparent election systems (737 votes). Great idea. I suggest using this voting project for a prototype.
Near the end here only because this list is alphabetical. No idea why it didn’t rate higher at change.org. No women near the top of the change.org org chart maybe? End the Global Gag Rule (741 votes), a Bush rule that hampers family planning and health projects globally was the #1 Idea. Ending sexual violence (718 votes) was a close 2nd, and Abortion rights (659) 3rd.
Bottom of the Heap
The following Categories were complete snoozers, with fewer than 600 votes total for all three top Ideas. There’s a sort of poetic similarity in them, in that they all address the concerns of people on the fringes of the developing world. Of course, it is much harder for impoverished serfs living in the streets to vote once, let alone create multiple email accounts, so they will always rank at the bottom, thus perpetuating their lowly status. Even Jesus said there will be poor always, and apparently that word is good enough at change.org.