Talking with Lisa was a wonderful and eye opening experience. I hope that one day Lisa will make another run for office. It’d be great to have her progressive voice in the state legislature or in Congress if the opportunity became available, or even Lieutenent Governor if Halter does go up against Lincoln (the reasoning being that Halter has shown us what an activist Lt. Gov can do). That may be a ways off. But for now I’m glad that we’re building bridges here at Blue Arkansas within the Arkansas progressive community and in the not too distant future I look forward to seeing a united and powerful progressive movement sweeping the state institutions. Lisa will be onboard when that happens, no doubt helping to lead the charge, and all of us here in Arkansas will be better off for it.
1) Why’d you decide to become an activist and what makes you a progressive?
I don’t think of myself of an activist, really, more so a reformer, to reform is to correct errors or improve situations. I was active on many issues, some simultaneously. Why I became one: I was politically active and in the fray, I did not like the status quo and thought I felt something needed to be done on several issues. So, I just began. What makes me a progressive? I believe in the people’s right to progress – to be able to advance themselves.
2) You’re a feminist and you’ve worked for NOW from Hot Springs, correct? How do you see the state of women’s rights nationally? And here in Arkansas?
Yes, I am. I feel women should be afforded equal pay and equal rights. I didn’t work for NOW in HS, I founded the chapter, then was asked to be the legislative director for the State chapter. NOW gets a bad rap a lot of the time. Yet, they came out swinging in support of having each and every vote counted in that Hot Springs chapter and so did the State chapter. AR’s NOW stayed in that fight with me until the end. Every Arkansan that cares about their right to vote owes them a big thank you for their efforts. The members of that chapter of NOW and the state chapter of NOW in AR are very valiant women.
3) You’ve been against using computerized voting machines in the past? Has your view on them changed any?
Yes, I opposed them in the past, still oppose them in the present and will oppose them in the future. I will always be opposed to them.
4) Let me ask you specifically about some of the voting irregularities that occurred in Arkansas in 2006. As I recall, you were involved in highlighting what had gone wrong and challenging our elected officials to fix the problem. Can you explain what went wrong and what was or was not done in response?
I was. I’ve been the Paul Revere of e-voting since 2002. Every election I receive calls from candidates that feel they got shafted by the machines, poll workers, election supervisors and even the national press also phone me every election cycle. For all the good it does. What went wrong in 2006: you name it, it went wrong in 2006. The problems were too numerous for this article, to name a few; from electronic ballot cartridges not arriving in time to begin early voting, (the cartridges boot up the machines. load the election information on the screens, have the election information programmed into them, store the vote totals afterwards until they are downloaded to the software to be transmitted via the internet to the SOS office) to election totals being placed in the software and being ‘scrambled’, to voters & candidates touching the screens to vote for their candidate then seeing their vote flip to a different candidate, to the election workers not being able to shut the machines down as the clocks were incorrectly set. If you can’t shut them down, you can vote on them all night. It was so bad in Phillips County, they closed the polls down and put a sign on the door. In another AR county they were voting on paper towels & on hoods of cars. The national voting circuit referred to the 2006 AR Election as a ‘train wreck’. They were right. What was done as the response? The voting vendor was called in and had their technicians assist (when they could be contacted and located.) That’s what you don’t want in your elections, ever – vendors involved in elections.
5) Were you happy with the way Charlie Daniels handled the response to the problems?
No, I wasn’t. Let me put it this way, the only thing that would have made me happy is if he banned the use of the machines, ordered paper ballots and re-held the elections using them. He didn’t.
6) What other threats do you see to our right to vote?
Voter registration databases. We (NOW) pushed for the delay of the purchase of the VR database the state had been leasing. We got it. Then the SOS just bought a different vendor’s software later. The state of North Carolina manages their own voter registration data base, I would like to see Arkansas go back to managing our own databases.
7) You ran against Blanche Lincoln in the 2004 Democratic Primary. What prompted you to run?
I was very displeased with many votes Blanche had cast and felt strongly she was voting against the people’s interests. Statewide, Arkansans were telling me they wanted a choice in that race, so I gave them one. The right to choose or the right to choice is a God given right and is free will in expression; it’s like poetry in motion. What I did with my run was show others they could do it too. We’ve since seem others run and do very well. I think the Green party candidate that ran for US Senate in 2006 received 200,000 plus votes. Mark Pryor was on that ballot, Ms. Kennedy gave him a run for his money.
And what’s your assessment of Lincoln since then?
Blanche is Blanche. And leopards don’t change their spots.
9) What do you think of the talk that Bill Halter might challenge Lincoln?
I was not at all surprised.
10) What grade would you give President Obama? Why?
Grading the president? I would have to give him a C. I approve of many things he’s implemented, the stimulus package, the push for healthcare, the intent to create desperately needed jobs, etc. I also disapprove of some decisions he’s made. He’s doing the best he can with the disaster he inherited. Before the Afghanistan ‘surge’ I would have given him a B minus btw.
11) What do you think of the debate around healthcare and the bill itself?
The debate, I believe, was campaign targeted for demolition and convolution from the onset by the opposition forces. And it was effective to a large degree. What I hear people saying is that they are so thoroughly confused by the political lingo, e.g. public option, single payer , expansion that they are afraid of healthcare reform. That was by design. Had I been the press person on it, I would have put it to the people plainly and used only one descriptive. “Expand Medicare to All option”. As for the commercials: Chaos on the *people’s* airwaves. They’ve got people calling their Senators and Congressmen and they don’t even understand what they are calling them about. All many of the people know is that somewhere along the way, they got the idea they would lose their health insurance coverage – and that stuck with them and made them afraid. It was one hell of a demolition campaign – and it got the ‘evil’ public option killed didn’t it? What I love about it the debate: the free healthcare clinics. At the AR clinic, it was reported that nearly 90% (?) of the people there had life threatening illnesses? What a Godsend those were to the people. I told everyone I could tell that I knew had no insurance so they could get treated. My gratitude to the healthcare providers and to the volunteers alike.
I’ve not read the bill in it’s entirety. For the most part – what I understand about the healthcare bill I’ve agreed with, Regardless of the outcome on this issue – our healthcare system is broken; causing 45,000+ people a year to die needlessly. As turnabout is fair play, elected officials opposed to helping those people along with the 47 million Americans that can’t afford health insurance (in a recession) I think they should lose their taxpayer funded health insurance by way of being forced to resign. That’s up to the people, always has been, always will be.
America’s healthcare system needs fixing in the worst way.
12) Right now a lot of progressives and activists are discouraged because of what happened with the public option in the healthcare fight. What’s your advice to them?
In politics you hit many walls, you either learn to go around them or you end up smashed. Learn how to go around the walls when you come up against them. My advice to them in a nutshell: State’s rights. Lead by example, work to make it happen on a state level. Upon the discovery of the spoofing of the online petitions, action alerts, etc, I wouldn’t bother signing online online petition and action alerts. Use your phones and call your state representatives. Repeatedly. Write them letters on paper and mail them, or hand deliver them if possible. Attend political meetings and local events when representatives are there & speak to them in person. In short, lobby in your own backyard. Never get discouraged, be vigilant and persevere but pick your battles. And be stealthy. What kinds of battles do you pick? You pick the battles on issues that are detrimental to the people or environment. In other words, the important issues. Make it count.
13) Any chance we’ll have the opportunity to vote for you again?
I’ve got some things I want to wrap up before I run again. Thanks for asking.
UPDATE: Due to a miscommunication on my part, portions of a conversation I had with Lisa that she believed to be off the record were posted previously as part of the interview. Out of respect for Lisa I have fixed the issue and I hope she accepts my sincere apology for the mishap.