Velociraptors, Chaos, and Silver Bullets

Speedy, nimble thieves, velociraptors were savage predators and able

Laura Pressley, 2014 City Council Candidate
Laura Pressley, 2014 City Council Candidate

scavengers. Hunting or scavenging in small coordinated groups, facing a velociraptor tribe was terrifying. Teeth embedded in jawbones of large prey bear mute witness to the chaos of the kill and the return to order recorded in the fossil record. Welcome to the 21st century political stage, a reflection of global geopolitics. A world in which challengers become prey or carrion to establishment politicians who revert to 75-million-year old velociraptor tactics. This is, however, the 21st century and chaos also breeds creative heroes with silver bullets who will not be denied. The super-heroes of today come from all walks of life; engineers, secretaries, and chemists. They arise with ideas and solutions in hand. Today’s silver bullets offer people the tools of liberty and control of their own destiny. In a dark world, these heroes illuminate the ‘possible’ throughout the land from Niceville, Florida to Acme, Washington. Laura Pressley is one of the super heroes. She’s one light of liberty illuminating the dark Austin, Texas skies. Pressley is fighting and winning a battle to secure the integrity of the ballot box.

Laura Pressley picks her fights. With a doctorate in Chemistry from Austin’s University of Texas, 17 years and four patents in the semiconductor industry, all of Pressley’s nonlinear buttons, such as smart meters and fluoridated water, are technologically focused. She doesn’t, as she likes to say, “play outside of the technical sandbox”. The OJT (on the job) battle experience acquired in her public policy passions drove Pressley into a marketplace of diverse actors; Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, conservatives, progressives, environmental groups, business leaders, union bosses, communities, and activists of every shade. The lesson? Pressley discovered that she not only worked well with folks from across the belief and political spectrum, but each brought something of significance to the dialog party. Her experience taught that it was the dialog, not the belief system that brought value.

In the midst of one of life’s rare quiet moments, it occurred to Laura Pressley to gather her lessons and run for the Austin City Council. She lost the election in the electronic ballot box. Perhaps she didn’t have the support she needed to win the election, but no one will ever know with certainty because the electronic voting system was corrupted and her official election records are missing. As is wont to be the case with scientists, the ballot process was challenged to find an answer. The discipline of the PhD grabbed her by the neurons and drove her into the heart of the electronic ballot data system.

Systems theory would dictate that the ballot system for any state be robust and self-regulating. In other words the system should be endowed with feedback mechanisms to self-correct by employing checks and balances across the legislative landscape. The goal of the ballot system is balance so that all sides are given a voice. Laura Pressley pulled the Texas balloting laws, then she pulled the laws of other states. Frustrated, Pressley discovered that Texas electronic ballot legislation was among the best in the country; the approach was multi-disciplinary, the process clearly defined, and check and balance provisions across the legal spectrum were well in place in Texas. Pressley filed suit to obtain the records of her own election to ascertain the true outcome and the system’s possible mode of failure and, in discovery, found official election records were missing and in addition received audit log records from the electronic voting systems that registered, electronic corruption errors and security breaches. Discovery brought focus. Basically, the electronic balloting process had not followed the laws in Texas and the check and balance systems had not been triggered. Why?

Way past caring about her possible failed run for Austin City Council, Laura Pressley defined her quest. Good laws are in place and simply ignored. There’s no oversight. No one watches the process, because no one can watch the electronic process. Laura Pressley gave voice and reason to what most of us recognize as uneasiness with electronic voting.

Armed with lawsuits, documentation, and a power point presentation, she has shown the current electronic ballot system is a vulnerable system that requires a complex plethora of legislation to prevent computer corruption. Well, in Texas, with the best state statutes in the country, imbalance and corruption still ensued and the political velociraptors feeding from the carrion of corruption are fat and confident.

The counter attacks have been swift and personally brutal. Laura Pressley faces the political velociraptor tribe and she is armed only with the silver bullets of common sense, computer data, and the voice of so many that do not trust electronic voting systems. Step by step she makes progress. Legislation could be introduced to strengthen existing laws or simply return to a traceable paper ballot system that can be overseen by all citizens with a desire to discover what the voters actually choose. NASA uses systems from the 1960s because those systems are robust and proven. People’s lives are at stake. Shouldn’t we, the citizens, expect a robust proven system to safe-guard our voice in the political process—our vote? After years and years of testing, NASA is in the process of changing its systems to accommodate changes in technology. Perhaps the same level of effort should be invested in selecting our public servants?

Laura Pressley joins the myriad voices crying in a wilderness of voting corruption fiercely guarded by political velociraptors. After all, she’s put her credibility and reputation on the line to take a solution to the courts and lawmakers. According to a Pew Research Center report issued on Monday, September, 28, 2015, 45 million immigrants live in the country, up from just under 10 million in 1965. That’s a handy voting block if it can be accessed. For Laura Pressley, this is a journey to re-balance a system that is wobbling in a wildly eccentric orbit.

The legacies of the Cold War sometimes surprise. One discovery I enjoy is that during times of intense political and social chaos, the Hegelian dialectic is not a pre-determine outcome. The dialectic may be active as propaganda drives citizens to entrenched positions; environmentalists fighting against private property owners, democrats versus republicans, greens oppose libertarians, law & order types and not, Christians fear Muslims, war and peace, pro-choice and pro-life, black and white and brown and yellow, and communists don’t like socialists very much. The dialectic tends to control both the conflict and the resolution, which inevitably introduces all parties to a new cycle of conflicts. And that is why the Kingston Trio’s Merry Minuet is so funny and so true. They are still “rioting in Africa, and there’s strife in Iran and what nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man”.

It does not have to end that way. Citizens have a lighted path forward. Across the country are people like Laura Pressley are emerging from the chaotic stew of cultural evolution with data and solutions in hand that can be adopted by all. Her colleague, L. Pierre de Rochemont, summed up Pressley’s achievements and sacrifices, “She has legal standing in the exposure and resolution of a serious political problem. Laura can capture the high ground, not just for Texans, but all Americans.  No one else who has been down this road has her toughness or determination (True Texas Grit) to see it through.”

12/15/2015: Check out Laura’s story by David Steele on Public Intelligence Blog