Wednesday, May 6, 2009
John Gideon, Voting Rights Hero
Ellen Theisen and Brad Friedman on John Gideon’s Passing in April of 2009
Talk Nation Radio for May 6, 2009
Ellen Theisen of Voters Unite and Brad Friedman honor John Gideon
Produced by Dori Smith
Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here and at Radio4all.net and Archive.org.
We spend the half hour with Ellen Theisen of Voters Unite and Brad Friedman of Bradblog, honoring John Gideon who died very suddenly in April of meningitis at the age of 62. We discuss John Gideon’s work, the ongoing efforts at Voters Unite and other voting integrity organizations, and look at some of the core issues the team at Voters Unite care most deeply about.
John Gideon was perhaps best known for his Daily Voting News newsletter. He co-directed Voters Unite with Ellen Theisen, and worked to unite voting rights activists and help them take on the challenges they faced in individual states.
They distribute research and information to the media, and help inform elected officials at the state and federal level. John Gideon had been blogging about voting issues since 2005 at Bradblog.com.
He later offered a short radio version of his Daily Voting News newsletter on internet radio with host Mary Ann Gould, co-founder of the Coalition for Voting Integrity and often with Brad Friedman on the Mike Malloy show when Friedman was host of the show.
John Gideon leaves behind a family that was shocked, according to Ellen Theisen, to learn just how many people from many different walks of life offered moving tributes to this humble man. Tributes poured in from various officials including Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, and even Rosemary Rodriguez, former chair of the EAC, US Election Assistance Commission.
As Ellen Theisen and Brad Friedman explain, John Gideon put a lot of pressure on EAC officials like Rodriguez, demanding reforms to restore democratic elections. Still, even Rodriguez felt compelled to say that John Gideon “will be missed” and she called him the “voice of the voter”. She also said he “succeeded in educating us about the need to keep integrity and transparency at the forefront of elections–at both the policy and operational levels.”
That’s true points out Friedman, who says Gideon did educate officials and help them in their jobs. In fact, John Gideon applied pressure to Ohio’s Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner too. She said of his passing: “Our nation has lost a true hero of democracy with the passing of John Gideon. John will be remembered and honored for his skills to keep so many people engaged in the elections process. His ability to gather, relay and assess elections information from across the country was simply amazing and through his organization of Voters Unite kept so many informed on the hot-button issues that at times truly drive our work to provide elections for all Americans that are free, fair, open and honest.”
CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen said, “John Gideon was a tireless advocate who contributed greatly to the election integrity movement. President John Kennedy noted that “true democracy… will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right.”
We tried but were unable to obtain audio comments from some officials we contacted including Secretary Bowen and Secretary Brunner by the time of our broadcast. Thanks to their respective staffs for taking our calls.
The Voters Unite group remains strong and director Ellen Theisen says it will absolutely continue but John Gideon’s passing leaves a big void in the world of voting rights activism, one that his many friends and colleagues at organizations large and small all over the country must try to fill.
At Voters Unite, Ellen Theisen is planning on continuing John Gideon’s popular Daily Voting News newsletter. She is in the process of raising funds and coordinating efforts toward that end. The co-editors for the edition up on the web page now are Dave Klein and John Washburn.
Ellen Theisen invites listeners (and readers here) to write to her at:
Write to Talk Nation Radio at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hear a piece of a song by Shannon Williford, Election Reform
MP3 download at Bradblog.com. Talk Nation Radio theme song, by Fritz Heede.
*Ellen Theisen remembers John Gideon’s sentiments about the Creekside Declaration to encourage citizen ownership of transparent, participatory democracy.
On John Gideon (1947-2009) from the Voters Unite web site: “John Gideon was Co-Director and Information Manager for VotersUnite! He was a disabled Viet Nam Vet (Navy) and a retired federal employee. He began learning about and working on the issues related to voting reform and voting integrity early in 2003. He maintained the current news links on the VotersUnite! website and compiled the “Daily Voting News,” a clipping service of voting news articles for activists, attorneys, elections officials, elected officials, and others who are interested in voting reform issues. His personal knowledge of current events on these issues became a trusted resource for voting integrity activists across the country.
John was effective in lobbying Washington State legislators to introduce and pass legislation requiring a voter-verified paper ballot. He was dedicated to informing election officials and journalists of accurate details, often emailing them facts in response to fallacies he found in the articles he included in his clipping service.
The election integrity community, especially VotersUnite.Org, will miss him enormously.”
We will hear more on the topic of Voters Unite and John Gideon as well as other voting rights activists next time.