Magical, Mystical, Mysterious Clemencies – Justin Brooks at TEDxSanDiego 2016

We see it each year at Thanksgiving time. A small crowd on The White House lawn, family members of the President gathered around while the star of the show, a turkey, is granted a pardon from becoming the day’s meal from the President himself.

With presidential clemency powers, it is within the president’s rights to save a bird (or two) each year, but more importantly, this power grants the President the right to pardon wrongfully imprisoned people.

This power has been exercised numerous times throughout history for not only full release from federal prison, but also to reduce sentences.

Along with the President, governors are provided the same power at the state level. This is significant because, as Justin Brooks, director and co-founder of the California Innocence Project, said, the United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world – most of which are incarcerated in state prisons. Additionally, California is the state with the most people in prison.

“To get a case opened in California is an incredible task,” Brooks said during his talk at TEDxSanDiego. “To un-ring that bell to get a court to say ‘we’re going to take a second look at this case’ … it’s a really difficult process.

To catch the attention of California Governor Jerry Brown, and in turn his clemency powers, Brooks and his team identified 12 compelling cases from all cross sections of the state’s communities to take to Brown as a petition for clemency.

But just sending a petition wasn’t enough to get his petition. So Brooks, and two lawyers from his office, set out to walk the petitions all 712 miles from San Diego to the state capitol in Sacramento and hand deliver them to the governor’s office.

As the title of his TEDxSanDiego presentation alludes to, clemencies can be magical, mystical and mysterious, especially when you’re wondering what became of the 12 case petitions that were walked straight to the governor’s office.

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Using Modern Technology to Legitimize Elections – Lori Steele Contorer at TEDxSanDiego 2015

“If there’s a problem, and you aren’t part of the solution, you are in fact, part of the problem.” Lori Steele Contorer, the top expert in election modernization, identifies a problem with one of the most important social processes in the world: voting.

Lori recalls the U.S. election of 2000 when ballot voting issues caused the Supreme Court to elect the President, rather than the people. She also discusses worse incidences that occurred in other countries, such as ballot box stuffing, the stealing or burning of entire ballot boxes, violence and massacres at voting booths, and other dangerous election manipulations. Consequently, Contorer asserts that voting manually, using only paper ballots, remains a serious problem.

Contorer points to examples of self-driving cars, personal drones, DNA sampling, and extraterrestrial robots to illustrate how we live in extraordinarily innovative times. Due to these impressive accomplishments, you would think that every mission-critical industry in the world would use technology to ensure the best possible execution of their goals.

Unfortunately, the same people who say that paper ballots are secure, accurate, and reliable ways of voting, also claim that modern technology cannot be used for managing elections, because elections are far too important.

However, Contorer has experimented with integrating technology and voting in state elections, with the military, and in reputable institutions like the Oscars, and she has demonstrated proven success, showing how technology increases accuracy and security in elections, while increasing voter participation. Lori Steele Contorer believes that the technology revolution needs to be part of the election process so that people know they can make very important decisions, that their voice will be heard, and that they can trust the results.

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