Father, grandfather, husband, veteran, patriot, co-director of VotersUnite.org, democracy advocate, blogger, friend...
By Brad Friedman on 4/27/2009, 12:29pm PT  

Update 4/27, 11:54pm PT...

"I will choose to celebrate his life."
- Ellen Theisen, John Gideon's co-director at VotersUnite.org on his passing.

It was a very lonely time for advocates of democracy in the U.S. when John Gideon posted his first guest blog here in the dark days of October 2005, and when we began to carry his vital "Daily Voting News" on Election Day, one month later, in November of that same year.

While the fight for democracy in this country has become somewhat less lonely as the Election Integrity movement has grown since then, thanks in no small part to the tireless, daily contributions of John, it feels very lonely again today. My good friend passed away this evening in a Seattle hospital, having succumbed to a surprise and sudden bout with bacterial meningitis.

John held on as long as he could, but tonight he'll rest with his beloved wife who passed some years ago.

He was 62, and a Vietnam veteran who never stopped fighting for his fellow veterans and in service of our country. He is survived by his son Rick and grandson, and a life-long legacy of fighting in defense of his nation, and for all that it stands for. He has left that legacy behind as a gift --- and challenge --- for us all.

John's always-understated "Daily Voting News" --- which he filed, often seven days a week, for well over five years --- provided simple links to news of election reform, failure and success from around the nation, as culled from papers, blogs, press releases and official and academic reports around the country, and even the world. In so doing, he connected the seemingly disparate dots of local stories, and apparently anecdotal woes, into a cohesive tale of a nation struggling to regain footing on the pedestal on which it had once, and still hoped to stand.

The compelling narrative the DVN slyly wove together daily --- almost, as if in slow-motion, with each passing day --- was clear: We were, and are, a country whose promise of public, transparent democracy threatens to slip away forever beneath a cynical and foolish crush of ill-considered corporatism and greed, self-imposed expediency and often well-meaning, yet destructive naivete. In short: Unless we take care --- every single day --- what's left of our democracy will further wither to the whims of cold, disinterested privatization no longer resembling the self-governance our founders envisioned, and that we have convinced ourselves still remains.

If there is anything we can give back to the man, in thanks for his selfless service, over so many decades, on so many fronts, it is to continue to carry the torch of the man who fought for democracy until he had nothing more he could give...

On a personal note, John was one of the best friends I've ever had. As true in friendship as he was to his country.

There were very few days, over these last many years, when he and I didn't speak by phone at least once --- even when there was very little to talk about in the day's daily news (though those days were few and far between, as witnessed by the years-long historic chronicle of the DVN and the pages of this blog). Sometimes the conversations were brief, more often much longer, occasionally gruff --- yes, the frustrating battles left him quite grouchy from time to time --- but they always served as an unerring grounding to me, and to the overall mission of The BRAD BLOG.

I cannot overstate his importance to the work you've seen on these pages for so many years. While he often stayed far in the background and out of the limelight, his incessant questioning and encouragement of election officials and commissioners and advocates alike moved the ball slowly, but persistently, forward in every aspect of the struggle for Election Integrity and transparency in America. And as if that wasn't enough, he generously babysat this blog when I was otherwise indisposed or off the grid (sometimes for weeks at a time), encouraged and helped guest bloggers have their voices heard here, and, yes, tirelessly pushed back against those over-stuffed cynics --- be they academics, attorneys, officials, media outlets and even other EI advocates --- who too frequently took lazy shots across the bow of The BRAD BLOG, and at myself, in lieu of taking accountability for their own prejudices, fears and failings.

At the bottom of every email, John closed with an auto-signature that quoted a declaration crafted, in March of 2008, in part by me and his ever-faithful friend and partner at VotersUnite.org, Ellen Theisen. The short, simple phrase became known as the Creekside Declaration, and may sum up so much of what John stood for over these last many years, every day of his life...

"Mission: To encourage citizen ownership of transparent, participatory democracy."

As I type through my tears, I am awed by the challenge, and mission, that John --- a very gentle giant indeed, but a giant nonetheless --- has left behind for me, and for all of us. If I can sometime soon dry up those tears, I vow to join Ellen, whose quote opened this far-too-soon obituary --- and celebrate John's life. Until then, I hope you'll join me in remembering by carrying his torch, his challenge and his mission wherever, and however, you can...as if the future of this nation depended on it. Because I truly believe that it does.

Thank you for everything, John. You will be missed, my friend, more than you will ever know...

Update: Ellen has now posted some moving thoughts of her own on John's passing, at Voters Unite and Joyce McCloy, of NC Coalition for Verified Voting, has dedicated a page linking to numerous tributes to John, as posted from around the country.

Update 4/29, 1:26pm PT: CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen on John's passing: "John Gideon was courageously devoted to his democracy, and his strong voice will be echoed in the continued work of thousands of others." Rosemary Rodriguez, until recently the chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has also issued a moving tribute. Complete statements posted here...

Update 5/1, 11:35am PT: OH Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner issues condolences and a moving statement: "Our nation has lost a true hero of democracy...I salute his courage for asking the tough questions". Her complete statement, and another offering a unique perspective from Lowell Finley, a citizen activist turned CA Dep. SoS, are now posted here...

Our earlier notice, including Ellen Theisen's initial announcement that John was in critical condition, follows below...

Some troubling news came in last night concerning John Gideon, my friend, colleague, frequent BRAD BLOG guest blogger and the years-long publisher of the indispensable "Daily Voting News". Allow me to defer to the announcement just released by Ellen Theisen, John's partner at VotersUnite.org...

From: Ellen Theisen
Date: Mon Apr. 27, 2009 11:18am PT
Subject: To John Gideon's friends

Our friend and colleague, John Gideon collapsed in his home on Sunday morning where he was discovered by his family and rushed to the hospital.

Medical staff told me last night (Sunday) that he was in "very critical condition". And today he remains in the ICU, with a preliminary diagnosis of meningitis.

Brad Friedman and I have been in regular contact with John's family, and I'm leaving now to go to the hospital in Seattle, which is the best neurological facility in the entire region.

Starting tomorrow, some of us will be taking steps to cobble together a perhaps somewhat truncated version of the "Daily Voting News" in order to attempt to fill his shoes until his return. But as you all know, they are very big shoes to fill.

Please send your good thoughts to John and his family. I will, of course, keep you updated as I learn anything more.

Ellen Theisen

I'll certainly do my best to keep you all up to date here on John's condition as things warrant and/or change.

I plan on doing my best to keep things rolling here in the interim as usual, as I suspect he'd like me to, and to help Ellen in getting out the DVN as well as possible during his absence, which we all pray won't be long. But thanks for your patience, in advance, if I'm slowed down a few steps here for a bit, as I suspect I may be, while doing my best to work with Ellen and John's family in support...