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Tuesday, September 16, 2003  

Stealing Democracy

Stuck in traffic in Seattle again, so what do I do? Turn on Rush Limbaugh, have a laugh, get the gist, and then speed scan down the dial to listen to two or three other right wing whackos, 3 minutes at a time. I just know they will be busting blood vessels over the 9th circuit court's decision to postpone the California recall election until state approved machines are in place in all counties. Maybe I'll get lucky and catch one of them having an aneurysm right on the air.

Rush is talking about the vast left wing conspiracy to destroy democracy in America, as if making sure that every vote counts is against everything this country stands for. The others are using the Ann Coulter method of argument -- citing absurd statistics in one breath, and then reputable institutions in another (MIT, Cal Tech), without ever informing their audience that the later is not actually the reference for the former.

Naturally, the strawman arguments abound among all of them. What democrats are actually saying, they tell us, is that the poor and the minorities are too stupid to fill out their ballots correctly. (No, what we're actually saying is that elections have become too close to using voting machines that have a 2% margin of error. That would seem fairly obvious given the increasing number of electoral contests decided by one percent or less). But never mind the facts. Their callers buzz the lines with hearty agreement. All in all it's a master rendition of the "hey, look over there..." style of political gamesmanship. Because here is what's really happening...

Gaffe casts doubts on electronic voting: "The strange case of an election tally that appears to have popped up on the Internet hours before polls closed is casting new doubts about the trustworthiness of electronic voting machines.

During San Luis Obispo County's March 2002 primary, absentee vote tallies were apparently sent to an Internet site operated by Diebold Election Systems Inc., the maker of the voting machines used in the election. At least that's what timestamps on digital records showed."

Just a mistake -- a gaffe, as it were.

Or not.

Democrats want election machine firm thrown out: Democratic leaders want a major Republican fund-raiser blocked from becoming the state's new voting machines supplier, saying his presence puts in doubt the fairness of all Ohio elections.

Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc., this week sent out letters to central Ohio Republicans asking them to raise $10,000 in donations in time for a Sept. 26 Ohio Republican Party event at his home.

His company, which specializes in security and election machinery, is one of three under consideration to supply new, electronic voting machines to replace punch card machines still in use in 71 Ohio counties.

[...]

In his invitation O'Dell states his support for the Republican Party and notes he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

But hey, we're dems... we're tolerant, and it's a free country. Why shouldn't a political activist for the republican party be the one to supply the voting machines - even if they are machines we know can be easily tampered with? No reason not to give them the benefit of the doubt. Right? Sure wish Wally was a dem though, don't you? Yeah.

Anyway, it's not like republican politicians run the companies that are providing the machines. Now that would be bad. Right? Oops....

Hagel's ethics filings pose disclosure issue: "One underlying issue is whether Hagel properly disclosed his financial ties to Election Systems & Software (ES&S), a company that makes nearly half the voting machines used in the United States, including all those used in his native Nebraska.

ES&S is a subsidiary of McCarthy Group Inc., which is jointly held by the holding firm and the Omaha World-Herald Co., which publishes the state's largest newspaper. The voting machine company makes sophisticated optical scan and touch-screen vote-counting devices that many states have begun buying in recent years.

An official at Nebraska's Election Administration estimated that ES&S machines tallied 85 percent of the votes cast in Hagel's 2002 and 1996 election races.

In 1996, ES&S operated as American Information Systems Inc. (AIS). The company became ES&S after merging with Business Records Corp. in 1997.

In a disclosure form filed in 1996, covering the previous year, Hagel, then a Senate candidate, did not report that he was still chairman of AIS for the first 10 weeks of the year, as he was required to do."

This doesn't bother me at all either. I'm sure Sonny Perdue is as honest as a republican gets.

Forget about the debacle in Florida in 2000. Forget about the republican financed recall in California. Forget about the precedent setting redisticting being done in Texas. Let's play Colmes to the republican's Hannity, and agree that republicans are not assaulting democracy daily. There are still huge problems with this new voting technology being foisted upon us with little or no debate:

A compendium of errors in November 2002

These problems could all be easily solved by adding printers to touchscreen machines in order to provide a paper trail or using optical scan systems that read paper ballots. That, coupled with the reform of laws to mandate hand recounts when elections are decided by less than half of one percent of the total vote, is what people who are worried about the preservation of democracy should be talking about. Call your representatives... bitch, moan, complain and demand reform. Unless you're a republican -- then you're probably safe. Wally and Chuck have got you covered.

posted by RJ | Link | 10:40 PM
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