28 April 2014

March 19, 2005—After the 2004 election I thought I would barf if I heard one
more Democratic pundit or politician lament the lost election and blame it on
the party's "message." As grassroots activists across the country reported
thousands of election irregularities and voting machine "glitches" that
overwhelmingly benefited Bush, the Democratic leadership seemed unusually willing to
look the other way. John Kerry quickly conceded, former President Carter
attended Bush's ignoble inauguration, and Bill Clinton now pals around with Bush the
First.



Rank and file Democrats are tearing their hair out.


Now, in a gesture calculated to win back their base, but gain little
else (in terms of
voting security), both House and Senate Democrats have offered a flurry of
bills (with many state legislatures following in hot pursuit) that require
ballot printers for touchscreen voting machines.



Incredibly, none of these bills call for the ballots to be counted ..
except in the extremely remote event of a recount.



It takes your breath away. The Dems know that two Republican-controlled
companies (ES&S and Diebold) count 80 percent of all votes in America. Why do
they still trust these companies and their lousy machines, particularly after
the last two presidential was first introduced, machine malfunctions almost
always benefit Republicans. Perhaps that’s why the Republican stranglehold over
the political landscape has grown so tight. Otherwise, things don’t add up.
One example, if Bush’s war on the world is so popular, why don’t lots of young
Republicans sign up for the military? Haven't the Dems noticed that?



The proposed legislation, popularly known as "voter-verified paper
audit trail", sounded all right when I first heard about it a few years ago. But,
on closer inspection it became clear that it wasn't a good idea at all.
Fundamentally, it allows "voter verification" and "audits" to replace our
constitutional right to mark, cast, and count ballots. Under this legislation, machines
and election officials continue to control theelections? In fact, since the
1960s when computerized voting technology process, while meaningful citizen
participation and oversight is effectively destroyed.



Besides all that, don't Dems understand that malfunctioning machines
make ballot printers irrelevant? What are they thinking?



In the real world, recounts are very rare. In general, they only get
triggered if an election is "close." Many people think that if a candidate wins
by a significant margin (as Bush appeared to do), then vote fraud or system
failure is unlikely. I call it, "The myth of the margin of victory". There are
four things to consider regarding recounts and margins of victory:



First, anyone contemplating vote fraud will certainly want to win by a
significant margin in order to avoid triggering an automatic recount.



Second, two corporations are counting 80 percent of the votes. Millions
of votes can be easily manipulated by a handful of company technicians. There
will be little chance of detection. So, even a landslide election is not
evidence that massive vote fraud or system failure did not occur.



Third, a significant margin of victory packs a powerful psychological
punch against the opposing candidate. They will be unlikely to contest the
election under these circumstances. Some observers contend that is exactly what
happened to John Kerry
in this past election. On the other hand, something was fishy when candidate
Kerry said that he was going to make sure that "every vote will be counted" in
the 2004 presidential election. Who was he kidding? He had to know that 99
percent of all votes are processed by machines, not people. Kerry sent thousands
of attorneys and volunteers to the polls on Election Day 2004 in a futile
attempt to monitor an unobservable vote count.



Fourth, although polling data can be used to raise red flags where
election fraud may have occurred, polls can also be used to shape public opinion,
create false expectations, and even support rigged election results. The
relationship between the corporate news media and polling organizations is
completely nontransparent. There is no reason to believe a thing these polls have to
say. And there's plenty of reason to suspect the news media. This country's
largest voting machine company, ES&S, is owned by one of their members, The Omaha
World Herald.



But, none of this should be news to the Democrats. So, why aren't they
demanding the obvious solution? Get rid of the machines. Or, at least don’t
wait for a recount. Count the damn ballots the first time. Again, what are they
thinking? Either the Democrats are unbelievably naive or they've been bought
off.



The Democratic National Committee's (DNC) leadership on the issue of
voting systems has been mind-bending. On Oct. 3, 2004, the DNC voted to endorse
the policy
of requiring paper ballots for touchscreen voting machines by the 2004
election. Then, on Nov. 22, the DNC approved the use of the most insecure voting
system on the face of the planet for the 2004 Michigan Democratic
primary—Internet voting. That was the second time. In the 2000 Arizona Democratic primary,
the Internet was also used. Strangely, the Democrats tried to stonewall this
journalist from finding out the name of the company that conducted the online
Michigan primary. What did they have to hide? (See "Democrats Send Mixed Signals
In Voting Technology Debate.")



There's more. John Fund, author of the book, Stealing Elections,
writes, "Joe Andrew, chairman of the Democratic National Committee until 2001, is a
senior adviser to a biotech firm that owned several Internet companies. He
says the conspiracy theories aren't healthy and last month he told the Maryland
Association of Election Officials that "When it comes to electronic voting,
most liberals are just plain old-fashioned nuts.’



While conservatives were skilled at coordinating their messages, he
added, ‘that does not mean there is a vast right-wing conspiracy trying to steal
votes in America, as the loudest voices on the left are saying today’ . . . Mr.
Andrew said the people obsessed about DRE manipulation are either computer
experts with impressive technical knowledge but little practical experience with
elections or left-leaning computer users who are conspiratorial by nature. He
noted with regret that they have been joined in their hysteria by prominent
Democrats who ‘are rallying behind the anti-DRE bandwagon in a big election
year because they think that this movement is good for Democrats.’"



Mr. Andrew appears to be batting for the other side.



Will things change under Howard Dean's leadership? Maybe not. Back on
Oct. 02, 2003, the Associated Press reported, "Eight of the presidential
candidates have written national Democratic officials to support a challenge of
Michigan Democrats' plan to allow Internet voting in its caucuses Feb. 7. Only
Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, and Wesley Clark, the retired general who
just joined the race, did not sign on to back the protest."



Perhaps, the Democrats need a crash course in Voting 101. There is an
enormous difference between people marking, casting, and counting ballots and
machines performing these same functions. People can be observed and machines
can't. If poll watchers can't observe the process, then they'll have no real
opportunity to discover if vote fraud or miscounts occur. It's that simple. But,
it's a simple truth that seems to elude congressional Democrats.



In contrast, the Republicans have figured it out. An HBO documentary
that aired on October 11, 2004, shows Congressman Pete King (R-NY) bragging
about the upcoming election, "It's already over. The election's over. We won It's
all over but the counting and we'll take care of the counting."



They sure did.



Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology
and democracy issues. Readers can find her articles at EcoTalk.org. Lynn is a
former news reporter for DUTV and commentator for the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC). Contact info: lynnlandes@earthlink.net / (215) 629-3553.