Renewed concerns have been raised since the election about the accuracy and accountability of electronic voting machines. Numerous charges have surfaced in Ohio and elsewhere that, among other problems, voters touched the name on the screen for one Presidential candidate but a vote was cast for another candidate. The overall general concern is that only electronic voting corporation officials have access to the computer code(s) while the public is left out of the vote counting equation. Public Board of Election officials are replaced by Election Systems & Software (ES&S) corporation, Sequioa corporation and Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems corporation-programmed machines to tabulate votes in public elections.

The increasing corporatization of vote counting is simply a step in closing the circle of corporatization of Presidential elections in our society.

At the "front end" of the process, business corporations, thanks to federal court decisions declaring that corporations are "persons," increasingly influence elections by determining who will be "electable, " that is who has the ability to raise the huge amounts of money from corporate Political Action Committees (PACs) required to be competitive. Once candidates pass the money test, corporate PACs donate (or invest) tens of millions of dollars to candidate campaigns and national political parties.

In the "middle" electoral stages, business corporations invest tens of millions of dollars for "independent" advertisements and organizations to support or oppose candidates, thereby, framing the debate of what issues will and will not be discussed. They poll voters and announce results. They virtually underwrite the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The same goes for the Presidential debates.

Corporatization of vote counting by the ES&S and Diebold corporations is simply closure at the "back end" of what is still one public piece of the elections circle -- at least until all votes are counted by corporate machines rather than human hands. Corporate media consortiums have for some time been responsible for announcing "red" and "blue" states on election night -- sometimes even before polls even close.

All this, of course, doesn't include the corporate sponsorship of election parties, balls, and other frivolities leading up to and following the Inauguration in January.

Much, though not all, of this applies as well to elections of other federal, state, and even many local candidates and campaigns.

Is it any wonder why the interests of business corporations dominate public policies at every level of government, whether Republicans or Democrats are in office? Isn't it time to fundamentally question why and how business corporations have acquired Constitutional "rights" to be involved in politics? Shoudn't our highest priority be creating laws and rules which permit all human beings the opportunity to profoundly affect decisions affecting their lives? What's little left of representative democracy in our state and country is at stake.

Greg Coleridge
Economic Justice & Empowerment Program, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker social action organization)
Author: Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future