Before the age of computers, there were all kinds of ways for a local politico to "mess" with the voting apparatus. He could arrange for a mechanical machine to count wrong. Or, the names of people in cemeteries could be kept or put on the voter rolls.

But now, in the wondrous age of computers and the internet, it's possible, with a virtually undetectable line of software code that can make itself disappear after its done its dirty work, to wreak corruption on hundreds or thousands of computerized voting machines reflecting hundreds of thousands or millions of votes. A number of recent elections are suspected of being tainted by this voting corruption. We've opened a Pandora's box with computerized voting, not knowing what was going to come out.

But it looks like the Republicans like the way things are, in spite of clear proof of a multitude of  errors and easily corruptible vote counting. US Congressman Russ Holt introduced a bill earlier in the year that would take many of the risks out of computerized voting, and it would add safeguards to prevent theft of elections or computerized tampering with the voting process.

It seems that any patriotic American who cherishes the central role of an honest voting process in the maintenance of democracy would almost by reflex support a bill that would make voting safer and more honest. Yet since the bill was introduced, not one republican congressman  has signed on to the bill.

Now, one might not  expect enemies of democracy and the law, like Tom DeLay, support such a bill. But it is shocking that not one single Republican has the spine, the courage, the commitment to democracy to support a bill that should be receiving bi-partisan support. It is a sad time when elected representatives respond in lock step, obedience to the ruling (in this case hedless) leaders, rather than voting based on principles or for the good of the nation.

It's been shown repeatedly that when mistakes have been made by computerized systems, and there have been hundreds of them, the mistakes almost unfailingly are in favor of Republicans. While there is no clear proof yet, there are a lot of people who believe that a number of congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial elections have been stolen by electronic tampering.

One reader suggested that tampering with the voting process is such a serious offense that the punishment should be the death penalty. But the fact is the punishment for vote fraud is less than it is for other forms of criminal fraud.

We need smart, strict laws that regulate computerized voting so it provides the benefits of the power of computers, while eliminating any risks of vote corruption or manipulation. This is such simple, common sense, it's very hard to understand why any honest politician would oppose it.

Voting systems must provide a voter verifiable audit trail, Software fraud expert Rebecca Mercuri reported at the Computerized voting forum held Sept. 7, in Philadelphia (organized by investigative reporter Lynn Landes.)

Mercuri, who has become a widely cited expert on voting software, says "A vote that can not be counted is not a vote." And the fact is, that the way most computerized voting systems work, you can't count the votes after their cast. You have to trust the software company, and trust that no-one is tampering with the software or the data. You have to trust the data acquisition and transmission process and we know that there have been many problems there.

This issue-- making voting auditable and verifiable is not a minor consideration. Every single democratic primary candidate should be raising it-- they should all be raising it in unison at the debates they participate in. If it's not resolved by the time of the 2004 Presidential and congressional elections, there's a good chance george the liar Bush will steal his way back into a second term as president, and there's no telling how many more congressional and senatorial seats will be stolen, or gifted to crooked republicans.

The tens of millions of people who voted for Al Gore, who were outraged by the theft of the election, should all be contacting their national and state representatives, demanding that laws be passed to prevent any further shenanigans like what happened in Florida or Indiana (Senator Hagel won an election with a percentage way out of the polls' predictions, and he happened to be a major shareholder in the local company that managed the computerized elections and that  refused to allow a re-count.)  While it may be difficult to get a republican-run congress to pass bills that keep elections, it is also possible to pass laws at the state level. At least some states will be producing honest elections. There will soon be model legislation available for any state to model it's own laws after.

People who protested against the war should be getting out and protesting against corruption-at-risk voting systems. and should get on this issue along with, of course,  the democratic national committee.

Establishing a more honest, less vulnerable election process, in which people can trust that their votes really count, will help to bring more voters to the polls, will enable people to regain their faith in democracy.  Failure to do so will spell ill for our nation. Patriotic Republicans who value the democratic process-- ie., the ones who haven't sold out to corporate and other special interests--  should treat honest election legislation as bipartisan.

"It's not the VOTING that's democracy, it's the counting." Tom Stoppard

Rob Kall  is publisher of progressive news and opinion website and organizer of cutting edge meetings that bring together world leaders, such as the Winter Brain Meeting and the StoryCon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this entire credit paragraph is attached