Stolen Elections Radical Bleeding Heart image

Hacked Voting Machines, Mis-counted Ballots, and Other Scams

Two points must be made at the outset: First, no party has a monopoly on election shenanigans, and no party can claim purity in the business of getting elected. Second, there is no fool-proof way to eliminate fraud at the polls. Someone will always be able to come up with some new scam that no one has ever thought of before.

Lately, however, the Republicans have taken the subversion of democracy to new depths. That is not surprising. Since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan the conservatives have been enormously successful in their economic goal: the transfer of wealth and power upward into the hands of a few mega-plutocrats. The ranks of the poor are growing and the middle class is disintegrating. (You must remember that to the Scrooge class it is not only important that they become richer, but that others become poorer. Their sense of self-worth is dependent on the gulf between their opulence and the abject misery of others.) But as the ranks of the miserable have grown, so has the danger of democracy. What if all those people whose lives are being destroyed by the Republicans actually figure that out and vote accordingly? The more successful is the war against workers, the more vital becomes the war against democracy.

So you can be sure that they will continue to come up with new and even more inventive ways to destroy what is left of our democracy. The best way to keep up with them and work to oppose them is to join, support, and follow the organizations that have been fighting to promote and preserve democracy in the United States. Two of the oldest and best are Common Cause and The League of Women Voters. Others are, Fix Congress First, The Center for Voting and Democracy, Americans for Informed Democracy, and the Sunlight Foundation. If you would like to find out about the truly abysmal and vile things of which the enemies of democracy are capable, read Mark Crispin Miller's collection of essays detailing the assaults on democracy that took place during and leading up to the criminal presidency of George W. Bush: Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008.

In that book, Miller proposes a “12 step program” to restore American democracy. All of his suggestions would be helpful, but some are far more important than others, and several would probably be much more politically difficult than they would be worth. They are all, however, worth thinking about, so you might want to check them out. As always, the important thing is to keep your eye on the ball—that is, concentrate on the end result rather than the individual programs that we hope will get us there. If one program doesn't work, move on to another.

First thing: take elections out of the hands of the politicians and special interests. It is probably not possible to keep the politicians out entirely, but it is possible to neutralize them with checks and balances. Clearly transparency is essential. Even more vital is a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We are in grave danger of losing that commitment.

That is the horrible lesson that emerged from the stolen presidential election of 2000. Yes, Al Gore actually won that election. He won both the electoral college and the popular vote. He was denied that victory because many of the ballots cast for him were illegally disqualified by then Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Of course they were aided by a Supreme Court majority that voted against its own avowed principles ("States Rights") and for purely partisan gain.

People do not seem to realize what a terrible precedent was set by that travesty. Not only did it make possible the criminal presidency of George W. Bush, but it trashed the very idea that law and respect for country must always be put above party loyalty or personal ambition. Lance deHaven-Smith concludes his short essay on the election farce of 2000:

When a candidate and his or her supporters appear willing to break laws, ignore the Constitution, disenfranchise qualified voters, and in other ways degrade the political process to gain power, the appropriate response is not to “move on,” but to investigate, for people who are willing to cheat and lie to win an election will certainly be willing to do the same or worse once they are in office. This is the lesson from the 2000 presidential election and the shameful administration of George W. Bush.

[For anyone wishing to delve into the sordid details, deHaven-Smith provides them in his book, The Battle for Florida. For similar, if somewhat less blatant skulduggery in the 2004 election, refer to Freeman and Bleifuss, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?]

One of the simplest and most sensible recommendations Miller makes is this: “Get rid of voter registration rules, by allowing every citizen to register, at any post office, on his/her 18th birthday.” In the name of preventing voter fraud, Republicans have been pushing all kinds of obstacles to voter registration. The kind of fraud that they claim to be concerned with is actually quite easy to prevent as well as being extremely rare; these new laws are really aimed at disenfranchising “undesirable” folks: such as those with dark skins or Latin surnames, students, and poor people generally. A democracy should mean universal suffrage. Period.

Miller also recommends replacing all electronic voting with hand-counted paper ballots. That may not be practical. The systems that should definitely be avoided are the direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs). Not only can those machines be hacked, but there is no way verify what the actual vote count was. The system that best combines efficiency with accountability is the paper ballot-optical scan system (PBOS). It is true that those machines, like all computers, can be hacked, but they can easily be tested by running a trial deck of hand-counted ballots as often as is necessary to convince observers that they are accurate. PBOS scanners only count ballots, while DREs must be programed to record and verify, as well as count, providing many more opportunities for both miscoding and mischief. The essential thing is that with the scanners the original hand-marked paper ballots are the official record of the vote and can be hand-counted whenever necessary. You can read more here.

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