Will the vote be counted correctly this November 2?
How incredible is it that after over two centuries of practice, in a country that claims to be the birthplaced of democracy, and that has the technological prowess not just to put robotic rovers on Mars but to use another satellite to take pictures of those rovers, the answer to this question is a resounding: No.
We know for certain that tens of thousands of ballots were trashed or improperly ruled invalid in the state of Florida alone, that impossible vote tallies were recorded on electronic voting machines in other states, and that records of vote tallies were erased and simply lost in others where the margin of victory was just several hundred votes.
We also know that test runs of new electronic voting machines (on which over one fourth of the national electorate will vote), made by companies like Diebold and Sierra Systems, have failed dramatically, even under the most pristine of controlled conditions.
And yet, despite the experience of recent years—and particularly despite concerns about the security and integrity of the touch-screen and other electronic voting machines, which have no paper record to back up the electronic signals that are supposedly recording voter preferences—state after state and county after county have been racing to install the new equipment. This unseemly haste to adopt new and untested technology has been encouraged by voter registrars and secretaries of state who, unbeknownst to voters, have been lavishly courted, wined, dined and otherwise buttered up by the companies that make the machines (companies whose owners, it should be added, are big contributors to the Republican Party).
The general explanation for the rush into electronic voting is that it allows results to be tabulated quickly and easily.
The real question, which is not being asked, is why this obsession with speed? The answer is the big corporate media—particularly the network news programs and competing cable news networks—which want for ratings purposes to be able to announce the winners in November within minutes of the polls closing.
But when it comes to voting, the only thing that should matter is accuracy.
In the case of the presidential election, the nation’s new chief executive doesn’t even assume office until more than two months after election day, which would be long enough away for the vote totals in Alaska to be delivered to Congress on horseback!
I just spent several months in Taiwan, a vigorous young democracy that was in the midst of a bitterly contested presidential election. The voting in that very modern and high-tech island nation of 23 million people located just off the coast of China, which was done just two days after a controversial assassination attempt upon the incumbent president and vice president, was done entirely on paper ballots!
When the losing candidate, whom most polls had picked as the likely winner, contested the president’s razor-thin re-election victory, a court-supervised recount of all 14 million votes cast was conducted, with each paper ballot checked by an election official from both of the two party coalitions. The result: almost an exact duplicate of the initial count.
Try getting that kind of consistency and reliability from our automated and semi-automated electoral machinery! Every time there are recounts in American elections, the totals the second time around seem to differ by hundreds, even thousands of votes. Missing machines are found, hard-drives go missing, etc.
Add to that that this time around, memories will be wiped…or replaced. (Diebold, for example, has hired 5000 short-time geeks whose backgrounds no one has checked to spread out across the country and serve as "fixers" for the machines in the field.)
Count on it: the closer this election is, the more outrageous will be the cheating.
For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .