by Rob Kall, OpEdNews.COM
Comments from readers follow the article
Imagine that a rogue programmer gets access to a few networks of computers in the California special gubernatorial election. The programmer manipulates the software to count wrong, making sure that Darrell Issa or whoever is running on the Republican ticket gets 10% more votes than the voters really gave him. This software "fix" will do it's work then delete itself. The program can be made to randomize the bogus numbers so they are a little different percentage at each voting location.
Now imagine that this is not some independently acting rogue programmer. What if he works for the company and the company is currying favor for or selling power to the candidate or even to unidentified backers-- like some of the wealthy oil people who have funded attack ads for George Bush in the past. This is no far-fetched scenario. There are a lot of us who believe it has already happened.
As a businessman with experience with software design, creation and support, I know how easy it is to change the numbers a program supplies-- the results-- by manipulating underlying aspects of the software. It's easy to do it so no end user would realize it. It's easy to do it so the evidence of manipulations, like the old Mission Impossible tape recorder, destroy themselves and disappear.
Of course there are other ways to fix elections, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris showed us that in Florida, with Greg Palast's and Michael Moore's books spelling out the details of their vote corruption. So we need to be careful about a plethora of means the far right can and probably will use to corrupt future elections.
The first place we need to fear it is in California. There is every reason to believe that the forces there will use every cheating means possible to take over the number one electoral votes state. With Tom DeLay running the Republican dirty tricks operations, it is highly likely that if there is a way to use computerized voting systems to corrupt the vote, it will happen. It is less likely that pruging of voter lists will occur, since the Dems are in power there. But this is also something for which vigilance is required. Once a republican puppet is digitally elected, DeLay will take his Texas Gerrymandering approach to California. Before we know it, California could become another take-over victim of corrupt computerized voting and Republican far-right extremism.
This is why it is essential that at a state level, at least, Computerized voting laws must be enacted. Congressman Rush Holt of NJ has introduced the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003. If it, or something like it is not enacted, then there is not doubt in my mind that there is zero chance of George Bush being defeated in 2004, zero chance of the Democrats holding onto the CA governorship, and zero chance of unseating the Republican majority in the House and Senate.
Already, some state laws have been corrupted by the special interests, making it impossible to go after computerized voting companies. Wherever possible this should be reversed or laws should be passed which require full cooperation by these companies.
Ideally, any federal computerized voting bill should retroactively require all elections, or at least those affecting federal issues, like senate and congressional elections, to be reviewed. In the past, privately held computerized voting companies have refused to cooperate. This amounts to refusing to allow vote recounts. This is a horrible, almost criminal situation. Any company that is less than fully compliant and cooperative should be banned from providing service for any public election. The vote is too important, too sacrosanct an element of American Democracy.
Republicans, particularly far right extremists, who are often very well funded, do not hesitate to play nasty hardball, using the courts, law enforcement agencies, the Homeland Defense act, the Patriot act.... to further their political aims or just out of meanness. Without being mean, but with tough resolution, progressives, democrats, liberals should be using the same legal resources to go after right wingers, after corporations that do not cooperate in vote recounting, after state officials like Katherine Harris o Florida.
The left needs a counterpart to the far right's legal attack dog, Judicial Watch. That org was behind the incessant hectoring of the Clinton White House and most recently has revived harassment against Hillary Clinton. With the help of mail Order Maven Richard Viguerie, Judicial Watch has an annual budget of over $25 million a year. It's a part of the right wing "think tank" war machine. You might want to compare, on the left, the ACLU, but they're not the same. Judicial watch is used as a partisan political attack tool. It was amazingly effective in keeping Bill Clinton distracted with dozens of lawsuits. The left needs to build one of these. Yes it's nasty. Yes they play dirty-- using the legal system for inappropriate reasons. Yes, those on the far right are just as vulnerable, perhaps more so, as their hubris blooms, to similar strategies of engagement, distraction and harassment if the left were to employ them .
When I was a kid, I was taught not to get into fight, to do what I could to avoid them. But my father also taught me that if I found myself in a fight, that I should protect myself. Don't punch the other guy in the arm when he's trying to bloody your nose. Punch in the face. And that's what we need to do-- get right into the far right's faces and let them know we don't like to fight, but since they've started it, we're not going to hold back. We're going to protect ourselves and teach them that they run the risk of being bloodied themselves.
A lot of us think, or are sure that besides the stolen Presidential election, there have been a number of other crooked elections. We need to go after the people involved in them. We need to include in the election laws extremely severe punishments for tampering with elections. But more important, we need to build laws that prevent or massively reduce the risk of them being tampered with in the first place. The laws as they exist now are irresponsible, dangerous slaps in the face of democracy.
An essential resource for issues relating to computerized voting is: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/
Rob Kall firstname.lastname@example.org is the editor/publisher of OpEdNews.com, a progessive 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 credit is attached. If your publication pays for op-eds, the standard payment is acceptable.
I think what you fear in the California recall election may well come to pass. Even worse, unless we have a process, they will get away with it.
I still don't understand why the 2000 election stands after fraud and voter disenfranchisement have been proven. Shouldn't that be a reason to declare the election null and void? The numbers involved in vote tampering and disenfranchisement reflect a different outcome then a Bush in the White House.
Here's a simple solution that would save the states some money and help alleviate overcrowding in our prisons; if illegal vote manipulation is found by one candidate or their party, the election would be automatically declared in favor of the other candidate or ,in the case of more candidates, a run off that excludes the guilty party.
How about just banning computerized voting altogether? Once that pandora's box has been opened, there is no way to protect what little is left of the democratic process.
In fact, I cannot envision a system that would be absolutely safe, but paper ballots, marked by the voter with indelible ink, would be a start. Sure the process of hand counting is laborious, but what better way to include a cross section of people in the process and thereby lessen the chances for partisian influence.
Paper is easily noted to be changed from the norm. That's why money is printed on special papers. Perhaps an informed and instructed cross section of people hired or volunteering to count by hand paper ballots would be a safer way to protect the voting process.
Once you get machinery involved, no matter what kind, mechanical or electronic, then the people who control, set up and operate the machinery have expanded opportunity for shifting numbers. Just look at what happened in Florida, and that was a mechanical system, not electronic.
I think that's why many Europeans insist on paper ballots and hand counting. Perhaps we need to do the same here.Charles Potnar
I agree, but we need a solution.
My suggestion: Make vote manipulation an ACT OF TREASON punishable by mandatory life imprisonment. I think the seed idea should be put onto the internet now to grow with each voting abuse which comes to light.
Arthur M. Howard 12233026
Vet WW2,USAAF 13AF 1944-47