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Helpless, Helpless, Helpless

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2 April 2008: No Foolin’, but Helpless, Helpless, Helpless

The day after April Fool’s Day was no laughing matter for two congressional committees voting on voting bills.  The Universal Right to Vote by Mail, HR 281, was passed by the House Administration Committee, so that those who wish to vote absentee—that is, on paper ballots—won’t have to lie anymore.

      So while Representative Susan Davis, who sponsored the bill, had cause to celebrate, HR 5036, Representative Rush Holt’s emergency bill that would reimburse any municipality that chose to opt out of touchscreen voting in favor of  paper ballots, passed out of the Committee on House Administration adulterated. Now, instead of providing for paper ballots, the bill will authorize hooking touchscreen machines up to printers, a measure that has caused so much trouble in New Jersey that an effort has mounted to postpone implementation until after election 2008.

     And even with “evidence” of who or what you have voted for, visible on paper rolling out of the printer, many voters forget to look. The concept is new. Think about it. We just flipped some levers, pulled a great big handle and presto the curtain opened and our vote was cast. Old habits die hard.

     Personally, I voted on an absentee ballot in DC last month, giving the reason that I wanted to vote on paper. I got it.

     If I had my way, we would never grow old, and Edwards, my candidate, would already be sparring with McCain and besting him hands-down.

     Back to John Gideon’s appearance on Voice of the Voters, broadcast Wednesday evenings from 8 to 9 on Renaissance Radio in South Jersey. He packed a lot into the program’s final five minutes.

     At that point my sound system was crackling, so I had to go to his daily newsletter to figure out what he actually said, but in other news, New Jersey’s problematic Sequoia touchscreens will finally be examined by Princeton University expert Ed Felten, famous for hacking into a touchscreen in less than a minute. Oh, the palace of lies erected by the touchscreen universe is collapsing like a sand castle attacked by high tide.

      But not yet in Pennsylvania, where VoV host Mary Ann Gould said that 25 percent of all the touchscreens in the nation are located. She urged all Pennsylvanians to vote and report any problems they experience. She mentioned two Web sites in this context: www.voteraction.org and www.voiceofthevoters.org. Pennsylvania is the state most at risk in the country, with no way to prove who voted for whom in most counties.

     Why is New Jersey, flooded also with touchscreens, less at risk? I figured this out myself. It’s not a swing state, leaning rather toward the blue most of the time.

      Having reported what I found most newsworthy this evening, I cannot bypass a rising star who was interviewed first, Clint Curtis. You have probably heard of him. A head programmer for Yang Industries in Florida, he was approached in 2000 by Ed Feeney, then the company’s chief lobbyist, to design a program for him that would apportion 49 percent of a given vote to one candidate and 51 percent to the other.

      Thinking Feeney was trying to prevent election fraud instead of invent the phenomenon of vote flipping, Clint produced the program. He next became a famous whistle blower, when he found out the real motive behind the requests by Feeney, who had since then become a Congressman in Florida.

       Clint took his case to Congress after Florida 2000, but the audience he aimed for shied away uneasily despite the overwhelming evidence.

     Today thanks to the efforts of some enlightened Republicans, Florida’s touchscreens are being hauled off to the junkyard in favor of optical scanners. But it’s not that easy to rid this nation of vote flipping. A programmer can set the percentages of victory and defeat in a touchscreen, said Clint. A programmer can activate the flip surrounded by a “lay” audience that would not suspect anything amiss.

     What happens on the screen doesn’t have much to do with what’s going on inside, he said.

     Mary Ann said that it’s time for the people to speak up. Abraham Lincoln said it better, she said, warning that one’s back to the fire will only occasion pain in the buttocks—something like that only, as I said, Abe said it better.

     And these Pennsylvanians then shifted to the impasse in Bucks County, where two of the three commissioners refuse to hear the incontrovertible evidence that they may as well vote by scratching on a pebble as on a Danaher 1242. With its dumb terminal and dependence on a central server, it represents the worst of all voting systems, said Clint.

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http://www.wordsunltd.com; http://www.editingunltd.com

A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three (more...)
 

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 Marta, it doesn't matter if you vote abs... by Mark E. Smith on Thursday, Apr 3, 2008 at 11:29:13 PM
Mark,Thanks for your insightful comment. You'r... by Marta Steele on Friday, Apr 4, 2008 at 7:04:17 AM
Mark,I went back to your missive and deeply apprec... by Marta Steele on Friday, Apr 4, 2008 at 5:24:43 PM