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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/17/16

Strike the Vote

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Here's the question: How many, if any, Bernie votes were transferred to Hillary? And here's the answer, the only true, bad, answer: We do not know, will never know, and have no way of ever knowing. As the great epistemologist put it, this is one of those things that we know that we don't know.

False results may not even be a result of fraud. Beneath all the techno-talk, it's really quite simple: Electronic voting machines are inherently opaque to the user and the election official, and have been proven time and again to be error-prone as well as hackable. In a 2010 election in the South Bronx, "overheating" may have caused an electronic voting machine to invalidate upwards of 30% of the votes, Oops. What the hell, it's only the South Bronx.

It's virtually impossible to rectify any fraud or error after the fact. That works as well as Take the guilty plea and I'll get you off on appeal. Under any circumstance, a third-party candidate who would have lost anyway would hardly bother questioning the result. Is some state going to hold a do-over election to make sure Jill Stein got all the votes she deserved? The major-party loser will accept the "will of the voters." S/he wouldn't want to be a sore loser. And definitely doesn't want to be a "conspiracy theorist." Above all, s/he does not want to challenge the bipartisan agreement never to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process. (Although Trump is threatening--another idle threat, I think--to breach that agreement.) When electronic voting and centralized electronic tabulation systems leave no way to challenge the results, what's the point?

Even where there is a theoretical possibility of an audit, it often turns out to be illusory. Remembering Uncle Joe's apocryphal dictum that: "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything," and since "those" today are machines., it might be worth mentioning the difference between Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines and Optical Scan (OS) machines. Then again, it might not. With DREs, votes are cast and counted electronically, leaving no possibility of recount outside of the machines, while OS machines count paper ballots that are possible to retrieve and recount by hand, so OS machines may seem better. But look at what happened in Chicago after this year's Democratic primary. Illinois requires an audit of five percent of the optically-scanned vote, but in Chicago the auditors just changed the hand-count tallies to match the numbers from the voting machines. And when the voters challenged the Chicago Election board, as you can see here, the response was pure Boss Tweed: "As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it?"

This mirrors the pollsters, who now correct their exit poll methodologies to match the reported results, on the unquestioned assumption that the voting machines are inerrant, so the numbers they spit out must be more reliable.

As voting-machine vendors spread across the land, promising to make life easier for low-paid, harried, election workers in underfunded offices--You don't even have to count the votes. We'll do it for you, instantly and automatically!--the assumption of the inerrancy of electronic voting results has become baked into the culture of election officials. Questioning that would demand engaging in a lot of extra work--though it is not impossible, even with present resources, as Virginia Martin has shown.

It's also important to understand why even losing politicians and parties stubbornly refuse to address these issues--as the Democrats did in 2000 and 2004, and Sanders did this year. The untrustworthiness of the voting process is one of those issues that neither major party wants to bring up--even a party which suspects that problem has, and will, cost it an election, and that is because, as Matt Stoller explained quite cogently in 2012, "winning the race isn't as important as ensuring that the political class is protected from democracy." Neither major party wants the public to start thinking about, and demanding control over, an open and transparent election process. The two major parties prefer their carefully-contrived, plutocrat-controlled game of donors, bundlers, consultants, pollsters, scripted debates, and media gurus--and they need everyone to trust it completely. Either party will gladly lose any election rather do anything that might weaken the public's faith in the electoral process that keeps them both in control.

In the general election, it will be necessary to shift much lower than double-digit percentages of the vote to win all the electoral votes of a key swing state. 96% of votes in America are now counted electronically, and the potential for invisible vote transfer is enormous. As Bev Harris has discovered, the GEMS software that counts about 25% of our votes has been set to "fractionalize" votes, which means that: "one vote can be counted 25 times, another only one one-thousandth of a time, effectively converting some votes to zero." There seems to be no reason for this, other than to allow the software "to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes," in a way that's "unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds." As Victoria Collier says: "thousands, even millions of electronic votes can be siphoned from one candidate to another through malicious internal coding in the voting software."

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Former college professor, native and denizen of New York City. Blogging at www.thepolemicist.net, from a left-socialist perspective. Also publishing on Counterpunch, The Greanville Post, Medium, Dandelion Salad, and other sites around the net. (more...)
 

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