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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/4/09

Germany bans computerized voting; will hand count in 2009

Hand counted paper ballots to be used now in Germany's 2009 elections -- computerized secret vote counting banned by constitutional PRINCIPLES!
Computerized voting machines used by 2 million of Germany's 5 million voters in 2005 are unconstitutional and not in line with democratic standards, especially the publicity of the counting (i.e. transparency, visibility). Thus, the 2009 elections - European Parliament in June and the Bundestag (German parliament) elections in September may not use existing voting machines and will be on paper and hand counted. Here's the Decision in German (with Google Translate and lotsa imagination you might get a useful translation -- the official English translation is due in a day or two).

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Despite any modest statements reported in the media by one single judge (Herr Vossruhle) to the effect that the German high court's ruling doesn't necessarily ban (as a class) all computerized systems -- only the system used in the close German parliamentary elections of 2005 was ruled upon -- this seeming qualification is required by all courts because they can only rule on the case before them. 
However, this seeming qualification is totally belied by the principles the court held and affirmed were required by the constitution. (links below)
The twin requirements, of constitutional magnitude, of no "specialized technical knowledge" being required for citizens, combined with the constitutional requirement of a publicly observed count as a practical matter make secret vote counting on computers impossible as the primary means of counting. Nor will a paper trail suffice, said the Court, according to reports about the ruling from European media linked below.
As a result, the conclusion is accurate: "electronic voting machines banned in Germany."
Courts, as is usual, don't make peremptory advisory rulings on cases not before them, but the principles strongly affirmed by Germany's highest court, I emphasize, make it impossible that a computerized count (always a secret count, or else one requiring "specialized technical knowledge" to interpret) can never be valid under the law of any REAL democracy.
Apparently, the former Nazi Germany has learned the lessons of democracy's requirements for complete visibility of vote counts. Private votes, PUBLIC Counts.
Also included below is polling from Zogby that I helped commission showing 92% as of August 2006 agreed that citizens have a right to observe vote counts and obtain any and all information about vote counts. (Thanks to Nancy Tobi and Democracy for New Hampshire as well as Michael Collins of ElectionFraudNews for their help on this one.)
Similar but slightly lower high numbers for the right of visible vote counting were also obtained as well in a specific conservative congressional district as part of an exit poll in the November 2006 election that I also commissioned via Zogby, confirming the initial results of the August 2006 poll.
The German high court as well as the American people totally get it: To secure freedom we must have publicly observed vote counts or else at the very moment when we most need our vote (to kick out corrupt incumbents) we are least likely to have a guaranteed right to vote with the correlative right to have that vote counted properly.
To have the former Nazi Germany ratify these principles is, in my opinion, just as stirring and historic as having an African-American elected from the Land of Lincoln, if not moreso.
Actually, it is more important, IMHO, because a single President can only serve two terms while principles of democracy are timeless, so long as we remember them, as the German High Court did. 

NOTE WELL: Specific constitutional language is not required if the principles of freedom and democracy inherent in liberty command it. 
ALSO NOTE WELL: Many long-recognized "constitutional" rights such as interstate travel, self-defense, privacy, abortion rights, having children, getting married (well, for some), and so on have been held to be fundamental or inalienable rights despite no text in the Constitution specifically supporting them. 
Moreover, rights as "low" as the right to divorce or file bankruptcy or to be free from reckless gross negligence have routinely been held to be inalienable or unwaivable by any contract or act of any person.
As the Constitution, as they say, is not a suicide pact, and also must be interpreted (to get its proper meaning, under US Supreme Court precedent) consistently with the Declaration of Independence and the sovereignty of We the People, it is not really even possible for a JUST ruling to command anything less than fully public, visible, transparent vote counts, because they are an absolute necessity for the inalienable right of the Declaration of Independence to "alter or abolish" the government, especially when the "bums" to be kicked out are corrupt (and thus cheaters or willing to cheat). Of course, it is possible in the USA that the wrong arguments or compromised arguments would be made, or a US Supreme Court would make another corrupt ruling. But even such corruption doesn't waive inalienable rights -- it's just a void ruling.
Yes, I know, tyrants always love the law and enforce it, valid or not. But without these principles being remembered, we're rendered defenseless against unjust laws -- and that's a difference that makes a huge difference in the long run.
Excerpts from European and American based media outlets:
International Herald Tribune: "Federal Constitutional Court upheld two complaints about the use of the machines in 2005. It found they violated provisions requiring that voters be able to assure themselves — without specific technical
knowledge — that their vote was recorded correctly."
IT Examiner: "The court made it clear that a simple print-out or flashy icon
displaying what party or person was voted for is not enough.  Not only that, any constraint on the people's right to know cannot be alleviated by having a state institution check machines to make sure they have not been tampered with."
Radio Netherlands reports that elections later this year must be on pencil and paper, counted publicly. 
The German plaintiffs "complained that push button voting was not transparent because the voter could not see what actually happened to his vote inside the computer and was required to place "blind faith" in the technology."  
In German language Der Spiegel reports computer activists explaining their opposition to computerized counting).
Here's a link to a poll I commissioned with help from two other individuals expressing an apparently unprecedented 92% level of support for the proposition that Americans have "the right to observe vote counting and obtain any and all information about vote counting."
And an oped I wrote that puts the 92% figure in context, higher support than Bush's approval after 9-11, any approval ratings for anyone, higher than the percentage of people who wouldn't mind having a personal tax cut, etc. 
This article may be freely forwarded with all links and contact information
A bonus for the first to complain about a "long post" about the most important principle of freedom imaginable. If you do so, you're too busy to defend, think about, or celebrate victories of worldwide historic importance unless you slow down and give some posts (it's your choice) more attention than others.
Paul R Lehto, Juris Doctor
Permanent Progress
P.O. Box 1
Ishpeming, MI 49849 
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Paul Lehto practiced law in Washington State for 12 years in business law and consumer fraud, including most recently several years in election law, and is now a clean elections advocate. His forthcoming book is tentatively titled DEFENDING (more...)
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