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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/9/18

REVIEW: Jonathan Simon's "Code Red: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy"

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The 2018 edition of Jonathan Simon's Code Red: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy is not only knowledgeable, insightful, and hugely educational. It is also a page turner. I have penciled in notes on nearly every page.

Moreover, the content is at times abstruse but always accessible. One more praise point: he is a master stylist--legible and at the same time bordering on literary with the wealth of imagery he supplies from a vast array of disciplines. For example, the damage wrought by the adoption of Internet voting (IV) would cause a backlash:

"[according to] the principle of judo, where the momentum of an opponent's over-reach is used against him."

Now to the content.

"The X-factor has been the electronic manipulation of vote-counts," and the solution is to use hand-counted paper ballots with a rigorous and conscientious chain of custody and risk-limiting audits (RLA)(even a newly released report by the National Academies supports this). The public is urged not only to witness all stages of the election process except the voter making their choice in privacy and to volunteer to hand-count "four hours per lifetime"--there are 80 million of us eligible, Simon counts. This civic duty he calls "far less onerous than jury duty."

This suggestion strikes the opposition as a "ludicrous Luddite nonstarter." It can be seen as reactionary but also as democratic as we can get. Carefully audited HCPB is used very successfully in Columbia County, New York under the direction of a Republican and a Democratic commissioner, Jason Nastke and Virginia Martin, respectively.

And, contrary to the view that such a system is suitable for small towns only, if it works in that venue, it can work anywhere with a committed citizenry. It's been done successfully in Canada, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Norway, and Ireland, Simon points out. Several of these countries tried faith-based voting (that is, paperless) and recycled it thereafter into other honest entities--I'm sure exemplary ones.

The HCPB mentality, the people working together instead of trusting "faith-based" voting, is burgeoning in the form of food co-ops and farmers' markets ("a turning point may finally be in sight"), though the opposite trend, big-box stores and online gargantuas like Amazon and Google, hold sway over tens of millions. Amazon is currently up the creek, btw, according to today's Sunday Times.

"In the Age of Trump, there's a renewed sense among millions that politics and elections really matter." We have the president to thank for that, what with the publicity given to his claim that HRC's popular-vote lead of three million was contributed by undocumented immigrants. Hear, hear! It's a start. Simon and Greg Palast are riding the wave and capturing the body politic with the truth: Yes, there's a problem, but it's election fraud, not voter fraud, stupids!

If the press were doing its job, it would spread this word rather than boosting ratings for huge profits courtesy of the NFL and the Kardashians. No, it's not "fake news," Donald, just negligent of "all the news that's fit to print," with election fraud at the top rung of priorities. These we find on enlightened Internet sites anyway, so it's out there somewhere. Simon, executive director and co-founder of the Election Defense Alliance (, maintains this site as well as free access to his various editions, starting in 2014, of Code Red--the most recent edition accessible at

Simon begins with a Q-and-A that introduces the uninitiated into the issues. We all learn, though, as well as review, expand our knowledge and commitment, and draw inspiration and strength. The author knows the facts and figures and how to contextualize them most effectively and with cutting-edge reason and insight. A wealth of footnoted references support every point.

The Russians may be coming, but the digital age of voting, born of the "hanging chads" [etc.] disaster in Florida during Election 2000 and generating a stampede toward even more toxic paperless systems has done its damage already. Consider the machinery of Election 2010 that created the subsequent decade as Rove's pipedream of wall-to-wall GOP control of the government, practically.

After the Q&A follows analysis of the pattern that emerged from Elections 2010 and 2012. "Democratic victories dispel concerns about election theft . . . leftward rigging [is]nonexistent"!

This is an age where "we" are the good guys. But alas, it's no fun to be right [as in "correct"] and far more fun to be right wing these days. Because even though polls prove that the majority of this country, who are Democrats, favor progressive goals, "popularity and power . . . radically diverge." How can the vast majority of Members of Congress be reelected with an approval rating lower than that of cockroaches? Exit polls conform beautifully with digital results on the red side of elections but diverge hugely on the blue side, with astronomical "red shifts" [Simon's coinage], and the pollsters shoulder the blame. Who's in charge here? You guessed it.

On to Election 2014, nothing less than a failure of democracy: bigbig money, outrageous and blatant gerrymandering, expanding stringent photo ID requirements and caging, Kris KKKobach's Interstate Crosscheck registration cruncher. . . . The statistics are devastating: more than three million voters, most of the Democratic, were disenfranchised--that is, 4 percent of the total electorate. I find the heart of the book in this chapter: Did the Democrats lose their way by losing elections or did they start losing elections and then lose their way? They react instead of "proact." They will focus on the down-ballot to reverse their abysmal descent so they can succeed as the GOP did in 2010 by using this tactic. Smart strategy! Follow the successful formula while the ingenious opposition advances upward to new strategies: TKO, to add a boxing metaphor Jonathan might agree with.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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