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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/22/09

Secret vote counting and the lost art of democratic elections

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In February 2009 Allison Kilkenny reported that "The Obama administration on Friday told a federal judge it would not deviate from the Bush administration's position that detainees held at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan have no right to sue in U.S. courts."

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In early May 2009 the Wall Street Journal issued another troubling report from the "change we can believe in" administration:"The Obama administration is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without trial -- as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Why is the Obama administration continuing to erode civil liberties in the manner so cynically embodied in contemporary governmental acts like the Patriot Act?

"God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it." -Daniel Webster

We the People no longer guard and defend liberty. Without blinking an eye we have given away the single most important defense we have against tyranny: our public elections. In the course of our history, Americans have always understood the connection between liberty and the secure right to vote and to have that vote properly counted.

Until today.

In the past, Americans have risked life and limb to protect this foundation of liberty. Where is the voting rights movement of today?

The American right to vote has been systematically eroded through a maze of legal and illegal disenfranchisement strategies. In today's privatized computerized elections, eligible voters are routinely "purged" from state voter registration databases. Insufficient numbers of voting machines ensure that those who succeed in getting past the questionable registration software can't succeed in casting their vote. Government sponsored reports of "voter fraud" have released dishonest and exaggerated findings to facilitate passage of voter ID laws and other tactics targeting undesirable voters (the poor, the illiterate, the elderly, the immigrant).

The American right to fair and open elections has been systematically nullified by the privatization of our elections. When Americans do succeed in casting their vote, 90% of those votes are counted in secret by private corporations, many of which still use the same vote counting software that was developed by a convicted embezzler whose specialty was alteration of computer records.

Not only have We the People abdicated our constitutional sovereignty by giving away the mechanism of democracy - our elections - to private corporations with no patriotic allegiance, we have paid billions of dollars to do so.

We allowed Congress to launder $4 billion tax dollars to the computerized voting industry through the "Help America Vote Act". Each year of computerized elections incurs astronomic costs to municipal, county, state, and federal coffers. The financial hit from computerized elections in and of itself moots democracy as just too damn expensive to maintain.

Additionally, because the computerized elections are outside the technical understanding of most public officials, the privatized election industry routinely "services" the computers counting America's votes smack dab in the middle of the election itself. Computer "patches" (aka "fixes" - a particularly appropriate term for this practice) that alter previously approved or certified software, are implemented in the midst of an election when no state oversight is practical or possible.

And just who are those guys in this privatized election industry? As it turns out, that's for them to know and for us not to find out.

Nationwide, private corporations, like LHS Associates in New England, use unnamed employees to program the computers counting, and sometimes casting, American voters' ballots. There are no universally applied requirements for conducting background checks on the employees of these private corporations programming and "servicing" America's elections.

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