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For once, putting democracy first

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Last night, following a top-to-bottom review of the state's election systems, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen all but banned black box electronic voting.  “When NASA finds a problem, they don’t continue just because they’ve already spent the money,” she declared. “They scrub the mission and spend the money to get it right. We must do same with elections.” What a disturbing, radical thought. Does she actually think the people’s votes are as important as sending astronauts into space? Bowen must not have listened to enough corporate TV roundtable discussions by self-perpetuating experts whose main concern is how to responsibly manipulate the people.

Instead, she listened to those ultimate icons of irresponsibility, election integrity activists, who actually think it isn’t enough that elections be accepted as legitimate — they really have to be legitimate. Oh, what naifs these activists be! Just imagine if such unenlightened views had prevailed on the Supreme Court in December 2000. They wouldn’t have stopped the vote count in time to avoid the appearance that the election had been stolen. As a result, after they stole it, even more people would have realized the theft, doing further damage to that already fragile relic, The Legitimacy of American Democracy. For in a media-created world whose fundamental reality is he-said-she-said, legitimacy can only be a perception.

Returning the real world, Bowen’s top-to-bottom review had shown that a single hacker with inside access could implant malicious code onto a machine which would then spread to other machines, allowing a whole election to be stolen without anyone being any the wiser. In keeping with the basic principles of today’s American democracy, she should have said, “While this is cause for some concern, no one would really do such a thing, and besides, the wonderful companies who created these vulnerable machines can’t have their profits snatched away from them.” But instead, subversive that she is, the Secretary of State had these shocking words to say: “It is my hope that voting system vendors will, starting tomorrow, start to evaluate the competitive advantage to moving to open source software.” That would ruin all their lovely proprietary code, just to prevent an undetectable election theft that — let the point be stressed — has never once been detected.

Bowen’s ruling allows touchscreen DREs only for disabled voters, one machine per polling place, with stringent new safeguards added. Everyone else will vote on paper ballots — not paper TRAILS, now, but actual BALLOTS. Even the optical scan systems used to count these ballots will have to meet rigorous standards of reliability to be recertified. Is Communism coming back?

Bowen also decertified ES&S’s InkaVote machines without recertification or redemption, just because ES&S missed her deadline for submitting required materials for review by almost a month. She thus ignored ES&S’s Constitutionally guaranteed right to submit materials late in order to make it impossible for her team to review them in time. Bowen was supposed to let the deadline for decertification pass because of this, but instead, she acted as if it was ES&S’s fault they were late. No wonder so many people don’t believe our society is fair any more.

Ideas like Bowen’s are to be expected from wacky activists who put the masses first. But when they come from an official popularly elected to a position of high responsibility over 36 million people, it’s enough to make a Beltway-fearing citizen believe that the aliens must have landed and scared the pigs away from the trough.

What’s next? Will this set a precedent? Will other states, seeing the stunning turnaround within the nation’s most populous state, follow suit with similarly out-there schemes?

Stay tuned.

You can read more details at The Brad Blog and on the California Secretary of State website.

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Michael Lubin served on the first democratically elected governing board in the history of KPFA, the nation's oldest listener-sponsored radio station. There, he was a founding member of the pro-democracy listeners' (more...)

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