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Moving On: 2006

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Message Michael Arvey
Moving On: 2006

In a recent address in Palm Beach, former CNN News Night anchor Aaron Brown said that "truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news." How unfortunate it is that Brown and others may only offer this perception when they are no longer in front of a nightly news camera--CNN unmoored Brown as a result of a ratings issue.

Brown's observation, however, locates the obvious: truth, in some quarters, doesn't rate. Not only that, the media on the whole grows more accustomed to ignoring important stories that cry out for real, gumshoed investigations. One such story is the 2004 election: In the latest edition of Project Censored, number three on its most- censored list is the chapter, "Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage". The report gives a quick survey of the some of the election's suspicious activities. (A fuller discussion of the tactics deployed by the Bush party may be perused in Fooled Again by Mark Crispin Miller. Many of those tactics mirror those used in 2000, discussed in Grand Theft 2000, Media Spectacle and a Stolen Election, Douglas Kellner.)

According to Project Censored, one of the troubling aspects of the 2004 election is the discrepancy "between exit poll data and the actual vote count" that "was not scrutinized in the mainstream media." Rather than provide meaningful analysis, the media--other than MSNBC's Keith Olbermann--simply dismissed the controversy with derogatory name-calling and labels such as "conspiracy nuts," "sore losers," "sour grapes", "let's move on" and so forth. One need only read Rep. John Conyers' (D-MI) election report What Went Wrong in Ohio and the Government Accounting Office's (GAO) October 2005 report to dispel such superficial claims. Mark Crispin Miller writes in Harper's Magazine, August 2005, "None Dare Call It Stolen": "It was as if they [media] were reporting from inside a forest fire without acknowledging the fire, except to keep insisting that there was no fire." Moreover, competent university statisticians Steven Freeman, Jonathan Simon and Dr. Ron Baiman (two of whom have books coming out soon on their research) have calculated that the odds of the discrepancy being due to random error are statistically impossible. Furthermore, it's odd that the Bush administration considered the 2005 Ukrainian presidential election's exit polls correct, but not the U.S.'s exit polls.

Another disturbing aspect of the election revolves around the issue of electronic voting machines that are privately owned and managed by GOP vendors sans federal oversight that hold the firms accountable for the reliability and security of the e-voting systems, and as such, the machines provide a prime opportunity for foul play. The GAO, for example, found that it was possible to alter the machines' ballots and system audit logs without being detected: "It is easy to alter a file defining how a ballot appears, making it possible for one candidate actually be recorded as voting for an entirely different candidate", for example, shifting votes from Kerry to Bush. The GAO also discovered that election results could be falsified without leaving evidence with altered memory cards, and that access to one machine gave access to the entire network. Joe Baker, editor of the Rock River Times, comments that this "critical finding showed that rigging the election didn't take a 'widespread conspiracy', but simply the cooperation of a small number of operators" who could "alter the vote totals at will."

Some computer scientists believe there is a more serious problem. According to writer Arlene Montemarano, Buzzflash, a Trojan Horse might be involved: "A computer code that can be programmed to hide inside voting software, emerge in less than one second to change an election, then destroy itself immediately afterwards, going undetected." She cites Barbara Simons, a past president of the Association for Computing Machinery who is co-authoring a book on computerized voting: "The problem is that the Trojan Horse cannot be detected unless the software is inspected continuously."

This is not an encouraging development for a democracy. The GAO's findings indicate that the election in Ohio, and by implication other states, was vulnerable to hijacking through the machines, let alone all the other problems. Overall issues identified by the GAO include: 1) flaws in system security controls 2) flaws in access controls 3) flaws in physical hardware controls 4) weak security management practices by voting machine vendors. The report concluded that rectifying the problems in a timely fashion to affect the 2006 elections are unlikely.

Finally, Rep. Conyers' report identifies criminal behaviors of the GOP in 2004 that violated the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions, the Voting Rights Act, Equal Protection, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. To date, there have been no indictments.

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Michael Arvey is a freelance writer and commentator. He resides in Colorado.
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