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The First One's Free ... then you pay DEMOCRACY RELOADED

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Diebold Variations © (with permission)

Michael Collins
“Scoop” Independent News Original Article
Washington, D.C.

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Where did all these electronic voting machines come from anyway? They produce nothing but controversy. You can’t see where your vote goes. You can’t watch the votes being counted. Even if you could, it’s all done by computer. Have you ever watched a computer do anything?

Our voting machines come from a bipartisan bill produced by the Congress with strong White House support: the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It was going to solve the problems of Florida 2000.

What were those problems? It depends on who you ask. If it’s the White House, the bill supporters, and the media spin machine, there was a big controversy because of hanging chads. The White House and Congress were so proud of themselves that they made this solution available free to the whole country.

If you ask anyone who studied the situation, the few hundred vote count difference the chads created didn’t amount to much compared to the pre election and Election Day travesties in Florida 2000 which threw out over 150,000 votes, mostly for Gore.

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First there was the exclusion of qualified voters by the Florida Secretary of State. Pre election, at least 57,000 Florida voters were taken off the voting rolls because they were supposedly “felons.” They were not. Half were minority voters, predominantly black Floridians. Black turnout in Florida was over 70%. You do the math. That’s a big Gore victory.

Second, there was the rejection of 150,000 spoiled ballots. Every federal election cycle, a few million votes are just tossed because they’re spoiled (allegedly unreadable). This happens at a much higher rate in minority precincts. A careful research study concluded that a combination of factors predicted high rates of spoiled ballots in Florida 2000. The mix was a large minority population, mostly black, in a county governed by a Republican board of supervisors. Florida’s 150,000 rejected ballots in 2000, accounted for 7.8% of the national total of 1.9 million.

So what did the White House and Congress do? They passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). That was about helping those two million disenfranchised voters get their votes counted right?

Wrong! It was about solving the problems of hanging chads on punch card ballots. They must have missed the finding in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel (1 Dec 2000) showing that the Florida chad problems could have been solved if Miami-Dade and other counties had just cleaned the tablets on which punch cards were marked.

FREE VOTING MACHINES… here, have one, it’s free.

When the president signed HAVA it had a special clause that made it irresistible. The voting equipment was free. What a deal! Congress promised and delivered on billions of dollars for the purchase of electronic voting machines. Free at first! Few complained.

All the states and counties had to do was go along with the act and its main goals. The Election Assistance Commission, steward of HAVA, states the goals:

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Replace punch card voting systems
To establish the Election Assistance Commission…
To establish minimum election administration standards for … Federal elections.

The initial authorization for HAVA funding was $3.8 billion dollars. $2.4 million had been disbursed just in time for the 2004 fiasco. Digital cash inducements continue but with strings attached. The Holt Bill, H.R. 811, will amend and add more than a billion dollars for new systems to help America vote..

A new bureaucracy was born – HAVA compliance. The money wasn’t really free; but you knew that. By taking the money, counties had to promise to obey new federal regulations.

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