Go back to Voting Machine Webpage
By Lynn Landes 3
After the 2004 election I thought I would barf if I heard one more Democratic pundit or politician lament the lost election and blame it on the party's "message". As grassroots activists across the country reported thousands of election irregularities and voting machine "glitches" that overwhelmingly benefited Bush, the Democratic leadership seemed unusually willing to look the other way. John Kerry quickly conceded, former President Carter attended Bush's ignoble inauguration, and Bill Clinton now pals around with Bush the First.
Rank and file Democrats are tearing their hair out.
Now, in a gesture calculated to win back their base, but gain little else (in terms of voting security), both House and Senate Democrats have offered a flurry of bills (with many state legislatures following in hot pursuit) that require ballot printers for touchscreen voting machines.
Incredibly, none of these bills call for the ballots to be countedÖexcept in the extremely remote event of a recount.
It takes your breath away. The Dems know that two Republican-controlled
companies (ES&S and Diebold) count 80% of all votes in
The proposed legislation, popularly known as "voter-verified paper audit trail", sounded alright when I first heard about it a few years ago. But, on closer inspection it became clear that it wasn't a good idea at all. Fundamentally, it allows "voter verification" and "audits" to replace our constitutional right to mark, cast, and count ballots. Under this legislation, machines and election officials continue to control the process, while meaningful citizen participation and oversight is effectively destroyed.
Besides all that, don't Dems understand that malfunctioning machines make ballot printers irrelevant? What are they thinking?
In the real world, recounts are very rare. In general, they only get triggered if an election is "close." Many people think that if a candidate wins by a significant margin (as Bush appeared to do), then vote fraud or system failure is unlikely. I call it, "The myth of the margin of victory". There are four things to consider regarding recounts and margins of victory:
First, anyone contemplating vote fraud will certainly want to win by a significant margin in order to avoid triggering an automatic recount.
Second, two corporations are counting 80% of the votes. Millions of votes can
be easily manipulated by a handful of company technicians. There will be little
chance of detection. So, even a landslide election is not evidence that massive
vote fraud or system failure did not occur.
Third, a significant margin of victory packs a powerful psychological punch against the opposing candidate. They will be unlikely to contest the election under these circumstances. Some observers contend that is exactly what happened to John Kerry in this past election. On the other hand, something was fishy when candidate Kerry said that he was going to make sure that "every vote will be counted" in the 2004 presidential election. Who was he kidding? He had to know that 99% of all votes are processed by machines, not people. Kerry sent thousands of attorneys and volunteers to the polls on Election Day 2004 in a futile attempt to monitor an unobservable vote count.
Fourth, although polling data can be used to raise red flags where election fraud may have occurred, polls can also be used to shape public opinion, create false expectations, and even support rigged election results. The relationship between the corporate news media and polling organizations is completely nontransparent. There is no reason to believe a thing these polls have to say. And there's plenty of reason to suspect the news media. This country's largest voting machine company, ES&S, is owned by one of their members, The Omaha World Herald.
But, none of this should be news to the Democrats. So, why aren't they demanding the obvious solution? Get rid of the machines. Or, at least donít wait for a recount. Count the damn ballots the first time. Again, what are they thinking? Either the Democrats are unbelievably naive or they've been bought off.
The Democratic National Committee's (DNC) leadership on the issue of voting
systems has been mind-bending. On
There's more. John Fund, author of the book, Stealing Elections,
writes, "Joe Andrew, chairman of the
Democratic National Committee until 2001, is a senior adviser to a biotech firm
that owned several Internet companies. He says the conspiracy theories aren't
healthy and last month he told the
Mr. Andrew appears to be batting for the other side.
Will things change under Howard Dean's leadership? Maybe not. Back on
Perhaps, the Democrats need a crash course in Voting 101. There is an enormous difference between people marking, casting, and counting ballots and machines performing these same functions. People can be observed and machines can't. If poll watchers can't observe the process, then they'll have no real opportunity to discover if vote fraud or miscounts occur. It's that simple. But, it's a simple truth that seems to elude congressional Democrats.
In contrast, the Republicans have figured it out. A HBO documentary that aired
They sure did.
Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology
and democracy issues. Readers can find her articles at EcoTalk.org.