to Beat a Fixed Election
By Ernest Partridge, The
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an old story: Satan picks up the phone and calls St. Peter
to challenge Heaven to a baseball game.
"Of course, we'll play," says Peter. "But have you forgotten?
We have all the great baseball players."
"That may be so," replied Satan, "but we have all the umpires!"
John Kerry and his Democratic party face a similar problem:
They may have the votes, but the other side has the machines
that record and count the votes. How can the Democrats win?
A win over the Bushevik regime is not impossible, but it will
be difficult and it will require considerable persistence
On its face, the evolving American electoral system is absurd
and wide open to corruption and fraud. In Florida in 2000,
the task of determining voter eligibility was turned over
to a private corporation with ties to the Republican party.
The resulting purge of legally eligible voters unquestionably
cost Al Gore the state and, as it turned out, the Presidential
Greg Palast reports, the ironically named "Help American
Vote Act" (HAVA) is poised to extend the scourge of voter
purging to other states.
"Paperless" and thus un-auditable electronic voting machines,
most of which are manufactured by companies with strong GOP
connections and employing secret ("proprietary") software
codes, are expected to count at
least 30% of the votes in the presidential election -
unless curtailed by legislation or lawsuits. The unreliability
of these machines has been exhibited by numerous electoral
anomalies, including lost votes, a surplus of votes tallied
over votes cast, and even (however impossibly) "negative votes."
Several University departments of computer science (most
notably, Johns Hopkins) have examined the machines and have
pronounced them unreliable and vulnerable to undetectable
tampering. Many elections using paperless e-voting machines
have resulted in returns at significant variance with pre-election
polling, and almost all of these variances favored the Republican
For example, in the highly
suspicious Georgia senatorial and gubernatorial election
of 2002, conducted entirely with touch-screen voting machines,
the discrepancy between the pre-election polls and the election
returns were beyond belief. The Democratic governor, Roy Barnes,
who led Republican Sonny Perdue in the polls by 9 to 11 points,
lost to Perdue by five points - a swing of about sixteen points.
Max Cleland, ahead by five points, lost to Saxby Chamblis
by six points.
These were shifts, respectively, of five and four margins
of error. Talk to a statistician, and you will learn that
the probabilities of such anomalies are vanishingly small.
Is there, or was there, any way to validate the vote in those
machines? Absolutely not. There is no independent record of
the votes. That's just how the machines are designed.
Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced a bill that
would require paper print-out verification of electronic voting.
And in California, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has decertified
"paperless" Diebold voting machines for the 2004 election.
However, these attempts at ballot security are supported almost
entirely by Democrats as, conversely, the Republicans in Congress
and in the states are solidly opposed. One can't help but
wonder why this is so.
Given the past history of Republican election manipulation,
and the GOP involvement in the privatized voting industry,
it appears that a close election will likely be "thrown" to
Bush and the Republicans, just as it was in 2000. Sad to say,
if Kerry and the Democrats are to win, they must do so with
It has come to that in the United States of America.
It is not my purpose here to elaborate on the scandal of
the "election industry," and its acute danger to the
American democracy. I have written about this elsewhere,
and have collected an extensive list of the most significant
articles and book on the electoral crisis.
Instead, I will propose below, some possible counter-attacks.
Back to the paper ballot. The simplest and most reliable
voting technology is also the oldest: the paper ballot and
the ballot box. To be sure, it is labor-intensive and slow,
but that is a small price to pay for the preservation of our
democracy. Besides, Canada uses this method and manages to
report the election returns within hours. In our last whiz-bang,
high-tech presidential election, it took weeks to settle the
outcome, and only then by judicial ruling that halted the
vote count. (And don't get me started on that!)
When, a few weeks ago, I complained to Common Cause about
their failure to get excited about the election fraud issue,
they replied in part:
Common Cause is indeed in agreement with the concerns
you express about the need for an auditable voting process.
It is the position of Common Cause to support voting which
can be audited; however, we do not believe that time allows
for total institution of this process by the time of the presidential
With all due respect to the venerable Common Cause: horse
Not only could a system of paper balloting be put in place
in very short order, in fact, in many states it is already
in place! In particular, in the most populous state - my home
state of California.
When I arrived at my polling place to vote in the infamous
recall election, I encountered my first touch-screen voting
machine and promptly cried bloody murder. After calming me
down, a kindly poll worker led me to a table with paper ballots,
and I proceeded to fill one out. She explained that all polling
stations had paper ballots (a) for those who preferred to
use them, and (b) as backups in case the electronic machines
This means that high-tech California is just one simple
step away from secure and verifiable voting. And that step
is to collect all those infernal machines, load them on to
a barge, and dump them in the Pacific.
While I haven't checked this out, I rather suspect that
there are paper ballot backups at the ready throughout the
country. Demand that they be used instead of the paperless
monsters. And, failing that, when you vote, insist upon the
A Diebold, etc. defection. Surely, amongst the thousands
of workers on the payrolls of the primary manufacturers of
paperless voting machines, Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia - still
better, among the hundreds of top managers - there must be
a few authentic patriots. And they must be sitting on a battalion
of smoking guns. For example, a software programmer who devised
a fixed election (e.g. Georgia in 2002) could have a David
Brock-like epiphany and proceed to blow this scam wide open.
Let the invitation go forth: "If you would prefer to
live in a free country, come over from the dark side! And
don't forget to bring your codes and documents with you."
Give a public demonstration. A voting machine and
software should be acquired and, at last, put to honest use.
Some computer experts claim that a virus can infect a voting
machine, alter the results, and then "dissolve"
leaving no trace of the "fix." If so, then this
can and should be demonstrated. One team should devise a hack
that would transform a fifty-fifty input into (say) a seventy-thirty
output. Then another team should be challenged to find proof
of the dirty deed.
Recently, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart showed video of
a computer expert who claimed to have "invaded"
a sample voting machine, altered the outcome of the election,
and exited leaving no trace of the hack, all within five minutes.
Is this just show biz, or is it for real? If authentic, then
the stunt should be replicated and publicized. Thereafter,
all balloting by such machines would be severely, perhaps
Threaten Counter-Hacking. Surely there must be at
least as many computer geniuses on the left as on the right.
Probably many more. If further evidence accumulates of GOP
election-rigging via the "proprietary" software
of paperless, non-auditable machines, then the scoundrels
should be put on notice that both political sides can play
that game. I'm not advocating illegal activity here; there
may be some value in alerting the public and "the other
side" that there exists at least a capability
Bring back the exit poll. Soon after the polls closed
in 2002, the exit polls from Voter News Service began to announce
trends that were favorable to the Democrats. Then, suddenly,
VNS told us that the results were "unreliable" and
election day operation was shut down. How convenient for
the GOP! And we have never received a clear explanation of
what happened. Just the same message we had heard two years
before in 2000: "Get over it!"
In fact, in the past, exit polls have proven to be the most
accurate polling methods. So they must be brought back as
checks against the non-auditable machines. If the media's
service, VNS, won't do it, then the left must demand an explanation
of why it won't, and an alternative exit polling service must
be put in place.
Pre-election polling must be persistent and wide-spread
throughout the country. Polls, such as those conducted during
the 2002 Georgia election, remain strong statistical evidence
of fraud and manipulation.
One revealing line of analysis would be to compare the accuracy
of polls in states and precincts using paper and other auditable
ballots, with the polls in states and precincts using touch-screen
ballots. If the former produced accurate polls, and the latter
did not, there would be good reason to suspect that the fix
Also, as before, the ratio of plus-GOP shifts to plus-Democratic
shifts should be tabulated and publicized.
In a study of nineteen contests in 2002, fourteen shifts
favored the Republicans (many, as in Georgia, far outside
the margin of error), two favored the Democrats (both within
the margin of error), and three "close to correct."
California has taken the lead - follow it! Finally,
as favorable trends develop in the news, in public opinion,
and in the law, these trends should be followed and pushed
along. Case in point: the decertification of Diebold machines
in California. The decision of Secretary of State Shelley
is not final, and could be overturned by "the Governator."
Still, it stands a good chance of surviving the legal challenges.
And it is an important precedent, as decertification of paperless
machines are being proposed in other states. These must be
recognized, publicized, and vigorously supported. There may
be a trend here.
The GOP's "umpires" have a heavy thumb on the scales of
our franchise. This advantage strikes at the very heart of
our political covenant.
Voters of the United States unite! You have nothing to lose
but your democracy!