How to Beat Karl Rove on Election Day
September 21, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The
a good many states, absentee voting already has started for the
November 2 election. October deadlines in most states are fast approaching
for registering to vote. Early-voting is just around the corner.
So, six weeks out, it's a good time to take a longer look at balloting
strategies and problems.
I have been urging citizens to vote either by absentee ballot
or (if you've been incorrectly removed from the voting roll) by
provisional ballot. In other words, try any alternative to avoid
casting your ballot on a computer-voting machine that provides no
verified-voting paper trail, and which can manipulate the tally
inside the computer software program without anybody being able
to detect or prove fraud.
Watch the news this week when Bev Harris and her BlackBoxVoting.com
associates demonstrate before a national press conference how absolutely
easy it is to alter computer tallies without anybody being able
to tell it was done. Helps explain why the Republican Party in Florida
is urging their members to vote by absentee ballot.
It is estimated that about one-third of voters on November 2 will
be casting ballots on touch-screen computer-voting machines that
provide no verified paper trail - a trail that could be used in
case there is suspicion of vote-counting hanky panky.
Note: In contrast to the prevailing wisdom that it's "too late"
to provide such a trail for the upcoming election, Nevada voters
will be voting with voter-verified ballots on computer-voting
machines. As a recent New York Times editorial makes
clear, it's fairly simple to hook up a printer to a compatible
touch-screen computer: It's done when you've finished with your
ATM transaction and want your receipt, and it can be done easily
with computer-voting machines.
But maybe it's too late for that solution for most states. This
being the case, the National Ballot Integrity Project feels that
the only viable solution to the computer-voting problem for the
November election is to mandate a return to paper-ballot voting,
with ballots tabulated by hand. This is done in Canada and many
other countries around the world, and is eminently the most fair
and accurate way to vote and count votes. But it may be too late
for this solution also.
ABSENTEE VOTING DESIRABLE BUT NOT FOOLPROOF
I continue to urge voters who wish to stay away from computerized
voting to request an absentee ballot or (if your name is not on
the voting roll when you show up at your precinct) provisional ballot
- or, if your voting officials allow for such a process, early voting.
For example, I often travel down to City Hall for early voting,
since paper ballots are employed, the kind that either are counted
by hand or go through the optical scanning process - with both having
a numbered, verified-voting receipt.
Now having said that, there is no guarantee that the alternatives
to computer-voting tallying are foolproof. Often, absentee ballots,
for example, are bundled by party affiliation, which creates an
opening for corrupt election officials to dump some, in favor of
those from the party they favor. But, important point: You have
a numbered receipt in case of a recount. (For more on possible fraud
with regard to absentee voting, see Michael Moss' "Some
Absentee Ballot Tactics Draw Concern: Limited Restrictions Make
Tampering Easier in Some States").
There are military ballots from around the world that the Bush
Administration is willing to accept for this election via email,
but there are no safeguards against tampering. Of course, the Bush
campaign is assuming those soldiers will be voting for Bush; given
the way veterans and soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere have been maltreated
by the Bush Administration, many of those votes may very well go
for Kerry. If there's no corruption of the vote-tallying process,
The point is that there are plenty of opportunities for deliberate
corruption of the electoral process - by mischievous hackers, by
tampering with the tallying-software by those who count the computer
votes (which this year is mostly by technicians from the same Republican-leaning
companies that manufactured the touch-screen machines), by dropping
of minority and other voters from the voting rolls, by destroying
ballots from those suspected of voting for the "wrong" party, by
fiddling with military votes coming in by email, etc. etc. (For
more details, check out this Electoral
KARL GOES A-ROVING
The Rove-led forces have proved, time and time again - and, with
gross obviousness recently - that they are expert at pulling off
electoral scams and criminal slimes, and there is every reason to
believe that if they think they can get away with it, they'll do
whatever it takes to keep themselves in power for at least another
We needn't go into detail about some of the more outrageous dirty
tricks being pulled these days. You've read the news and seen through
the spin. Their approach often rests on the Big Lie technique; it
doesn't matter if most people see through the constant repetition
of the lies, and recognize them as little more than political smoke
and mirrors. The Rove-ites don't care. Because enough potential
voters will be fooled into believing the unbelievable to perhaps
throw the victory to Bush in tight races - or, if not that, those
on the fence who are possible voters for Kerry might get cynical
enough about the dirt and mud being thrown around to simply abstain.
Just a few examples:
THE SMEAR BOAT VETS.
These guys, none of whom served on Kerry's boat with him, are
still angry with the Democratic candidate for his anti-war statements
after he returned from Vietnam. So, armed with cash and logistical
support from major Republican backers associated with the White
House, they launch a Big Lie barrage about Kerry's medals and heroism.
Again, truth is not the object here, rather the spreading of a lot
of smoke that may make a number of people question Kerry's record
- and forcing the Kerry Campaign to play defense instead of offense.
CBS' "KILLIAN" MEMOS
Mere minutes after Dan Rather's report aired that showed memos
from Bush's former National Guard commander Lt. Col. Jerry Killian
- which ordered Bush to report for a flight physical (which he never
took) and which talked about pressure from above to "sugar coat"
his performance rating - the Rove forces, through a Republican surrogate
blogger, launched a major, detailed attack on the memos, asserting
that they were forgeries.
Note: They didn't attack the charges being made against Bush,
since they knew them to be true; so, to distract from Bush's sorry
history in the National Guard and the fact that he never completed
his tour of duty, Rove's minions went on the offensive with a major
diversion campaign. And it worked, since the major media were talking
about the messenger, Dan Rather at CBS, instead of the message.
Blogger Bob Fertik offerred White House officials $1000 in cash
if they would come out and say the charges in the Killian memos
were untrue, but no GOP figure has chosen to do so. (Groups have
offerred to pay up to $50,000 to anyone who can vouch for Bush being
on base in Alabama for the missing six months of his duty - but
nobody has stepped forward to collect that money either.)
There's even suspicion that, given Rove's history - he once allegedly
planted a surveillance bug in his office and then denounced the
political opposition for trying to bug him - that perhaps, knowing
the Killian memos were out there and might be used by CBS, he may
have set up Rather with forged documents in order to be able to
denounce them as phony, so nobody would pay attention to the message
in them. (Killian's secretary said the content of the memos is exactly
what Killian said to her and others at the time, though she didn't
type these particular memos.)
THE TORN-POSTER SCAM
Along similar lines, a Republican father, Phil Parlock, the other
day denounced union members at a Kerry rally for allegedly ripping
a pro-Bush poster from his daughter, who was sitting on his shoulders,
and making her cry. Turns out that the alleged miscreant wearing
a "union" t-shirt was likely Parlock's adult son. And Parlock has
been pulling the same Democrats-attacked-us stunt at other political
events over the years. The Big Lie, make-a-lot-of-noise technique.
Doesn't matter if papers later have to print a retraction on a back
page; the front-page story, with a photo of the crying little girl,
made the front pages, and made the Kerry Democrats out to be the
bad guys. All in a day's work, with Karl Rove as role-model.
Well, one could go on and on listing such scams and dirty tricks.
Ever since Nixon, the GOP has glommed on to these techniques with
increasing frequency, and Rove is a master at the game, always making
sure that he and the White House are at least three levels removed
from the dirty deeds - except they're not always proficient in covering
their tracks. You can spot a Rove dirty-trick from half mile away.
Given this track record of pre-voting (mis)behaviors, we should
be prepared for an even wider variety of dirty tricks and outright
vote-thievery and intimidation at the polls November 2 (especially
in rural areas in the South, where police often harrass minority
voters walking up to the precinct location).
That's why every polling place, and vote-counting center, should
have observers on hand - from the various parties, from the United
Nations, neutral watchers, etc. - trained to spot suspicious signs
of diddling with the correct vote, and lawyers at the ready to file
for immediate relief in the event of possible official malfeasance.
Note: If there are going to be manipulations of the vote-counting
software, it most likely won't be at the precinct polls, but at
the locations where the precinct votes will be tallied from disks,
often going through central computers controlled by the same Republican-supporting
companies that manufactured the unverified computer-voting machines.
HIGH-STAKE ROLLING OF ELECTORAL DICE
The stakes in this election are absolutely enormous - more wars,
starting up the military draft, the economy, education, Social Security,
Medicare, an independent judiciary, and so on - and we know that
the Rove-led GOP political operatives will do anything to stay in
power. ANYTHING. Everything from the tactics mentioned above to
encouraging stacked Bush-favorable polls to announcing Bin Laden's
capture or death to maybe even inviting a terrorist attack or planting
some WMD in Iraq. ANYTHING.
So, even though there never are any guarantees for a "pure" election,
we can take steps to protect the sanctity of the ballot as much
as possible. In a fair fight, Bush can be defeated. The bulk of
the American people now realize, after nearly four years of extremist
policy and incompetent bungling by this Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft
crew, that it's time for a change.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the inevitable corruption that
is bound to happen during this election. Don't take no for an answer
when your election officials refuse to open their process to outside
inspection and recounts. Put their feet to the fire and demand,
Demand, DEMAND! an honest vote. If your local and state election
officials won't or can't guarantee a free and honest election, then
sue them, recall them, vote them out of office.
Let's be clear. We're not just fighting for the integrity of the
electoral process for this one vote in November, but for the vote
and for our other democratic institutions that have served our country
well for more than two centuries. The Bush folks have little affection
for the institutions of democratic republicanism - remember Bush's
"jokes" about preferring to rule as a dictator - and, should they
steal another election in November, American democracy could well
wither and die by strangulation.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy supporters have mobilized
on behalf of fair and free elections - through MoveOn, ACT and Verified
Voting organizations - and are more motivated than usual in trying
to ensure electoral integrity at the polls. These are our front-line
troops in the battle for a fair balloting system.
PLAYING BY THEIR OWN RULES
But we would kid ourselves if we think Bush/Cheney/Rove play by
the same rules that we do - or, indeed, that they recognize rules
at all. These are ruthless political operatives, who not only are
motivated by the desire to remain in power and control of the body
politic, but by the knowledge that they might well wind up in the
federal slammer for the high crimes and misdemeanors they have carried
out over the past four years.
They are well aware of where the bodies are buried. There is no
dearth of scandal in this Administration. Where does one start?
Again, let's just take a few of the most egregious examples:
OUTING OUR OWN CIA AGENTS
It's a felony to reveal the identity of covert CIA agents. But
Rove decided that Valerie Plame, in his words, was "fair game,"
because her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, told the truth
about the use of phony WMD intelligence to convince Congress of
the necessity for an immediate war with Iraq.
Two "senior Administration officials" told a number of newspaper
reporters that Plame was a CIA agent, and one of those reporters,
rightwing ideologue Robert Novak, actually ran her name. Investigations
are ongoing as to the identity of those two officials, and indictments
are expected - but whether that will happen before November 2 is
As it turns out, Plame's speciality at the CIA was tracing sources
of weapons of mass destruction. So, for political ends, Rove&Co.
were willing to place the national security of the United States
at risk by ending the career of an agent who worked for a decade
in developing contacts around the globe that could provide clues
for where the WMD was going. Shameful!
Last month, when Bush's numbers were plummeting - and the Ridge/Ashcroft
talk about yet another "terrorist" warning (based on "credible,"
but non-specific or ancient information) didn't do its job in distracting
the American people - Condoleeza Rice and others outed a CIA mole
who had been inserted close to the heart of Al Qaeda leadership
circles. (See Ernest Partridge's "Pravda
on the Potomac").
The object of naming this Pakistani mole seemed to be to demonstrate
how successful the Bush "war on terrorism" was going. As in the
Plame case, valuable information vital to American national security
was compromised for political ends.
SPIES AT THE PENTAGON
When Rumsfeld couldn't get the CIA to provide him with the WMD
justifications the Bush Administration needed to snow the Congress
into voting for war against Iraq, he set up his own "intelligence"
unit inside his office, staffed it with political appointees who
would do his bidding. Lo and behold, the "intelligence" - which
we now know were lies of the first magnitude - were provided and
stovepiped straight to Cheney and Bush. The war began shortly thereafter.
Among that group of neo-conservative ideologues in Rumsfeld's
Office of Special Plans (many of whom were die-hard members of the
Project for the New American Century) were a number of analysts
who were especially dedicated to aiding Israel in its war against
its Arab neighbors, and who were especially close to Ahmed Chalabi,
the sleazy head of the chief Iraqi exile group.
Chalabi, as it turned out, was passing on classified information
to Iran. Iran, according to Pulitizer Prize reporter Sy Hersh, may
have been using Chalabi to pass on dastardly (and untrue) information
about Iraq, so as to get the U.S. to invade and destroy its arch-enemy
neighbor, and to suck the U.S. into a quagmire war in Iraq. Iran
would then be the major player in the Gulf region.
The long and short of it is that the U.S. government had (and
probably still has) on its payroll spies right in the heart of the
Pentagon, passing on classified information that is winding up in
the hands of foreign powers, Israel and Iran. Unconscionable! And,
so far as we know, Bush has initiated no presidential fact-finding
Those are just a few examples - there are plenty more where those
came from: the Administration's secret energy report, Cheney's machinations
on behalf of his old employer Halliburton, Bush's AWOL status, turning
over environmental policy to the polluting corporations, the shredding
of our civil liberties and constitutional guarantees of due process
of law, and on and on.
These explain, along with a host of other reasons, the necessity
to rid ourselves of this incompetent, arrogant, greedy, reckless
Administration. Kerry is our best bet to start to clean house and
move our politics away from the rightwing fringes and back toward
the center-progressive part of the spectrum.
And that's why what happens six weeks from now at the polls is
so absolutely vital. We either take back our democratic system,
or we watch it get strangled and die.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government at various universities,
worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle,
and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. He is a contributing author to the recently-released
Big Bush Lies book.