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Zan_of_Texas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-22-04 03:55 PM
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3. Reform suggestions - one set
How To Fix a Broken Electoral System In Six Easy Steps

by Bruce F. Cole
Published on Friday, November 19, 2004 by

Consider the scene: a national electorate divided not-so-neatly in half, as if by a dull, cosmic meat-cleaver; an election tainted by widespread reports of voter confusion, intimidation and disenfranchisement - much of which is alleged to have been perpetrated by the winning side in the state that tipped the balance in the Electoral College; a looming, sure-to-be-contested recount of ballots, from precincts with strangely anomalous voting patterns, that may or may not change the outcome of the election; and a huge swath of the nation feeling like this election has severely diminished our democracy rather than enhanced it. Now, am I describing the mid-November condition of the US Presidential election fiasco of this year, or of four years ago?

As John Fogerty sings it, and as Yogi Berra coined the redundance-enhanced gem, "It's like deja vu all over again."

So why couldn't we get it right the second time? The short answer is, "Because not enough of us cared." That's an oversimplification to be sure, but what else, at the core, can explain the fact that the landmark piece of legislation that was meant to fix the problems of '00, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, not only exacerbated some of them but, in some cases, enshrined them. Take the recount problem.

In the 2000 struggle for control of the planet from Florida (in hindsight, not even a slight hyperbole), a struggle that should have centered on a technically simple job of transparently recounting all the ballots in that state by hand, the system broke down under the weight not only of the high stakes involved (and a self-defeating recount strategy from the Gore camp), but also of an ambiguous paper trail (the punch card system) that wasn't uniformly handled in various jurisdictions. Many ballots, in fact, were never hand recounted, even once. The obvious solution to that fundamental problem would have been to require systems with paper trails that are unambiguous to read, and to provide uniform recounting rules.
Instead, HAVA encourages the use of paperless voting technology, like touchscreen machines (a.k.a., "DREs") that, unlike their ATM cousins, produce no paper trail for the (sighted) voter to verify before hitting the "vote" button. So recounting a ARE is a meaningless exercise; the machine will merely spit out the same result as it did on election night. No audit is possible (unless the definition of "audit" is changed). Asking a machine to verify itself is not an audit, and therefore it is neither a recount; it is simply a regurgitation. Imagine a banker taking the "word" of an ATM that $37,880.00 was dispersed from that machine over the weekend, without checking the paper trail of cash-remaining in the machine. Absurd. Banks do millions of "recounts" every single day - and much less than the future of the planet is at stake. Is it too much to ask the United States of America to manage a legitimate, biannual audit of the very foundation of their democracy?

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