Progressive Writers Bloc

Democracy at Risk

Bill Warner, South Valley Peace Center

There is a disturbing trend in America today. Add up the figures: One well-funded political party controlling all three branches of government in Washington, most of the corporate media, and with a large measure of control of whose vote counts and whose doesn't. Such a government, bent on turning the government "...of the people, by the people, and for the people" into a conglomerate of privatized "for-profit" operations from the schools to the prisons with suppression of dissent at every turn is hardly the government envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

We like to think of ourselves as a democracy, where each person has a say in who represents them in the government. The basic tool for making a democracy work is the vote. America can only work "as advertised" if people believe in and participate in honest elections. There is reason to believe that this faith in democracy is being severely tested.

In the 2000 Presidential election, we saw the contest decided in Florida, where the winning candidate's brother just happened to be governor, and the person responsible for counting the votes just happened to be deeply involved with the Republican Party. Thousands of dollars were spent having a private company "purge" the rolls of potential Democratic voters. Voting machines seemed to give "funny" results, such as showing George Bush winning heavily in overwhelmingly Democratic precincts. Voters, mainly blacks, who traditionally vote Democratic, found themselves blocked from getting to the polls. The word "fraud" was bandied about, but the Republican-controlled Supreme Court decided that for the good of the country, they would declare Bush the winner before all the votes could be counted and investigated. What did we learn from that? Nothing, it seems.

Before this November's election, hints of what was to come surfaced. Folks registering voters in Las Vegas just happened to turn in only the Republican registrations. In the most important swing state, the Democratic headquarters in Toledo was burgled and all their computer records were stolen. Every effort was made to overwhelm the Democrats efforts to get equal access to the broadcast media, from the refusal to broadcast MoveOn.org's anti-Bush ads during the Super Bowl to Pappas Broadcasting giving $300,000 of free air time to the Republicans.

In four of the most important swing states, the people that ran the elections and counted the votes just happened to be big Bush contributors. The most respected polling organization that kept telling Americans that Bush was winning, the Gallup Poll, just happened to be a Bush supporter. The two makers of the voting machines which controlled 80% of the election process just happened to be Bush supporters. One, the CEO of Diebold, sent a letter to big Bush campaign contributors that he hoped to "deliver Ohio" to Bush.

Ohio and Florida decided the election. In Ohio, the Secretary of State, Kevin Blackwell, who was involved with the Bush campaign, tried disqualifying that huge majority of the overwhelmingly-Democratic new registrations on the grounds that they were not printed on the correct 80-lb. cardstock. He then refused an NAACP request to notify parolees who were registered to vote of their rights. Precincts were supplied with too few voting machines in predominantly Black areas, occasioning waits in line for as much as five hours! Many voters gave up and left. Provisional ballots, where voters not residing in the precinct in which they were voting were either denied or not counted. Students in Columbus going to college out of their precincts were challenged and told they would have to go to a hearing to prove their eligibility.

Voting machines, particularly the antiquated optical scanners, seemed to returning very interesting results. Thousands of ballots were "lost" when the memories of machines filled up and they started counting backwards. Some people found that every time they tried to choose Kerry, the machine told them they had selected Bush. Punch cards were mismatched with ballots ...a with Kerry being No.3 on the ballot and No.4 on the punch card. In many districts, the vote exceeded the number of registered voters with ,Bush winning many predominantly Kerry precincts by as much as three to one. Electronic data was fed into a central tabulating computer which tallied up the votes. Diebold machines using the "Windows" PC format which, according to computer experts is quite easy to "hack".

The machines in one precinct in Ohio counted minus 25,000 votes, while another with 558 registered voters cast 9,000 ballots. One precinct in Florida with 12,997 registered voters, 69.3% of which were Democrats, turned in 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush! In another, 15% of the people were registered Republicans, but somehow Bush won with 1959 for Kerry and 4,433 for Bush. One county in Ohio with 638 voters cast 4,258 for Bush and only 260 for Kerry! Is something wrong with the way we are doing things? Were these just "computer errors " or outright tampering? In Volusia County, Florida, Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting uncovered a smoking gun involving polling tapes obtained from the county elections supervisor under the Freedom of Information Act which were not copies of the official signed polling tapes but new printouts. The original signed tapes were discovered in the trash outside the office! A comparison of the ones given Harris and the originals showed a great discrepancy. In just one precinct ( No.215) in a black district, votes were off by hundreds, all favoring Bush and other Republican candidates. And this was just the ONE county that got caught red-handed. By the way, election officials immediately locked down the Diebold GEMS central server denying access to it by the investigating team.

Exit polls, noted for their accuracy, consistently showed Kerry leading, casting great doubts on the validity of unverifiable electronic results. Over 30,000 complaints of improprieties have been filed so far.

Some say a recount is in order, but if the same "tampered with" tallies are re-tallied, the same result will be reached. It is worth doing, but what is really needed is a Congressional investigation such as the one proposed by Representative John Conyers, an FBI investigation into criminal fraud, and laws preventing private companies controlled by partisan interests from counting the votes. And existing laws against voter fraud need to be vigorously enforced. Votes counted by private for-profit corporations using easily hacked , unreliable, and partisan machines with no paper trail are invitations to tampering.

The accusations and evidence of fraud in this election are of such import that the daily front page news should be filled with the issue. It is the responsibility of the media and the American Voting Public to demand a full investigation, and not just to reward cheating with another term in office! Investigations are in order NOW, not after the inauguration. Laws imposing uniform procedures in national elections need to be passed. Grand jury investigations into allegations of voter fraud need to be undertaken. The American Public must have its confidence in the voting process restored by knowing that elections cannot so easily be subverted, and their vote really WILL be counted honestly. We want to WATCH as the votes are counted by teams composed of all interested parties. Eternal vigilance IS the price of liberty, and only you can keep your democratic rights and freedoms by not allowing the electoral process to degenerate into a farce.

Further information can be obtained from:
www.blackboxvoting.org
www.truthout.org
www.gregpalast.com

Visit us at ProgressiveWritersBloc.com.

Contact Information
Website designed by DavidChandler