William Chirolas -- World News Trust
Oct. 25, 2006 -- Today’s reading included an LA Times article by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, titled “New voting systems, rules may spell trouble at polls -- Election analysts expect complications," which listed out the types of problems that could be expected to cause voters to distrust the reported result of an election (perhaps coming soon in 2006 when the GOP keep control of Congress despite being in desperate shape per the pre-election polls) -- “Unproven electronic voting machines, stricter voter identification requirements in many states, new databases and partisan disputes over registration campaigns.”
He noted that we do not yet have quality standards for our voting machines and, most important, we do not yet have a mandatory random audit law that would assure the voters that their vote was not being tossed when it didn’t fit the bias of the voting machine maker or the local vote tabulating staff (this needed audit is just doing a statistically valid random sample of paper ballots verified by voters before they leave the polling place, or by doing a paper trail manual audit to verify the reported totals in a statistically valid random sample of precincts, if there are paper ballots or paper trails in use).
University-based computer scientists, as in the Princeton University video, have shown it is easy to slip a memory card into the electronic vote systems and then, via a virus in the data on the test memory card, change the recorded vote later reported to be the opposite of the correct tally, with the virus then self destructing after restoring all systems and removing all traces of its visit to that voting machine. The only solution is a paper trail with random audits.
However, as easily hacked as our electronic voting machines are, they seem at worst to have been tampered with in the past to decrease the winning party’s margin in districts expected to go heavily for that party. There is no proof this ever happened (although statistical analysis suggests it is it did happen in Florida in 2004) and there are statistical indications that electronic voting machine tampering did not happen on a large scale in 2004, and indeed did not happen in any concentrated way in any given geographic area or in any given type of voting machine in '04. The Florida problem and the Ohio problem in 2004 was more in vote suppression via voter identification and the creation of databases of eligible voters, all in the name of preventing a fraud. No matter that the fraud we are preventing does not appear to be occurring anywhere in the United States –- at least not in anything other than tiny numbers.
Vote suppression is accomplished by way of voter ID laws that discourage the poor (ID’s cost money even when “free” as the birth certificate will run you $20 in most states), and the elderly who tend to have stopped driving and no longer have a drivers license -– two groups that tend to vote against the GOP. So is the GOP being patriotic or just undemocratically persuing their own self interest when they push these laws?
Vote suppression is also accomplished via creating databases of all registered voters in a State's jurisdictions (as they are required to do under a GOP passed 2002 law), where the goal of eliminating duplicate registrations and keeping voter lists up to date is perhaps a cover for mass purges of folks who by geographic location or sound of name or economic group are considered likely to vote for the wrong party.
And of course, vote suppression is accomplish by last-minute changes of voting locations, or by just not placing enough machines in your opponents strong areas so that his voters can not get a chance to vote.
The untold story of this election http://www.electionline.org/ is how the GOP has already set in motion the voter suppression that they expect will help them prevent the mood of the voter from being able to cause any massive changes in their control of Congress. In Arizona they passed Proposition 200 in 2004, requiring voters to present proof of citizenship (like we all carry our birth certificate around -– or even have it around the house). A Federal Appeals Court threw the law out for this reason, but this GOP-controlled state has been refusing to accept new registrations without proof of citizenship during the run up to this election. Colorado has made it harder to vote by providing fewer voting places (do the rich ever lack readily-available transportation needed to get to the voting place?), closing neighborhood polling places in favor of larger, consolidated locations called vote centers. Florida “wants” to independently audit electronic vote totals, but forgot to require machines with paper trails. Of course they also passed a toughest-in-the-nation voter ID law (produce a state- or federally-issued photographic ID) that moves those without ID to a provisional ballot, and did their usual voter roll purge that somehow always seems to remove legitimate, albeit brown/black and Democratic, voters. Indiana’s Voter registration rolls are lighter this election by 320,000 placed on “inactive” and by an additional 120,000 who were just purged because they didn’t respond to attempts to contact them (how many of the rich do not have a telephone or mail service).
The '06 primary gave Indiana problems with late delivery of ballots and memory packs, as well as problems in tabulating vote totals (sounds like the Princeton Computer Professors demonstration, doesn’t it). And in Indiana the local judges saw no problem with making all voters produce state- or federally-issued photographic ID, as in Florida. Maryland had a problem delivering “voter access cards” to precincts in Democratic areas in this year's primary. I wonder if it will happen again -– or happen in other states?
The Maryland GOP Governor vetoed a “you do not need an excuse to get an absentee ballot” law but now recommends you vote absentee -– if you are allowed to do so. New York’s tentative interim registration database was being cleaned up by comparing it with the DMV records when someone noticed that 20 percent of mismatched registrations were flagged because of the State’s data entry errors (granted this New York problem does not seem to slant votes to the GOP).
In Ohio, the voter ID must have the current address -– if you moved recently you cast a provisional ballot –- unless you don’t per the subsequent confusing ruling by the Sec. of State (who is running for Governor). Thank goodness the rich do not move that often. The Diebold voting machines that confounded the exit polls in '04 giving the election to Bush, now have been reviewed in in Maryland in a report that questioned their accuracy, security and ability to recount voter-verified paper audit trails (problems with one in 10 such trails based on a sampling after the '06 primary). Will this affect some voter's belief that we have a democracy -- that elections in the United States can be used to change political direction?
Will discouraged voters then stay home thereby decreasing the vote? Georgia’s and Missouri’s ID law were initially struck down, but are still making their way through the Courts, leaving a question of how will local officials reflect the confusion.
Voter suppression is obviously not uniform from state to state, but perhaps the concept of increased voter suppression is the Rove October surprise for this election -- the reason the election will be closer than the polls suggest?