Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Voters' rights organizations questioned
Lynn Landes, a former TV reporter and commentator and "journalist on voting technology," raises a number of interesting points and questions about voters' rights groups.
So much for a free and fair exchange of ideas. At conferences and hearings across the country, traditional voting rights organizations have successfully blocked any serious debate on machine-free, paper-only elections. It appears that our well-entrenched so-called 'voting rights' organizations, including the NAACP and ACLU, haven't absorbed the lesson from America's election debacles. They would rather invite the industry-funded National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) to speak at their conferences, than invite researchers and activists who will argue that the machines must go.
Landes attended the Dec. 7 conference in Washington, DC on "Voting 2004: A Report to the Nation on America's Election Process." It did not live up to her expectations—
Instead of fighting for the peoples' right to a paper ballot and a hand count, the conference adopted the VerifiedVoting.org and Congressman Rush Holt's (D-NJ) prescription for voting integrity. It is beyond worthless.
It gives people false hope, instead of a sensible solution. Holt's legislation calls for ballot printers and audits. First, that leaves the machines in the voting process - ready, willing, and able to malfunction, break down, or not show up - causing chaos and confusion. Ballot printers won't fix that. Second, it proposes spot audits, which leaves the counting of ballots in the hands of the very election officials who prove with each new election how truly inept or completely evil they really are. And third, the only time paper ballots will be counted is in case of a "close" election, ensuring that perpetrators of vote fraud will steal a sufficient number of votes to avoid triggering a recount.
I'm not familiar with Landes' previous work, but the issues she raises are issues at which I took a poke recently. In fact, after writing "Bev Harris vs. Keith Olbermann" in which I discussed my doubts about electionline.org, I came upon a story at verifiedvoting.org that reinforced my skepticism.
On Dec. 16, the last time any news regarding voting irregularities has been deemed worthy of linking by Verified Voting, they ran an article "Analysis of Election 2004 Finds Reason for Concern" that opens—
A new report from electionline.org, the nation’s leading source for nonpartisan and non-advocacy research and analysis on election reform, finds that the November 2 vote just barely cleared the “margin of litigation.”
This is an odd lede: high praise for electionline.org—"the nation's leading source"—coupled with the declaration that the past election "just barely cleared the 'margin of litigation'" when in fact the situation in Ohio alone is sufficient to disprove such an assertion. There is plenty of litigation in process as I write. Is this an oblique way of saying that they don't believe the litigation is appropriate?
So today I toddled over to the Verified Voting site to look at their organization. What I found is that both its founder David Dill and its executive director William Doherty are ass over elbow into computer science. Nothing wrong with that, but it can certainly skew one's perception of what is necessary to hold a free and fair election. It also may heighten the receptiveness to "industry input."
It seems not to occur to these groups that the electronic-voting machine manufacturers have no interest in free and fair elections. If we take them as "pure" capitalists, without any political ax to grind, their interest can only be in selling more machines and services. But of course we already know from any number of investigations that the electronic-voting industry is in fact tied both to the Republican party and to extreme right-wingers.
When I asked Ms. Moulder why the conference was not discussing the machine-free/paper-only election option, she said that people just weren't "there" yet. I surmised she meant that people weren't ready to consider that option. But judging from the reaction to my articles and speeches, I suggested to her that a growing number of people are already "there". And more people might be "there" if the issue was allowed to be on the agenda at these conferences. She smiled and walked away.
Read Landes' article, by all means.
Bev Harris vs. Keith Olbermann (See "PBS News Hour")