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Counting Votes

New -- 6 September 2003

Updated -- 21 September 2003

 

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty -- Thomas Jefferson

The essence of a democracy is an election process which accurately describes the true intentions of the electorate.  In this regard, there are six vitally important issues relating to accessing the so-called will of the people:

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The actual counting of the votes -- and the fundamentally important recounting.

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The Equal Protection of all voters in terms of voting methods.

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The determination of who is eligible to vote.

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The distinction between eligible and registered voters.

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Redistricting and Gerrymandering.

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True Choice and Equal Protection for all voters.

Prelude

While the United States of America is first and foremost a Republic, it nevertheless utilizes a representative democracy format for government.  These two forms can be contradictory, but can also be complementary.

The distinction being a republic and a democracy is critical.  A republic guarantees the Sovereignty of each and every individual (or as limited by age, gender, race, or other means -- and as agreed to in the Social Contract which formed the Republic).  For example, in the United States -- after some serious growing pains -- the only limitation on membership in the Republic is now age, i.e., being over 18 (in most States).  [Minimal intelligence or willful ignorance is obviously not a hindrance as evidenced by the fact that so many vote for the Republican and/or Democratic Party candidates.]

A democracy, on the other hand, is pure and simple majority rule.  It provides for a tyranny of the majority over any and all minorities.  This is precisely what allowed race and gender to be a means of discriminating among voters in the earlier United States -- the white male population voting to keep blacks and females out of the system.  It is also why when widely acclaimed free elections were held in Algeria many decades ago, the resulting election of Islamic fundamentalists to a majority was viewed with trepidation.  Creating a democracy in any given country is not necessarily going to create a situation where the freedom of all individuals -- or for that matter, the vast majority of people -- actually exists.  In fact, such a democracy almost never does, making it a highly questionable means of social contract among sovereigns.

It is critically important to note that while the United States of America uses a democratic technique of selecting members of the government, the country was not established as a democracy.  It was established as a republic.  This latter fact, in theory, severely limits the manner in which a majority can tyrannize all minorities of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, astrological sign, and/or preference for Barney the Dinosaur.

In theory. 

In reality, of course, the Constitution for the United States of America is routinely violated by the federal and state governments -- including all three branches of the executive, legislative, and judicial.  Never has a tyranny of the alleged majority been so blatantly shoved down the throats of the populace than it has in recent years -- not that any administration in the last sixty or so years has acted in ways remotely resembling an honest adherence to the Constitution.  It's just a matter of things getting worse.

[For example, only Congress has the authority to declare war.  The Chief Executive can wage or conduct a war, but only after a Congressional Declaration of War.  The last declared war was World War II.  The Korean War was simply mislabeled -- in order to avoid the lack of a Declaration of War -- and was called instead a "Police Action".  Those killed in a "police action", however, tend to be just about as dead as those killed in a war -- but probably with fewer survivor benefits.  Later wars didn't even pretend toward such niceties.  The more recent Afghanistan and Iraq Wars were simply and blatantly illegal and unconstitutional.  Note also that under the terms of the Constitution, Congress cannot delegate its authority to declare war to the President or anyone else -- which it has now begun doing on a routine basis.  And thus we have had Oil Wars, Bush Wars, and War Wars.  We can probably also expect Water Wars.]

Majority Rule

Inasmuch as the Republic has been tyrannized by majority rule, it is appropriate to ask about what actually constitutes "majority rule".  There is something to be said, after all, for tough decisions being made which at least adhere to the wishes of the majority.

Obviously, the current administration in Washington, DC is not an example of a tyranny by the majority, but instead a tyranny by a substantial minority.  Besides the obvious democratic fiasco in Florida in the 2000 presidential elections -- aided and abetted by a narrow, politically motivated majority in The Supreme Court -- and the fact the effectively appointed President of the United States received only 47.87% of the popular vote (while his nearest opponent received a larger 48.38%) [1], the situation is far worse.

Besides Florida, a total of eight other states [Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin] cast all of their electoral votes for a presidential candidate with less than 50% of the vote in that state.  The differences in many cases were dramatic -- albeit the conspiracy of Florida's Governor Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris to illegally eliminate 57,700 names from the state's voting records must still rank in the forefront of irregularities -- not to mention high crimes and misdemeanors. 

More recently, in 2002, Senate and Congressional races [2] included 7 winners with less than 50% of the vote.  In addition, there were 26 races in which the difference in percentages between the winner and second place finisher were within 5%, 10 within 3%, 8 within 2%, and 4 within 1%.  It has been noted that many methods of counting votes are only accurate to within about 3% -- a fact which has surfaced in the current attempted recall election in California in 2003.  Obviously there is a real problem here.

Clearly, the fate of nations is in the hands of small set of swing voters -- or more accurately in the hands of a small numbers of votes which are counted or not counted.

Counting Votes

The first prerequisite for an honest democracy is that the votes are counted accurately.  Any lack of trust by the voters in the legitimacy of an election process compromises any democracy.  There is simply no point in bothering to vote if the counting process is biased or flawed.  After Florida and the 2000 Presidential results, many State boards of elections have been frantically attempting to "fix the system".  [pardon the pun]

The Washington Post reported on August 11, 2003, for example, on the Virginia State Board of Elections' effort to upgrade the state's electronic voting machines.  This looked straight-forward enough until a Johns Hopkins University report by computer scientists warned that "the system's software could easily be hacked into and election results tampered with."  [Okay, so the computer geeks are not so good with English.]

While the Johns Hopkins report has been attacked as nonsense -- probably by "consultants" in the employ of alternative agendas -- the report has motivated other states to delay purchasing any kind of electronic voting machine.  This action is "despite a new federal law that has created a gold rush by allocating billions to buy the machines and requiring all states, as well as the District of Columbia, to replace antiquated voting equipment by 2006."  [3]  Some purchases already in progress have been put on hold in order to review the implications and accuracy of the report.

[The federal law to fix the machines by 2006 will, obviously, not influence in any way the results of the 2004 presidential election, in which Georgie and Dickie will be up for re-election.] You might want to read that last sentence again.

Obviously, the Johns Hopkins report has created an "increasingly nasty debate between about 900 computer scientists, who warn that these machines are untrustworthy, and state and local election officials and machine manufacturers, who insist that they are reliable."  It may not be astounding to realize that the manufacturers are insisting their products are reliable, but the very nature of the argument -- "The machinery you vote on is inaccurate and could be threatened; therefore, don't go.  Your vote doesn't mean anything" -- tends to be, as Penelope Bonsall, director of the Office of Election Administration at the Federal Election Commission, notes, "That negative perception that it takes years to turn around." [3]  Duh.  Did you hear about Florida?

Meanwhile, of the $3.9 billion allocated to replace old machines, rewrite outdated equipment standards, improve technology, train poll workers and update registration lists, only about half has been allocated, and all of that money has gone toward buying machines which cost as much as $4,000 each.  There is literally a feeding frenzy among the sharks for the new business of providing electronic voting machines.

It is definitely a seller's market.  A subsequent Cal Tech / MIT report, for example, "found that of more than 100 million votes cast nationwide, as many as 6 million weren't counted because of registration errors or problems with punch-card and lever machines.  One study found that of 800 level machines tested, 200 had broken meters that stopped counting once they hit 999." [3]  In other words, vote early or just forget it!

One argument against the possibility of tampering with election results was voiced by Mischelle Townsend, registrar of voters in Riverside County, California.  In effect, she said, there's "been no documented case of voter fraud." [3]

This statement is truly scary in that a formally anointed registrar of voters is apparently unaware of the massive voter fraud in Florida during the publicized 2000 Presidential race.  While Ms. Townsend might have a point with regard to electronic voting machines, the fact remains that the machines are only as good as the manufacturers who make them, and if the manufacturer's agenda is different from that of, for example, having free elections, then the voter fraud just hasn't been discovered yet.  That does not mean voter fraud does not exist.  How many officials, for example, claimed that punch cards and level machines were accurate -- until proven otherwise?

One might also recall that the past is not prologue -- as many historians and political scientists have warned.  As Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia has said, "When the stakes are high enough in an election, partisans and others will do just about anything.  So this is a worry."  Duh.

Up until this point we haven't talked much about normal computer glitches, butterfly ballots, and hanging chad.  The good news, one might suppose, is that at least computer bugs in the modern electronic voting machines are not necessarily strongly biased toward the Republican or Democratic parties.  Maybe.

The problems, however, are the "Trojan horses, Easter eggs or back doors" in computer software which can be used to "predetermine the outcome."  In Georgia, for example, "a handful of voters found that when they pressed the screen to vote for one candidate, the machine registered a vote for the opponent." [3]  Supposedly, this was fixed on the spot -- but how often did it go unnoticed at other voting precincts?  More to the point, how did this problem ever happen to begin with?  Did the Diebold machine just sort of make a simple mistake, an honest software programming error?  Are you kidding me?

Meanwhile, "in Alabama, a computer glitch caused a 7,000 vote error and clouded the outcome of the gubernatorial race for two weeks."  The Diebold software code in this case was, as it turns out, available on the Inter Net, which hackers figured out would allow for multiple voting by a single person, the possibility of "insiders" programming "the machine to alter election results without detection" [3], and which demonstrated the inherent stupidly of the software in all systems having the same password of 1111 hard-wired into the code.  Sometimes the hackers really have it easy!

Critically important is the fact that "Because there is no paper or electronic auditing system in the machine, there would be no way to reconstruct an actual vote." [3]

Recounting

It's clear that the vested interests in electronic voting machines -- those machines which can be manipulated for fun, profit, and winning candidates/issues -- are opposed to any person suggesting the existence of a problem.  Diebold may be "very, very confident about the security of our system", but does this mean they're confident of their products' ability to accurately count votes, or is the confidence level all about accomplishing Diebold's political agenda? [3]

The question of E-Voting has become a major factor in the upcoming Presidential election of 2004. On the one hand, E-Voting is anti-Democratic to the point of states such as California banning E-Vote Machines. Their concerns were based on many and varied means of hacking the vote, flaws in the machine, intentional backdoors in the machines. The new machines are "far too corruptible." It is in fact "possible to vote more than once, physically break into the machines by picking their locks and alter vote totals by dialing into the Diebold server used to relay tallies from precincts to state election officials." It was specifically noted that "Diebold's system was at 'high risk of compromise'." "'It's not as if they didn't think enough about security... It's as if they didn't think about it at all." [4]

[Keep in mind that "Diebold's chairman, Walden O'Dell, set the compnay up for recrimination when he wrote in a fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans last year that he was 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year'." (4) O'Dell raised more than $100,000 for President Bush, and we're supposed to believe that he would not use his machines to cheat in the elections?]

When the State of Ohio had a state legislative committee study the reliability of machines ordered by the Republican Secretary of State Blackwell, the panel said that all voting-machine contracts should be voided and require instead "a newer technology that provides a paper trail of votes cast. Blackwell's spokesman called teh committee's move 'outrageous and foolish.'[4] Of course Blackwell may be running for governor, and what better way to ensure one's election than by handpicking the vote counting means!

Clearly, the only way to ensure against the manufacturer of a voting machine and any other partisan's nefarious agendas is to include the ability of electronic and all other voting machines to print our the results of each voter's vote, such that the hardcopy votes can be reviewed by the voter, and in addition, be available later to be recounted in the case of close or contested races.  Any voting technique which does not do this is fundamentally flawed from both a technical and political viewpoint.

Recounting votes is of course much slower.  "Hanging chads" place the process under the category of ludicrous.  But recounting is also a fundamental requirement if there is to be any sense of trust in the voting and election system.  Without the ability to easily recount votes -- in the form of an audit, where all interested parties have ready access to the process -- there is no such thing as free elections in the United States.

The most horrendous and terrifying aspect, of course, is the example set by a slight, 5 to 4, Republican-biased majority among The (9) Supremes -- the Supreme Court of the United States.  This conspiracy of judges with grotesque conflicts of interest had the audacity to stop a recount of the votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential race.  No amount of voting procedures and machine upgrades will replace such outright theft and high level conspiracy.

It must be emphasized that the alleged reason for stopping the vote recount was based on something called Equal Protection under the Law.  The argument was that by not recounting all the votes in the entire State of Florida, those people living in counties not having their votes recounted were somehow denied equal protection.  This so-called reasoning -- this joke of a legal argument -- was used to stop a recount which was intended to ensure the accuracy of vote tallies.  Clearly, the more logical move would have been to order a recount in all the counties -- and thus provide true equal protection! Alternatively, the Court could have simply thrown out the entire State of Florida's delegation of Presidential Electors.

[The fact that there was no Democrat in the entire Congress to question the validity of the Florida vote is merely an indicator of the fact that the Republican Party does not have an exclusive right to outright dishonesty.  At the same time, tossing the Florida vote would have thrown the presidential race into the House of Representatives where the Republican-controlled House would have voted for George Bush.  However, the at-the-time Democratic-controlled Senate might have elected Lieberman as Vice-President in lieu of Dick Cheney.  That would have been entertaining, to say the least!]

[Note also that had the U. S. Supreme Court not thrown out the Florida vote, there would have been a major investigation into how this happened.  That was something, one must suspect, the powers that be did not want to see!]

Any voting system in which the votes cannot be counted, recounted, and if necessary, recounted again -- and without reliance upon computer software (or in the case of hanging chad style telescopic vision) -- is a system which is fundamentally dishonest, and for all extents and purposes is intended to mock the very concept of free elections.

It is interesting to note that it was not until 1990 that anyone actually wrote up a set of voluntary standards for voting machines.  But in the typical Corporate Politics of all things, it was simply a matter of creating a revolving door of individuals involved in the testing labs, voting machine manufacturers, and state officials.  It's the same people in all forms, with state officials often retiring to the cushy jobs afforded by the private corporations.  Democracy is an endangered species.  [Of course, it always has been.  This is the reason that the forefathers of our nation founded a Republic!]

The fundamentally obvious solution is that with a printer attached to the machines, voters can review the electronic ballot before it drops into a locked box, assess its accuracy, and anyone and everyone can recount the votes later on.

Equal Voting Machines

Ignored in the Supreme Court decision to apply Equal Protection to the counties of Florida who were not having their votes recounted was the fact that in the Republican Party dominated counties, the balloting was based on modern, more accurate machines -- while in the counties more prone to Democratic Party voters, there were only the antiquated and confusing butterfly ballots.  The latter undoubtedly led many voters to vote for someone other than who they thought they were voting for.

This fact is most readily evidenced by the "exit polls" which the Media networks used to make their first guesses as to who won which state.  The TV news shows -- based on these exit polls -- picked Gore as the winner of Florida's 27 electors.  Bush might have acknowledged defeat at that point had his brother, Jeb, the governor of Florida, not assured him that it would be essential to hang tough.  Jeb, of course, was proven to be correct.  Or else he had inside information.  The exit polls, being based on people's opinions of how they thought they had voted, were in fact not in accordance with how the votes had actually been done, counted, or manipulated.

In effect, based on a long history of voting trends, the TV news had gotten it right!  This is an astounding revelation in itself -- that TV could get anything right!  But it goes to show that the only flaw in the Media's thinking was in not accounting for a butterfly ballot which was designed with the intention to confuse and deceive.

Obviously, the difference in voting machines in different counties in Florida -- between counties prone to either Republican Party or Democratic Party candidates -- was a clear cut violation of Equal Protection in the voting booth.  This form of equal protection, the Supreme Court of the United States, quietly ignored in their quest to stop a recount and get their favorite candidate elected, i.e. appointed as President of the United States.

Eligible and/or Registered Voters

The Fates of Fraudulent Florida have been pretty well beaten to death in the last couple of years.  Unfortunately, the current situation may be a case of the "living dead" still roaming the streets.  The style of illegal and immoral actions committed in Florida has not exactly gone away, been corrected, or anyone held accountable for blatantly illegal actions.

In Greg Balast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Florida is known for, among other things, seeing 57,700 names removed from the Florida voter rolls five months prior to the election on the grounds that the individuals were felons.  Balast and others discovered that at least 90% of the eliminated voters were innocent of any crime, but were in fact African American (next to each name was the voter's race).  Furthermore, the normal procedures for eliminating felons from voter rolls was tossed aside for a much more expensive one which used almost none of the normal means of ensuring accuracy.  Instead, names scrubbed were simply names similar to out-of-state felons.  In this blatantly racist policy, a black Mr. Green would be eliminated, while a white Mr. Green would avoid the cut.

In one predominantly black country, Gadsden, "thousands of votes were simply thrown away."  More precisely, one in eight ballots in Gadsden was voided by the state.  Similar paper ballots (which are read by an optical scanner) in mostly white Tallahassee County had less than one in 100 votes voided.  The key difference had been that "spoiled" votes in Tallahassee were noted on the spot, and were corrected, while in Gadsden County no such opportunity was allowed.

It was not reported in the so-called mainstream Media, but the NAACP sued Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of State, "for the black purge" and won the case.  Despite this fact, the people who were eliminated have not been put back on the rolls.

It's this kind of action, or lack of action, which tends to make people wonder why they would ever bother to vote, register to vote, or be a part of any political process.  There is in fact a huge disparity of individuals throughout the country who are eligible to vote and those actually bothering to register.  It has gotten so bad that even the pundits no longer point out the obvious factor of less than half the eligible voters voting.

In some cases, for example, Governors of states have been elected with a majority of those voting, but where such a majority constituted 5% of the eligible voters.  5%!  This fact may become even more obvious when the results from the California Governor Recall Election are known.  It is entirely possible, for example, that Governor Gray Davis may be recalled if he wins only 49% of the vote, but that the next governor may win only 5% of the vote.  The distinction between eligible, registered, and actual voters is really quite important.

One might question the motives of those not registering to vote, but then one might also question the motives of those who do or urge others to do so.  On the one hand, registering to vote might be construed as aiding and abetting an alleged conspiracy of fraud and deception -- the basic fraud being that;

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 It actually matters how one votes,

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There is a meaningful choice in candidates for any public office,

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The elections themselves are so illegal and immoral as to constitute rape of the citizenry, and

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The end result is a cacophony of those elected showing little or no respect for the Constitution, the citizens and residents of the nation, and anything resembling a commitment to international fair dealings.

On the other hand, registering to vote requires a responsibility to be a part of the political process of the nation.  This, of course, assumes that one actually assumes the responsibility to become an informed voter, and not simply become a member of the willfully ignorant.  Voting a "straight ticket", for example, is the best example of the latter.  It might also require that the elected are held accountable -- and that little essential ingredient might in turn suggest Anarchy, Revolution, or other means of a "Regime Change."

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There are two other important issues, which deserve their own webpages:

Redistricting and Gerrymandering and Multiple Choices in Elections.

Also worth reading is Victoria Collier's "A Brief History of Computerized Election Fraud in America." It's the kind of thing needed to put things into perspective.

Ultimately, the concept of a free nation is at stake.

 

The (9) Supremes         Constitution for the United States of America

Justice, Order, and Law

Forward to:

A Case for Free Elections         Redistricting         Privacy         9-11-2001

Nature of Law         Anarchy         Revolution

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References:

[1] http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2000/elecpop.htm

[2] http://clerk.house.gov/members/election_information/2002/2002Stat.htm

[3] Mark Radke of Diebold said, "If there is a way to make it [The Diebold system] more secure, we're open to that from good, reliable, knowledgeable sources who don't have a previous agenda."  Hey!  If anyone can recognize a "previous agenda", it's probably this guy.

[4] Viveca Novak, "The Vexations of Voting Machines", Time Magazine, May 3, 2004.

               

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