23 May 2005

Post-Inaugural Crimes and the Progressive Posse

Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers


It's clear that the Bush Administration and the GOP in general - with the exception of a goodly number of traditional Republican conservatives and moderates - have no desire to repair our broken electoral system. They have benefitted from the slipshod way elections are held in the various states and counties, which, stated baldly, is an open invitation to fraud and corruption. So why would they want to go along with serious electoral reform?

That conclusion is unsurprising. What is unexpected is that the Democrats, the party one would think would be in the forefront of electoral reform, is, as usual, asleep at the wheel. Whether they wake up quickly, to demand major change before the 2006 midterm election, also will tell us whether they're serious about being a combative Opposition.

What kind of reform am I talking about? At the very least:

a. Make it illegal for partisan officials to be in charge of partisan elections. The examples of Florida's Katherine Harris in 2000, and Ohio's Kenneth Blackwell in 2004 - both were chairs of their respective state's Bush/Cheney Campaign while they served as Secretary of State in charge of elections - provide the best case for reform. The election for the office of Secretary of State in the various states should be non-partisan; those actively engaged in campaign work should be barred from holding that position.

b. Use the voting system utilized by a good share of advanced countries (Canada, many in Europe and elsewhere) that makes fraud virtually impossible: paper ballots, hand-counted, with outside monitors and observers from each political party carefully checking the tallying of the votes. True, it takes a bit longer to get the final results, but everyone knows the vote is accurate and, equally as important, verifiable.

There is no integrity to our current voting system. The same few corporations that provide the voting machines, in this case Republican-supporting companies, also provide the secret software; the companies' technicians often show up to "adjust" the machines and to provide last-minute "patches" to the vote-counting software; for the most part, no verifiable paper receipt is provided, even though these companies also manufacture ATM machines that automatically provide receipts. In addition, it has been demonstated how super-easy it is for any knowledgable hacker to gain access to the vote-counting computers, alter the software, and exit without even leaving a trace of the tampering.

In short, our system is badly broken, easily compromised, and probably has been manipulated in at least two of the three previous national elections. The only cure is to shut it down, and go back to paper ballots at least until the bugs and tampering possibilities are seriously dealt with and repaired. Unless we make our elections honest - with automatic prison terms for electoral felonies - none of our other initiatives will pay off fully.

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