15 February 2006

Excerpt: How to Steal an Election

Americans cling to an idealized image of our political integrity, but a look at how we run our elections tells a very different tale.

Andrew Gumbel, AlterNet
February 15, 2006

A few days before the November 2004 election, Jimmy Carter was asked what would happen if, instead of flying to Zambia or Venezuela or East Timor, his widely respected international election monitoring team was invited to turn its attention to the United States. His answer was stunningly blunt. Not only would the voting system be regarded as a failure, he said, but the shortcomings were so egregious the Carter Center would never agree to monitor an election there in the first place. "We wouldn't think of it," the former president told a radio interviewer. "The American political system wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standards, for several reasons."

What, after all, was to be done with a country whose newest voting machines, unlike Venezuela's, couldn't even perform recounts? A country where candidates, in contrast to the more promising emerging democracies of the Caucasus or the Balkans, were denied equal, unpaid access to the media? There were a number of reasons, in the sharply partisan atmosphere surrounding the Bush-Kerry race, to wonder whether campaign conditions didn't smack more of the Third World than the First. Every day, newspapers recounted stories of registration forms being found in garbage cans, or of voter rolls padded with the names of noncitizens, fictional characters, household pets, and the dearly departed. The Chicago Tribune, a paper that knows its voter fraud, having won a Pulitzer for its work on the infamous Daley machine, found 181,000 dead people on the registration lists of six key battleground states.

[...] It all seemed so strange. Until the Florida meltdown of 2000, conventional wisdom would have had us believe the machinery of American democracy ran smoothly and peacefully, that victors played fair, and that the vanquished conceded graciously. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, it was open season for frauds, manipulators, corrupt election officials, dishonest voting machine manufacturers, bully-boy winners, and paranoid sore losers. Where did they come from so suddenly?


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