Faking Democracy - Americans
Don't Vote, Machines Do And Ballot Printers Can't Fix That!
By Lynn Landes, April 6,
(Posted here by Wes Penre for
Illuminati News, April 7,
will produce 99.4% of the election results for the upcoming 2004
presidential election. With all the hoopla over voting machine "glitches,"
porous software, leaked memos, and the creepy corporations that sell and
service these contraptions, and with all the controversy that surrounds
campaign financing, voter registration, redistricting issues, and the
general privatization of the election process - we are missing the boat on
the biggest crisis facing our democracy.
Americans aren't really voting. Machines are. Call it faking democracy.
And no one seems to be challenging it. As far as I can tell from my own
investigations and from discussions with law professors, attorneys, and
others, there has never been a lawsuit that challenges the right of machines
to be used in the voting process. Recent lawsuits that have been filed by
Susan Marie Webber of California and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) are
based on verification. The plaintiffs want voting machines to produce paper
ballots so that voters can verify that the machine's output matched their
input. They also want paper ballots for manual audits and recounts.
But these lawsuits, as well as proposed legislation in Congress from
Congressman Rush Holt and Senator Bob Graham, leave voting machines in
control of election results. The public is being offered a set of false
choices - paperless touchscreen voting machines or touchscreen machines with
ballot printers. Machine-free elections are not on the menu.
Part of the reason may be that people believe the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
requires states to use voting machines. It does no such thing, not even for
the disabled. Anther reason the machine-free option is not widely discussed
is the popular misconception that people will not "go back" to paper
ballots. But they already have. Absentee voting continues to grow in
popularity despite real security problems with the chain of custody of the
It is particularly confounding to this writer that our foremost legal
scholars and political scientists have yet to address this issue. Instead, a
bold band of tech heads are leading a charge against paperless voting
machines. But, they are not looking at the broader Constitutional issues.
Being technical, they're calling for a technical fix - ballot printers.
The only fix that will give Americans back their constitutional right to
vote is to ditch the machines.
In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court said that a "legal vote" is one in which
there is a "clear indication of the intent of the voter." Voting machines
(lever, optical scan, touchscreen, the Internet, etc.) produce
circumstantial evidence of the voter's intent, at best. Think of voting as a
three-step process: marking, casting, and counting ballots. Once a machine
is involved in any one of those steps, the result is hard evidence of the
machine's output and circumstantial evidence of the voter's input.
Many activists are calling for ballot printers, hand counts, and strict
audits to ensure honest election results. That will not fix the problem of
using voting machines. Voting rights are for people, not machines. The
voting process must be transparent in order for voting rights to be
enforced. Machines are not transparent.
When voting machines are used, critical parts of the Voting Rights Act can't
be enforced. Under Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.Code §1973f,
Federal Observers are authorized to observe "... whether persons who are
entitled to vote are being permitted to vote ...(and) whether votes cast by
persons entitled to vote are being properly tabulated..."
Under "Prohibited acts" in §1973i, the "Failure or refusal to permit casting
or tabulation of vote"...can result in civil and criminal penalties. "No
person acting under color of law shall fail or refuse to permit any person
to vote who is entitled to vote...(and) Whoever...knowingly and willfully
falsifies or conceals a material fact... shall be fined not more than
$10,000 or imprisoned not more than five year, or both."
- Voting machines violate those provisions.
Vote casting and tabulation take place inside of a box. Federal Observers
can't observe "... whether persons who are entitled to vote are being
permitted to vote ...(and) whether votes cast ...are being properly
tabulated.." Voting machines by their very design "conceals a material
Although, Susan Marie Webber and Congressman Wexler are suing to force
states to require manufacturers to attach ballot printers to voting
machines, the resulting ballot would still be only circumstantial evidence
of the voter,s intent. It's been predicted by election officials (and it
makes common sense, to boot) that many voters won't bother to verify their
ballots. In which case, who is to say if the vote cast matched the voter's
intent? Some will say that it's the voter's responsibility to verify their
ballot, but that view misses the point. Why should people verify the work of
a machine? That puts the voter playing second fiddle to technology. Whose
right to vote is it?
The contention that voters too often don't fill out ballots properly or the
elections officials too often don't count correctly is not born out by the
facts, but is moot, regardless. Again, the right to vote and to observe your
vote counted properly can belongs to people, not machines.
Consideration of time and convenience is another red herring in this debate.
Those issues have simple no-tech solutions, anyway. If officials want a fast
ballot count then they can limit the size of the voting precincts or
increase the number of election officials. If more elections officials are
needed they can be drafted into public service as is done all year around
for jury duty. Likewise, voters who don't understand English could order
ballots in their own language in advance of an election.
Voting machines have been marketed as 'assisting voters' (i.e., President
Bush's Elections Assistance Committee), rather than what they really do,
which is to interfere with a citizen's right to vote. It's particularly
galling to see the needs of the disabled voters used to force voting
machines down the throats of the electorate. The simple ballot template,
which is used in Rhode Island, Canada, and around the world, allows the
blind to vote privately and independently, or as independently as possible.
Actually, when the disabled use voting machines they certainly are not
voting independently. They are relying on the machine to vote for them, just
like able-bodied voters.
It's insane when you think about it. Using machines in elections. Yet, we've
been doing it since 1888. How can Americans be so naive? How can we
surrender our precious right to vote to some hunk of junk and so few people
seem to notice or to care? How can we call ourselves a democracy?
It is painful to think that as African Americans intensified their struggle
for the vote in the 1960's, voting machines were already in widespread use
and perfectly positioned to control election results, and according to some
accounts, were already doing so. Just imagine how the Iraqi people would
react if the U.S. government told them that their elections will be
electronic and that Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, and Microsoft will
provide the machines and the software they run on? Exactly. The Iraqis would
burn the place down, some more.
Yet, here we Americans go again. Not connecting the dots. Shooting at the
wrong target. Attaching printer machines to the voting machines that don't
belong there in the first place. Asking voters to verify a machine's output,
leaving the voter's input indirect and in doubt.
I wonder what the United Nations think about a country that fakes democracy?
They probably already know.
* * *
- Lynn Landes is one of
the nation's leading journalists on voting technology and democracy issues.
Readers can find her articles at <http://www.ecotalk.org/>EcoTalk.org. Lynn
is a former news reporter for <http://www.dutv.org/>DUTV and commentator for
the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Contact info:
/ (215) 629-3553
* This information was originally found here:
Wednesday, April 07, 2004 05:12:34 -0700