January 28, 2003

Upgrade to VoterFraud 3.0

Once upon a time, no one could conceive the extent to which a presidential election could be thrown in disarray. If the campaign of 2000 proved anything, however, it was that even Don Corleone would blush at the extortion inherent in the Florida fiasco. Those who currently enjoy the spoils of such a spoiled recount have vowed to end the potential for such corruption; improved technology means much better ways of cheating. Goodbye, Chad and Madame Butterfly—say hello to VoterFraud 3.0!

Computer-assisted voting, already up and stumbling in several states and districts, is currently being touted as the wave of the American future. Two reasons voters in general like the new technology are 1) it is simple and straightforward and 2) Microsoft apparently has very little to do with it. But hold on one hot minute—it seems that the computer booths come packaged with more baggage than a Reagan family reunion.

For starters, computer voting booths do not leave a so-called “paper trail” by which election results can be verified. Not only does this not bode well in instances of electoral dispute, but it also renders the climax of Chris Farley’s classic political documentary “Black Sheep” unbearably obsolete. Further rubbing salt into democracy’s gaping wound is accompanying legislation in some areas that disallows independent viewing or investigation of the devices’ programming codes. But of course, Republican-worshipping tech firms such as Diebold have absolutely nothing to hide.

The computer vote tabulators, which become mandatory for all states for the 2008 election (gee, I wonder why), have already shown just how many upgrades they need. In the November mid-term elections, several candidates—all Republicans—won local races by garnering exactly 18,181 votes. In one memorable instance, a Texas election (declared by the computer to be a landslide for the Republican candidate) turned out upon further examination to be an easy win for the Democrat. The discrepancy was discovered when the computer’s given result did not jibe with either its own data or exit polling.

Tellingly, the exit poll pros at the Voter News Service were largely excluded from this past go-round, and will likely become less and less relevant. Given the sterling reputation and historical importance of the VNS, the Republican push for less exit polling is suspect. This can only be attributed to protecting the combination of bizarre mathematics and rigged machinery that always seems to favor the GOP.

Here in Louisiana, these little touch screens of wonder will replace the voting levers that have given the state one of the most reliable voting systems in the country (no, I am not making that up). With computers in every precinct, Louisiana will regain some of the corruptive edge that it has been lacking for quite a Long time.

A professor I once interviewed contended that voting should never be conducted online; even if the technology were foolproof, he said, voting over the Internet takes away the aspect of participating at a local polling place. To that I would add that, even at the polls, touching a screen does not exactly give one peace of mind regarding the validity of the vote. In happier times, it was hard enough feeling secure about using the self-checkout touch screen at Super Kmart. But just because the technology left you scratching your head over your Hot Pockets doesn’t mean it can’t be trusted with your vote. Tell yourself that over and over.

What can you do to ensure that your vote will count in the screen age? Simply ask for a paper ballot, to which the law entitles you. Save computer voting for those all-important instant polls.

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