Republicans prepare to rig election?
In West Virginia the vote-flipping scandal, initially seemingly confined to one county, is now spreading to other counties and states. Having started in Jackson county, and is now spreading to Puttnam and Martinsburg counties, and even South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee: In West Virginia, voter Nancy Roe said she clicked on all her choices — including two candidates for Bluffton Town Council. But when she reviewed her selections before actually casting the ballot, she noticed that her two picks for the Bluffton Town Council did not register. Her husband had the same problem.With the assistance of a Hilton Head employee, the two attempted to re-cast their ballots. Again, it didn’t work.They resolved the problem by casting paper ballots for the council race, Nancy Roe said.”I’m real political, so I checked the ballot,” she said. “If I had only given it a quick glance and punched ‘vote,’ I never would’ve known.” The Charleston Gazette is reporting “Some early W.Va. voters angry over switched votes….three West Virginia voters complained that touch-screen machines in one county clerk’s office kept switching their votes from Democratic to Republican candidates.On Thursday, the Gazette reported that despite the problems in her state, Republican West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland, who selected the Omaha, Neb.-based ES&S machines, issued a response that she has confidence “the machines will provide West Virginia with a fair, accurate and clean election.”. ES&S spokesperson Ken Fields told the Mineral Wells Index by phone Thursday.“In each case, when they notified a poll worker, the poll worker was able to help voters select and ultimately cast their vote,” he added.“Every voter is required to review their selection. Voters have to review and confirm that the machine is highlighting the selection they intended,” he added, calling the machine’s ballot review process, “an important element and one more assurance that every voter can have.”“There was no indication there was any problem with the machines,” Fields concluded about the West Virginia machines. He further pointed out that the iVotronic machines have a paper backup and said each machine is “rigorously tested by independent testing experts” before leaving the company and calibrated and tested before each election. Jones said she spoke with Smith about the problems with the machine she used at the Palo Pinto County Courthouse.“Bobbie was upset at the situation when she called back,” said Jones. “She told me, ‘We had all kinds of trouble the last time we used these machines.’ She said she would call the vendor right away and they will come fix it.”“I said, ‘You need to stop using that machine right now,’” Jones added.”
Some might be tempted, from ideological bias or complacency, that this problem is localised and not representative of what will happen nationally, but I beg to differ. —At least two Palo Pinto County, Texas residents say they too experienced early voting problems when the touch-screen voting machines they used kept switching their straight-party vote from Democratic to Republican.“When I cast an early vote Wednesday at Palo Pinto County Courthouse, my vote was switched from Democrat to Republican right in front of my face — twice,” reported Lona Jones, a Precinct 1 county resident.Intending to vote straight party on the Democratic ticket, Jones said she was surprised Wednesday when the electronic voting machine “on the left as you face the machines” in the courthouse basement asked her if she wanted to cast her vote for a straight Republican ticket.Thinking she had pushed the wrong button the first time the machine “came up Republican,” Jones said she repeated her intended straight-party vote.“The second time I was sure to just touch the Democratic button,” she said, further reporting that the machine responded to her selection, “’Do you want to change your Republican straight ticket vote to a Democratic vote?’ I pressed, ‘Yes,’ then it came back up and it was a total Republican ticket again.”One election judge helped her cancel her vote and switch her to the machine on the right side, where she was able to cast her vote as she intended.“One of the ladies told me, ‘These machines don’t work well’ and, ‘These machines give us problems.’ I told her I not only didn’t want to use that machine, indicating the problematic first machine, I didn’t want anyone using that machine.”When Jones returned home, she made calls — first to County Clerk Bobbie Smith who was out of the office conducting early voting in Mineral Wells — then to other elected officials. In Tennessee some voters even claimed that the ES+S DREs even switched their votes the other way around – from McCain to Obama. But there’s no escaping the fact that 99% of the time with these e-voting glitches, it’s the Democrats who are suffering, and that can only give rise to understandible, and probably justified, suspicions that once more, the GOP are stealing an election.
In my personal opinion, as a former enthusiast for electronic-voting here in Ireland, these revelations should not be used – as many inevitably will – to bash the principle of introducing e-voting here in Ireland. If there are lessons to be learned from this debacle for us in Ireland, it is surely that the counting of the votes, and the management of the elections themselves, needs to be divorced from partisan political-figures, something that is manifestly not the case in the US. The rigging of American elections arguably handed the presidency to 3 Republicans (Ruther B Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and probably George W Bush too). As the former two elections, in 1876 and 1886 obviously precede electronic-voting, it cannot, on its own, be blamed for the unhappy tradition of voter disenfranchisement and suppression in the United States. But it certainly proves Lenin’s point that what matters is who counts, rather than who votes, in an election. The number of counties in the swing states using the ES+S DRE voting-machines are as follows: Colorado: 2, Indiana: 16 (10 as backups), Ohio: 9 (1 as backups), Pennsylvania: 23 (1 backup), West Virginia: 41 (9 backups), Virginia: 5, Wisconsin: 2 as backups, North Carolina: 37. And this doesn’t even include the innumerable number counties using ES+S optical-scanners that ‘count’ paper-ballots. Of course voter-fraud is not confined to countries using e-voting. But it certainly becomes much easier without an audit-trail, and in Pennsylvania, much of Virginia and Indiana, there will be none in this election. The election could be stolen and the probability of it being proven in court is infinitessimal. The American electoral-system is dominated by elected Secretaries of State in each of the 50 states, who are normally elected. In the case of West Virginia, Texas and South Carolina, the 3 states referred to in paragraph one, the holders of that position, Betty Ireland, Hope Andrade and Mark Hammond respectively, are all Republicans, just like Katharine Harris in the scandalous 2000 US Presidential Election in Florida. The Help America Vote (Republican) Act 2002, puts these kinds of officials more in the driving-seat of elections at state-level by requiring them to centralise electoral-registers at state level. In Ohio, which no Republican has been elected president without winning, the Republicans are trying to bully the Democratic Secretary of State to throw 200,000 supposedly ‘potentially fraudulent’ voters off the register. The House Minority Leader, John Boehner, has written a leader calling for the US Justice Department to investigate the 200,000 registrations. So we shouldn’t be too surprised if Bush intervenes to try to force Secretary Brunner to submit to the GOP’s demands. Anecdotal evidence suggests many of the registrants that do not match federal records are not fraudulent by a result of misspellings. In Montana, a state GOP official challenged nearly 6,000 voters living in Democratic strongholds who filed change of address forms with the U.S. Postal Service. Registrations must contain current addresses. After the Montana Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit challenging the request, the state party backed down. In Michigan, the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign sued the Michigan and Macomb County Republican parties after learning of an alleged Republican plan to use foreclosure filings to keep some residents who’ve failed to update their address from voting. The suit settled last week and the information will not be used. Clearly the GOP is going back to its old tricks of trying to disenfranchise minority-voters – especially African-Americans – 90% of whom vote Democratic in presidential elections. Given the disaster of Iraq and impending war with Iran, the Republicans disdain for the fight against global-warming, and the importance to the survival of Western democracy of a fair election in the United States, the world can but hope this time they are not successful.