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Sunday, June 13, 2004

All Your Treasonous Felony Atrocity Are Belong to Us 

One of the things I admire most about our Republican betters is their ability to work themselves into a state of high moral dudgeon over something as simple and basic to democracy as the desire for an accurate vote count. If you point out, for example, that electronic voting machines are demonstrably insecure and have a long, wretched history of fucking up in the field, you are plainly engaging the basest sort of partisanship and may be mentally ill to boot. The shaking fists and flying spittle that traditionally accompany such denunciations are meant to distract you from wondering why any politician of any party would support the use of a voting system that's demonstrably insecure and prone to fuckups in the field; as I'm sure you've already figured out, the possible answers to that question are all unflattering.

You'll see the President's Smarter Brother in full lather in this report from Florida, where legislation mandates a manual recount in close elections -- a mandate that (obviously) cannot be met when votes are cast electronically, with no paper trail:
Much of that uncertainty centers on the security of the new electronic voting machines. With no paper ballots to analyze for voter intent, skeptics ask, how is it possible to do recounts?

Gov. Jeb Bush has often characterized the controversy as being fanned by Democrats trying to anger voters into coming to the polls to defeat his brother, President George W. Bush. Indeed, lawsuits against the systems in Florida have come from Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton.

But the entry of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters into the fray - as well as recent delays by some states in implementing the technology until questions are answered - indicates the issue goes beyond partisan politics.

"A lot of it comes from the computer science and academic fields. It's being asked all over the country," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "Is there a partisan edge to it? Of course. Democrats, by and large, believe they were cheated out of the presidency in 2000, so they are suspicious - suspicious to the point of paranoia."

Of the major touch-screen system vendors, Diebold, of North Canton, Ohio, has been especially controversial. That is partially because its CEO, Walden O'Dell, is a Bush "Pioneer" who has raised more than $100,000 for the president's re-election campaign.

The Florida Division of Elections certified its first electronic system by Diebold Elections Systems last month - just as California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley banned a Diebold system in four counties and asked for a criminal investigation because Diebold changed its computer codes without notifying the state.

"I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year," O'Dell wrote in a 2003 memo inviting Bush supporters to a fund-raiser.

O'Dell has since said he meant he would personally support the president, not through his voting-machine company, adding that would be a "treasonous felony atrocity."
This article from the AP wire offers a new angle on the recent resignation of Florida elections chief Ed Kast:
Touchscreen voting machines in 11 counties have a software flaw that could make manual recounts impossible in November's presidential election, state officials said . . . .

The machines, made by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., fail to provide a consistent electronic "event log" of voting activity when asked to reproduce what happened during the election, state officials said.

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., has asked state Attorney General Charlie Crist to investigate whether the head of the state elections division lied under oath when he denied knowing of the computer problem before reading about it in the media. A spokeswoman for Crist said he was reviewing the request.

The elections chief, Ed Kast, abruptly resigned Monday, saying he wanted a change of pace.

During a May 17 deposition for a lawsuit Wexler filed seeking to require a paper trail for state voting machines, Kast said he had recently heard of the problem only days earlier. But in a letter to Crist, Wexler said the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a citizens' group, notified Kast and Secretary of State Glenda Hood of the glitch in March.

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