Friday, March 04, 2005

Rigging the Vote Until Doomsday -- and Beyond 

Via our distinguished colleague Sukabi at All Spin Zone: The House has been tweaking its Doomsday Bill (the one that establishes procedures for special elections in the event of a massive attack on Washington that wipes out a hundred or more Congressmen), and two representatives, John Conyers of Michigan, and Maxine Waters of California, had the bad taste to propose an amendment requiring that the special elections be run fairly -- more fairly, anyway, than Ken Blackwell ran the 2004 elections in Ohio. Here, from the House website, is the amendment:
MINIMUM REQUIRED VOTING SYSTEMS AND POLL WORKERS IN POLLING PLACES USED IN SPECIAL ELECTIONS. In carrying out special elections under this subsection, each State shall provide for the minimum required number of functioning and accurate voting systems and poll workers required in each precinct used on the day of the election, using a uniform and nondiscriminatory geographic distribution of such systems and workers based on a ratio of the number of systems and workers per voter, taking into account voter registration statistics for the precinct, the most recent available census data regarding the number of individuals residing within the precinct who are eligible to register to vote, and the level of voter turnout during previous elections held in the precinct."
And here's John Conyers introducing it:
Mr. Speaker, my motion to recommit would simply require that each State provide a minimum required number of functioning and accurate voting machines and poll workers for each precinct on the day of any special election. I do this and offer the amendment so that we can avoid the misallocation of voting machines and poll workers that occurred last year in the Ohio Presidential election that led to lines of sometimes 10 hours and disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters.

Consider the following: in Franklin County in that State, 27 of the 30 wards with the most machines per registered voter showed majorities for Bush while six of the seven wards with the fewest machines delivered the large margins for KERRY. They also found that election officials in Franklin County decided to make due with 2,868 machines even though their analysis showed that 5,000 machines were needed. In Columbus alone it is estimated that the misallocation of machines reduced the number of votes by up to 15,000 votes.

There is also an investigation that revealed the Franklin County election officials reduced the number of election voting machines assigned to downtown precincts and added them to suburbs. They used a formula based not on the number of registered voters but on past turnout. In the Columbus area, the result was that suburban precincts that supported Mr. Bush tended to have more machines per registered voter than those in the inner-city precincts that supported Mr. Kerry.

The Election Protection Coalition testified that more than half the complaints about the long lines they received came from Columbus and Cleveland where a huge proportion of the State's Democratic voters lived.

This should never happen again in an election in our Nation. It is unconscionable to stack the deck so that Americans are forced to wait in the rain in line while others are given the red carpet treatment.
Final vote: Ayes 196 (195 Democrats, 1 Independent); Noes, 223 (all Republican).

Admittedly the bill has to do with special elections, so the amendment would only have applied under certain restricted circumstances. But if Republicans in Congress really do believe that Bush carried Ohio fair and square, shouldn't they be offering, at the very least, a little lip service to the concept of equal-opportunity, level-playing-field voting?

Moral: when the system is broken to your advantage, don't fix it.

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