Category Archives: Elections

Dump the Dems 4: What Would It Take to Rescue the Democratic Party?

Alright, we’ve laid the groundwork, examined the dilemma, and heard the two main sides of the argument. The time has come to ask practical questions about what can, if anything, be done.

$$$

Whichever side of this debate they come down on, I think everyone agrees that the core of the problem is $$$.

The stranglehold maintained by the relative minority of Democrats in the Democratic Leadership Council and the Blue Dog Alliance is made possible primarily by the overwhelming superiority of the GOP $$$campaign donor$$$ advantage over the past 25 years. The GOP, which represents and is employed by Corporate America, has enjoyed a 3 or 4-1 advantage in fund-raising for national and state-wide campaigns. A LOT of that money has gone into Rovian attack ads against Democratic candidates, as well as into outright efforts to sabotage likely Democratic voters and to steal close elections. For example, the paid Republican mob in Florida that intimidated Dade County election officials into cutting short their vote count were bought and brought there with RNC funds donated by corporations.

The DLC/BD Alliance has successfully made the argument to recalcitrant Dems that if they don’t want to go back to losing election after election, they have to be able to compete with the GOP monetarily. To do that, they have to present an agenda that is not unfriendly to potential corporate donors, and to do that, they have to dump their traditional concerns over labor rights, environmental issues, worker safety, and a host of other issues that had alienated corporate donors in the past.

The result of the Clinton success in the 90’s was to cement the power of the DLC/BDA in the party, pushing it further and further to the right until we now have a party that is, a majority of the time, philosophiocally indistinguishable from the GOP. It pushes the same agenda, it just doesn’t go as far as the Pubs are willing to go. The GOP is willing to dive off the cliff blindfolded; the Dems are only willing to push to the edge of the cliff, hoping it won’t collapse beneath them but otherwise doing nothing to move away from it or shore it up.

To rescue the Donkey party, therefore, first requires an all-out assault on the corporate-owned campaign financing system. In order for the Dems to return to who they used to be, there has to be a level campaign playing field, and as long as the rich own the Pubs, there won’t be…unless…we can manage to force public financing of campaigns on an unwilling and reluctant pair of political parties.

The most intensive of these efforts so far came in the 90’s with McCain-Feingold, but through compromise, tricks, and lengthy negotiation, the legislation was riddled with so many loopholes, exceptions, ifs, ands, and buts that by the time the vote came it was all but worthless. In the ensuing years, both parties, especially the GOP, simply ignored it or used one of its multiple loopholes to get around it.

If the Dems are ever to be Dems again, public financing of campaigns must become a reality and a strict limit placed on the raising of outside money by either party. I’m not going to go into the manifest benefits of forcing the parties to work with equal amounts of money, they’ve been repeated often enough that most of us know them by rote. Nor am I going to play devil’s advocate and repeat the myriad problems with enforcing such a law should we ever get one passed. Those are also too well known to need repetition.

What I am suggesting is that if we can’t pass and enforce a tough campaign finance reform law, there is ZERO chance that either party will EVER be anything other than a corporate subsidiary. With corporate $$$ dominating the campaigns and therefore the candidates and their campaign agendas, both will have to bow to corporate demands. To claim anything else is either hopelessly naive, naively impractical, or the result of blind denial of modern political reality.

The DLC/BD Alliance

When our liberal/progressive movement has succeeded in breaking the hold of corporate money on the election system, we’ll still be faced with breaking the hold of the DLC/BDA on the party. They aren’t going to go quietly. They have determined the course of the party for almost 2 decades from positions of power. They’re not going to let loose of that kind of power just because we don’t need them any more.

It will be necessary for us to work against the worst offenders – the Clintons, Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid, Silvestre Reyes, Jay Rockefeller, et al – possibly to the extent of supporting Republican challengers if Democratic challengers lose in the primaries. We MUST be prepared to take it that far and they must KNOW we will take it that far. Otherwise the DLC/BDA will simply undercut the efforts by insisting, as they have in the past and are doing right this minute, that we can be taken for granted because, you know, we have nowhere else to go.

This is a powerful argument. It tells lazy, cowardly politicians (and most who aren’t one are the other; many are both at once) that they don’t actually have to change anything they’re doing because there’s no real threat to their incumbency; that we are so anti-GOP that we won’t vote for a Pub against a Dem no matter how often that Dem votes with Pubs. Joe Lieberman is the Poster-Boy for that snake oil even as we speak. As long as that is what the Dems believe, it is the corporationsn they rush to placate, not us.

Unity

In order for any of this to happen, we will first have to forge a coherent strategy and an alliance of our own wherein liberal and progressive activists agree to put aside their differences and – most importantly – agree to concentrate, for the good of the country, on recognizing and supporting priorities that may result in the sidelining of their pet projects.

The Democrats simply will not respond to a demand for change from the left unless a formidable organization is behind it, ready to work against and vote against any Democrat who doesn’t support the Main Principles of the New Movement.

(Next: “What are the main principles?”)

Told Yah So – Evidence That the ’04 Election Was Stolen

In Rolling Stone, Robert Kennedy Jr wrote in June of ’06 that his study of the ’04 election had convinced him “that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people”.

Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) — more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio’s Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn’t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)

(emphasis added; numbers are citations attached to the original article)

The article produced something of a firestorm, with the Bush Admin hunkering down in fervent denial and the mainstream conservative press largely ignoring the survey that provided the evidence.

In this week’s RS (not online yet), Kennedy reports that Ohio’s new Sec of State, Jennifer Brunner, ordered an audit of the state’s e-voting machines by two independent teams of specialists. The results were even worse than she expected.

[The] teams…found that the terminals are so insecure they simply cannot be trusted. “There is the ability,” concludes Brunner, “to mount a wholesale attack on our voting system.”

Researchers were able to alter election results using only a magnet and a personal digital assistant. Forty percent of touchscreen machines manufactured by Diebold – now known as Premier –  flipped votes [overwhelmingly from Democrat to Republican as shown by the ’06 survey-MA], and one of the company’s machines erased votes without warning once its memory card was full. Even more alarming, electronic ballot counters could be rigged by poll workers to disregard votes without anyone knowing. “If that were done for just a few minutes every hour, you will have a vote total that doesn’t look too far off,” Brunner says. “Unless you did a hand count of every ballot, you’d never know it.”

(emphasis added)

All of which would pretty much explain the massive discrepancies Kennedy uncovered in ’06.

Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots — or received them too late to vote(4) — after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment — roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush’s victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)

Put what the audit discovered could be done with the machines together with what GOP operatives were actually caught doing – shredding Dem registrations, purging Dem voters, obstructing the vote in Dem districts, and the like – and a clear picture emerges of a stolen election, and stolen on a nationwide scale. Every battleground state seems to have had its Republican ops ready and willing to “play hardball” by breaking election laws wholesale on behalf of George W Bush and his Cult. With a GOP hack like Ken Blackwell Sec of State in Ohio in ’04, there seems to have been no check whatever on Republican dirty tricks.

For those who may say, “This is ancient history. The election is over. Why dig it all up now?” I say, “Neither party can be trusted and all those machines are still out there. If one side can rig an election, so can the other side. If one side goes unaccountable and unpunished, they will both be emboldened to do it again. Our democracy is on the ropes as it is. Do you want to kill it for good?”

Diebold changing its name is like a tiger pretending to be a zebra by adding a pair of pointy ears – a superficial disguise that will only fool the dumbest antelopes in the herd. If we are going to use evoting machines, we MUST have machines that leave a paper trail so ballots can be hand-counted if necessary (as bad as these machines are even when they aren’t being hacked, verified hand counts probably ought to be a regular part of the process).

Until and unless we do, our elections are not safe or reliable in the hands of either party.

If a Republican Wins, Head for Tierra del Fuego

I didn’t watch the GOP debate last night because there’s no point to it. They’ve established a pattern and it’s always the same: 2 or 3 of them get into a vicious fight over who’s most like a dictator, who’d violate the Constitution the most often, who’d break more laws, who’d give the oligarchs the most tax breaks, who’d torture more innocent people, who’d invade the most Muslim countries, and/or who’d make sure a maximum number of the poor would starve, freeze to death, and end up homeless, roaming the streets.

And just to be sure we’re clear, those aren’t attacks against their opponents. They’re boasting.

 

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So What Do WE Do About It? (Updated)

In a comment to the last post, Laura asks that and it’s a fair question.

What do you think WE can do? I realize optimism isn’t your strong suit, but since you write, I’ll assume you hope. Any strategies you might recommend…?

Of course. I’ve been sort of making tactical suggestions all along, piecemeal as it were, but maybe it’s time to put it all together and fill in the gaps.

First, I need to stress that there’s nothing magical about what needs to be done. It’s all obvious, fundamental shit, and it’s called “being a citizen”. Second, “hope” has nothing to do with it. I’m an analyst, basically. That’s how I think. As a reasonably capable analyst, I can assure you these tactics/strategies will almost certainly work – barring a military response that turns the US from a virtual dictatorship into an overt dictatorship, which is unfortunately possible but fortunately unlikely for a variety of reasons.

“Hope” has to do with a single question: Will enough people get off their asses to make a difference? My cynicism tells me they won’t, but I hope they will. eRobin, an activist and expert optimist thinks different.

The thing that gets me about us is that we as a nation do respond when challenged by our leaders. FDR did it. Kennedy did it. Even History’s Greatest Monster, Carter, did it and we set peak oil back a decade.

***

With the right leader, (our greatest sin is that we are dependent upon being led) we would rise to the challenge of universal single payer health care, global warming and the need to remake our economy and go green instead of turning into a nation of service workers.

Well, we don’t have real political leaders any more. We have, in both parties, corporate employees who are beholden to the corporatocracy that buys them with campaign money because of the way we insist on funding elections with private bucks, so the leaders are going to have to come from the bottom. From us. As I’ve said time and again lately, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. We’re on our own.

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Greg Palast: “The 2008 Election Has Already Been Stolen”

What a difference an “R” makes.

In talking to people around me and reading blog comments, I’ve realized that there’s a significant misunderstanding about our voting problems and it all revolves around a single letter: R.

People seem to think that the phrases “vote fraud” and “voter fraud” mean the same thing. They don’t. We need to clear that up before we can move on to the main business here – that the firing of the USA’s is about stealing the 2008 election.

Voter fraud: fraud perpetrated by voters. IOW, somebody pretending to be somebody s/he’s not or pretending to be eligible when s/he’s not. You know, like in Chicago in the old days when the Mayor’s Machine turned out hundreds of people who used phony documents to vote numerous times in the same election.

But that was in the pre-electronic days (almost the pre-electric days) when such things were not just possible but easy. Voter fraud hasn’t been a problem since the 50’s, pretty much, and recent investigations of suspected voter fraud turned up NOTHING. No evidence of a widespread movement. No evidence of a tiny organized cadre. No evidence. Period. As Royal Masset, the former political director of the Republican Party of Texas, put it in the Houston Chronicle, among Republicans it is an “article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections.” Not fact. Not proof. Certainly not on the basis of evidence. Faith.

Voter fraud simply doesn’t exist except in the paranoid ravings of rabid Republican extremists – you know, the people who run the GOP these days: Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, James Dobson, Karl Rove, the Texas Republican party, and everybody who reports to Karl Rove – which is, as we’ve been learning lately, pretty much everybody in the Bush govt.

Vote fraud (no “r”): fraud perpetrated on the voting process. IOW, an attempt – usually by a political party and its operatives – to subvert an election in order to obtain a victory they would otherwise not enjoy. IOOW, to steal it.

Unlike voter fraud, vote fraud is very, very real. The evidence isn’t just available, it’s overwhelming.

Which brings us to Greg Palast.

In an interview with the online zine BUZZFLASH’s Mark Karlin, Palast – who broke the story of the wholesale suppression of minority voting rights in Florida in 2000 – was asked if the 2008 election was going to be stolen and replied, “It already has been.”

The prosecutor firings were 100% about influencing elections — not about loyalty to Bush, which is what The New York Times wrote. The administration team couldn’t tolerate appointees who wouldn’t go along with crime. In the book I present the evidence that Karl Rove directed a guy named Tim Griffin to target suppressing the votes of African American students, homeless men, and soldiers. Nice guy. They actually challenged the votes and successfully removed tens of thousands of legal voters from the voter rolls, same as they did in 2000. But instead of calling them felons, they said that they had suspect addresses.

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What About That Paper-Trail?

Hoo-hah. Remember all that guff from Diebolt and Publican election officials that it was too complicated to provide a paper-trail from EVM’s (electronic voting machines)? That it couldn’t be done? After which they noted that printers could be installed by them for $3000? (When was the last time a basic printer cost that much? 1960?)Well, Black Box Notes has discovered–not that this is a surprise, exactly–that everything they said was–wait for it!–A LIE! That’s right, friends. None of it’s true. Here’s the proof:

AccuPoll designed their DRE voting system from the outset to feature a VVPAT, which allows voters to verify — via an immediately printed receipt — that their vote was accurately recorded at the time it is cast. As a result, AccuPoll’s VVPAT system fully empowers voters to independently ensure that their vote is correct at the time it is cast, allowing for an accurate recount and audit capability should the need arise. (emphasis added)

While I can’t find price info on site (not unusual, I’ve discovered), they claim to be competitive. And the printer’s built right in. Can’t be done, huh? AccuPoll has just met Federal qualification requirements and is open for business.

Take that, Wally!

Press Pass

This is a good one.

The Associated Press–you know them, they’re the ones who ran that fawning picture last week of Saint George wearing his halo?–in a report on the riots in Azerbaijan after a patently bogus election–

Western observers…cited instances of ballot-box stuffing, falsified vote counts and interference by unauthorized people in the voting and counting process. [What? Is that all?–m]

–in which a son replaced his autocratic-dictator father because Dad (you know him, too–he’s the one who likes to boil his political opponents alive while the family watches?) is in the US dying of terminal bestiality, described it this way:

Observers said the vote was marred by fraud.

“Marred by fraud.” Marred. Isn’t that cute? Not stolen, not ripped from their hands by force, “marred”.

Masters of understatement, those AP guys (for the record, the dispatch was written by Burt Herman).

Incidentally, while Aliev Pere is a despotic butcher whose everyday brutalities would make Saddam Hussein’s worst depredations pale into insignificance (and Aliev Fils isn’t much better), and who has for years been a rock-solid financial supporter of various terror organizations, strangely enough after all Junior’s talk about how such tyrants will never again be allowed to oppress their people, Azerbaijan is not–repeat NOT–on Wolfie’s “Invade” List. They’re not talking about it; they’re not even thinking about it.

Strange, isn’t it? Couldn’t have anything to do with the sweetheart deals Aliev gave American oil companies (like Chevron, Condi Rice’s old outfit) on the Baku fields, could it? After all, you don’t have to invade to control something you already practically own, do you?

Nah, that can’t be it. This is a principled Administration, just ask anybody. I’m sure the news of the destruction of a democratic election will galvanize our stalwart NWB’s to jump into their Ranger suits and ride to the rescue, just like they did in Iraq.

NOT.

EVoting Machines Fail to Count Democratic Votes

A number of people working on the question of electronic voting are starting to make their research and findings public. So far, it’s not a pretty story–or a reassuring one. According to Mark Crispin Miller, Rebecca Mercuri’s work on the California recall shows that significant numbers of ballots–close to 10%–were uncounted in heavily Democratic LA County, and a statistical analysis showed fairly conclusively that touchscreens were the worst:

The Sequoia Edge touchscreens, currently under litigation in Riverside County, performed slightly worse than the Datavote punchcards. The ES&S iVotronic touchscreens were ranked lowest of the three touchscreen types in the state, and were outperformed by all other systems with the exception of the Sequoia Optech optically scanned systems and the Pollstar and Votomatic punchcards. (emphasis added)

She concludes:

The rush to fully computerized ballot casting is misguided. Although supplemental technologies are needed for disabled voters, there is no clear evidence that touchscreen systems are substantially or consistently better for use by the general population than other voting methods. The fact that the touchscreens in California do not provide any way to perform an independent recount should make them less desirable than the paper-based systems that do have such capabilities. Counties, like San Francisco, that are doing well with optically scanned ballots, and the smaller ones that use punchcards effectively, should feel no pressure to modernize.

This is bad enough news for election officials who have planned changeovers to touchscreens–and thousands have, all over the country–but it gets worse.

An anonymous source Miller identifies only as “My friend in South Carolina” claims to have done what s/he calls a “number crunch” on the CA vote tallies which shows some surprising anomalies:

I ran a number crunch of CA counties that use Diebold machines to cast/count votes and found some weird figures that show a skim of votes from top candidates to people who were unlikely to affect the outcome.


It looks like, as one might expect, at the top of the list as if there is a slight variance from an even state wide distribution. However many ‘lower ticket’ candidates have vote totals that ONLY correlate with the use of Diebold equipment! I have included some names chosen at random from the result list that show that not all lower order candidates were used to receive skimmed votes. Note that Diebold’s counties are spread geographically over the whole of California.

If true, is this a just glitch in the program? Or a deliberate attempt by Diebold–a huge contributor to Republican coffers–to swing the vote?

Before we all get paranoid, I think it’s important to point out that, accurate or not, an anonymous statistical report raises as many questions as it may answer–like, why do it anonymously in the first place? As intriguing as the analysis may be, the fact that the analyst doesn’t wish to be known is somewhat suspicious. Grain o’ salt time.

If that’s all it was, we could probably relax. But it isn’t. An excellent article in The Independent shows the same types of anomalies in tightly contested races in Georgia:

Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. In a somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that Max Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two to five points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.Those figures were more or less what political experts would have expected in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to statewide office. But then the results came in, and all of Georgia appeared to have been turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship to the Republican, Sonny Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls. Cleland lost to Chambliss 46 per cent to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.

This is much more disturbing. Pollsters have honed their techniques to a fare-thee-well and can boast remarkably accurate election predictions for almost a solid decade. Now electronic voting machines enter the picture and suddenly polling has become wildly inaccurate? And it would seem that the machines are the only variable:

There were also big, puzzling swings in partisan loyalties in different parts of the state. In 58 counties, the vote was broadly in line with the primary election. In 27 counties in Republican-dominated north Georgia, however, Max Cleland unaccountably scored 14 percentage points higher than he had in the primaries. And in 74 counties in the Democrat south, Saxby Chambliss garnered a whopping 22 points more for the Republicans than the party as a whole had won less than three months earlier.Now, weird things like this do occasionally occur in elections, and the figures, on their own, are not proof of anything except statistical anomalies worthy of further study. But in Georgia there was an extra reason to be suspicious. Last November, the state became the first in the country to conduct an election entirely with touchscreen voting machines, after lavishing $54m (?33m) on a new system that promised to deliver the securest, most up-to-date, most voter-friendly election in the history of the republic. The machines, however, turned out to be anything but reliable. With academic studies showing the Georgia touchscreens to be poorly programmed, full of security holes and prone to tampering, and with thousands of similar machines from different companies being introduced at high speed across the country, computer voting may, in fact, be US democracy’s own 21st-century nightmare.

In many Georgia counties last November, the machines froze up, causing long delays as technicians tried to reboot them. In heavily Democratic Fulton County, in downtown Atlanta, 67 memory cards from the voting machines went missing, delaying certification of the results there for 10 days. In neighbouring DeKalb County, 10 memory cards were unaccounted for; they were later recovered from terminals that had supposedly broken down and been taken out of service. (emphasis added)

And the worst part is, the companies control the machines, not the public election officials. The report continues:

It is still unclear exactly how results from these missing cards were tabulated, or if they were counted at all. And we will probably never know, for a highly disturbing reason. The vote count was not conducted by state elections officials, but by the private company that sold Georgia the voting machines in the first place, under a strict trade-secrecy contract that made it not only difficult but actually illegal – on pain of stiff criminal penalties – for the state to touch the equipment or examine the proprietary software to ensure the machines worked properly. (emphasis added)

And Georgia was not alone this past election season:

There were other…[states with big last-minute swings in voting patterns] – in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and New Hampshire – all in races that had been flagged as key partisan battlegrounds, and all won by the Republican Party. Again, this was widely attributed to the campaigning efforts of President Bush and the demoralisation of a Democratic Party too timid to speak out against the looming war in Iraq.Strangely, however, the pollsters made no comparable howlers in lower-key races whose outcome was not seriously contested. Another anomaly, perhaps. What, then, is one to make of the fact that the owners of the three major computer voting machines are all prominent Republican Party donors? Or of a recent political fund-raising letter written to Ohio Republicans by Walden O’Dell, Diebold’s chief executive, in which he said he was “committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president next year” – even as his company was bidding for the contract on the state’s new voting machinery? (emphasis added)

Smelling a rat, some angry Georgian voters decided to investigate and discovered that their machines had never been certified–which was illegal–and had performed so badly (“erratically”, the article says) that Diebold had to write a patch to correct the problem. Instead of sending the patch out by disc, however, Diebold made the patch downloadable over the internet like a game or a screensaver. Anybody could access it. A breach of security so big it’s hard to overestimate. An Atlanta computer expert examined the code:

Roxanne Jekot, a computer programmer with 20 years’ experience, and an occasional teacher at Lanier Technical College northeast of Atlanta, did a line-by-line review and found “enough to stand your hair on end”.”There were security holes all over it,” she says, “from the most basic display of the ballot on the screen all the way through the operating system.” Although the programme was designed to be run on the Windows 2000 NT operating system, which has numerous safeguards to keep out intruders, Ms Jekot found it worked just fine on the much less secure Windows 98; the 2000 NT security features were, as she put it, “nullified”.

Also embedded in the software were the comments of the programmers working on it. One described what he and his colleagues had just done as “a gross hack”. Elsewhere was the remark: “This doesn’t really work.” “Not a confidence builder, would you say?” Ms Jekot says. “They were operating in panic mode, cobbling together something that would work for the moment, knowing that at some point they would have to go back to figure out how to make it work more permanently.” She found some of the code downright suspect – for example, an overtly meaningless instruction to divide the number of write-in votes by 1. “From a logical standpoint there is absolutely no reason to do that,” she says. “It raises an immediate red flag.”

And even this is not the worst news:

Most suspect of all was the governor’s race in Alabama, where the incumbent Democrat, Don Siegelman, was initially declared the winner. Sometime after midnight, when polling station observers and most staff had gone home, the probate judge responsible for elections in rural Baldwin County suddenly “discovered” that Mr Siegelman had been awarded 7,000 votes too many. In a tight election, the change was enough to hand victory to his Republican challenger, Bob Riley. County officials talked vaguely of a computer tabulation error, or a lightning strike messing up the machines, but the real reason was never ascertained because the state’s Republican attorney general refused to authorise a recount or any independent ballot inspection.According to an analysis by James Gundlach, a sociology professor at Auburn University in Alabama, the result in Baldwin County was full of wild deviations from the statistical norms established both by this and preceding elections. And he adds: “There is simply no way that electronic vote counting can produce two sets of results without someone using computer programmes in ways that were not intended. In other words, the fact that two sets of results were reported is sufficient evidence in and of itself that the vote tabulation process was compromised.”

Could this be deliberate vote manipulation? The Independent explains the concern this way:

If much of the worry about vote-tampering is directed at the Republicans, it is largely because the big three touchscreen companies are all big Republican donors, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into party coffers in the past few years. The ownership issue is, of course, compounded by the lack of transparency. Or, as Dr Mercuri puts it: “If the machines were independently verifiable, who would give a crap who owns them?” As it is, fears that US democracy is being hijacked by corporate interests are being fuelled by links between the big three and broader business interests, as well as extremist organisations. Two of the early backers of American Information Systems, a company later merged into ES&S, are also prominent supporters of the Chalcedon Foundation, an organisation that espouses theocratic governance according to a literal reading of the Bible and advocates capital punishment for blasphemy and homosexuality.The chief executive of American Information Systems in the early Nineties was Chuck Hagel, who went on to run for elective office and became the first Republican in 24 years to be elected to the Senate from Nebraska, cheered on by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper which also happens to be a big investor in ES&S. In yet another clamorous conflict of interest, 80 per cent of Mr Hagel’s winning votes – both in 1996 and again in 2002 – were counted, under the usual terms of confidentiality, by his own company. (emphasis added)

Whether or not fraud was deliberately perpetrated in any of these examples is almost beside the point. What’s important is that the electronic voting system is so insecure it practically issues an open invitation to abuse by anybody with a stake in the outcome and a knowledge of computer code, but most especially by the companies who control them to the exclusion of any public oversight through the use of these so-called “trade secrecy” agreements. Ms Jekot put it this way:

“Corporate America is very close to running this country. The only thing that is stopping them from taking total control are the pesky voters. That’s why there’s such a drive to control the vote. What we’re seeing is the corporatisation of the last shred of democracy.”I feel that unless we stop it here and stop it now,” she says, “my kids won’t grow up to have a right to vote at all.”

She’s wrong about that: they’ll maintain the right, it just may not mean anything if corporations control the outcome–and there is no way to have an independent check of the results.

Go to both sites and read it all for yourself if you value your citizenship and the democracy that gives it to you. Otherwise, there’s a chance you will lose both.