Stolen Elections and A Cure for America's Corruptible Voting System
November 6, 2012 Naomi Wolf / The Guardian & Harvey Wasserman / Ecological Options Network & The Free Press
Commentary: "By now, reams of solid reporting have documented the aberrations, high jinks, missing hard drives, voting machines that weirdly revert to one candidate, voting machines owned by friends of the candidate of one party, and other aspects of systematic corruption that attend America's voting."
A Cure for America's Corruptible Voting System Naomi Wolf / The Guardian UK
NEW YORK CITY (November 4, 2012) -- When I went to vote last week in New York City, using an absentee ballot (because I will be out of the country on election day), I had a surreal experience that was also very ordinary: I marked my ballot -- put it, as advised by the nice man behind the counter, into a sealed envelope, handed it to him and … nothing.
That is, he looked at me quizzically as I waited. For what? I realized that in every transaction I ever had with the government, I get some kind of receipt or documentation. But I had just handed over my most precious possession, my vote, and I had nothing to show for it. No scrap of paper noting for the record what I had done, and no way to verify that what I wished to do got recorded accurately.
The fellow offered, when I expressed some wish for something like this, to use my phone camera to take a picture of me holding the sealed envelope -- for proof I had voted. Seriously.
We treat the black hole where our votes vanish as if we don't dare to validate them partly because the process is so highly mystified. One aspect of this mystification, which gatekeepers use effectively against us, is the glamour around the secret ballot. That noble "secrecy" is what keeps citizen groups from observing the vote count, demanding verification slips, and so on.
The secret vote was, in its time, a great idea. Before the secret ballot was popularized, it was standard practice to intimidate and threaten voters. But few know that America hasn't always had secret ballots. Indeed, the secret ballot didn't even originate in the US -- the system we use is known, actually, as the "Australian ballot".
The majority of US states did not move to that system -- in which publicly-provided, printed ballots with the names of the candidates are marked in secret -- until after 1884. Until 1891, indeed, Kentucky still held an "oral ballot"; and it wasn't till the election of President Grover Cleveland in 1892 that the first US president was elected entirely via secret ballot.
Why do I point this out? Because our mystification of the secret ballot is one of the strange ways in which we treat our nation's voting system with truly weird magical thinking -- much like the magical thinking (about which I have written here) that often attends global warming: a defiant, seven-year-old's refusal to connect point A and point B.
By now, reams of solid reporting have documented the aberrations, high jinks, missing hard drives, voting machines that weirdly revert to one candidate, voting machines owned by friends of the candidate of one party, and other aspects of systematic corruption that attend America's voting.
The dogged and deeply patriotic Mark Crispin Miller has meticulously documented masses more of these examples -- notably in the last election in Ohio -- in his masterful Harper's essay last month, "None Dare Call It Stolen."
But this is what is weird about the way we are asked to think about the vote: as if nothing could ever ever ever go wrong with it, and as if it is crazy to entertain the notion that it might.
To even raise the issue, with solid documentation, as many reporters and citizens have found out, is to risk immediate mockery -- as Miller notes, citing 2004 headlines: "Election Paranoia Surfaces: Conspiracy Theorists Call Results Rigged," chuckled the Baltimore Sun on 5 November; "Internet Buzz on Vote Fraud is Dismissed," proclaimed the Boston Globe on 10 November; "Latest Conspiracy Theory -- Kerry Won -- Hits the Ether," the Washington Post chortled on 11 November.
Meanwhile, solid reporting on the war on voting, and on the corruption of the voting infrastructure, continues to mount, as in the Rolling Stone piece this summer on the GOP's "war on voting". and the Huffington Post notes the eyebrows raised when a pro-Romney company buys a stake in the company that makes the machines that count our votes.
Well, as a student of closing societies, I can tell you that it is crazy to ask Americans to have pure faith that the system is incorruptible, and to ask them to just drop their votes into a black hole and trust in the Lord -- or Diebold.
If you look at weak democracies, the oligarchies that have taken undue control of them always seek to tamper with the vote. It is important for oligarchs to have elections to give their guy a veneer of legitimacy -- and important for the vote always to turn out "their way".
Indeed, something that is never reported in major news media here is that former President Carter's voting accountability organization sees America's system as relatively flawed and corrupted compared with the systems of many other nations. That is a situation that would typically bring observers from aid organizations like his to our polling places to help us count our vote. (See what happened to foreign poll observers in Miller's Harpers story who tried to watch the vote in America.)
Here is my modest proposal: let us end the secret ballot, because we have reached a point, with the internet, in which transparency and accountability is more important than absolute secrecy.
Don't panic, because this is what I mean: your vote won't be publicly available, but why can't I get a number when I hand in my ballot, or when I vote in a machine -- just as I do with bloodwork, or computer passwords, or other transactions in which I get accountability, but not disclosure of my actual name? Then, the votes get tallied and posted -- with their corresponding numbers -- online on a public site, and major media reproduce the lists. And I can check my number (unidentifiable to anyone else) to check whether my vote was correctly registered.
This would allow, in one sweep, all citizens to watch the watchers. It does not compel anyone to reveal his or her vote -- but gives him or her the option of challenging a discrepancy, and the means to verify what he or she had actually intended to do.
And in one easy, inexpensive, technically feasible gesture, it takes the power away from the Diebold-type private corporations and the various parties and the officials, and allows actual verification that cannot be spun or falsified.
Most importantly, it removes a psychological blinder, which the American people are asked to wear every two and four years -- the blinder that infantilizes us, that has highly interested individuals and groups say to us, "we are impartial, this is a magically noble and incorruptible process: trust us."
As President Ronald Reagan put it in another context: sure -- trust, but verify.
Investigative reporter Harvey Wasserman lays out the ways in which the upcoming U.S. presidental could be stolen and what we can do about it.
Why Romney Has Already Won this Electronic Election, Unless... Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
(October 27, 2012) -- Electronically, this election is over. Mitt Romney has won.
The big loser is not Barack Obama, or the corporate Democratic Party. It is democracy itself.
Unless YOU act now, and are prepared to fight this out for years to come, whatever remains of American democracy is done.
No nation that suffers the theft of three out of four consecutive national elections can harbor the illusion that it is run by the will of its people.
Those who would have it otherwise must work from now to Election Day and beyond, to:
* Check your registration -- millions of us need to confirm that we are still registered voters and haven't been purged from the polls. You can do this by checking with your county board of elections either by phone or online, or by contacting you secretary of state’s office;
* Occupy the polling sites -- come out in droves on Election Day to guarantee that EVERY citizen can fairly vote. Make sure there is no voter intimidation or other repression of voting. Look for broken machines, proliferation of voters forced to vote provisionally, and other irregularities. If something happens to your vote, report it to us;
* Document the vote count -- help implement a national network of precinct-by-precinct monitoring systems to track as closely as possible the voter turnout as a check against the final tabulated electronic vote count. Take photos or video of the final precinct voting results posted at polling sites;
* Stop voting machine rigging -- Observe the polling stations to monitor which technicians come to "service" the electronic voting machines and how they do it. Take photos or video of them and their vehicles;
* Gear up now for post-election legal and direct action strategies to resist an electronic tally almost certain to be rigged on election night in at least nine swing states... or however many it may take.
Though all the pieces are in place, the GOP theft is not inevitable. But the realities are harsh and demanding:
* There are no meaningful, legally binding public checks and balances on the tabulation of votes cast electronically.
* Exit polling has proven accurate to within 1% of the vote -- the gold standard for detecting vote tampering in other countries such as Germany, which uses paper ballots. In the US, when exit polls don't match the vote count, there's no investigation into tampering. Exit polls are always "adjusted" late election night to conform to the ultimate "official" vote count, even though shifts in Ohio 2004 and elsewhere were virtually statistically impossible. This election, exit polling will not happen in 19 states.
* Despite an almost total blackout from the corporate media, the Romney family has a personal ownership (through the investment firms Solamere and H.I.G. Capital) in Hart Intercivic, which owns, maintains, programs and will tabulate alleged votes on machines in the critical swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado. Despite various official disclaimers, the election could be decided on Hart machines producing "vote counts" with little connection to how 18 million people actually voted.
* It is inconceivable that the Romney chain of ownership in Hart Intercivic will not influence how that goes. The story has gotten widespread circulation on the Internet, but has been ignored or dismissed by most of the corporate media and attacked by the Democratic Party.
Petitions at Moveon.org and elsewhere call for a Department of Justice investigation. Tens of thousands of citizens have signed on. But there is no legally binding way by which a professionally rigged electronic vote count can be overturned or even definitively discovered except through the use of unabridged but legally inconsequential exit polling.
* Scytl, a Barcelona-based e-voting company, has been contracted to count votes in 26 states through the easily rigged Federal Overseas Voting Program. FVAP is ostensibly geared to let military and other overseas Americans vote absentee by electronic means. But Scytl is positioned to intercept and redistribute such overseas electronic votes as needed through its spyware sister company, CarrierIQ. In a close race, these "votes" can be distributed at will to make the difference in critical swing states.
* Other key voting machine companies, such as ES&S, Dominion, Command Central and more, are controlled by major corporations, some of whose owners are outspoken in their support for the Republican Party. Such support is reminiscent of Diebold owner Walden O’Dell, whose election software and machines helped give George W. Bush a second term in 2004, as O’Dell promised.
* Republicans hold the governorships in the nine critical swing states of Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Arizona. They also hold the secretaries of state offices in all of those states but Wisconsin. Electronically flipping the vote count in any or all of them, with Hart Intercivic, Scytl, Dominion or other technologies, can be done quickly, simply and invisibly, with no public recourse.
* The GOP's systematic "high-tech Jim and Juan Crow" disenfranchisement of millions of Americans continues to lengthen the odds against a Democratic victory, with millions of citizens being deprived of their right to vote. These voter ID and other laws have been focused on disenfranchising Hispanics, Hispanics, African-Americans and others suspected of leaning to the Democrats.
* Though some of these laws have been turned back by the courts, Tea Party activists, True-the-Vote zealots and other Republicans will be at the polls to challenge voters they suspect of being likely Democrats. Many of these challenges will be illegal, but effective unless countered by the physical presence of election protection activists.
* At least one Virginia GOP operative has already been arrested for destroying voter registration forms in a tactic that would deprive citizens of their right to vote, as reported at BradBlog.com. Also, there is a criminal prosecution underway in Florida over the destruction of voter registrations.
* Republican-controlled election boards in Ohio are already deceiving potential voters with mailed misinformation about dates and locations for casting a vote. Such mailings were used throughout Ohio 2004 and elsewhere. Also, phone calls are being made to voters in order to mislead them on the day, time and location of voting.
There is much more. The idea that the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP's horde of billionaire backers would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to capture the White House and Congress but stop short of a few electronic key strokes is nonsensical.
Unfortunately, we cannot count on the Democratic Party to do much about this. Al Gore and John Kerry have said nothing about the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004. When the Free Press first broke many of the stories about the theft of the 2004 election, we were attacked first and most consistently by the Democratic Party, which hired a lawyer from the state's leading Republican law firm to attack our reporting.
This year, the Free Press is coordinating an on-the-ground monitoring of the vote in Hamilton County, where the election could be decided on Romney's own Hart Intercivic machines. Please contact us at freepress.org if you'd like to help or contribute. casting a vote.
Such mailings were used throughout Ohio 2004 and elsewhere. Also, phone calls are being made to voters in order to mislead them on the day, time and location of voting.
In the meantime, wherever you are, do all you can to turn the electronic tide. As Rev. Jesse Jackson has put it, "We can afford to lose an election. We can't afford to lose our democracy."
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored five books on election protection, including the new e-book WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA'S 2012 ELECTION? Freepress.org
Harvey Wasserman is author of HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES; SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and A GLIMPSE OF THE BIG LIGHT: LOSING PARENTS, FINDING SPIRIT, all at www.harveywasserman.com. He writes regularly on politics and the environment at www.solartopia.org and www.freepress.org.
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