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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Corrupt Election Practices Continue to Put U.S. Democracy at Risk

An Election Day message:

At the core of democracy is the idea that citizens can vote, and their votes will be counted. Unfortunately, for at least the past six years, that lofty ideal seems to be at variance with reality. This year, the election is in process as I write this--and the number of posts crossing my desk that raise serious concerns about the validity of the process is just plain shocking.

You want examples? I'll give you examples from five different states (note that I'm not passing judgment of the accuracy of these claims, which I have not personally investigated--but it does raise a whole lot of suspicion):
  • Virginia: dirty tricks include fliers that tell voters to skip the election, calls to registered voters falsely informing them that their poling place is changed or that they are not allowed to vote. Oh yes, and how about ballots that make it almost impossible to vote for the Democratic candidate for Senator.
  • Ohio: a spurious telephone poll that accuses the Republican gubernatorial candidate's opponent of hiring a child molester--on behalf of the same candidate who, as Secretary of State, has presided over the disenfranchisement of some 500,000 likely Democratic voters
  • Maryland: Report on security flaws in election machines was apparently sanitized by the company's own executives and hidden from governmental authorities
  • California: The most widely used voting machine has a button that allows multiple votes--although election officials say they've trained poll workers to watch for suspicious behavior or extra beep tones (hard to imagine how that will work in a busy, crowded, noisy poling place, however)
  • Nevada: A Reno voter had to sue a voting machine manufacturer on the grounds that her vote wasn't being recorded or counted (this quote is from her press release; the link is to the official complaint)

  • the Wyle
    Laboratory December 2004 test results of the AVC Edge with VeriVote printer that she
    and other Washoe citizens and most of Nevada voted on in 2004; and will again in 2006. Wyle tested the machines for reliability and certified the AVC machine suitable for Nevada voter use. Axelrod says Wyle’s operational, test and evaluation records reveal that test machines “ failed to operate when subjected to electrical surge, electromagnetic radiation and electrostatic discharge; overall standard reliability testing failed at 4, 8, and 10 hours causing the machine to lock up; VeriVote printers slipped out of alignment and/or repeatedly jammed and stopped printing even though the machines read “Printing Ballot Selections; and VeriVote Printing paper folded up on itself accordion style”. Axelrod also says, “Wyle engineers found that, “ongoing review of individual VeriVote paper receipts produced during testing show that a font size change had occurred on multiple occasions which in turn caused some of the information on the printer receipt to be found missing.” Axelrod also says that, “Wyle Laboratory suppressed and failed to print out VeriVote serial number data of machines under test so that printed rolls could not be traced back to the specific machine from which the voter receipts were printed.

    There's more--a lot more than these five states. But that's enough for now.

    Democracy: an idea whose time has the U.S., too.


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