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Enough Already: Do Androids Dream of Electronic Voting Machines?”


A blogumn by Jordan Weeks

2008 Election Special Pt. 2: Do Androids Dream of Electronic Voting Machines?”

“Yes, we can.”
— U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama

Believe me, I’m as hopeful as the next person that some kind of positive political sea-change will accompany this Presidential personnel change. And while I’m personally glad that Obama is the “new boss” and John McCain is not, I’m not sure that there’s all that much difference between how the two men would (will) be able to run the country. Or how each of them would be allowed to run the country.

For a long time now, and especially over the last eight years, people of uncommon influence and power have re-drawn the parameters of democracy in this country, and it is to the great financial benefit of certain deeply invested interest groups for those new parameters to stay where they are, or to get even more constricting, and for any and all newcomers (e.g., President Obama) to color within the lines of this new design.

In a capitalist society (of which I am in full favor), the power is where the money is, and I can’t think of anyone more financially powerful than people who control the flow and price of oil. As part of one of the most connected and wealthy oil-funded families in the world, George W. Bush, along with his cabinet of Constitution-ignoring bullies (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell) and their associates (Haliburton, Diebold, etc.), quickly established a precedent of self-interest and personal profiteering that all but obliterated government by and for the people. There’s been a lot of shadiness surrounding every political, military, and social move these guys have made since January 2001, not least of which has been the veritable hijacking of the very core of our democracy, the electoral process.

We now live in a country that is stocked to the gills with electronic voting machines – none of which provide printout receipt records of one’s vote, leaving the whole system wide-open to fraud and tampering. And upon examining some very basic facts, one encounters many more…let’s say striking problems with this method of ballot-casting.

For instance, there were around twice as many electronic voting machines in service in the 2004 U.S. presidential election as were employed in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. (One of many sources for this information is a documentary film called *Uncounted*, which I strongly suggest watching.) Now, one might rightly ask why would that be the case? There are a few plausible answers.

One especially cynical answer might be that the elections were rigged, but not rigged well-enough, and that since electronic voting machines are much more easily hacked (i.e., rig-able) than punch-card machines, the only way to guarantee a better-rigged election would be to greatly increase the number of electronic voting machines being used across the country.

I know – it’s totally implausible and whack-o. I mean – the government would never do anything so criminally duplicitous. (Kennedy. Watergate. Gulf of Tonkin.) I’m just saying, some folks have made these assertions.

Another, more conventional answer might be that as technology continued (and continues) to advance, it was just a matter of time before the old-fashioned lever-pulling, punch-card machines were ushered into obsolescence. “They were too labor-intensive,” that argument might claim of the old-fashioned machines – despite the fact that they’d been used to presumably trust-able effect in our country’s presidential elections for decades upon decades upon decades.

In November, a friend of mine went to his district’s voting location and was told he was not registered in this state (Pennsylvania). Funny that this is what a 22-year-old black man would encounter during an election of this magnitude in a pivotal swing-state, isn’t it? And at the very same location where he voted in the 2004 election and in the 2008 primaries without incident. He was then told that he could vote with a provisional ballot and, basically, that they’d figure everything out later.

(In the previous Presidential election, over 1,900,000 provisional ballots were cast. One-third of them were rejected and went uncounted.)

Fortunately, my friend called bullshit and, having been a youth senator in high school, knew whom to call to get a court injunction that very day so that he could cast a regular ballot in the district where he is legally registered. Which he then did.

There’s no reason to believe that the shady ballot-counting incidents that riddled the 2000 election and the voting-machine debacles that plagued the 2004 election have been rectified, or even addressed, and, therefore, no reason to believe that this year’s election was any more on-the-level than were the aforementioned.

I know people don’t wanna’ think about much less deal with this stuff. Believe me, I certainly don’t. But the country promised to each and every one of us in The Constitution is being pulled right out from under our feet while we’re watching Amercian Idol and Dancing with the Stars on our Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops, and posting ungodly amounts of personal information on MySpace, FaceBook, and Twitter, while we commute to jobs that we don’t want and which don’t even pay our living expenses.

PEACE. (And it’s SERIOUS.)


Democracy DIES BOLDly Comic: Casey Hussein Bisson (click on image to enlarge)