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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Risk of Fraudulent Election "Extremely High"

Despite recent calls for unity, it's impossible to overlook Mr. Bush's past abuses -- particularly since evidence of vote fraud and tampering have yet to be addressed from the last election -- and early warnings about this one have already proven prescient.

Of course, this time, international monitors were dispatched across the country, while thousands of lawyers and more than 1,200 filmmakers traveled to Florida and Ohio to catch signs of voter fraud and corruption.
But, while hacking is not the sort of activity that's readily caught on tape, old-fashioned ballot pilfering is and photos of possible nefarious activity in Ohio made their way to the Internet Wednesday morning. But larger questions of fraud centered mostly on inconsistencies in electronic voting machines -- discrepancies that many had come to expect. Stanford computer specialist David Dill, for example, told Newsweek that the risk of a stolen election was "extremely high," while exit polls raised suspicions that Zogby and the Washington Redskins had gotten it right after all.

The White House, you might recall, discounted early exit polls which showed Kerry winning because they were too heavily skewed by heavy female turnout. Yet Bush supposedly won the election largely thanks to support of married women in the suburbs. Wouldn't the early female vote count in his favor, then? Who was more likely to be voting during the day? Working women or so-called "security moms"?

Coup D'etat?

"First of all, this election was definitely rigged. I have no doubt about it." -- Mark Crispin Miller, Salon.com, Nov. 4, 2004

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an editorial which touched upon the risks associated with voting via computer. "For voters to trust electronic voting, there must be a voter-verified paper record of every vote cast, made public so it can be widely reviewed," the Times noted, calling for other democracy-ensuring changes, including measures to make certain that voting roll purges are "accurate and transparent" and that election administrators are "impartial."

In 2000, however, when journalist Greg Palast uncovered the shameful Database Technologies voter roll purge in Florida, the Times refused to carry the story. A little more than three years later, however, the paper admitted: "In 2000, the American public saw in Katherine Harris’s massive purge eligible voters in Florida, how easy it is for registered voters to lose their rights by bureaucratic fiat." Why didn't they publish this information when it might have done some good?

By now, most fair-minded folks realize that the 2000 Florida debacle involved deliberate disenfranchisement of voters and massive civil rights violations and that because of Katherine Harris's efforts, America crowned the wrong king. This time, with all eyes on Ohio, people are wondering: Could it be that the wrong guy once again occupies our White House?

Between iffy e-voting, voter purges, deliberate disinformation, voter intimidation "spoilage" and other kinks, democracy has taken a direct hit. "Web wonders if electronic voting machines stole the election," Slate announced early on, as election day oddities were being reported across the country -- with this election's two most important states, Ohio and Florida leading the way.

While more is sure to come, one week out of the gate, some eyebrow-raising pieces of information have already surfaced:

Before the election, Greg Palast described "ethnic cleansing of voter rolls" and other odious measures to yank as many as a million votes from John Kerry before voting even began – and later bluntly asserted: "Kerry won. Here are the facts"

Citing "new information" suggesting "that hackers may have targeted the central computers that are counting our votes," http://blackboxvoting.org/ is conducting "the largest Freedom of Information action in history" and has already asserted, based on "hard evidence" that "fraud took place in the 2004 election through electronic voting machines." (While a guest on Topic A With Tina Brown, Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris actually demonstrated how easy it would be to tamper with election results. "We just edited an election, and it took us 90 seconds," she told guest host Howard Dean, after an on-air demonstration. http://www.votergate.tv/)

Jeff Fisher, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida's 16th District, told Thom Hartman that he was giving the FBI evidence that voting machines in Florida were hacked in 2002 and 2004, along with information regarding "who hacked it and how." Meanwhile, House Democrats have asked the GAO to investigate voting machine irregularities.

The day after the election, the AP reported that voters nationwide "reported some 1,100 problems with electronic voting machines" and that in many cases, (particularly in Florida and Ohio), citizens complained that though they intended to choose John Kerry, when the computer asked them to verify their vote, "it showed them instead opting for President Bush."

Palm Beach reportedly logged 88,000 more votes than voters while thousands of votes were added to Bush’s tallies in Ohio. (Magic ballot theory, anyone?) A previously discovered glitch in Florida's Broward Country caused computers to subtract votes once the absentee tally reached 32,500, casting "doubt on the accuracy of the elections.''

Despite a post-election CNN puff piece on the success of electronic voting, Wired collected reports of e-voting problems and the organization "Count Every Vote 2004" documented "hundreds of voting irregularities affecting poor and minority voters in seven Southern states."

After officials in Warren County, Ohio "blocked anyone from observing the vote count as the nation awaited Ohio's returns," WCPO-TV (Channel 9) News Director Bob Morford said he's "never seen anything like it." The county cited homeland security reasons for restricting media access to the vote count, to which Morford replied, "Frankly, we consider that a red herring. . .That's something that's put up when you don't know what else to put up to keep us out."

Prompted by requests from voting rights activists, Ralph Nader asked for a hand recount of ballots in New Hampshire due to "irregularities in the vote reported on the AccuVote Diebold Machines." Saying that the discrepancies between exit polls and election results favored Bush, Nader explained that "Problems in these electronic voting machines and optical scanners are being reported in machines in a variety of states." His request was rejected, however, due to a technicality. Mr. Nader's stymied attempt aside, lawyers in Ohio and elsewhere are working diligently to compile cases of vote fraud and disenfranchisement. And as previously mentioned, the GAO and FBI have been made aware of the problem. "Spurred by the unwillingness of the broadcast media to report voting problems during the 2004," citizens are also attempting to expose irregularities themselves.

But chances are, this story, like Florida's 2000 debacle, will remain on the back burner, if it gets much mainstream exposure at all. Because that's how it is in our brave new world, where networks are compromised, journalists are neutered and in comparison to current corruption, Watergate really does seem like a third rate burglary.

In Wednesday's wee hours, before John Kerry conceded, reaction to morning news shows felt all too familiar -- it was like watching a rerun of pre-Iraq invasion WMD hype. There was a story line about unity and concession and doing what’s best for the country – and it pretty much felt like a mushroom cloud lie. How can we possibly overlook the lying and cheating and incompetence of the past four years? Thanks, but no thanks.
Despite Orwellian broadcasts from "Democracy Plaza," it's obvious that democracy is not doing just fine. And more and more, it looks like something is rotten in the state of the union.

Pundits have been asking how exit polls, which have historically been accurate, could have been so wrong. Well, that's easy: There's an elephant in the voting booth. Now, will someone please alert the media?

--www.zogby.com , Nov 10

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