Date: Feature Week of
THE BUSINESS OF VOTING
Democracy Is In The Counting
Are American elections a fraud and scam? When you cast your vote recently, did you ever think that the new age voting machines you were using have failure rates that range from 16 to 28 percent?
For example, this past Election Day, an error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. However, records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct, and Bush actually received 365 votes in the precinct. The machines used in the county, Danaher Controls ELECTronic 1242 systems, are made by Illinois-based Danaher Controls one of the oldest brands of e-voting machines in the country.
The Ohio glitch is among a handful of computer troubles that have emerged of the 2004 elections. In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. Officials in Carteret County said UniLect, maker of the county's electronic voting system, told them that each storage unit could handle 10,500 votes, but the limit was actually 3,005 votes.
About 29 percent of voters cast ballots electronically this past election, more than double the proportion who did so in 2000. Across America, in precincts from coast to coast, computers equipped with cellular telephony and two-way modems count the votes. These machines designed and operated by private companies, and the laws that ushered in their use, have essentially disenfranchised citizen election judges from the vote-counting process and relegated them to insignificant roles as public servants working for private business on election night.
Touch screen voting computers raise concerns about voting security and reliability. The ballot appears on a portable screen that voters touch and confirm, and votes are stored on memory cards. Because the machines do not produce a paper record for each vote, critics say proper recounts are impossible. Computer security experts say such machines have been carelessly developed and are too vulnerable to tampering and malfunction. Diebold, is the largest of four main American suppliers and controls about 45 percent of the market. Elections Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S), and Sequoia and Shoup are main companies focusing on automating the election process.
At the center of the voting controversary is DeForest B. Soaries Jr., an African American Republican and former New Jersey secretary of state, named by President Bush to head the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Created under the 2002 Help America Vote Act to funnel $3.9 billion to states to upgrade voting systems after Florida's hanging-chad debacle, the EAC has two Republican and two Democratic commissioners. One of the Democrat appointees is Gracia Hillman, former Clinton administration official and executive director for both the League of Women Voters and the National Coalition on Black Voter Participation. The commission is suppose to oversee the certification of voting systems and the standardization of elections across the country. Congress created the commission after the 2000 presidential election dispute to act as a clearinghouse for election information and make recommendations about technology.
In many places, the elections of 2004 still had the taint of fraud and manipulation and most of the reforms in the act passed by Congress remain years from reality. Forty-one states have received two-year waivers of the 2004 deadline to create voter registration databases, and three-quarters of Americans voted on the same machines in 2004 as they did in 2000. Vilified as they were in 2000, punch card and lever systems are still in wide use today. Voters need to have faith in the infrastructure for casting and counting votes. Experts say that in order for the American voting system to gain validity, the EAC should impose a moratorium on the purchase of any new voting systems that do not provide, at minimum, a voter-verified, hand-recountable, physical (paper) ballot while appropriate laws, standards, and technologies are being developed to provide accurate, secure, reliable, and auditable voting systems.
© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com