Monday, November 08, 2004

Worse Than 2000: Tuesday's Electoral Disaster

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT, TRUTHOUT - Everyone remembers Florida's 2000 election debacle, and all of the new terms it introduced to our political lexicon: Hanging chads, dimpled chads, pregnant chads, overvotes, undervotes, Sore Losermans, Jews for Buchanan and so forth. It took several weeks, battalions of lawyers and a questionable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to show the nation and the world how messy democracy can be. By any standard, what happened in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election was a disaster.

What happened during the Presidential election of 2004, in Florida, in Ohio, and in a number of other states as well, was worse.

Some of the problems with this past Tuesday's election will sound all too familiar. Despite having four years to look into and deal with the problems that cropped up in Florida in 2000, the 'spoiled vote' chad issue reared its ugly head again. Investigative journalist Greg Palast, the man almost singularly responsible for exposing the more egregious examples of illegitimate deletions of voters from the rolls, described the continued problems in an article published just before the election, and again in an article published just after the election.

Four years later, and none of the Florida problems were fixed. In fact, by all appearances, they spread from Florida to Ohio, New Mexico, Michigan and elsewhere. Worse, these problems only scratch the surface of what appears to have happened in Tuesday's election. The fix that was put in place to solve these problems - the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 after the Florida debacle - appears to have gone a long way towards making things worse by orders of magnitude, for it was the Help America Vote Act which introduced paperless electronic touch-screen voting machines to millions of voters across the country.

At first blush, it seems like a good idea. Forget the chads, the punch cards, the archaic booths like pianos standing on end with the handles and the curtains. This is the 21st century, so let's do it with computers. A simple screen presents straightforward choices, and you touch the spot on the screen to vote for your candidate. Your vote is recorded by the machine, and then sent via modem to a central computer which tallies the votes. Simple, right?

Not quite.

[worth reading.....]

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