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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-07-16 - 12:21 p.m.

Our Vote-Counting Must Be Trustworthy This Time

An article in yesterday’s New York Times again brings up the question of Florida’s inept election procedures. “Three years after Gov. Jeb Bush announced a new voting system that he called ‘a model for the rest of the nation,’ Florida is grappling with some of the same problems that threw the 2000 presidential election into chaos, as well as new ones that critics say could cause even more confusion this November.”

Could cause more confusion? How could we have more confusion?

  • Well…a new Florida state rule excludes the machines from manual recounts, and the integrity of the machines has been deemed questionable since a problem was discovered in the audit process of some of them.

  • There are still some who question the 48,000 suspected felons list.

  • Are we going to have recount issues again come November? If not in Florida, elsewhere?
  • Will some people again be disenfranchised?

    From testimony by Mark Radke, Director of Marketing, Diebold Election Systems before the Joint Committee on Ballot Security, Columbus, Ohio:

    Over 75,000 Diebold electronic voting stations are being used in locations across the United States to assist voters in exercising their most fundamental constitutional right: The right to vote.

    Diebold is at the forefront in providing high-quality, secure direct recording electronic (DRE) voting solutions to jurisdictions of all sizes, along with a comprehensive service and elections support capability that’s unmatched on a global scale. Diebold offers a comprehensive solution that includes advanced technology, project management, expert training, voter outreach and voter registration solutions. The AccuVote-TSX™ stand alone touch screen system provides voters with an entirely new state-of-the-art, light weight design that represents a major leap forward in voting technology. Our reliable systems accurately and securely capture each vote.

    However, in spite of Diebold's marketing statement, after several glitches in Diebold’s touch-screen systems were discovered in 2002 election, with evidence they could easily be manipulated, people doubt whether they are trustworthy without a paper trail. Florida is one of several states where people are questioning touch-screen voting technology. A system integrity flaw led California’s Secretary of State to prohibit the use of the machines from Diebold Election Systems for the November election and has ordered that touch-screen systems purchased in the future produce a paper record that can be verified by the voter.

    Adding to the suspicions about Diebold is the fact that Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold, announced that he had been a top fund-raiser for President George W. Bush. When assailed by critics for the perceived conflict of interest, he pointed out that the company's election machines division is run out of Texas. Nonetheless, he vowed to lower his political profile lest his personal actions harm the company.

    Joan Chittister in her latest column, From Where I Stand, wrote: “…Will this election be decided by the people or by boxes of uncounted ballots, a State Attorney General and the Supreme Court?” And referring back to the 2000 presidential election, “The real American question is: What would have been lost by taking two more weeks to recount ballots in a way that honored the foundation of the entire American system of government.”

    As Chittister says, “…this is not a trivial issue, coming out of pique or fostered by sore losers….Until we assure ourselves that our elections are safe, nothing else in this country is safe.” “…the issues that only a ballot can decide are this time more momentous than ever."

    “War; American civil rights; the constitutional requirement that presidential war plans are subject to congressional approval; international law; and the imperious posturing by the United States in the United Nations; lead the list of foreign policy concerns, of course. Nevertheless, although these issues determine our relationships around the world and our image as a nation, they don’t even begin to touch the domestic issues that are being routinely ignored or manipulated by present governmental policies."

    She goes on to say…and I can’t say it one word better: “The erosion of civil rights; the outsourcing of American jobs; the lack of medical insurance for almost 40 million citizens – ten million of them children…; internal debt that will affect both taxes and domestic programs for generations to come; and the reckless, if not callous, obeisance to business interests and oil barons over the plight of average citizens for four years, will plague this country for decades.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    One thing is certain: No matter what our political affiliation, no matter which issues we support, we are unanimous on the fact that voting must be at the heart of a democratic system. And to achieve that, our vote-counting program must be trustworthy.

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