20 October 2008


“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State.”
U.S. Constitution, Amendment XV-Section 1

WHEN MY EIGHTEEN YEAR OLD SON VOTED FOR THE FIRST TIME a few weeks ago, it was a bit like recalling the day that he learned to ride his bike without training wheels. I felt proud and a little giddy, but then, as my sons often remind me, I am often prone to these kind of “sappy” and emotional feelings.

“Dad. . . like, you’re embarrassing me.”

But I digress.

Fortunately, my eldest is a student of politics. He reads, watches, and absorbs news like many of us who are addicted to the importance of “issues” more than a “campaign.” He was well prepared and ready to do his civic duty, so off we went.

We drove to the County Election Board and cast our votes early — in part to avoid the crush of voters — and in part to lessen the possibility of fraud. Ohio is one of 14 states that allow citizens the privilege of voting early, and it is a Godsend, considering the sordid recent history of presidential elections in Ohio.

What awaited us was a line of Diebold voting machines, which among we Ohioans engenders an immediate distrust. Since computerized voting has become somewhat synonymous with fraud, we both kind of groaned as we approached the touch screen machines.

LIVING IN THE GREAT STATE OF OHIO, we have had an insider’s view of some of most egregious violations of voting statutes since, well, the elections of 2004, but 2000 was no picnic either. As you are probably aware, a plethora of serious voter fraud charges charges were levied against Diebold, an Ohio-based company, during the Bush-Kerry election cycle. Many of these charges, from the disenfranchisement of African American voters to major “glitches”in the Diebold machines themeselves, have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. The problems with Diebold voting machines are many, according to Common Cause, Black Box Voting, and numerous others. The solutions to clear up the potential for Election Day dirty tricks, however, are harder to come by.

Ohio is not merely a symbol of “middle America,” or the perceived small-town values that make it a bellweather state every four years as the Presidential elections re-surface. No, Ohio, with its’ 20 Electoral votes at stake, has become the perfect storm for a chain of legal and ethically dubious behavior over the last two election cycles. According to an investigation by Rolling Stone Magazine, the practice of “caging,” or suppressing votes was executed ruthlessly in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched President Bush's victory in the electoral college.

The investigation stated that Ohio officials "purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency.” As Rolling Stone explains it, voter fraud was pervasive in 2004 — and always seemed to favor President Bush. “A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County (a GOP stronghold) recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland (a Democratic stronghold) recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.”

Since 1990, the Ohio’s Republican Party has enjoyed a majority in the Statehouse. By 2004, Republicans held all six statewide executive offices (governor/lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer), a two-thirds majority in the state senate and house, and a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court. In 2004, the GOP also held both seats in the U.S. Senate, and 12 of Ohio's 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That kind of stranglehold can be either wildly productive (as in one party having the ability to enact positive reform), or tremendously corrupt, which was the case with GOP-orchestrated elections in Ohio.

What followed this electoral monopoly, writes Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., was a scandal in 2004 of unparalleled proportions. “In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election,” says Kennedy, “one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.”

But even that level of “caging” Democratic voters pales in comparison with “outright fraud,” Kennedy charges. The Diebold voting machines, you see, made certain that a full “80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush.” That swing of more than 160,000 votes, Kennedy goes on to say, would have been “enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.”

After the sheer disgrace of 2004, however, some not-so-instant karma finally asserted its’ will. . .as Ohioans “threw the bums out” of office. Democratic Gubernatorial candidates Ted Strickland and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown both coasted to easy victories, and Democrat Jennifer Brunner was elected as Secretary of State following Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell’s sad, partisan reign over both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Brunner, by most accounts, is a caring public servant who is commiited to counting votes fairly, but she has had to contend with dozens of GOP lawsuits since she took office in 2007.

FAST FORWARD NEARLY TWO YEARS, and my son stands at the ready and voting for the very first time. He is solemn on the occasion. . .and more than a little leery of the infamous Diebold machine.

“Why is there no print-out of my ballot?” he asked a poll worker present.

“This machine does not offer one” he is told. Reverently, but firmly, he states that this should be changed. “Please tell your superior that I complained about this,” he continues, “and that if I can get a piece of paper from a Diebold ATM machine, surely they are sophisticated enough to provide a paper receipt for the voter.”

The elderly woman assures him that she will indeed share his concerns with the Board supervisor. “We hear this from a lot of young people,” she whispers to my son.

I won’t say how proud I was to hear him articulate his concerns to the pollworker with such clarity. . .as I don’t want to sound like a complete dork. What I will say, though, is that the hard-earned lessons of 2000 and 2004 may have made this year’s Freshman class of voters more savvy than most.

And they NEED to be savvy to cut through the corruption and scheming that has brought America's main claim to fame: that of free and open elections, under such warranted scrutiny.

Thus, thanks to Black Box Voting, the following are a checklist of reminders of how tenuous voting has become in the U.S. — and I mean that in the most Orwellian way possible.

1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S.
2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the US voting machine industry.
3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.
4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major campaign organizer and donor to President Bush. In 2003, he wrote that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
5. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the US and counts almost 60% of all US votes.
6. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.
7. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail
8. Diebold employs five convicted felons as developers. Developers are the people who write the voting machine computer code.
9. In 2004, none of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.
10. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it!
11. 30% of all US votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen voting machines with no paper trail. The goal of President Bush's “Help America Vote Act” of 2002 has as its goal to replace all machines with the new electronic touch screen systems with no paper trail.
12. All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and reported went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.
13. Major statistical voting oddities (odds on the order of 250 million to 1!) -- again always favoring Bush -- have been mathematically demonstrated by experts

SO LIKE MY SON AND ME — VOTE EARLY AND VOTE OFTEN — if you are able. Voting early could cut the waiting time for people on Election Day, and deny the voter fraudsters the opportunity to cast your vote for you. The more chaos there is on Election Day, the better for the Fraud Squad.

Videotape your vote when possible and use a paper ballot if your voting machine seems to be acting erratically.

And if all else fails, take the following checklist to the polls with you. It is from Election Protection, a non-partisan coalition, created to make ensure that your vote is counted.


Be sure you are properly registered. 
Most states require voters to register in advance of an election (though some allow voters to register on Election Day). Deadlines range from 3 to 30 days before an election. To find out if you are properly registered, confirm your address, obtain a copy of a voter registration form, or learn about registration deadlines in your state, call 866-OUR-VOTE or, for more information about registration rules in your state go to www.866ourvote.org.

Be sure you go to the correct polling place. 
In many states, if you vote at the wrong location, your vote will not be counted. If you are unsure exactly where to vote, find your polling location by calling 866-OUR-VOTE or by going to www.canivote.org.
Find out your options for convenient voting. 
Many states allow individuals to vote prior to Election Day, either in person or by absentee ballot. Absentee voters typically must request an absentee ballot in advance. To learn about the options in your state, including how to obtain an absentee ballot, visit www.866ourvote.org, or call 866-OUR-VOTE.

Find out if you are required to show ID. 
Every state has identification requirements for at least some categories of voters. Find out the rules for your state by visiting www.866ourvote.org, or calling 866-OUR-VOTE.

Review sample ballots and information about candidates and issues. 
If you familiarize yourself with the layout and instructions of the ballot, you can prevent mistakes when you go to vote. Some local election officials will provide you a sample ballot if you request one. Also, know who and what you're voting for — you can research all candidates and ballot issues by contacting local civic groups or visiting www.canivote.org. If you have questions, concerns or problems, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Trained volunteers for the nation's largest non-partisan voter protection effort are available to answer your questions and help make sure your vote counts.

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