Let's get off the paper trail

My response to Michael Scherer’s Salon article (see below):

I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but this is not a good idea.

Why is our democracy at risk? Is it just because those DRE machines don’t leave a paper trail? Or is it that the Bush Republicans detest democracy, since they cannot wield power without subverting the electoral system? The fact is that they’re pushing an agenda that could never win majority support in the United States–from liberals or conservatives. They’ve therefore had no choice but to commit election fraud, repeatedly and on a mammoth scale, deploying every trick and tactic in the book, and then some.

As I point out in Fooled Again, the Bush Republicans used paperless machines to cut the Democratic vote, not only in Ohio but from coast to coast–but they also cut the vote in states and counties that did not use paperless machines; and in those places that did use them, the Busheviks also relied on many other means of disenfranchising the majority.

They kept Americans from registering, tossed out or passed over countless ballots (including absentee ballots), wiped the names of (at least) tens of thousands from the voter rolls, carefully dispatched too few machines to Democratic precincts nationwide, used “challengers” to bully countless would-be voters into going home or staying home, mounted vast disinformation drives to mislead countless more, arranged a most fortuitous computer glitch so as to keep some two million expatriates from voting absentee, and otherwise transported this whole nation, white and black alike, back to the catastrophic epoch of Jim Crow.

The problem, then, is civic, not just technical, concerning the fanatical persistence of a full-scale movement deeply hostile to the letter and the spirit of our Constitution.

Now, we must ask ourselves: Would that movement be frustrated, its agenda thwarted, by the use of paper trails? Evidently not–since members of that very movement also back the Holt bill with enthusiasm. As the Salon piece points out, Mary Jo Kiffmeyer, Minnesota’s Secretary of State, has now testified in favor of the bill. It is more than relevant to note that Kiffmeyer is a stalwart Bushevik and theocratic maniac, who has publicly deplored the separation of church and state, and who did everything she could to slash the Democratic vote in Minnesota in the last election. (That appalling story is in Fooled Again, pp. 138-39.) Her record is so dismal that she’s now in trouble, facing a strong challenge by Mark Ritchie, who knows full well what she has done to the electoral system in his state and means to change the situation. That such an operative as she–and David Cole, and John Groh of ES&S, and other Bushist agents–would support this measure tells us all we need to know about its usefulness.

We have heard it argued that the Holt bill is a half-step in the right direction, and that some reform is surely preferable to none at all. In this case that’s a dangerous self-delusion. Sometimes “compromise” can only make things worse, as there really is no valid “middle way.” So it is with torture, and illegal wars. Whatever “compromise” serves merely to protract such horrors is finally nothing but abetment, however well-intended it may be.
And so it is with the far-right crusade against American democracy. We must oppose that drive in every way we can–and that means not allowing its own managers to cast themselves as champions of electoral “reform.”

Taking the paper trail to Washington
The dangers of electronic voting machines got tallied Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
By Michael Scherer

Jul. 20, 2006 | White T-shirts are a significant departure from the standard dress code in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. So when a couple dozen activists walked into a joint meeting of the Science and Administration committees Wednesday wearing bleached cotton instead of the typical pantsuits and striped ties, it was not surprising that someone dispatched a Capitol Police officer to stand guard in case things got out of hand.

The T-shirts were imprinted with bold black letters that read “Got Paper?” or “Got Audits?” — coded, chest-high messages that were directed at lawmakers to express the widespread concern that new computerized voting machines can be tampered with to swing elections. The activists had come to Washington to push legislation that would mandate voter-verifiable paper records for every ballot cast in the nation, a reversal of a recent trend toward touch-screen computers that only tally votes electronically. It didn’t matter that the House committees did not plan to discuss the issue of ballot paper trails. “Hearings are all about theater,” explained Susannah Goodman of the liberal election reform group Common Cause, in a pre-hearing meeting with the activists. “We’re hijacking it.”

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