The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Who's counting the votes?

Ok, strap on your tin-foil helmets so you can block out the signals from the mother ship. Today we are going down into the dark tunnel of conspiracy theory.

As we've seen before, the goal of our current leadership is to un-empower individuals and to empower corporate entities, or oligarchies of individuals who control those corporations. The root of individual political power in this country is the franchise. Vast sums of money and time are spent trying to win people's votes (or to keep them at home, not voting). That seems like such a messy system from the point of view of the oligarchs. Who are these unwashed masses to vote their leaders (some of whom have been annointed by God to lead us through these treacherous times) into or out of office, as if the leaders didn't know what was best for them? How dare they select a philandering Rhodes scholar over Poppy Bush? How dare they select a triple amputee war hero over a Republican draft dodging ChickenHawk? Don't they know who Baby Jesus would vote for?

Our political power in this country rests on the quaint (and surely antiquated, from the point of view of the oligarchs) custom of having John and Jane Q. Public trotting off to a community center and registering a vote. Really, now, that's not a way to run a country, is it? Not when the people in charge are used to wielding frightening power over us. So what is a good oligarch to do?

Clearly something has to be done to protect the public from its own foolish choices. One way to do this is to demoralize the public from voting (check). Voter turnout has to be kept low, so that only more easily controlled groups of voters can dominate the outcome by voting against everyone else's best interest (check). Real differences in the policies of the candidates have to be played down by the media, so that they can focus on "what a great guy" the oligarch candidate is (check). Candidates who would represent the best interest of the public at large must be ridiculed, marginalized, and smeared (check).

They are doing a good job of reducing the power of individual votes. But this plan is obviously not foolproof. Look what happened in the last big election, where Gore almost won it by a margin which would have made it un-stealable. Whew! That was close. And even after the oligarchs tried to abort the people's choice of Clinton by staging an egregiously trumped-up witch hunt and impeachment circus, his approval ratings stayed high. Clearly more has to be done.

The question today is: has more already been done? Let's talk briefly about exit polling. Because we keep no record of our vote, in order to keep voting anonymous, usually the only way to catch malfunctioning voting equipment is through the use of exit polling. (Never mind exit polling's more annoying use, to predict winners and losers by the media even before the polls close). When exit polls differ vastly from election results, investigations have often shown a problem with the vote counting apparatus. Exit polling (and simple logic) highlighted the absurdity of the "Jews for Buchanon" vote on the butterfly ballot in 2000. And exit polls showed Gore winning Florida by a comfortable margin, which led to the first announcement of Gore's Florida victory on that horrible night in 2000. But Voter News Service (VNS), the coalition of media services which did exit polling in 2000, did not do exit polling in 2002, ostensibly due to some kind of computer glitch. There were no exit polls taken in Florida for the governor's race in 2002, for example. And not having VNS there in 2004 due to another "computer glitch" would be a huge risk.

With exit polling out of the way, we are forced to accept whatever outcome we are given by the media, with no evidence to raise our suspicions that fraud is happening. With punch cards and other forms of paper voting, we at least have a record of the votes so that they may be examined by balanced teams of counters, with observers to check the process.

Here's where the tinfoil will come in handy. Many poling places are moving more and more towards electronic voting machines, which keep no record of votes, issue no receipts, and leave no trail of fraud. (The discrediting of paper-based voting equipment in 2000 was surely icing on the cake for vote- riggers). There are three peculiarities about electronic voting machines which should cause a shiver down the spine of anyone who wants to hold on to even that smallest bit of political power, their vote.

  • They are insanely easy to tamper with by subtle adjustments to their internal software. Programmers for these machines could easily add bits of code to switch every 100th vote for a Democrat over to the Republican, or to adjust the final tally to some preset margin of victory for the Republican candidate. (You can read in this essay about how at least 3 Republican candidates won their elections in 2002 by exactly 18,181 votes. Unfortunately, the original article from a San Antonio paper is no longer online - I'm still looking for a saved copy - you can find more articles like this by entering "18181 votes" in Google). These special instructions could be written to only occur on first tuesdays after the first mondays in november in even years, and would be undetectable in other testing trials. This could be done without even the manufacturer knowing about it, in the form of "easter eggs" hidden cleverly within the software.
  • Neither the government nor citizen watchdog groups can get access to the actual software which runs these machines, as they are protected as "trade secrets" by the manufacturers.
  • Many of the largest manufacturers of electronic vote counting equipment are run by extremely right-wing conservative individuals, and in some cases religious extremists as well.

You can see how easily a conspiracy theory can be woven from these three facts. You can see what a thin thread our democracy may already be hanging from, as it relies on the goodwill and sense of fairplay of conservative businessmen. Perhaps that thread already has snapped. Does anyone really believe that the voters of Georgia in 2002 voted for Saxby Chambliss, a Republican draft-dodging chickenhawk who had the temerity to impune the patriotism of Vietnam veteran and triple amputee Max Cleland? Is it just a coincidence that in that same election, Georgians voted in their first ever Republican governor in the modern era, over a popular Democratic incumbent? There was no exit polling in Georgia in 2002, naturally, but polls of voters before the election showed clean victories for both Democratic candidates. And every single vote in Georgia was recorded on electronic machines from a single private company, Diebold.

But then again, maybe the populace really did want to reward the Republicans for their excellent stewardship of our country during 2001 and 2002. They certainly were models of good government during that time.

We should be vigilant about this possibility of being disenfranchised. In a way, this is the ultimate election theft. The people go through the motions of voting, votes are tabulated and recorded, results are posted, but there is no record, no verification, no oversight. We are lead quietly and with no protest into dictatorship, like people killed slowly and without warning by carbon monoxide. Is this why W. thinks it doesn't matter that he is leading us into a truly unpopular war? Is this why, when Gore was announced the victor in Florida on election night, Bush reportedly told his friends "Don't worry", as if Florida was already in the bag?

More resources can be found at the following sites:

OK, tin foil hats back off. I apologize if this is too much for you all - I'm not big on conspiracy theories myself. But the danger for losing our vote is too great not to be vigilant against this potential threat.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home