6. Sale of electoral politics. Sources: In These Times (12/03); Independent/UK (10/13/03); Democracy NOW! (09/04/03).I chose this sample because it raises the question I have been asking since the election: How the fuck did Sonny Purdue win?! The part of the story that the above sample does not get into, which I find adds to my question, the 2002 election was the first election, since I don't know when, where there was no exit polling. Isn't that convenient if the race was in fact stolen? Absolutely no way to check.
As much hope as electronic voting offers (ease of use, access for the disabled etc), it offers just as many reasons for skepticism and fear. A look behind the curtain reveals that the programmers and manufacturers of the machines are a combination of defense contractors and corporations headed by staunch Republicans whose programming codes are dangerously faulty and whose results are impossible to verify.
Still, despite the partisan nature of the manufacturers, the problem could be solved with paper receipts and nonpartisan audits. But thus far, bipartisan attempts to require such receipts and audits that would ensure popular confidence in our Democracy haven't been a priority for the Republican-led congress. What possible reason could there be to prevent receipts? Are these questions being debated on "Hardball," "Nightline," in the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, or anywhere else?
And what do we have to show for electronic voting's record so far? And why do we have to go to London to learn it? Writing for the London Independent, Andrew Gumbel informs us that Roy Barnes, Georgia's Democratic incumbent governor, held a 10-point lead shortly before the 2002 election, while Max Cleland held a 2-5 point lead over his opponent in the state's senate race. The results, in this first all-electronic election, greatly contradicted all available polling and demographic information. The governor's race swung 16 points to the advantage of the Republican challenger while the senate race swung from 9-12 points - also to the Republican challenger. But few, if any, in the media sought to investigate this coincidence. And Republican upsets didn't end there; according to Gumbel: "There were others in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and New Hampshire - all in races that had been flagged as key partisan battlegrounds, and all won by the Republican Party."
Now, here's the kicker: "The vote count was not conducted by state elections officials, but by the private company that sold Georgia the voting machines in the first place, under a strict trade-secrecy contract that made it not only difficult but actually illegal - on pain of stiff criminal penalties - for the state to touch the equipment or examine the proprietary software to ensure the machines worked properly."
Here, from the same report, is a story begging to be told on network news: Sen Chuck Hagel, $5 million investor in ES&S - one of the larger voting systems manufacturers - "became the first Republican in 24 years to be elected to the Senate from Nebraska, cheered on by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper which also happens to be a big investor in ES&S...80 percent of Mr. Hagel's winning votes - both in 1996 and in 2002 - were counted, under the usual terms of confidentiality, by his own company." That just ain't the American way.