November 05, 2004

a bit of hope

Yesterday I mostly browsed book and writing related blogs. The sun was warm, the breeze was delicious, my child was alternately a pain in the butt and a delight. Life felt... normal. Today I read poliblogs and was attacked by the blues again.

The real issue to me is: was this election a true voice of the people (in which case I'm gravely disappointed in the people but figure they'll come around when they see the havoc this administration will continue to wreak -- extremes don't last, not when most people are essentially centrists at heart) or was it a sign that Karl Rove and his flunkies have so thoroughly corrupted the voting system that we cannot ever, no not ever, take back the three branches of government. That's the thought that terrifies me. I don't want to believe it and part of me doesn't, it seems too crazy (and crazy-making). The other part, well... yeah.

But one thing I read today gave me hope. A letter from three Congressmen to the head of the US General Accountabily Office.

The letter follows:

November 5, 2004

The Honorable David M. Walker

Comptroller General of the United States

U.S. General Accountability Office

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

We write with an urgent request that the Government Accountability Office immediately undertake an investigation of the efficacy of voting machines and new technologies used in the 2004 election, how election officials responded to difficulties they encountered and what we can do in the future to improve our election systems and administration.

In particular, we are extremely troubled by the following reports, which we would also request that you review and evaluate for us:

In Columbus, Ohio, an electronic voting system gave President Bush nearly 4,000 extra votes. "Machine Error Gives Bush Extra Ohio Votes," Associated Press, November 5.

An electronic tally of a South Florida gambling ballot initiative failed to record thousands of votes. "South Florida OKs Slot Machines Proposal," Id.

In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots could hold more data that it did. "Machine Error Gives Bush Extra Ohio Votes," Id.

In San Francisco, a glitch occurred with voting machines software that resulted in some votes being left uncounted. Id.

In Florida, there was a substantial drop off in Democratic votes in proportion to voter registration in counties utilizing optical scan machines that was apparently not present in counties using other mechanisms.

The House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff has received numerous reports from Youngstown, Ohio that voters who attempted to cast a vote for John Kerry on electronic voting machines saw that their votes were instead recorded as votes for George W. Bush. In South Florida, Congressman Wexler's staff received numerous reports from voters in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties that they attempted to select John Kerry but George Bush appeared on the screen. CNN has reported that a dozen voters in six states, particularly Democrats in Florida, reported similar problems. This was among over one thousand such problems reported. "Touchscreen Voting Problems Reported," Associated Press, November 5.

Excessively long lines were a frequent problem throughout the nation in Democratic precincts, particularly in Florida and Ohio. In one Ohio voting precinct serving students from Kenyon College, some voters were required to wait more than eight hours to vote. "All Eyes on Ohio," Dan Lothian, CNN, November 3, ..

We are literally receiving additional reports every minute and will transmit additional information as it comes available. The essence of democracy is the confidence of the electorate in the accuracy of voting methods and the fairness of voting procedures. In 2000, that confidence suffered terribly, and we fear that such a blow to our democracy may have occurred in 2004.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this inquiry.


John Conyers, Jr. Jerrold Nadler Robert Wexler

Ranking Member Ranking Member Member of Congress

House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution

cc: Hon. F. James Sensenbrenner


Maybe there still are people in power with the authority and the willingness to look into voter disenfranchisement, fraud, malfeasance, and also, face it, general incompetence and machine flaws. Maybe we won't be subsumed by the red tide forever.

Posted by Tamar at November 5, 2004 10:39 PM

The thing to keep in mind is that -- given the rampant stealing (for more details, see Greg Palast's work) and further corruption of the electoral machinery -- Kerry won this election. That he won't stand up and fight on behalf of the millions who voted for him means he's less a winter soldier and more...a politician.

Conyers, Nadler and Wexler must feel very, very tired. (Wasn't Conyers the leader of the delegation that stood up about this sort of thing in 2000 - as memorialized in Fahrenheit 911?)

What kind of social unrest will the rest of us have to be parr of to force the kind of change they're trying to make. in the face of our one-party government? Do you feel like Aung San Sou Kyi yet?

Posted by: Chris at November 6, 2004 05:23 AM

In one of Robert Heinlein's visions of the future, the U.S. becomes a religious dictatorship around the year 2020. If things keep going the way they are, this appears to be a distinctly possible reality.

As much as I wish to believe that people such as Nadler et al. can really make a difference, deep down I believe that's mearly wishful thinking. Rove and company admit to planning this for 50 years. Any organized resistence now is too little, too late.

History shows time and again that political systems, no matter how well designed, are subject to corruption. As far as I know, truly functional democratic systems work only on the scale of countries like Iceland, which has been a democracy for over a thousand years. Large, powerful countries such as the U.S. are too easily corrupted.

I don't think the American democratic experiment will last any more than the Roman one did. Of itself, I think this is fine. However, as with Rome, the U.S. is such an aggressive nation that its transformation from democracy to autocracy will effect a large part of the world.

Posted by: Aaron at November 7, 2004 09:29 AM