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Thursday 4 November 2004

The Hands that counts the votes rules the world

Tom Brockaw last night was bemoaning the slight delays in his being able to "certify" Bush the winner, but of course, the NBC correspondent from the Kerry campaign told us that Kerry had millions of dollars in donations and owed it to the donors to wait for final results before conseeding. Brockaw shook his head and called for a national voting standard that was fast, efficient and reliable.

I don't just live in a differently colored state than most of the country, I like on a differently colored planet. On my planet, the president is elected by the actions of the electoral college, who meets after all the states finish counting their votes (which will not be fore another ten days in Ohio). On my planet, candidates are responcible to voters, not donors. On my planet the most important consideration for any voter tabulation is reliability. Efficency and speed, no so much. I mean, if Ohio gets 11 days before it knows its real, final results, then maybe the days in between could be spent getting an accurate count.

Canada, the UK and Germany all vote by marking a piece of a paper with a pencil. Then humans, who are being observed by the media and party members, count all the votes by hand. In the UK, the vote count is televised. In fact, the US is the only first world country to have mechanized voting.

When you have ballots counted by hand, you have observation and you have an audit trail. When you have votes counted by machine, you have nothing but the word of the company making the machine. In the case of Diebold, we know the results of the election based on the word of a man who promised to deliver Ohio for Bush, who made machines that have been documented being gamed in Florida in 2000. Traditionally, exit polls match very closely with actual election results. They're very accurate. In Ohio, they were not accurate, based on the word of Diebold. I'm not saying the election was stolen. I'm saying that there is no way to know whether it was stolen or not. If the votes are counted in secret by somebody who is strognly partial to one candidate, that doesn't sound like much of a democracy to me. Why do we have voting machines at all?

Americans put great faith in technology. We thought we could prevent cheating by having infallible machines do it. In the movie Dr Strangelove, the titular doctor is explaining that nobody has to choose which humans will be spared from the nuclear holocaust. A computer can do it, making sure, of course, that it's programmed to pick everyone in the room. That quote shows the faith we have in the fairness and objectivity of computers and also how they are only as fair and infallible as their programmers. Computers relieve of us of responcibility and blame, but they are no more fair than we are. If voting machines were open source, at least citizens could certify that they appeared to be above the board. But our democracy is a trade secret in the hands of a highly partisan corporation. This just brings us back around to my earlier question: why have machines at all? Sure, TV networks want fast results. But networks are why football has TV timesouts. They shouldn't be the cause of possible massive election fraud. We must return to hand counting, like every other first-world country.

However, as one red state book says in it's title, "they can't steal it, if it's not close." A lot of people did vote for Bush. Most of them were gravely misinformed, but they still must have been aware that their wages were not rising, but their costs were, if they even still had a job. Bush is the first president ever to be re-elected on an economic downturn. Millions of lost jobs, but Bush gets sent back for another term. The premise of capitalism is that if everyone acts in their own best interests, it will lead to efficency and be best for society. This is demonstratably false. It's best for me to dump my sewage, untreated in the bay, because it's just me and then I don't have to pay sewer bills. But of everyone did it, it would be a disaster. Descisions must be made with an eye to the collective good, rather than the individual good. But yesterday, Americans countered an even more basic premise of capitalism. They did not act in their own best interest. Not even that much of capitalism is working. Not that we have capitalism. Or won't have a bankrupt country within 4 years. Invest in euros. They'll still be worth something when the dollar collapses.

Oh, and apparently, some very high percentage of peopel said they voted on moral issues. The democrats, like the republicans, are not an ideological party. They exist to get their members elected. I know this is true, because I learned it in high school civics. Rather than thinking, "we need to find away to rally people around the left," they're going to think "we need to co-opt the morals of the right." The moral mandate of the election, the lesson learned, is going to be scapegoating queers. Personally, I really am going to leave the country. But for those of you staying behind, you have two choices: put your party, the democrats, back on track and force them to move leftward. Or build an ideoligcally left third party. I see more hope with the Greens than I do with the democrats. I thought there was something of a difference between Bush and Kerry, especially supreme court-wise, but if the democrats move even more rightward, which they will likely do, it would be personal and poltical suicide to vote for a bushist fascist just because he's a democrat. I expect to see even less difference between the parties in 2008, if we're still having elections in 2008. It's not true to say the democrats are a "regional party" because they only won states on the coasts, as it was very close all over the country. But the media will and the democrats will move more and more right, as they have an "obligation to their donors." We can't rely on them. We need to build the Green party.

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