Counter Attack | Vox Pop | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Counter Attack

Four years later, elections still aren't right



In a real democracy -- like, say, the Ukraine -- when they find out massive voter fraud changed the election results, they re-group and have a do-over. Here in this joke of a democracy called the United States of America, we have accepted that it is not within our power to hold fair, accurate elections. 

After the Florida fiasco of 2000, pundits predicted a massive overhaul of our voting system. And then nobody did squat. New computerized machines were developed by firms with Republican political connections. The CEO of one of those firms boasted he would help deliver Ohio for W.


Now you might be thinking, "Hey, thank goodness we don't live in one of those kooky states like Ohio and Florida." But the election system here is equally screwed.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes the head of Election Protection, a non-profit group trying to fix things, as saying there were 6,089 complaint calls from voters in Allegheny County, more than in any other county in the United States.


The P-G goes on to tell the tale of Abigail Rives, a CMU student who complains her election judges didn't know the difference between a provisional ballot and an absentee ballot. It took her four hours to see a judge Downtown and go back to her precinct, where she was then allowed to vote. What kind of democracy is that?


Now provisional ballots, designed to allow someone to vote even if their name isn't on the official rolls but who are found to be legal later, are a relatively new addition to the election scene. But poll-worker ignorance is nothing new. A few years ago I walked into my North Side polling place and was asked if I was a Democrat or a Republican. I said neither; I was an independent. The worker replied, "What's that?"


That, my friend, is ignorance.


The lines were ridiculously long this year in Oakland. Registration was up. Heavy turnout was predicted. So why weren't there enough machines? Who did so many poll workers look more clueless than W shortly after the planes hit the towers? Why doesn't anyone give a damn that hundreds of thousands of votes are thrown out all over the country every election cycle because of fraud, incompetence or stupidity?


"Democracy is messy," said Election Protection President Celeste Taylor. Taylor is at least trying to do something about this mess, but I'm so sick and tired of that cliché. If we can go to the moon and fly at supersonic speeds and cure diseases and whatever other modern miracle you want to throw in there, we ought to be able to figure out how to let people vote and count them accurately.


Despite my anger toward Republicans, who definitely stole the presidential election in 2000 and may have tried to steal Ohio this time around, I must concede Democrats have stolen votes. Chicago in 1960 comes to mind. But as with everything else political, the Republicans have become much better at it. In Ohio they're accused of, among other things, hacking into the election computer systems to produce non-traceable results. There are reports of techies from Republican-leaning computer manufacturers mysteriously "maintenancing" the systems prior to the just-completed partial Ohio recount.


There will always be hacking possibilities as long as computers are involved. The computer firms don't want to allow independent inspection, claiming their programming secrets will be stolen by competitors. So, we're fucked --


-- unless the Republicans engage in their natural inclination and turn back the clock. And by that I mean paper ballots. Most experts agree paper ballots and a hand count are the only way to guard against fraud and get accurate recounts, providing bi-partisan observers are present at all times to insure ballots aren't discarded or fabricated.


Yes, we'd have to wait a couple of days for the results. But wouldn't you rather get it right and get it over with? Oh, and if we could raise the funds to pay poll workers a decent sum and hire some who have teeth and brains and everything, that would be good as well.


But that would cost money. And somebody in power would have to give a damn.


Your vote doesn't count if no one counts it.

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