Can We Prevent Election Fraud?

Posted on Sunday 27 February 2005

Or Did George W. Bush Steal the Election in 2004?

I’ve been thinking about George W. Bush, and the election in 2004. Rumors, right after the election, raised issues on whether George W. Bush and GOP supporters stole the election. Here are some of the reasons I think we need to take a good look at voting in this country. I believe this country has the ability to conduct free and fair elections, which are not tainted by the possibility of widespread vote tampering, nepotism, and other questionable practices.

Exit polls are often used as a sanity check in foreign elections—many of which are supervised or overseen by US officials… yet the GOP tells us that the exit polls in our most recent elections are mistaken.

“The reliability of exit polls is so generally accepted that the Bush administration helped pay for them during recent elections in Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine. Testifying before the House Committee on International Relations Dec. 7, John Tefft, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, explained that the Bush administration funded exit polls because they were one of the “ways that would help to expose large-scale fraud.” Tefft pointed to the discrepancy between exit polls and the official vote count to argue that the Nov. 22 Ukraine election was stolen.”

If George’s people say exit polls are good enough to use in Georgia, Belarus and the Ukraine, why aren’t they good enough for us to use in the United States. Statistically, I find it very difficult to believe there was an eight million vote discrepancy between what the exit polls were reporting and what the actual vote tallies were.

There were other discrepancies that may have biased the election in W’s favor. Shortages of voting machines and malfunctions of voting machines in highly Democratic districts; fraudulent felony listings of predominantly minority voters, who would tend towards voting for the Democrats; other barriers to registration of predominantly Democratic voters; destruction of Democratic voter registrations by Republican volunteers; delays in opening polling places in pre-dominantly Democratic districts. Voters who were disenfranchised through these methods are not reflected in the exit polls, and lead one to wonder if the exit polls actually underestimate the voter support for the Democrats.

Any one of the discrepancies listed above would have brought out cries of fraud and election rigging in a UN-supervised election in a third-world country. Why then, is there no outcry for these same signs of fraud when the election is in the United States? These oddities are even more questionable given the circumstances of the 2000 Presidential election.

There were strange statistical anomalies in the Ohio and Florida voting results. Oddly enough, Ohio and Florida were the two states that clinched the election for George W. Bush. Doesn’t it seem strange that two elections involving the same candidate, George W. Bush, were so closely contested, and the results for him winning depend in great part on a state which has his brother as its governor. Also, very disquieting is the discrepancies in the state of Ohio, where the vote in some heavily Democratic regions seemed to be below the average turn out for the rest of the state.

One manufacturer of electronic voting machinery, Diebold, has a clearly partisan agenda. The CEO of Diebold stated in a letter that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver is electoral votes” to George W. Bush. Many areas of the country, including Ohio, are now using electronic voting machines which do not have any physical audit trail. In the case of questionable results, there is little you can do to verify the actual votes cast are the same as the votes being reported by the machine. That seems to be what happened in Ohio.

Could the election officials in Florida, one of the highly-contested states, actually be objective and non-partisan given that George W. Bush’s brother is the governor of the state in question? Doubtful. In the original 2000 election, the fact that Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State at the time, had worked on the Bush campaign and was in charge of deciding which votes should count towards the presidential election should have raised some flags. Ethically, she should have recused herself from making any decisions which may have influenced the election’s results. At the least, she should have taken every effort to ensure that every vote was counted. She did neither.

What is the solution?

I agree that an electronic voting machine should be used… but it must be one that has an audit trail as well as a way to confirm to the voter that their vote has been registered as they intended. The United States already has a fairly secure large network of computerized data terminals that could easily be adopted for this purpose, or used as a basis for the design of a secure, auditable, electronic voting terminal network. You are probably asking what network am I talking about.

It’s simple… it is one that you see in use every day. It is fairly secure and the data entry system is fairly easy to use. The machines are capable of giving a printed confirmation of the voter’s selections for their records, as well as allowing the original paper ballots to be used as an audit trail in case of questionable vote counts. I am talking about the Powerball/MegaMillions lottery ticket terminal network. The terminals are close to being everywhere.

The terminals are designed for robust use, being in use every day—in fact there are probably more people playing Powerball and Megamillions than usually vote in this country’s elections. Sad, but true. The network these lottery ticket terminals use is fairly secure… with all that money at stake, the security has been pretty well proven.

The entry form for a five-ticket Powerball or Megamillions drawing has thirty data points on it. Easily enough to handle most elections, including state, local and federal races. The paper ticket can be retained in the machine to act as an audit trail. With no name on the ballot, anonymity is preserved. And the voter can get a printed sheet indicating their vote as registered by the machine, like the Powerball player gets their printed lottery ticket. As for simplicity… let’s face it… the average lottery machine operator isn’t a rocket scientist. These machines are designed to be operable by almost anybody with a minimum of training.

The election equipment should be designed and manufactured by a group of manufacturers, with no one company controlling the full-design and manufacture of any single machine. This may make the election equipment more expensive, but it would reduce the chances of an election being influenced by the political bias of any one manufacturer or designer.

The software and code for the election equipment should be open source-based code and tested by a politically diverse group of programmers and software engineers. The reason I say politically diverse as opposed to politically neutral, is no individual is going to be truly neutral, but by having a broad range of political diversity in the testing group, no one political philosophy will be able to bias the results of the software testing. All communications used by election equipment and its associated network must be encrypted using openly accepted standards of encryption security.

The election laws in this country need to be unified… so that a single standard applies to all the voters in the country. I strongly believe that each person who is eligible to vote, and willing to participate in the democratic processes of our government—should have the right to have their vote counted. The voting equipment and the voting requirements should also be standardized. The government bodies which are charged with deciding the final election results should be non-partisan—especially not allowed to influence an election in favor of a relative or close family friend, as may have been the case in Florida.

The laws and the government bodies in charge of deciding elections should also be forced to err on the side of the voter, not on the side of any candidate or any for any other arbitrary decision. It can not be considered a fair and free election, unless every vote is counted, and each legitimate voter is given a fair chance to vote. Oversight of the entire vote collection and counting process must be open to international inspectors, much in the same way we expect elections in foreign countries to be open to our inspection.

In terms of full-disclosure, I will state that I am a Democrat, and that I did vote against George W. Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 elections. I have tried to keep this article unbiased by my personal political leanings, and have included various sources for the statements and arguments I’ve made in this article. Some of the sources may be politically biased, but I do not believe the facts I have used from them are in any way politically biased. Facts are neutral and impartial. The interpretation of these neutral facts are what may be questioned. The sources are listed as follows:

The Nation

KLAS TV

CNN.com

FreePress.org

InTheseTimes.com


3 Comments for 'Can We Prevent Election Fraud?'

  1.  
    October 29, 2006 | 6:39 pm
     

    […] Today’s Foxtrot comic strip is pretty funny and quite relevant to the recent problems that have been revealed about Diebold electronic voting machines. Election fraud, especially when the winner is someone like our current sitting dictator-in-charge, is a very frightening thing. […]

  2.  
    February 2, 2007 | 12:26 pm
     

    […] Originally, in February of 2005, I wrote about the problems with the touch-screen voting machines, as well as a possible solution to the problem. You can read my original post here, but I’ll quote the relevant portions of the post here. I’ve also posted the NYT article as a PDF file, and it is available here. What is the solution? […]

  3.  
    February 2, 2007 | 12:29 pm
     

    […] I’ve also posted the NYT article as a PDF file, and it is available here.  Originally, in February of 2005, I wrote about the problems with the touch-screen voting machines, as well as a possible solution to the problem. You can read my original post here, but I’ll quote the relevant portions of the post. […]

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