Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Margins of Error

Peter notes below Nancy Pelosi’s precrimination to the effect that if Dems lose tomorrow, it will have to because they were cheated (i.e., Rovian mind-rays, hacked Diebold voting machines, etc.), just as I have been predicting for several weeks. That it is inconceivable that liberals might not be popular reveals much about the ongoing decay of the liberal mind today.

One should stop and reflect that it is the liberal reaction to the Florida 2000 disaster that has brought us to this point, namely the demand that we had to have national voting legislation and electronic voting machines to replace the chaotic paper ballots, punch cards, and other aspects of our decentralized voting system.

Elections always have sloppy elements even without reaching to fraud; there is always going to be a margin of error in voting with localized administration and various and sundry methods of casting votes. 99.9% of the time it doesn’t matter, as the margin of victory is beyond the margin of error. And even accounting for fraud, the mistakes and thefts probably even out over the long run between the two parties. There’s always another election two years ahead. Above all, problems with voting have hitherto been localized or decentralized; at least the 2000 disaster was confined to one state.

Once you demand that voting be standardized and made electronic, you prepare the perfect conditions for wild conspiracy theories to take root, even when they have little or no basis in fact. It will undermine our democratic process to have the fever swamps of the left deciding that elections can no longer be trusted. How long before we see another Chicago 68-style eruption in the streets?

Of course, the left may go way too far and discredit themselves with their allies in the media. A few days after the last election, I happened to have dinner with Bill Schneider of CNN; his Blackberry was pinging about every 15 seconds with another moonbat rant about how the Ohio election had been stolen, that the electronic voting machines had been altered by military radar planes that Bush sent over Ohio, and so forth. (Other political reporters were receiving the same mass barrage.) Schneider just shook his head in amazement, and shrugged that he was going to have to change his e-mail address.

Discussions - 6 Comments

"One should stop and reflect that it is the liberal reaction to the Florida 2000 disaster that has brought us to this point, namely the demand that we had to have national voting legislation and electronic voting machines to replace the chaotic paper ballots, punch cards, and other aspects of our decentralized voting system."

I once requested that my undercooked hamburger get a bit more attention, and that a cold, red, middle was not the same as medium rare. When I got a charred, tough burger ten minutes later, it was suggested that THAT was what I had asked for.

Why are Republicans not worried about these "scientific," new voting computers? If they can be hacked, and if they have been shown to be unreliable in some cases, why don’t Republicans worry?

Steve, how were you able to score dinner with a liberally-biased CNN reporter? Why was he giving you attention and shrugging off and wanting to eliminate contact with those oh-so-typical, conspiracy-theorizing Dem libs that were pestering him?

Fung, Have you ever worked at an election? It would be really hard for a person to find the private time with a voting machine to be able to hack it. There was a slashdot article on the ease of opening a voting machine to tamper with its innards. However, as described, it could not be done at the polling place. It was suggested that it might be done when the pollworkers took the machines home with them. Maybe things are different outside of Ohio, but that would NEVER happen here. There are a minimum of two poll workers from each party at each table, that’s four workers, and there must be one worker from each party at the table, with the machines, at all times. We stagger our restroom breaks, lunch, things like that. Where I live, it is all very civil, but people I know who work the polls in Cuyahoga County say it is very nasty and people are VERY suspicious of one another by party affiliation.

In other words, it would be hard to hack the new machines for the same reason it would have been hard to tamper with the old ones - people watch each other during the election process. It is supposed to work that way and it does. I am much more worried about fraud because of the opening of the registration process than because of the potential for the opening of the machines. As it becomes harder to track the voter and to be certain he (or she) is who he says he is, that kind of fraud seems much more likely to me, and much harder for the poll workers to verify.

Kate- I appreciate what you say, but I have seen and read enough to make me very skeptical. I watched on TV as someone punched in her vote, and the readout showed that she had just voted for the wrong person!

My mom worked elections until she turned 70, getting up at 4 AM, and working the entire day, and she has followed the issue closely, too. She doesn’t trust the new stuff any more than I do. Again, I don’t understand why the mistrust would go along partisan divisions, unless one party felt burned and the other felt fireproof.

Future chroniclers of American politics will ironically note that the remedial actions following the recount of 2000 led to INCREASED possibilities of electoral fraud. The paper ballots had their problems, but they at least were reflective of some voter’s attempt to cast a ballot, and his preference could often be gleaned from a close review of the ballot. The computers can be hacked, and there won’t be a paper trail for each vote cast. That means we will probably be unable to determine the intent of each voter. Introducing computers to elections will surely make the count faster, but computers can be tampered with, and they will be.

Here was a situation where the older way, was the better.

Genuine election reform would have led to a purge of "street money," would have led to a more robust effort at catching practitioners of election fraud, and would have led to more severe sentencing. Nobody is going to jail for election fraud, nobody is being prosecuted for conspiring to commit election fraud. Start putting electoral frauds behind bars, for that would go a long way towards curtailing the practice thereof.

As for the money, bar all sources of foreign funding for American parties and American candidates. Additionally, make public all contributions to political parties and candidates. And that includes various lobbying groups, and 507s. Lift all limits on contributions. If a citizen desires to throw millions behind some candidate, let him do so, just make sure that the contributions are not made anonymously.

Remember Ike approached the Soviets with an "open sky" proposal, whereby recon aircraft would be allowed overflight, so as to enable each side to determine with greater accuracy what the other side was up to. The idea was that secrecy allowed suspicions to take root. For campaign funding, we should follow the same logic of the "open skies" proposal, and allow unlimited funding, so long as that funding is made public. But with one caveat, unions should be prohibited from taking funds coerced from their members and throwing them behind political candidates. It has allowed an unhealthy element to be introduced into American elections. We don’t want to repeat the nightmare situation that confronted Thatcher, where the GTC almost constituted a state within a state.

Fung, that is appalling. Are you saying that the machine was NOT set up by the TV crew to do just that? Or are you saying it was a computer glitch? If purposeful tampering, my original point stands.

Yes, Dan, having a paper trail seems only right. (I like all of your campaign funding proposals, too.) Even those paper ballots, we know, were tampered with in the past. In our district today we voted on a paper ballot that was slid into a computerized scanner. The paper ballots were kept for verification, but the results would be transmitted, immediately. Those scanners are very new this year, though the ballots look like the same type the county has used for years. The ladies manning the polls were a younger group than usual, perhaps in anticipation of the new equipment. I cannot imagine Rose or Betty or Ethel, all over 80 years old, with whom I had worked in past elections, being at all comfortable with the digitized and humming scanning device.

My favorite old voting machines were enormous metal machines with monstrously large paper rolls inside. Every ballot cast was on one of those rolls, simply marked. God(and probably Judy who has worked at the Board of Election for the last thirty-some years) knows how they tabulated the things. You pushed your little levers toward the name of your candidate (you could only choose one name per office) and you could change your mind! up until you pushed the big lever that cast your ballot and opened the booth’s curtains at the same time. They had to be a misery to move around the county, but I do not see how anyone could have altered the ballots except by losing a whole roll.

And yet, any type of voting process probably has some room for fraud. Any vote might be lost through stupidity, too. Rose tried not to let one man cast his ballot one year, because he had used a pen on his ballot instead of the pencil provided and required. She wanted him to vote over again, on a fresh ballot. "I never use a pencil." he said. She was upset, because she saw who he had voted for and she was a Democrat, too. After an argument, stubbornly fought on both sides, he pushed his ballot in the box. Rose was right. It could not be counted.

No, I do not see being unconcerned over possible voting fraud, but neither do I see any fool-proof means of preventing the same. Especially, I do not see that Republicans can have any edge over Democrats in computerized voting fraud. Local fraud, by precinct or county, might be possible, but the idea of some massive, nationwide fraud seems extremely improbable.

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