Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vote Early and Often

After almost forty years observing and, occasionally, participating in politics, I normally didn’t get too riled up about elections. 2000 changed all that, and not only for me. There was an outcry and chorus about reforming the way we vote, cleaning it up, making it transparent, incapable of sabotage. Now, almost 6 years later, as we approach another election year, it’s time to ask what happened?

The answer is grim. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Especially when it’s such a simple issue. As the Clintonites were wont to say, “It’s the optical scanner systems, stupid.”

Report after report proves that these machines, as well as other electronic voting systems, just don’t work. (, just Google “voting irregularities, optical scanners) They’re able to be hacked, manipulated, and contaminated. And the fact that many of them don’t even generate a paper trail so we can see how they were hacked, manipulated, and contaminated is absurd. Never has the potential for vote fraud been so massive, so pervasive, and so dangerous.

We are allowing our democratic system to be hijacked by companies like Diebold. Come on, folks. He’s a significant Republican contributor. Always has been. Are we that naïve?

And yet, six years after we first saw it happen, nobody seems to care. If there’s anything we hold sacred these days (and there’s not much) it should be our ability to vote and think it might actually make a difference. But except for sporadic emails from Move-On and other liberal groups, I don’t hear much of an outcry.

Okay, I’m not naïve enough to think stuffing the ballot box is new. Chicago, my home town, has a rich tradition of it. (Quick: who coined the phrase “Vote Early and Often”?)*

But are we all so inured to systemic corruption that we don’t even want to lift a finger in protest? Are we so apathetic and cynical that we just assume the fix is in?

I know we’re all faced with demands on our time. I also know there are lots of good causes to commit to. All of this makes it increasingly difficult to energize ourselves, to care about everything. But this seems to me to be one of the most basic.. I mean, if we give up our right to unfettered and fair elections, we may as well tear up Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence.

Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t we just forget the exercise of voting and watch it on TV instead? We already have a show called American Idol. Why don’t we just let Paula, Simon and the rest of the gang decide who our next elected officials will be? That’s tantamount to what we’re already doing when we allow optical scanners to tally our votes.

By the way, David Skibbins, a fine mystery writer has a book coming out, hopefully in 2008, about how the Presidential election could be manipulated through optical scanners. He’s calling it Hardened.

Appropriate, don’t you think?

*Answer: Big Bill Thompson, Chicago mayor, 1915-1931 (more or less)

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