The bipartisan, non-governmental Baker-Carter Election Commission set up by President Jimmy Carter (a Democrat) and the first Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker (a Republican) issued a report to Congress. The commission held public hearings on all the election problems we have been having since the debacle of 2000. Unfortunately, one of it recommendations was for voter identification requirements, and voter fraud is virtually non-existent! This seems to be a good time to revisit the Count Every Vote Act (CEVA) of 2005.
The CEVA of 2005 will require that recounts be made in 2% of all voting places. If major discrepancies are found, that could lead to manual recounts of an entire state. You may recall that two media consortiums studied the Florida presidential vote of 2000. Both found that if a statewide manual recount had taken place, Al Gore would have won the state’s electoral vote and the presidency. The allegedly conservative Miami Herald’s consortium gave the election to Gore in 2 of 3 state-wide scenarios in which different standards were used to determine acceptable ballots. The allegedly liberal New York Times’ consortium gave the election to Gore in 6 of 6 state-wide scenarios. As incredible as it seems, Al Gore never even asked for a manual state-wide recount because he thought there was no way it would be approved! The Bush brothers, George and Jeb, certainly didn’t want one! Our democracy depends on our demanding this be done in the future.
Secondly, the CEVA of 2005 prohibits important election officials from engaging in partisan politics. As Florida’s secretary of state, Katherine Harris was responsible for handling that state’s election apparatus in 2000. She was also the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney Election Campaign! Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Likewise in 2004, Kenneth Blackwell was Ohio’s secretary of state and also the co-chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney Re-Election Campaign! Ohio’s electoral votes gave the election to Mr. Bush.
Also, the CEVA will insist on a minimum number of voting machines at all voting places. On Election Day 2004, Blackwell and the President met with Matt Damschroder who had been responsible for the disbursement of the voting machines in Columbus, Ohio. Voting machines had been removed from heavily populated Democratic precincts and placed in less populated Republican suburban areas. The long lines that resulted discouraged Democratic voter participation.
Fourthly, the CEVA will make Election Day a national holiday. Remember those long lines? Please understand that most people do not get off work in order to vote and must do so on their own limited time. If it is a holiday and if there is a sufficient number of voting machines, the 40 to 50 % of registered voters that usually don’t vote will not be able to say that they just did not have the time.
A fifth provision of the CEVA is that electronic voting machines must print a voter-verifiable paper record of each vote that is cast. According to the non-profit Open Voting Consortium, over 30 million invisible votes were cast on U.S. voting machines in the Election of 2004. There is probably no greater threat to democracy than the electronic ballot that provides no paper trail! In a sworn affidavit, Clinton Curtis, a Florida computer-software engineer, admitted that he was told to develop undetectable software that could alter the final vote count in an election. He swears he was told to do this by Republican Florida Representative Tom Feeney, and he did it! That was in the fall of 2000.
In 2004, Jimmy Carter observed that not enough had been done in Florida since 2000 for there to be any reasonable expectation of fair elections there. Hence, even if asked, the Carter Center would never have agreed to monitor the voting in Florida! Florida’s electoral vote had to be conceded to the Republicans even though the Democrats could probably get a majority of votes there. There was even a fun Florida ballot on the internet: If you moved your mouse to point to the Bush box, you could click on it to vote for him. However, if you tried to vote for Kerry, the Kerry box would jump away from the pointer; and no matter how many times you tried, you could never click on Kerry’s box. That Florida internet ballot was an enjoyable joke, but what happened on Election Day in Ohio was not. There were voter complaints that it took three tries before a vote for Kerry would not register as a vote for Bush.
Finally, the CEVA will place restrictions on the political activities of those who manufacture the voting machines. Two companies count 80% of all votes in the U.S. They are Diebold Election Systems and Election Systems and Software. So what is the problem? The former president of Diebold and the vice-president of ES&S are brothers who are major contributors and supporters of the Republican Party. Remember that when Diebold provided the electronic voting booths in Ohio’s mostly Democratic precincts, President Bush was publicly assured that he would win in Ohio!
As hard as it is to imagine, George W. Bush may have legitimately won the popular vote in 2004. The tragedy is that it is impossible to truly believe it based on all the things that went wrong! The Count Every Vote Act of 2005 is intended to correct abuses that took place in Ohio, Florida, and other states that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. It does not matter whether you believe that everything that went wrong was by design, through incompetence, or by sheer accident. What is there in this bill that anyone could possibly object to? It certainly cannot be the cost: If we can afford the luxury of spending billions to promote democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, democracy cannot be too expensive for us at home.
Right now our election system is broken, and we must find a way to get this bill passed. However, since they are benefiting from the breakdown, we can hear the Republican response already: “The election system is not working quite well, but thank you anyway.” The ruthless dictator of the former Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, put it this way: “Those who vote decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything.”
by David Offutt
by David Offutt
This is a slightly revised version of an essay that was published September 14, 2005,
in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.