The hot story in the Blogosphere is that the "erroneous"
exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among
other states) weren't erroneous at all - it was the numbers
produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and
Kerry actually won. As more and more analysis is done of what
may (or may not) be the most massive election fraud in the
history of the world, however, it's critical that we keep the
largest issue at the forefront at all time: Why are We The
People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable
only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only
to agendas and politicians that will enhance their
profitability, to handle our votes?
Maybe Florida went for Kerry, maybe for Bush. Over time -
and through the efforts of some very motivated investigative
reporters - we may well find out (Bev Harris of http://www.blackboxvoting.org/ just filed what
may be the largest Freedom of Information Act [FOIA} filing in
history), and bloggers and investigative reporters are
discovering an odd discrepancy in exit polls being largely
accurate in paper-ballot states and oddly inaccurate in
touch-screen electronic voting states Even raw voter analyses are showing extreme
oddities in touch-screen-run Florida, and eagle-eyed bloggers
are finding that news organizations are retroactively altering
their exit polls to coincide with what the machines
But in all the discussion about voting machines, let's
never forget the concept of the commons, because this
usurpation is the ultimate felony committed by conservatives
At the founding of this nation, we decided that there were
important places to invest our tax (then tariff) dollars, and
those were the things that had to do with the overall "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" of all of us. Over
time, these commons - in which we all make tax investments and
for which we all hold ultimate responsibility - have come to
include our police and fire services; our military and
defense; our roads and skyways; our air, waters and national
parks; and the safety of our food and drugs.
But the most important of all the commons in which we've
invested our hard-earned tax dollars is our government itself.
It's owned by us, run by us (through our elected
representatives), answerable to us, and most directly
responsible for stewardship of our commons.
And the commons through which we regulate the commons of
our government is our vote.
About two years ago, I wrote a story for these pages, "If You Want To Win An
Election, Just Control The Voting Machines," that exposed
how Senator Chuck Hagel had, before stepping down and running
for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska, been the head of the voting
machine company (now ES&S) that had just computerized
Nebraska's vote. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's
"Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was
the major Republican upset in the November election."
According to Bev Harris, Hagel won virtually every demographic
group, including many largely black communities that had never
before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24
years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, nearly all on
unauditable machines he had just sold the state. And in all
probability, Hagel run for President in 2008.
In another, later article I wrote
at the request of MoveOn.org and which they mailed to their
millions of members, I noted that in Georgia - another state
that went all-electronic - "USA Today reported on Nov. 3,
2002, 'In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows
Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49%-to-44% lead over
Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss. 'Cox News Service, based in
Atlanta, reported just after the election (Nov. 7) that,
"Pollsters may have goofed" because 'Republican Rep. Saxby
Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by a
margin of 53 to 46 percent. The Hotline, a political news
service, recalled a series of polls Wednesday showing that
Chambliss had been ahead in none of them.'" Nearly every vote
in the state was on an electronic machine with no audit trail.
In the years since those first articles appeared, Bev
Harris has published her book on the subject ("Black Box
Voting"), including the revelation of her finding the
notorious "Rob Georgia" folder on Diebold's FTP site just
after Cleland's loss there; Lynn Landes has done some
groundbreaking research, particularly her new
investigation of the Associated Press, as have Rebecca Mercuri and David
Dill. There's a new video out on the topic, Votergate,
available at http://www.votergate.tv/.
Congressman Rush Holt introduced a bill into Congress
requiring a voter-verified paper ballot be produced by all
electronic voting machines, and it's been co-sponsored by a
majority of the members of the House of Representatives. The
two-year battle fought by Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay to keep
it from coming to a vote, thus insuring that there will be no
possible audit of the votes of about a third of the 2004
electorate, has fueled the flames of conspiracy theorists
convinced Republican ideologues - now known to be willing to
lie in television advertising - would extend their "ends
justifies the means" morality to stealing the vote "for the
better good of the country" they think single-party Republican
rule will bring.
Most important, though, the rallying cry of the emerging
"honest vote" movement must become: Get Corporations Out Of
Why have we let corporations into our polling places,
locations so sacred to democracy that in many states even
international election monitors and reporters are banned? Why
are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote,
in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private
corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes
the Bible should replace the Constitution; in another case run
by one of Ohio's top Republicans; and in another case partly
owned by Saudi investors?
Of all the violations of the commons - all of the crimes
against We The People and against democracy in our great and
historic republic - this is the greatest. Our vote is too
important to outsource to private corporations.
It's time that the USA - like most of the rest of the world
- returns to paper ballots, counted by hand by civil servants
(our employees) under the watchful eye of the party faithful.
Even if it takes two weeks to count the vote, and we have to
just go, until then, with the exit polls of the news agencies.
It worked just fine for nearly 200 years in the USA, and it
can work again.
When I lived in Germany, they took the vote the same way
most of the world does - people fill in hand-marked ballots,
which are hand-counted by civil servants taking a week off
from their regular jobs, watched over by volunteer
representatives of the political parties. It's totally clean,
and easily audited. And even though it takes a week or more to
count the vote (and costs nothing more than a bit of overtime
pay for civil servants), the German people know the election
results the night the polls close because the news media's
exit polls, for two generations, have never been more than a
tenth of a percent off.
We could have saved billions that have instead been handed
over to ES&S, Diebold, and other private corporations.
Or, if we must have machines, let's have them owned by
local governments, maintained and programmed by civil servants
answerable to We The People, using open-source code and
disconnected from modems, that produce a voter-verified
printed ballot, with all results published on a
As Thomas Paine wrote at this nation's founding, "The right
of voting for representatives is the primary right by which
all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to
reduce a man to slavery."
Only when We The People reclaim the commons of our vote can
we again be confident in the integrity of our electoral
process in the world's oldest and most powerful democratic
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project
Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a
nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. http://www.thomhartmann.com/commondreams.shtml
His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate
Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America,"
and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To