SOS From US Voters: Send International Election Inspectors in November 2004, February 2004

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© Hazel Henderson, February, 2004 www.hazelhenderson.com
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“SOS FROM U.S. VOTERS:
send international election inspectors in November 2004!”

U.S. Voters are increasingly worried that their votes for President in November 2004 won’t be properly counted.  They are still shaken by the election fiasco in Florida in 2000, where thousands of votes were thrown out, incorrectly recorded and some 60,000 people (largely African-Americans) were purged from the voting rolls – many unfairly.

Most who voted Democratic are still angry that their choice, Al Gore, won the popular election by over 500,000 votes. With the Green Party’s Ralph Nader’s 2.8 million votes included, it is clear that George W. Bush’s votes were a minority. The majority of U.S. votes were over-ridden by the party insiders, which make up the “electoral college” and that the Supreme Court, by stopping the Florida vote recount – threw the election to George W. Bush.

Why is all this still relevant in the presidential election in November 2004?  Partly, because it helps explain the internet-based insurgent candidacy of Dr. Howard Dean and how it forced an anti-special interest, populist agenda on even insider Democrats John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and earlier dropouts Dick Gephart and Bob Graham.

The flawed 2000 election also explains the growing anti-Bush sentiments, as daily revelations seem to confirm that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was unjustified and based on false intelligence.  This also calls into question Bush’s official doctrine of US National Security of September 2002 as claiming the right to preemptive attack on other countries. If U.S. intelligence is not reliable, then its use as justification for preemptive strikes such as on Iraq collapses.

Bush has responded by appointing an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures and why his chief weapons inspector, Dr. David Kay testifies that no WMD have been found in Iraq – and that perhaps there were none after the UN inspectors left after 1998.  The problem for U.S. voters is that this commission may not report until after the election of November 2004.

Adding to voters’ unease is the outrageous gerrymandering of congressional districts in Texas, masterminded by Republican Majority Whip, Tom De Lay, which created seven more easy congressional seats for the Republicans. Equally ominous is the stranglehold that dominant Republicans now hold over the legislative rules and procedures in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. These rules block debate, eliminate floor amendments and have led to late-night sessions behind closed doors, leading to revisions of bills already approved in bi-partisan conference committees. This Republican rigging of the rules, according to Robert Kuttner, editor of The American Prospect, is leading to “America As a One-Party State” (Feb, 2004, at www.prospect.org).

Another sign that international election inspectors are needed to monitor U.S. elections is the perverse outcomes of the so-called reform legislation, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was supposed to rectify the abuses of the Florida debacle of 2000.  The rush to touch-screen machines by legislators naively optimistic about computer technology has led to even greater suspicion.

The problems are summarized in “Ballot Breakdown” (Scientific American, Feb 2004) pointing out that private vendors of the touch-screen machines, Diebold Election Systems of Texas, Election Systems and Software of Nebraska and the multinational company, election.com sometimes require public election officials to sign non-disclosure agreements to protect their trade secrets of the software driving how these voting machines work. Worse, most machines have no paper confirmation (such as the slip ATM machines provide to verify cash transactions) and the standards setting body under the HAVA legislation includes the companies named above as members.

The touch-screen machines they are selling to election officials also lack security and voter verifiability – i.e., there is no way to conduct a re-count or for voters to check the way the machine recorded their votes.  Harvard expert Rebecca Mercuri has proposed a simple paper trail: a glass screen and a printer on each machine for each voter to review – which would also allow vote recounts. Other reform proposals include Harvard mathematician Alan F. Kay’s Best Practices System for National Elections (www.alanfkay.com). Although $3.8 billion was appropriated under HAVA to upgrade U.S. voting machines procedures and other workable methods are available, few will be implemented in time for the November 2004 election.

Even the New York Times acknowledges that these Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting machines can be used to subvert federal elections without a trace (www.nytimes.com/2004/01/31/opinoin/31SATI.html). These DRE machines are already being installed for the 2004 election. Voter’s groups are organizing to obtain legal injunctions against the use of these paperless unverifiable machines. A Voter Integrity Act has been introduced by Congressman Rush Holt, PhD, also a physicist and Democrat from New Jersey. The Electronic Frontier Foundation of Boston is investigating misuse of these machines (www.eff.org).

As if all this has not shaken U.S. voters’ faith in our democracy, the TV stations on which voters rely to report the election results are likely to fail again – as they did in Florida in 2000. The networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the Associated Press (AP) used their cost-saving consortium, Voter News Service to conduct exit polls and count votes. They were wrong in 2000 and erred again in the 2002 mid-term elections when a new computer system failed. The networks’ pooled analysis left few independent assessments and now Voter News Service has been disbanded and the networks have chosen the AP as their only source on vote counting.

The networks will now rely on a group of pollsters doing exit polls, which include the same pollsters who made incorrect calls in Florida in 2000 (Business Week, Feb. 2, 2004). Such cost cutting short-changes voters and media responsibilities in our democracy to inform the people. No wonder U.S. citizens fear for the survival of democracy itself.

Perhaps the best assurance U.S. voters could have as they choose their president in 2004 is through informal and official channels, to invite international election monitors to come and watch our 200,000 polling places nationwide.

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HAZEL HENDERSON, futurist, evolutionary economist, is author of Beyond Globalization and other books.  She co-created with the Calvert group of socially-responsible mutual funds, the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators (www.calvert-henderson.com).

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