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Worried About Democracy?


By Jim Lane with Paul Hill

Americans are closely watching the computerized voting machines that are expected to record 1/3 of the votes up to November 2. Texas reporters took note of two sets of incidents during early voting here. The Austin Chronicle reported that people trying to vote straight Democrat had their presidential vote changed to GW Bush by the machines. It seems that there was a referendum at the end of the ballot. If voters tried to skip the referendum, or didn't know about it, and pushed the "vote" button, the machine automatically cast their vote for Bush. Austin election officials blame the voters for carelessness. No estimate is given as to how many careless Texans were being ripped off by the voting machines.

In Arlington, near Dallas, a referendum favoring a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys tended to disappear from the on-screen presentation. Voters could still find it by scrolling backward, election officials said, as if that ended the matter.

Americans who are worried about democracy, a category that includes almost everybody since the Florida vote in 2000, are concerned about these machines. Nobody knows how they operate, since the manufacturers consider the inner programming of the machines their proprietary intellectual property, and won't share the information with anyone. We're asked to trust the manufacturers, even if they are big contributors to candidates on one side, as is the owner of the Diebold company of Sherman, Texas, who is a major supporter of GW Bush and the largest manufacturer of the computerized voting machines.

Before Florida 2000, voters felt that there were democratic procedures, checks and balances, to check on the validity of the voting procedure and count. They have no such recourse with the new paperless voting machines. They deliver one count, and you can appeal it till you're blue in the face, but you'll never check their numbers!

Alleged cases of voter fraud, especially fraud committed by people who were supposed to be registering voters, are cropping up all over Florida and the rest of the nation. No matter who wins on November 2, there will be dark shadows across the reported results of every close race in America.

Jim Lane, People's Weekly World Correspondent in Dallas