Friday, June 02, 2006

We were robbed and didn't even notice

Finally, and for a broad audience, a persuasive case is made that the official results of presidential election of 2004 did not reflect the will of the voters. I'm generally a sceptic about things like this, but if someone set forth to rig an election, this article describes just about the optimal way to do it: not through a single large activity, but through simultaneous smaller, and apparently unconnected, measures netting the desired result with sufficient leeway to allow for the possible failure or detection of any or some of the single elements.* Further, such a program could be executed with total deniability, in that the campaign management need only give the instructions to "do everything possible" to win. When the campaign has already created an atmosphere where the ethical threshold is low, independent operatives at the local level are ideally placed to define "everything possible" in a creative and effective way.

The city of Frankfurt, Germany recently had elections to the city parliament (90-some members) and local councils (up to 19 members). The ballot was a piece of paper the better part of a square meter in size. Voting in the Land of Hessen is complicated -- voters can vote straight party tickets, or mixes of parties, or for individual candidates, or if they vote for party lists, they can strike out individual names or assign more weight to individual names -- and counting the votes is almost rocket science, but it is still a paper ballot, with crosses in little boxes drawn by the voters' hands, and counted by real people one-by-one. Paper ballots work really do work, and they leave a real physical trail of voters' intentions. You have to wonder why so few people in the US are asking why there is supposed to be a need to switch to something other than paper ballots. It wasn't broke, and trying to "fix" the problem actually means trying to fix elections. Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers. (in Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow).
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* That's exactly how orchestral tuttis work, by the way.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

As somebody who has been an election poll worker in San Francisco over the last five years, I'm astonished at how the whole electronic voting system here is rigged for maximum non-transparency. As Gore Vidal has often stated, Americans aren't allowed to have any real politics, they merely have elections, which aren't really the same thing. Plus, the elections themselves are starting to look more pointless with each iteration.

Good Thomas Pynchon quote, by the way.