Many of us know in our hearts that this Presidential election will be a series of procedural nightmares. Fatal weaknesses in our voting system will be exposed -- and exploited by some -- as never before. The potential for throwing the United States into deadly chaos is real, at a time when we desperately need positive direction and dynamic change. Yet problems with vote counting have already surfaced, though the major media haven't talked about it much.
Cans of Worms at the Polls
In New Hampshire, percentages on the hand count and the Diebold machine count came up with a shocking spread, according to unofficial analyst counts. Electronic voting machines gave the win to Hillary, with 53.23% against Obama's 46.77%. But hand counting gave the win to Obama, with 52.53% against Clinton's 47.47%. Naturally the Clinton people claimed victory, even though it came from the controversial Diebold machines. A lengthy report can be found at Salon.
I'm amazed that the Obama campaign isn't claiming their own victory by the hand count, which is more reliable. So far, the only candidate who is proactive on the problem is Dennis Kucinich. He got only 2 percent of the vote, so there's nothing for him in an official recount. But he's demanding one for all candidates. His own campaign will have to pay for it.
Meanwhile, another can of worms is being opened in Nevada. Clinton supporters are trying to juggle precinct boundaries and keep the big hotel workers union from electing the number of DNC delegates that the union expects to have under current state law. The union, Culinary Local 226, endorsed Obama and now they're insisting that the precinct re-juggling is an attempt to disenfranchise them. The New York Times had a report on the situation this morning.
Ideally, an election should be "one person, one piece of paper with a mark on it." Voters should be confident that the piece of paper will be counted accurately, and stored somewhere safely so it can be re-counted later if there's a question. But that ain't the way it works today. Blue Americans who see the Diebold machines as a Trojan horse rolled through the gates of the election system by evil Reds trying to hold onto their power must face the fact that some Democrats will use the Diebold advantage too. "Win at all costs" seems to be where our national election ethics has gone.
There are some strange wrinkles in state law that affect the vote count in primaries. Most of us are not aware of them. In New Hampshire, for example, the CNN talking heads have mentioned in passing that you don't have to be a resident to vote in a NH primary. All you have to do is declare an "intention" to move to NH by general election day. I can see some candidate's team rolling busloads of warm bodies with "intentions" into New Hampshire to vote.
A few years ago, I re-visited Spain, right after that country went through a similar tumult of voters wanting "change." Unhappy about their government's support of the Iraq war, and slowness to move Spain into the EU, the Spanish voters turned out in record numbers and upset the apple cart of the incumbent conservative Populist Party. They gave 43 percent of the vote to Socialist leader Zapatero and made him prime minister. It was an election where fraud might have crept in because the stakes were so high. Historically, the last century and a half have seen terrible struggles between the Spanish right and left, that led to civil war in 1936-39. But this time the highly charged voting had gone off without any major hitches.
I asked my Spanish friends how their country avoided the kind of pathetic squabble over election results that the U.S. had in Florida. "We have a tight security on voter ID at the polls," they told me, "and we use paper ballots. We think you Americans are crazy to use the voting machines."
Copyright (c) 2008 by Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.