Friday, March 9, 2012

Winning Elections in the 21st Century

 "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." -- Josef Stalin

To be a successful politician, the first requirement is an ego the size of the Taj Mahal; the second requirement (and this applies to political parties as well) is an absolutely belief in the rightness of one's ideas and on the ideology underlying them. This applies whether one is driven by greed and lust for power for the sake of power or by altruism and a fervent desire to make a better world.

The first priority is to be elected.  Actually gaining and keeping power is the ONLY priority because without that, nothing else counts.  (That doesn't mean a party not in power has no opportunity to shape legislation - much of Canada's social legislation brought in by the Liberals was at one time or another part of the CCF-NDP platform).

So the combination of gigantic ego, unshakeable rightness and the need to win puts a great deal of temptation in the way to "help" the voters. This is likely as old as voting. Whether it was Tammany Hall in New York, Daley's Chicago, Duplessi's Quebec or Drapeau's Montreal, the great unwashed were not necessarily trusted to make the "right" choice.  Legend has it Joey Smallwood told Lester Pearson as they drove through a cemetery in St Johns Newfoundland to "Keep waving; some of my strongest supporters are here".

I have to admit Harper's alleged robo-calling is petty stuff compared to the list of observed misconduct in the Russian presidential election.  Putin  owns the Election Commission, the Police/Militia and the Courts so he can get away with 19th century fraud methods.

America, on the other hand, is, as always, much more sophisticated.  They have electronic voting machines.  Touch-screen voting has been in since 1996, although it doesn’t work. There are no paper ballots. There is no accounting, no audit, and no recount. Four companies supply them and are essentially in charge of counting the electronic ballots.  There have been some royal screw ups along with a fair bit of questionable results.  There is little or no security against voter fraud built into the machines compared to Vegas slot machines.

Some of the interesting things I found:

In Florida, where Diebold registered 16,022 negative votes for Gore, newsmen saw votes falling off Gore’s tally.  A Diebold machine registered 16,022 negative votes for Al Gore in Precinct 216 in Florida in the 2000 presidential election.  Here is how it is done:

In the 2004 election one County in Ohio, equipped with Diebold electronic voting machines, reported NEGATIVE 25,000 votes.

A statistical analysis on several swing states found that in EVERY STATE that has paper audit trails on their EVoting, the exit poll results matched the actual results reported within the margin of error. So, we have MATCHING RESULTS for exit polls vs. voting with audits vs. A 5% unexplained advantage for Bush without audits.  Here is how that is done: 

The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio for the 2004 election told Republicans in a fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." 

Beverley Harris, at Black Box Voting, said that she went into the computer, by-passed the password and changed the vote in less than 10 minutes.

In three different electoral counts in three different states, each candidate who won, did so by exactly the same number of votes!

A CEO of one of the four major voting machine corporations, resigned his position to run for public office. He then won the vote, counted by his own machine. He had a $5 million ownership in the company that counted 80 per cent of the votes. 

Spanish-speaking and other minority areas where the machines have been introduced in some instances the voter pushes for one candidate and the machine registers the other, then deletes the actual choice, to prevent discovery in an audit. 

In Georgia, 22,000 machines were modified by the supplier and no one could see what change was inserted. 

New Hampshire used uncertified software on the touch screen voting in the caucus. There were huge discrepancies between machine counting and hand counting.

Rigging an election is merely a "misdemeanour" in some states and of course
there is incredible resistance to any audits by the beneficiaries of the electronic voting.

This one is my favourite: During Arnold Schwarzenegger’s run for the post of California governor, the vote total showed up on the internet five hours before the polls closed and the figure was the same as the final announced vote. I am certain it prompted The Onion announcement that one of the Diebold machines had accidentally released the name of the 2012 presidential winner in the video below.


  1. Pretty sad. Not the kind of thing that inspires any confidence in the political system.

  2. "The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio for the 2004 election told Republicans in a fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

    That was the CEO (or president) of Diebold.

    E-voting should be outlawed because it's an open invitation to chicanery. Given that so many U.S. states have spent serious money buying the equipment and now are struggling to balance budgets in a time of reduced revenues, getting rid of the damned machines is a nonstarter.

    The situation will continue until we've had a couple of really big scandals, revealed by whistleblowers or discovered and proven. Then, maybe, e-voting will go the way of eight-track tapes, to be replaced by something more trustworthy, like paper ballots counted under watchful eyes.

    1. What constitutes a really big scandal? W serving two terms as president without being elected? There are all kinds of examples on the net, I just listed a few, any of which in a civilized country would put people in jail and get the machines impounded.

  3. Great post: I was in Newfoundland in the early sixties during the time of Joey Smallwood. The story of his come to power is great reading. I love Newfoundland and intend to go back for a visit within the next couple of years...If you haven't seen the movie The Shipping News it is a must see - few movies are as good as the book...this one is.
    The Ol'Buzzard

    1. Thanks, Ol'Buzzard. I had The Shipping News on my reading list once and forgot about it. Will put it back on the list. I had heard the movie was good. will try to find it. Joey was a legend. I just missed him as he was out of power about the time I started paying attention.
      did you ever read Claire Mowat's the Outport People? A fantastic book. Made me feel like I knew a little about the people of Newfoundland. someday I too would like to visit The Rock.


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