Dear PoliticusUSA readers: You do understand that the Teapublicans will do anything to capture the presidency, Congress and every state legislature and governorship in the country in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, don’t you? Good; now let us proceed.
Defining the most important term so there are no misunderstandings; “anything” means ANYTHING!!!
All issues, personalities, controlled media and giant corporate and billionaire money notwithstanding, there is one element that is imperative to winning public office. Without it, no matter how commanding the other considerations may be, a political party cannot win a single office. That’s why it’s vital that beginning now, we track the process that decides whether America is going to continue it’s divisive path to mediocrity or if the Democrats are going to get a chance to right the Ship of the Republic that the Republican right is threatening to sink.
That critical element is the vote. And in every corner of this fine nation, especially red state corners, there is a history of voting hardware irregularities, “mistakes”, oversights and other warning signs that cannot be ignored. There’s also a legislative development in states that I find hopeful in some locales and highly bothersome in others.
The Brennan Center for Justice profiles state efforts to either expand or restrict voter access to the polls. At this point it appears to be a statistical tie. I’m concerned that just enough states will opt for restrictions, no matter what the ethical and moral costs, to guarantee outcomes that maintain or gain political Tea Party power in the states and Washington DC. The highly partisan Supreme Court is doing it’s part with their last voting rights decision.
Let’s start at the beginning. Magicians have a cunning gimmick that has been an endemic part of their craft since the beginning of magic. They call it misdirection. While pointing out the big yellow hat worn by the lady in the front row, they snatch your wallet as your attention wanders to the hat.
That’s what the right-wing is doing with voter repression. While progressive attention is rightly focused on draconian anti-voter laws, excused by right-wingers as legislative reactions to so-called “voter fraud” that borders on non-existent, the real fraud may just be at the polling place in the form of the computerized hardware and software used to cast legitimate votes. It doesn’t take much to turn a close election. A manipulated memory card or some localized hacking can easily do the trick.
What is really disturbing to people of integrity is the cozy relationships among the ownership of voting hardware and software used in most elections. The owners mostly support Republican candidates. Follow the bouncing political ball for some prime examples. Let’s begin at the beginning; with current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Republican, who was a corporate and oil-owned, homophobic, anti-environment, budget-hawk while serving two Senate terms from Nebraska. Hagel also had a sketchy background as a substantial investor in a voting hardware and software company. He served as Chairman of American Information Systems leading to strong business and personal friendships with a major player in the voting machine business who skews strongly Republican.
It took some outstanding investigative work in 2002 by Bev Harris (blackboxvoting.org) to expose Hagel’s role in a company called Election Systems & Software (ES&S), previously known as American Information Systems. According to a 2009 report in Huffpost Politics, Hagel’s public documents revealed a stake in ES&S to the tune of $1 to 5 million. ES & S machines were the only voting system used during Hagel’s candidacies for two Senate terms.
Hagel’s 2002 opponent, Charlie Matulka, raised a stink, insisting that Hagel was guilty of a conflict of interest given his ties to ES&S. Website “Scoop” later reported that state election officials showed no inclination to listen to Matulka’s concerns and did nothing. On the basis of machine malfunctions, Matulka requested a hand count. Again, no dice insofar as Nebraska had a law, hot off the presses, prohibiting poll workers from looking at paper ballots. Only ES&S could count votes. And you thought Cornhuskers were hicks!
You might be interested (or terrified) to learn that ES&S was once owned by the Ahmanson family, the Christian Reconstructionists who would like to see the bible used as the basis for all federal law. In any event, the Ahmansons sold ES&S to the McCarthy group headed by Michael McCarthy for whom Hagel once served as president of an investment firm McCarthy owed. McCarthy, in turn was Hagel’s campaign finance manager. He’s always been a big Republican. See how that ball bounces.
ES&S subsequently merged with Diebold a few years ago and controls well over half of all U.S. voting machines and according to Huffpost, three-quarters of all vote-counting, ballot tallying and tabulation of vote mechanisms. And ‘fox in the henhouse’ Hagel cavorts in the deepest recesses of Government. In addition to ES&S, the McCarthy Group features several subsidiaries, including AutoMark software, that add to the right-leaning mix.
Indiana is one of the states really diddling around with the voting process. It is establishing voting centers and relying heavily on the ES&S iVotronic machine for their DRE (Direct-recording Electronic) Touch screen machines for casting a ballot. The state has selected ES&S subsidiary, AutoMark software, to handle assorted services demanded of a major election. Some ES&S states have the optional paper-trial printer, my state of South Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania are included in those that do not.
Can the theft of the 2014 and 2016 elections actually happen? Progressive Website ‘firedoglake’ certainly thinks so given this 2012 expose’ of the 2004 Bush/Kerry presidential race. According to the site, victory was snatched from Kerry in an action masterminded by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
Fortunately the site’s fears about Romney were unfounded in 2012, but with ’04 we’ve been forewarned. Hart Intercivic provides voting machines and tallies a massive number of the state and local votes cast election night. We can look forward to wild west 2014 and 2016 elections. For the record, votes go directly into computer memory. This could be done via diskette, a memory cartridge or even a smart card. The last time I checked ES&S memory was programmed in Omaha. Click here for more really scary stuff.
Try to station computer-savvy progressives at every stage of the process. Observers or poll watchers are allowed in most polling places. Election boards also include Democratic members. At the very least get your election guy or gal to check out the source code. You’ll have to catch the sleazoids red-handed because an embarrassing percentage of the voting machine innards are black-boxed and ‘proprietary’ and they won’t let you get at them.
This is my civic version of an “Early Warning System.”