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OPINION:

Why your vote won't matter

by John Kaminski

The state of Florida hasn't bothered to fix its mistakes from the last election—the same problems that allowed George W. Bush to slither into the White House are still in force.
So, you're going to cast your vote to prove that you live in a democracy, are you? Guess again.

Your vote does not matter. It might not even be counted, assuming you're allowed to vote to begin with. In fact, if you're black, and the first four letters of your last name match the first four letters on that famously fabricated list of Florida felons, you definitely won't be voting at all, because the state of Florida hasn't bothered to fix its mistakes from the last election—the same problems that allowed George W. Bush to slither into the White House are still in force.

Plus, the thoughtful Republicans in Florida, led by the president's porcine brother Jeb Bush, have added some new obstacles to counting the votes accurately, the best of which is the new touchscreen voting system, which eliminates the paper trail that would expose ballot manipulation and also would be used for legitimate recounts in the case of very close elections. No more recounts—isn't that efficient?

Angry columnist Jackson Thoreau recently penned a comprehensive roundup of Republican shenanigans going on around the country to reduce the Democratic vote. Read the whole story or let me give you this brief synopsis. You have to hand it to the Republicans for evil inventiveness. In New Mexico, the GOP tried to bribe the Green Party to run candidates in three Congressional races to siphon votes away from popular Democrats. Of course, the principled Greens refused. In Michigan, Republicans recruited nine "stealth" candidates to run as Democrats, thereby discouraging legitimate opposition. In early voting in Dallas, Texas, voting machines were recording Democratic votes as Republican; the GOP, when caught, blamed it on "miscalibration." In Arkansas, many African American voters were asked to produce their voter ID cards in a blatant effort at intimidation. Officials in South Dakota want new restrictions on Native American voters.

Did you know that Republicans used private planes from Enron Corp. and Halliburton Co., the firm headed by Dick Cheney that also practiced phony accounting fraud, to crisscross the state and block the counting of Florida votes? This time around in the Florida primary, misleading fliers were circulated again, saying that some people should vote on a day after Nov. 5. Similar fliers were circulated in Florida before the 2000 election, which some say confused some voters there. I bet they'd like to hire Arthur Andersen to audit Florida's elections system.

The people who count the votes are the same people who both predict (via the use of polls) the winners and also report on the outcomes of these elections. Do you think they have any interest in promoting their credibility by seeing their predictions verified?

But these are trivial gestures—distracting parlor games, really—and not the real issue that proves your own vote will not matter.

President Bush supposedly signed new Election Reform Legislation into law earlier this month. Kay J. Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, stated: "Because of the hard work of many elected officials, advocacy groups, and grassroots organizations such as ours, Americas voters can look forward to real changes at their polling places over the next few years." Right, the next few years. But not this year. Nothing, especially in Florida, has really changed at all.

Where we begin to get a little closer to the truth is not in the debate about who can vote, although that certainly is important, but in the mechanics of the voting. Call it the hanging chad tangent, if you like.

Like the voting machines. Who provides them, and who operates them? [See Who makes the vote-counting machines?]

Most recently, a former Florida secretary of state profited by being a lobbyist for both the state's counties and the company that sold some of those touch-screen voting machines used in last month's botched primary election. Sandra Mortham, who served as the state's top elections official from 1995 to 1999, is a lobbyist for both Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and the Florida Association of Counties, which exclusively endorsed the company's touchscreen machines in return for a commission... Mortham received a commission from ES&S for every county that bought its touch-screen machines. The exact terms have not been disclosed. Mortham is, of course, a Republican; and before a scandal brought her down, she was going to be Jeb Bush's running mate in Florida.

And of course, there is the current problem in Nebraska. Look at the documents, see the loop: ES&S, according to the Nebraska Elections Division, is the ONLY vote-counting company certified to sell machines in Nebraska. ES&S counts 80 percent of the votes; the remaining 20 percent are hand counts.

ES&S is owned by the McCarthy Group; Michael McCarthy runs the McCarthy Group; Michael McCarthy is the Campaign Treasurer for Republican Senator Chuck Hagel; The FEC designates Michael McCarthy as a Primary Campaign Committee for Candidate Chuck Hagel; and Chuck Hagel's financials list the McCarthy Group as an “asset,” with his investment valued at $1-$5 million.

Hagel came to Omaha from Washington, where he worked with the first George Bush Administration. In news articles by the Omaha World-Herald, Hagel said he was coming to Omaha to become president and partner in the McCarthy Group and Chairman of American Information Systems.

In his congressional bio he is said to have come to Omaha "to prepare for running for office." The first thing he did was run American Information Systems, a vote-counting company. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Nebraska senatorial campaign. He continues to disclose an investment of $1-$5 million in the McCarthy Group, but he does not identify the underlying assets (ES&S). His disclosure documents omit any mention of American Information Systems at all. John Gottschalk has been reported as a director for both the World-Herald Company Inc. (concentrating on the non-newspaper subsidiaries) and ES&S. He was also involved with Senator Hagel in the World USO, and has relationships with James Baker; he is listed as a USO pal of George W. Bush. Hmm—there's that certain odor again. (The unabridged information on this can be accessed on Talion.com's site. )

James M. Collier wrote, in his 1992 classic, Votescam: The Stealing of America, "People who mistrust the voting process cannot, in the traditional American way, accept the defeat of their candidates gracefully and work loyally with the winners. Instead, more and more American voters are feeling ‘had,’ ‘scammed,’ ‘hoodwinked’ by the voting system. Trust has almost departed. There is the nagging, unproven, yet pervasive feeling that the ‘experts,’ the ‘spin doctors,’ the ‘covert operators’ and the ‘private interests’ have put their technicians and consultants in absolute control of the national vote count, and that in any selected situation these computer wizards can and will program the vote as their masters wish."

Check out the Vote Scam web site. When you do, you'll realize that not just the second Bush was an illegitimately elected president.

What really determines elections is who counts the votes, and who counts the votes is somebody you probably didn't know. If you did know them, you surely wouldn't trust them to count the votes. No government agency counts the votes. And the people who count the votes, who tell you who your next president is, have no government oversight, no audit, no official you have elected watching over them.

The people who really count the votes are the media, more specifically a politically influenced cabal of minions bought and paid for by corporate tycoons who own the nation's major media outlets. These are the same people who don't think peace demonstrations are worthy of coverage, and who in the year 2000 got together and reviewed the data from Florida and then really wouldn't tell us what they found out. The highest court of the United States wouldn't let Florida recount its ballots, and the highest media of the United States wouldn't tell us what they found when they did. In case you were wondering, there is no honest official vote total from the last election, only the one "certified" by Katherine Harris.

Evan Ravitz, founder of the vote.org website, has itemized the major problems with America's manipulable election system.

"When I directed Boulder, Colorado's Voting by Phone ballot initiative campaign in 1993 I learned many unnerving things about existing voting procedures. The problems revealed in Florida are just the beginning," Ravitz wrote. Here's his list:

  1. The Voter News Service (formerly News Election Service)—which supplies ALL election-eve numbers on national and Congressional races—is a private business of the TV networks, The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press. If you ask them how they count votes and predict outcomes, they say that's “proprietary information”! They have no website or other public profile. And they won't tell you a thing about how they do what they do.

  2. Most votes in America are counted by computer programs which are also proprietary secrets. Not even election officials are allowed to inspect these programs (the "source code") to verify their accuracy. Election officials can test the programs (using "test decks") but any clever programmer can write a program which passes tests but falsifies the election.

  3. In most jurisdictions, identification for voting is on the honor system. Signatures, if taken, are not compared to your signature on file in most places unless you are "challenged" by election judges or poll watchers, a rare event. When this system started hundreds of years ago, the election judges or poll watchers knew most everyone in their precincts. In modern America, this is rarely true.

  4. Mail or absentee ballots are often delivered to old addresses, and the USPS is not supposed to forward them. Whoever gets one could fill it out in the rightful voter's name. This is discussed in the document "Florida Voter Fraud Issues" from the Florida Department Of Law Enforcement. In student and other high-turnover areas, this problem is rife.

  5. In states with "early" voting, there is no system to prevent people from voting early at an elections office and then also voting at their precinct.
So, here's the deal: the people who count the votes are the same people who both predict (via the use of polls) the winners and also report on the outcomes of these elections. Do you think they have any interest in promoting their credibility by seeing their predictions verified? After all, these are private businesses.

Also, the actual members of the Voter News Service are super-rich media barons, with intimate ties to the power structure of America, which chooses all of the major candidates for president in every election. Do you think they might be in agreement who will win before the election ever transpires?

The media giants who reported on—and recounted—Florida's votes in the 2000 election failed to report one simple fact: that by law, ballots rejected by counting machines have to be hand-counted. This did not occur, and this was not widely reported. If either had occurred, you know who would not be in the White House at this moment.

If either had occurred, our Constitutional Bill of Rights would still be in force—which now, as a result of this convenient media oversight, it is not.

The same wealthy patricians who undercount the number of people who attend antiwar demonstrations, who pretend there are no political opinions in the United States except Republican and Democratic, who deride "liberals" and blithely report that Paul Wellstone's death was just a mysterious accident—and that 9/11 was an attack by disenchanted Muslim terrorists...these are the same people who are predicting and reporting on your elections, as well as the very ones who actually count the votes and give you the totals.

Which is why your vote in the November 5 election most definitely does not really matter.


John Kaminski is a writer living on the coast of Florida who will not be voting for Katherine Harris (“who should be indicted for 22,000 counts of civil rights violations”). He may be reached at skylax@comcast.net.


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This story was published on November 4, 2002.
  
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