STIFFING VOTERS

From schooldays forward, we Americans are taught that voting is not merely a sacred privilege in our democracy, it is a civic duty. “Everyone should vote,” shout the Powers That Be.

From schooldays forward, we Americans are taught that voting is not merely a sacred privilege in our democracy, it is a civic duty. “Everyone should vote,” shout the Powers That Be.

Yet, some of those same powers are constantly tossing up impediments that desecrate the sacredness of the ballot. In recent years, for example, such corporations as Dieblod have tainted the democratic process with their “touch-screen” voting machines. These computerized devices supposedly cast your vote electronically, but there’s no way for you to know if the computer really follows your command, since it provides no physical confirmation of how – or even whether – it records your choices. I call it “faith-based voting.”

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And touch-screen systems don’t keep the faith. They are open to hackers, numerous programming glitches, and outright fraud, effectively stealing the votes of people all across the country.

However, thanks to an intrepid band of tech-savvy activists, a populist uprising has rolled across America, forcing district after district to mothball these electronic miscalculators. Thousands of the machines have been junked, warehoused, or simply sold for scrap. Touch-screen systems have become so disreputable that Diebold, the largest marketer of them, has even changed the name of its voting-machine division to Premier Elections Solutions Inc. – a corporate dodge that’s akin to joining a witness protection program.

As a result of this grassroots rebellion, nearly 60 percent of voters in November’s presidential election will mark their choices on paper ballots. It might be low-tech, but it’s high progress.

Meanwhile, there are other desecrations perverting America’s vote, ranging from brutish intimidation of some voters to the failure of officials to assure that enough ballots and staff are available in every precinct to accommodate all who show up to vote. America can’t claim to be the world’s leading democracy if we keep stiffing voters.

“For sale, cheap: electronic voting machines,” Seattle Times, August 20, 2008.

“No One Should Have to Stand In Line for 10 Hours to Vote,” The New York Times, August 26, 2008.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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