Machine Politics and Political Machines. Does Money Determine The Outcome Of Elections Or Demographics?
Recently Robert Kennedy Jr. co-authored an article entitled “Will The Next Election Be Hacked?” pointing out the lack of verifiable oversight when digital touch screen voting machines are used. Most of these systems are installed and operated by the manufacturer and leave no paper trail. So there is no recount possible. In particular Kennedy points out that machines manufactured by the Diebold Company are susceptible to a patch that can be uploaded by a memory card in seconds. This patch to the software can change votes from one candidate to another and thus change the outcome of an election in a race where the outcome is likely to be close. The patch can also self-destruct leaving no trace of its existence.
However since the 1994 Congressional landslide in favor of the GOP most but not all congressional districts have been gerrymandered to favor a Republican majority in the House. Some of these gerrymandered districts are up for grabs by the Democrats in this election because this is a midterm election year for a lame duck president. Also it is because of the Abramoff scandal involving Republican members of congress who took money or other emoluments from him.
Bob Ney (R) is an example. He represented the 18th District in Ohio and resigned after a criminal conviction arising out of his dealings with Abramoff. He has handpicked a close associate to run in his place. However the polls show the Democratic contender is running a close race for the seat. Therefore a few percentage points change in the vote one way or the other will determine the outcome of this race. Mr. Kennedy has pointed out that election machine manufacturers like Diebold that make and operate the touch screen machines are big contributors to the GOP and their contracts to install the machine usually come through Republican Secretaries of State who supervise voting in their states. Ohio is one of those states with Diebold machines. Diebold has a contract to manufacture, install, service and tabulate results in many cases
Therefore the ease which the software of these machines can be manipulated and the lack of a paper trail for a recount along with lack of elected neutral oversight make these machines easy prey for those who would manipulate an election.
Mr. Kennedy points out that these machines have delivered results in conflict with independent polls regarding the outcome of an election that are unexplainable.
The Republicans say they win close elections because of their data mining techniques which help them to identify likely Republican voters and that they then have volunteers make personal contact with these people and help them get to the polls. Allegedly this is why they win races that are close but the Democrats are predicted to win because the pollsters don’t account for the new techniques they are using. Rove and company did this in 2004 they say after discerning that about three percent of likely Republican voters didn’t go to the polls in 2000.
The Democrats had strong get out the vote machines in the past mainly through the unions and political control of large cities. However with the decline of the unions and with the cities residents moving to suburbia and gentrifying the Democratic strength in this area has waned also.
Also the Republicans have more money to spend on elections overall. Thus they can use exotic data mining techniques to identify likely GOP voters and have them contacted by volunteers. This provides a double whammy: extra money for media advertising and the money and people to directly contact likely Republican but lazy voters to make sure they vote.
The Democratic union and city base has been weakened in the last few decades so they can’t count on union or city volunteers making sure the Democratic vote gets out and the Democrats have less money to spend on media advertising to reach their constituency that have moved from their city roots.
The One And Only Solution
So what should the Democrats do? Identify who is likely to vote Democratic and send out volunteers to make sure they vote. This requires money and either volunteers or paid workers or a combination of both. The other alternative is to rely on the media alone to reach their constituency which is the most expensive method of all.
That leaves the middle group called the Independents who wait and decide late in an election on which candidate they are going to vote for usually based on their perception as to who is the “Best Man.” This “Best Man” is usually defined by the media or by televised debates.
What to do about them. Well the same data mining techniques used by Rove can be used to identify those Independents likely to vote Democratic.
It is reported that Rove has a cadre of three to four thousand volunteers and paid assistants who descend on a swing state three days before and election to see that the Republican voters or those likely to vote Republican vote and to also serve as “poll watchers”. Again this takes money and money is were the Republicans having a marked advantage.
In Ohio, which John Kerry lost by a narrow margin the Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell who also chaired Bush’s reelection campaign in Ohio, ordered Diebold touch screen machines for many precincts where Kerry was favored to get more votes than he did by the Diebold count according to Kennedy. This occurred after Blackwell bought ten thousand dollars worth of Diebold stock.
Now Mr. Blackwell is a strong candidate for governor and the same Diebold machines he purchased are still in place.
The Republicans stole the presidential election in 2000 because many votes were not counted in populous Democratic counties in Florida. In 2004 John Kerry lost the election because the predicted turnout in counties that favored him somehow did not turnout or Bush received more votes than expected. These two presidential elections were very close and the vote in either Florida or Ohio, both were swing states, was the decisive factor in determining the outcome of the national election in favor of Bush.
One wonders if the Republicans are better at engineering election wins in the digital age or do they have more money to buy the means and tools to determine a close elections outcome or are they illegally manipulating the outcome?
One of their techniques is marshalling thousands of poll “watchers” in swing states to challenge voters in heavily Democratic precincts. This causes long lines and creates a situation where voters leave without voting because access to the polls is delayed or denied by “watchers” arbitrarily challenging voters. Thus a monkey wrench is put in the voting process in heavily Democratic precincts. This was done in Florida in 2000 and 2004 and Ohio in 2004.
This challenge to free and fair elections by Republican manipulators either legally or illegally can only be countered by strength. Court action in these situations has been either too little too late or a partisan ruling by the Supreme Court that Bush won in 2000. Strength in this situation is to donate your fair share of money and to vote or suffer disenfranchisement.
If the public doesn’t stand up for its rights the politicians cannot and will not protect them.