No matter how honest and forthright you or I may be, history has proven
one inescapable truth about the human condition. Given motive and opportunity,
many people will choose to take whatever short cut is available, to achieve
their objectives. Translation, they will cheat. One of the hallmarks of our
democracy has always been free and fair elections. That hallmark is in grave
danger as we enter into a cyberspace method of voting. The documentary, “Invisible
Ballots”, investigates this growing crisis.
The history of these changes to our voting systems was birthed during the “pregnant
chad” debacle following the 2000 presidential election. Images of people
holding up punch cards to the light to interpret the intent of the voter frightened
the electorate and the push toward computerized ballots was on. Invisible Ballots
correctly points out however that Florida was an aberration, not a microcosm
of our voting system. Nonetheless, soon an unholy alliance was born between
voting machine companies and governmental officials, where ridiculously expensive
voting machines were now being mandated in the country through the Help America
Vote Act, which unfortunately does very little to actually protect America’s
votes. Thus, in just five years, we have gone from being unable to divine our
votes, to being unable to trust them.
The people interviewed in the documentary are not partisan operatives, nor
unreliable alarmists. They are real people, experts, PhDs, and computer programmers,
who have lived these problems for years now, trying desperately to get the word
out. They weave a compelling story about vote fraud and the vulnerability of
our current systems. Essentially there are two problems that can occur in any
election. The first is error, as people are inherently human, and prone to mistakes.
The second problem is fraud and as history has shown, it is a realistic concern.
To not admit these two problems can and do exist in every election is simply
Once you establish these two simple truths, the question becomes what can we
do to reduce these threats and check to ensure they have not occurred. The core
of the problem with computerized voting is that you will never know if either
of these has ever occurred. The reason why is that the ballot, the record of
who you voted for, is now invisible. It is stored electronically in cyberspace
where it can be changed, manipulated, or simply never even be registered. The
documentary talks with computer experts who detail very simple ways of introducing
malicious code into the source code, designed to change the results. The source
code for these companies is not made public by claiming it is “proprietary
information.” Nonsense. If you want to deal with the government and receive
contracts, you should be mandated to have your source code exposed for inspection
to ensure the validity of any election.
Invisible Ballots discusses the many security flaws discovered already in the
machines, the cost-prohibitive nature of the machines, and the unsavory criminal
records of many of the top players in the computer voting machine realm. Would
you want someone with felony convictions for fraud designing and selling voting
machines to your state? Well, it already is happening. Do you want voting machines
that accidentally lose 16,000 votes? Well, Diebold has now admitted that is
exactly what happened to Al Gore in Florida in the 2000 election. Those 16,000
votes would mean this country would never have seen the Bush administration.
There are plenty of other horrifying stories such as the Georgia debacle when
as soon as the state went to computerized voting; a republican Governor was
elected for the first time since the Civil War. These stories all point back
to one main point. There is no way of auditing an election where the ballots
are invisible. Without a fair recount, there is no trust in that election. Without
trust, the elections are not fair and free. Once that occurs the democracy hinges
upon a tenuous thread between decline and demise. Stalin once said that the
person who votes is not nearly as important as the person who counts the votes.
In America, we must ensure that the counting is free and fair to protect democracy.
The solutions are not that difficult. Every time a person votes a paper copy
needs to be generated that the voter than visually verifies as his or her intent
and submits to the election officials. Those paper copies are then held in the
event of a recount or anomaly. The documentary then correctly points out that
mandatory random recounts then need to be done each year to check the efficacy
of the machines. I also believe that mandatory recounts for national elections
should be implemented. Does this mean it may take a little longer to know the
results? Possibly, but at least you could trust the results. Yet no matter how
logical and common sense this sounds, there are political operatives working
against it to ensure that your ballot remains invisible. These same politicians
are either against the concept of free and fair elections or are seriously misguided.
I am sure if you investigate you will discover that the companies in question
have donated significantly to the politicians who are against paper trails.
It is unconscionable that in this country that professes to spread democracy,
that ANY politician would work to undermine democracy here at home. If someone
does not want a paper trail, it has to make one wonder why? If a company does
not want to reveal their source code, it has to make one wonder, what are they
hiding? These are completely reasonable questions straight from the heart of
The only point I felt Invisible Ballots should have addressed is the confirmation
for the need for exit polling. All of the problems the documentary outlined
verify the need for reliable exit polling. The fact is that we use exit polling
to see if there was chicanery in foreign elections and it has been successfully
used in this country for decades until the Bush administration and the advent
of paperless computer voting. Thus if we had a verifiable paper copy of every
vote, then we can use exit polling to see where results do not match the projected
outcomes and an audit can ensue. If that recount results in a confirmation of
the machine count then no one can ever challenge the legitimacy of that election.
That is democracy in action.
According to the official 2004 election results, George W. Bush received 11
million more votes than he did in 2000. To me, that is statistically impossible
for a man who was not over a 50% approval rating going into the election. In
Florida, Bush received over 175,000 votes from heavily democratic south Florida,
clinching the state for him, another statistical improbability. In Ohio, exit
polling was reversed with the final tallies, clinching the country for Bush.
Every time a mistake is admitted by the machine companies, the caveat is it
would not have changed the final results, but how do we really know? How do
we know that was the only “glitch?” How can we be sure that the
results would not be different? The answer is, we can’t with invisible
The confidence in our system is in serious jeopardy. I wish I could trust the
election results from 2004 but when you consider that 80% of the machine counted
ballots in this country are run by two companies, run by two brothers who are
beholden to Bush, the integrity of the results must be challenged. Then when
you see the GOP counter any attempts at simply having a paper trail, the companies
refuse to release their source code, and partisan Secretaries of State also
acting as the chairmen of the campaign of one of the candidates, you have to
wonder why people WANT these ballots to be invisible. It is a cancer eating
away at our democracy in decline. I have heard plenty of people on the right
say that this is sour grapes or the complaints are designed to undermine the
credibility of the president. To them I simply say, “Support VISIBLE ballots”
and they will never hear another complaint. To not support a verifiable paper
trail is to not support democracy. If they wish to believe that George Bush
received 11 million more votes than in 2000 just because of the “get the
vote out” efforts of the GOP, then put your money where your mouth is
and open the source code, demand paper trails, and let democracy once again
be on the march. If you are being honest and forthright, then you should have
nothing to hide.