system is rigged: Steven Freeman.
can we do other than go out and start a civil war against
all these Republican shitheads?” asks an otherwise demure
Albany grandma. She has just finished watching Truth in
the Booth, a documentary about the alleged 2004 election
wasn’t just Republicans,” a cooler head reminds her. “Democrats
refused to investigate.”
then,” she concludes, “kill them all!”
The couple are sitting with 30 other people, gathered together
Saturday (June 2) in the Bethlehem Town Hall to take part
in a panel discussion centered on the question: Was the 2004
election stolen? The popular consensus in this crowd is a
resounding ‘yes’, which leads to the second question: What
can be done to ensure it won’t happen again?
Why would you vote on a computer that can be rigged without
detection? You wouldn’t. At least, you wouldn’t want to. But
since 2000, argues Steven Freeman, professor at the University
of Pennsylvania and author of Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
Exit Polls, Election Fraud and the Official Count, that
is exactly what the people in 49 states have been doing—voting
on machines that, with a simple software hack, can be seized
and manipulated by anyone with brief access. These states
have invested in computerized voting systems, operating on
the proprietary software of private corporations. New York
has until 2008 to decide if it will make the same investment.
India, when they tried to institute democracy,” Freeman says,
“as you might imagine, there was some resistance to that idea.
What happened in many villages in the country is that the
upper caste, the Brahmans, were a little uneasy about allowing
the lowest caste, the Untouchables, to vote.” So instead of
allowing the Untouchables to vote themselves, the Brahmans
would ask the Untouchables who they wanted to vote for and
then they would fill out the ballot for them.
you might imagine, there are some problems with that system.
The Brahman might make a mistake. They might not hear right.
Or they may have different interests, and no matter what the
Untouchable says the Brahman will cast the vote the way they
think it ought to be cast. Obviously, that is a system that
we would find unacceptable, right?” He pauses. “Well, in fact,
that is the system we have in this country now. A person goes
into a box, presses a button, and something happens in a million
lines of proprietary code and out comes a vote. As cast or
not, but we have no way to know.”
That would be bad enough, he says. But what makes it devastating
is that three private companies control the software accounting
for 80 percent of the votes in this country. The former chairman
of the largest of these companies, Diebold, was a member of
President George W. Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers, a wealthy
group of business and political leaders who raised funds for
Bush’s 2000 and 2004 election bids.
former leader of the second biggest company is now a U.S.
Senator—Republican Chuck Hagel from Nebraska,” Freeman says,
“who won two upset victories where his own company counted
elections be stolen?” he asks. “There is virtually no debate
on the subject. Yes, elections can be stolen and they can
be stolen easily. . . . It comes down to two lines of code.”
But have elections been stolen? There is more disagreement
on this matter. For Freeman, there is no question. He bases
his opinion on the nine months of research he invested to
write his book, comparing the exit polls from the 2004 election
to the “official” results.
history of exit polls, up until 2000, the big debate was that
these things are too accurate. They let the press know who
won the election before the polls closed,” he says, pointing
as an example to the 1980 presidential race between Ronald
Reagan and Jimmy Carter in which Carter conceded the race
to Reagan based purely on the exit-poll results coming out
of the western states.
Exit polls are also used in other countries for election-result-verification
purposes, he points out. “But, all of a sudden, in 2004, they
don’t work anymore.”
In 2004, where votes were counted by machine there was a 7-percent
disparity between how the people said they voted in the exit
polls and the official results.
people in fact voted as they said they did” in exit polling,
he says, “George Bush did not win nationwide by three million
votes, but rather lost by six million.”
In Ohio alone, there was a 12-percentage-point disparity.
In states where votes were counted by hand, however, there
was no disparity at all.
The conclusion for Freeman is glaring: Election rigging in
electronic-voting systems is a simple reality. It can happen
and it has. So what can be done about it?
is just the minimum requirement for democratic behavior. Democratic
behavior implies learning, understanding, and this kind of
thing,” he says, gesturing around himself to the gathered.
“Organize, organize, organize.”