The Bewildered Herd
"The public must be put in its place, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and
roar of a bewildered herd."

                        - Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Why I Won't Give Up
OK, I'm not letting go of this until I see a satisfactory explanation. Early on election night, the talking heads were abuzz with talk of exit polls but as they became increasingly off compared to the precinct reporting, talk of it swiftly disappeared. After the last election, diligent reporters like Greg Palast (in other words, outside the mainstream media) reviewed the exit polling data and compared it to precincts across the country that used e-voting touch screens. What they found was that where no paper trail was created there were wide anomalies between the exit polls and the vote tally the machines came up with. Where there were paper trails, no anomalies. Mere coincidence? Only if you're an idiot, especially when you learn that the companies that create and manufacture the machines are overwhelmingly republican supporters. This election, many more precincts used touch screens with no paper trail and absolutely no way to do a recount. Yet, the anomalies began showing up right away but were just as quickly swept under the rug as nothing to concern ourselves with. Uh, huh. Right.

Another important point to keep in mind is that prior to the use of electronic voting, exit polling has always been an extremely accurate predictor, a fact ignored in the discussions in this year's election night coverage. The votemaster at Electoral Vote Predictor received a lot of e-mail about this problem and posted the following.
If we go to computerized voting without a paper trail and the machines can be set up to cheat, that is the end of our democracy. Switching 5 votes per machine is probably all it would take to throw an election and nobody would ever see it unless someone compares the computer totals and exit polls. I am still very concerned about the remark of Walden O'Dell a Republican fund raiser and CEO of Diebold, which makes voting machines saying he would deliver Ohio for President Bush. Someone should look into this carefully. The major newspapers actually recounted all the votes in Florida last time. Maybe this year's project should be looking at the exit polls. If there are discrepancies between the exit polls and the final results in touch-screen counties but not in paper-ballot counties, that would be a signal.
For a better technical explanation of this problem, check out the Open Voting Consortium, an organization trying to find a solution to this before it's too late. Also, a wealth of information is at Black Box Voting.

If you think I'm a conspiracy nut, indulge me. If I and the other people troubled by this potential catastrophe are wrong, what harm is there in verifying that the election did indeed reflect the true will of the people. If I am wrong, I promise to shut up about it. But if my suspicions are indeed correct, then our so-called democracy has a bigger problem than most of us can even fathom. But wouldn't it be nice not to have any lingering doubts? I for one, would sleep better at night.

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