Congress Debates the Election Results in Ohio
The Thursday, January 6, 2005 challenge of the Ohio vote was never likely to change the outcome of the election, but it brought to light the irregularities that threaten democracy at home, even as we supposedly support democracy in Ukraine, and send our youngest to fight and die for it in Iraq.
The high turn out in November was a hopeful sign for true democracy. Voting among younger voters did substantially increase, but was matched by other grass roots efforts such that their percentage of the vote did not increase. They were the one age group among voters who did support Kerry, presuming the final count was accurate.
Opinions vary on the efficacy of the election, from saying it was truly fair to saying it was a fix. We will likely never know the whole truth. My assessment is, it was a tainted election, just based on so much information among those who voted for Bush. They either had misinformation about Iraq, Kerry, or maybe just hoped Bush would be different in a second term. So, even if every vote had been acurately counted, and the result was as it turned out, I would question it. I personally think the Bush election team went out of their way to capitalize on misinformation, fear and division, in order to get elected. That is not a victory to be admired, or to be proud of. It does not reflect to will of the people. Add to that the irregularities in key states, with touch screen irregularities, punch cards that yield a high percent of discarded votes, vote challenges to likely Democratic voters, misinformation about voting places that led to discarding provisional votes, and you can't help but conclude that the election was closer.
A key issue in the years ahead, will be reforming how we cast and count our votes, so that there can be no doubt about the outcome, when the final vote is counted, and the results certified. This is more important than doing away with the electoral college, for now. I believe we need a bipartisan, public sector process as Thom Hartmann has said. Adequate compensation for those perform these tasks is a part of that. But when a partisan State official, who also chairs the election effort of a candidate in that state, makes the final call on the vote's certification, it does not encourage faith in the result? When the touch screen voting machines are designed by a company who executives pledge their support to a certain candidate, how can we trust their fairness? When likely Republican voters only have a short wait in line, and are not challenged on their legal right to vote, while people of color in poorer areas, likely to vote Democrat, wait for hours to vote, and may get challenged by partisans, and are more likely to have their votes discarded, due to an antique punch card system, and Republcans are in charge of the decisions that brought this about, what are we left to think?
All these problems can be remedied, and would be in a truly free society. Or better yet, they would never have come about in the first place. Each state should have a non-partisan committee, co-chaired with representatives from at least both major parties, who have responsibility for certifying a state's vote. Touch screen machines should be legally required to have a paper trail for recount purposes, but they have to be more accurate, and again not inspected or serviced by those with a specific partisan agenda. Punch card balloting should be replaced with something that results in less discarded votes. There has to be enough voting booths, staff and other resources to assure we don't wait more than 15 minutes to vote. We could develop secure ways of voting by phone or online, as well. We could also have a two week election period, including weekends and evenings, rather than one day, so that early voting becomes the norm. Election day will become like April 15 is for taxes, it will simply be the deadline. We have two and half months to pay our income taxes, why relegate voting to one day? The non partisan committee I mentioned, should also prevent and investigate any irregularities, and function independently from any current State Administration. They should not serve at the pleasure of any current or past Governor. These are just a few ideas.
Those who have questioned the election results have been relegated by some as on the fringe. Those critics love to attack Michael Moore as a conspirator. As with any controversy that has elements of a conspiracy theory, those who question the status quo explanation are usually made to look ridiculous. When Oliver Stone made his film about the JFK assassination, it was immediately followed by a book that concluded beyond a doubt, that Oswald was a lone assasin, despite Congressional hearings in the late 70's that concluded otherwise. Yet, at that time, 3 out of 4 Americans did not accept the Warren Commission notion of a lone assassin, magic bullet and all, courtesy of Arlen Specter. Now, Arlen gets all the support he needs from conservative Republicans, inspite of his tendency to function in a more moderate, bipartisan, Chair, who respects and includes Senator Leahy in the hearings process. Is this pay back? Add that to your conspiracy theories!