Every vote counts... if it's countedThe UK Observer's Paul Harris has a good piece entitled 'The myth of fair elections in America .'
He writes: The debacle surrounding the Republican victory in 2000 demonstrated to the world that America's electoral process is wide open to abuse. But as Paul Harris discovers, the system has actually worsened since then... The prospect of a 'second Florida' is now more likely not less ... America's democratic system is simply starting to fail... by a simple collapse in its ability to count everyone's votes accurately and fairly.
Before you reflexively dismiss this as left-wing or conspiracy theorist whining, he also writes that the problems are not caused by some takeover by a Neocon cabal and that he doesn't believe that there is a cunning secret plan, set out in detail beforehand and then masterfully carried out to deliberately steal presidential elections.
Essentially, he notes that America's extremely decentralized electoral system is responsible for much of the chaos. Not only does each state have their own electoral laws, but within most states, each COUNTY can choose for itself how it lets its citizens vote. In the moderately sized New York alone, there are 62 counties.
He also notes that elections are often run and controlled by state office holders or county level election supervisors. Often these officials are nakedly partisan and all too willing to use the power of that office to favour one party over another. Their county or state is, after all, their patch of turf and they seek to protect it for their side.
Think this is hysterical fantasy? Think again.
In New York, for example, there are two elections commissioners in each county who run the polls. These are not non-partisan officials. There is one Democrat commissioner and one Republican commissioner who jointly run the elections. So we have to trust that commissioners chosen by the two main parties in internal, non-public deilberations will always act in a fair way. We have to trust that explicitly partisan officials who owe their jobs to the party bosses will act in a non-partisan way. Do you think that's open to abuse?
My dad was once a Democrat election commissioner for this county but he refused to order a re-run an election that had a minor problem with the ballot. He didn't order a re-run the election because he did not have legal authority to do so; such a decision could only be ordered by the state board of elections or the courts. Unfortunately for my dad, the guy who lost this election was both a very small-minded, petty man and the chairman of the county Democrat committee. So for following the law, my dad was fired (since it was the party's choice). He was replaced by the chairman's wife.
Furthermore, in New York, the party of each county's two elections commissioners depends on the party affiliation of the top two finishers in the governor's race. If a smaller party finishes first or second in the governor's race, then that party gets to appoint half the elections commissioners. That almost happened in 1990 when the Conservative candidate came within a whisker of outpolling the Republican for second place.
But that also means that elections commissioners are responsible for running the elections which will decide whether or not they have a job. Isn't that a pretty big conflict of interest?
Combine that with the much documented problems with voting machines, which The Observer pieces mentions combined with state secrecy regarding those problems and it hardly inspires confidence in the voting process.
Harris concludes You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to be seriously worried about this state of affairs. In many ways, it is more worrying that the system is not being deliberately stolen from on high. It is actually broken from the ground up.