Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The readers speak

Sifting through the comments box, your humble royal Dane finds some goodies.

An angry Nader supporter -- are there really any other kind? -- takes issue with our description of Ralph as an "egomaniacal demogogue":

He's not an egomaniacal demagogue.

Demagogue (From:
1 : a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power
2 : a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times

Obviously Mr. Nader does not fit description number one. Mr. Nader provides proofs whever someone actually listens to what he has to say. If he uses pop-culture terminology ineffectively perhaps you can forgive him due to his age. He's appealing to your base instincts because you won't listen to the real stuff!

Mr. Nader has suffered a great deal of animosity, for a number of DECADES; and YOU can't make the distinction of a very tired man from a populist.

Ask yourself how you feel when you are more informed than those around you and you speak til you're blue in the face and those people continue to miss the point, when you get to that place look at yourself and what you've become in the heat of battle.

You're blog will be gone when politics isn't politically correct anymore - I'd almost wager.

Who took issues with Nader using pop-culture terminology ineffectively? Not me. Kerry's the guy who couldn't get David Ortiz's name right, and I voted for him! I'm also not so sure that Nader "obviously" does not make use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power -- he, after all, is the guy who claimed that he wouldn't challenge or campaign against Kerry in any battleground states like in 2000, and then went ahead and did it. I'm sorry to hear that Ralph is sleepy. Perhaps he should get a better futon. Also, I think you will win that last wager, except that my blog will be gone even sooner, namely, when it starts to interfere with my love life.

Next, we have this lengthy, but cogent and articulate post:

1. Recounts should be done to validate the truth, which is supposed to be the soul of Democracy. The primary purpose of a recount(s) should not be expectation of overturning election results, but confirmation of the integrity of the voting process and installation of confidence in the American people and the international community.

2. Validation is imperative when you have 286 documented instances of voting "machine malfunction" which are clustering in FL, OH, NC. The system is therefore suspect jeopardizing confidence in the results. The nature of those dysfunctions (random errors and/or fraud) is independent to the need for inquest.

3. Given #2 and the exit poll results, the degree of confidence in the Bush plurality is seriously questioned. Using the assumption of a 4 million plurality not to audit the votes is to stand on a tinfoil platform.
Actually, the number is about 135,000 since a win in Ohio would win the Presidency for Kerry.

4. Electronic voting system companies should be put under the microscope. This is underscored by the recent $2.6 million dollar award to the State of California against Diebold for electoral chaos resulting from substandard voting machinery. There should also be an interrogation of the Diebold and ES & S software systems and an investigation of possible direct corporate links to specific political parties.

5. Exit polls gave John Kerry a statistical probability of victory of 99.9982%. Statisticians assert the likelihood of the final tallies flipping to Mr. Bush as 1: 250,000,000 or 1:187,000,000 respectively, depending upon the number of states in the calculation. Voting is supposed to be sacred in a Democracy. Therefore, we must err on the side of caution and investigate rather than ignore.

6. There have been over 1,100 reported incidences of computer problems. Polling officials assure that errors have been corrected and data processed correctly. They need to prove how this was done and if in fact the system have such capacity in the first place.

7. There is a growing conviction that any voting method not leaving a paper trail is a felony on Democracy and must be eradicated forever from the political landscape. Legislation has been languishing in Congress. Recounting the votes in even 2 or 3 states will focus the national spotlight on the evils and errors of electronic voting systems and give great impetus to efforts to abolish this travesty.

I take issue only with #3, which seems to me to be a little bit of a jump, and #5 -- I just don't think that our cause -- the cause of pushing for investigations and explanations of irregularities -- is strengthened by pointing towards the discrepancies of exit polls. Those discrepancies might have been what started some of us on the path of digging a little deeper, but the real thing to focus on are achieving recounts and explaining the numerous computer glitches and strange occurrences like Warren County.

Another reader responds to our Indiana post with this:

I looked into the Indiana case. The only county that seems to be effected is Franklin (coincidentally, the same county in Ohio had trouble). In the other counties using the same machines (Ripley, Scott and Switzerland) in Baron Hill's district, the Libertarian candidate for the House only got about 300 total votes, which was about 1 or 2%.

The 7-8% received in Franklin was wrong, because the machine read straight ticket Dem voting as straight ticket Libertarian voting.

Apparently, as a result, one County Commissioner seat has switched from Red to Blue.

Still, it's another case which gives one skeptical pause over the efficiency of the electronic voting machines.

In discussing
a post on difficulties on voting in Cleveland
, one reader posts:
Look, I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I had to wait in line to vote (at 6 am in the morning when the polls had just opened!). My precint is predominantly white and Jewish and rabidly liberal. I had to wait in line for about half an hour because the pollworkers had no clue what they were doing.

Yes, I agree that we need to do something about our electoral system. But, please, people just report on black people waiting in line. No one ever reports on white people waiting in line. I don't really care, but these one-sided reports of "voter intimidation" are just very misleading. So, if you're going to investigate voter fraud, incompetence, etc do it everywhere.
And another reader responds to his post with:
It's normal to wait half-an-hour to vote. Some black people in Ohio had to wait several hours to vote, while white people in Ohio only had to wait half-an-hour. That is the point.

Franklin County Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder, a Republican, sent machines to the suburbs which were needed in the city. That is a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the US Consitution.

I wish the NAACP or ACLU would sue Damschroder. I hope members of the NAACP or ACLU will contact them about this.

In discussing Broward County -- where a Jeb Bush hand-picked appointee then ran as a Democrat to be the Election Supervisor, and thus was responsible for the unconscionably long lines in precincts and the Broward irregularities -- a reader reminds us of our old friend, the designer of the butterfly ballot:
Whoa, I am getting a flashback here. Check out how Teresa 'Madame Butterfly' Le Pore got her JOB. She switched parties then ran and won as A Dem in a Dem district. She had plenty of interesting tidbits in her past that never got any attention outside the area and made fighting the Butterfly ballot issue inpossible because she is the 'Dem' who designed it. Did she get censured for her acts. uh uh she got a promotion to the head of Elections but I think she lost a race this time.

And readers are also offering some vivid anecdotes about difficulties and irregularities they saw or experienced on November 2. Like this one from Broward:

I was at the Kerry/Edwards campaign headquarters in Plantation, FL (Broward County) on election day and the three days preceding. I was part of a group that was coordinating rides by volunteer drivers for voters that were unable to get to the polls on there own. In addition, this group dispatched drivers to pick up absentee ballots and deliver them to one of several offices that--we were told by the Supervisor of Elections--would collect them. My job on election day was to field calls from drivers that had problems carrying out their task. I had at least two calls from drivers reporting that the voter they were driving had pressed Kerry's name on electronic voting machines only to have Bush's name appear. I heard of other reports of the same from other people. The group, including myself, had several calls from drivers trying to drop off absentee ballots at the designated locations and that they were closed. We soon found that only one location was open and accepting absentee ballots in contradiction to the list that we were given.

I had originally used Lee County as an example where a conservative Florida county did not experience a high Bush surge unlike the Dixiecrat counties did, though Mickey pointed out that Lee, unlike the panhandle Dixiecrats, was already a county that had high GOP registration. I then, weak-kneed and chastened, stopped using Lee as an example. But a reader offers this:
I live in Lee County, Florida. This county is so strongly Republican that the Democrats often don't even run candidates for local offices like the county sheriff. Because of the primary rules and some monkeying around with write-in candidates, Democrats were not allowed to vote in the primary election for Republican candidates who didn't have Democrats running against them. This meant that Democrats who wanted any voice in the county sheriff election had to register as Republicans prior to the primary. Some of them changed back between the primary election and the general election, but some did not. It's possible that in some Florida counties where there appear to be an unusually high number of Bush voters among registered Democrats that something similar might have happened in reverse, i.e., Bush voters registering as Democrats to be able to vote in local elections with strong Democrat candidates with no Republican opposition.

Interesting theory! A much more computer-savvy reader surmises on the software that is used to collate vote totals from Optical Scan ballots, which we likened to Excel:
imagine they aren't using Excel. Rather, it's some version of SQL Server. That's a real database, not a spreadsheet. At the same time, a brief glance at the news will show all the vulnerabilities in Windows systems.I'd feel a little better if they were using something like Oracle on Solaris, but that's not cost effective if there are lots of machines.

Yes, security should take a backseat to cost-efficency! It's the American way.

And in response to my, admittedly naive, claim that reports and studies from universities would be taken as legitimate and neutral, another reader slaps me back into reality:
The problem with professors weighing in on the plausibility of the numbers is the right's bizarre mistrust of academia. If you are part of a university, you are immediately assumed to be a liberal. While professors seem to be partisan almost to a fault, they will be quickly dismissed in totality by the right.