Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Salon weighs in

Farhad Manjoo, who back in February was presciently writing about the potential for the security of the vote being tainted, reports for Salon that "the system is clearly broken. But there is no evidence that Bush won because of voter fraud."

Manjoo goes through a list of the theories running around these here parts; he then offers his own verdict on irregularities:

For many, it's difficult to believe that the election the nation held last week was completely on the level. In fact, it probably wasn't; Election Day 2004, like all national elections, saw its share of glitches, ineptitude, fraud and intimidation. The Election Incident Reporting System, a national database of election irregularities compiled by volunteers working with various voting-rights groups, lists 30,000 such incidents for 2004. They range from the tragic (a voter who "didn't know how to read") to the alarming ("Two African-American voters were arrested at the polling place before they had the opportunity to vote").

But then Manjoo goes through the theories, and chops many of them up. Kinda.
Other theories pointing to a Kerry win are similarly brittle. It is extremely unlikely that there are enough spoiled punch-card ballots in Ohio to hand Kerry a victory there, as Palast asserts. Meanwhile, there are reasonable-sounding sociological and demographic explanations for the high number of registered-Democrat Bush voters in some counties in Florida. There is, in other words, simply no compelling proof that there were enough irregularities in enough areas affecting enough voters to cast doubt on Bush's commanding popular vote count lead, or even his thinner margins in key swing states such as Ohio or Florida.

Manjoo then talks with a Stanford computer scientist, who offers qualified skepticism that the vote was tampered with, but also does not want to "declare the election over and done with." Professor David Dill tells Manjoo, "it's extremely important that we seize this opportunity to review everything we can about this election. Having people comb through these results will give us more confidence in the legitimacy of this election. We shouldn't gain that confidence by resorting to the head-in-the-sand method we usually employ in the United States." Amen. Let's count the votes, so that there are no suspicions and that we can all get behind a duly elected President.

Manjoo does a better job than I've seen anyone else do of debunking the exit poll theory, and explains the Dixiecrats in Florida situation pretty well. And he ends with this:

This is not to say that nothing went wrong on Election Day. The Election Incident Reporting System shows that thousands of voters experienced registration problems such as the mysterious disappearance of their names from the voting rolls. In addition, David Dill points out that all over the country, voting machines broke down -- the most frequent mechanical problem seen on Election Day. Another frequent complaint: Very often, voters would attempt to select one candidate on a voting machine and for some mysterious, as yet undetermined reason, the candidate's opponent will have been selected. These errors, and many more, certainly contributed to one of the most pernicious problems seen on Election Day, the unconscionably long lines at the polls.

Late last week, a handful of Democratic congressmen called on the General Accounting Office to initiate a thorough study of all that went wrong on Election Day. In their letter to the GAO, the congressmen avoid suggesting that the election was stolen. Instead, they say, investigating all the irregularities is the only way to give the public -- especially the dispirited half of the nation that voted for the losing side -- confidence in the results. "We want to make sure that the people who came out in record numbers and took time out to vote -- we want to make sure the process was fair for them," said Lale Mamaux, a spokeswoman for Rep. Robert Wexler, one of the lawmakers calling for the study. "We're not saying this election was stolen. But people have serious concerns that need to be addressed."

Even if I'm much more skeptical than Manjoo about the security of the vote, I think he's done the best job so far of covering this. (Though he still does not explain Warren County, Youngstown, the Columbus computer, Broward County, or other irregularities -- situations which, even if they make no impact on the Presidential vote, should and most be investigated.) And I think that Wexler's spokeswoman is right. Even if it makes no impact on any kind of Presidential result, it's still crucial that we restore any and all confidence in the securit of the vote. So we should investigate the irregularities. Run a recount in Ohio -- just to prove that electronic voting is accurate and to dispel any kind of fears or concerns or suspicions. It's better for everyone involved that we alleviate any and all concerns.