a magnet and a pda: ohio secretary of state admits 2004 election easily could have been stolen

From my heroes Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman.
Ohio's Secretary of State announced this morning that a $1.9 million official study shows that "critical security failures" are embedded throughout the voting systems in the state that decided the 2004 election. Those failures, she says, "could impact the integrity of elections in the Buckeye State." They have rendered Ohio's vote counts "vulnerable" to manipulation and theft by "fairly simple techniques."

Indeed, she says, "the tools needed to compromise an accurate vote count could be as simple as tampering with the paper audit trail connector or using a magnet and a personal digital assistant."

In other words, Ohio's top election official has finally confirmed that the 2004 election could have been easily stolen.

Brunner's stunning findings apply to electronic voting machines used in 58 of Ohio's 88 counties, in addition to scanning devices and central tabulators used on paper ballots in much of the rest of the state.

Brunner is calling for widespread changes to the way Ohio casts and counts its ballots. Her announcement follows moves by California Secretary of State Deborah Bowen to disqualify electronic voting machines in the nation's biggest state.

In tandem, these two reports add a critical state-based dimension to the growing mountain of evidence that the US electoral system is rife with insecurities. Reports from the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Commission, the Government Accountability Office, the Conyers Committee Task Force Report, Princeton University and others have offered differing perspectives that add up to the same conclusion.

Coming in the state that decided the 2004 election for George W. Bush, Brunner's confirmation of the electoral system's vulnerabilities adds huge new weight to the charge that the Buckeye State's vote count was stolen.

Fitrakis and Wasserman are dedicated to exposing - and fighting - election fraud in the US. If you need honest information about dishonest US elections, you can't do better than their Free Press. It's a great site for many other issues, too.

So what's on tap for 2008?

One effort to rig the election has already been foiled. Johann Hari, writing in The Independent (UK), sounded the alarm.
In the long, hot autumn of 2000, the world was shocked by the contempt for democracy shown by the Republican Party. They knew their man had lost the popular vote to Al Gore by half a million votes. They knew the majority of voters in Florida itself had pulled a lever for Gore. But they fought – amid the confetti of hanging chads – to stop the state's votes being counted, and to ensure that the Supreme Court imposed George W Bush.

Today, that contempt for democracy is on display again. In California right now, there is a naked, out-in-the-open ploy to rig the 2008 presidential election – and it may succeed.

To understand how this works, we have to roam back to the 18th century, and learn about the odd anachronistic leftover they are trying to use now to thwart democracy. Back then, America's founding fathers decided not to introduce a system where US presidents would be directly elected, with the votes totted up in Washington, DC, and the winner being the man with the most. Instead, they chose a complex system called the electoral college. This stipulates that American citizens do not vote directly for a president. Instead, they technically vote for 539 state-wide "electors", who then gather six weeks after the election to pick the President.

The founders designed it this way for a number of reasons. They wanted the smaller states to have a say, so they gave them a disproportionate number of electoral college votes. They also believed that, in a country that was largely isolated and illiterate, voters wouldn't know much about out-of-state figures, and would be better off picking intermediaries who could exercise discretion on their behalf.

It is the worst part of the Constitution, producing perverse results again and again. On four occasions there has been such a big gap between the national popular vote and the state-by-state electoral college votes that the guy with fewer real supporters in the country got to be President. It happened in 1824, 1876, 1888 and – most tragically for the world – in 2000.

Today, the Republicans are trying to exploit the discontent with the electoral college among Americans in a way that would rig the system in their favour. At the moment, every state apart from Maine and Nebraska hands out its electoral college votes according to a winner-takes-all system. This means that if 51 per cent of people in California vote Democrat, the Democrats get 100 per cent of California's electoral votes; if 51 per cent of people in Texas vote Republican, the Republicans get 100 per cent of Texas' electoral votes.

The Republicans want to change this – but in only one Democrat-leaning state. California has gone Democratic in presidential elections since 1988, and winning the sunny state is essential if the Democrats are going to retake the White House. So the Republicans have now begun a plan to break up California's electoral college votes – and award a huge chunk of them to their side.

They have launched a campaign called California Counts, and they are trying to secure a state-wide referendum in June to implement their plan. They want California's electoral votes to be divvied up not on a big state-wide basis, but according to the much smaller congressional districts. The practical result? Instead of all the state's 54 electoral college votes going to the Democratic candidate, around 20 would go to the Republicans.

If this was being done in every state, everywhere, it would be an improvement. California's forgotten Republicans would be represented in the electoral college, and so would Texas's forgotten Democrats. But by doing it in California alone, they are simply giving the Republicans a massive electoral gift. Suddenly it would be extremely hard for a Democrat ever to win the White House; they would need a landslide victory everywhere else to counter this vast structural imbalance against them on the West Coast.

You can see this partisan agenda if you look at who is behind the campaign. It was set up by Charles "Chep" Hurth III – a Republican donor to Rudy Giuliani. It was drafted by Tom Hiltachk – a Republican attorney. Its signature drive was co-ordinated by Kevin Eckery – a Republican consultant. Its funds were provided by Paul Singer – a Republican billionaire and one of Rudy Giuliani's biggest donors. Its chief fundraiser is Anne Dunsmore – who went there straight from her post as national deputy campaign manager for Giuliani. Seeing a pattern yet?

"California Counts" was supposed to be dead already, killed by the people's fight against it. But the fascist thiefs weren't finished.

More about their (failed) (so far) plot to steal 2008 at Crooks and Liars.

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