mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

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7.31.04 The Looming Voting Scandal

I've been thinking about voting machines. The scandal is looming -- new electronic machines too vulnerable to tampering and software glitches, incapable of printing paper "receipts" or providing recounts.

This is not a technological problem. Diebold -- the leading manufacturer of electronic voting machines and other self-service facilities -- makes every ATM I use. When is the last time you heard of an ATM scandal? Banks know that the surest way to lose business is to screw around with people's money. I can see my bank balance from just about anywhere in the world and access cash. The ATM machines themselves work smoothly every time and I've never had one fail to print a receipt. It's downright miraculous.

So what's the deal with voting machines? Is this simply the sad result of state laws that say contracts must go to the lowest bidder? When bureaucracies want something fast and cheap, they get what they pay for: crap.

You might also say that there is cynicism on the part of businesses like Diebold. They look patriotic by making a generously low bid. They secure the contract, then assign their bench-warmer programmers and engineers. Since they are also making campaign contributions to the party in power, they feel free to cut corners in order to yield a hefty profit even from their low bid. Please -- the stockholders wouldn't have it any other way.

Here we are, running around the world stuffing our precious democracy down everyone's throats. But at home, sleepy state officials and cynical private enterprise are trampling on one of our basic rights. Politicians love to yap about reducing big government, but does anyone these days talk about good government?

And, typical for the Bushites, the federal government isn't paying any attention. Someone needs to write basic national standards for voting machines and hold states accountable for a reliable and transparent election process.

Do we need the U.N. to come in and monitor our elections? I vote YES!





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