August 17 2004
WILL THE ELECTION BE STOLEN IN FLORIDA?: Paul
Krugman suggests this morning that "there is a
substantial chance that the result of the 2004 presidential
election will be suspect."
might be inclined to dismiss his column as another example
that the Ivy League econ prof is off his meds. Not true.
Krugman is quite cannily (and preemptively) arguing that
a Bush victory in Florida will be illegitimate:
I say that the result will be suspect, I don't mean that
the election will, in fact, have been stolen. (We may
never know.) I mean that there will be sufficient
uncertainty about the honesty of the vote count
that much of the world and many Americans will have serious
might the election result be suspect? Well, to take only
one of several possibilities, suppose that Florida - where
recent polls give John Kerry the lead - once again swings
the election to George Bush.
of Florida's vote will be counted by electronic voting
machines with no paper trails. Independent computer scientists
who have examined some of these machines' programming
code are appalled at the security flaws. So there will
be reasonable doubts about whether Florida's votes were
properly counted, and no paper ballots to recount. The
public will have to take the result on faith. (emphasis
goes on to insinuate there is a concerted effort by Governor
Jeb Bush to suppress the black vote and then declares, "given
this pattern, there will be skepticism if Florida's
paperless voting machines give President Bush an upset,
Krugman is concluding, based on a
couple of polls in Florida taken right after the Democratic
National Convention showing Kerry ahead, that if Bush
wins Florida in November it will be considered an "upset"-
and an "uncheckable" one at that. This is a deeply
disingenuous and dishonest statement.
flesh out some facts. Broward and Miami-Dade counties are
now working with touch-screen voting machines by Election
Systems & Software (ES&S). Palm Beach County
decided to purchase touch screen-machines from Sequoia
last week 418 touch-screen machines in Broward, Miami-Dade
and Palm Beach counties were tested before an
audience of national television crews and various state
officials. The results: all machines counted with 100%
isn't to say there haven't been mistakes, which are naturally
viewed with a heightened sensitivity in Florida. But those
mistakes, including a recent error
on printed ballots, a
mix up in a County Commissioner race, and even some
problems in 2002, were due almost entirely to human
Krugman doesn't mention human error. Nor does he mention
the fact that, as in 2000, a vast majority of the local
officials supervising the election process in Florida are
Krugman implies there will be far more nefarious factors
at work - including the rather paranoid suggestions that
hackers and/or partisans loyal to President Bush could program
touch-screen voting machines to perform perfectly during
public testing but then somehow be reprogrammed to skew
in favor of Bush on election day.
Krugman points out, Democratic paranoia in Florida is driven
mainly by the fact that the new touch-screen voting machines
provide no "paper trail." But according to this
press release from Sequoia, each of their machines "already
allows the printing of ballots for recount and audit purposes."
UPDATE: In a related
article out today, Dr. Michael I. Shamos of the Institute
for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh
told a Virginia legislative committee that electronic voting
machines have been used for 25 years without a "single
verified incident of tampering.")
earlier this year Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler filed
suit to try and force election officials to retrofit
all touch screen voting machines with printers. Last week
Democratic State Senator Ron Klein urged Governor Bush force
the 15 counties equipped with touch-screen voting machines
to provide voters with the option of casting paper absentee
LePore - the now famous Democrat Election Supervisor from
Palm Beach County - called Klein's proposal, "the
most absurd thing I've heard yet."
the rest of the exchange between LePore and Klein, which
I can't emphasize enough comes from a Democrat who is on
the ground and responsible for supervising the election
got four optical scanner machines and 700 precincts,"
a clearly exasperated Supervisor of Elections Theresa
LePore said. "How are we going to do it?"
not such a huge list for the supervisors to expand this,"
Klein said in Tallahassee on Thursday morning. "We're
just trying to make it easier for voters."
LePore, reached in West Palm Beach, said what Klein was
asking was a big deal. In addition to having to buy at
least 696 more optical-scan machines, Palm Beach County
would have to print enough paper ballots for the county's
710,000 voters and distribute nearly 200 variations of
the ballot to different precincts.
that, she said, would "guarantee" disaster.
they want problems, this is the way to have problems.
They keep predicting there's going to be chaos and doom
and gloom and debacle — this will guarantee it,"
LePore's outrage grew as she went on for several minutes,
claiming that the Democrats' interest in the machines
is less about voters' rights than it is about politics
— particularly those involving her race for reelection
me," she said when asked why the Democrats were pursuing
the changes. "I followed the laws and did what I'm
supposed to do, and they can't stand that. They are doing
such a disservice to the voters of this state by predicting
all these problems. What's going to end up happening is
people aren't going to come out to vote on election day.
both parties are doing it, but more so on the Democratic
Party side all over the country. They're lining their
ducks up in a row, getting ready for the lawsuits that
they're going to file so that when mistakes start happening
they can point their finger and say, I told you so."
that, my friends, is exactly what Paul Krugman is doing.
Sowing seeds of fear, doubt and illegitimacy in advance
of a possible Bush victory in Florida.
bad for Krugman the facts don't support such lunacy. A recently
completed study of the 2002 Florida elections showed that
while touch-screen machines produce a higher rate of undervotes
than optical-scanning machines, both are
dramatically more accurate than the punch card ballots used
in 2000 - with paper trail and all:
report is required of the division following every general
election as a result of the 2001 elections reform law
passed after the contentious 2000 presidential election.
concluded that the use of both systems helped reduce the
error rate from the 2000 election.
the percentage of uncounted ballots decreased from 2.93
percent in the 2000 election presidential election to
0.86 in the 2002 gubernatorial election," the report
stated, adding that the error for the now-infamous punch-card
machines in 2000 was 3.93 percent.
final thing. As to Krugman's slanderous insinuation that
Jeb Bush is working to suppress the black vote and may possibly
be involved in the impending touch-screen voting heist this
November, there's this little tidbit from the aforementioned
higher undervote rate was actually foreshadowed by Gov.
Jeb Bush's election reform task force, which in 2001 recommended
optical scan machines for all Florida counties for the
2002 elections, leaving open the option of touch-screen
machines for future years, as the technology improved...
these recommendations, election machine manufacturers,
hiring top lobbyists, successfully sold the state's largest
counties on the touch-screen machines, which cost several
times as much as optical-scan units.
there you have it. The only question left is this: when
did the NY Times opinion page decide to make itself an appropriate
venue for partisans to peddle unfounded, misleading, and
paranoid conspiracy theories? On second thought, don't answer
that. - T. Bevan 10:52 am Link
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