Read

Search form

Privatizing Our Vote: The Ultimate Crime

Privatizing Our Vote: The Ultimate Crime
Mon, 11/11/2013 - by Thom Hartmann
This article originally appeared on The Daily Take

When the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United decision in 2010, many in the media predicted that it would usher in a new era of corporate electioneering. They were right, of course, but they only had half of the story.

You won't hear it anywhere in the mainstream media, but over the past decade or so our elected representatives have slowly but surely handed the power to decide our elections over to a handful of giant, mostly Republican-connected corporations.

And they've done so by giving them the right to count our votes.

At one time, counting votes was something done by people like you and me. It was done by volunteers, political party representatives, and government workers. If there was anything sketchy with the results, you could compare those results with exit-polls conducted by any one of the many reputable polling companies. This system worked for centuries and for good reason, too: exit polls were - and still are - the best way to detect fraud.

But something changed in America in the early 2000s. Private corporations armed with fancy new electronic voting machines - not everyday people - began counting the vote. They were helped out by President George W. Bush, who in 2002 signed the so-called "Help America Vote Act." HAVA gave billions of dollars to states all over the country so they could buy electronic voting machines from big corporations.

Supporters of electronic voting machines say they're safer and better than manual vote counting, but that's just a flat-out lie. Anyone who wants to can easily use a voting machine to swing an election.

If you don't believe me, just check out the 2004 video of Howard Dean playing around with a voting machine while he was guest hosting Tina Brown's CNBC show.

It's really that easy. In fact, according to BlackBoxVoting.org, a non-profit group dedicated to investigating problems with electronic voting, rigging an election with an electronic voting machine is so easy a chimpanzee can do it.

And if you think this all just a bunch of hand-wringing, then think again. Ever since the early 2000s, when the use of electronic voting machines really took off, things have gotten really weird.

Back in 2002, for example, polling showed popular Georgia Democrat Senator Max Cleland with a solid five point lead over his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss, less than a week before Election Day. But when the votes were counted using electronic voting machines made and operated by Diebold, Chambliss emerged victorious by about two points.

So what happened? Well, it might have something to do with a software patch that Diebold installed in machines in Democratic-leaning counties months before voters went to the polls.

But we'll never actually know what happened. As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. noted in his piece on the 2002 Georgia senate race, "It is impossible to know whether the machines were rigged to alter the election in Georgia: Diebold's machines provided no paper trail, making a recount impossible."

That's the whole problem with electronic voting machines: we'll never really know. Companies like Diebold don't have to reveal their software secrets because they are protected under copyright law. And again, unlike paper ballots, you can't really see when someone messes with your touchscreen vote. It happens outside of plain sight.

Ultimately, however, the biggest problem with electronic voting machines is that they violate the core principles of our republic. Whether or not election rigging exists - and my bets are on that it does - the whole idea of privatizing the vote is a crime against our form of government.

Think of it this way: the whole purpose of government is to administer the commons, you know, things like parks, healthcare, and roads that we all need in order to survive. And in a democratic republic, voting is the most important part of the commons. That's because it's the glue that holds everything else together. It's how "We, the People," hold the managers of our commons - our elected leaders - accountable for their actions.

Handing the one thing we use to hold everyone else accountable - that is, voting, - over to an institution - a corporation - that is only accountable to its shareholders, is the ultimate crime against democracy.

On Tuesday, millions of Americans went to the polls to vote for the candidate or ballot question of their choice. But thanks to more than a decade of election privatization, we'll never know whether their votes actually counted. That's a shame.

It's time to return to paper ballots that are counted by actual human beings. Ireland and Canada tried out electronic voting machines and eventually abandoned them. It's time we followed their lead.

Privatizing the vote is just absolutely insane. It's time to scrap corporate-controlled electronic voting machines and return our elections to where they belong: in the hands of "We, the People."

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Nicaraguan indigenous struggles, Miskitu people, Mayagna people, Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, North Caribbean Autonomous Region, colonos, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

Settlers are attacking indigenous communities with automatic firearms, killing, plundering and forcing residents to flee their ancestral lands, while foreign companies have entered the territory illegally and are burning the region at a rapid rate.

rising inequality, wealth inequality, wealth gap, rising incomes, growing unemployment, Great Recession, housing crisis

Recent research published about the Great Recession adds to the already clear evidence that rising inequality translates into nearly all of today's winnings going to the wealthy.

Jeremy Corbyn, MPs

The anti-Corbyn forces within Labour might very well have achieved the complete opposite of what they aimed to achieve.

shady financial practices, financial crimes, Dodd-Frank Act, Roosevelt Institute, too big to fail, Glass-Steagall Act, Gerald Epstein, Juan Antonio Montecino

The average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.

Bernie Sanders supporters traveled to Philadelphia from every corner of the country this week to show their enduring support for his candidacy.

Democratic National Convention, DNC, DNC protests, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Bernie supporters, Food & Water Watch, March for a Clean Energy Future

More than 10,000 people calling for a “clean energy revolution” filled the streets here Sunday.

Posted 4 days 23 hours ago

Bernie Sanders supporters traveled to Philadelphia from every corner of the country this week to show their enduring support for his candidacy.

Posted 2 days 18 hours ago
All Lives Matter protesters come together for a group hug with join Black Lives Matter activists in Dallas at Park Ln & Fair Oaks Ave. July 10th.

In recent weeks, the Southern Poverty Law Center has received a number of requests to name Black Lives Matter a hate group. In our view, these critics fundamentally misunderstand the nature of hate groups and the BLM movement.

Posted 4 days 23 hours ago
Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Bernie protesters, progressives, Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders, Migrants Rights March, Juntos, immigrant rights, Democracy Spring

We’re supposed to have a government of and by the people, but the government we have is only interested in protecting the rights of big corporations and billionaires.

Posted 3 days 10 hours ago

This week, as the DNC rages on, we're talking state surveillance – digging deep into the past and present with surveillance expert, Chip Gibbons from Defending Dissent

Posted 2 days 19 hours ago

This week, as the DNC rages on, we're talking state surveillance – digging deep into the past and present with surveillance expert, Chip Gibbons from Defending Dissent

"We are in a political moment where we can dismantle not only the racist neoconservative Republican Party, but also the racist and equally destructive neoliberalism of the Democratic Party."

marijuana legalization, cannabis legalization, legalized weed, Adult Use of Marijuana Act, AUMA, Monsanto, GMOs, seed patents, George Soros, corporate marijuana takeover

With the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove herb from Schedule I.

super rich, growing inequality, wealth inequality, joblessness, societal decay, pandemics, global terrorism

Perhaps they feel immune from the killings in the streets, for they rarely venture into the streets anymore. They don’t care about the great masses of ordinary people, nor do they think they need us.

shady financial practices, financial crimes, Dodd-Frank Act, Roosevelt Institute, too big to fail, Glass-Steagall Act, Gerald Epstein, Juan Antonio Montecino

The average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.