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The Great Election Robbery of 2008?

BY Laura S. Washington

While the guardians of the establishment crow that American Democracy is a shining beacon for the world, our elections are corrupted.

Come Nov. 4, the elephant in the polling booth is the possibility that the 2008 presidential election will be stolen – again.

Loser Take All is a new collection of essays edited by Mark Crispin Miller. Subtitled “Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008,” the book reviews a contemporary slew of electoral mischief, hubris and thievery.

Miller has been around this block before. A professor of media, culture and communication at New York University, Miller authored the 2007 book, Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. He is a leading voice on media activism and electoral reform.

Miller wastes no time diving into the gloom and doom. By page three of his wide-ranging, sarcasm-laden introduction, he suggests that the United States is headed toward a fascist state. While “the guardians of the establishment” on both sides of the aisle crow that American Democracy is a shining beacon for the world, Miller writes, our so-called free and fair elections are seriously corrupted. He argues the American media has done its darndest to rewrite history and that the Bush/Cheney “re-election” of 2004 was a “masterpiece of fraud.”

And that’s just one of the myriad examples laid out in this detailed and compelling series of articles.

Miller marshals a brigade of contributors, including investigative reporters, editors, bloggers, university professors, activists, statisticians and tech nerds. They team up to present an array of warning signs that America should brace for the Great Election Robbery of 2008.

In the essay, “Diebold and Max Cleland’s Loss in Georgia,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – - a university professor, Air America talk show host and former assistant district attorney in New York City – - reveals the handiwork of the infamous Diebold e-voting machine and its role in the 2002 loss of Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Cleland to Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss.

Just months before the November 2002 election, the voting machine manufacturer managed to wrangle an exclusive $54 million contract to oversee and run the election machinery for all of Georgia. The Republican-friendly company “was authorized to put together ballots, program machines and train poll workers across the state – all without any official supervision,” Kennedy writes.

Diebold went on to illegally install software patches on 5,000 Diebold voting machines in two heavily Democratic Georgia counties. The patches, whistleblower Chris Hood explains, can be programmed to change the actual votes the machines record. “There could be a hidden program on a memory card that adjusts everything to the preferred election results,” Hood told Kennedy.

Six days before the election, Cleland was up in the polls by five percentage points. Election Day rolled around and – voila! – the popular Senate incumbent, war veteran and double amputee lost to opponent Chambliss by seven points.

Hood, a former consultant to Diebold and the son of African Americans who worked for voting rights in the South, argues that companies like Diebold have compromised the democratic process. “What I saw,” he says, “was basically a corporate takeover of our voting system.”

Despite citing a plethora of examples like this, Miller’s book can get bogged down in technical language. There’s a promising ring to the title of David L. Griscom’s piece, “How to Stuff the Electronic Ballot Box: ‘Hacking and Stacking’ in Pima County, Arizona.” But Griscom, a retired research physicist, quickly descends into a messy agglomeration of blurry statistics, indecipherable bar graphs and arcane acronyms.

Take this choice excerpt on page 124:

In the first row of Table 3, we see that [Sen. John] Kerry had a 5.0 percent smaller (negative) at-the-precinct vote share than his LD-27-wide average. We also see that Bush has a 4.5 percent larger at-the-precinct share than his LD-27-wide average. To get the “gross shift” of votes from Kerry to Bush, we subtract the number in the Kerry column on the same row as the Bush column.

Fa ged aboudit.

Still, once you skim through the tech stuff, there’s still plenty of critical evidence left that shows we have been lulled into a dangerous complacency about the integrity of our election system.

Loser Take All is a wakeup call at 3 a.m. from a screaming relative. Take heed.

Laura S. Washington, an In These Times contributing editor, is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political analyst for ABC 7-Chicago.

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