Vote 2008

Voter Fraught

A few months ago I was standing in a queue at my local station waiting to buy a ticket. The person at the machine was cursing and eventually he gave up and was followed by the 2 or 3 people behind him and in front of me. Having nothing to lose (and everything to gain, because trying too explain to jobsworth “revenue protection officers” that one was unable to buy a ticket at one’s station is likely to cause an aneurysm) I thought I’d give the machine a go. It didn’t take me long to work out that the touch-screen calibration had gone bonkers and one was now required to press to the side of the button below the right one to make a selection. Unlike my fellow computers that evening, I understood that the relationship between the “button” on screen and the mechanism was purely symbolic. I managed to buy a ticket.

In fact, anyone who has ever set up a PDA or a smartphone knows the first task you have after the initial install is to calibrate the touchscreen. Still, tonight, somewhere in the UK, someone is cursing a ticket machine, a pay& display point, an ATM or a vending machine which will not “co-operate” within normal parameters. Most do not suspect a conspiracy. I, of course, frequently do. What other explanation can there be for my last pound coin failing to bring forth the Snickers bar this electro-mechanical transaction promised? My spouse thinks this may herald the onset of madness.

So I sympathise with those who have seen the video below and concluded there is a conspiracy to steal an election, where in a more sober moment they may have accepted that technological failure and incompetence are a more plausible explanation – particularly since a machine designed to steal votes would hardly display the evidence of its crime on-screen:

Nevertheless, some people are convinced that there is a massive effort to steal the election from Barrack Obama underway. Peter Tatchell is somewhat convinced. He writes in The Independent (excerpted below):

Around 13 million US voters have been purged from the electoral rolls since 2004. That’s 10 per cent of the 120 million votes cast in 2004 and twice as many voters as have been added through recent massive voter registration drives.

The proportion of electors dropped from the voters’ lists is staggering: 17 per cent in Colorado, 15 per cent in Washington State, 14 per cent in New York, 13 per cent in Nevada and 10 per cent   in Missouri.

This means that millions of Americans will not be allowed to vote on 4 November. It could cost Barack Obama the White House, even if he is ahead in the opinion polls on 4 November.

Deleting voters who have died or moved inter-state accounts for only some of this purge. The NYT discovered that in Colorado, Louisiana and Michigan the number of people removed from the election rolls since 1 August exceeds the number who may have died or relocated during that period by 300 per cent to 400 per cent.

Some states, including the swing states of Iowa and Florida, require a “perfect match.” New registrants can lose the right to vote if the information on their voter-registration forms — their Social Security number, street address and precisely spelled name, right down to a hyphen — fails to exactly match data listed in other government records. Typos by government clerks are resulting in voters being scrubbed from the rolls.

In the first few days of early voting in Florida, 5,000 voters have already been rejected, mostly because of typos and bureaucratic blunders in the spelling of their names.

Non-match discrepancies could result in hundreds of thousands of US citizens – perhaps millions – losing their right to vote.

Democrat Party leaders are too high on their “Yes we can” hype to kick up a fuss about this massive disenfranchisement of their voters. They naively assume that their big voter registration drive and Obama’s poll lead will give them victory, regardless of the election bias. But that is what they said about John Kerry in 2004. This combination of arrogance and complacency puts at risk the freedom and fairness of the 4 November ballot. Obama looks set to win, but don’t bet on it.

I disagree. I don’t think the Democrats are complacent at all. In fact, I’m sure they have an army of constitutional lawyers and investigators looking at this. Surely? Surely!

Is Tatchell right, though? Do the Yanks need British bloggers and columnists to cajole them into taking the issue seriously? I have been giving him a hard time about this issue, and I’d hate to be left with egg on my face. So whatcha think?