One of the basic principles of a democratic republic is the right of the people to be able to fairly and honestly select a representative that a majority of the populous can agree on. While the merits of this system are debatable, the reality of its effects is not. The vast majority of people will see this system as legitimate and go along with its dictates so long as the laws passed and requests made of the populous remain reasonable. In order for this type of system to maintain its perception of legitimacy, it also must remain transparent. Both these requisites have become extremely compromised over the past decade and more and more people are adopting the perception that our system is no longer legitimate.
I first began to suspect that the electoral system in this country had problems back in the late eighties, early nineties when Ross Perot was running for president and founded one of the most successful third parties in modern times. I voted for Mr. Perot. I remember asking many others who they voted for and the vast majority voted for Mr. Perot. I don't believe that most of the people I know are anything other than average Americans. I couldn't understand how so large a percentage of the people I asked had voted for Mr. Perot and yet he had obtained so low a percentage of the vote when the ballots were counted. I realized that I knew only a small percentage of people and understood that my sampling wasn't scientifically sound, but I still had a bad feeling in the back of my mind that something had gone rotten with the system.
(As an aside, I was reminded the other day of something Ross Perot said about passing NAFTA and a giant sucking sound of jobs leaving the country. Seems like his statement was very prophetic considering the present high unemployment rate and the gloomy outlook for creating jobs in the future.)
I think that the elections in which George W. Bush was elected showed us just how devious our electoral system had become. I'm not talking about the Electoral College or hanging chads, I'm talking about pure and simple corruption and the compromising of the very principle of free and open elections.
Now I am reading stories of electronic voting machines flipping votes. A few years ago, it was the Republicans who were benefiting from such mishaps. Now it's the Democrats. I've read stories of early voters in Nevada being unable to vote for Sharron Angle and instead Harry Reid and the whole slate of Democrats is registered by the machine. I've read stories of service technicians talking about how easy it is to hack into the machines.
As one who's had experience with computers, machine level programming code, RAM and ROM memory and other digital electronic basics, I understand perhaps a little better than most the holes in securing data on electronic voting machines. It is nowhere near as secure as good old paper ballots and a paper trail. In fact, I would suggest that electronic voting provides near zero security and the voting public should show near zero confidence that their vote is even being counted. But don't take my word for it. Bev Harris and Black Box Voting have done a marvelous job documenting the flaws and corruption of our current election processes. There is also a wonderful documentary available called Hacking Democracy. If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you find the time to watch it.
How are we to have even the illusion of legitimacy when we can't even be certain that the candidates elected to be representatives of the people were put into office by a majority of participating voters? How are we supposed to "throw the bums out" when we can't be sure that our votes against corrupt and criminal incumbents won't be flipped and counted for them? How can we hold anyone accountable when our electoral process is secretive and controlled by individuals and companies whose interests may conflict with or be served by certain politicians on the ballots?
Yet the problem goes deeper than just the voting machines. It takes confidence in the system by the majority of voters for the system to maintain its appearance of legitimacy. The voting machines might easily be done away with if the problems with them were widely reported. Yet one hardly hears anything about such problems in the establishment corporate media. With a few notable exceptions like the documentary mentioned above, one needs to go to alternative sources if one wants to really get the low down on these highly suspect election practices.