Election-Watching

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Okay, this just gives me the creeps. An international team of observers will be monitoring the presidential election right here in the U.S.

"The presence of monitors will assure Americans that America cares about their votes and it cares about its standing in the world," she [Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas] said in a news release.

Yeah, that's exactly what I'll think if I see a European bureaucrat paying very close attention to my polling place. What are the chances that they won't find anything to complain about?

NEXT: Two Cheers for Media Fragmentation

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  1. Hanah Metchis,

    You also aren’t particularly aware of American history if you don’t recognize that America has a long history of electoral irregularities, corruption, etc.

    * Election of 1820

    * Election of 1876

    * Election of 1960

    * The black and Indian experiences with American elections (and by this I mean after they gained access to the franchise)

    * “Machine” elections that were common in most American cities

  2. * Election of 1824 (Jackson v. JQ Adams) – Correction

  3. I think this is actually a fine idea. First, because we all know election fraud does happen, and independent observers from whatever sort, foreign or domestic, aren’t going to hurt, at any rate.

    “foreign or domestic”, eh? We already have observers at each voting location, and I believe anyone can observe elections. That’s fine, as long as they’re Americans. We don’t need the world’s imprimatur.

    And it sets a good example by helping to establish a norm of international oversight.

    It sets a horrible example by giving foreigners input into our internal affairs. Sure, we interfere in other countries’ internal affairs all the time. But, I guess when you’ve got nukes you can afford to be a hypocrite.

    We’ve already ceded enough of our sovereignty to other countries, we don’t need to go even further.

    Nevertheless, I welcome our new blue-helmeted global overlords: Welcome U.N. Observers!

  4. Hanah Metchis wrote: “The U.S. is the nation with the longest history of free and fair elections in the world. An effort to delegitimize the outcome of our elections, like what happened in 2000, or to cast doubt on our ability to hold fair elections – what does that say to nations that are just starting to become democracies?”

    Hanah, would you suggest that those, for example, who have revealed some of the problems with electronic voting systems in use in some election districts are casting doubt on our ability to hold fair elections? Certainly, some efforts to provide oversight are legitimate and others are problematic. Is your concern that those proposing to provide oversite are “international” rather than domestic, or is it something else that prompts you to characterize these efforts as an attack on the legitimacy of elections, rather than increased scrutiny?

    Also, your comment about an “effort to delegitimize the outcome of our elections, like what happened in 2000″ confuses me. Are you suggesting that comments on the election debacle in Florida in 2000 were no more than an effort to delegitimize the outcome of elections”? Wasn’t the methodology adopted by the Florida government for disenfranchising potential voters more responsible for “delegitimizing” the outcome than the criticism of that practice after the election?

  5. But which ‘irregularities’ are they going to be looking for? And what are the chances that they’re going to be at the locations where a whole cemetery votes, or where they get 105% turnout? Also, wasn’t one of the big issues in Florida the accusation that the cops were stopping people someplace OTHER than the polling place? How would poll monitors deal with that? Are they going to be mobile? I don’t know whether it’s a good idea for real or not, but this seems more like a token gesture, whether it’s to affirm the status of the US as having fair elections or whether to try to make a snarky statement. It’s not an attempt to actually root out problems, IMO.

  6. Lonewacko Blog,

    How exactly is this ceding sovereignty? These are observers; they have no power but to observe.

  7. I don’t see a problem with our world-body overlords looking over our shoulder while we vote. Maybe they can provide assistance to those who can’t fill out a ballot properly.

  8. Xenophobia won’t work Gary, I spent my early years in Luxembourg….this is what I base my bet on-copied from CNN…”Thirteen Democratic members of the House of Representatives, raising the specter of possible civil rights violations that they said took place in Florida and elsewhere in the 2000 election, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in July, asking him to send observers.”

  9. The nutbar conspiracy theories being foisted here strike me as based on xenophobia.

    You forgot “mean-spirited” and “racist” too.

    Only a few of the member states are non-Aryan, so you’ll have to find another explanation.

  10. What gets me the most about all this is how appalling it is that the U.S., the world’s preeminent constitutional republic, can have gotten itself into a situation in which international oversight of our elections can be considered a reasonable idea.

    Have we fallen asleep at the wheel so badly that we have to ask for help from an organization (the U.N., originally) that admits nations that don’t even have free elections?

    OK, so the oversight will be handled by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (an all-too-typically-ambiguous name for a European bureacracy), but geez.

    Certainly the U.S. has had its unfair share of election chicanery, but that we find ourselves in the current situation without much improvement over the many years of electoral experience is the greatest tragedy.

    It disgusts me that we’re in a situation where our electoral process can be seen to benefit from outside observers from countries that took far longer than we did to even acknowledge the private citizen’s role in government.

  11. How exactly is this ceding sovereignty? These are observers; they have no power but to observe.

    We’re allowing them to come here, as if there’s something wrong and we need to World Government’s wise council. Those observers will file a report and whether it’s positive or negative it will have an impact and that will result in transferring some of our control over our internal affairs to a foreign body.

  12. gawdamman,

    The Democratic representatives didn’t invite OSCE, they invited the UN. The OSCE isn’t the UN. Again, READ the fucking article.

  13. “We’re allowing them to come here, as if there’s something wrong and we need to World Government’s wise council.”

    Sorry, but that’s not giving up sovereignty; indeed, given the fact that the U.S. is NOT obligated to invite them further demonstrates that this has nothing to do with sovereignty.

    BTW, look up the term “xenophobia.”

    Or wait, let me do it for you:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oi=defmore&q=define:Xenophobia

  14. Wow. I had no idea that xenophobia meant Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

    I now realize that my fear of World Government controlled by our Globalist Elites is nothing more than irrational fear and hatred of foreigners (preferably brown people).

    I now can say Welcome U.N. Observers! and mean it.

  15. Based on the info available, the OSCE seems to be coming here to learn from the U.S. election process, not to oversee it, which was the original partisan and childish call for U.N. monitoring from Representative Johnson, who is now scrambling to equate the two for the sake of her own petty publicity.

    What exactly is wrong with us saying “Come and see how the experts do it…” and in the process teaching a thing or two to these countries, some of which are literally building their electoral systems from scratch?

  16. And it sets a good example by helping to establish a norm of international oversight.

    A “norm” of “international oversight” is tranzi-speak for international certification of elections. If you don’t think international certification of US elections is inconsistent with sovereignty and democracy, there is no hope for you.

    Now, why are the observers coming? Are they thin edge of the wedge of international oversight? What other purpose could they serve?

  17. Kip: We’ve got a cheaper source for airfare. Let’s visit their countries and teach them how to do it.

    Looking through the Lonewacko archives, I find: Mexico is suing us in the World Court and Jesse Jackson saying “the United Nations should consider sanctioning the United States”

    That last link includes a link to an earlier report about a Tranzi attempt to get the U.N. to block the Iraq war, using force if necessary.

  18. Lonewacko Blog,

    (a) They aren’t UN observers, so please quit reiterating that they are.

    (b)Apparently you didn’t have any idea that the term referred to fear of foreigners; why otherwise would you make the following statement?

    Only a few of the member states are non-Aryan, so you’ll have to find another explanation.

    What exactly is an “Aryan,” BTW? Are you referring to the Nazi doctrine of nordic descent and genetics, or to the folks who conquered India and created Vedic Hinduism? Are you associating yourself with discredited racist and “white power” movements now?

  19. Lonewacko Blog,

    Looking through the Lonewacko archives, I find: Mexico is suing us in the World Court and Jesse Jackson saying “the United Nations should consider sanctioning the United States”

    That last link includes a link to an earlier report about a Tranzi attempt to get the U.N. to block the Iraq war, using force if necessary.

    All of which has jack squat to do with the issue at hand.

  20. Since it is the perview of the states how their individual counties hold federal elections I imagine there will be only a handfull of polls with UN observers.

  21. pigwiggle,

    (a) These aren’t UN observers.

    (b) During the 2002 election OSCE sent over ten people to observe the election.

  22. Mr. Gunnels…..I don’t care if the observers are OSCE, UN or The Canadian Gay Mens Choir. I am merely speculating that this is a set-up by the democratic party to cry “foul” if they lose. The republicans would do the same thing if they needed to. By the way, you don’t need to use foul language to get your point across….asshole.

  23. “Well, you would have to demonstrate that this is an effort to do so first. Cart before the horse dear.”

    Can’t you read, Gary? They’re foreigners! FOREIGNERS!?!

    My God, they could…you know…SAY stuff!

  24. I can only envision the outcry from these UN observers if Bush wins (not that I wish that). They will report back to their home countries (even unoffically, in a local paper or blog) a very biased view of the election process and “problems” – specifics be damned.

    “Something was amiss.” “Something was awry.” And Le Outcry shall begin.

  25. Hanah writes: “The U.S. is the nation with the longest history of free and fair elections in the world. An effort to delegitimize the outcome of our elections, like what happened in 2000, or to cast doubt on our ability to hold fair election”

    Hanah, this doesn’t happen automatically. There’s no excuse for growing complacent. There’s a whole crapload of potential in 2004 for the election to become a farce.

    If the presence of monitors keeps US electoral officials’ feet to the fire, and keeps them from taking easy outs like shutting down polls because of computer bugs, so much the better.

  26. “am merely speculating that this is a set-up by the democratic party to cry “foul” if they lose.”

    If they’re only going to send over 10-20 obsevers, to cover the entire nation, just what are the odds that one of the obsevers will be at a particularly troublesome location?

    If the democrats – or the republicans – want to cry foul, the OSCE observers aren’t likely to play any particular role. It’s quite likely the observers won’t see anything remarkable.

  27. Why again do we need outside observers to tell us how to run an election? We are incapable of doing this for ourselves?

    An election would be a moot point in a truly free world anyways. No elected should have as much control over your lives as they do today.

  28. OK, I’m going to be a poll worker on Nov. 2 in Santa Barbara County. Overall I think we do a fine job of running elections in SB County and I couldn’t care less who watches me do my job on that day. As long as observers obey the rules about electioneering (none, please), voter privacy (no pictures taken near the voting booths or without voter permission), and common courtesy, and address any concerns to appropriate officials in a courteous and non-disruptive manner, I’m fine with it.

    Now, if an observer (be it a foreigner, a poll watcher from a campaign, or an ordinary citizen) acts disruptively or tries to assert authority over our procedures I’ll simply call the police. But otherwise I really couldn’t care less who watches the polling place. My team and I have absolutely nothing to hide. Our procedures are transparent and full of back-ups and fail-safes, and we are inspected by officials from the campaigns, the county government, and the state government, not to mention ordinary citizens who feel like watching us at work.

    Really, it might be fun to blow this up into a bigger issue, but as a poll worker with nothing to hide I don’t see what the big deal is.

    OK, I suppose that there are those who might issue reports that make bogus allegations against our processes. Well, everything I do is transparent and documented and observed. I have nothing to hide, and the best remedy for any obnoxious speech that they might make afterward is even more speech.

    If you’re still concerned about this you can go to the polling place yourself and make your own observations. Talk to the poll workers. Ask questions. Thank them for their service. Bring donuts for the nice poll workers. Seriously. BRING ME DONUTS!!! 🙂

    Anyway, do your own observations, and post your own report on the web. After the election write letters to the editor and the local elections office with your suggestions or comments. If you’re worried that international observers will produce inaccurate reports, why not counter them by making your own contribution to the public record? People died for the right to vote, surely you can find a couple hours to observe a polling place and record your thoughts.

    It’s a free country with free elections, and the best way to ensure that it remains free is to be an active citizen.

  29. Asking the UN to oversee elections when your opponent has won one, then decrying how terrible for democracy your opponent is for letting things get to the point where the UN has to be asked to oversee elections – very clever. Ahem.

    Missing the irony of saying that democracy requires the oversight of elections by an unelected international beauracracy, rather than just grassroots volunteers – not so clever.

  30. I make my living as a self-employed futures trader….I place calculated bets on which way the market is going on a very short term basis. (today is very slow due to the FOMC meeting tomorrow)

    I am seriously willing to bet that the observers will magically appear in an area/s where voting irregularities have allegedly occured.

    This is almost a given, imho.

  31. Another thought:

    A friend of mine from France (currently working in the US) came by my polling place last year during the gubernatorial recall election. He had worked at the polls a few times while living in France and he wanted to see how US polling places were run. He showed up, looked around, didn’t hurt anybody or interfere, didn’t violate anybody’s privacy by trying to go through our voter rosters, and had a good time. The world didn’t end, and the US remains a sovereign nation.

    I’d be happy to talk to somebody who works at the polls in a foreign country. Maybe he/she would have some decent advice on the little logistical issues that matter so much, or maybe I’d have some decent advice for him/her. Either way, there’s nothing to lose from such a conversation.

  32. Having been an election monitor on three different occasions, I know what these people are going to do (I’m an American). Although I’m no fan of Eurocrats, I think inviting the OSCE over, regardless of what they eventually say, is a good thing. They may, in fact, decry the fallibility of our election system, but as Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the others.” The longer term upside is much more significant, in that when the Russians (or the French or the Serbs or whomever) resist having OSCE monitoring of their tattered systems, they will not be able to j’accuse the United States of having a double standard on the issue — which is part of the credibility that we’ve been sorely lacking of late. As someone else [ahem] recently said, “bring ’em on.”

  33. yes thoreau…nothing…BUT YOUR FREEDOM!!!!!

  34. (a) They aren’t UN observers, so please quit reiterating that they are.

    OK, I won’t include too many more links to Welcome U.N. Observers! We have to get the word out, so Americans feel free to open their homes to our friends from abroad, providing them with all the quarters, food, travel aid, and material comforts they require.

    What exactly is an “Aryan,” BTW? Are you referring to the Nazi doctrine of nordic descent and genetics, or to the folks who conquered India and created Vedic Hinduism? Are you associating yourself with discredited racist and “white power” movements now?

    Yes.

  35. I think there are people on this thread who would rather allow a problem county continue to violate people’s voting rights, than have the problem fixed because it was reported by a Frenchman.

    I think these people are also quite aware of the fact that voting-system problems fall disproportionately upon the poor, immiagrants, and ethnic minorities.

    And I think the two are connected.

  36. And I think joe has an excellent view of his transverse colon.

  37. “Mr. Gunnels…..I don’t care if the observers are OSCE, UN or The Canadian Gay Mens Choir. I am merely speculating that this is a set-up by the democratic party to cry “foul” if they lose. The republicans would do the same thing if they needed to. By the way, you don’t need to use foul language to get your point across….asshole.”

    The Repulbicans coun’t do the same thing if they wanted to. The observers will only cry foul if a Republican wins.

    And GG does indeed need to use foul language to get his point accross.

  38. joe,

    Why be so roundabout while trying to smear people as racists? You could more efficiently accuse people of hating the French directly.

  39. Joe’s psychic powers are astounding.

    Not.

    Actually this was a fascinating debate to lurk at till Joe put in his halfpenny.

  40. I don’t really see a problem with having international observers so long as US tax payers aren’t footing the bill for their suites, travel and expenditures. But who am I kidding? Of course we’ll end up paying for it. Guess I can go and try and hitch a limo ride back to their hotel.

    My issue is with who requested international observers. The Congressional Black Caucus only a few months ago had members calling Colin Powell “a white man” and the State Department “racists”. Ironically this was all over the Haiti situation and Aristide. Aristide was STRONGLY supported by the CBC despite the fact that the CBC was one of the member organization for the election observers that saw Aristide win the most corrupt, violent election in Haitian history. At that time the CBC made all of ZERO speeches on the floor of the House to decry the failure of Haitian elections. Their guy won so they didn’t care.

    The CBC has won back a little praise from me with the Sudan Embassy protests. I admire that. But toasting Aristide, then trying to restore him to power and ignoring his vast level of corruption is completely indefensibly. Powell should have let the CBC down easy, but prior commitments appear to have won.

  41. thoreau,

    I was wondering, do you know if your polling place will (probably) be using any of the Diebold machines or some other electronic voting system? I remember reading a story a couple of months ago (on slashdot.org) about one of the main opponents of electronic voting actually becoming a volunteer, and the relative lack of entertainment that ensued. Do you know any of the details of the work you will do yet? Just curious. Thanks.

  42. “I think these people are also quite aware of the fact that voting-system problems fall disproportionately upon the poor, immiagrants, and ethnic minorities.”

    The “voting-system problem” with “the poor” is that they are allowed (and encouraged) to vote themselves handouts of other people’s money without having to cough up any (or very little) in taxes to throw in the pot themselves.

    I’ve never thought it was fair that those who pay nothing in taxes should have an equal say in how government tax revenue is spent compared to those who are required to pay in thousands of dollars in taxes.

    Here a voting reform for you: make voting for national offices operate the same way as corporate proxy voting is done on corporate takeover proposals. Issue each citizen one vote for every dollar they pay in taxes. Those who pay no taxes get no vote.

  43. There have always been foreign observers in American elections. They’re called foreign journalists. You have the *Economist* and other foreign publications wandering around America’s open society and writing about our politics and every other subject. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    Can foreign bureaucrats and diplomats do a better job observing elections than foreign journalists? Maybe if the journalists are drunk (an occupational hazard), but otherwise not. But it’s a free country, and if foreign bureaucrats and diplomats want to poke around and investigate, let them go ahead, so long as they send the bill to *foreign* taxpayers, not U. S. taxpayers.

  44. Gilbert Martin,

    Wouldn’t that contradict amendments 15, 19, 24, and 26?

  45. Actually, I attribute the willingness among conservatives to neglect voting rights violations to their desire to beat Democrats (who have the overwhelming support of the groups I mentioned), not to racism. They’re out to win elections; only a tiny fringe of Republicans, even, are actually motivated by a desire to screw black people.

    Interesting responses, though. Guilty conscience?

    Though I like Gil’s idea (combined with his recommendations re: capital gains taxes and inheretance taxes) of disenfranchising the idle rich.

  46. Shawn Smith: This electronic voting opponent volunteered for what exactly? Are you implying they gave up their opposition to volunteer to support electronic voting?

    I do recall that the Black Box Watch initiative took a hit when the founder was outed as profiting from her defined non-profit public service. I believe it caused the group to severe into two entities.

    Furthermore, I also recall that studies have shown that paranoia over electronic voting appears to be just paranoia. Electronic voting has shown to produce less errors when compared to punch card voting.

  47. Was Anderson Consulting unavailable for this job?

    How about PriceWaterhouseCoopersLybrandMoreMergersComingPleaseGodNo?

  48. Shawn-

    I’ve worked 4 elections in SB County so far and all of them used the AccuVote system. It’s basically like a scantron exam with large ovals. Unlike touch-screen machines there’s a paper trail (which I like!), and it has a better accuracy rate than the punch card systems. I don’t see why everybody is so keen on touch screen.

    What I would love to see is a system that allows you to vote anywhere in the county, by making the roster electronic. Right now you can only vote at a specific precinct. You might not think this is a big deal, and it isn’t if you live in a residential neighborhood of single-family homes. I work a densely populated student neighborhood. There’s more than a dozen precincts in less than a square mile. Students are constantly moving from place to place, sometimes changing residences every quarter, and rosters get out of date really fast. We do our best to direct people to the appropriate places, but we still wind up with a lot of provisional ballots, which take more time to process (voters put their ballot in an envelope with their information, and once the info is verified before the ballot is removed and counted).

    I am waiting for it to become affordable to have a system where you go to any polling place in the county and identify yourself to the precinct worker, who checks your name against an electronic roster. The database would identify which Congressional, state legislative, and city council districts you live in, as well as your party registration in the case of a closed partisan primary. A printer at the polling place would dispense the appropriate ballot type. You would mark the ballot and place it in a machine that would read it. The ballot itself would have no marks to identify you, only the races being voted.

    Of course, all of the necessary technologies would have to become more affordable, more mature (to ensure the greatest possible reliability in the field), and would also have to be tested against very stringent security standards. Poll workers would need more training to trouble-shoot these devices, or else money would have to be spent to have tech support ready to respond immediately in the field.

    Well, I can dream, anyway.

  49. Interesting that you didn’t say “democratic voters” rather than “poor, immiagrants, and ethnic minorities,” in that case.

  50. Joe, Please re-read what you wrote earlier. It is quite clear what you meant. Nice try, though.

  51. It’s also interesting that you cast more aspirtions of racism while defending against the same.

    Go ahead and explain what “Guilty conscience?” means. It’ll be good for a laugh.

  52. Gilbert Martin,

    “Here a voting reform for you: make voting for national offices operate the same way as corporate proxy voting is done on corporate takeover proposals. Issue each citizen one vote for every dollar they pay in taxes. Those who pay no taxes get no vote.”

    Wouldn’t that enshrine the income tax? How do you account for federal sales taxes, etc. in such a system? Aren’t you going to need to amend the Constitution to do that? If you need an amendment, don’t you think you’ll need the support of the poor, immigrants, ethnic minorities and the people who empathize with them to make such an amendment pass? How are you going to handle stay at home Moms; aren’t they going to be allowed to vote? Are soccer moms no longer an important element of the swing vote?

    Corporate proxy voting and civil government aren?t comparable. In corporate proxy voting, if you don’t want to suffer the consequences of the board’s decisions, you can sell all your shares, and you no longer suffer the consequences of the board?s decisions. But that’s not true in the case of civil of government. The Patriot Act doesn’t have anything to do with redistributing tax payer income, but the Patriot Act affects people who don’t pay taxes. Shouldn’t legislators be responsive to all the people who are affected by a given piece of legislation?

  53. Brennan Stout,

    He was a computer science professor who volunteered one day to be one of the election workers, i.e. one of the people who take a voter’s name, make sure they are registered, and verify their signature. Sorry, I can’t remember his name. His impression, as I remember it, was that the concerns he had voiced most often really didn’t seem to be a problem, but that the workers didn’t have any procedures to handle something weird like the machine rebooting, or something like that. That did not happen at his polling place, but a voter made a (false) joke about it, on the order of saying, “What do I do if the screen says ‘system error’?” when it worked just fine.

  54. thoreau,

    Thanks again. What you described sounds completely doable, but I’m sure there would be calls to integrate the system with other government databases and we would have a large protest from the privacy groups, of which I am sometimes a member.

  55. you guys scared the intern away, she wasn’t expecting any dissent.

  56. i’m all for this — and i hope they come and take a look where i vote, in the city of chicago. because i don’t imagine there’s been a free and fair election here ever.

    it’s a nice bit that we have going, the mythology that our elections aren’t — almost can’t be — tampered with. hannah repeats it near the top of this chain. i think 80-90% of americans probably buy it hook, line and sinker.

    and it is true in some places. but it isn’t in many others. i’m all for someone not from inside this nationalistic fishbowl — the unintellectual consequences of which are in clear abundance on this thread — taking a new look at what we do on the first tuesday in november.

    not that we would listen to any criticism — a great many folks seem to have made up their minds already that things here don’t need to be examined for fear of offending our nationalist pride. (remember that when our first dictator-for-life installs himself on a patriotic platform.)

    and note that my view has nothing to do with 2000 — which was a dead heat, effectively, and either man could have made a reasonable claim on the title (and one was granted that claim).

  57. esco,

    Actually, Hanah’s pretty tough. She catches it almost every time she posts.

  58. I think there are people on this thread who would rather allow a problem county continue to violate people’s voting rights, than have the problem fixed because it was reported by a Frenchman.

    here here — my induction as well.

  59. Switzerland is an older democracy..

  60. JDM, “Interesting that you didn’t say “democratic voters” rather than “poor, immiagrants, and ethnic minorities,” in that case.”

    Not all Democratic voters suffer from a greater chance of having their votes. White unionized workers, Asian techies in Silicon Valley, and stunningly handsome city planners in the Northeast do not have this problem. The disenfranchisement of voters occurs most commonly among those groups I listed, all of whom vote Democratic.

    Also, “guility conscience?” is a quip, most commonly used on people who jump up to defend themselves against an accusation that was not actually made. You see, people who have a guilty conscience something feel worried that someone will accuse them of that thing, often to the point of paranoia.

    “Joe, Please re-read what you wrote earlier. It is quite clear what you meant. Nice try, though.” I’m sure it’s quite clear to you.

    Gil, there is a word for stripping people of their right to vote, as you recommend for people who don’t pay taxes. That word is “disenfranchisement.”

  61. As a poll worker, I think what we REALLY need is more complicated elections with weighted votes and vote rosters cross-indexed with tax returns.

    Yeah, that’s what we need!

  62. gaius marius: Did you get burned by Motor Voter?

    I did. My polling facility didn’t have me on the books, but the Department of Motor Vehicles did.

  63. As a Bush supporter and a Republican, I’m more worried by Kerry/Edward’s army of lawyers than I am by OSCE oversight.

    Maybe outside oversight will weaken the case for litigation rather than bolster it.

    My prediction, though, is that there will be no need for recounts or litigation because this election will not be nearly as close as 2000’s was.

  64. “Gil, there is a word for stripping people of their right to vote, as you recommend for people who don’t pay taxes. That word is “disenfranchisement.””

    Joe, there is a word for allowing someone to vote themselves a handout of my tax money while not having to put up any of their own. That word is “theft”.

  65. Shawn-

    You do raise a good point about privacy. However, we already have in our county (and presumably most others?) a centralized database of registered voters. I don’t know the extent to which it’s integrated with other databases, but I don’t see any reason why making it accessible from polling places would cause any additional problems in that regard.

    As to storage, each voter would need AT MOST a kilobyte of data to store the name, address, and a code identifying the various district elections for which the person is eligible. For every million registered voters in the county you’d need 10 MB of data, posing no technological hurdle.

    To avoid issues of network outages and minimize the risk of tampering it would be better if the polling places each had their own copy of the data, rather than access to a network. The database could be disseminated to polling places on CD, not CD-RW. Although the chain of custody for the CD’s would be crucial for privacy, it would be no more problematic than the chain of custody for current paper ballots and rosters. We have a good, transparent system for that right now. And while there’s nothing to stop a poll worker from copying information from a roster (rosters are entrusted to precinct workers a few days prior to the election), you can encrypt a CD. That’s more security than you have at the moment with paper rosters.

    The threat of power outages is easy enough to solve using batteries for electronic voting equipment.

    There is a danger of people going to more than one polling place and voting if we access rosters from CD rather than a network. Detection would admittedly happen only after the fact, but with proper ID requirements and record-keeping it would be easy to nab and convict the fraudulent voter afterward, yielding a very credible deterrent.

    Still, after-the-fact conviction doesn’t change the fact of fraudulent voting. I guess the CD could be used as a backup to the network roster. The network roster would make repeat-voting impossible, and if the network goes down and somebody votes twice during the outage he would still be easy to catch afterward.

    The more I think about this, the more feasible I think it would be.

  66. Joe,

    Yes, it is quite clear to me, as I can read what you wrote, not what you allegedly thought.

    You’re quip is a poor camouflage for your lack of focus in translating what you claim to have been thinking. Perhaps your post would have benefitted from adding “…whom generally vote Democrat.” This would have conveyed a different meaning.

    Or perhaps I should apologize for not immediately seeing DEMOCRAT when reading about the voters you describe.

  67. “The U.S. is the nation with the longest history of free and fair elections in the world. An effort to delegitimize the outcome of our elections, like what happened in 2000, or to cast doubt on our ability to hold fair elections – what does that say to nations that are just starting to become democracies?”

    On the contrary, transparency and openness of elections is the best possible message we can send to new democracies. In many of these countries, international observers could be a major factor in ensuring fair elections.

    One of the major features of (liberal) democracy is the freedom to criticize the institutions of government. Not allowing foreign observers because we’re afraid of criticism sends a terrible message to new democracies.

    And I’m not sure what you mean about 2000- as I recall it was the Supreme Court of the state of Florida which ordered a recount, based on Florida’s constitution, which was then stopped by SCOTUS. For anyone who believes in states’ rights at all, that election-deciding action was at the very least questionable, and unprecedented.

  68. thoreau,

    Good analysis. I brought up privacy concerns because I believe it has gotten blown out of proportion in some cases. If I were more proactive, I might use the ideas you have mentioned as a base to put in a proposal for a multi-million dollar contract to the election commission here in NV, with full attribution to you, of course. I’m not sure how much they have spent on Diebold machines already, but I’m pretty sure it’s at least in the 7-8 figure range. That would pay off my mortgage really quickly, and I’d be happy to send some of that money over to you. Ahhh, if only I weren’t so lazy. 🙂 🙂

  69. “as I recall it was the Supreme Court of the state of Florida which ordered a recount, based on Florida’s constitution, which was then stopped by SCOTUS. For anyone who believes in states’ rights at all, that election-deciding action was at the very least questionable, and unprecedented”

    As I recall it, the Florida court ordered a recount based on the fact that the judges on the court were Democrats.

    But states rights would have ensured a Bush win even if the SCOTUS had stayed out of it, since the Constitution grants the state legislature the authority to choose the electors sent to the electoral college. If the Florida supreme court had been allowed to continue it’s meddling, the Republican controlled Florida legislature would have simply thumbed it’s nose at the state court and called a special session to select electors to send to Washington who would have voted for Bush.

  70. Shawn-

    Well, maybe I’ll go into election consulting some day. When I’m not doing physics I’m trying to build some credentials on the side in the mathematical theory of elections (with 3 or more candidates there are lots of game theory issues in elections, and I’m very close to solving an interesting problem). Not that these issues have any bearing on the implementation of elections in the field, but as a credential it always sounds impressive. “Mr. Henry David is an expert on the mathematical study of elections and has several years of experience running elections in the field…”

    If I could find a more tech-savvy partner maybe I’d actually try consulting for election officials. I could put together the framework, and he or she could recommend the technological implementation. I know a guy at Los Alamos who is kind of into this stuff.

  71. “But states rights would have ensured a Bush win even if the SCOTUS had stayed out of it, since the Constitution grants the state legislature the authority to choose the electors sent to the electoral college. If the Florida supreme court had been allowed to continue it’s meddling, the Republican controlled Florida legislature would have simply thumbed it’s nose at the state court and called a special session to select electors to send to Washington who would have voted for Bush.”

    That is exactly my point, that the 2000 election was decided by governmental partisanship, not by counting the votes- hardly an ideal model for new democracies.

  72. Hit & Run posters,

    You’d better punch the card ALL the way through, assholes. I will be watching. Ha ha.

  73. thoreau,

    Sounds like a good idea, and good luck with it.

    BTW, I just realized that 1kb times one million voters is ~1GB, not 10MB. Were you thinking of a VERY GOOD compression rate (99%)? Granted, it only means two CDs instead of one, but still…I’ve found that there are three important numbers in most computer science: 0, 1, and more than 1. Maybe a more reasonable compression rate (40%) or cutting the data requirements down to 500 bytes per voter. Also, it seems like the people at Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) need some work right now, so if he’s one of them, I’m sure the guy you know wouldn’t mind the opportunity.

  74. Your pretensions aside, subjecting people to legislation unrelated to the redistribution of taxes without recourse is fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution. Sure, the income tax is incompatible with the Constitution too, but so was slavery. We got rid of slavery, and we’ll get rid of the income tax too.

    But lessening the power to vote of the less fortunate isn’t going to hasten the day of our liberation. A lot of libertarians think that somehow, someday, we’re going to seize power and force everyone to do things our way. It’s as if they believe in some kind of command economy of freedom.

    Live free or die indeed.

    And, once again, you’ve ignored the logistics. FDR had the support of the masses. You’re going to persuade congress to pass legislation to water down the suffrage of stay at home Moms? How? Did you see what they did to Newt Gingrich? Your proposition is political suicide. Why would a politician go kamikaze like that?

    Why not just champion a national sales tax?

  75. Awwww, this posting software won’t let me have any fun…

  76. Shawn-

    I don’t know why I said 10 MB. Thanks for the correction.

    Still, the data could be put on hard drives in read-only files, and the poll workers could be denied administrative access to change the status of the files. I know, somebody could find a way around it, but the goal is simply to make it difficult. And the copies in the field would only be backups anyway in case of a network outage.

  77. And lonewacko, do I understand that you are associating yourself with discredited racist and “white power” movements now? Not good.

    Try going back and reading my comments with the patented “Lonewacko voice.” If you still don’t understand, I’ll associate “humorless twit” with your name as well as Gary Gunnells’.

    “As to storage, each voter would need AT MOST a kilobyte of data to store the name, address, and a code identifying the various district elections for which the person is eligible.”

    If you only stored the latest available information, and you did so in packed records that might be true. However, you’d also need to store somewhere historical information. You’d need to give each person a unique key. Addresses and dates spent at those addresses would contain that unique key. A separate table would contain names linked to that unique key. When you add in biometric information, this could end up taking a lot of space.

  78. Lonewacko-

    Past addresses and other such historical info may be necessary for the downtown office, but not for the poll workers in the field. Most recent address will suffice for them.

    As for biometric data, I’m not so big on stringent ID requirements IN THE FIELD. Stringent ID requirements should be met during the registration process (I don’t like the idea of same-day registration), when there is time to sort things out. On election day, I think photo ID should suffice. If you supply a name that matches a previously-verified record, and a photo ID consistent with that name, that should be good enough, as long as the previous verification was more stringent.

  79. I don’t vote because it just encourages the bastards, but it would be nice to exchange some al Qieda children for some Catholic children, eh, and vice versa?

    thoreau, I’m talking international relations here. Relax.

    Excess children would be a small price to pay for international understanding, not to mention world peace.

  80. Yikes!

    I can hear good ole Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson (George C. Scott) screaming “But he’ll see the BIG BOARD!” in this blog…

    heh heh heh…

  81. The part about the biometric data should also have been read in The Lonewacko Voice, and was closely related to the concept of assigning each voter a unique (database) key.

    The rest of the previous comment concerning databases should be considered to have been written in a serious voice. I don’t know the rules here and how rosters are handled now, but things change: people move, street names change, city names change, etc.

    Also, as I’ve pointed out in regards to electronic voting, lots of things can happen. All of these could be hacked, replaced, or modified to produce incorrect information:

    info on input

    data used to produce the CD

    the CD

    network

    hardware (the screen could display “fred” when it’s supposed to display “bob”, etc. The network card could be hacked to do the same)

    CPU

    equipment used to test the CPU and other hardware
    etc. etc. etc.

  82. thoreau,

    That was a BIG surprise! Every time the Gummint does anything (or not) you and your chicken are out shouting that the sky is falling.

    Now, you want a centralized, electronic, (govt) database of ALL voter information, including past addresses, biometrics/IDs, etc.?

    What gives? Did you get carried away, or is this OK because it is YOUR pet project?

  83. I don’t see a problem.
    Isn’t this payback for foisting Jimmy Carter off all these years?

  84. And, yet, you and those who think like you (including me) are in the (vocal) minority. Why oh why do so many people care what people outside the US think about us and what we do? What possible good can come from International anythings?

    The smaller the group the better able it is to make good decisions. Large groups specialize in least common denominator results formed from the holy writ of “compromise”.

    Ugh.

  85. I think this is actually a fine idea. First, because we all know election fraud does happen, and independent observers from whatever sort, foreign or domestic, aren’t going to hurt, at any rate. And it sets a good example by helping to establish a norm of international oversight.

  86. I think this is actually a fine idea. First, because we all know election fraud does happen, and independent observers from whatever sort, foreign or domestic, aren’t going to hurt, at any rate. And it sets a good example by helping to establish a norm of international oversight.

  87. Hanah Metchis,

    God forbid that some “foreigners” observe our elections; wow, how horrible to have a little more transparency in our elections.

  88. BTW, the U.S. is an OSCE member state (and thus promised in 1990 to allow OSCE observers monitor its elections, and monitor the elections of other OSCE elections), and the OSCE observed the 2002 Congressional elections and the 2003 California Recall election. Hanah, at least READ the fucking articles you link to.

  89. Yes–unless some Lybian tells me it’s OK, I refuse to believe the result of any election.

    Actually, I’d be fine with some of our European friends (or even France) monitoring the election, as long as we get to do it in return. After all, only the guilty have something to hide, n’est-ce pas?

  90. The U.S. is the nation with the longest history of free and fair elections in the world. An effort to delegitimize the outcome of our elections, like what happened in 2000, or to cast doubt on our ability to hold fair elections – what does that say to nations that are just starting to become democracies? It says that elections are a farce, that they can’t work even in one of the freest nations in the world. That no government can be truly legitimate unless the governments of other nations agree they have the appropriate leaders.

  91. Isn’t OSCE the group that tries to standardize tax rates by getting low-tax countries to raise their taxes? If so, I eagerly anticipate seeing what kind of standards they’ll bring to elections.

  92. Hanah Metchis,

    An effort to delegitimize the outcome of our elections, like what happened in 2000, or to cast doubt on our ability to hold fair elections – what does that say to nations that are just starting to become democracies?

    Well, you would have to demonstrate that this is an effort to do so first. Cart before the horse dear.

  93. I’m willing to bet that these “observers” will state that there is no fraud if a democrat wins….on the flip side, If Bush wins these same “observers” will scream bloody murder. Any takers?

  94. mike,

    I don’t see anything (at least immediately) on their website.

    http://www.osce.org/

  95. gawdamman,

    Did they do so when Arnold won in 2003, or during the successful (for the Republicans) election of 2002?

    The nutbar conspiracy theories being foisted here strike me as based on xenophobia.

  96. It would be incredible if they didn’t find something to complain about. Over the past few election cycles, I’ve found a number of things to complain about, and my complaints aren’t just about the poll itself. I’d like to see someone monitor the registration process.

    Once, while re-registering after having moved, when I handed in my registration card, the volunteer behind the table told me that I couldn’t register Libertarian; it had to be Democrat or Republican. She said that the Libertarians weren?t running a Presidential candidate, and she said that she would fill in the party for me if I just filled out the rest of the card. I told her to go to hell; I told her that election fraud was a felony, and I called the County Recorder.

    A few weeks later, I received a letter from the County Recorder confirming that I had been registered as a Democrat.

    Some time later, I registered at yet another address while renewing my driver?s license, and, just like the time before, I received a mail confirmation that I had registered as a Democrat again.

    In the last election, for the primary, when I received my voter guide in the mail, it was a Libertarian voter guide just as it should have been. But when I went to vote, they had me down as a Republican, and they tried to force a Republican ballot on me. Thank God, there was a poll monitor there because the well-meaning volunteers working the poll certainly didn’t have a contingency for such a situation. The poll monitor suggested that people who register with third parties are particularly vulnerable to clerical errors.

    Have any of you registered Libertarians out there had these kinds of problems?

  97. zorel-

    There’s already a centralized database of voter information. I believe each County has one. It’s called the voter roster. It’s not a matter of wanting or not wanting one. It’s a matter of, well, to prevent fraudulent voting you need a list of voters. There’s no need for it to be centralized nationally, as no new advantages would accrue, but some disadvantages might very well accrue.

    And I didn’t endorse the use of biometric data or keeping detailed histories on voters. All I said to Lonewacko is that such information is useless in the field, and that if such information is kept at all it shouldn’t be kept in the field where more people would have access to it. I also endorsed encryption for electronic voter rosters entrusted to election workers, and pointed out that encryption would protect privacy better than giving paper copies to election workers.

    As to the use of biometric data, I’m actually somewhat agnostic on the precise type of information needed for voter registration. My point is simply that the amount of information collected/used in the field should be kept to a minimum, and that if more extensive information is used in the registration process it should be handled and verified BEFORE election day. There’s enough that can go wrong in the field already, as I know from working at the polls. There’s no need to further complicate the process at the polls.

    So, Zorel, where exactly did I advocate more intrusive government?

    Oh, and since you think I’m a chicken little, to be consistent I should be suggesting that the government needs to be kept under close watch to avoid some sort of evil deed. Well, I specifically suggested that posters on this forum go to their polling places and observe what happens to make sure there’s no chicanery. I would never, EVER vouch for the standards of every polling place in this country. For all I know Florida and Chicago might be the norm. All I said was that I’m confident with the procedures that I follow at MY polling places, and that I’ll gladly withstand any scrutiny from any observers, foreign or domestic.

  98. If anyone thinks that the request by the CBC to the UN was anything but a slap in the face by a short-sighted group who would stop at nothing to grab even the slightest advantage, you’re deluding yourself. While the OSCE is not the UN, I still find it repulsive that we would invite such a group over here to monitor our elections.

    Can anyone point to any hard evidence of widespread election tampering or other means used to keep minorities or the impoverished from voting (other than tired arguments from the 2000 election)? Are there secret armies of the New Klan at work, physically restraining minorities outside of or near the polls? Are poll workers risking imprisonment to destroy ballets of one party or another? If our elections are so fraught with corruption these days, can you point out any credible news sources supporting incidents that significantly impacted a congressional or presidential election? If there is hard evidence out there of significant corruption, then my point my be groundless. But, all I see is a small group of congressmen and women giving one of the oldest democracies a black eye and furthering the cause of those who feel the need to apologize for what a corrupt, evil country we are. It’s a bunch of garbage.

    Hannah was right at the outset. They’re just trying to plant the seeds now of illegitimacy, and they should be ashamed of themselves, but they’d have to have character to understand that notion.

  99. CL-

    Well, after every election I hear reports from various conservative circles that Democrats were responsible for massive voter fraud.

    The great thing about close elections is that irrational partisans never have to admit that they lost fair and square. Either there was a systematic (but always too subtle to properly document) effort to keep minorities from voting, or else there was a systematic (but always too subtle to properly document) effort to get illegal immigrants to vote for Democrats.

    Anyway, I encourage every poster to put in a little time observing a polling place on Nov. 2. I don’t know what the laws are on poll watchers outside CA, but in CA anybody who wants to can observe the poll workers from the moment we arrive to setup all the way until the last box of ballots is sealed and signed. See what’s going on, and if you have comments or suggestions send them to your local elections office as well as the local newspaper.

    If you’re worried that international observers will try to clutter the news with “evidence” of fraud, the best way to pre-empt them is to put out your own observations documenting a well-run election. And if you should happen to be observing my polling place, please bring donuts! 🙂

  100. thoreau,

    most all information databases the Fed want to create will get info from already existing data (they won’t come and ask you again), be in from libraries, credit cards, banks, airlines, etc. Do you not have a problem with that? I didn’t think so.

    I didn’t call you a chicken little – I said “you and your chicken”. The difference is ‘you’ are a pretty even, sensible poster (based on what I see), but some times your posts of ‘the sky is falling’ regarding inconsequential matters makes me wonder … (that was the best I could do at that time to distinguish between the normal posts and the occassional ones)

    Again, going back to YOUR polling place, I have no doubt it is foolproof. How do you advocate we make all polling places like yours?

  101. Gilbert Martin,

    So to sum up: in your ideal world, the few people who control incredibly disproportionate sums of money hold all the power, and small groups of well-connected individuals (representing those few fabulously wealthy people) should have final veto power over the electoral system as a whole.

    This sounds like a monarchy. Better yet, I think I could name a few African “republics” where you would feel right at home.

    Seriously though, unless you’re just using hyperbole for the sake of rhetoric, you must be kidding. Do you really believe what you’re saying? And would you really rather see kids just sit in the street and starve so that we can be “fair” and let people like Bill Gates and Ted Turner hoard yet another $10 billion away in yachts and stock options?

    If so, I’d say your best bet is to leave the constitution out of it. What part of promote the general welfare don’t you understand? Perhaps the specific entitlement programs you feel so cheated by weren’t written *into* the constitution, but I think a hefty majority of the people in this country would agree that what you’re talking about was specifically, very explicitly, written *out* of it,

  102. Zorel-

    I do have a problem with the databases that the feds want, but I don’t see any way to eliminate the existence of local voter rosters. If you do see a way to conduct the election without voter rosters, by all means say something.

    Maybe something in the spirit of public key cryptography would work, where the information in the roster is unreadably by ANYBODY unless the voter shows up and produces the correct code. Hmm, that could be an interesting way to maintain public databases.

    I’m not naive enough to assert that my polling place is foolproof. However, we have enough redundancy and transparency that only a team of crooks working in collaboration, and willing to take some risks, would be able to stuff the ballot box. Even then, they’d have to gamble on a few variables and not overplay their hands.

    Basically, redundancy and transparency are essential, plus making sure that at least one person at the polling place is independent to prevent conspiracy. The weakest link in our procedures is that polling place Inspectors (the people in charge at each precinct, like me) are allowed to request their own team of Clerks (assistants), so a corrupt Inspector might be able to recruit a crooked team to do some chicanery when there are no voters present (certain hours of the day are pretty quiet). Even then, it would require careful coordination, and it would only work if there’s only one precinct in that building. Frequently they’ll have multiple precincts vote in the same place, with each team of poll workers taking responsibility for a different section of the neighborhood. Part of the reason is to save on facilities, but it also means that a corrupt Inspector would be observed all day by an independent Inspector.

    Of course, if both Inspectors are corrupt then we have a bigger problem, but that’s true in any man-made system. If enough people in positions of authority are corrupt then things will go wrong.

    I should also say that in practice the motivation for letting Inspectors pick their own Clerks is so that we can pick people who did a good job with us in previous elections. There are some people whom I DEFINITELY want on my team, and there are others whom I have declined to invite back. (One guy wouldn’t stop talking politics until I got a supervisor from downtown to come and chew him out.) Incompetence has historically been a bigger problem than corruption in SB county, so this is a form of quality control.

  103. “That is exactly my point, that the 2000 election was decided by governmental partisanship, not by counting the votes- hardly an ideal model for new democracies”

    No your point was to try and spin the Florida Supreme Court’s partisan meddling in that state’s election process as being something other than that.

  104. GG, JB, GM, Lu Dee => all the same poster? next on Donahue.

  105. I’m not happy with everybody dissing the OSCE. This is the renamed CSCE – Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – which was the entity that arranged the Helsinki Accords. This detente-era conference and its human rights agreements were seized upon by pro-freedom groups behind the Iron Curtain, notably the Czech Charter 77 movement. The roots of the Velvet Revolution were watered by that activity. It has a damned sight more credibility than the U.N.

    I wonder what the monitors will think of Wisconsin’s same-day registration, with as little ID as a utility bill. Funny, the electric company doesn’t care if I’m a citizen or a felon who is still on parole when they sell me the juice. Then there are those lovely people, some imported by our local Democratic politicians from out-of-state, who like to bribe the winos at the rescue mission with cartons of smokes to get them to go and vote. Our lifetime incumbent Democratic D.A. doesn’t bother to prosecute such people.

    At least we have an LP member on the State Elections Board, a result of Ed Thompson polling over 10% in the last race for Governor.

    Kevin

  106. Hanah sweetie,

    You are getting a lot of abuse here, and your unwillingness to be honest does not help.

    You are a neo-con warmongerer who is annoyed about this monitoring idea, simply because it may mean that black voters (who are Democrats) cannot be so easily excluded.

    Just admit that you are are neo-con and it will so much easier for all concerned.

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