It’s been almost six years since Al Gore wasted five weeks of America’s time trying to steal Florida from George W. Bush. As much as we all knew at the time what a seminal moment in history this was, no one could have predicted that in every subsequent election, a major political party would use voter fraud to contest the legitimacy of the victors.
Well, in preparation for such infantile carping and whining, the New York Times on Thursday published an article entitled “New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes” just to set the groundwork for complaints nationwide if the Democrats don’t take back Congress. After all, the votes have to be there somewhere even if the results suggest otherwise (emphasis mine throughout): “As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for an Election Day with long lines and heightened confusion, followed by an increase in the number of contested results.”
The Times clearly wasn’t negligent in identifying states where key races are occurring: “Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes.” Wasn’t that convenient?
The article continued: “‘We’ve got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process,’ said Tova Wang, who studies elections for the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. ‘We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.’”
Of course, no such article would be complete without bringing up the marvelous concept of “voter disenfranchisement”: “We’re expecting arguments at the polls in these states that will slow everything down and probably cause large numbers of legitimate voters to be turned away or to be forced to vote on provisional ballots,” said Barbara Burt, an elections reform director for Common Cause.”
And it gets even better:
Meanwhile, votes in about half of the 45 most competitive Congressional races, including contests in Florida, Georgia and Indiana, will be cast on electronic machines that provide no independent means of verification.
“In a close race, a machine error in one precinct could leave the results in doubt and the losing candidates won’t be able to get a recount,” said Warren Stewart, policy director for VoteTrustUSA, an advocacy group that has criticized electronic voting.
Not surprisingly, it took until the fourteenth paragraph for the Times to offer the opinion of someone with less of a cataclysmic view:
Deborah L. Markowitz, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, was less inclined to sound the alarm. She said that since it was not a presidential election year and many states had encouraged voting by mail, fewer people would turn up at the polls than in 2004.
With computerized registration rolls, Ms. Markowitz said, there will be far fewer people incorrectly excluded from the new databases compared with when registration rolls were on paper.
“There will be isolated incidents, there is no doubt about that,” she said. “But over all the system will move faster and with fewer problems.”
Charles Stewart, head of the political science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a study this year indicating that from 2000 to 2004, new technology helped reduce the number of improperly marked ballots by about one million votes.
“If you think things are bad and worrisome now, they were much worse before 2000,” Mr. Stewart said, adding that breakdowns in the mechanics of voting are simply more highlighted, not more prevalent.
Of course, it seems almost a metaphysical certitude that if the Democrats take back both chambers of Congress on November 7, the Times will be quite silent about any “breakdowns in the mechanics of voting.” In fact, it is much more likely the Times and all the drive-by media outlets will praise these machines, even those manufactured by Diebold.