Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I am not a conspiracy theorist. It is difficult to do easy things in the complexity of the real world, so complex covert actions and successful cover-ups are highly unlikely, especially when most things have much simpler explanations, often involving the most powerful force in the world -- human incompetence.

But then there are clear attempts to subvert Democracy and the evidence is out there...and it is frightening and underreported. In a democratic system, one wins by getting more votes. Legitimate campaigns focus on playing offense, that is, convincing voters to vote for them and get out the vote efforts to actually get the convinced to the polls. Then there are scum, those who play defense, that is, who act to disenfranchise voters trying to keep those who would vote for the other side from being able to cast their ballot or having their ballot count.

There are a number of methods employed for this. Some are simple. Make sure that there are an insufficient number of voting machines in the districts of your opponent. Since election day is not a holiday and people have families, they will not be able to wait for hours to cast their vote and the long lines will keep a significant number from voting. Or take a population that distrusts authorities and will be largely unaware of the complexities of election law and put "election monitors", thugs, partisan bullies at the polls to challenge and intimidate the voters. You are sure to peel off a bunch.

Then there is caging.

Vote caging is an illegal trick to suppress minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) by getting them knocked off the voter rolls if they fail to answer registered mail sent to homes they aren't living at (because they are, say, at college or at war). The Republican National Committee reportedly stopped the practice following a consent decree in a 1986 case. Google the term and you'll quickly arrive at the Wizard of Oz of caging, Greg Palast, investigative reporter and author of the wickedly funny Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans—Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild. Palast started reporting allegations of Republican vote caging for the BBC's Newsnight in 2004. He's been almost alone on the story since then. Palast contends, both in Armed Madhouse and widely through the liberal blogosphere, that vote caging, an illegal voter-suppression scheme, happened in Florida in 2004 this way:

The Bush-Cheney operatives sent hundreds of thousands of letters marked "Do not forward" to voters' homes. Letters returned ("caged") were used as evidence to block these voters' right to cast a ballot on grounds they were registered at phony addresses. Who were the evil fakers? Homeless men, students on vacation and—you got to love this—American soldiers. Oh yeah: most of them are Black voters.

Why weren't these African-American voters home when the Republican letters arrived? The homeless men were on park benches, the students were on vacation—and the soldiers were overseas.
We know that the McCain campaign is currently engaging in such activities in Florida.

Then there's the cousin of caging, deceptive voter self-removal. This one is stunning. The McCain campaign is sending out to minority voters fraudulent absentee voter request forms to voters who never requested them in swing states including Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Minnesota. They do this in two ways:

(1) Send a form created with an extra unneeded box on it, a box that requires a check to say that you are a registered voter. Not checking the unnecessary box means that your request is invalid and you have thereby removed yourself from being able to vote. This was done in Ohio, voiding the votes of about a third of the people who returned the flawed form.

(2) Make sure the printed return address goes to the county register of the wrong county making the request invalid. This was done in Wisconsin.

Then, of course, there is simple vote stealing. Electronic voting machines make this simple. On the Diebold machines without a paper trial, but are protected by locks that use the same keys as hotel minibars, here's how simple it

But what about the Sequoia machines with the paper trail? Here's how that one is taken care of:

But surely they wouldn't actually do that? This is all hypothetical, right? I mean no one was ever contracted to write the vote stealing program, were they?