Paul Krugman digs up stories about why we might be worried about how verifiable and trustworthy our upcoming elections might be. After the disaster of the Florida debacle in 2000, Congress voted to provide upgrades to the voting systems in our country. This isn't a bad thing, but as with other issues, the intent of our representatives didn't necessarily get translated into systems that work for the public. Unfortunately, the lackidasical manner that election officials are protecting the vote is hardly reassuring people that the 2004 elections will be any better than what we experienced in 2000 and in some cases could be so much worse.
One of the more egregious examples of crass election officials is right here in California. In Riverside County, the registrar of voters, Mischelle Townsend, has been one of the more combative defenders of the touch-screen systems and she has even called computer experts ignorant when they warned her of the problems that could arise when using the systems. In a story designed to raise the hair on the back of one's neck, but only really reported in the British press, it turns out that Townsend recently and suddenly retired from her post - most likely due to a lawsuit brought by a candidate that lost an election last year under strange circumstances. The lawsuit charges that on election night she halted the elections while two Sequoia employees were seen working on the terminal which accessed the ballot tallying system. As it is illegal to make changes to the software during an election, their working on the system while the voting was suspended creates some real problems for Townsend.
Krugman quite rightly points out that after 2000, the vote in Florida is not to be trusted. Florida, which delivered the disputed election of 2000 to the governor's brother after having kept tens of thousands of legal voters from voting in the election and preventing the recount of the ballots, looks like it took the lessons learned from the previous election big time.
Let's not be coy. Jeb Bush says he won't allow an independent examination of voting machines because he has "every confidence" in his handpicked election officials. Yet those officials have a history of slipshod performance on other matters related to voting and somehow their errors always end up favoring Republicans. Why should anyone trust their verdict on the integrity of voting machines, when another convenient mistake could deliver a Republican victory in a high-stakes national election
Is there any wonder that Corrine Brown is asking for independent observers from the UN to come in and make sure the elections in Florida are free of fraud?