OPINION: Will Your Vote Even Get Counted?

OPINION: Will Your Vote Even Get Counted?

by Sheila Parks

In next week’s presidential elections women could, in effect, lose ownership of their bodies if the Romney-Ryan ticket, with its hard right stance wins. Even if Romney loses it will be a sad day for women in some quarters if candidates such as Akin and Mourdock, with their frightening, absurdist and fundamentalist leanings, are successful. 

These candidates also may have an advantage that has not been publicized widely enough. Our elections are controlled by an international, privatized electronic voting industry, making it hard to know who actually owns the voting machines we use. Based on my research on rigged elections, I believe there is a deliberate effort to obscure some ownership issues. Records show that Unisyn, owned by a Malaysian gambling company, Scytl, ES&S, Dominion, Sequoia and Hart InterCivic are major players. Mitt, Anne and Tagg Romney are heavily invested in Solamere, a private investment firm with major investments in H.I.G. Capital, which owns a controlling interest in Hart InterCivic. Hart’s machines will be used in parts of Ohio and in Colorado (both swing states), and other states too. 

Since most of us will be voting on highly riggable electronic voting machines, the election of these anti-women Republican candidates is greatly enhanced. The Republican War on Women and the war on our ballots are inextricably entwined. There is no way  to know if our votes will be counted as cast on these electronic voting machines. The software on the machines is proprietary and only the corporations and/or their vendors have access to it.  Furthermore, as is shown in “Hacking Democracy,” the software can be tampered with and leave no trace of this hacking. 

Could foul play via voting machines account for an alarming red shift in the country’s elections, evidenced in many of the recent so-called “upset victories,” in which hard right conservatives won? 

In the hotly contested Massachusetts Senate race between Elizabeth Warren (D) and Scott Brown (R) about 69% of MA voters will vote on the same Diebold AccuVote OS [Optical Scan] electronic voting machines that were hacked, without leaving a trace, in “Hacking Democracy.” These same machines were most likely hacked in Volusia County, Florida in 2000. Each machine is supposed to have one memory card. In the middle of the night in Volusia, a second memory card “mysteriously appears” in precinct 216 and negates 16,022 votes for Gore. Read Bev Harris’ account, especially pages 172-80, of the appalling verbatim conversation between Diebold higher-ups and between these higher-ups and election officials in Volusia County about this memory card. The question remains: Why couldn’t it happen in MA on November 6, 2012?

What can we do about this sinister attack on democracy? Paper ballots are not enough. The paper ballots must be hand-counted. There must be a monumental outcry against these electronic voting machines and a demand for publicly observed, secure hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) elections. In the same way voters have adamantly challenged Republican suppression of the vote, we must also take up this demand now. The most transparent and accurate way of knowing who won an election is by hand-counting the ballots at the polling place immediately after the polls close. Here are some requirements for secure elections

A proactive way to challenge rigging of electronic voting machines now (before we outlaw them altogether as The Netherlands and Ireland have done), is to file an injunction to preserve the evidence and to bar certification of results by immediately after the election impounding all machines, memory cards, paper ballots properly stored in their ballot bags and boxes and all computer-generated paper output. 

In 2011 in New York’s 26th congressional district Jane Corwin (R) did this for only one jurisdiction. NY-26 had been held by Republicans since 1970. Corwin was for Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare and the democratic candidate was not. Corwin thought it would be a close election when she filed for an impounding, looking for a possible recount. It was not; Kathy Hochul (D) won and Corwin cancelled the hearing. It is not uncommon to file for such an impounding in a close race, says the Rochester Democratic and Chronicle. I am talking about doing it for an entire state. The Impound Order clearly allows challenges to elections, voter registration and candidate qualifications. The same reasoning that applied in NY-26 governs other states. A voter could seek an injunction preserving evidence that might substantiate the claim of election fraud in highly contested and/or close elections. There could be misconduct on the part of election officials. There is potential for some kind of fraud that election officials can’t detect. The impounding preserves the evidence for a possible recount. 

The possible outcome of this year’s election and its effects on women because of the use of electronic voting machines is massive. We must mobilize to protect a democratic voting process through hand-counted votes.

Sheila Parks, Ed.D. has been active in the current wave of voting rights since the crimes of the Florida 2000 presidential election. She has written numerous articles on the rigged elections and recently published a book on that subject. She is the founder of the Center for Hand-Counted Paper Ballots. Moreover, she has conducted extensive research on the method of hand-counting our votes instead of using the electronic voting machines. She has observed in real time the hand-counting of votes and has been an official observer in a Boston, MA hand re-count. She was also invited to NH as an unofficial observer of a hand-recount there. An ardent feminist, internationalist and peace & justice activist, Dr. Parks defended the abortion clinics with her body for many years.