WATCHING THE COUNT: BLAME IT ON THE BLOGS
SAM SMITH - The NY Times has picked up where the Washington Post left off
with a misleading story headed "2004 Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried." The story is of a genre
the wise reader should approach with the greatest skepticism: one which purports to know the truth without any real
investigation and which declares the case closed when it is anything but. The article is particularly slimy because it
chooses some easy targets of disdain while ignoring the questions being raised by others which it couldn't dismiss so
easily if they were actually considered.
What the Times and Post are doing, in Len Downie's infelicitous neologism, is "storifying" the story in such a way that
the message is clear: anyone who questions the results of this election is a nut. The very fact that the two papers are
engaged in domestic psyops of this nature - rather than simply reporting the facts, corrections, and anomalies as they
develop - is a sign that there may be more at stake here than meets the eye and that, in any event, these two journals
are not to be trusted on the matter.
And what an irony, since the NY Times was one of the first to raise serious questions about computerized voting nearly
two decades ago. If it read its own clip file it would not be as like to engage in such semiotic sleight of hand.
As a case in point, we have a report from a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Steven Freeman, published by
Buzzflash, which states: "As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that
the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states [Ohio, Florida, and
Pennsylvania] of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error." In fact, the odds of those exit poll
statistical anomalies occurring by chance are, according to Freeman, "250,000,000 to one."
Freeman concludes: "Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion, but the election's unexplained exit
poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media, academia, polling
agencies, and the public to investigate."
Freeman's study also makes some interesting points about exit polls. For example, German news media have used them for
two generations with a result never more than a tenth of a percent off. Dick Morris, working for Vincente Fox in Mexico,
had two exit polls commissioned and released immediately after the polls closed specifically to forestall electoral
fraud. Exit polling exposed apparent vote fraud in the republic of Georgia so effectively that Eduard Shevardnadze was
forced to resign. And students at BYU had been conducting Utah exit polls since 1982. In 2003 their count for the Salt
Lake mayor was 0.2% off and this year they were 0.3% off for Bush and 0.1% off for Kerry.
These are the sort of facts the Times and the Post don't want to deal with. Even Freeman's facts are wrong, they need to
be addressed by something other than ex cathedra statements.
Further, the issue is not just who won this race. There is the whole question of what sort of equipment we should be
using for our voting. And why we do so much worse than some other places.
To understand the danger, consider that there are about 25,000 polling places in California with an average of about 3
machines a precinct. Let's image that two votes were added at each of those machines to the tally of one candidate
another: the result would be a false but probably undetectable 150,000 margin statewide.
Now, some argue that computerized machines are far more accurate than, say, punch card devices with their hanging chads.
This is probably true as long as no one is hacking them. And there may be ways of dealing with even this, such as the
suggestion we've raised of having voters cast their ballots by computer, get a printout of their results, and then
insert the printout in an optical scan reader, thus providing three verifications of the vote. On the other hand, we
have long opposed computerized voting in part because it presents the potential of nationalized fraud. Votes have always
been stolen in American elections but we should at least keep the corruption local so it can be balanced by the other
party somewhere else.
Still, one would never get close to dealing with such issues by relying on the see-no-evil faux journalism of the Times
and the Post. Both have badly betrayed their readers on an issue of vast importance to them and their form of
Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried
NOV 12, 2004
FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
EDITED BY SAM SMITH
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