Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tilting the Playing Field

Before moving into new territory, I just can't leave the fertile ground of Dick Cheney quotes. Instead of speaking to ALL americans, the VEEP now almost never speaks a sentance which isn't partisan in nature. Yesterday he claimed that the US must win the War on Terror (meaning everyone we choose to bomb for any reason) in order to save the civilized world. That will sure win the hearts and minds of our Islamic friends.
It's election season. In some areas, it can get pretty intense depending on which races are contested and how close they are. It can lead to what I'd call "tilting the playing field", trying by extralegal ways to ensure your guy is the one that takes office. I've become aware since 2000 that parties controlling a stat's executive offices can alter election results, sometimes by doing things months ahead.
For instance, many states prohibit convicted felons from voting altogether, or make it difficult for one to regain the voting privilege. That in itself may not be partisan, but in the NAME of cleaning former crooks off the registered voter lists all kinds of damage can be done to registered voters whose names are similar to the former cons'. Make your disqualifying rules too broad, or concentrating on names which may signify minority voters and you've got a little edge on Election Day. The disqualified voters may or may not get another chance to set things right, but if that chance isn't till the next election, well, who's to blame? This technique was used in Florida prior to the notorious 2000 non-recount. The state GOP tried to compound the mess post-election when they worked hard to INCLUDE spanish surname voters (hopefully ethnic Cubans voting GOP) on the same lists.
Then there's the simple idea of making voting hard for some people while flinging the door wide open for others. This can take many forms: be stingy with voting units in certain neighborhoods and generous in others. Move polling sites, but keep it quiet. Make new rules requiring elaborate ID's at the polls. Some folks will fall through the cracks even if the ID's are free, and some just won't bother, but say it's for everyone's good by stopping voter fraud. Sounds great, but there is no real incentive for INDIVIDUAL fraud anyway. How much damage can be done with ONE fraudulent vote, especially when the offense carries a heavy penalty? Start looking for poll volunteers purposely too late, or require them to work at polls far from the neighborhoods where they live. Leave the pollworkers' pay at the same level, or, better yet, ask them to work for free ("It's an honor to work for your country."). Make everything in English only (sound familiar?) if you can, or send the other ballots to a part of town where they won't be needed anyway. If it will help a LOW turnout, make liberal use of barricades, police assigned to "hang out" around a polling place, and official-looking signs actually intended to confuse.
And I haven't even mentioned paperless electronic voting units, which I don't pretend to understand, but which, nevertheless appear to frequently give results the opposite of exit polls. There is to be plenty of evidence that such units can be reprogrammed ("Hacked"!) to get the desired results. One manufacturer of such machines, Diebold, has a CEO who's is on record as wanting a GOP-controlled government. But shouldn't "The People" be handling/counting their own votes?
Anyway, good luck on Election Day. You still have almost 50 days. And good luck to the "Civilized" world.


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