Friday, August 19, 2005


Christopher Hitchens on fraud in Ohio '04

From Vanity Fair, Ohio's Odd Numbers:
However, there is one soothing explanation that I don't trust anymore. It was often said, in reply to charges of vote tampering, that it would have had to be "a conspiracy so immense" as to involve a dangerously large number of people. Indeed, some Ohio Democrats themselves laughed off some of the charges, saying that they too would have had to have been part of the plan. The stakes here are very high: one defector or turncoat with hard evidence could send the principals to jail forever and permanently discredit the party that had engaged in fraud.

I had the chance to spend quality time with someone who came to me well recommended, who did not believe that fraud had yet actually been demonstrated, whose background was in the manufacture of the machines, and who wanted to be anonymous. It certainly could be done, she said, and only a very, very few people would have to be "in on it." This is because of the small number of firms engaged in the manufacturing and the even smaller number of people, subject as they are to the hiring practices of these firms, who understand the technology. "Machines were put in place with no sampling to make sure they were 'in control' and no comparison studies," she explained. "The code of the machines is not public knowledge, and none of these machines has since been impounded." In these circumstances, she continued, it's possible to manipulate both the count and the proportions of votes.

In the bad old days of Tammany Hall, she pointed out, you had to break the counter pins on the lever machines, and if there was any vigilance in an investigation, the broken pins would automatically incriminate the machine. With touch-screen technology, the crudeness and predictability of the old ward-heeler racketeers isn't the question anymore. But had there been a biased "setting" on the new machines it could be uncovered--if a few of them could be impounded. The Ohio courts are currently refusing all motions to put the state's voting machines, punch-card or touch-screen, in the public domain. It's not clear to me, or to anyone else, who is tending the machines in the meanwhile ...

I asked her, finally, what would be the logical grounds for deducing that any tampering had in fact occurred. "Well, I understand from what I have read," she said, "that the early exit polls on the day were believed by both parties." That, I was able to tell her from direct experience, was indeed true. But it wasn't quite enough, either. So I asked, "What if all the anomalies and malfunctions, to give them a neutral name, were distributed along one axis of consistency: in other words, that they kept on disadvantaging only one candidate?" My question was hypothetical, as she had made no particular study of Ohio, but she replied at once: "Then that would be quite serious."

Found while reading David G. Mills, Esq.'s draft brief which brings this cause of action against the Defendant, the Shelby County Election Commission...

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