Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Few Months After the Election: Now What?

Okay, so now the 2006 elections have passed by and the Democratic Party has razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate. So now what?

Okay, we're about to get something of an increase in the Minimum Wage (I can hear the blowholes on the right wing crying out: They're forcing companies to pay the poor more so they can get their income taxes. TAX INCREASE! TAX INCREASE!) We'll probably get some attempts to get some token "accountability" from the president.

However, the majority is so slim that the only way the Democrats could try to actually come close to balancing the budget would be to increase the minimum wage. Plus that will probably come with a subsidy to Wal-Mart for hiring so many minimum wage workers (part-time, let me add). While they obviously want to reintroduce some taxes that would affect mainly the rich, their razer-thin margins make it almost impossible to do so. Other things become troublesome as well; while a Minimum Wage raise would probably make it (with Wal-Mart's blessing -- how else would you have gotten so many Republicans to vote along with the minimum wage increase in the House?) little else would likely make it out of committe with the newly-defanged majority.

So, should we trust the electronic voting machines? No, I know I still don't. If you can fix a Republican victory complete with the press caught with its guard down, you can fix a Democratic victory when you need it. You can even fix an election to the degree that you want -- small to keep the Dems in line (barely able to act), or large when you want them to be on stage and unable to act ("proven as impotent"). And the fact is, as long as our voting machines are kept under control of corporations there's no real reason to trust the results (whether right-wing or not -- while some nutcase radio host who believes that waitresses deserve to be stiffed by doctors and lawyers likes to joke that Hugo Chavez (the leader of Venezuela) owns the companies that make voting machines, he's right in that it doesn't matter which way the owner's views go; just that they have the power to skew the election whichever way they choose). No matter WHICH party wins the elections.

So is there a way to insure that votes are counted properly, and we can trust the outcome?

Yes. There is an answer here, and it lies with Vegas.

Ever wonder how trustworthy the single-armed bandets are in Vegas? Nevada regulates slot machines, and tightly:
  • They require that they have the software on file,
  • They do random unnanounced checks on the machines (and when variations are noted "guilty until proven innocent" is what's assumed),
  • Slot Machine Manufacturers are looked over for trustworthiness,
  • Certification is done by an independent public agency (which is funded well enough to insure its independence),
  • Complaints are handled immediately.
I want similar requirements for voting machines:
  • I want the software on file and in the open so that hackers can work the code over and perfect it.
  • I want the hardware on file, as well, and publicly available.
  • I want regular inspections, even (and especially) during election day.
  • I want the manufacturers transparent and accountable. I could care less if they profited obscenely, as long as we know they count our votes accurately (whatever way that vote goes).
  • I want oversight to be strong, independent and public.
  • I can wait a few weeks to make sure the votes were counted.
Of course, there's other things. One thing I learned about the 2000 vote is that Gore should have won Florida, but instead of making sure that EVERYONE could vote (or going after the obvious cases of disenfranchisement in the Black Communities all over northern Florida), he chose to try to squeeze votes from the four large, heavily hispaic counties in the south. Guess the racist would rather lose an election than admit he needed the black vote (and thus blacks).

(Gore should have won Tennessee, Arkansas and/or West Virginia, but he had his head firmly planted up his ass too deeply to deal with Clinton. Win any one of these states, and Florida stay a joke but has its power to turn the rest of the USA into a joke removed. Maybe the fundies WERE right in using Ms. Lewinsky to attack Clinton; while their immediate goal was easily frustrated they poisoned the well enough to insure the future was theirs...but that's a possible future posting.)

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