A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Is democracy at risk from rigged elections?

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, June 30, July 1 or 2

As Independence Day approaches, Americans should wonder whether the electronic machinery used in most elections put their legitimacy, if not democracy, at risk.

Elections are outsourced, and computerized tabulations can’t be controlled or confirmed, critics say.

The danger dates at least to 1970, when Kenneth Collier lost a suspicious election in Florida. He and his brother James soon wrote “Votescam: The Stealing of America,” and daughter/niece Victoria later picked up the torch, writing a comprehensive 2012 piece for Harper’s magazine.

“Easily rigged and hacked, these computers are controlled by a handful of shady corporations who fight to keep their vote-counting software a ‘trade secret’,” Collier said. “Local fixers, insider operatives, rogue hackers and even foreign countries could all rig U.S. elections – in whole or part, in 50 states and most of the United States’ 3,143 counties – electronically, and without detection.”

Other countries prohibit electronic voting, but here, some 80 percent of the country votes on electronic voting machines – most of which cannot be verified through a paper record.

Although the GOP has been accused of rigging multiple elections, election-integrity organizations’ political leanings run the gamut. For instance, Watch the Vote is a conservative watchdog group that was key to overturning the false announcement that Mitt Romney defeated Rick Santorum in Iowa in 2012.

Alleged mischief on the Democratic side may have happened in New Hampshire in 2008, as then-candidate Barack Obama consistently led Hillary Clinton in polls, but supposedly lost in a narrow defeat. Clinton’s optical-scan total was almost 53 percent but just 47 percent in hand-counted ballots; Obama’s 53 percent hand-count results mysteriously fell to 47 percent in optical-scan results.

Some Touchscreen ballots reportedly flipped from Republican to Democrat in Illinois in 2014, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is mentioned, too.

“Democrats definitely do it,” said Harvey Wasserman, author of the forthcoming book “The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft.”

“We have strong questions about Emanuel being re-elected in Chicago,” he added. “We have no doubt that [Republican] Scott Walker stole his re-election in Wisconsin.”

Other weird election results include Ohio in 2004, when Bush totals allegedly were shifted from Democratic nominee John Kerry, suspicious presidential numbers from Ohio in 2012, and Kansas’ U.S. Senate race in 2014, from reports of votes being changes and the unexplained appearance or disappearance of ballots, to totals much difference than expected outcomes.

Discrepancies between projections and official results usually tie to polling, and polls – pre-election polls and exit polls – are gauges to judge final tallies. Projections used to be very close to official results.

“When you compare exit polls, which are generally accurate to within 1 percent, with the electronic outcome, there are huge variations,” Wasserman said.

But polls are increasingly discounted if they disagree with official outcomes. When concerns arise, the typical response is to assume polls are wrong without examining their methodology, and any hint of corruption discounted out of hand.

Beth Clarkson, a Wichita State University mathematician with a Ph. D. in statistics, concluded she could find no explanation of the Kansas’ 2014 election besides voting machines being used to rig the numbers.

“My statistical analysis shows patterns indicative of vote manipulation in machines,” she said. “The manipulation is relatively small, compared with the inherent variability of election results, but it is consistent. These results form a pattern that goes across the nation and back a number of election cycles.”

A “surge” of votes from a few urban precincts came in at 8 p.m. – after the polls closed.

This goes beyond candidates winning or losing.

“This is a Right-to-Know issue,” Collier said. “Until we design our American voting systems around the iron-clad principle of transparency – the right of citizens to oversee and verify our own elections - we will never secure democracy.”

Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit agency created to safeguard elections in the digital age, warned of consequences.

“There is a cost for not knowing the results are right in each election,” she said. “It becomes kind of corrosive of voter confidence because over time you can never be sure.”

Wasserman summarized the situation with an edge of pessimism.

“We’re going through this huge charade here of a national campaign, primaries, and then a general election, where hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent, and on election night – in 60 seconds – the actual outcome can be flipped electronically in key swing states with no verification whatsoever,” he said.

There ought to be fireworks about this.

[PICTURED: Graphic from]

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