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I watched the documentary Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election last night. It focused on voter disenfranchisement and ballot recounts in Florida. At the time, I had followed news about the recounts, so the coverage of voter disenfranchisement was the more interesting part of this documentary to me. I had the attitude that the people who weren't allowed to vote were ex-felons, of whom a large majority probably didn't even try to vote. As Unprecedented tells it, Florida paid twenty times the going rate (in a no-bid process, naturally) for a data-crunching company to produce a list of Floridians whose names even vaguely resembled those of felons and categorically denied those people the right to vote, even provisionally. Another list appeared supposedly including the names of out-of-state felons but actually including thousands (or was it tens of thousands?) of completely innocent people, most of them African Americans who would be expected, for the most part, to vote Democratic.

The film does mention at least one wrongdoing on the part of the Dems: their request to have recounts performed in only some of Florida's counties. All counties should have performed recounts. Aside from that admission, any skew is to the left; it is taken for granted that affirmative action is a good thing, and the list of web sites to see for further information, beginning innocuously with voting rights sites, goes on to list moveon.org and michaelmoore.com, which surely alienates centrists, Republicans, and other non-Democrats who care about voting rights. It should not be a partisan issue!

As this DVD was the 2004 Campaign Edition, significant extra material on verified voting was included. Unverifiable electronic voting could mean that fiascoes like the 2000 Florida recount never happen again—because recounts won't be possible. As bad as the voter disenfranchisement was, at least people knew when they were being denied a fair vote. I'm afraid that in this year's elections, things will appear to go smoothly and without incident precisely because it will no longer be possible to identify incidents.

So I'm as fired up as ever to bug my election officials about their decision to use Diebold's electronic voting machines in spite of all the evidence of their insecurity. I went to the Maryland State Board of Elections Voting Systems page and went nuts reading pamphlets characterizing voting machines' detractors as paranoid Luddites. Arrghh!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2004 11:36 pm (UTC)
I think it's an excellent testament to the inadequacy of the voting system that, in general, computer savvy people object to computerized voting more than non-computer people. Obviously they know something that the rest don't.
Oct. 4th, 2004 12:28 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. It seems to me that a lot of science fiction has been based on the premise of technologists placing too much trust in computers and thereby endangering society. But here it looks like the technologists are nearly the only ones warning against placing so much trust in computers.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )