Deja vu all over again

Irony? You want irony? How about a clearly false result in the election for Katherine Harris’s old seat? Of course the Democrats in the House shouldn’t put up with it.

Irony? You want irony? How about a clearly false result in the election for Katherine Harris’s old seat?

No, of course the Democrats in the House shouldn’t put up with another Florida election decided by a mass of obviously unintentional undervotes from mostly Democratic voters. The fact that this is in Katherine Harris’s district means that any set of hearings would be intolerably embarassing to the Republicans. The Constitution makes the House the judge of the returns of its members. The Democrats should give Jeb Bush and his cronies a simple choice: a re-vote in Sarasota County, or the immediate seating of the Democratic candidate, who certainly had more votes cast for her, though not counted for her.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

12 thoughts on “Deja vu all over again”

  1. I've been in the camp arguing against electronic voting machines all along. Probably because I was a computer engineering major in college…
    It's not that electronic voting machines can't be made secure, (Though they sure as hell aren't being today!) it's that they can't be made secure in a way anybody but a computer engineer with full access to the design and programing would have any reason to be confident about.
    Optical scan is the way to go. Secure, AND secure in an obvious, simple way.

  2. Why do I fear that the Democrats will lack the courage to do what's right and adopt Mark's proposal?

  3. (1) "Science News" just had a very detailed and interesting 3-page article (
    http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20061104/bob1… ) on possible solutions to the problem. As they point out, cryptographic technology could easily allow every voter to get a printed receipt of the way he was recorded as voting, without allowing the government itself to know how he voted unless he chose to reveal it to them.
    (2) Comparisons of the Orlando Sentinel's count of the electronically disenfranchised voters' successful votes for Governor and Senator, as compared to the overall Sarasota County vote in those races, both indicate that those voters went for Jennings by a landslide margin of about 25% — enough to have given her the House seat by a margin of about 4000 votes (a margin of 1.7%). About THIRTEEN PERCENT of the voters in Sarasota County were completely disenfranchised in this race by this malfunction.
    Right now, according to "Science News", 38% of the votes in this nation are cast on electronic machines — in most cases without a paper trail. In how many other places have malfunctions this serious happened without our knowing about it?

  4. By the way, you may recall that in Maryland it was conservative Republican Governor Ehrlich who was raising hell about the Diebold machines, and the Democratic politicians in the super-Democratic urban counties of Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince Georges — which virtually always throw the state to the Dems in any race that's even remotely close — who insisted on keeping the damn things. You may also recall that most preelection polls of Maryland showed Ehrlich and GOP Senate nominee Michael Steele running only a few points behind their Democratic opponents, whereas in the actual returns on election day they lost by solid margins of 7 and 10 points.
    This aroused my suspicions, so last night I spent half an hour using CNN's extremely useful election website to examine Maryland's county-by-county voting patterns in every election from 2006 back to 2000. However, I found absolutely no sign of any surge (let alone any suspiciously big one) in either the Democratic percentages or the recorded total voter counts in those three counties as compared to the rest of the state. So whatever made Maryland surge back toward the Dems at the last minute this time, it wasn't because the Dems diddled the Diebold machines.
    But that, of course, doesn't mean that they won't be tempted to do so somewhere in the country in the future. These things are a clear and present danger — and a major one — to American democracy itself, and I think they should be banned by a flat-out Constitutional amendment. I will be watching very closely to see if the Dems actually do so, and I intend to be as drearily repetitive on the subject as Cato was about Carthage.

  5. Bruce, the "unless he chose to reveal it to them" is the catch. Any system that allows that sort of verification of the voting means that we're giving up on the secret ballot. That may or may not be a good decision, but we should be making it while realizing that it opens up new possibilities for bribery and coercion, not ignoring the issue. (Of course, the huge move to voting by mail is already setting up up for more of that sort of fraud.)
    I agree with Brett (a sentence I don't expect to wrote very often). The voting process needs to be transparent, and any solution involving cryptography cannot be. I want there to be something for election observers to observe, and I want it to be something that you don't have to have a computer science degree to understand.

  6. Well, we see that Mark is arguing for the Democrats picking up where they left off in 94. Mark, why not also argue for reopening the House post office, since you are comfortable with the Democrat tradition of seating their preferred candidates regardless of the election results.
    The well educated good fascists are back in power, and they're pissed off. And they don't have any more respect for the institutions of government than they did last time.

  7. Mr. Anonymous doesn't seem to care about silly little trivia like blatantly obvious and serious malfunctions (or deliberate fraud) in the counting of the vote. Naturally, anyone opposed to this must be a "well-educated fascist" (which presumably leaves him one notch ahead of Mr. Anonymous).

  8. I'm with Brett. Optical scan technology already exists, has a good track record, and provides auditable voting records.
    As for why so many states embrace touch-screen, I think it's a combination of ignorance (i.e., most officials in charge _not_ having been "computer engineering major[s] in college"), technofetishism, and salesmanship by Diebold et al.
    I live in MD and we're 100% touch screen. So I voted absentee, though my impression is that Diebold machines counted the absentee ballots. Sigh.

  9. One big advantage of touch-screen is handicap accessibility.
    It seems to me that the advantages of touch-screen and optical scan would be easy to combine–choose candidates on a touch-screen, it prints a scannable ballot. And if something goes wrong, you can always fill out the scannable ballots by hand.

Comments are closed.