January 26, 2012
By Brad Friedman
“It makes you wonder if our votes even count.” –KTRN
The voting systems in use for the nation’s first three all-important electoral contests in the 2012 primary — from Iowa to New Hampshire to Saturday’s South Carolina Primary — go from pretty great to intolerably horrible. And then comes Florida, which deserves its very own special category, thereafter.
The “First-in-the-Nation” caucuses in Iowa allowed voters to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, counted by hand in front of the public at the caucus site, with results announced to everyone right then and there before being called in to GOP headquarters and before ballots were move anywhere. The wonderfully transparent system allowed for Republican voters by the Iowa GOP (which they hypocritically fight against allowing for everybody else in other states, and even in their own during general elections) is just about as close as we general get in this country to Democracy’s Gold Standard. It’s also what allowed reporting errors to be discovered and confirmed by the public after an election with some 122,000 votes counted transparently within an hour or so of polls closing, leading to almost nobody charging “fraud” even though just 34 votes are said to separate first and second place in the certified results of the impossibly, and historically, close election.
As of the “First-in-the-Nation” primary in New Hampshire, however, election transparency for voters and their ability to oversee their own elections began to disappear. While a lucky 10% of voters enjoyed hand-marked, publicly hand-counted paper ballots, the rest of the state’s voters were allowed to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, but forced to tolerate secret tabulation on oft-failed, easily-manipulated Diebold optical-scan systems programmed by a company (LHS) with a history of criminal behavior and convictions. The results from those 90% of Granite State voters may have been tallied accurately by the Diebold op-scanners or, as seen in the disastrous 2008 Presidential Primary, not. Since NH doesn’t bother to actually check to see if their machines tallied the hand-marked paper ballots correctly, we’re unlikely to ever know if they did — barring a recount request where, by then, the secure chain of custody of the paper ballots would be uncertain (to put it mildly.)