US Election Rigged?

Ever since November 2nd, I hoped I would not revisit this category for a long time.

However, recent developments in the media shows mounting evidence that the 2004 US vote may have been rigged. While I personally find this unlikely, if by the slightest chance any of it is true, it is a major democratic problem.

I will try to be less partisan about this than I have been before, and I invite you to partake in a discussion on the matter.

It all started a few days ago, when a programmer by the name of Clinton Curtis publicly claimed to have been hired to rig the election. In fact, Curtis delivered this statement in a sworn affidavit, ie. under oath. The purpose of this software, he said, was to detect voting fraud initiated by the Democrats;

It was not until after the prototype was delivered that he says he got wind of its possible, more nefarious usage.

(Source)

Curtis goes on to elaborate on the “prototype”:

In the vote fraud prototype that I created things are not what they seem. Hidden on the screen are invisible buttons. A person with knowledge of the locations of those invisible buttons can then use them to alter the votes of everyone before them. By clicking the correct order of invisible buttons the candidate selected by the user is compared to other candidates within that same race. If the candidate they selected is leading the race nothing happens. If the other candidate is leading the race the vote totals are altered so that the selected candidate is now leading the race with 51% of the vote. The other candidates then share the remaining 49% in exact proportion to the totals they had previously.

(Source)

To put it quite simply, this software would be able to swing Florida or Ohio in favor of either candidate.

While it would be rather unusual, one could argue that this software was in fact being developed in good faith, to preempt possible voting fraud by “knowing how it could’ve been done”. However, Curtis’ affidavit clearly states that his prior employer, Yang Enterprises, informed him that this software might actually be used to “control the vote in South Florida”. Yang Enterprises is now under FBI investigation. (Source)

Is this true?

The proposed developers of this vote tampering software quickly and clearly replied:

Recently there have been several accusations against this corporation by Clinton Eugene Curtis. All of the allegations are 100% FALSE!! An official statement will be forthcoming. Thank you for your concern and God Bless America. (From the Yang Enterprises website, December 9th 2004)

Whether or not these allegations are true or not, one would ponder that the developers had interest in denying it, should it be the case.

Maybe of more interest, is it technically possible, at all? In the words of a programmer for IBM:

From a technical standpoint, it is perfectly plausible […] Whether or not this turns out to be true, it?s a very good reason why we need the source code available for all of these voting machines. (Source)

An other programmer is skeptical:

Without more detail, and based on what I know so far, it?s hard to imagine that this could have really been used to change votes. It?s still embarrassing, to be sure, but it?s like he built a nuke out of a cardboard box and some wires?unless there?s some plutonium hiding in there somewhere, it might look good, but it isn?t going to blow up.

Whichever’s right, it seems to be cause enough for at least an investigation. In fact, a lawyer is now in the early stages of preparing a lawsuit, stating:

“We are basically going to make allegations that the votes, if properly counted, would reveal a different result then that which was certified by the Secretary of State not in the change in number, but a change in the outcome by which candidate won,” said Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus lawyer who represents the group. He says that for this to happen, the December 13 meeting of the state electors should be postponed. “The Supreme Court has the power to order that the election outcome be determined differently than what was presented by the Secretary of State by a standard of proof and by clear and convincing evidence,” said Arnebeck.

(Source)

Thoughts

The 2004 US election has been the most emotionally valued election in the history I can remember. With emotions running high, there’s no telling what people will do, to change an outcome they didn’t approve of.

However, turn that thesis around 180°. What if the powers that be, found it so vitally important to win the election, that they chose to change the outcome? As unlikely as it may be, I find the very possibility that this might be just partially true, very disturbing, to say the least.

The biggest question of them all is, whether or not we will ever learn the truth about this. Judging from the articles referenced in this entry, most programmers agree that analyzing the code of the voting software for clues to tampering is virtually impossible.

Still, what if it was true. What if Kerry would have won the election, should the votes have been fairly counted. No matter who you voted for, this matters. It is basically the difference between a tyranny and a democracy. Is democracy worth the price tag of an in-depth investigation into this?

I think so. If Ukraine can demand the truth, so can any democracy that belongs to its people.

What do you think?

References

7 thoughts on “US Election Rigged?”

  1. Chris says:

    Your final statement, “…any democracy that belongs to its people.” Well, that’s the crux of it. Does the U.S. democracy really belong to the people? Has it ever? Throughout our history (I’m American) our democracy has been controlled and cojoled by an elite oligarchy, democrat and republican.

    It would be nice if the democracy belonged to the people but I don’t think it does and I don’t think many of my fellow citizens think it does either. Sure that may sound bleak. Maybe it is bleak.

    On the other hand, while the citizenry may not have true control over elections we do have control over the big picture. All Americans share an ideal vision of the nation. It would take quite a bit to outline that vision but I can assure you it’s a positive vision.

    So, was there vote fraud? Maybe. Does it matter? Not to the long view. No matter the ethical hiccoughs of U.S. history in the long run things have always worked out and they’ll continue to work out. So long as man is mortal the nation can always wait out the bad seeds, the bad ideas. A few gems from our past, slavery, prohibition, eugenics, Vietnam, abortion rights, civil rights, worker rights. All the things that at one time left a poor taste in the mouth. Now, those iconic ideas of what went wrong have been put right or are being put right.

    All that is wrong with America today will eventually be put right again. That’s the genius of America, our ability to change as needed, as wanted. I’d wager the U.S. is the fastest quick change nation there is. And, we don’t change because of the controlling politician. We change because of the people.

    So, don’t fret too much. It will all come out in the wash.

  2. Joen says:

    Even though I disagree with the core of what you’re saying (“Does it matter? Not to the long view”), I find your reply very insightful, not to mention delightful considering the circumstances. It is comforting to know that the vision you mention is a positive one. I did kinda know that part already, still it’s easy to lose focus when faced with the sometimes mindboggling reality.

    However, I still disagree with you. The end does not justify the means, even if the end result will be a good result given the long deep breath of time. If we are to have democracy, we must have it today, and every day until we decide otherwise. If the election was indeed tampered in favor of either candidate, who’s to say this is not going to happen again?

    Maybe your point was, that even if there was vote fraud, the outcome isn’t so bad that it’s worth fretting over (i.e. that in ten years time this’ll all be forgotten)?

    I guess the gist of this is more simple. We live today, not tomorrow. If we cannot trust the principles on which our society is based, how can we honestly believe it’ll be any better for our children? We shouldn’t accept something just because we’re told to. If something is wrong (which as far as I know is currently in the unknown and “unlikely” category), we shouldn’t sit silent and roll with the punches. Or as a commenter on Slashdot said: “Goverments have been overthrown for less than this”.

  3. Jeff Minard says:

    Is democracy worth the price tag of an in-depth investigation into this?

    Yes, yes, and yes. But I wanted Kerry to win – had it been the other way around, I would expect Bush supporters to be scraping at this too.

    Does it matter? Not to the long view … A few gems from our past, slavery, prohibition, eugenics, Vietnam, abortion rights, civil rights, worker rights

    See, you may be right, but more often than not, we’ve progressed forward in thinking and actions. The current administration is pushing us backwards. Consitutional Amendments to ban gay marraige – A sever lack of money for the education of youth, but a sharp increase on spending military dollars to get them killed.

    Those are things that I simply can’t agree with, and as much as it would be nice to say, “Yeah, but it’s not so bad in the long run” we don’t live in the long run and neither will our children. Things that happened in the last four years, and things that happen in the next four simply won’t just clear off our collective history plate when 2008 rolls around. We have to live with this B.S. war, with 9/11, and the Patriot Act I and II long past their instantiation. Don’t belive me? Just look at a signifigant population of black people still bitching about being “enslaved to the white man” even though slavery is long since passed.

    Back on subject, however, I think it was damned foolish to ever let voting machines that were not open-source be used in something so important as an election – compounded by the fact that nearly all of them left no paper trail at all!

    As a side note, there was a contest to see if someone could make a piece of code that looked innocent, and counted votes correctly until a certain time, at which it would swing the vote in favor of another winner – I can’t seem to find it anymore, but it would go along well with this.

  4. Does it matter? Not to the long view.

    I’m sorry, but I think that’s a very naive response Chris. I only hope that your apathetic stance isn’t shared by the rest of the US electorate because, if it is, then democracy is already dead.

    How can it not matter that the most powerful man on the planet might hold his office as a result of fraud?

    Regardless of whether you’re pro or anti Bush, if he secured the presidency illegally and the American public is just going to shrug its collective shoulders, then there’s absolutely no reason for elections to take place in America in the future. Surely your vote is more important to you than that?

    I must admit, personally I think the chances of the election being rigged are extremely slim. It just a shame that Clinton Curtis has given the conspiracy theorists something to play with.

  5. Chris says:

    A moment to clarify.

    I’m not saying that possible vote fraud doesn’t matter. It certainly does. And the idea of it is troubling to say the least.

    And, I don’t think of myself as being apathetic. More, extremely optimistic. Not because Bush is in power but because he really doesn’t have as much power as he’s made out to have.

    In the last 4 years the most egregious things that Bush has implemented are the Patriot Act and the Iraqi War. I’m not saying those are little things. They’re not. But, I think the reason no one has fomented revolution yet is simply that those actions don’t affect Americans. Or, better, don’t seem to affect Americans.

    The Patriot Act hasn’t done anything to hamper the way I live my life. Not in even the smallest way. The war in Iraq has had zero affect towards my life. Are these actions completely horrendous? Definitely. But, I know that my fellow citizens don’t make action based on what is right or wrong but based instead on what hampers what they view as their freedoms.

    American citizens really only worry about their own individual freedoms. We didn’t rise up against King George cause he was a bad guy. We rose up because his actions raised the price of paper and tea. We didn’t rise up because he was a rotten guy. We rose up because he treated the people in a way they viewed as being very poor. We also rose up because we had men like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison.

    The difference now? George Bush hasn’t done anything that actively, daily is seen as impeding the freedoms of the vast majority of the citizens. And, so, the citizenry will shrug their shoulders and wait 4 years.

    Do I wish I could raise an army against Bush and the oligarchy? Absolutely. I’m a Virginian. Sic Semper Tyrannis. But are enough people Virginians? No. So, we shrug and wait 4 years.

    Now, another thing. What I was trying to say is that Americans do not change our country with out vote. We never have. We never will. We change our country with our actions, with our inventions, of the physical and the mental.

    Now, about the “long breath of history” (that was a clever phrase, Joen), I’m not thinking of 20 years down the line. Even 6 is further than I’m thinking. In the history of the U.S. there have been 3 presidents that have had a lasting effect on the country, Lincoln, FDR, LBJ. Union, social support, civil rights, respectively. In 43 presidents only three still affect our every day.

    Reagan? He was an awful president. Star Wars, Iran-Contra… all things that presently have no affect on the American citizen. Which is why when he died less than 16 years after he left office people had to be reminded who he was. Of all the things Reagan did good or bad the one thing most Americans can remember about him is that he liked jelly beans.

    This is not to say that George Bush won’t have a lasting affect on the world. Iraqis will feel the effects of his actions for decades. But, will Americans? I doubt it. We’re much more self centered than that as a whole.

    I don’t think Americans will rise up until they feel that FDR’s four freedoms have been violated. Not until those ten amendments have been threatened. Until then we’ll just go on living our lives the way we always have. Oblivious.

    Now, of course, much of what I’ve said are blanket statements about a people and you really can’t get away with that. I know American readers of this post will be appalled. And I know Europeans readers will be aghast. But, I’m not including them in this blanketing. Of course, you’re furious about Bush and the direction you feel America is headed. Of course you are. You’re brighter than the average bear. You’ve read this far. But, the people that I am speaking of, they won’t read this far. They don’t have that sense of horror at Bush’s actions that you and I share. They just don’t. If they did then something would have happened. There would be riots. There haven’t been any yet. If all of Europe felt as Joen does then much more than a simple “we don’t agree with Bush” would have risen from the Continent. It didn’t. Cause so far Americans, Europeans as a majority, don’t feel threatened by Bush. Of course you do Joen, you’re a smart cookie. You know a bad thing when you see it. Most folks can’t be bothered to look.

    I know all of this is really a vast oversimplification of the matter. If for no other reason than brevity it has to be. I take up enough of Joen’s database as it is.

    I assure you all I’m not saying bush is just as good as the next guy, or just as bad. I’m just saying he has no affect on Americans for the most part. Because most Americans don’t see a whole picture. They see their picture and its not all that bad. So, they’ll just keep living their lives as before. And that’s fine because as I said before the ultimate goal of an American citizen is to live and let live. So, we’ll be fine in the long run. But, of course, in the meantime I and Joen, and all of you will do our level best to snap them out of their stupor and keep one eye on the powers that be and one on the rest of the flock.

    This is why I’m optimistic. Because there are people like us acting as shepherds for the rest of the sheep that don’t see inherent dangers.

    Now, it’s taken me forever to write this and I know I’m still only making half a point. And I know that while I’ve been writing others have been replying to what I said before. So, Joen I think I’ll be answering this little post of yours for about a week. Me and my big mouth.

  6. Jonas Rabbe says:

    The biggest problem I have with the electronic voting machines, is that there is no real paper trail. When a voter cast their vote the vote is recorded. It is only afterwards that there is a printout of the tally.

    Here in Denmark elections are carried out by putting an X on a piece of paper. All the votes are then counted under the supervision of representatives of each political party. I know that the political climate, as well as the number of votes, is very different between USA and Denmark, but I find it comforting that somewhere there is a piece of paper which has my X on it.

    I must admit, however, that I wasn’t even aware of a conspiracy theory before I stumbled onto an animation over at kontraband.com a while ago. If there’s any truth in it, I am thoroughly disgusted, but at this point I really have no clue. It’ll be interesting to see what the FBI find at Yang Enterprises.

  7. Joen says:

    Apologies for the delay in a reply, but I wanted to make sure and leave a proper response, seeing as you have all done that yourselves.

    Jeff,

    Back on subject, however, I think it was damned foolish to ever let voting machines that were not open-source be used in something so important as an election – compounded by the fact that nearly all of them left no paper trail at all!

    Very true. Having thought about this for a weekend, my bet is we’ll never know what really happened, so the best we can hope for by objecting and not letting this go by in the unknown is to prevent this from happening again.

    As a side note, there was a contest to see if someone could make a piece of code that looked innocent, and counted votes correctly until a certain time, at which it would swing the vote in favor of another winner – I can?t seem to find it anymore, but it would go along well with this.

    Let me know if you find that again!

    Jonathan,

    I must admit, personally I think the chances of the election being rigged are extremely slim. It just a shame that Clinton Curtis has given the conspiracy theorists something to play with.

    Indeed. I’m thinking while this might be true, it is most likely not – the question is whether this discussion is helpful at all! Without further thinking, I’ll have to lean to my reply above: it is important, if only to prevent such from happening in the future.

    Chris,

    And, I don?t think of myself as being apathetic. More, extremely optimistic. Not because Bush is in power but because he really doesn?t have as much power as he?s made out to have.

    I knew prior to your reply that you weren’t apathetic, and I did pick up the essence of positivism in your post, hence my thanking you in the first paragraph of my response.

    But, I think the reason no one has fomented revolution yet is simply that those actions don?t affect Americans. Or, better, don?t seem to affect Americans.

    -Indeed. But once again, however unlikely it is, consider the case that voting fraud did happen, and that Bush illegitimately won the office. Extend that for a moment and imagine if this was clearly, and beyond doubt proven—let’s say the FBI found incriminating and unmistakable evidence at Yang Enterprises (YEI hereafter).

    What would happen? Would there be a revolt? Would anything happen at all? Does it matter who’s president? Maybe not. Does it matter how that person became president? That is the question.

    Now, about the “long breath of history” (that was a clever phrase, Joen), I?m not thinking of 20 years down the line. Even 6 is further than I?m thinking. In the history of the U.S. there have been 3 presidents that have had a lasting effect on the country, Lincoln, FDR, LBJ. Union, social support, civil rights, respectively. In 43 presidents only three still affect our every day.

    Thank you! I like that phrase.

    Oh but seriously, while I can understand what you mean by this, I’m having difficulty agreeing with it in entirety. Bad things can happen in 4 years, bad things that DO take the long breath of history to repair. Just the other day, I read the woes of a blogger, who said:

    The US economy feels like it is about to implode and bring everything down with it. The dollar just hit a new low today and China is considering of dumping their dollar reserves. The deficit is through the roof and it?s becoming increasingly difficult for the US to finance it considering the unattractive yields on long term debt.

    This is but one example of what can turn out to be a serious problem, and as such, there might be reason to revolt, people just might not know it!

    But in a way, that is beside the point. After all, this is more of a question of how the president was elected, rather than who was elected.

    I?m just saying he has no affect on Americans for the most part. Because most Americans don?t see a whole picture. They see their picture and its not all that bad.

    I see we agree on the response I gave above. No need to elaborate on that then.

    This is why I?m optimistic. Because there are people like us acting as shepherds for the rest of the sheep that don?t see inherent dangers.

    That’s actually a comforting thought, especially considering that not all the political discussions on this site has been as nice as this one (although they were all interesting).

    A final note: I appreciate your time to respond this indepthly Chris, and don’t ever worry about “taking up space in my database”, I do appreciate it.

    Jonas,

    Another dane? How very cool! I would’ve guessed you to be Swedish, by the name.

    I find it comforting that somewhere there is a piece of paper which has my X on it.

    Me too. Come to think of it, I never had a single problem with the danish elections I’ve participated in—except of course the outcome :).

    It?ll be interesting to see what the FBI find at Yang Enterprises.

    Indeed! I’ll update this article with whatever findings I make.

    -By the way, I was wondering if the comment notification engine still works, I’ve been having a few problems with it. Are you subscribers getting email notified?

    P.S. This live preview get’s real slow after having written this lenght paragraph. I’ll see if I can make a button that disables it, or better yet “pauses” it.

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