If you are an Iowan and if you are interested in politics even at a low level it is hard not to get involved in the day to day horse race news. “Hillary on the inside with a huge lead, but it looks like Bernie is turning on some burners. Dark horse O’Malley a ways back, but running hard.”
On the other side of the ledger, “Trump jumps to the lead while throwing junk all over the track. The other horses are stumbling and tripping and falling behind fast.”
So while the horse race and the side shows and the hoopla capture our attention, we need to remember a few things about the essentials of elections that may make huge differences in the 2016 election. From the gerrymandered districts to the trumped up voting rules that make it hard for minorities, the elderly and disabled, students and immigrant citizens to vote, to the very voting machines that have been proven easily hackable and then forgotten about.
We are about 15 months from selecting a replacement for Barack Obama. The election processes that have made many elections raise questions throughout the country for the past 15 years are still in place and made even worse with new voter eligibility rules that have been passed in Republican controlled states and with some very blatant gerrymandering.
And let’s not forget those voting machines.From the time the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002, controversy has been a byline of the system. The major problem seems to be electronic voting machines which are run using proprietary software owned by the companies that built the machines. This means that outside of doing some cursory testing, states are at the mercy of private companies for valid elections. Who can forget the video of the programmer from Florida who testified that he programmed voting machines to rig elections.
The same machines were scrapped in 2012 after a six year trial and some time in storage by Ireland because of the possibility of the machines being hacked. Yet America keeps using such machines primarily because those in charge in the various legislatures are also those who benefit most from a machine that can be hacked. Many states including Iowa have instituted a backup paper ballot system, yet do not do the random audits that would help insure that the counts between the two systems (paper and electronic counter) are in sync.
The last election cycle which was only about 9 months back and some unusual results, especially in Kansas where a widely disliked governor and senator overcame a huge deficits in the polls a couple of days before the election. Mathematician Beth Clarkson of Wichita State University has sued for audits of the state voting machines based on irregularities she saw in Sedgwick county (Wichita).
“Vote rigging is to me the most likely explanation, as opposed to ‘Oh, well those more densely populated precincts are more Republican.”
She says the voting machine results show a pattern of unusually high number of Republican ballots being cast as the voting total increased.
She notes the precincts tallied were generally in more urban locations, which don’t typically vote overwhelmingly Republican as many rural precincts do. Precincts which used manual voting showed no discrepancies.
Clarkson says the patterns are examples of what might happen if some voting systems were being sabotaged, but they don’t outright prove vote rigging. She says the only way to find out the answer is through an audit.
Irregularities were also reported in Wisconsin and Ohio that election. Let me remind you that Ohio and Wisconsin are often so called swing states. Tampering with only a few votes in either of those states could swing the election.
Just to remind us that old fashioned ways of cheating are still in vogue, Wisconsin is being sued for its outlandish gerrymander of election districts that gave Republicans an overwhelming majority in the legislature while actually garnering a minority of the total vote:
In August of 2011, the GOP controlled Wisconsin State Legislature secretly redrew the electoral map. Governor Scott Walker “quietly” signed off on the new map on the same day several state senators were up for recall. The Wisconsin Democratic Party, along with an immigrant rights organization, filed a lawsuit – but only two of the new gerrymandered districts were ordered redrawn. As a result, Republicans captured almost two-thirds of the state assembly seats – despite the fact that Democrats actually won a majority of the votes.
This was the idea all along. Plaintiffs’ attorney Peter G. Earle says:
[The] Current Plan is, by any measure, one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history. In the first election in which it was in force in 2012, the Current Plan enabled Republican candidates to win sixty of the Assembly’s ninety-nine seats even though Democratic candidates won a majority of the statewide Assembly vote. The evidence is overwhelming that the Current Plan was adopted to achieve precisely that result.
Like so many things in America these days, glitzy on the outside, rotting on the inside.
Wisconsin and Kansas are in Iowa’s neighborhood. Iowa still needs an auditing process for election day.