by Jim Hightower
Election year fever is picking up as primary voters make their choices, and all political parties are girding themselves for a landmark presidential election this fall.
There's only one little clinker in this year's edition of America's democratic experience: How do we know our votes will be fairly and accurately counted? This is no idle questions, for there have been all sorts of problems (ranging from malfunctions to malfeasance) with voting systems in recent elections. Especially untrustworthy are the paperless, touch-screen electronic voting machines sold by such infamous outfits as Diebold, Inc.
I call these systems "faith-based voting" for you make your choices on the computer screen — yet you get no verifiable evidence that your vote is registered as you meant it to be. The electronic machines are vulnerable to hackers, prone to mechanical error and have been known to "flip" votes from the candidates you chose to their opponents. Yet, about a third of America's counties still use the touch-screen systems, putting millions of voters at risk and possibly bringing into question yet again the integrity of a presidential vote count.
That's why it's so crucial that Congress quickly approve the "Confidence in Voting Act" proposed by Rep. Rush Holt. It provides $500 million so counties can replace their disreputable electronic machines before November's national election. It calls for the use of ballots that voters mark by hand, and it provides another $100 million to set up independent audit committees in each county to conduct public hand-counts of three percent of all ballots that are cast.
Rush Holt's reform is not perfect, but it's a huge advance over the "trust me" machines now in use. For information on Holt's effort to restore integrity to America's vote, call his office: 202-225-5801.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com
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