By Chris Floyd
Published: November 12, 2004
We said it here over and over, going back to 2003: If the U.S. presidential election was close enough to be gamed, it damn sure would be gamed. And the chunks of evidence now rolling in -- like so many cracked shells of fact in a high tide of pompous drivel -- increasingly indicate that millions of votes were indeed monkeyed with on the way to amassing George W. Bush's teeny-tiny one percent majority last week.
It seems we were all a bit too quick to concede the reality of Li'l Pretzel's "mandate." For example, in county after county, state after state, unprecedented discrepancies between the exit polls and the final result turned up -- in areas that used electronic voting, that is, usually without a recountable paper trail. In almost every such case, exit poll leads for John Kerry -- sometimes very substantial leads, beyond the realm of statistical error -- were converted in the end to narrow victories for Bush. Yet strangely enough, in those areas that relied on paper ballots -- utterly tangible records of voter intent -- the exit polls and final counts were in virtual lockstep. Of course, for decades exit polls have been phenomenonally successful in gauging the actual electoral outcome -- until the advent of national elections involving Bush and his political puppeteer, Karl Rove.
There was also the wild imbalance between party identification in voter registration and the actual vote in key counties across the nation, particularly in Florida. In the latter, counties where Democrats comprise more than 70 percent of the voters suddenly showed Bush winning 50, 60, even 70 percent of the total. In Calhoun County, for example, an 82 percent Democratic registration somehow morphed into a 63 percent Bush vote. To be sure, an incumbent in wartime, running on a campaign of wild fearmongering and deliberately stoked (or is it stroked?) sexual panic might peel away a few of the other party's voters. Yet every single measure of the electorate this year showed that partisanship was extraordinarily high and remarkably solid: Only a sliver of party-identified voters crossed the line to vote for the other side. So where did they come from, these astounding registration reversals that produced, in discrete packets here and there, hundreds of thousands of extra Bush votes that no one had expected?
We've often spoken here of the fact that more than one-third of all American votes were counted this year on machines owned, programmed, installed -- and in some cases even inspected -- by private companies whose bosses are major Bush financial donors and campaign officials. Some of the main players in the virtual-vote game were originally bankrolled by a single Bushist tycoon, Howard Ahmanson, who spent decades pushing "Christian Reconstructionism" -- i.e., complete theocratic rule of society and government by Christian mullahs who advocate, among other delights, death by stoning for homosexuals. Studies by leading scientists at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and other bastions of the "reality-based community" showed that these corporate e-vote systems are eminently -- even laughably -- hackable, either from the inside, by the Bushist companies themselves, or from the outside, by, say, "information warfare" specialists at the CIA or Pentagon, as investigative journalist Robert Parry notes. Nor would this hackery require placing gremlins in the thousands of voting machines operated by the Bushist firms; the final tabulations are actually made by a handful of central computers drawing together totals from outlying precincts, as analyst Thom Hartmann reports. Thus one little aptly placed "worm" could poison the well of an entire state.
Meanwhile, legions of phantom voters stalked polling booths across the land. In one key Ohio county alone -- carried by Bush -- the number of votes cast outstripped the number of actual registered voters by 93,000 -- a pattern repeated in numerous e-voting precincts. Yet another Ohio county sealed its vote count from public scrutiny after Bush's Homeland Security commissars told terrified local officials that their suburban area had suddenly become a terrorist target of "the highest order," MSNBC reports.
Bush's limp mandate was also engorged with a double dose of electoral Viagra: voter purges and voter suppression. As intrepid investigator Greg Palast notes, key states controlled by Bushist officials conducted mass purges of qualified voters from the rolls, utilizing an array of arcane laws, obscure regulations and -- as in Florida 2000 -- race-specific lists of supposed convicted felons, drawn up by private corporations using deliberately vague criteria that guaranteed false "matches" with legitimate voters, disenfranchising thousands of people -- the majority of them law-abiding African-Americans. Meanwhile, an unprecedented voter suppression operation flooded low-income areas with bogus "official" letters and phone calls warning the poor they could be imprisoned for voting if they had unpaid bills or outstanding debts.
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Email the Opinion Page EditorEven when these targeted minorities were able to get to the polls, they had to run a gauntlet of antiquated machinery that produced a massive amount of "spoiled" votes by mangling ballots, leaving those infamous chads unpunched and otherwise failing to register the voter's choice. Official U.S. government studies confirm that the majority of this "spoilage" does indeed occur in minority precincts; in 2000, for example, more than 1 million African-American votes were simply thrown in the trash. With this year's higher turnout straining the thin resources of such precincts, experts say the spoilage rate will be even higher.
Of course, given Bush's strong support among the vast Deluded-American community, he might have won the election anyway, even without all this criminal katzenjammer. But now we'll never know. His "mandate" -- miniscule as it is -- will be forever tainted by doubt, smeared with the vicious sleaze and contempt for democracy that has marked every aspect of his malevolent reign.