Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Did Dubbya Rig the Election? Michael Meacher Smells Something Fishy in Bush's Return to Office. the Evidence of Fraud Is Not Yet Conclusive but, Given the Republicans' Record, It Is All Too Plausible

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Did Dubbya Rig the Election? Michael Meacher Smells Something Fishy in Bush's Return to Office. the Evidence of Fraud Is Not Yet Conclusive but, Given the Republicans' Record, It Is All Too Plausible

Article excerpt

The great mystery of the US presidential election was that the exit polls, which had been reliable guides in all previous elections, did not tally with the final results. Tony Blair, it is said, went to sleep on 2 November thinking John Kerry had won, but woke in the morning to find that George W Bush was the victor. Many Britons and Americans had the same experience. Nobody has advanced a satisfactory explanation. Now allegations are surfacing that the use of electronic voting systems and optical scanning devices may have had a significant influence on the result. Computer security experts insist that such systems are not secure and not tamper-proof, yet they were used to count a third of the votes across 37 states. Though the Democrats remain strangely coy about the whole subject, academics and political analysts are now drawing comparisons between areas that used paper ballots and areas that used electronic systems. Is it possible that results in the latter were rigged?

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An analysis of the poll by different states points up inconsistencies that cannot be explained by random variation. In Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Iowa, New Mexico, Maine, Nevada, Arkansas and Missouri, where a variety of different voting systems were used, including paper ballots in many cases, the four companies carrying out exit polls were almost exactly right and their results were certainly within the margin of error. In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Carolina, however, where electronic or optical scanning machines were used (though not exclusively), the tracking polls were seriously discrepant from the published result.

Two aspects of this are immediately striking. One is the large size of the variance, and the other is that in every case it favoured Bush. In Wisconsin and Ohio, the discrepancy favoured Bush by 4 per cent, in Pennsylvania by 5 per cent, in Florida and Minnesota by 7 per cent, in North Carolina by 9 per cent and in New Hampshire by an astonishing 15 per cent.

Moreover, extensive voting irregularities have been reported across the US--including intimidation, exclusion of black voters from electoral rolls, touchscreens that consistently registered support for Bush when the name Kerry was touched, and a large number of county precincts (including in Ohio) where the number of votes cast exceeded the total number of registered voters, sometimes by large margins. In Florida, for example, the number of votes reported for all the candidates exceeded the maximum possible voter turnout by 237,522, so that a minimum of 3.1 per cent of the votes must be fraudulent, and possibly considerably more. Florida uses electronic voting machines in 15 counties, and these account for a majority of the state's residents.

None of this is conclusive evidence of fraud. But an independent inquiry is surely needed to expose what really happened in Florida and several other states. Some Americans are already demanding such an inquiry. Court hearings, held in public in Columbus, Ohio, will very likely lead to at least a partial recount in that state. Ralph Nader, the Green candidate, may have secured a recount in New Hampshire, and is demanding recounts also in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. And a survey by the University of Berkeley, California, has shown that irregularities in Florida associated with electronic voting machines seem to have awarded 130,000 to 260,000 or more excess votes to Bush.

One's immediate reaction is that such large-scale fraud is implausible. But look at the history of the Republican Party, and its willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to manipulate the popular vote, and the idea seems all too likely.

The best-known example was the Watergate break-in of 1972, designed to get illicit access to Democrat plans for a presidential election that Richard Nixon feared he would lose. …

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