The Hightower Report

The Bushites plot to cancel our election; Diebold taints it


SHOULD BUSHITES BE ABLE TO SUSPEND OUR ELECTIONS?

In 2000, we had Florida's obscure secretary of state, Katherine Harris, working to squirrel the presidential election. And now – look out! – here comes another obscure GOP operative acting all squirrelly about the 2004 presidential election.

DeForest Soaries Jr., a former New Jersey secretary of state, was handpicked by George W. a couple of years ago to chair the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is supposed to assist state election officials. Instead, Soaries is out to assist Bush.

He recently sent a letter to Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge saying that emergency authority was needed to let the Bushites cancel a presidential election in the event of a terrorist threat. Rather than hurling this misguided missive into the trash can and suggesting that Soaries get professional help (or at least read the Constitution), Ridge is actually acting on it!

In early July, he called in John Ashcroft to determine what legal steps would be needed to suspend this fall's election. The rationalization was that evil terrorists could strike or threaten to strike the U.S. just before an election, so the Homeland Czar needs the power to cancel the balloting and schedule it for a later day ... or year ... or whenever.

Now, guess who issues our color-coded warnings about terrorist threat levels? Tom Ridge! Indeed, just to punctuate his extreme quest to Ashcroft, Ridge promptly issued yet another of his vague, code-yellow warnings that al Qaeda is planning a large-scale attack on America, adding darkly that this attack will be "an effort to disrupt the democratic process."

How convenient. If Bush is losing and needs an October Surprise, Ridge could issue a Code-Red alarm, using it to justify a postponement of the vote.

If there's an actual terrorist attack, that's when Americans will most want and need a chance to vote on the officials who have failed to protect us. In no event should we ever empower the incumbents to "disrupt the democratic process."


STOP THE ELECTRONIC THEFT OF OUR VOTE

"Despicable" is not a word that major corporate executives are used to having hurled at them by high elected officials, but the honchos of Diebold Inc. recently got this very word right in their corporate face.

The hurler was Kevin Shelley, California's secretary of state, and he was referring to his experience with Diebold's electronic voting machines in California's March primary elections. Computer glitches plagued that election, jeopardizing its outcome. For example, thousands of San Diego voters were turned away from the polls because Diebold machines malfunctioned.

A subsequent investigation by a state panel of experts on electronic voting found that this company – the second largest purveyor of touch-screen voting machines in the country – had violated state law by installing untested and uncertified software in its machines ... and then lied about it. "Their performance, their behavior, is despicable," Shelley bluntly said. He also put action behind his words, banning the use of more than 14,000 Diebold machines for this November's election, saying that the machines are not secure and reliable. He also has recommended that criminal charges be filed for what he called "fraudulent actions by Diebold."

Shelley had earlier ruled that, by 2006, touch-screen voting machines in California must produce a paper receipt so voters can verify the electoral choices they make on these corruptible computers. But, after this year's unpleasantness with Diebold, Shelley says he's now exploring ways to speed up this requirement.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, a voters group has filed suit to block the use of all 16,000 of Diebold's virtual voting machines in their state unless a paper-verification system is installed on each of them. It's all a part of the growing grassroots rebellion to prevent the electronic theft of our elections. To join the fight, go to www.verifiedvoting.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

election fraud, DeForest Soaries Jr., George W. Bush, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, John Ashcroft, al Qaeda, Diebold, Kevin Shelley, www.verifiedvoting.org

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