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Gore Vidal Savages Electronic Voting 1029

gribbly writes "aging author and social critic Gore Vidal savaged electronic voting in an interview with the LA Weekly. The interview deals mainly with (what's wrong with) the Bush Administration, but halfway down he says: 'We don't want an election without a paper trail...all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption?'."
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Gore Vidal Savages Electronic Voting

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  • by Denyer ( 717613 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:10PM (#7467168)
    Given that much of the media is similarly controlled?
    • Given that much of the media is similarly controlled?

      But at least the press leaves a paper trail.

  • They just let us know there was cheating, but no one in power will look at them. Look at the presidential election in Florida 2000!
    • the presidential selection in Florida 2000.

      Since the SC made him the Selected President*, that's the official descriptor now.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:04PM (#7468010)
      If you don't believe that the U.S. is a now a dictatorship and
      are not operating under Plan G, after you read this, you WILL believe
      the U.S. is a dictatorship and implement Plan G:

      Despots in the Whitehouse :

      We are the patriots

      How is it possible for the US to engage in
      wars without the consensus of a large part of
      the American people? Gore Vidal places the
      question within a historical perspective that
      reveals the remarkable foresight of Benjamin

      I belong to a minority that is now one of the smallest in the country and, with every day, grows smaller. I am a veteran of World War II. And I can recall thinking, when I got out of the Army in 1946, Well, that's that. We won. And those
      who come after us will never need do this again. Then came the two mad wars of imperial vanity--Korea and Vietnam. They were bitter for us, not to mention for the so-called enemy. Next we were enrolled in a perpetual war against
      what seemed to be the enemy-of-the-month club. This war kept major revenues going to military procurement and secret police, while withholding money from us, the taxpayers, with our petty concerns for life, liberty and the
      pursuit of happiness.

      But no matter how corrupt our system became over the last
      century--and I lived through three-quarters of it--we still
      held on to the Constitution and, above all, to the Bill of
      Rights. No matter how bad things got, I never once
      believed that I would see a great part of the nation--of we
      the people, unconsulted and unrepresented in a matter of
      war and peace-demonstrating in such numbers against an
      arbitrary and secret government, preparing and conducting
      wars for us, or at least for an army recruited from the
      unemployed to fight in. Sensibly, they now leave much of
      the fighting to the uneducated, to the excluded.

      During Vietnam Bush fled to the Texas Air National Guard.
      Cheney, when asked why he avoided service in Vietnam,
      replied, "I had other priorities." Well, so did 12 million of us
      sixty years ago. Priorities that 290,000 were never able to

      So who's to blame? Us? Them? Well, we can safely blame
      certain oil and gas hustlers who have effectively hijacked the
      government from presidency to Congress to, most
      ominously, the judiciary. How did they do it? Curiously, the
      means have always been there. It took the higher greed
      and other interests to make this coup d'Ttat work.

      It was Benjamin Franklin, of all people, who saw our future
      most clearly back in 1787, when, as a delegate to the
      Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, he read for the
      first time the proposed Constitution. He was old; he was
      dying; he was not well enough to speak but he had
      prepared a text that a friend read. It is so dark a statement
      that most school history books omit his key words.

      Franklin urged the convention to accept the Constitution
      despite what he took to be its great faults, because it might,
      he said, provide good government in the short term. "There
      is no form of government but what may be a blessing to
      the people if well administered, and I believe farther that
      this is likely to be well administered for a course of years,
      and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done
      before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to
      need despotic Government, being incapable of any other."
      Think of Enron, Merrill Lynch, etc., of chads and butterfly
      ballots, of Scalia's son arguing before his unrecused father
      at the Supreme Court while unrecused Thomas sits silently
      by, his wife already at work for the approaching Bush
      Administration. Think, finally, of the electoral college, a piece
      of dubious, antidemocratic machinery that Franklin
      doubtless saw as a source of deepest corruption and
      subsequent mischief for the Republic, as happened not only
      in 1876 but in 2000.

      • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @09:50PM (#7470597)
        Here is another good read that somehow hasn't seen any mainstream media play:

        The gist of it is Prescott Bush, George W's grandfather, was a business partner of the Thyssen and Flick families, who helped bankroll the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party from 1923-1942. Flick funded the S.S. and S.A. in their early years. Thyssen wrote a book "I Paid Hitler" describing his financial support for Hitler from 1923.

        It is quite possible the Bush family helped make the rise of Hitler possible.

        In 1942 the U.S. Government seized the assets of Union Bank, Seemless Steel and Holland American trading, all run by Prescott Bush, for the Harriman family, for being Nazi fronts which were at the time trading with the enemy. Among other things it appears Union bank was a front for Flick and the German Steel Trust which was the major manufacturer of steel and explosives for the Nazi war machine.

        It kind of sounds like the Bush family were rather fond of totalitarian governments and were particularly fond of them in the 30's when the western democracies were in collapse and there was a lot of money to be made in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. They may well have endorsed the rise of Hitler as they saw it as a chance to make a lot of money banking and trading with Germany.

  • Ugggg.... (Score:2, Troll)

    by TedTschopp ( 244839 )
    Why do people need to believe this is some conspriracy. Bad Code /= a vast conspiracy to steal the election. Bad Code = Bad Code. Lets get upset at that. Bad code on a voting machine = potential to steal the election, but until you have proof please keep your fingerpointing to yourself. Both sides of the political debate here in the States and abroad would love to steal an election.
    • It's not just bad code. It's suspicious code.

      Besides that, why else would they so fight opening the source? Trade secrets? How many companies out there are making voting machines? Why is it a problem if they all open their source? If there is code "sharing" going on, they'd know about it almost immediately due to the nature of the process.

      So why are they so opposed to it?
    • by Kinniken ( 624803 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:20PM (#7467325) Homepage
      Bad code on a voting machine = potential to steal the election, but until you have proof please keep your fingerpointing to yourself.

      Proof? No, but what looks like frightening bugs in one of the most critical tasks of a democracy, from companies whose owners are heavily involved in politic. Now, that does not necessarily mean that election-rigging is under way, but IMHO it is cause enough for public scrutiny.

      Both sides of the political debate here in the States and abroad would love to steal an election.

      So what? Should we let them do it, trusting that some sort of balance will be kept by the rigging on both side?
    • Re:Ugggg.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mapmaker ( 140036 )
      The problem isn't bad code. The problem is hidden, unverifyable code.

      Hiding the process used to count votes, and making that process unverifyable (is that a word?) once the votes have been counted, is an execellent way to steal an election.

      Since all the electronic voting equipment manufacturers are insisting on hidden, unverifyable code, and all of them are "rooting for" the same political party, it isn't exactly a wacko idea to think there might be something fishy going on here.

      Yes, both parties wo

    • It's not just bad code. The whole procedure is bad. In fact, it's designed to make it impossible to prove if there's some kind of conspiracy going on.

      By your logic, we shouldn't be complaining until we notice a candidate receiving 100 million votes from the state of Alaska.
    • Re:Ugggg.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:51PM (#7468595) Journal
      Read my post here []? IT really frightens me that Diebold is not only donating but campaigning for Bush.

      Yes you will never find any company unbiased but we need a trial and the database should be public. Hell, the code should be owned the states and government!

      People who count votes usually have both a republican and a democrat together looking over question ballets to decide. We need this as well.

      Who does count the votes anyway? Diebold??

  • by Eraserhd ( 21298 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:14PM (#7467221) Homepage
    Sign the HR 2239 petition []. It requires electronic machines to produce a receipt which is deposited in a lock box in case of a recount and mandates .5% of districts at random do a recount to verify accuracy of the machines.
  • by visionsofmcskill ( 556169 ) <vision AT getmp DOT com> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:15PM (#7467230) Homepage Journal
    For the first ten years (minimum) every one of these voting systems should print out a physical copy of voters selections for them to doule check and for submision in the ballot box (just like now)....

    From that point the ballots should be counted in the traditional manner and used to audit the eletronic reports. If there is any significiant discrepency the paper ballots should take precedence. This procedure should continue until the eletronic voting process is as reliably accurate as the ballot method for a period of years.

    After that point we can take the electronic method as the primary method, witht he printed results being automaticly placed into a ballot box connected to these machines.

    If there is ever a time the printed ballot form should cease to exist i cannot for-see it right now. If there isnt physical evidence of the voting process somewhere, i feel highly dubious as to the integrity of the entire system.


  • Corruption? (Score:2, Funny)

    by jemfinch ( 94833 )
    The only corruption here is the horrible corruption of the English language that somehow lead to CmdrTaco thinking "to savage" meant "to ravage."

  • from the author of 'caligula', the motion picture.

    take it or leave it.
    • ... well do you wanna go into the movie carreer of Ronald Reagan then? If that is the case I am sure that anything Reagan did or said is automatically disqualified due to his god aweful movies. ... then we can analyze Arnolds fine acting carreer if you wish.
  • I hardly believe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bigjnsa500 ( 575392 )
    I will hardly ever believe anything coming from a California paper or magazine. All this bigotry and hatred for anything Bush is totally ruining this country. You want change? Fine, then vote them out of office. But to constantly blast anybody in the media who doesn't think like you do, or believe in what you believe is like a child throwing a tantrum.

    Stop bitching and moaning and get out there and DO something about it. Jeez...

    That's the last political statement I will make on /.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Voting against Bush only works if the votes get counted.
    • Yeah, it is criticism that is ruining this country. Afterall this country was built upon consent and not dissent... I mean those damn pesky commies daring to say somethign bad about our beloved Fuhrer!

      Bastards! I right there with you brother, btw may I say you look smashingly good in you brown shirt today.
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06@ema i l .com> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:15PM (#7467239)
    led away to his Guantanamo relocation center, he was quoted as saying ...oh, wait. The Official Information Minister has informed me that reporting Vidal's final statement would make me an enemy combatant, and would mean that the terrorists had won. And that would be doubleplusungood.
  • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:17PM (#7467270) Journal
    Why do I care what a popular salon owner says about this issue?
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:17PM (#7467273)
    Vidal may be a notorious blue-blood, and clearly a luddite, but nonetheless he is the source of an incredible amount of scathing invective tracing back to The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, which somewhat dated now, is still biting.

    Vidal is one of America's sharpest social critics, although he only operates as a critic. He ran for office once but I suspect he would be a failure as a career politician despite his family ties.

  • ...all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption?'."

    No, I'm sad to say, it's the American way.

  • Slashdot hasn't been producing enough subtle leftist spin while michael has been out. Guess CT is trying to make up for it...
  • by !Squalus ( 258239 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:19PM (#7467305) Homepage
    We need these things to be built upon Open and Inspectable Source and on machines that the public can trust as giving valid results. Otherwise - it is all BS. I have been calling for a Corporation for Public Software to do just this. I continue to do so.

    This simply is too important to allow hacked machines to spit out as answer that somebody pre-determined in a back-room deal.

    We can do something about it now, or we can pay the consequences of an untrusted election system come next year. The choices are few, the ooportunities many. Write me off as stupid if you just don't give a rat's, but you will sooner or later.

  • Must be Bush's fault (Score:2, Informative)

    by obsid1an ( 665888 )
    We don't want an election without a paper trail...all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption?

    And if Clinton was president odds are they would be donating to Clinton. It may be corruption, but at least it's universal.

    • Well, if you just go to and look it up, you could see who they were donating to while Clinton was president. Three Republican senate campaigns (Voinovich, Faricloth, Dewine) and the RNC. That's all, at least since '97 when they got involved in Deibold. None of the three he speaks of ever donated to Clinton.
  • by SplendidIsolatn ( 468434 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ntalosididnelps.> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:21PM (#7467355)
    Marge: So, did you call any of your friends?0
    Lisa: Friend? [scoffs] These are my only friends.
    [holds up a book]
    Grownup nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he's kissed more boys
    than I ever will.
    Marge: Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.

  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:22PM (#7467360)
    all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration

    Everyone who pays taxes in the US is a "donor" to the executive branch. Perhaps you mean the Bush campaign? In that case, you may be suprised that most companies actually donate pretty equally to both sides just to cover the bases. What were these companies' total donations to political campaigns compared to just to just Bush's? Without that info, this is a meaninglessly paranoid "article".
    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:39PM (#7467656)
      Go do a google for "Diebold" and "Republican." Browse a bit. Sample result:

      "Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc., this week sent out letters to central Ohio Republicans asking them to raise $10,000 in donations in time for a Sept. 26 Ohio Republican Party event at his home."
      -- Port Clinton News Herald []

      Wally O'Dell has sworn to deliver Ohio's electoral votes for G.W. next year. That's well beyond the level of the generality you've just expressed.

      And no, companies and industries don't give money equally. In some industries they do, in some there's a much more slanted bias. Think the energy industry's giving money to Howard Dean much? Trial lawyers give money to Democrats. HMOs give money to Republicans. For some mysterious reason, there's a very real Republican slant among these vote-counting companies. We're not talking about them covering their bases both ways, we're talking about openly advocating for one party while selling machines that count votes.

  • by jdruyjdruy ( 723939 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:22PM (#7467377)
    If we're talking about paper voting, don't paper mill companies give big bucks to the Republican party?
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by schon ( 31600 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:24PM (#7467404)
    The USA PATRIOT Act is as despotic as anything Hitler came up with -- even using much of the same language.

    Really? The PATRIOT act was written in German? :o)
  • Guys, this is the man who wrote "Caligula". He is more intimately linked to many bad and savagable works of humanatiy than most of us will ever be. If he says that e-voting is bad, who am I to doubt it?
  • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) * on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:27PM (#7467457) Journal
    In this, Gore calls the current US administration Despotism several times. This is not true yet because the American people still have the power to reverse it by voting new rulers in. How long this will be tolerated though is another question. Look at how the risk of being voted out has caused problems for Bush - the Whitehouse is having to draw up plans for pulling forces out of Iraq due to its unpopularity and the looming elections. I'm sure they would love to stop the stupid people exerting such an influence on their superior plans :)

    Or maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps the USA already is a despotic state but with better PR. After all the last election wasn't actually won by Bush, and there was that scene of Republicans battering down the doors of the Democrat offices where they were holding ballots. You wont know if you're living in a dictatorship until you test the boundaries. But if the voting machines get in then you'll lose your chance.

    Gore also mentions the partiot act part II which he condemns utterly. An old quote I came across recently now seems frighteningly prescient:

    The process by which a determined organization can seize control of a government was encapsulated in a 1957 book by Jan Kozak, a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The first step involves having the organization's own people infiltrate the government. These infiltrators... must be in a position to bring in at least some legislation.

    The second step is to create a real or alleged grievance with the government. This involves either an action the government took, or a required action it failed to take. The third step is to field a mob in reaction to the manufactured grievance, demanding that the government solve the problem by legislation. The fourth step is for the conspirators to bring in legislation - oppressive legislation - that fails to solve the problem.

    The last three steps are repeated again and again. The mob demands more and more legislation, which the government enacts, until the government has become totalitarian... which was the initial goal of the conspirators.
    --Gurps Illuminati, by Nigel D. Findley, used without permission but with Just Cause(tm).

    • Excellent points all round. See also this report [] from Greg Palast at BBC Newsnight that shows one of the conspirators _literally_ running away when confronted by the fact that the state of Florida paid a lot of money to have a purge list from the electoral roles checked for its accuracy, but the work was not carried out.

      Thousands of innocent black and latino voters were prevented from voting. Gore "lost" by less than 600 votes.

    • After all the last election wasn't actually won by Bush,

      Please point me to a link to one recount effort by the press that would have resulted in a Gore victory in Florida.
      • While I don't want to put words in the mouth of the guy you're actually replying to, Bush didn't win the popular vote no matter how things are recounted--he won the electoral vote. And, the question of whether the way the election was actually decided was appropriate is a separate question from the vote count. Bush was, in effect, selected by the Supreme Court. Yes, you're right that subsequent investigation showed that Bush would have won the electoral vote regardless; that doesn't make me more comfortable

      • by malibucreek ( 253318 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @07:06PM (#7469419) Homepage 74.gif

        If you count every ballot on which a candidate preference could be determined, including ballots in which a voter punched the chad and then wrote in the name of that same candidate, Al Gore wins Florida by 107 votes.
  • Left vs. Right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AdamHaun ( 43173 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:30PM (#7467512) Journal
    I really wish we could abolish "Left", "Right", "Liberal", and "Conservative" from political language. They've become no more than insults. The "Left" is in charge? Oh, then the "Right" is a bunch of evil zealots come to crush us under their heels! The "Right" is in charge? Now the "Left" is a bunch of evil terrorist sympathizers who want to bring about the downfall of America!

    Stop it. Just stop it.

    It disgusts me how easily people are blinded by their preferred camp. Both major parties(and their associated platforms) have major problems. Pretending otherwise is foolish, but it seems that that's just what people want to do. It's especially amusing when we have repeats of previous incidents that garner the same response from opposite sites. Clinton lies about blowjob? IMPEACH!(if "Right"), FORGIVE!(if "Left"). Bush lies about WMDs? CONDEMN!(if "Left"), IGNORE!(if "Right"). Sound similar? They are! What happened to lying itself being bad? Why won't people admit that their own side can fuck up too?

    It doesn't matter which side you claim to be on. Evaluate people based on what they do, not what views they pay lip service to. If you do otherwise, you're just being a sheep.

    And for the love of all that is good and right in the world, come up with some new insults while you're at it!
    • Re:Left vs. Right (Score:4, Insightful)

      by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:47PM (#7468542)
      Clinton lies about blowjob? IMPEACH!(if "Right"), FORGIVE!(if "Left"). Bush lies about WMDs? CONDEMN!(if "Left"), IGNORE!(if "Right"). Sound similar? They are!

      They may sound similar but they really aren't. Clinton lied about a personal sexual affair, like just about every married man would've. The right wing response was impeachment which was an insane overreaction designed to massively damage the Democratic party and help the Republican's win the next election which they did, by hook or crook. They got away with it because they controlled the House at the time. The founding fathers designed impeachement as a tool of last resort, not as a poltical tool to be used in such a petty manner.

      Contrast this with Bush's big lie on Iraq where there was apparently an intentional campaign of deception to fabricate a case for a war. It led to tens of thousands of people, and hundreds of Americans, getting killed and 100's of billions of dollars disappearing in a quagmire. It may well lead to more attacks against the U.S. in the long run, not less, since most of the world is now inflamed against the U.S. and now views the U.S. as the biggest threat to a stable, peaceful world. It is also unfathomable how anyone thinks Iraq will be a stable pro Western democracy anytime soon . The majority in Iraq are Shia who will eventually vote for an Islamic republic, like Iran's. The Sunni and Kurd minorities are unlikely to ever tolerate Shia dominance. I doubt the Bush administration really thought any of this out past "shock and awe".

      The Democratic response to Bush's big lie has been nothing but empty rhetoric since they are completely devoid of power at present. If the Republican's succeed in rigging or buying future elections, in stacking the Judiciary with right wingers and in doing away with the fillibuster in the Senate the last checks and balances the founding fathers designed to restrain them will be gone. Today's bizarre 30 hour session in the Senate is all about eliminating the last checks against their unrestrained power, the Senate fillibuster and a balanced judiciary.

      It is true both political parties, or more likely all political parties are corrupt. But today's Republican party is going off the scale both in its fanaticism and its willingness to use any means necessary to take and hold power. The Republicans appear to be dedicated to a goal of a white male dominated, far right, fundementalist Christian global empire pandering to a plutocracy, small in number but vast in wealth. They also have control of an extremely powerful military, intelligence and police apparatus that can and may well be suppressing dissent at home and abroad.

    • Re:Left vs. Right (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 )

      I really wish we could abolish "Left", "Right", "Liberal", and "Conservative" from political language. They've become no more than insults.

      While it's true that they are often used as insults and inaccurate labels, they have a place. If the words didn't exist we'd invent some. If you have groups of things, be they people, animals, or even concepts, they'll get labelled. It's true even if the groups are fuzzy. While the labels can be harmful, they can prove useful tools to identify people with similar v

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:30PM (#7467516) Journal
    How hard would it be to hack up a cash register to work as a voting machine, complete with e-reporting to the vote counting center and printing of a hardcopy receipt in duplicate, one for the backup ballot box and one for the customer?

    You could revel in your contribution to democracy with the sound of the cha-ching! .

    "Every time a bell rings, a founding father gets his wings."
  • by boatboy ( 549643 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:32PM (#7467546) Homepage
    I live in Mississippi, where they're still untangling a mess made by malfunctioning electronic voting machines that do have a paper reciept deposited in lock boxes. As just an example of things that can still go wrong:
    -Some poll workers didn't put reciepts in lock boxes.
    -Some poll workers decided to "manually enter" data from back-up paper ballots once they got the machines working.
    -Some reciepts/machines did not make it back to the main office until two days after elections.
    -State law requires initials on paper reciepts. Some unititaled ones were counted anyway.
    And before you come down too hard on Bush, it's the Dems who are benefiting here. From a developer standpoint it is clear to me that the problem is poor system design. Every company is trying to design an electronic equivalent to a paper process that is already suprisingly flawed. For example, because of civil rights issues, it is illegal to require a voter ID here. Which means in the electronic world, you cannot store a 1-to-1 relationship between a voter and a vote. What needs to be done is a standard design process: gather requirements, design the system, and implement it. Because state and federal laws come into play, legislatures should be envolved in the whole process and revamp laws where necessary. In the end, it all comes down to poor design.
  • by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @05:23PM (#7468234)
    The EFF [] is running an action alert on the Voter confidence and Increased Accessability act of 2003 which mandates public review of the machines (i.e. opening the source for review) and including paper recipts for recounts. U.S. Citizens can go here [] to submit a letter to your congressional rep.

    What's a few minutes of your time for democracy?
  • Sour grapes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rnd() ( 118781 ) on Friday November 14, 2003 @12:08AM (#7471382) Homepage
    Gore Vidal is related (albeit distantly) to Al Gore. Doesn't this sound like sour grapes to you? Plus, he's got a new book out so he's probably going after some free publicity. The new book looks pretty good, though, I must say.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann