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When I was in grade school, back in the dark ages when our parents used mechanical voting machines with little levers next to the names, our teachers took us to the gym for what they called “mock elections.”  We got to pull down the little levers and open the curtain with a long handle which recorded our vote and cleared the machine for the next person.  It was a given that all good citizens voted and that democracy was guaranteed for all of us.

Fast forward to Florida in late 2000 or Ohio in late 2004.  Democracy guaranteed?  Not a chance.

Could Missouri be the next victim?

On Tuesday, December 15, Brad Friedman of BradBlog brought his latest subversive documentary to the main campus of Webster University.  The title, “Murder, Spies and Voting Lies” sounds kind of corny and hyperbolic.  It’s not.

It’s the story of Clint Curtis, a software designer from Florida who was asked to write a “vote flipping” program for GOP bigwigs back in 2000.  At the time, Curtis was a loyal GOP but not crazy about doing something nefarious.  Long story short, he did what he was asked to do by his employer, Yang Enterprises, but quit when he suspected something fishy was going on.  As of last week, Curtis was still alive and has run for office twice in Florida and lost.  An investigator putting together the case was not so lucky.  He turned up dead in a motel in Valdosta, GA, just before he was to turn over his findings.  All kinds of strange things continue to happen to this day.  

Why could Missouri be the next victim?    

Friedman thinks Missouri is a prime target because our elections are so close.  As he said, people who know how to rig elections are like the Mafia.  They don’t go for the billion dollar heist.  They take a little here, a little there.  A few votes flipped in this county, a few hundred names purged from the list in another county, and pretty soon you’re talking election night victory parties.

Electronic voting machines use secret software and secret vote counting that we, the people, are not allowed to inspect.  Touch-screen vote counting equipment (DRE’s) run on privately-owned software that can never be tested by public officials, is vulnerable to hacking and creates election results that can’t be audited without assuming the software worked correctly.

And, no, the little spool of paper tape is NOT a “paper trail.”  According to Cynthia Richards, president of Missourians for Honest Elections when voters in St. Louis County were asked if they looked at the paper behind the glass door to see if their vote was properly recorded, most of them said they either didn’t bother, forgot to look or couldn’t see the print.

About a dozen states have de-certified the DRE’s they were using because of problems they created, and Missouri could too.  Richards said when she and other citizens concerned about this problem  visited with Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s staff, no one at SOS could refute the charges made against the DRE’s.  Neither could they say why Secretary Carnahan hasn’t used her authority to de-certify the machines.

Having failed with Secretary Carnahan, Missourians for Honest Elections found state representatives to introduce a bill in 2009 to require paper ballots in Missouri.  While the bill did get a hearing in committee, it was never brought up for a vote.  Not to be deterred, MoHonElections is currently lobbying state reps to join Rep. Mike McGhee in sponsoring similar legislation in 2010.

As I left the movie Tuesday evening, I commented to a friend that what we really have are “mock elections” for adults now.  If we don’t know for sure if the vote tallies reflect the actual will of the voters, these are not only mock in the sense of being pretend elections, they mock us and our faith in the democratic process.  Maybe that’s okay with a majority of the sleepwalkers in our state, but I’m going to lobby my state rep tomorrow to support this legislation.

For more information, contact Cynthia Richards at (314) 727-6586, crichar03@yahoo.com