Computer voting more frightening after watching the movie “Recount”

June 5, 2008 – I was delayed in beginning the column last Sunday night, the time which I started writing it years ago when I was teaching at Ole Miss, to watch a rather disturbing movie on HBO.

“Recount” was the Hollywood title of the rather frightening movie about the 2000 Presidential election, in which George W. Bush was essentially declared winner by the Florida legislature and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The candidates were essentially tied in Florida with Bush showing a slight lead.
It was close. Close enough under Florida law to ask for a “by-hand” recount, which was done by Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris. But the deadline she set for the recount in only four counties could not be met.
Her first call for a recount, according to the movie and news accounts at the time, was not “by-hand,” but by rerunning the memory cards from the voting machines.
Then the four-county recount deadline could not be met, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kevin Spacey, the main character in the movie, was cast as Ron Klain, Gore’s chief of staff when he was vice-president. Klain was demoted in the presidential election effort and was working as an attorney in the headquarters.
The movie was made more frightening to me after I saw a TV special on how a computer hacker changed a memory card for a computer to change the vote. It showed the right number of votes, but changed most of them to produce a different outcome.
•I think the bottom line may be that I have too much time to watch TV due to being on oxygen all the time. The two bottles with the home unit I have will last some five hours each, which is not enough to get very far out of town for very long.
However, I have a new and additional device that will run off an electrical socket, the cigarette lighter in an automobile or rechargeable batteries for up to 12 hours.
It, like the big home unit, separates the nitrogen which is some 80 percent of the air from the remaining 20 percent which is mostly oxygen.
My expectation is to increase the radius of my travels.
The oxygen doesn’t have anything to do with kidney failure. It was prescribed as a result of congestive heart failure. We noticed in physical therapy that my oxygen level was running too low, and I had to increase the amount I was using. For several months I had been using low levels of oxygen at night and during dialysis.
Maybe with more freedom, I can quit worrying about elections and such.
•The two programs on voting and vote counting reminded me about the discussions about “chad,“ which they said in the movie was both the singular and plural form. A chad is the small bit of paper created when it is punched, as is, or was, done in many voting precincts.
In Calhoun it all used to be marked paper ballots, then scanners or “readers” which counted blacked out portions on the ballot, and now it is “touch screen.”
The big deal with hanging chad was that in running through an automatic counter, the chad may be pulled back over the hole and the vote isn’t counted.
There was also some discussion in regard to punch card voting, about whether a dimple made by the punch, which didn’t make a chad, was an indication of what the voter meant to do.
•All these recollections about voting and possible voting fraud carries me back to a story I heard years ago about the election of a county supervisor in another part of the state.
The supervisor knew he was likely to get defeated at reelection time, and he knew he could get access to the ballot boxes in the circuit clerk’s office before the election commission convened the next day and certified the winners.
He had more ballots printed up that looked almost like the real ones, but on even casual inspection, would look bogus.
He and his henchmen opened a big box in which he knew his opponent got most of the votes. They marked the bogus ballots just like the originals had been marked, and the commissioners spotted the difference in the ballots and threw out, or didn’t certify, that box.
So the new total showed him to be the winner. This story was told to me by someone who knew the names and players. I didn’t know any of them, but I found the story intriguing.

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