Calls mount to abolish Voter News Service

Calls mount to abolish Voter News Service

By Joe Baker

Calls mount to abolish Voter News Service

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Election reporting in this country, at least at the national level, is in a state of disarray. After the sorry performance of the big TV networks last November, there is a growing cry for reform.

Even Voter News Service, the source of erroneous information broadcast by all five networks, is having serious doubts. VNS hired its own study of its election night performance. The report was not flattering. Now VNS is trying to decide whether to revamp its operation or scrap it and build something completely new.

The Bush Justice Department has been asked by an antitrust advocacy group to attempt to break up VNS. The Justice Department said it will take a look at the question. The American Antitrust Institute is composed of lawyers, academics and businessmen.

Last Friday, an independent report, commissioned by CNN, charged the networks with “abuse of power” and said the media confused the public and interfered with democracy on election night.

It said nothing about the fact that the networks and VNS have been doing this for the past 25 years.

The report labeled the networks’ election night performance “a debacle.” It was written by three experienced journalists, including Ben Wattenberg.

“Television interfered with the electoral process and the election result,” the report said. “In our opinion, that constitutes an abuse of power, if unintentionally so, by CNN and by all the mainstream television news operations.”

CNN responded by saying it will pay for an independent vote-analysis system and will no longer use exit projections to report close races.

At the same time, ABC News declared that in future election reports, it will independently verify all information from VNS before broadcasting it.

These moves are symptomatic of the heavy damage to credibility suffered by the networks when they twice called and then retracted “winners” in Florida on election night.

As you have read in these pages earlier,

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Voter News Service furnished tabulations and exit poll data to all five networks and the Associated Press. That data was criticized as flawed. The CNN report said VNS used outdated technology, and the networks did not upgrade it.

It well may be that the ruling powers have decided to dump VNS as no longer needed. An indication of that is the big push to pass the Schumer-Brownback bill in Congress.

This is a measure advanced by Sen. Charles Schumer,D-NY, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-KS. Illinois’ Sen. Richard Durbin says the bill is needed to improve accuracy and accessibility. Durbin claims it would not change state and local control over elections.

Not mentioned is that the underlying objective of this move is to put in place optical scanner-type voting machines across the country as an interim step to global Internet voting.

None of the politicians mentions that when the optical scanner machines—like those in Rockford—are installed, they either contain two-way modems or a computer chip. Either can be manipulated via satellite or cell phone from a central location.

Further, they leave no “audit trail.” Once you cast your vote, there is no way to tell what happens to it. It is impossible to tell how it was counted and who received it. Your vote even may go to the candidate you opposed. You’ll never know.

Nor does this bill do anything about removing the vote tabulation from the hands of private vendors and putting it back where the Constitution says it belongs…in the control of the U.S. Senate.

Durbin is critical of paper ballots, branding them outdated technology. Yet, the Canadians counted 13 million paper ballots in about four hours. No chads, no recounts, no lawsuits. In addition, the precinct results can be posted before the ballots are taken to the central counting place. That quashes the ability to rig the election outcome from a central location.

Sen. Durbin cites Brazil, where a touch-screen voting system, using American-made machines, is in place. He lauds the speed and vote-recording capability of these machines.

He does not mention that the top politicians in Brazil are fuming at the results, claiming this system compromised the integrity of Brazil’s elections. You may argue they had little before, but now there is no way to know if their vote was rigged, who rigged it, or how it was done.

If we follow Schumer and Brownback, we will have the same situation in this country. It is later than we think. These optical machines are being used in several large and small cities across the country.

Along with the effort to install Internet voting, there is an accompanying drive to abolish the Electoral College, one of the last checks and balances in the electoral process that we have. The power structure wants nothing in its way, now that it has found a nearly foolproof way to perpetuate itself in office.

Durbin is right when he says: “Election reform is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It is an American issue, and one we can and should address in a bipartisan manner.”

There’s a national commission on election standards. Let’s see them put those words into practice.

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