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Viewpoint: National vote probe a farce

July 1, 1993

Viewpoint: National vote probe a farce

By Joe Baker

National vote probe a farce

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

The Chicago Tribune’s headline promised a major overhaul of U.S. voting practices. “Florida vote probe to go nationwide,” it said.

It seemed as though finally somebody would dig into the issue of vote fraud and rigged elections. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights just wound up a six-months’ probe of the recent Florida presidential election.

Now, in a few months, the commission is coming to Illinois to look into our election performance and then will move on to other states; the whole nation, in fact.

The Tribune said Illinois had 190,000 uncounted presidential votes according to their analysis of the election. That’s more uncounted votes than were discovered in Florida. In Chicago and Cook County alone, the newspaper said, there were almost 123,000 untabulated votes.

This sounded really good. Now the whole rotten mess will get exposed. Maybe some people will be indicted, I thought. Hold the phone. The commission has no power to prosecute.

Beyond that, it is looking only at violations of the Voting Rights Act. There were plenty of those, to be sure. But the commission said it found no evidence of conspiracy or fraud.

That, to me, says whitewash. What about all the Mickey Mouse with hanging chad and dimpled chad and all that other suspicious nonsense?

What about the monkey business with the absentee ballots? Or the great potential for manipulation of the tabulating. The commission apparently sees nothing strange or out of line with the spectacle of public elections being counted by private companies who are answerable to no one.

Yes, there is no doubt that African-American and Hispanic voters were cheated out of their right to vote in Florida and elsewhere, but there was more going on than that.

Each party, Republicans and Democrats, had its scheme to steal the election. The GOP plan won out because it had more money to work with, and it controlled more local and state officials in Florida, specifically the Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Governor Jeb Bush.

No one, however, is addressing the underlying faults in the electoral process as mentioned above. The best the commission can do is make recommendations to the president and Congress on reforming our elections.

We need a hard-nosed group with prosecutorial powers, whatever its designation, that will go out and really dig into such things as Voter News Service and determine what the story is there. They also ought to investigate every county setup and determine who really controls that vote, who is the vendor and how much is that company paid.

The commission has asked the Department of Justice to study possible violations of the Voting Rights Act. Don’t hold your breath. This is the same Justice Department, then headed by Janet Reno back in the ’70s, that rejected overwhelming evidence of election fraud in Florida and ordered the arrests of the investigative reporters who presented that evidence.

Commissioners plan to return to Florida next year to ensure that voting reforms are implemented, including banning the punch card system and installing optical character reader machines. That will merely insure that the machines can be easily manipulated because they leave no audit trail—practically a guarantee of rigged elections.

While this is going on, the five national tv networks and several metropolitan dailies and the AP have said they will retain their memberships in Voter News Service, the consortium that tabulates the national vote. Not one story said that these are the entities that own VNS.

As for a successful reform of our electoral process, a comment of a former colleague of mine comes to mind. He said: “I am not overly confident at this time.”

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