Preposterous Universe

Friday, November 26, 2004
Just a lot of allegations

Happy Thanksgiving to all. It seems I was a bit too optimistic about my ability to find the time to guest-blog while traveling (to three different cities -- DC, Baltimore & New York -- in the 3 days before Thanksgiving), so I hope you all have survived without Preposterous Universe this week. I did manage to find time to see the new Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC this past weekend, which is really quite wonderful. Highly recommended.

Although the holidays have slowed down the US news cycle a bit over the past couple of days, not to worry -- our fearless twice-"elected" president hasn't slowed down with the irony, responding to recent events in the Ukraine:
President Bush, in Crawford, Tex., said, "There's just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that placed their election - the validity of their elections in doubt."
Yeah. Their elections aren't the only ones whose validity is still in doubt.

As someone who has been expressing concern about the integrity of the US voting system for the past 3 years or so, I'm pleased at the very least to see a bit of mainstream coverage of the numerous problems that were clearly present in the 2004 election (whether or not they would have changed the final outcome). The Baltimore Sun ran an editiorial today:
MOST MAINSTREAM newspapers have already dismissed stories of voting fraud and voting rights violations in the November election as baseless or irrelevant. Sen. John Kerry's concession is supposed to demonstrate that there is no story here. Give up, go home, it's all over.

But it's not over.

The legitimacy of our democratic process is an issue more important than Mr. Kerry's future or the results of 2004. That legitimacy has been called into question repeatedly over the past few weeks, and doubts will linger as long as credible indications of error, negligence, disenfranchisement and fraud are not addressed.

We would like to believe that voting irregularities were identified and corrected, that participants fulfilled their duties appropriately, that the machines performed reliably and that the total discrepancy between voter intention and recorded results was less than the margin of victory in relevant contests.

But that conclusion must be reached on the basis of evidence, not blind faith.

How can we expect voters - especially young, disadvantaged or newly registered voters - to have faith in our voting system? How can we expect our allies to take seriously U.S. efforts to hold elections in Iraq and elsewhere? How can we be confident that the most fundamental principles of American democracy - one person, one vote; rule by the people; transparency in government - are not in jeopardy?

American legitimacy demands that the news media, the parties and all political leaders take seriously the challenges presented by the 2004 election: We need an audit of the election process, validation of the election results and corrective measures to ensure the legitimacy of future elections.

No reasonable argument can be offered against disclosure and accountability. We can afford whatever expense, inconvenience, distraction and possible embarrassment may be caused by an election audit and congressional investigation. What we cannot afford are unresolved doubts about the legitimacy of our democratic government.

Thanks to pressure from Representatives Holt, Conyers, Nadler, Wexler and others, the GAO is now investigating irregularities in the Nov 2 vote. But that is very unlikely to go far enough. Here's a good first list of things that should be done. Pressure your Representatives to do something about it.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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