When you cast a vote, should it be counted just as you cast it? Well, of course, you shout! After all, voting is sacrosanct. Why wouldn't every single one of our votes count just as each voter intended?
They should. But during the past decade, state and local election authorities have ever-so-quietly allowed a little intrusion to come between the casting and the counting of our votes. The intrusion is called "privatization."
Balloting, which has historically and properly been a purely public function in our country, now relies largely on electronic machines that are made and controlled by a handful of corporations. There have been beaucoup problems with those corporate machines: they're easily hacked, they break down on election day, they divert votes from one candidate to another, they drop votes, they mysteriously add votes — and, they're expensive.
But the greatest problem is with the privatization concept itself. Voting is not a commodity or industry, it's a democratic right. To allow private interests to control the balloting mechanism (including their refusal to reveal the software code for tallying ballots) is a sacrilege that destroys public trust in electoral integrity.
Yet, this privatization is about to be made geometrically worse by monopolization. The largest purveyor of voting machines, ES&S, intends to buy out the second largest, now owned by the notorious Diebold Corp. This sale would give ES&S monopoly control of the voting systems in the vast majority of our cities and states.
Anti-trust officials must stop this monopolization of America's most basic democratic process. More fundamentally, though, we must restore full public ownership and management of our voting systems.
For more information, call the reform group, Fair Vote: 301/270-4616.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.
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