Newspaper logo  
  The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy


The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy

by Thom Hartmann

Why are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote, in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes the Bible should replace the Constitution?
NOV 4, 2004--The hot story in the Blogosphere is that the "erroneous" exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among other states) weren't erroneous at all--it was the numbers produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and Kerry actually won. As more and more analysis is done of what may (or may not) be the most massive election fraud in the history of the world, however, it's critical that we keep the largest issue at the forefront at all time: Why are We The People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only to agendas and politicians that will enhance their profitability, to handle our votes?

Maybe Florida went for Kerry, maybe for Bush. Over time--and through the efforts of some very motivated investigative reporters--we may well find out (Bev Harris of just filed what may be the largest Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] filing in history), and bloggers and investigative reporters are discovering an odd discrepancy in exit polls being largely accurate in paper-ballot states and oddly inaccurate in touch-screen electronic voting states Even raw voter analyses are showing extreme oddities in touch-screen-run Florida, and eagle-eyed bloggers are finding that news organizations are retroactively altering their exit polls to coincide with what the machines ultimately said.

In Germany, people fill in hand-marked ballots, which are hand-counted by civil servants taking a week off from their regular jobs, watched over by volunteer representatives of the political parties. It's totally clean, and easily audited.

But in all the discussion about voting machines, let's never forget the concept of the commons, because this usurpation is the ultimate felony committed by Bush-variety "conservatives" this year.

At the founding of this nation, we decided that there were important places to invest our tax (then tariff) dollars, and those were the things that had to do with the overall "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" of all of us. Over time, these commons--in which we all make tax investments and for which we all hold ultimate responsibility--have come to include our police and fire services; our military and defense; our roads and skyways; our air, waters and national parks; and the safety of our food and drugs.

But the most important of all the commons in which we've invested our hard-earned tax dollars is our government itself. It's owned by us, run by us (through our elected representatives), answerable to us, and most directly responsible for stewardship of our commons.

And the commons through which we regulate the commons of our government is our vote.

About two years ago, I wrote a story, "If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines," that exposed how Senator Chuck Hagel had, before stepping down and running for the US Senate in Nebraska, been the head of the voting machine company (now ES&S) that had just computerized Nebraska's vote. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, nearly all on unauditable machines he had just sold the state. And in all probability, Hagel will run for President in 2008.

In another, later article I wrote at the request of and which they mailed to their millions of members, I noted that in Georgia--another state that went all-electronic--"USA Today reported on Nov. 3, 2002, 'In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49%-to-44% lead over Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss.' Cox News Service, based in Atlanta, reported just after the election (Nov. 7) that, "Pollsters may have goofed" because 'Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. The Hotline, a political news service, recalled a series of polls Wednesday showing that Chambliss had been ahead in none of them.'" Nearly every vote in the state was on an electronic machine with no audit trail.

In the years since those first articles appeared, Bev Harris has published her book on the subject (Black Box Voting), including the revelation of her finding the notorious "Rob Georgia" folder on Diebold's FTP site just after Cleland's loss there; Lynn Landes has done some groundbreaking research, particularly her new investigation of the Associated Press, as have Rebecca Mercuri and David Dill. There's a new video out on the topic, "Votergate," available at

Congressman Rush Holt introduced a bill into Congress requiring a voter-verified paper ballot be produced by all electronic voting machines, and it's been co-sponsored by a majority of the members of the House of Representatives. The two-year battle fought by Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay to keep it from coming to a vote, thus insuring that there will be no possible audit of the votes of about a third of the 2004 electorate, has fueled the flames of conspiracy theorists convinced Republican ideologues--now known to be willing to lie in television advertising--would extend their "ends justifies the means" morality to stealing the vote "for the better good of the country" they think single-party Republican rule will bring.

Thomas Paine wrote, "The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."

Most important, though, the rallying cry of the emerging "honest vote" movement must become: Get Corporations Out Of Our Vote!

Why have we let corporations into our polling places, locations so sacred to democracy that in many states even international election monitors and reporters are banned? Why are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote, in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes the Bible should replace the Constitution; in another case run by one of Ohio's top Republicans; and in another case partly owned by Saudi investors?

Of all the violations of the commons--all of the crimes against We The People and against democracy in our great and historic republic--this is the greatest. Our vote is too important to outsource to private corporations.

It's time that the USA--like most of the rest of the world--returns to paper ballots, counted by hand by civil servants (our employees) under the watchful eye of the party faithful. Even if it takes two weeks to count the vote, and we have to just go, until then, with the exit polls of the news agencies. It worked just fine for nearly 200 years in the USA, and it can work again.

When I lived in Germany, they took the vote the same way most of the world does--people fill in hand-marked ballots, which are hand-counted by civil servants taking a week off from their regular jobs, watched over by volunteer representatives of the political parties. It's totally clean, and easily audited. And even though it takes a week or more to count the vote (and costs nothing more than a bit of overtime pay for civil servants), the German people know the election results the night the polls close because the news media's exit polls, for two generations, have never been more than a tenth of a percent off.

We could have saved billions that have instead been handed over to ES&S, Diebold, and other private corporations.

Or, if we must have machines, let's have them owned by local governments, maintained and programmed by civil servants answerable to We The People, using open-source code and disconnected from modems, that produce a voter-verified printed ballot, with all results published on a precinct-by-precinct basis.

As Thomas Paine wrote at this nation's founding, "The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."

Only when We The People reclaim the commons of our vote can we again be confident in the integrity of our electoral process in the world's oldest and most powerful democratic republic.

Thom Hartmann ( is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. is most recent books are The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights, We The People: A Call To Take Back America, and What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy.

This article was also published on, and is republished in the Chronicle with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2004 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on November 6, 2004.

Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education

10.04 The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

Open Letters:

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

10.04 Watch out for the MEGATSUNAMI: Scientists find evidence of 800ft wave caused by a collapsing volcano and say it could happen again

10.04 Most Efficient Commercial Solar Panels In USA To Come From SolarCity?

10.04 Air quality: governments woo the motor industry with dire results [The Big Issue: Letters to The Observer]

10.04 Car emissions test body receives 70% of cash from motor industry [It's the "conservative" model of regulation]

10.04 Right-wing hate can't kill widespread love for Planned Parenthood

10.03 Major corporations taking climate change threat more seriously – survey

10.03 Lack of electricity locks people in poverty – low-carbon energy is the key

10.02 VW scandal deepens as France and Italy launch deception inquiries

10.02 Energy co-ops: why the UK has nothing on Germany and Denmark

10.02 India unveils climate change plan

10.01 UK government wrong to subsidise diesel, says former minister

10.01 America's Most Notorious Coal Baron Goes on Trial This Week. Here's the Epic Tale of His Rise and Fall [Is delayed mass murder nothing at all?]

10.01 Cecile Richards: The Target at the Planned Parenthood Hearings

News Media Matters

10.01 Bernie Sanders is getting screwed: This is why the networks are ignoring him for Donald Trump

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

10.04 Robert Reich: The Washington Post’s new attack on Bernie Sanders is bunk

10.03 Oregon shooting occurred in state that 'actually forces colleges to allow guns'

10.03 Oregon shooting: Jeb Bush says 'stuff happens' as left calls for gun control

10.03 Oregon shooting aftermath: eight ways to stop gun massacres in the US

10.03 'Thoughts and prayers are not enough': Why the US has so many mass shootings [Graphic: 994 mass shootings in 1,004 days]

10.03 Obama, Guns, and the Politics of Hopelessness

10.02 What Effect Will Shuttering Alabama DMV Offices Have on Black Voters? [It's what Republicans do]

10.02 A State-by-State Map of Where Immigrants Came From [interactive map]

10.02 Let’s be honest, they’re idiots: The embarrassing truth about the unqualified, underprepared GOP field

10.02 As Governor, Bush Embraced His Inner “Veto Corleone”

10.02 Ben Carson and the Satanic Sabbath Persecution Conspiracy [a beautiful mind is a terrible thing to waste]

10.02 Vatican: pope did not show support for Kim Davis

10.02 'Another mass shooting in America': Oregon killings a grim familiarity for US [videos]

Justice Matters

10.02 Will the Criminal-Justice System Actually Be Reformed?

10.01 The Slave-State Origins of Modern Gun Rights

High Crimes?

10.03 Delayed Justice: Trial Against Ex-Chad Dictator a Legal Milestone

Economics, Crony Capitalism

10.01 Gauis Publius: What Sanders Can Accomplish by Not Acting

10.01 Toys ‘R’ Us Brings Temporary Foreign Workers to U.S. to Move Jobs Overseas

10.01 How the banks ignored the lessons of the crash [the Long Read]

10.01 Senator Elizabeth Warren to Join Call to Alter Sales of Distressed Loans


10.04 Paris’s first attempt at car-free day brings big drop in air and noise pollution

10.04 Inside the Indian village where a mob killed a man for eating beef

10.04 Gulf states plan military response as Putin raises the stakes in Syria

10.03 VW Tsunami: Falsified Emissions Push Company to Limits

10.03 The Portuguese Miracle: Young Entrepreneurs Lead Country Out of Crisis

10.03 Death toll rises in suspected US airstrike on Afghan hospital [videos]

10.03 German reunification 25 years on: how different are east and west really

10.03 Calais refugee camp conditions diabolical, says report

10.03 German reunification 25 years on: how different are east and west really

10.02 Russia admits targeting non-Isis groups in Syria as airstrikes continue [videos]

10.02 Sweden's liberal reputation tarnished as race attacks rise

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
This site Web

Public Service Ads: