December 1, 2004

How Democrats Enabled Republicans to Steal the 2004 Presidential Election

By In Essays

Since the presidential election, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stories on the Internet (and even a few in the mainstream news media) about voter fraud and how easily the 2004 presidential election could have been rigged by the Bush Administration and their corporate allies, Diebold and ES & S, the companies in charge of counting a majority of all the votes in American today.

What isn’t being discussed, however, is the Democratic Party’s complicity in this year’s presidential election farce. If you recall, after the 2000 presidential election, Democrats claimed they were madder than hell about voter fraud, reiterating ad infinitum how the Supreme Court “stole” the election from Al Gore and vowed it would never happen again.

Given their level of anger and righteous indignation, most Americans who voted against George W. Bush assumed that as soon as he slithered into the oval office, the leaders of the Democratic Party would rush to their desks to write legislation that would remedy the problem of voter fraud– once and for all.

In addition, the anti-Bush crowd believed that once Democratic leaders wrote the legislation, that if the Republicans in Congress tried to block it, the Democratic leaders would immediately call press conferences, make the rounds on all the news shows, and proclaim to the American public in the boldest way possible how the Bush Administration was trying to block legislation that mandated open and honest elections with fail safe back up systems and paper trails to verify each vote.

Unfortunately, this never happened. Instead, most Democrats (including John Kerry) got sidetracked by 9/11 and the war in Iraq, allowed two years to pass, and then let the Republicans seize the initiative. How? By allowing the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a lobbying group representing technology firms like Diebold and ES & S, to push legislation through Congress favorable to their interests. As a result, a bill was written called the Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.

Ostensibly, the bill was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was supposed to ameliorate the punch card voting problems that had plagued the 2000 presidential election by using touch screen vote counting machines. In addition, it was supposed to make the entire voting process fairer and more transparent.

The bill was written by two Republicans, Mitch McConnell and Robert W. Ney (of Ohio– surprise, surprise!), and two Democrats, Steny Hoyer and Chris Dodd (a “Golden Leash” award-winner for taking special interest money), and it passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress, receiving praise from Democrats and Republicans alike. Steny Hoyer even went as far as to refer to HAVA as “the first Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century.”

Incredible as it seems, the legislation did nothing to restrict the pervasive control and partisan influence that Diebold and ES & S lorded over the election process, nor did it use language precise enough to mandate that any company that manufactured electronic vote counting machines had to produce a paper trail to verify the authenticity of voter selections.

In essence, HAVA was a complete sham, an extraordinary giveaway to the Republicans, and Diebold and ES & S got exactly they wanted: carte blanche to sell their paperless, touch screen voting machines all over the country. And as soon the Congress shelled out $3.8 billion to state governments for the acquisition of new touch screen voting machines that replaced the old punch card ballots, Diebold and ES & S were there to cash in– big time!

Once the Democrats realized what a monumental mistake they had made with HAVA, they tried to rectify it. Bob Graham and Rush Holt wrote the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003, which would have mandated a paper trail for all electronic voting machines. In addition, Hillary Clinton wrote her own bill (although weaker than the Graham-Holt bill) asking for better vote counting procedures. Naturally, both bills were stalled out in committee, and they had no chance of passage before the 2004 election.

And here’s the kicker: After the aforementioned bills were presented to Congress, both Chris Dodd and Steny Hoyer, the Democrats who co-wrote the HAVA legislation, opposed the two pieces of legislation introduced by their fellow Democrats that would have given it more teeth.

Now let’s do a little critical thinking and ask some obvious questions:

1) Why did Chris Dodd and Steny Hoyer go against their fellow Democrats who proposed legislation that would have strengthened the bill and made it more difficult for companies like Diebold and ES & S to do business? Could it be that they received campaign contributions from ITAA?

2) Why did so many Democrats sign on to the bill in the first place, knowing it did nothing to diminish the pervasive influence of Diebold and ES & S? Didn’t they know that both these companies received financial backing from billionaire Howard Ahmanson, an ultra right-wing financier who, over the past several years, has contributed millions of dollars to fundamentalist Christian organizations, the Heritage Foundation, and other right-wing groups in tight with George W. Bush?

3) Is it possible that many Democrats were simply unaware of Diebold, ES & S and Ahmanson? Possible, but if they weren’t aware, they should have been, because ever since the 1990s, there were numerous reports about their influence on elections, including a nice little piece in 1996 when Republican Chuck Hagel, who at the time had a major financial interest in ES &S, ran for the U.S. Senate and won “stunning upsets” in both the primaries and the general election. 

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