Letters to the Editor

Black Box, Black Hole

Thanks for the great article on Bev Harris ["Black Box Backlash," March 10]. I've been promoting Operation Vote Paper Ballot (www.dirtybush.com) for a long time because, as a witness to the stolen election at ground zero here in Palm Beach County, Fla., I know the electronic machines are nothing more than black holes for votes.

As for those who ridicule and dismiss people like Harris who have done the homework—they only shore up the argument. If they cared about counting all votes regardless of party, they'd join the fight to protect the vote, instead of disparaging those who are doing that patriotic work. As a former Democrat, this is not about party affiliation. (I'd accept George Bush as my president if he had won fairly—and would have rejected Al Gore, had he prevailed, if I thought he had manipulated the vote.)

If the mainstream media had done their job with regard to investigating and reporting on the theft of the presidential election of 2000, the majority of Americans would not still believe the problem was due to "ignorant" Floridians who can't vote. They'd understand that there was a well-orchestrated, multipronged plan in place to ensure the selection of Bush and that next time their candidate could be vulnerable to the same type of attack.

The "conspiracy theory" labelers can bring it on . . . the facts are on my side.

Carolyn Gray

Jupiter, FL

It is great to see the Weekly covering the electronic voting issue. "Black Box Backlash" [March 10] does a good job of repeating the viewpoints of the loudest partisans, but George Howland Jr. does readers a disservice by omitting historical perspective and well-understood solutions to the current electronic voting debacle.

Elections have been bought from corrupt election officials and voting-machine manufacturers since their beginnings. Today, poor software written by unqualified companies, running on hardware that doesn't meet the legal specifications, can hardly be expected to buck the historical trend. Bev Harris' populist calls to throw the baby out with the bathwater shouldn't be pandered to by an investigative newspaper, nor a thoughtful electorate.

There have been academic studies on trustworthy computerized vote counting since the '60s. What we need is vote-counting hardware and software whose design and implementation are available for public scrutiny. (This design must include an auditable paper trail.) Only then can harmful mistakes and intentional back doors be brought to light and remedied. Done properly, electronic voting can dras­tically improve the reliability and trust­worthiness of our electoral process.

Scott Northrop


It's the People, Stupid

I read George Howland Jr.'s article on "black box" voting ["Black Box Backlash," March 10]. While I'm pleased to see this issue getting increasing scrutiny, I think the most underreported and underconsidered issue is that the people who ultimately are responsible for counting votes and running our elections are, in many, many cases, partisan elected officials. Have we forgotten Katherine Harris? Although she makes a great poster child for this phenomenon, she was hardly exceptional in the partisan zeal she exhibited in delivering her party's preferred election outcome.

We should stop pretending it's just about the voting machines and stop assum­ing that all the human players on the field are good guys. That's naive. Does the media believe that a political party that will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy votes at retail in a few key swing states will not spend a few dollars more to get rogue programmers and unnamed collaborators to find an electronic way to steal the necessar­y votes at wholesale by skewing computer voting results to "win" those key state­s?

Florida should have been enough of a clue for all of us; but apparently not, since we are still just arguing about the reliability of the voting machines, and not the people who control them.

John Loftus


Some Conspiracies Are Real

Thank you for George Howland Jr.'s article "Black Box Backlash" [March 10]. It is astounding how he is able to take an issue that threatens the foundations of our republic and render it into print with a tone as bland as vanilla ice milk. To take material that is powerful, frightening, and dangerous in its connotations and succeed in conveying it with less urgency than today's weather forecast seems to me the opposite of what a responsible reporter in this republic should be doing.

As for the continuing "conspiracy theory" demonization, anyone who has a background in history knows that conspira­cies are commonplace. Did the senators arrive in the capital on the ides of March carrying knives by coincidence? And Julius Caesar just happened to get in the way? Does Howland think the Republican Party had lawyers in every county in Florida with a memo on how to fight for, or against, every vote just . . . because they're lawyers? Or that someone flew down Republican congressional staffers to pose as local residents and protest the recount just . . . for fun?

Regarding the voting machines, my brother in retail tells me that if you ever buy something and are not given a receipt, someone is cheating. Either the cashier is cheating the owner, or the owner is cheating on his state taxes. ATMs made by the same companies provide written records. Does Howland think the voting machines were designed differently by accident?

Carol Wolf

O'Neals, CA

Bankrupt Billionaire?

This has to be a joke ["When It Rains, There Are Pores," March 10]! So Paul Allen has decided "to stop funding a losing business" in Portland and has filed for bankruptcy. Yes, I know that he has a legal right to do so. But if one of the richest men in the world files for bankruptcy, who is going to finance his losing business? The answer is obvious: his creditors, including many small and medium-sized businesses; the bondholders; and, I am sure, the taxpayers . . . again! When is the public finally going to get fed up with funding rich men's toys in the form of major-league sports?

Mel Wagner

Shanghai, China

No Break for Bush

In 1972 I was 20 years old and completing my enlistment in the U.S. Army with a tour in Vietnam. My younger brother had just received his (low) lottery number but was deferred because of my being already "in country" [Mossback, "What Did I Do in the War?" March 10].

I admire Knute Berger for the strength of his convictions—not so much that he felt the war was wrong, but that he was willing to stand up and say so, thereby accepting the consequences. In this case, I believe we are both patriots and served our country in our own way.

Where I take Berger to task is the statement that he admires President Bush for doing whatever was necessary to avoid the war. I don't believe that Bush avoided an armed conflict where he might be killed or injured, or an unjust attack on a native people in order to maintain them in a subjugated state, because he believed that to kill another human being is wrong in the eyes of God. Bush joined the Guard (of which I was also a member) to avoid one of life's inconveniences. Neither the means nor the end are justified. We all have civic responsibilities; I met mine by serving, Berger met his by raising a voice in honest protest. Bush raised his to ask for another beer at the officers' club.

Paul Stromdahl


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