Run up to the November 2000 presidential elections in the United States in which Republican George W. Bush and Democrat (vice president) Al Gore were the principal contenders there were widespread reports, facts and startling evidence that Bush’ brother Jebb Bush who was the Republican governor in the State of Florida and his (elected Republican) secretary of state (the chief election officer) Katherine Harris were manipulating in favor of candidate George Bush.
There were five majority-Black counties which were overwhelmingly supporting Al Gore were physically blocked by the State Troopers. Polling stations were abruptly changed confusing the Black voters. The result was a disputed election results that underwent a long re-count and finally to the US Supreme Court which awarded Bush the presidency. It was a 537-vote issue.
In 1982 Sri Lankans faced a similar scenario; a nationwide rigged presidential election. The then jayawardene administration paced the way for a manipulated election in stripping the main opposition contender, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, of her civic rights. Then followed the infamous nationwide referendum of December 1982, widely rigged, to extend the life of the 1977-elected parliament for another five years.
At a reception at the American ambassador’s residence following the referendum gathered by the most distinguished personalities in government, opposition and business sector, the youthful Political Officer of the American embassy who ranked the third in hierarchy of the Mission Kenneth Scott, who was in the earshot of this writer, made a one sentence analysis of the just concluded October presidential election: “The election would have been free and fair had Mr. Banadaranaike been able to contest with full civic rights.”
He made this ‘analysis’ to a group of distinguished personalities one of who was Mr. Manikdivela President Jayawardene’s official secretary and a close confidante.
Political Officer Kenneth Scott was not declared ‘persona non grata’ but was ‘expelled’ frrom Sri Lanka.
A similar scenario has been put in place by states that are governed by the Republican Party in the last year or so curtailing voter registration, disenfranchising a bulk of voters presumed to be Democratic Party supporters and restricting or cancelling early voting.
In 2011 Republicans gained control of both chambers in 26 state legislatures, with 21 of those states also having Republican governors. Republican-controlled legislatures have passed a wide range of new bills that restrict, rather than broaden, access to the voting rights.
The question to any layman is how could they manipulate. The functions of the elections, voter registration, location of polling stations, early voting decisions and other vital decisions connected to the presidential, House and Senate elections are the official responsibilities of the ‘Election Officer’. And who is the ‘Election Officer’? The Secretary of State of the particular state. And, this is an elected position. When the governor, control of the state legislature and the secretary of state are all Republican Party, as all 33 states have with the exception of one or two like the State of Nevada where the secretary of state is a Democratic Party elected official despite the governor post and the legislature are controlled by the Republicans, the Republican Party has all the space to manipulate the electoral process in favor of its own presidential candidate.
The federal government has no responsibility in managing nation-wide elections in the United States.
Republican Governor Jebb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush (the Republican Party candidate in the 2000 election) and Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the republican Party elected official, it was alleged and widely known, manipulated the electoral process in the State of Florida which produced a disputed result that finally denied the presidency to Al Gore.
Even after twelve years, the nation is haunted by the razor-thin (537 votes) dispute that denied the presidency of the United States to Democrat Al Gore in 2000 when Republican candidate Mitt Romney surrogates and his Republican associates nationwide, who are controlling 33 governorships and legislatures out of the 50 states, in the past year have been found manipulating the outcome of the forthcoming November 6 presidential election which most pollsters and political observers believe to be a very close contest as both Obama and Romney are in dead heat.
Since Republicans won control of many statehouses in the November 2010 elections, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods, imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives or redrawing electoral maps.
At least 180 restrictive bills have been introduced in 41 states since the beginning of 2011. Twenty-five laws and two executive actions have passed in 19 states since the beginning of 2011. Seventeen states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to affect the 2012 election; these states account for 218 electoral votes, or nearly 80 percent of the total needed to win the presidency. These Republican Party-led efforts impose a series of new restrictions on voting: strict, new voter-ID laws, limits on voter-registration drives, and closing early-voting windows, which creates fewer voting precincts and longer lines.
Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, believes the risk of another debacle like the 2000 election is high.
“Elections are not well funded in this country, and the people running them are not professionals,” he said. “There are different rules in every district. When there is a razor-thin election – and we may have one in November – there is room for chicanery.”
Liberal and civic rights groups cite new restrictions on voting periods and voter ID laws aimed at disenfranchising women, the young, the elderly and disabled, as well as minorities and those on low income.
The most recent high-profile fights have been about voter identification requirements and whether they are aimed at stopping fraud or keeping minority group members and the poor from voting.
Republicans in some states liked the ideas that fit their notion of what was wrong – potential for fraud. And Democrats preferred others – increasing voter participation. Little was done.
“This has all become incredibly politicized in recent years,” noted Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Ohio State University. “If you go back in our history, you can find voter registration rules used to exclude blacks or immigrants from voting. But since 2000 it seems to have gotten worse. Both parties have realized that election administration rules can make the difference between victory and defeat in a close election. And unlike virtually every other country in the world, our systems are administered by partisan officials elected as candidates of their parties.”
This week, most national and regional pollsters, more than 40 in all, were in a consensus that Mr. Obama is most likely to get 95% of the African American (Black) votes, 70% of the Latino vote, 60% of the Asian-American-Pacific Islanders vote and a majority of the youth vote.
Republican candidate is most likely to get 75% of White voters who are over 65 and 55% of the women votes.
The target of the Republican officials nationwide were the immigrant, Black and youth vote in manipulating the electoral process in this very close election on November 6. Obama is expected to win with a razor thin majority in the popular and electoral college vote. Sensing this, the Republican officials have been working overtime to negate that advantage.
The wave of new voter restrictions and scare tactics being implemented for the 2012 elections — such as voter ID laws, early voting restrictions, threatening billboards, misleading mailers and vigilante poll watchers — could intimidate countless numbers of Americans from exercising their right to vote.
Voting restrictions in a majority of states since 2011, including strict voter ID laws and limits on early voting and voter registration. Though many of the laws have been blunted, confusion about voting requirements could still make it harder for many Americans to exercise their right to the franchise.
Each of these measures is purportedly designed to prevent “voter fraud,” despite no evidence that in-person fraud or double-voting actually exists on a significant scale, and certainly not on a level that could affect the outcome of an election. “It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone,” Rutgers public policy professor Lori Minnite recently told The New Yorker. “It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.” University of California-Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen told The New Yorker that he “tried to find a single case” since 1980 when “an election outcome could plausibly have turned on voter-impersonation fraud,” but found nothing.
While there is no evidence “voter fraud” has had an impact on any modern election, the new wave of voter restrictions and election intimidation tactics threaten to have an impact on election results in 2012. Earlier estimates suggested as many as 5 million voters could be affected by voter ID laws and limits on voter registration and early voting. Countless others will never go to the polls because of confusing or misleading information, or will turn away when confronted by vigilante poll watchers. Voter registration fraud — which is distinct from “voter fraud” like double voting — could also mean valid ballots will not be counted.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimates that 25 laws and 2 executive actions have passed in 19 states since the beginning of 2011. This includes voter ID laws (introduced in 34 states and signed into law in eight states, and on Minnesota’s ballot in November), laws requiring proof of citizenship like a birth certificate or passport to register or vote (introduced in 17 states and passed in three), as well as new limits on early voting or voting registration drives. Though not every state will have a voter ID law in place for the November election, an estimated eleven percent of voting-age Americans — over 21 million citizens across the country — do not have the forms of ID required under the voter ID laws, particularly people of color and the elderly, the same populations the forms of ID required under ID law, particularly people of color and elderly, the same populations disproportionately affected by new limits on voting registration and early voting. The Brennan Center has called the wave of laws “the biggest rollback in voting rights since the Jim Crow era.”
Voting is expected to be more contentious this November than in past years because of a running battle over election law pitting conservative groups and Republican state officials against the Obama administration and liberal allies.
The Obama campaign scored a victory in October when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by Republican officials in the State of Ohio seeking to limit the state’s early voting program.
In October again in the State of Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court declined to immediately review lower-court rulings invalidating a voter-identification law signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
In Florida, judges stopped attempts to restrict voter-registration drives but allowed measures to reduce days of early voting and to remove non-citizens from voting rolls to stand.
Both sides expect wrangling over voter identification and eligibility to extend to polling places and are recruiting armies of volunteers for Election-Day showdowns.
American civil rights groups have appealed to the world’s biggest election monitoring organisation, the OSCE, over concerns about controversial changes in voter registration ahead of the November 6 presidential poll.
The eight civil rights group expressed their worry that millions, including those on low income as well as minorities, could be excluded from the vote for the presidency and for members of Congress.
They raised the issues during a meeting last month in Washington with representatives from the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which represents 56 states in Europe, Central Asia and North America.
New electronic voting machine can be hacked
Rapid advances in the development of cyberweapons and malicious software mean that electronic-voting machines used in the 2012 election could be hacked, potentially tipping the presidential election or a number of other races.
Since the machines are not connected to the Internet, any hack would not be a matter of someone sneaking through cyberspace to change ballots. Rather, the concern is that an individual hacker, a partisan group, or even a nation state could infect voting machines by gaining physical access to them or by targeting the companies that service them.
The 2010 discovery of the Stuxnet cyberweapon, which used a thumb drive to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and spread among its computers, illustrated how one type of attack could work. Most at risk are paperless e-voting machines, which don’t print out any record of votes, meaning the electronically stored results could be altered without anyone knowing they had been changed.
In a tight election, the result could be the difference between winning and losing. A Monitor analysis shows that four swing states — Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, and Florida — rely to varying degrees on paperless machines.
“The risk of cyber manipulation of these machines is quite real,” says Barbara Simons, a computer researcher and author of “Broken Ballots,” a book documenting e-voting vulnerabilities. “Most people don’t understand that these computer-based voting machines can have software bugs or even election-rigging malicious software in them.”
There are plenty of software vulnerabilities to exploit, says Matt Blaze, a computer scientist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 2007, he was on a team investigating touch-screen and other voting systems for California and Ohio. The resulting study concluded “virtually every important software security mechanism is vulnerable.”
The paperless machines, however, stand out as particularly vulnerable.
“If there’s no paper trail, you can have the corrupted software display on the voting-machine screen whatever you want to display — and then after the voter leaves, record something completely different inside,” says Richard Kemmerer, a computer scientist who heads the University of California, Santa Barbara, Computer Security Group.
Enter- International Monitors
United Nations-affiliated election monitors from Europe and central Asia will be at polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups, (Meaning Republican Party-affiliated groups) a concern raised by civil rights groups.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have already deployed a total of 44 European observers across America in response to claims from progressive groups that conservative groups seek to disenfranchise minority voters.
The OSCE, a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy these observers from its human rights office around the country on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places. It’s part of a broader observation mission that will send out an additional 80 to 90 members of parliament from nearly 30 countries.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and the ACLU, among other groups, warned in October in a letter to Daan Everts, a senior official with OSCE, of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans – particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”
Neil Simon, director of communications for the OSCE’s parliamentary assembly, agreed the U.N. does not have jurisdiction over U.S. elections but noted all OSCE member counties, which include the United States, have committed since 1990 to hold free and democratic elections and to allow one another to observe their elections.
With 56 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization. It offers a forum for political negotiations and decision-making in the fields of early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation, and puts the political will of its participating States into practice through its unique network of field missions.
The OSCE has a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects. It therefore addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities.
All 56 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis.
The OSCE is a leading organization in the field of election observation. It conducts election-related activities across the 56 participating States, including technical assistance and election observation missions.
Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an organization created under the United Nations Charter.
The OSCE opened its observer mission in the US on October 9, led by OSCE ambassador Daan Everts. It has 13 international experts based in DC and 44 long-term observers from 23 countries being deployed throughout the country.
Its mission is to assess the election for compliance with international obligations and standards for democratic elections.
In a statement, it said: “The mission will analyze the legislative framework and its implementation and will follow campaign activities, the work of the election administration and relevant government bodies, including voter registration, and the resolution of election disputes.’
This is the most close presidential election since the 2000 debacle which the US Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner. The race is for majority of the Electoral Votes (270) to win the presidency than beating the opponent in the nationwide popular vote. The disputed 537 popular votes in Florida was settled by the US Supreme Court in December 2000, a month after the nationwide poll, awarding 24 Electoral Votes to Mr. Bush to get over the 270 required for victory.
All nationwide and state polls, and erudite analyses have predicted a very close battle between r. Romney and President Obama. It is the race for the 270 Electoral Votes. Some have predicted a tie, 269 Electoral Votes for each candidate, in which the newly elected Congress, in both the House and the senate, will have to play the role of electing the president and the vice president under the 12th Amendment to the US constitution. The election is that close.
Sensing this the Republican Party has been working overtime to manipulate the electoral process in favor of its candidate for a considerable long time since the 2010 Congressional elections in which the party took control of the House, 33 State Houses and most importantly the most of the Secretaries of State who are in charge of conducting elections in their respective states.
It is in this scenario that the international observers have descended on the United States, and a widespread belief that the election may not be free and fair due to manipulations by the Republican Party surrogates nationwide.
Could this be a repetition of 2000? In the wee hours of November 6 the world will know.