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Interview: Validity of 2004 Election in Question

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Dec. 5, 2004

Inability to Recount Electronic Ballots, and Other Irregularities Place Validity of 2004 Election in Question

- Interview with Ronnie Dugger, co-founder of the Alliance for Democracy, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

While the U.S. media has focused much attention on street demonstrations in Kiev where thousands are protesting what they believe to be a stolen election in the nation of Ukraine, the press corps here at home largely continues to ignore disturbing questions about the validity of America's recent presidential election.

Although Democratic Party candidate Senator John Kerry conceded to President Bush the day after the Nov. 2 election, political parties and citizens groups are demanding an investigation into voting irregularities around the country and a recount in the state of Ohio. The Green and Libertarian parties recently succeeded in raising the required funds to file for a recount in Ohio, where the unofficial margin of victory for Bush was 136,000 votes.

Questions about the veracity of the election results revolve around major discrepancies between exit polling and the final tallies in many states; a GOP-initiated voter suppression campaign; and the lack of an adequate number of voting machines in some key Democratic districts causing extraordinarily long lines. Also under scrutiny in Ohio are the tens of thousands of uncounted spoiled and provisional ballots and the inability to re-count electronic votes where totals are susceptible to manipulation. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Ronnie Dugger, co-founder of the Alliance for Democracy who as far back as 1988 warned against the dangers of computerized voting. Here, Dugger discusses the ongoing investigation into irregularities in the 2004 election and what's at stake for the nation's democracy.

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RONNIE DUGGER: Well, the broad problem is structural, Scott. About 40 million votes were counted in computers with no ballot made by the voter available to recount. Therefore, about a third of the election was counted by anonymous and unknown and unidentified computer programmers operating entirely within the computers and these programmers are hired by private companies that have privatized American elections. As a friend of mine in Indiana says, we've gone from the secrecy of the ballot to the secrecy of the vote count. In that situation -- and I would never have said this for any of the half-century of elections I have lived through as an adult -- this is the first election that is invalid on its face. It's democratically invalid. You do not have a valid election where a third of the votes cannot be recounted by the people who cast them. That is an invalid election.

More to the point is, why has this system -- about which I personally have been warning since 1988, the direct recording electronic system with no way to recount the votes -- kept gaining ground to the point now where it's a third of all the systems that count votes in the country? In addition, another 75 million or 80 million notes are counted by computers which are operating card readers and interpreting what the cards are reading. So essentially, we have five out of six votes now being counted by anonymous computer programmers hired by private election companies.

Now the officials of these election companies have politics. They have a right to have politics. However, it turns out that the largest company which counted perhaps 65 million votes in the United States -- more than half of them on Nov. 2, their systems did -- is an essentially Republican organization: ES &S (Election Systems and Software) of Nebraska, which played a crucial vote-counting role at the beginning of the career of Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska. The company now is half-owned by the Omaha World Herald, a stick-in-the-mud right-wing newspaper in Omaha, and a fourth of it is owned by Michael McCarthy, who is a leading supporter of Republican causes and indeed was the campaign treasurer for Sen. Hagel in two of his Senate races. These are the people who hire the programmers that count more than half the votes in the United States and it turns out that 40 million of those votes being counted in the computers cannot be recounted except in the computers.

Now what happened in the election, Scott, is that none of the outcomes, or very few of the outcomes were close enough to trigger recounts. Therefore, what we get is an election in which we do not know, and we never will know who won. Whether or not the election was stolen for Mr. Bush is a question I'm still meditating on and studying, reading about, deciding my position on it. I am pretty powerfully persuaded by the argument that literally almost all the errors (are) going in Mr. Bush's favor in the computerized vote counting. The example from Jonathan Simon is that it's like having 40 spins of the penny, and they all come up the same way -- you'd better examine the penny. But to say that the election is stolen at this point, well, I'm still studying it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Ronnie Dugger, what would a full investigation of the Ohio vote count look like?

RONNIE DUGGER: Well, it's already begun. There have been some public hearings and the NAACP is involved, Common Cause, Public Citizen, local Ohio organizations, the Alliance for Democracy is involved. Cliff Arnebeck is an attorney who's helping lead this inquiry. And these are investigations into the suppression of votes, mainly by the means of assigning scandalously few vote counting machines to scandalously many voters in a minority district that go 90 percent for Kerry. So that if you want to vote for Kerry, you might have to wait four hours or 10 hours, whereas if you live in the better-off districts, you can vote in 15 minutes and go on out to the country club for a round of golf. Is this criminal activity? Does this violate the Voters Rights Act? Was it a deliberate pattern? Was it a conspiracy? That's one of the questions another of them is, and look at the computer programs that counted the votes in those major counties surrounding Cincinnati that gave 100,000 more votes to the little-known candidate for the Supreme Court (C. Ellen Connally, the African-American Democratic candidate) than it gave to Kerry. Let's look at the computer programming of those elections. Look at the source code. But to do that, of course, you have to get a court order.

Third thing that I would like to see the Ohio investigation if it occurs, do, is under the authority of the Supreme Court, which conducts investigations of that kind in Ohio, so I'm informed, put those companies that counted the votes in Ohio under subpoena and subpoena their computer programmers. Let these people be brought forth into the light of day and explain exactly how they counted Ohio's votes.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Ronnie, what's at stake here for the democracy if this country doesn't undertake the repair of the electoral system?

RONNIE DUGGER: These Republicans aren't interested in a two-party government, they want a one-party government. If they get everything they want -- like abolishing the filibuster and then appointing all the Supreme Court judges they want to because the Democrats won't be able to stop it -- if they get that kind of thing going, and then if they've already announced they want weapons in space, we have full-spectrum dominance, we're going to have weapons in space circling every nation in the world 24-hours day and night, overhead and unreachable by the weapons of any other country as of present. Well, if we get that kind of dominance, we're talking about the end of the United States as a free country.

We're also talking about the emergence of the United States as the enemy of the peace-loving nations of the world. We're talking about the development of a multi-polar world -- Europe, India, China, other parts of the world -- which are going to start militarizing against the United States. You're talking about another worldwide arms race. What's about to happen to the United States cannot at all be encompassed in the question of a corrupted vote counting system. A corrupted vote counting system is just a part of what we're dealing with. I guess I've been around for some time, I've never seen such a challenge for the citizens of this country in my lifetime. Our position is that of citizens -- this country changes from a democracy into something else during their active lifetimes. One thinks of the Greek citizens as they themselves voted to attack Persia or the citizens of Rome, as (Rome) became a dictatorial empire, or of the citizens of revolutionary France under the militarized Napoleon, or the citizens of the Weimar Republic. That's where we are.

More Election 2004 links on our website at


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Dec. 10, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.



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