Citizens Vote; Democracy In Question

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In this a Presidential election year, citizens of this country are intensely aware, every vote counts.  The world witnessed, in State after State people scrambled to the polls.  Voters of every age have turned out in large numbers.  The sprint to the White House is on.  Most every electorate wants to join in.  the people wish to return to power.  Much is at stake.  The people want to participate in the process.

In America, in a democracy, government is defined as organization that operates of, by, and for the people.  The people choose who will represent them in the Executive and Legislatives Branches.  Executives appoint persons to occupy Judicial seats.  Supreme Court Jurists may serve the public for a lifetime.  Legislators also have infinite influence.  Members of Congress make laws and approve nominees.  Thus, those who speak and stand in for the common folk have much power.

Hence, it is essential, before the average Joe or Joanne casts a ballot they must be very well informed.  When the American people vote they place their lives in the hands of a few.  Access to the candidates is vital if people are to make an informed decision.  During a Presidential election year, it is imperative that the people, one and all, be given an opportunity to meet and greet the hopefuls.  A President of the United States is the single most important being on the globe.  He or she is superior to all other officials who reside in this region.  Since the United States is considered the world’s only true Super Power, the President of this nation is virtually omnipotent, or at least some often act as though they are.

It is for this reason the electorate must choose wisely.  Each adult needs to ponder, who is the person who will best represent my interest?  Which Presidential hopeful will serve persons in every community equally?  Who will work for the common good of the people and not for personal fame and fortune?  There is much to research.  Reflection needs to be deep and thoughtful.  The public must ensure that a Presidential aspirant knows of and wishes to honor the desires of his or her constituents.  However, this determination is difficult to make.

Most of the citizens in this country only see the hopefuls in well-crafted, scripted moments.  Television and the Internet dominate the delivery of news about the candidates.  Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported.

The internet is living up to its potential as a major source for news about the presidential campaign.  Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the campaign from the internet, almost double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%). ?

Moreover, the internet has now become a leading source of campaign news for young people and the role of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook is a notable part of the story.  Fully 42% of those ages 18 to 29 say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet, the highest percentage for any news source.  In January 2004, just 20% of young people said they routinely got campaign news from the internet.

[T]he proportion of Americans who rely on traditional news sources for information about the campaign has remained static or declined slightly since the last presidential campaign.  . . .

By contrast, the proportion of Americans who say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet has more than doubled since 2000 – from 9% to 24%.

While it may seem that mainstream media has less of an influence of the electorate; indeed, the reverse may be true.  When we assess the sources of information accessed on the Internet we realize, corporate control still speaks volumes.

People who rely on the internet for campaign news turn to a wide array of websites.  The most frequently mentioned online news outlets are MSNBC (at 26%), CNN (23%) and Yahoo News (22%).

Few constituents know more than the media allows.  What the press makes available is extremely limited.  Independent-minded persons believe they know more.  Yet, these persons are also influenced.  Chant as the indies might, the media is hostile to anti-establishment candidates, John Edwards, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee, the three barely-acceptable do appear on stage.  Corporate controlled columnists recognize it is important to appear unbiased.

Americans must wonder of those whose exposure is eliminated.  Perchance, constituents might consider the plight of Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich.  Presidential aspirant Kucinich was excluded from the American Association for Retired Persons [AARP] debate in the Hawkeye State.  In Granite country, ABC News declared Dennis Kucinich would be barred from the dialogue.  Silver State voters were not able to see the profound Presidential hopeful on stage.  He was relegated to the streets allowed to speak only to the neon lights.  The Palmetto State decreed, “Dennis, this is not your kingdom.”  Indeed, you are locked out in this land of liberty.  Texas told its tall tale.  Dennis Kucinich would not be the hero in the Lone Star State.  Ultimately, the only Presidential hopeful who is a member of a Union, endorsed an authentic Universal Health Care program, a Single Payer, Not For Profit plan was forced to withdraw his name from the ballot.  Perhaps the lack of press coverage played a role.

While Congressman and Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich was ahead in many Progressive surveys, among the general public the candidate remained an unknown.  In August 2007, the aspirant was heard to say “Polls are a function of name recognition, not a function of whether people support your ideas.  As people become aware of my candidacy, the evidence of that support is going to rise.”  Yet, sheltered from view few voters ever knew who Dennis Kucinich was or is.  Fewer still know when or where they could cast a ballot.

Confused Florida voters try to cast ballots in Super Tuesday primaries

The problem?  Florida had its presidential primary Last week.

Robert Perez

Orlando Sentinel

February 5, 2008

Millions of Americans in 24 states are turning out vote to in Super Tuesday presidential primaries from Georgia to Alaska today.  Meanwhile, some dedicated if confused Florida voters are trying to, as well.??

Elections offices across the state are reporting hundreds of calls from voters wanting to know where they can vote today.  The answer is that Florida already had its presidential primary — last week.??

“We’ve had over 100 calls at least over the last two days,” said Kathy Adams, a spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Election Supervisor.??

Closer to home, Orange County elections officials say they are dealing with a combination of confused voters from Florida and California.??

“One of my staffers has figured it out,” said Orange County Election Supervisor Bill Cowles.  “They are California voters going online and looking for the Orange County [California] election office and calling us instead.”

Of course that doesn’t explain the man who showed up at a polling site this morning in Orlando wanting to vote, Cowles conceded.?

Nor does this story enlighten the electorate as to why, in this the Information Age, so little is known, or shared with expectant voters.  If people do not know to ask, instructions are not given.  Votes, as important as they are, in 2008, are not counted.  In this the Twenty-First Century, not only is Florida a foible, California has come to encapsulate election fraud, folly, or failures.

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble.

By Steven Mikulan

LA Weekly

February 5, 2008 3:22 PM

Election cross-over dreams become a nightmare

Last Friday members of the nonpartisan election group, CourageCampaign.org, were surfing the Web when they discovered a blog posting noting that Los Angeles County voters faced what organization spokesman Rick Jacobs calls “bubble trouble.”  In order for any of the county’s 776,000 voters who have registered Nonpartisan to vote in the open primaries for the Democratic or American Independent parties, they would have to mark an extra bubble on the ballot naming the party for which they wished to cast a cross-over ballot.  After a weekend of research, Jacobs says, CC.org contacted the office of L.A.’s Registrar of Voters on Sunday and were told it was true — an extra bubble had to be inked, and, yes, it could prove to be a big headache on election day.  The bottom line: If the “declaration” bubble is not inked on a Nonpartisan ballot, the voter’s presidential preference would be voided, though not the part pertaining to propositions.

By noon election day, CC.org’s worst fears were realized as voters began complaining that poll workers hadn’t pointed out the extra bubble.  The registrar’s office has tried to get word out to its workers about the issue but at this point, it’s impossible to know how many votes have been lost.  One thing is certain, however: It will be impossible to conduct a recount of the cross-over ballots because voters were handed both Nonpartisan and Democratic ballots and there are cases where the bubble numbers for candidates from different parties overlap.

Common characteristics, the overlap, be it in bubbles, ballots, or the barrage of disinformation is unavoidable.  The public peruses multiple sources, seeks infinite references; nonetheless, little of what the people know is untainted or from an independent and genuinely reliable source.  In this global village, we are all connected, interconnected, on the Internet, near the television, or scanning the periodicals.  Each is owned by one of the six, General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, CBS, or Viacom, all of whom are friendly with the others.  Internet users say this matters not to them.  However, in truth it does.

Well, you might comfort yourself by thinking about cyberspace.  Think again.  The dominant Internet service provider, America Online, is combining with already-number-one Time Warner- and the new firm AOL Time Warner would have more to lose than any other corporation if a movement grew to demand antitrust action against media conglomerates.

Amid rampant overall commercialization of the most heavily trafficked websites, AOL steers its 22 million subscribers in many directions-and, in the future, Time Warner’s offerings will be most frequently highlighted.  While seeming to be gateways to a vast cybergalaxy, AOL’s favorite links will remain overwhelmingly corporate friendly within a virtual cul-de-sac.

Hype about the new media seems boundless, while insatiable old hungers for maximum profits fill countless screens.  Centralization is the order of the media day.  As Bagdikian points out: “The power and influence of the dominant companies are understated by counting them as ‘six.’  They are intertwined: they own stock in each other, they cooperate in joint media ventures, and among themselves they divide profits from some of the most widely viewed programs on television, cable and movies.”

So, Americans please take no comfort.  Do not think you made an informed, independent choice. All that you read, all that you heard, what you viewed was influenced. The decision was made before you knew you could have had a choice.  This, the United States, is not a democratic system.

Cast A Vote, Give Voice To Your Needs.  Pray for a Democracy . . .

Primary Election Day; Floridians Cry ‘Votes Fouled Again’

copyright © 2008. Betsy L. Angert

Florida Primary voters reporting problems at polls  What are we to think?  Oh, it is just Florida, again.  

I moved to the Sunshine State two years ago.  As I do, each time I change my residence, I register to vote, even before I take occupancy.  If I have an address and am certain of the change, I file the necessary papers.  

At the age of seventeen, I was fortunate enough to live in a state that allowed individuals to vote in the primary, if they were to be eighteen years of age by the time of the general election.  Circumstances in those earlier years changed quickly.  Hence, my polling place for the first two elections was not a walk away.

I had to hitchhike in a tumultuous thunderstorm to cast a ballot during the primaries.  In November, on election Day, there was a blizzard.  I still did not have an operable car.  With thumb out, I hit the road.  I arrived at the poll and was grateful for the privilege.  I pulled the lever for my preferred candidate.  I never felt so powerful, pleased, or proud to be part of the process.

Only once did I miss an election.  I was in my late teens, perhaps, I was twenty.  There was one candidate on the ticket, a school board member who I was unfamiliar with.  I was not feeling well.  I decided to forego the election.  I have never forgiven myself; nor have I missed a vote since.

Time marched on and I transitioned from one State to another. I have been an active, avid voter for decades.  In the State where I became  of age, I pulled levers in a curtained booth.  In the region where I resided until 2005, I used a machine to punch cards.  I also popped paper holes out by hand.  I circled bubbles, used a computer; my experience with many methods for voting is vast.

Nonetheless, I was not prepared for Florida.  Here, I have been to the polls on numerous occasions.  I voted absentee as well.  Yet, each time, after I peruse the ballot, I realize, I am confused.  The butterfly ballot may have been placed back in the cocoon, still every alternative I have seen is poorly designed.  I never feel certain how to mark my preference.  I have asked poll workers and telephoned the Election Board.   While I continue to vote, after each encounter with a Florida ballot, I wonder, will my ballot be counted.  Perhaps I can be grateful, at least I receive the survey I request.

Florida Primary voters reporting problems at polls

One voter was told by poll workers there was no Democratic primary today

By Robert Perez

Sentinel Staff Writer

2:58 PM EST, January 29, 2008

On Florida Primary day, voters are reporting problems across Central Florida from Daytona Beach to Hunter’s Creek. Among the precincts experiencing glitches was one in Orange County where voters were told by poll workers early on there was no Democratic primary today.??

Phil Marjason said poll workers at precinct 145 in Hunter’s Creek would not give him a Democratic ballot.??  “I thought it was plain wrong,” he said. “We need to get Florida straightened out.”

Orange County Election Supervisor Bill Cowles confirmed that the clerk at the precinct made a mistake.

“I have learned that we did have a situation right at 7 a.m. this morning,” Cowles wrote via e-mail to the Sentinel. “The clerk admits she made a mistake.”

An error in a Florida election.  Imagine that.  The Primary Election date was  changed.  Florida wanted to be more influential; hence, among the first to select candidates.  Perhaps part of the problem was this action incurred the wrath of the Democratic Party.  Florida voters were disenfranchised.  

For months, the electorate was told votes did not count.  Many constituents thought there was no reason to go to the polls.  Other understood, the delegates were at issue.  Congressmen and woman wrote to the letters to the public at-large.  However, many citizens were not convinced.  Apparently, poll workers were.  A few truly believed Democratic ballots would not count.

But Orange County officials said their records show Marjason was given a Democratic ballot and it was cast. Marjason disagreed.

“You sign a piece of paper then you walk over to the next table and they hand you a ballot,” he said. “It probably shows that I signed for it, but they didn’t give me a Democratic ballot.”

??Sheneka McDonald spent 10 minutes trying to convince poll workers at the same precinct that she should have a Democratic ballot. She questioned poll workers when she was handed a Republican ballot but was told, “this is the only ballot we have.”??

“I said, ‘How can this be the only ballot,'” McDonald recalled. “That’s when the guy chimed in from the back and said the Democratic primary was in March.”

The poll captain eventually apologized to McDonald and told her they had forgotten to unpack all the ballots. “It was a little unnerving this morning,” she said. “I don’t see how you forget to unpack ballots. This is what gives Florida its reputation.”

Sharon McDonald said she was given an independent ballot at the Astatula Community Center in Lake County, even though she told the poll workers she was a registered Democrat.??

She said she was told that the Democratic primary votes didn’t count, so she did not question the ballot. “Shame on me,” said McDonald, a homemaker.

Sharon McDonald, I think we must say, ‘Shame on Florida.’  Can this State not create an organized, well designed, and functional voting system?  There is no excuse for poll workers or an electorate not to be better and fully informed. The Sunshine State must finally ensure that the people are able to be part of a significant process. Florida must decide to be part of the Union, an active participant in Presidential elections.  The citizens of this Everglades State must stand up and demand to be counted, correctly!

Personally, I want my vote to matter again!

References . . .

  • Florida Primary voters reporting problems at polls, By Robert Perez.  Orlando Sentinel. January 29, 2008
  • The Computer Ate My Vote

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    “The dog ate my homework,” said young Jonathan.  In those tender years, he hoped an authority figure would trust the statement to be true.  As an adult, Jonathan grumbled in frustration, “The computer ate my vote.” The concerned citizen wanted to hear no excuses.  Just as he knew the sweet little pup on his lap never digested the paper he did not write, Jon understood; the central processing system did not devour the votes.  Constituent choices were not read or recorded accurately.  

    In January 2008, Jonathon, a New Hampshire resident, cast his ballot for Barack Obama, as did his wife, and their adult children.  When asked by exit pollsters, Jon’s parents proudly proclaimed, “We each voted for Obama.”  Neighbors on either side were loyal to Edwards.  Colleagues were mixed.  Dennis Kucinich was a favorite for Julie, Helene, and Amy.  The three were outspoken in their support. While sentiments were mixed, very few supported the former First Lady, Senator Clinton.  As Jonathon assessed all he heard and read he believed as  the pundits predicted, Obama would Win by 18-20%.  However, that is not what happened.

    Post Primary Election Day the results in New Hampshire are being questioned.  By an overwhelming majority Barack Obama was expected to triumph.  Clinton would not see her presumed coronation.  People such as Jonathon and the pundits asked, “What happened?” Conspiracy theories abound.  Americans are reminded, in the last three elections, a ballot cast through circuitry may not be a reliable tally.

    Critics, cynics, those who rebuff the idea that any authoritarian agenda might have caused, or effected, the capricious vote count offer evidence that the current system is clean.  Experts evaluate, it is not the method, but the map that produced the unexpected.

    Preliminary analysis from Edison/Mitofsky, however, indicates that the difference between the two types of precincts goes back at least two elections. As Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Media Research, wrote in an e-mail, “unless there has been hidden election fraud in New Hampshire for the last three presidential primaries the ‘evidence’ being used by these fraudsters probably does not hold up to any rigorous statistical analysis.”

    Moreover, attributing all the differences between these townships to their choice of vote-counting procedures misses other potentially important differences among voters (e.g., proportions independent, highly-educated).

    Update: The table below has been updated to reflect new numbers from the Secretary of State.











    Vote By Type of Equipment Used
          Optical scanners Paper ballots
    2008 Clinton 40.09 33.74
    2008 Obama 35.84 39.77
    2008 Margin Clinton +4.25 Obama +6.03
    2004 Kerry 39.52 32.40
    2004 Dean 24.74 34.43
    2004 Margin Kerry +14.78 Dean +2.03
    2000 Gore 50.35 45.80
    2000 Bradley 45.03 49.13
    2000 Margin Gore +5.31 Bradley +3.33

    Reports that substantiate the validity of what is do nothing to diminish or dismiss the underlying veracity of what might also be true.  There are plenty of questions and the rate of replies grows exponentially.  An analysis begs speculation.  Might the optical scanners appear in affluent areas.  In these communities, people may be less dependent on landlines, and more tied to a cellular telephones.  Possibly conventional means for vote computation occurs in neighborhoods where people are home and accessible to canvassers.   It might be that those polled did endorse Obama in greater numbers.  However, even if this theory is accurate, it does not explain the vastness of the gap.

    Jonathon muses, “No one polled me.”  His mother and father were not reached.  Edwards supporters in his neighborhood were not contacted.  Julie, an activist, yearned to offer her opinion to a campaign researcher  She waited for a call.  None came.  Granitite State local Helene wanted nothing more than to declare her support for Dennis Kucinich.  This lovely lady in the “Live Free or Die” state had much to declare.  She and her friend Amy welcomed a call from a pollster.  Indeed, when each was presented with a list of candidates and then asked whom they might vote for, Helene and Amy inquired, “Why was Dennis Kucinich not included in the rooster?”  Many ruminate, the survey amongst voters might reflect more than a margin of error.  Andrew Kohut, President, of the Pew Research Center argues the polls were perfect.  The reviewers are “Getting It Wrong.”

    The failure of the New Hampshire pre-election surveys to mirror the outcome of the Democratic race is one of the most significant miscues in modern polling history.  All the published polls, including those that surveyed through Monday, had Senator Barack Obama comfortably ahead with an average margin of more than 8 percent.  These same polls showed no signs that Senator Hillary Clinton might close that gap, let alone win.

    While it will take time for those who conducted the New Hampshire tracking polls to undertake rigorous analyses of their surveys, a number of things are immediately apparent.

    First, the problem was not a general failure of polling methodology . . .

    Second, the inaccuracies don’t seem related to the subtleties of polling methods . . .

    Third, the mistakes were not the result of a last-minute trend going Mrs. Clinton’s way . . .

    Fourth, some have argued that the unusually high turnout may have caused a problem for the pollsters . . .

    To my mind, all these factors deserve further study. But another possible explanation cannot be ignored – the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for black candidates among white voters, particularly white voters who are poor.

    For Andrew Kohut, a man who makes a career of research, those who conduct polls, and calculate statistical information gathered, are not to blame for discrepancies.  The data is flawless.  The people who respond to a survey are the problem.  Kohut claims humans lie to hide their bigotry.  The rift is realized in race relations.  

    That conclusion might be also be disputed.  Indeed, we can hear the quarrel now  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and their respective spouses spew venom, as they discuss the role of Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King Junior   America revisits the achievements of a peaceful African-American leader, and we discover perceptions differ.

    Nonetheless, we cannot negate what has been an obvious concern long before this recent election, electronic elections are not fully certifiable.  The process New Hampshire authorities adopted  is arguably better than the techniques many other States use, still the optical scanners are a less than a secure system.

    Perhaps, we must consider that charts and editorial information furnished, while interesting, do not lessen the need for our shared concern.  For those that think there is a well-crafted campaign to conspire, we are likely to hear, “Hackers would not wish to leave an easily observable trail.”  For those who do not necessarily fear a plot to alter or obfuscate the results, there is a consensus humans are fallible.  Programmers are not perfect.  Nor are locks.

    One brand of machine leads in market share by a sizable margin: the AccuVote, made by Diebold Election Systems. Two weeks ago, however, Diebold suffered one of the worst kinds of public embarrassment for a company that began in 1859 by making safes and vaults.

    Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home.

    When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes – and hotel minibars.

    Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? That is one of the questions that Professor Felten and two of his students, Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Halderman, have been investigating. In the face of Diebold’s refusal to let scientists test the AccuVote, the Princeton team got its hands on a machine only with the help of a third party.

    Even before the researchers had made the serendipitous discovery about the minibar key, they had released a devastating critique of the AccuVote’s security. For computer scientists, they supplied a technical paper; for the general public, they prepared an accompanying video. Their short answer to the question of the practicality of vote theft with the AccuVote: easily accomplished.

    The researchers demonstrated the machine’s vulnerability to an attack by means of code that can be introduced with a memory card. The program they devised does not tamper with the voting process. The machine records each vote as it should, and makes a backup copy, too.

    Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.

    Computers, cared for, corrupted, and programmed by people, can be as a compulsively confounding as a poll worker.  A central processing unit, by rote, will remove the excess waste as mindlessly as a human might endeavor to do.  In days of old, poll-workers were the problem.  A misplaced bag of ballots or a box filled to the brim with bogus paper ballots was the reason anxious Americans sought a better system.  Mechanical means were thought to eliminate human error or manipulation.

    Some elections officials next adopted lever machines, which record each vote mechanically. But lever machines have problems of their own, not least that they make meaningful recounts impossible because they do not preserve each individual vote. Beginning in the 1960s, they were widely replaced by punch-card systems, in which voters knock holes in ballots, and the ballots can be stored for a recount. Punch cards worked for decades without controversy.

    Until, of course, the electoral fiasco of 2000. During the Florida recount in the Bush-Gore election, it became clear that punch cards had a potentially tragic flaw: “hanging chads.” Thousands of voters failed to punch a hole clean through the ballot, turning the recount into a torturous argument over “voter intent.” On top of that, many voters confused by the infamous “butterfly ballot” seem to have mistakenly picked the wrong candidate. Given Bush’s microscopic margin of victory – he was ahead by only a few hundred votes statewide – the chads produced the brutal, month long legal brawl over how and whether the recounts should be conducted.

    The 2000 election illustrated the cardinal rule of voting systems: if they produce ambiguous results, they are doomed to suspicion. The election is never settled in the mind of the public. To this date, many Gore supporters refuse to accept the legitimacy of George W. Bush’s presidency; and by ultimately deciding the 2000 presidential election, the Supreme Court was pilloried for appearing overly partisan.

    Partisan politics is perhaps the truer issue.  Even those that do not ascribe to conspiracy theories, doubt their opponent.  The “enemy” in an election may be the corporations, the rival candidate, the government, or anyone who might garner support in opposition to a particular voter.  Jonathon marvels at the foes that lurk in the shadows.  People he does not know and perchance, personally, never will, are those he does not trust.

    In New Hampshire, the electorate attempted to approve the best of both worlds.  Paper ballots are used in every precinct.  Granted, all votes are cast on traceable tallies.  However, recounts, such as the one now proposed by Presidential hopeful, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, may not be possible in the way a verification of the vote once was.  

    Consider the plight of Elections Director Jane Platten, in Cuyahoga County Ohio., At 3 in the morning on November 7, at the “end” of a twenty-two hour workday, the too-tired public service official said, “I guess we’ve seen how technology can affect an election.”  The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were once again a source of trouble, and the reason for more time spent on the job.

    All went well for a while.  Voter turnout was light on that fateful day.  About 200,000 voters strode through the polls, tapped their choices onto the county’s 5,729 touch-screen voting machines, and gladly turned in their electronic memory cards ready for the count.  All security procedures were followed.  Then the fun began.  

    Suddenly, at 10 Post Meridian the server froze, as did all operations.  No votes could be counted.  Technicians gathered.  A young, and well-dressed employee from Diebold, the company that manufactures the equipment used in Cuyahoga elections , entered the scene; yet offered no solutions.  No one could figure out what was wrong. Ultimately, the election workers did what people do.  They cut the power.  The hope was the machine would clear its “mind,” rest a bit, return refreshed, and then begin the calculations anew.

    This seemed to work, until the system crashed a again. Once more, the staff rebooted the computer and resumed the count. Gleefully, the computation was completed.

    Worse was yet to come. When the votes were finally tallied the next day, 10 races were so close that they needed to be recounted. But when Platten went to retrieve paper copies of each vote – generated by the Diebold machines as they worked – she discovered that so many printers had jammed that 20 percent of the machines involved in the recounted races lacked paper copies of some of the votes.  They weren’t lost, technically speaking; Platten could hit “print” and a machine would generate a replacement copy.  But she had no way of proving that these replacements were, indeed, what the voters had voted. She could only hope the machines had worked correctly

     

    As demonstrated repeatedly, the readable receipt may have been altered. The tangible total may not be as accurate as presumed.  Evidence of the discrepancies is everywhere.  

    The infamous Diebold [now Premier election solutions] optical scanner voting machine is used to tally fifty-eight [58] percent of the votes, or 175 of New Hampshire’s 301 precincts ballots.  The AccuVote optical scan machines were the only mechanisms independent-minded New Hampshire residents would accept.  Nonetheless, even this apparatus is troublesome.  Persons such as Jonathon, a man anxious for change, and committed to the democratic process of elections, has had many a sleepless night since realizing his vote may not count.

    Jonathon, his wife, children, parents, friends, and neighbors may need to be contacted, to vote again if we are to establish how they voted.  Even then, others would wonder; will the truth be told?

    Jonathon understands as do many concerned citizens, the Diebold trail, regardless of how secure the equipment is advertised to be, can be diverted.  Diebold itself has done much to redirect the flow of information.

    On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits.

    In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

    In spite of attempts to alter any information available on Diebold, the company continues to garner much attention.  Each election cycle generates greater concerns than the one preceding it.  The New Hampshire primaries are no exception.

    This method is highly vulnerable to error and manipulation; although many may quibble the authenticity of this claim.  Nonetheless, after much scrutiny and many experiments, the truth was told.  Jonathon recalls the news report.

    Election Whistle-Blower Stymied by Vendors

    After Official’s Criticism About Security, Three Firms Reject Bid for Voting Machines

    By Peter Whoriskey?

    Washington Post?

    Sunday, March 26, 2006; A07

    Miami — Among those who worry that hackers might sabotage election tallies, Ion Sancho is something of a hero.

    The maverick elections supervisor in Leon County, Fla., last year helped show that electronic voting machines from one of the major manufacturers are vulnerable, according to experts, and would allow election workers to alter vote counts without detection.

    Now, however, Sancho may be paying an unexpected price for his whistle-blowing: None of the state-approved companies here will sell him the voting machines the county needs.

    “I’ve essentially embarrassed the current companies for the way they do business, and now I believe I’m being singled out for punishment by the vendors,” he said.

    There are three vendors approved to sell voting equipment in Florida, and each has indicated it cannot or will not fill Sancho’s order for 160 voting machines for the disabled. Already, he has had to return a $564,000 federal grant to buy the machines because he has been unable to acquire the machines yet.

    “I’m very troubled by this, to be honest — I can’t believe the way he’s being treated,” said David Wagner, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who sits on a California board that reviews voting machine security. “What kind of message is this sending to elections supervisors?”

    The trouble began last year when Sancho allowed a Finnish computer scientist to test Leon County’s Diebold voting machines, a common type that uses an optical scanner to count votes from ballots that voters have marked. Diebold Election Systems is one of the largest voting machine companies in the United States.

    While some tests showed that the system is resistant to outside attack, others showed that elections workers could alter the vote tallies by manipulating the removable memory cards in the voting machines, and do so without detection.

    A Diebold spokesman scoffed at the results, and compared them to “leaving your car unlocked, with the windows down and keys left in the ignition and then acting surprised when your car is stolen.”

    State officials similarly played down the results.

    But last month, California elections officials arranged for experts to perform a similar analysis of the Diebold machines and also found them vulnerable — noting a wider variety of flaws than Sancho’s experts had. They characterized the vulnerabilities as “serious” but “fixable.”

    “What he [Sancho] discovered was — oops — that the conventional wisdom was all wrong,” said Wagner, a member of the panel that reviewed the Diebold machines. “It was possible to subvert the memory card without detection.”

    Rather than take responsibility for a system gone bad, voting machine manufacturers would rather not sell to any Supervisor that might question the quality of the hardware or software.  It seems obvious to all, regardless of the excuses, or rationalizations, no matter the method or the map, vote counts are always prone to error.  

    Thus, Jonathon wonders is his will stronger than the way of these machines and the persons who program them.  The villainous touch-screen voting machines, were thought too problematic for New Hampshire voters.  Jon, his friends Julie, Helene, and Amy were among the vocal residents who expressed a need for caution.  However, these activists did not have the influence they hoped to have on official decisions.

    In New Hampshire, as in much of the nation, technology was considered manifest destiny.  Throughout the country, the use of electronics to tally ballots was employed at great expense.  The cost in dollars can be overshadowed only by the lose of liberty.  Countrywide, Americans ask . . .

    Can You Count on Voting Machines?  For Jane Platten, Head of  Poll Worker Training and Voter Education Programs in Cuyahoga County, Ohio says, “No!”

    In the lobby of Jane Plattten’s office in Cleveland sits an AccuVote-TSX, made by Diebold. It is the machine that Cuyahoga County votes on, and it works like this: Inside each machine, there is a computer roughly as powerful and flexible as a modern hand-held organizer. It runs Windows CE as its operating system, and Diebold has installed its own specialized voting software to run on top of Windows. When the voters tap the screen to indicate their choices, the computer records each choice on a flash-memory card that fits in a slot on the machine, much as a flash card stores pictures on your digital camera.

    At the end of the election night, these cards are taken to the county’s election headquarters and tallied by the GEMS server. In case a memory card is accidentally lost or destroyed, the computer also stores each vote on a different chip inside the machine; election officials can open the voting machine and remove the chip in an emergency.

    But there is also a third place the vote is recorded. Next to each machine’s LCD screen, there is a printer much like one on a cash register. Each time a voter picks a candidate on screen, the printer types up the selections, in small, eight-point letters. Before the voter pushes “vote,” she’s supposed to peer down at the ribbon of paper – which sits beneath a layer of see-through plastic, to prevent tampering – and verify that the machine has, in fact, correctly recorded her choices. (She can’t take the paper vote with her as proof; the spool of paper remains locked inside the machine until the end of the day.)

    Under Ohio law, the paper copy is the voter’s vote. The digital version is not. That’s because the voter can see the paper vote and verify that it’s correct, which she cannot do with the digital one. The digital records are, in essence, merely handy additional copies that allow the county to rapidly tally potentially a million votes in a single evening, whereas counting the paper ballots would take weeks. Theoretically speaking, the machine offers the best of all possible worlds. By using both paper and digital copies, the AccuVote promised Cuyahoga an election that would be speedy, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.

    Little of this held true. When the machines were first used in Cuyahoga Country during the May 2006 primaries, costs ballooned – and chaos reigned. The poll workers, many senior citizens who had spent decades setting up low-tech punch-card systems, were baffled by the new computerized system and the rather poorly written manuals from Diebold and the county. “It was insane,” one former poll worker told me. “A lot of people over the age of 60, trying to figure out these machines.” Since the votes were ferried to the head office on small, pocketsize memory cards, it was easy for them to be misplaced, and dozens went missing.

    On Election Day, poll workers complained that 143 machines were broken; dozens of other machines had printer jams or mysteriously powered down. More than 200 voter-card encoders – which create the cards that let voters vote – went missing. When the machines weren’t malfunctioning, they produced errors at a stunning rate: one audit of the election discovered that in 72.5 percent of the audited machines, the paper trail did not match the digital tally on the memory cards.

    This was hardly the first such incident involving touch-screen machines. So it came as little surprise that Diebold, a company once known primarily for making safes and A.T.M.’s, subsequently tried to sell off its voting-machine business and, failing to find a buyer, last August changed the name of the division to Premier Election Solutions (an analyst told American Banker that the voting machines were responsible for “5 percent of revenue and 100 percent of bad public relations”).

    Researchers at Princeton University are not surprised.  A comprehensive study, Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine, released in September 2006 revealed the hardware and software in question are not dependable.

    Ed Felten [among the  authors of the report] is a computer scientist at Princeton University, and he has become famous for analyzing – and criticizing – touch-screen machines. In fact, the first serious critics of the machines – beginning 10 years ago – were computer scientists. One might expect computer scientists to be fans of computer-based vote-counting devices, but it turns out that the more you know about computers, the more likely you are to be terrified that they’re running elections.

    This is because computer scientists understand, from hard experience, that complex software can’t function perfectly all the time. It’s the nature of the beast. Myriad things can go wrong. The software might have bugs – errors in the code made by tired or overworked programmers. Or voters could do something the machines don’t expect, like touching the screen in two places at once. “Computers crash and we don’t know why,” Felten told me. “That’s just a routine part of computers.”

    It is true. Each day, many compatriots swear at electronic gadgetry.  Yet, as a nation, we spend millions in hopes that electronic equipment will work on Election Day.  Americans rely on these erratic electronic marvels to calculate our votes.  Citizens of this country count on defective Diebold voting machines to accurately compute what might be considered the most important decision, we, the people make.  Faulty software and hardware determine who will represent our country, and us.  

    More than Jonathon has experienced a moment of frustration with a computer.  Election Boards are familiar with the scenario.

    One famous example is the “sliding finger bug” on the Diebold AccuVote-TSX, the machine used in Cuyahoga. In 2005, the state of California complained that the machines were crashing. In tests, Diebold determined that when voters tapped the final “cast vote” button, the machine would crash every few hundred ballots. They finally intuited the problem: their voting software runs on top of Windows CE, and if a voter accidentally dragged his finger downward while touching “cast vote” on the screen, Windows CE interpreted this as a “drag and drop” command. The programmers hadn’t anticipated that Windows CE would do this, so they hadn’t programmed a way for the machine to cope with it. The machine just crashed.

    Even extremely careful programmers can accidentally create bugs like this. But critics also worry that touch-screen voting machines aren’t designed very carefully at all. In the infrequent situations where computer scientists have gained access to the guts of a voting machine, they’ve found alarming design flaws.

    In 2003, Diebold employees accidentally posted the AccuVote’s source code on the Internet; scientists who analyzed it found that, among other things, a hacker could program a voter card to let him cast as many votes as he liked. Ed Felten’s lab, while analyzing an anonymously donated AccuVote-TS (a different model from the one used in Cuyahoga County) in 2006, discovered that the machine did not “authenticate” software: it will run any code a hacker might surreptitiously install on an easily insertable flash-memory card.

    After California’s secretary of state hired computer scientists to review the state’s machines last spring, they found that on one vote-tallying server, the default password was set to the name of the vendor – something laughably easy for a hacker to guess.

    But the truth is that it’s hard for computer scientists to figure out just how well or poorly the machines are made, because the vendors who make them keep the details of their manufacture tightly held. Like most software firms, they regard their “source code” – the computer programs that run on their machines – as a trade secret. The public is not allowed to see the code, so computer experts who wish to assess it for flaws and reliability can’t get access to it. Felten and voter rights groups argue that this “black box” culture of secrecy is the biggest single problem with voting machines. Because the machines are not transparent, their reliability cannot be trusted.

    For years, there has been much concern and more delay.  In 2007, the Senate decided to hold hearings on the security of voting machine.  Citizens who have long yearned for a viable paper trail inquire, why the wait.  For too long, Americans have known when electronic voting machines record the votes, counts are frequently flawed.  Nevertheless, we continue as we have.  

    Currently, in the United States, approximately eighty-seven [87] percent of the votes are frozen in computer chips.  Elections remain entrusted to miniature wires, soldered into plastic boards, and so too is America’s future. Adults in the United States are told to vote; our participation makes a difference.  So, cast your ballot with confidence, and know that even if your vote is counted, it may not count.

    Sources, Secret Codes, Software, and Scanners . . .

    Presidential Candidates and the People; Politics is Personal

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    A tired and emotionally torn Hillary Clinton trembled slightly as she voiced her concern for the country and her campaign.  A somewhat shaken Senator said, “You know, this is very personal for me. It’s not just political.  It’s not just public.  I see what’s happening . . . It’s really about all of us together.”  Indeed, Senator Clinton, it is.

    For months, former Senator John Edwards has shared a similar sentiment.   Once more, in an interview with ABC News George Stephanopoulos, Presidential hopeful Edwards emphatically declared, “I want to be the president who fights for the middle class, fights for working people. The kind of people I grew up with, George. I said this last night. This is not abstract or academic for me. It is personal.”

    Republican hopeful, Mitt Romney also embraced the phraseology a month earlier.  In a campaign advertisement released in his home state of Michigan, Mitt reminded the voters, “For me, Michigan is personal.” The place of our birth, the era in which we evolved, the circumstances of our lives are all personal, as are our reactions to these. When we cast a ballot in favor of a policy or a Presidential aspirant, as profound as we wish the decision would appear to be, essentially it is personal.

    Each and every individual is influenced by what occurs in the privacy of his or her home.  Our hearts speak more loudly than our minds.  However, reluctant we are to admit this, humans are emotional beings, who rationalize their resolutions, often after the fact.  

    The New Hampshire primary elections, as well as the Iowa caucuses were stark reminders of the fact, we cannot predict what people will do.  However, if we understand what truly motivates us, we may better understand the incomprehensible.  From the moment we enter this Earthly existence, we learn what is Right, Left, Middle, or ‘just wrong.’  

    Mommy exclaimed, “Do not do that; it is inappropriate.”  Daddy declared, “No more.  What will the neighbors think?”  Grandpa gave the evil eye when he thought some word or deed not becoming of a little lady.  Grandma gently tapped young Sammy’s small hand when the lass reached for what the older woman thought unacceptable.  Brother James also guided the girl’s decisions.  “What are you; crazy?” he would say.  James’s manner was never gentle.  Sammy’s nursery school teacher was far kinder, although equally critical.  “Young women do not do that.”  “We do not speak that way in class, on the playground, in the cloak room.”  “I hope you do not do that at home!”

    What Sammy did at home was never correct.  She wanted so much to be appreciated, especially by her elders.  Even among her peers, Sammy felt it vital to feel needed, wanted, valued, and cherished.  She realized at a tender age, that if she was to be happy, she must obey the rules.  Sammy learned to be a good girl.  Today, she still is.  When voting in the Presidential primaries and in the General election, Sammy will cast a ballot for the candidate her friends’ vote for.  Conventional wisdom is always best.  

    There is a certain contentment you feel when others concur with your opinion.  Life is calm  Sammy, prefers agreement; she wants no arguments.  Perhaps, that is why she struggled to decide, whom would she vote for.

    Sammy remained undecided up until she spoke with acquaintances of the Clinton cry.  Although Sammy and her friends were not Clinton constituents, indeed, they feared she might be soulless, ultimately; each plans to cast a ballot for the candidate.  Just as women in New Hampshire expressed, it would feel good to possibly place a woman in the White House.  The tears Hillary shed resonated within many of the “gentler sex.”  They thought the candidate’s cry was a show of strength.  Throughout America, and New Hampshire women [and men alike] personally identified with the pain Senator Clinton expressed.

    Some New Hampshire women admitted they were touched by Clinton’s display of vulnerability at a local cafe, when a voter asked her how she remained so upbeat and Clinton’s eyes, in turn, became misty.

    “When I saw the tear-up replayed on the news, it looked like Clinton was truly moved.  It proved she had soul,” said Carol Brownwood, a New Hampshire voter and Clinton supporter.

    New Hampshire women voted for Clinton by a margin of 13 percentage points over Obama, according to exit polls.

    James, Sammy’s sibling, was never much for conventions.  He was a rebel.  For him every issue was a cause.  As an adult, James will likely not vote for the most popular candidate.  He plans to weigh every angle, assess each agenda.  James will do his own research before he decides whom to support in the Presidential Election of 2008.

    Even as a youngster, James had a mind of his own.  He knew what was truly important and what was trivial.  It did not much matter to James what his Mom or Dad might think.  This chap was certain when he thought a particular point of view right or wrong.  While James valued his parents’ opinions, and he did, he was his own person.

    When James screamed “No,” at the age of two, it was not a phase; this tot could be authentically defiant.  No matter his age, James was never afraid to speak up.  “You are just wrong,” he would tell his mother or father.  In truth, James often took what his parents thought to heart.  However, he would never give Mom, Dad, or most anyone else, the satisfaction of knowing that he thought their opinion wiser than his own.

    In his youth, James was independent and strong.  Competitions were his pleasure.  Enrolled in Little League, Soccer, and Football at an early age, James learned to be a sportsman.  He understood how important it was to win.  He still does.  

    Throughout his life, James has been a fighter.  In college, the young man was considered a radical.  He protested for peace.  The little guy was his friend.  An underdog could soar when in the company of James.  He cared for his fellow man deeply.  This chap worked on a political campaign.  He was an activist, and he was motivated to make more of his life.  James studied as hard as he played.

    Later, as an attorney, James did not shy away from a fight.  In his professional career, he retains his principles.  While James could make scads more money as a corporate lawyer, he serves the downtrodden.  James is known as an aggressive trial lawyer.  He fights for what is right.  John Edwards is his candidate of choice.  As he ponders the tales the populace aspirant tells, James relates. For James, just as for John Edwards, the battle for change is personal.

    One Edwards supporter, departing after a big rally in Des Moines on Saturday night, said he hasn’t heard a message as passionate or strong since Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign.

    Nice clothes aside, Edwards has turned street-fighter for the final stretch run.  His message can be boiled down to a single word — “Fight!” — which he repeats over and over and over and over again: Fight.  Fight.  Fight.  Fight.

    Edwards has rolled out anecdotes he never used in the past to make it all the more personal.  They conjure up images that hardly square with his slight frame and good looks.  He was, as he now explains, a brawler as a kid, taking on bullies the way he later took on corporations and insurance companies as a trail lawyer.

    “Like many of you, I had to fight to survive,” he told an audience of nearly a thousand people on Saturday night.  “I mean really.  Literally.”

    He describes the southern mill town where he grew up as a tough little place and tells the story of getting into a fight one day with an older boy.  “Got my butt kicked,” he says.  When he got home, his father offered a stern lesson in life.

    “I don’t ever want to hear, son, about you starting a fight,” he says his father told him.  “But you listen to me and listen to me clearly.  I don’t want to ever hear that you walked away from one.  Because if you’re not willing to stand up for yourself and if you’re not willing to fight, no one will stand up for you.”

    Emma, James closest friend is not a fighter.  She is a woman, yet, not one who sees herself as a warrior. While Emma might love to have a woman in the Oval Office, she does not want Hillary Clinton to be her President.  John Edwards does not move this passionate person.  Too often Edwards goes negative.  Emma experienced enough combativeness in her life.  She is turned off by the fervor she experienced in her family home.  

    Emma grew up in a good home.  Her parents are well-educated.  Each, is a professional in his or her own right.  Economically, her family is considered Upper Middle Class.  By all appearances, this young woman has had a good life.  She and her folks are healthy, slightly wealthy, and definitely wise.   However, when Emma was young, she realized, for her Mom and her Dad, every event was a drama, a trauma, a crisis, or a catastrophe.

    Emma often hid under the bed, went to another room, spent time at a neighbor’s home, just to avoid the chaos she experienced when with her relatives.  As the little girl blossomed, she realized there was fun to be had.  “You cannot choose your family, but fortunately, you can choose your friends.”  A cheerleader, a “Journalist” on the school newspaper, active in a school leadership program, Emma was quite popular.

    Academically, Emma had been and continues to be a serious student.  She is enrolled in graduate school, and is doing very well.  She is enthusiastic and energetic; however, she has never been energized by politics . . . that is until now.  Although, in the past, Emma defined herself as apathetic, now she sees herself as an activist.   Emma intends to vote for Barack Obama.  She feels as many throughout the country do.  Individuals, particularly those in her age are excited.  This may be the first time Emma will vote in an election.  She is stoked and not alone in her excitement.  Since hearing Obama speak, for Emma, this election is now personal.

    “I just started hearing a lot about him last year, so I started doing my own research,” says Kinkead. “I wanted to know who this guy was that everyone was talking about. I know he has a liberal voting record in the Senate, but he just seems so open-minded to me. He’ll be able to work with Republicans and get stuff accomplished. Hillary Clinton has too much baggage.”

    Young voters helped propel Obama’s win in Iowa and McCain’s in New Hampshire. Exit polls in New Hampshire indicated that 31 percent of the youngest GOP voting group went for McCain, with 23 percent voting for Romney; 51 percent of young Democrats supported Obama, while 28 percent supported Clinton.

    In Iowa, Obama won 57 percent of the youth vote, compared to 11 percent for Clinton.

    The social networking site Facebook has been a huge hub of political interest, with students flocking to Obama on the Democratic side  . . .

    Others in the cyberspace community may be connected however, the do not wish to join the rally for Ron Paul nor do the oratory skills of Barack Obama sway them.  Beth is among those who walks to the beat of a different drummer.  This woman is not old or young; however, just as the candidates and constituents she too is deeply affected by her history.  Beth’s parents were and are scholars.  Amidst her earliest memories, Beth recalls research.  Daddy would ask her of newspaper articles she read.  The discussions were deep.  He was not only interested in her superficial comprehension skills he wanted to be certain his daughter became a critical thinker.

    Mommy’s style differed; however, the intent, and results were similar.  Beth’s Mom, a brilliant woman, read endlessly.  She spoke of all the information she devoured.  This highly erudite parent encouraged her daughter to be herself, not part of a group, not identified by her gender, not even rigidly tied to which hand she preferred to write with.  Beth, just as her mother, never fit in, and she was fine with that.  Mommy and Daddy were principled people, not influenced by peers or popularity, and so too is Beth.  Perchance that is why she supports Dennis Kucinich.  She feels personally obligated to her country and all the people.  For Beth ethics matters more than an election win.  

    I think the question isn’t whether I have a chance. The question is whether peace, health care, jobs for all have a chance. Everyone participating in this chat, everyone reading it, needs to ask what this election means for them. If it means not staying in Iraq until 2013, then perhaps people should consider my plan to leave Iraq immediately and employ an international peacekeeping force. If you want peace in the world, consider that I’m the only candidate who rejects war as an instrument of foreign policy.

    This isn’t just about Iraq or Iran, this is about a president wise enough to work with leaders in the world to avoid conflict.  While I wouldn’t hesitate to defend our country, I’ve shown more than any other candidate that I understand the difference between defense and offense. . . .  I’m the only candidate running who voted against the war and against funding for the war. To me it’s inconceivable to say you oppose a war you’ve given hundreds of billions of dollars to.

    If people are participating in this and are concerned that they have an outcome in this election that relates to their needs, they should know that I’m the only candidate who would create a not-for-profit health care system that would cover everyone.

    No other candidate is saying they would cancel NAFTA and the WTO — I’ve seen the devastation wrought by these agreements. I’ve stood in front of the locked plant gates, with grass growing in the parking lots. I’ve seen the boarded-up nearby business communities, the neighborhoods where people had to leave because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

    I’m the only candidate talking about a profoundly different energy policy, moving aggressively toward wind, solar, and investing heavily in green energy, reorganizing the government along principles of sustainability. We have to challenge these oil companies — we’re in a war in Iraq because of oil, one of the principle reasons we’d attack Iran is because of oil, we continue to destabilize our relations with Russia because of oil.

    It’s time for Washington to get control of our energy polices, and the only way we may be able to do that is to take control of the oil companies. We cannot sacrifice our young men and women on the altar of oil. We must regain control in the nation, of our ability to truly be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That’s why I’m running for president, and in the end if I win, the people of the United States will win.

    For a time, people, from various backgrounds, also endorsed Dennis J. Kucinich.  Beth met declared Democrats, Independent minded Greens, Libertarians, and even Republicans who thought the Congressman from Ohio was the only one who could and would turn this country around in a way that gratified them personally.  

    A wide breadth of the population thought the Presidential hopeful would be the best for the country as a whole.  However, as is oft occurs, personal perceptions became the reality. The true Progressive, Congressman Kucinich was haunted by a claim continually, reiterated by Americans, “Kucinich is not electable.”  This statement was frequently preceded by the phrase, “Kucinich is great, but . . .”   Group think set in.

    Intellectuals, pundits, so called professional political analysts, and regular persons would  say this is not so; however, as we assess human behavior, it is a challenge to think otherwise.

    A public less aware of the dynamics of a caucus, or familiar with a seventy-two page rulebook, concludes a decision to influence a voter’s second-choice in Iowa might be thought a sign of weakness; perhaps a concession, or even an endorsement.  Some avid Kucinich supporters began to question the candidate’s faith in his campaign.  More importantly, many Kucinich backers felt personally abandoned.  The slogan “Strength through peace,” was less forceful than this allowance.  To suggest an alternative commitment may be less strong than the sweet smell of freshly baked bread or a promise to stroke your back if you rub mine

    Intimidation is not unknown. Also, it is possible for a leading candidate to help a weaker rival against a stronger one.

    More often, though, the gaming of the caucus and the wooing of supporters is subtler.

    In a training video prepared by the Edwards campaign, for example, a cartoon precinct campaign named Joe leaves for the caucus with a calculator, Edwards signs, and fresh bread. The narrator explains: “His homemade bread is perfectly positioned. Everyone can see it and smell it, especially the undecideds.”

    Then, too, “there are always stories of ‘I’ll shovel your walk the next time it snows,’ ” said Norm Sterzenbach, Iowa Democratic Party political director.

    While these tactics are troublesome, perhaps what worries supporters of any candidate is their own “personal” standing . . . in the community, in a crowd, in the cavern known as their rational mind.

    Might we speculate as to why a presumed front-runner receives more funds in support?  After a primary win, contributions come in.  Every person in the electorate scrutinizes a candidate and the company he or she keeps.  The assumed quality of a spouse can be an asset or a deterrent to the campaign.  If nothing else, when humans are involved, whom a Presidential hopeful weds, why, or when, will certainly be a distraction.  Americans, humans are invested in the personal.  People ponder their lives and wish to know what occurs in the lives of others.

    Politics is personal.  Running Mates, and these are not possible Vice Presidential choices, warrant an in-depth and detailed article in the Washington Post.  These individual have greater access to the future President than any other person might.  If Americans elect x, y will have the President’s ear, heart, body, and soul in their hands.  The electorate believes spouses are significant.  The personal permeates the political, or at least, Newsweek Magazine thought so.  This periodical devoted a full spread to the Bill factor.

    His New Role

    By Jonathan Darman

    Newsweek

    August 21, 2007

    “Man, I like that stuff,” Bill Clinton said. “I shouldn’t eat it, but I like it.” It was Sunday, March 4. On a private plane headed south from New York, the former leader of the free world was staring hard at a fully stocked bowl of food. A recovering snack-addict since his quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004, Clinton was thinking about falling off the wagon with a few bags of Fritos and some granola bars. No one on the plane was going to stop him-certainly not Malcolm Smith. The Democratic minority leader of New York’s state Senate, Smith was just happy to be along for the ride. “He sat right in front of me,” Smith later gushed to a Newsweek reporter. “We shared the food.” . . .

    For Hillary’s campaign, “The Bill Factor” is a complex one. To some he’s a shrewd politician, a clear thinker, a brilliant explicator who was president during an era of relative peace and indisputable prosperity. To others he’s “Slick Willie,” an undisciplined man who let his private appetites, and his addiction to risk, blur his focus, distracting the country for much of his second term.

    Nonetheless, a polished President offers the public a sense of personal security.  The Clintons are a known entity.  They have a traditional marriage, and they have proven themselves in many arenas.  Regardless of whether or not  you agree with their positions, the two are accomplished; certainly not on the fringe.  

    Barack Obama is also quite an achiever.  Born to parents who separated when the future Harvard scholar, United States Senator, and front-running Presidential aspirant was but two years of age, Barack  Obama went on to create a stunning and successful Christian family of his own.

    When wife Michelle Robinson Obama is by the candidate’s side, audiences marvel.  The couple is physically beautiful.  The two are statuesque and poised.  Each is extremely accomplished.  Michelle Obama is the a vice president at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Initially she was criticized for retaining this position during the campaign.  However, since she agreed to reduce her workload and currently works far fewer hours than she had, the public, many of whom took her to task for her “personal” life, are now content.  People specifically enjoy how real this spouse is.

    [Michelle] She has revealed that the man who may become the world’s most powerful politician is sometimes banished to the spare room for being “kind of snory and stinky.” He also admits obeying her instructions to give up smoking before the campaign.

    [Michelle] Obama got off to a rocky start in her early speeches when she talked about her husband’s dirty socks and how he was “stinky” in the morning, an image people perhaps might have found a little too human. Those references have since been dropped from her stump speech, and she’s not giving many interviews these days.

    On the other hand, Elizabeth Edwards volunteers to speak to anyone, everyone.  Wife of John Edwards, Elizabeth, is equally at ease in most any situation.  She does not hesitate to speak her mind.  

    Elizabeth Edwards will say in one breath that her job is made easier by the fact there are now “so many more female role models in careers like entertainment, the media and politics.”  But she will also say she’s not about to make the same mistakes Clinton did.

    “Hillary Clinton in 1992 is a lesson in what not to do,” offers Edwards, also a lawyer by training, whose husband is one of Clinton’s opponents in the presidential race. “She was dismissive of the range of options women had chosen, declaring, ‘I don’t bake cookies. . . . I don’t stand by my man.’ That turned off some people.”

    Elizabeth Edwards has been startlingly outspoken during this campaign, calling in to a live news-talk program to take on right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on national television and saying there was too much “hatred” of Hillary Clinton for her to win the general election. She maintains she’s not behaving much differently from 2004, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. “There’s just a lot more coverage,” says Edwards, who has received additional attention since revealing she is battling incurable cancer.

    In a campaign where every issue is personal, even illness can be the cause for insults.  John was judged harshly as he continued to campaign.  Some said he was consumed with ambition.  Many mused, why did Elizabeth not take it easy.  The drive to the White House is long and hard.

    Nonetheless, many men, women, and spouses seem up to the challenge.  As we learned in what many thought to be a “personal” attack, some aspirants thought to seek the presidency when they were in kindergarten.  Others decided later in life.  Each has a history of profound accomplishments achieved at an early age.  As Americans, we appreciate a good wunderkind tale.  

    In this country, the legendary captivates our attention.  After all, we all wish to aspire to excellence.  The excellence achieved by another gives us reason to believe, and we do have personal stake in a candidate’s story.  

    Another aspirant also has a tale to tell.  At an early age, Dennis Kucinich was also considered a genius.  He had dreams and accomplished more than most thirty-one year olds.  Dennis Kucinich was elected Mayor of a major city, Cleveland, Ohio.  The young public official stood on principle against a corporate giant and saved the city and the community millions.  While the yarn is legendary, it is not as distinguished or as frequently discussed as wife, Elizabeth Kucinich is.

    True, English born Elizabeth Kucinich is not close in age to her husband, as are the wives of numerous other candidates.  Conservatives John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson married women much younger than they.  However, that is but a minor source of intrigue.  What mesmerizes America and is among the stories supporters felt a need to stave off is the metal in the exquisite woman’s mouth.

    O’Donnell: I have to ask you about two very interesting things. Because America has had a traditional of having traditional first ladies, if you will. You would be the youngest first lady ever if your husband were elected president. You have a tongue ring. What about that?

    E. Kucinich: What about that?

    O’Donnell: Well, it’s very unusual. I don’t know that there are many political spouses who have tongue rings.

    E. Kucinich: I’m 30 years old. I’ve had it for 10 years. I don’t see it as being a problem. I do still wear pearls.

    The English Elizabeth Kucinich hints at the truth the American electorate is embarrassed to avow.  In this country, politics, policy, and proposals do not garner support.  A president is not placed into the Oval Office when the constituents prefer his or her plan.  Appearances matter more than the issues or a solid, substantive agenda.  

    Each ballot is a personal endorsement for a look, a life style, a gesture, a posture, and on rare occasions, a principle.  A vote for a candidate is an endorsement for the values of friends, family, business associates, and anyone who might judge an individual.  Americans want to elect a winner, someone whose rise, will add to a voters personal sense of worth.  

    Principally, what most Americans wonder about as they assess the Presidential contenders, what causes citizens of the States to worry, and weep is as a questioner in a recent debate inquired.  “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?”  If a constituent thinks, he or she can “personally” relate to the answer a candidate delivers or the manner in which they reply, then that candidate can pack their bags and move into the White House on January 20th. In Election year 2008, Hillary, John, and Mitt are correct; for them, you, and me this process is personal.

    Personal, Personalities, Preferences . . .