The movie Unstoppable is playing this week on HBO, and it’s hard not to watch even just the trailers for the action-adventure film without seeing parallels to the coming election. Folks, we are just a little more than two weeks away from Election Day, and we may well be the runaway train, barreling straight toward an election-night, voting-rights crash-and-burn which easily could be worse and more damaging to the nation than Bush v. Gore. Not only is there no Denzel Washington to save us, not only is there no guarantee of a happy Hollywood ending, but none of the so-called adults running the country even seems willing to publicly acknowledge the danger.
You think the hanging chads in Florida were bad in 2000? You think the patch of procedures, appeals, and standards of review was crazy? At least a human being was looking at those ballots. At least some of the rest of us were able to look at that human being looking at those ballots. At least there were ballots to be seen. In 2012, on the other hand, loose technology, lax industry oversight, political indifference, and partisan bigotry mean there is the potential for mischief — and by that I mean democracy-crushing voter fraud — on a scale that would make the high drama and low comedy of November 2000 seem mundane.
How about thousands upon thousands of votes instantly disappearing from the electronic count of one candidate, or being added to the count of another, with no paper trail left behind? How about electronic voting machines whose programs can be breached and hacked — patched for fraud, is the new term — from thousands of miles away? How about new voting technology controlled largely by corporations with strong partisan ties? Not only can it all happen in two weeks, there is a viable case to be made that it’s already happened — in both the decade before and the decade since Bush v. Gore. And of course the great irony of it all, one of the most under-reported stories of this campaign, is that the politicians and activists who have tried so hard this election cycle to make it harder for poor, ill, and elderly voters to vote are some of the ones most closely aligned with the operatives who can, with a click, determine the outcome of the coming election. Instead of securing accurate voting rights for all, they want to deprive voting rights for some. This is the important message Victoria Collier sends us courtesy of a trenchant piece (not currently online) in the November issue of Harper’s *, titled “How To Rig An Election.”