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By: PAUL JACOBS - For The Californian   04 December 2004

A democracy is only as strong as its voting system. All it takes to steal an election is a rigged vote. The thought of election fraud in America the bastion of democracy is frightening and unconscionable, but possible.

Here in Riverside County, all reports are that the election went smoothly, but those reports without proof come from Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore who, like her predecessor, vigorously defends the electronic voting system to the point of resisting any paper trail. The registrar now wants to renege on an agreement with California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to have votes verified on paper for the 2006 election.

Dunmore has blind faith in the electronic voting system and has consistently taken a stand against transparency and open monitoring of the processing of votes. Dunmore is excluded from knowing specifics regarding the software the machines rely upon, yet she still claims that paper ballots were an unnecessary option chosen by 3,719 county voters desiring tangible evidence of their votes.

As part of the agreement with the secretary of state's office to certify Riverside County's touch-screen voting system, 125,000 paper ballots were made available upon request on Nov. 2. Supervisor Bob Buster reportedly called the paper ballots a waste of taxpayer expense and Dunmore says all those ballots must be stored for 22 months before they are destroyed, adding another expense.

Do we really want democracy on the cheap? Is it more important for an election to be inexpensive as opposed to having honest, accurate, transparent election procedures? If money savings is the goal, let's totally privatize our elections and give the manufacturers of the electronic voting machines more proprietary control than they already possess. I'm sure Dunmore could gain employment in the private sector and continue her role as jubilant defender of electronic voting machines as an official industry spokeswoman.

The most opportune place to commit election fraud is not in Ukraine, but in the place where people would least expect it: the United States of America.

We hold our democracy as sacred and the thought of a tainted election in the heartland of freedom and liberty is inconceivable. Mass denial will likely be the undoing of this government of the people. Election fraud is the easiest way to stage a nonviolent coup.

Other than MSNBC's Keith Olberman, the media have been suspiciously silent on serious election irregularities that occurred in some precincts that used electronic voting and scanning systems. Exit polling that is traditionally quite accurate was way off the mark and a number of news providers changed the numbers to make it all more palatable.

In the deciding state of Ohio, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is doing all he can to delay or prevent a recount by not certifying the election until the last possible day, Dec. 6. A short week later, the Electoral College will be registering its votes.

Blackwell also happened to co-chair the Ohio Bush re-election campaign.

"It can't happen here" is the mindset that contributed to turning the World Trade Center into a pile of rubble. That same attitude will facilitate the destruction of our beloved democracy.

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