07/13/2006 04:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Most Important Investigative News Story in America: Voting Machines

As America approaches enormously important
Congressional and Presidential elections, there
is no story more important than making certain
that votes are counted honestly.

I would pose these questions, worthy of the
most serious, deep and long form treatment:

First, as a purely technical matter, based on
the opinions of leading experts without bias,
what is the technical feasibility in theory of
doctoring the vote count, through voting
machines, to steal an election? In theory,
can it be done, and if so, how would it be
done? Objectively.

Second, a thorough examination of the foreign
and domestic companies that manufacture, run,
or profit from these machines. There are major
objective truths that can be ascertained about
these companies, without alleging or denying
misconduct. If they are foreign, do they have
potential national interests of their own, which
might be served by influencing a U.S. election?

If they are foreign or domestic, have they
supported or opposed any candidate or party,
and if so, who? Have they lobbied for or
against any specific policies that affect their
business interests, and, if so, would that
suggest a financial interest in election winners,
or not?

Third, as a matter of principle and policy, should any company that
owns, runs or
manages the vote counting machinery be
permitted to keep secret any aspect of the
technology of the vote count?

To state my own bias, the answer should be
absolutely and unconditionally no, and this
should be non-negotiable. The essence of
freedom and democracy, the actual counting
of votes to allocate power and governance,
is not another proprietary product. It creates
a grave danger to democracy itself, to keep
secret the very means of protecting the
integrity of the vote.

It is not the mission of fearless investigative
reporting to simply repeat my view, or any
view. It is the job of fearless investigative
reporting to give the audience the maximum
available facts, and to air all sides of opinion
in a great, informed public debate. My point
here: there needs to be a great national debate
today, about whether the means of counting
votes should be treated as a proprietary product for profit, surrounded
by secrecy, or treated as a sacred public trust, with our citizens given
the facts necessary to best protect the integrity of our freedom.

Fourth and finally, after fairly ascertaining the
potential dangers to the integrity of the count;
after objectively reporting whatever political
or financial or national interests are held by
American or foreign companies that run these
systems; and after a serious public debate
about openness versus secrecy; there should
be discussion of whatever concrete proposals
have been offered to better protect the integrity
of the vote count.

This is not to charge, or refute, allegations of
what may have happened in the past. This
is to propose a mission for the investigative
journalists of America:

To fearlessly, honestly, and objectively gather together in long form
all facts that are clearly provable; to define without fear or favor the
objective interests of those who seek to count the vote through secret
means; to initiate a great debate about whether secrecy should
be acceptable or unacceptable in this matter;
and to put before the public those who believe
reforms are needed, those who believe reforms
are not needed, and therefore honor the First
Amendment vision of an informed citizenry making the core decisions that
govern our democracy.