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Hacking Democracy

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If you want to find out how easy it is to corrupt our electoral system is, then you must see the documentary "Hacking Democracy" now airing on HBO. It is a depressing and angering account of how the computers used to tabulate elections in America can be rigged. If you think it's not a big deal, then consider this: Computers count about 80 percent of all votes cast in American elections. If that doesn't shake you, then consider this: You can't see a computer tabulates votes, so how do you know it's done right?

The documentary centers around Bev Harris, a Seattle writer who became a voting rights activist after being alarmed by the decision made by King County, Washington officials to acquire electronic touch screen systems for their elections. Their argument in favor of the machines by county officials led her to learn more about electronic voting machines. The more she learned, the more convinced she became that there are fundamental problems in the way our elections conducted. She then began investigating Diebold, the Ohio-based election machine company led by a man who, in 2004, promised to deliver the state of Ohio to President George Bush. Her group, Blackboxvoting.org, has traveled around the country investigating voting irregularities and alerted officials to the various ways in which elections can be stolen. Her dumpster diving revealed illegitimately certified elections in Florida and left me with the sinking feeling that all of our election results are worthy of greater scrutiny. We just can't be sure that the candidate with the most votes actually wins. Blackboxvoting.org should be commended for their efforts and encouraged to continue their work.

"Hacking Democracy" demonstrates that the private companies that develop the technology used to administer our elections are the real arbiters over what happens and that the people and those public officials that oversee the elections can be rendered mere spectators in a grand charade that actually shows ours to be an incredibly flawed democracy. From vote tabulation cards with encrypted programs that can be used to change the result of elections, to machines that can be hacked to change vote totals, to crooked election officials who aid and abet the scandal, our way of counting votes cannot be proven to be above reproach. If our system is not corrected, then the core tenet of our democracy - fair elections - is heading for extinction.

After watching the documentary, you are likely to conclude that there is no reason to vote because it will be stolen. I couldn't disagree more. I believe that an overwhelming turnout of voters can overcome the shenanigans that are likely to occur on Election Day. So, your task is to overcome whatever cynicism you may have about the system and vote. Decisions about war and peace, student loans, criminal justice, affordable housing, jobs and the economy, and so many other important issues that face everyday people on a daily basis are at stake in every election. If you want change, then vote for it. If you like things the way they are, then support the status quo. Either way, show up. If you don't, then you are giving others the right to make decisions about your life.