"You may say there is no evidence the vote was hacked. I say there is no evidence the vote wasn't hacked." Was Salon's Farhad Manjoo too quick to dismiss election fraud allegations? Readers weigh in.

By Salon Staff

Published November 12, 2004 6:00PM (EST)

[Read "Was the Election Stolen?" by Farhad Manjoo.]

I had been intending to subscribe to Salon, but that changed after reading Farhad Manjoo's "Was the election stolen?" I don't expect you to agree with every thing I believe (I would find that suspicious in itself), but that article was completely transparent propaganda.

Mr. Manjoo missed the entire point of Palast's Ohio provisional ballot argument -- that Republicans won the right in court to challenge individual voters' right to vote, allowing them to remove legitimate Democratic voters by giving them provisional ballots. He ignored Blackwell's ties to the Republican Party, the lessons of Florida (as taught by Palast) and rampant voter intimidation. The list goes on.

He also failed to address, utterly, the wisdom of giving any private company, never mind a company like Diebold whose CEO publicly committed himself to delivering Ohio's electoral votes to Bush, control over the counting of votes by electronic (and secret) voting machines of any type.

I find it fascinating that those of us who understand that the last election was stolen are expected to magically accept that this one couldn't be. The Bush team stopped at nothing four years ago, but we are asked to believe that rigging voting machines would somehow be beyond them this year. Nothing about those returns makes sense until you accept that Diebold is crooked. That Manjoo ignored the Diebold issue kills his credibility, and yours.

There are many red herrings out there to keep Democrats busy for the next two years, and since the election you've encouraged the chasing of most of them. Now you've just published a hit piece on the one issue (rigged elections) that should be in the public consciousness. Kerry won't win a recount for the same reason that the Republicans will take complete control of the House in '06 -- because the game is fixed. Meanwhile, you seem to be happy telling people that the game is still within their reach ("keep trying, you're almost there") and using ill-reasoned arguments to convince them not to listen to the voices that are telling them the truth.

-- Alan Rayne

Wait a minute. Farhad Manjoo claims there's no evidence this election was fraudulent. However, in an earlier article he says that the current technology would be easy to hack, and no one would ever know.

What caused his change in view? Was anything done between last winter and Nov. 2 to ensure an honest election?

He sounded the alarm last winter. Why does he say now the claims of a hacked election are without merit?

-- Margi Fox

It is truly disappointing that someone who so highly suspected the accuracy of electronic voting before the election does not even take the time to look at the number of voter anomalies in Florida. If you look at the numbers available from the Florida secretary of state showing all of the counties that voted by optical scanner it is impossible not to see the inexplicably overwhelming numbers of Democrats that voted Republican. The "Dixiecrat" argument does not explain anything, since in other Florida counties where touch-screen voting was used (as opposed to optical scanners) voter registration by party matches the actually voting tallies quite closely, and the percentage of change by parties is roughly equal. There is a mix of urban and rural counties throughout Florida using both kinds of machines.

I can understand why the mainstream media wants to cover their tracks by not investigating the possibility of voter fraud, since they rushed to report the results, despite the contradictory exit polls. But we expect more from you.

-- Mary Mulhern

Farhad Manjoo methodically puts holes in each of the various theories floating around about possible voter fraud. He points out that theory "a" or theory "b" can't account for Kerry's loss. The problem is that the aggregate effects of suppressing the vote, ensuring long lines in Democratic strongholds, adding a few Bush votes on machines while dropping a few Kerry votes on others, intimidating Kerry backers in the military abroad, and toying with scanning machines may have cumulatively had the same net effect as the big bad home run. And they have the added advantage that discovery of little problems here or there are explainable as anomalies. If they have to forgo the almost 4,000 votes added to Bushs tally on one machine in Ohio, its only one soldier downed in a vast assault.

I have been arguing since long before the election that the Republicans have been very good at spreading their advantages and liabilities in a multi-pronged attack on a fair election. I would suggest that they never were putting all their eggs in one basket. Their approach is more military in nature -- they expect casualties along the way, but figure that an inexorable march forward of many troops will win the day.

The one thing Manjoo cant explain away easily is the exit polling issue that everyone in the media seems to want to dismiss, with no rigorous examination, as faulty. Yet prior to 2000, according to a CBS internal report following the 2000 debacle, for more than 2,000 races since the 1960s, exit polling was wrong only six times. Clinton advisor turned Republican pollster and commentator Dick Morris says, "This was no mere mistake. Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play." While Morris bizarrely postulates foul play on the part of polling companies, one cannot help but question the vote itself. Even more bizarrely (definitely one of the "prongs" of the Republican plan), in spite of the troubles in Florida, we have now adopted in some parts of this country a voting system that cannot be checked for errors, making a recount impossible.

Ultimately, this is the problem with our messed up voting system(s). Republicans and/or Democrats can take advantage of way too many flaws to change the will of the people. We need to change the way we vote so that results are first unquestionable, and second, verifiable when they are questioned. We deserve nothing less. We should all demand nothing less.

-- Cyrus Miller

I certainly expected more from Salon than the publication of the tripe from Mr. Manjoo. I for one do not know if the election in 2004 was rigged. However, I have lived in three democracies in my life and until the last four years I always found exit polling extremely accurate. Starting with election 2000 here in the U.S. and following on in 2002 and 2004 we began to see extraordinary disconnects between normally reliable exit polls and the published results. Given what we know about this administration's willingness to lie and cheat I certainly would not put it past them. What we need as soon as possible is an independent investigation of the results.

If the Shrub won fair and square I will accept it. But I want to know. Mr. Manjoo's pooh-poohing of well-founded concern is beneath your publication. If you keep this kind of thing up I won't be renewing my subscription. That kind of nonsense I can get for free at Fox.

-- Anthony Rigney

Farhad Manjoo's smear job on those who are concerned with the potential for election fraud appears to have come directly out of the a "Handbook for Election Fraud." Manjoo dismisses the question of fraud by claiming there is "no proof" that fraud occurred, a claim that rests upon coming up with "plausible" explanations for significant anomalies, and then concluding that these theories are rock-solid proof that fraud did not occur.

(Manjoo even gets his facts wrong. The court case involving provisional ballots only settled the question of whether ballots cast in the wrong precinct must be counted; left completely unresolved is the question of whether they can be counted under HAVA.)

Manjoo obviously hasn't bothered to check the evidence himself. We know that "Dixiecrats" tend to vote GOP for president. The issue is the extreme disparity between established "Dixiecrat" voting patterns, and what happened in 2004.

And Manjoo dismisses the exit polling controversy by citing the release of early exit polls, as if the controversy was based on those early polls. Its not -- the final exit polls show that Kerry won fairly decisively in Ohio, and that there was a virtual tie in Florida. That these polls proved accurate just about everywhere but in Ohio and Florida -- two states where we know that GOP election officials have gone to great lengths to suppress voters -- is a fact that Manjoo prefers to ignore -- apparently, Karl Rove didn't want him to mention it.

The real question is whether there is evidence that indicates fraud has occurred, and there is no question that such evidence exists. The nature and extent of the fraud (if any) can only be determined by an examination of all the data from the election -- and Manjoo obviously does not want this evidence released and examined.

There is a great deal of proof of criminal conduct in this election, including the targeting of black voters in Michigan and Ohio for harassment and intimidation by the Republican Party, another year of bogus felons lists in Florida, and the attempt by a GOP official in Ohio to bar new voter registrations when they were not submitted on paper that was thick enough.

When the GOP will go to such lengths to disenfranchise voters, we have more than sufficient evidence of "probable cause" that votes were stolen electronically as well.

-- Paul Lukasiak

I'm glad you've got one of your most capable writers (Farhad Manjoo) on this story. We need this kind of investigative story about the election process. But I think Americans are in danger of not seeing the forest for the trees.

In his recent Op-Ed to the Washington Post, Jimmy Carter warned that our system would not meet the Carter Center's minimal standards for free and fair elections. Sure, Kerry might have lost if we had actually had a free and fair election. Maybe we "got lucky" and had an accurate result this time. But we should resist this idea that the election outcome was not changed by the broken election system.

Nothing can be proved about what happened with unverifiable, hack-able electronic voting machines owned and controlled by corporations. Does the possibility of corporate malfeasance magically disappear when elections are involved? How will we actually know when we get a result that really is inaccurate? Americans should not have to prove that the election was probably not stolen. The burden of proof should be on government at all levels to show that the system is secure and accurate.

Voting is the basis of our social contract in America. It's our agreement to settle differences through the ballot box. If people lose confidence in voting, they will resort to other time-honored methods of effecting social change: namely violence.

-- Mark Schleunes

I am stunned. That Salon.com, of all reputable publications, would be so utterly dismissive of the possibility of massive fraud is monumentally irresponsible. To say we don't know is one thing. To say there are other points of view is certainly a viable position. But to dismiss it out of hand, to denigrate now for the second time in as many weeks the expertise of Greg Palast, to actually editorialize by essentially saying such thoughts are stupid, is to totally lose your credibility as a progressive media outlet. You have become the New York Times of the Internet, bending over backwards to kill a story with superficial objectivity. If this story stands, my subscription to Salon.com will cease. How dare you arrogantly presume to pronounce the truth and disparage those who are trying to find it, while the jury is still out. Why?

-- Eldon Leuning

Farhad Manjoo's column 10 November throws cold water on the prospects that the 2004 vote was hacked. You may say there is no evidence the vote was hacked. I say there is no evidence the vote wasn't hacked. That's the biggest problem with the current secret system, which Farhad rightly says is broken. It's the voting, not the counting, that's supposed to be secret, people.

Whose big idea was it to privatize the very linchpin of our democracy? Oh, yeah, it was Chuck Hagel's idea. Manjoo distorts the significance of the exit polling discrepancies. The New York Times 5 November reported a 51-48 margin for Kerry showed up through the day, not just early on, and in a number of different exit polls. An expert is quoted as saying this appeared to point to a Kerry electoral victory. No one has to my satisfaction explained this. Manjoo refers to exit poll error in 2000 but doesn't specify how what the problem was. I trust he's not citing the Florida exit polls -- they correctly called a Gore victory.

Thousands of legal over- and under-votes for Gore would have been counted in a fair statewide recount. The discrepancies between the 2004 exit polls and the stated results only appeared in contested states where there was an e-voting component: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Carolina. It is important to note that votes from optical scan and other more reliable systems are compiled in proprietary black-box systems. Black Box Voting.ORG says that the national board that tested current tabulation software did not perform security tests. The national board was in the pay of the companies whose software they tested. And exit polls are the gold standard by which elections around the world are evaluated. It seems more logical to conclude that there is a serious problem with the vote count. But the media and the head of the RNC want to restrict exit polling and the dissemination of exit poll data. This is one surefire way to lock in place a fraudulent system, and drive down recent gains in voter participation.

-- George Govus

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