BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
After Labor Day, things get intense in the quadrennial U.S. presidential election that culminates on November 8. The unprecedented levels of dissatisfaction with the presidential candidates and the reality that one of them has no real policy proposals have led to an “issues free” election as a political analyst friend recently observed. You have probably already noticed this since much of the “debate” has centered on the personalities of the two, major-party, contenders.
But the funny-business doesn’t end at the presidential level nor at the U.S. border. There is very intense political warfare coming since both houses of Congress are in play. That is, control might flip from the Republicans to the Democrats. California voters alone have 17 (yes SEVENTEEN) propositions to consider and decide on. Some of these just change laws, others, the California constitution. At least one is intentionally deceptive and another is only advisory. Sound confusing? I will explore and make recommendations on these over the coming weeks
But the shenanigans are just as worrisome in the Republic of Armenia. The problem was exposed in recent news reports about the government abrogating its agreement with opposition parties to implement election-rigging prevention measures through the use of electronic equipment. At first, the government made clear that it could not fund the required changes, so money had to come from the outside. European Union countries pledged the necessary 16 million Euros ($17.8 million). Now, the government claims it doesn’t have time to implement the promised changes because the company hired to do the job can’t start printing voter ID cards by the September 1 deadline that had been set. It can start by December 1. The government claims this is too close, timewise, to the March parliamentary election and has annulled the agreement with the opposition. There is some hope that a less comprehensive fraud prevention system might still be worked out, but specifics are sparse.
But election fraud (as opposed to voter fraud) is not something that can happen only in newer democracies. With the advent of electronic voting devices, the hacking of election software has become a persistent concern. Please DO NOT CONFUSE this problem with the GROUNDLESS fears spread by right wing politicians of voter fraud, which, according to one researcher might have occurred in 31 out of 1,000, 000, 000 cases. The fears are used to pass voter ID laws which serve only to scare people into not voting.
We should be concerned that the FBI found breaches by hackers of two states’, Arizona and Illinois, election systems. This is the efficient way to “steal” an election. Quietly, surreptitiously, change the code, the programming which tallies people’s votes so that no matter what the real count would have been, the result is predetermined. Luckily, in these two cases, the harm done was nowhere near that serious. We should be alert to these abuses and preempt them (by insisting on redundant paper documentation of the votes). We should not let the cynicism they can breed lead us to NOT vote, because then the crooks win, and the vast, overwhelming majority of us, lose.
I would be remiss if I didn’t provide an example of another type of shenanigan, one with a recent example to view. Remember Turkey’s June 2015 election? Remember that Erdoğan’s AK Party did not get a parliamentary majority? Remember how forming a government dragged on while a civil war was reignited in the country? Remember how the November 2015 election produced a majority for the AKP? Does this look like election fraud on a grand scale to you? It sure does to me.
Please, closely review the official election materials you will receive in about a month. Even the mailers, for and against candidates and ballot measures, can sometimes be informative. But also read the analyses here and elsewhere about the issues facing your city, county, and state. Don’t focus exclusively on the presidential shenanigans, there’s a lot more to a U.S. election than that.