Hanging chads. Dimpled chads. Pregnant chads. Nobody who counts election-year ballots — peering through a magnifying glass, or otherwise — ever wants to cross them again.
Welcome to the new electronic-voting age, which promises to alleviate ballot-counting headaches. Right? Don’t count on it.
Maryland is the latest state to warn its citizenry that brand new touch-screen voting machines might not be so reliable after all, including the lack of a proper paper trail that even chad-pocked paper ballots provided.
Then there’s the host of security-related issues that surround electronic voting systems. For instance, until adequate security measures are in place (so far they’re not), dreaded computer hackers could actually tamper with recorded votes.
Perhaps the voting public should follow the lead of the U.S. Congress, which casts votes practically every day it’s in session. Surely, after so many sessions, Congress has a foolproof voting system. Or does it?
Just for fun, The Beltway Beat is taking readers back three weeks ago, to the final days of congressional voting before the current August recess. Let’s allow the congressmen to speak for themselves.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Georgia Republican: “Mr. Speaker, due to a mechanical failure with my voting card, my vote in favor of H. Res. 921 was not recorded. I strongly support the state of Israel, and am in full support of its actions to defend itself against the attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Did the voting go any easier for Rep. John Linder, Georgia Republican?
“Mr. Speaker, on roll-call vote No. 380, House passage of S. 2754, I inadvertently was recorded as voting ‘nay.’ I would like the record to reflect the fact that I wanted my vote to be recorded as ‘yea.’”
And you, Rep. Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat?
“Mr. Speaker, I am listed as voting ‘yea’ during roll-call vote number 401 on H.R. 5013, the ‘Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006.’ This is an error. I oppose H.R. 5013 and want it noted that had my intention been properly expressed, I would be recorded as having voting ‘nay.’”
Rep. Ken Calvert, California Republican, has only himself to blame: “Mr. Speaker, I inadvertently voted ‘aye’ on roll call 417 . . . I would like the record to show that I had intended to vote ‘no.’”
For once, it wasn’t a wrong button — but her car’s accelerator — that Rep. Julia Carson, Indiana Democrat, pushed: “Due to a fender bender on my way to vote, I was unable to record my roll-call votes 400 to 402. Had I been present, I would have voted ‘yes’ on all votes.”
A new Zogby nationwide poll of 1,018 likely voters finds fully 92 percent of Americans support the public’s right to observe vote counting after an election.
Now somebody should do a poll on how many Americans would be willing to give up Tuesday night’s popular fall TV lineup — “Dancing With the Stars,” “NCIS,” “Law & Order” and “Boston Legal” — to watch ballots being counted.
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
Now it’s the property-rights advocates who are critical of embattled Sen. George Allen, the Virginia Republican under fire for uttering what some consider a racial slur against immigrants.
“Senator Allen often describes himself as a ‘Jeffersonian’ conservative, which he defines as someone who doesn’t like ‘nanny, meddling, restrictive, burdensome government,’” said Peyton Knight, director of regulatory affairs at the nonpartisan National Center for Public Policy Research. “However, if you fail to support your rhetoric with substance, you’re all hat and no cattle.”
The senator who often sports a cowboy hat and boots is behind legislation that would create a federal “National Heritage Area” stretching from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello near Charlottesville in central Virginia (Allen once filled the Virginia General Assembly seat previously held by Jefferson), to the battlefields of Gettysburg in southern Pennsylvania.
Among concerns of the property-rights crowd are new preservation measures and land-use policies.
Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, doesn’t let one “irony” go unnoticed: “Overzealous” preservationists at Monticello “corrupting” Jefferson’s legacy in order to protect it. “They want to traduce Jefferson’s views in order to save his views,” he said.
And whether he deserves such depths or not, Virginia Sen. George Allen remains knee-deep in “macaca.”
Everybody from Washington to Ahmadabad has heard by now that Allen recently resorted to the term “macaca” when drawing attention to one of his Democratic opponent’s dark-skinned campaign workers, who was videotaping the Republican’s campaign remarks.
“Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia,” were Allen’s exact words — not derogatory, he insists to critics who label them racially offensive.
Of all the related mail this column received (and there was a ton), perhaps the most revealing comes from Joseph Luchi, a translator who lives in New York City.
“As someone fluent in Italian and of Italian descent, I have used this word quite often,” Luchi writes. “My mom used this word about myself and my sister many times. It means ‘fool, clown, dummy.’
“My understanding is that Senator Allen’s mom is not French Tunisian, but of Italian heritage born in Tunisia. Many thousands of Italians lived in Tunisia before World War II before they left or were expelled. Senator Allen’s mom speaks several languages, but I understand that her first language was Italian.”
The point being?
“It is quite possible that the senator heard this word from his mom when he was misbehaving,” he guesses. “My mom used this word to chastise us when we were not doing the right thing. Many Italian mothers that I was around used this word.
“It was not flattering, but it did not mean ‘monkey,’ but in the vernacular . . . ‘dummy, clown.’ And I can hear my mom now calling that (Democratic campaign) kid a ‘macaca’ (clown) for running around with a camera and following the senator around Virginia with that silly haircut.”