I have to be honest with you. I really don't give a flying you-know-what about who "won" the GOP Iowa Straw Poll. To me, it's just another example of a Republican failing to win majority support but then somehow being crowned a "winner." Spare me.
But I have to admit that something got my attention this year, and made me care about the straw poll for the first time ever. Ames, we have a problem:
A malfunctioning voting machine delayed the release of the results by more than an hour, as GOP officials were forced to count more than 1,500 ballots by hand.
I'm not sure what shocks me more - that a voting machine failed at a Republican event or that Republicans were actually counting (let alone recounting) the ballots. I thought that counting the ballots was against Biblical law?
Of course, the voting machine malfunction is not new information to Daily Kos, nor is the fact that it was a Diebold machine that failed:
The state party rented optical scan machines from Diebold, a company at the center of several recent voting controversies. Recently, the state of California decertified Diebold machines for the 2008 election.
America should be seriously concerned about the integrity of our voting systems, as if we didn't have a good reason after 2000 and 2004. While this wasn't even remotely as important as a real election, this straw poll did involve real voting machines, 42 county auditors, and the Iowa state auditor:
The Iowa GOP appears to have put in place a secure voting system for Saturday's straw poll. The voting machines being used in Ames are borrowed from Story County and are the same ones voters there use in elections. The county auditor will set them up. The party says county auditors from 42 of Iowa's 99 counties have been or will be involved in helping with the voting process. State Auditor David Vaudt is supervising it all.
Add it all up, and you have greater security measures at this straw poll than exist in regular elections.
And yet, with all of this preparation, the machine still screwed up. A few things I want to point out here:
- Republicans placed a huge emphasis on security; making sure that all voters were eligible to vote, making sure they couldn't double-vote, even having voters dip their fingers in "indelible ink." It appears that Iraq is exporting democracy to America.
- Even with this huge emphasis on security, the huge team of Republicans failed to ensure the integrity of the vote when it used Diebold machines that (surprise!) didn't work. Even though they took all of these steps to ensure that voters were eligible and couldn't double-vote, the results are still under suspicion.
- Besides Ron Paul supporters, no Republican seems to be concerned about this malfunction. There was no widespread outrage about how a real Story County election machine failed, even though 10% of the ballots had to be counted by hand. Is there an indication that the failed voting machine will be destroyed? None. Suggestion that the failed voting machine will at least be fixed before being put back into service? Gosh, you hope so, but I didn't hear about it.
- This situation was easily avoidable. Both California and Florida recently withdrew their approval Diebold's election systems, citing various design flaws that could have an impact on a real-life election. But, as we know, Republicans haven't figured out how to react to actionable intelligence.
I am pleased that the system problems at the GOP Iowa Straw Poll are getting some media exposure. These are things that Americans need to think about and discuss with their elected representatives. However, I am particularly interested in this paragraph, which was written before the Straw Poll:
Get the wrong winner on caucus night, and you can't take back those headlines, the buzz and other spoils of victory. Which may make it even more tempting for someone to try to manipulate the results. Nothing would destroy the caucuses faster than a realization on caucus night by the national media that the results were messed up.
As I said, I couldn't care less about who won or didn't win a straw poll of less than 15,000 Republicans. But here's how my brain rearranged the paragraph:
Get the wrong winner on [election day], and you can't take back those headlines, the buzz and other spoils of victory [that cement a "winner" in public opinion]. Which may make it [far] more tempting for someone to try to manipulate the results. Nothing would destroy [democracy] faster than a realization on [election day] by the national media that the results were messed up.
Maybe the national media would like to help us make sure that the 2008 elections are not "messed up."
I won't hold my breath.