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Thread: Voting and the Military

  1. #1
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    Cool Voting and the Military

    Source: New York Times
    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/03/opinion/03fri2.html
    Title: "Denying the Troops a Secret Ballot"
    Date: September 3, 2004

    The editorial board of the New York Times has sounded off quite firmly on an interesting yet quiet issue in this year's election:

    Members of the military will be allowed to vote this year by faxing or e-mailing their ballots - after waiving their right to a secret ballot. Beyond this fundamentally undemocratic requirement, the Electronic Transmission Service, as it's known, has far too many problems to make it reliable, starting with the political partisanship of the contractor running it. The Defense Department is making matters worse by withholding basic information about the service, and should suspend it immediately.

    Source: New York Times
    The editorial notes the obvious concern: that ballots could be "lost" or altered. Additionally, the editors charge a conflict of interest in Omega Technologies, the contractor in charge of the program: its CEO has donated $6,600 to the National Republican Congressional Committee during this election cycle and serves on the committee's Business Advisory Council. Furthermore, a certain irony stalks the situation:

    And while everything about the conduct of elections should be open to public scrutiny, Omega is far too secretive. In an interview, Ms. Williams refused to say who would handle military votes, and whether they could engage in partisan politics. "I will not allow the public to invade the privacy of the employees of Omega," she said.

    Source: New York Times
    Beyond the standard political concerns, there are legal issues to consider:

    Nor is it clear that voting by nonsecret ballots is legal. In Missouri, one of two states that will allow votes to be e-mailed through the Pentagon this year, the Missouri Supreme Court held as early as 1895 that its State Constitution requires that voting be by secret ballot. North Dakota has also approved the use of the e-mail voting system for military personnel; about 20 states will allow them to vote by fax.

    Source: New York Times
    We must, however, bear in mind that the Electronic Transmission Service is not the only route for servicepeople overseas to vote: DOD is encouraging the use of absentee ballots or direct faxes to local election officials. (The Air Force recommends it only as a last resort.) The ETS is apparently an option, though it may in the end be the only practical option for many soldiers.

    The ETS operated in both 2000 and 2002, though Omega did not handle the ballots.

    Comment:

    The unfortunate thing is that between the contractors handling the ETS and the Department of Defense, there is little if any likelihood that we will ever get a chance to have a proper study done determining the efficacy and reliability of this voting system. Certainly, the logistical necessities of voting in a war zone are beyond me, but if anyone can explain the necessity and scope of the waiver of rights, perhaps the inherent concerns of this sort of situation can be assuaged and the superficial--e.g. the reliability of the contractor--can either make its own issue or not.
    _____________________

    • New York Times. "Denying the Troops a Secret Ballot". September 3, 2004. See http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/03/opinion/03fri2.html

    See Also -

    • Gilmore, Gerry J. "Officials: Use electronic voting from overseas as 'last resort'". Air Force Link/AFPN, September 2, 2004. See http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123008555

  2. #2
    I read this yesterday, and it's a load of pap.

    As the editorial itself says, this is only one of three options available to servicemembers deployed overseas. For about ten years I voted straight absentee because I was deployed in various theaters overseas myself, and I can tell you that the absentee ballot system is widely used and works quite well. This editorial suggests that servicemembers are somehow coerced into using this new electronic system, which is simply false.

    Also:
    Soldiers have to trust that military higher-ups will not try to learn their political choices and hold it against them
    Whoever wrote this is an ignorant moron whose tinfoil hat is exerting pressure on their dilapidated brain.

  3. #3
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    Fair 'nuff. And that low percentage of service members for whom this may be the only option--is it right and proper or merely a legitimate procedural necessity to require a waiver?

    Whoever wrote this is an ignorant moron whose tinfoil hat is exerting pressure on their dilapidated brain.
    Well, the "conflict of interest" assertion is interesting; the $6,600 may seem petty in a war chest of hundreds of millions, but the seat on RNC/BAC is fairly questionable. Combined with the lack of transparency, this administration's "appreciation" of the truth, and the heat of an election year hot on the heels of everything that can go wrong going wrong in the President's brother's state ... that's a legitimate issue, though we have no way of knowing how many votes such questions will cover.

    Perhaps in the military one cannot afford logic, but it would be illogical to blindly trust any part of America under the direct supervision of this administration. Politicians are, by nature, a bunch of lying bastards, but the GOP has set standards in the last four years.

    It may seem spurious to question higher ranks of our military, but as the spilling over of Abu Ghraib shows, there are circumstances in which it is acceptable and even advisable to question the reputability of those officers.

    This article is only important at all because of the 2000 and 2002 elections. There's still no guarantee Florida's good to go. There's no guarantee "the system" is fair, and while that's reasonably enough true in any election year, again we see a new standard. Were it not for the inappropriate cancellations of thousands of voter registrations in 2000, were it not for the loss of voting records from the 2002 election, and were it not for the real and legitimate fact that the popular vote winner did not take the electoral college--were it not for these things, I would hold this article as the long-sought evidence to suggest Ann Coulter's hatred of the New York Times legitimate.

    I do agree the editorial seems to overstate the "threat".

  4. #4
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    Politicians are, by nature, a bunch of lying bastards, but the GOP has set standards in the last four years.
    The Dems are hardly any better. Trying to stop the military votes being included in 2000 was just as shameful as some of the crap Republicans were pulling. We're going to see a lot more of this bullshit in November, and the duty here is to see past it, not to prop it up and bolster it.

    There's never any guarantee of anything, that's what makes life interesting. All we can do is be vigilant about this and pay a lot of attention to it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pangloss
    Trying to stop the military votes being included in 2000 was just as shameful as some of the crap Republicans were pulling
    Sorry, Pangloss, but I find such disingenuous assertions of history an indicator that someone doesn't want to have a real discussion. I think you've got lots of interesting things to say, but where you lose points with me is your half-truth mischaracterizations that we could spend days hammering out in order to neutralize your conservative deceptions.

  6. #6
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    Cool (Does a lack of a title make this titless?)

    Pangloss

    Okay, okay, okay. Having put some nicotine into myself, I've decided it's worth explaining the jab in the prior post:

    • Knowing you consider yourself an independent voter, I do wonder why you approach issues so consistently from a right-wing propaganda point of view. The statement you've made and that I've responded to represents a distortion of history that relies on a certain desire for simplicity that hounds the American intellect.

    Consider: Florida's election laws were interpreted broadly with the result that thousands of voter registrations were inappropriately cancelled; federal election laws were interpreted strictly in with the result that people have been arguing about the recounts ever since. The issue of "Trying to stop the military votes being included in 2000" overlooks--as you have expressed it--that the ballots in question were irregular inasmuch as:

    There were a number of overseas ballots missing postmarks or filled out in such a way that they were invalid under Florida law. A poll worker filled out the missing information on some hundred of these ballots. The Democrats moved to have all overseas ballots thrown out because of this. These disputes added to the mass of litigation between parties to influence the counting of ballots. The largest group of disputed overseas ballots were military ballots, which the Republicans argued to have accepted.

    Source: Wikipedia
    I mean, it would appear that Republicans were arguing for circumvention of election laws.

    I know that in political discussions these days, a liberal isn't allowed to have an opinion without first conceding the entire argument to a conservative point of view, but I find your comparison disingenuous in the face of history, as it equates morally the application and suspension of the law and treats both conditions as procedurally equal.

    I actually agree with the rest of your post, but find it unfortunate that you must base it on political convolution and falsehood.
    Last edited by Tiassa; 09-04-04 at 01:06 PM. Reason: Because

  7. #7
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    I actually agree with the rest of your post, but find it unfortunate that you must base it on political convolution and falsehood.
    You're talking about yourself, not me.


    I do wonder why you approach issues so consistently from a right-wing propaganda point of view.
    I could ask you the same question with the mere change of a single word: "right" for "left". But unlike you, I acknowledge the point, albeit not for the reasons you state in the first quote above. I enter many of these discussions from a right-side viewpoint because there's such a vast overbalance to the left on this board; somebody ought to post the other point of view. (shrug) I believe in opposition and discussion and debate, and using them to try and find objective truth.

    You, on the other hand, post interesting, well-reasoned, thoughtful, inciteful, and 100% left-wing arguments, in order to further the left-wing cause, because that's what you believe. Getting at the truth has nothing to do with it. It's all about the agenda. And god help anyone who disagrees -- they need to be attacked. Immediately. Personally. Righteously.

    Much like the Ann Coulter you seem to despise. That's a compliment, by the way -- you both write very well. You should write a book. Hell, I'd buy a copy. You're every bit as entertaining as she is!

    But in terms of advancing society in spite of petty political disagreement, neither one of you has anything really useful to say.

    I agree with several of your points above, in particular about Florida's election problems. It's your insistence that it's all Republcans' fault and your constant implication that Democrats are saints from heaven that I object to. :-)

  8. #8
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    Well, thanks for making it clear you're not up for a reasonable conversation. We can avoid the messy future chapters:

    Quote Originally Posted by Pangloss
    your constant implication that Democrats are saints from heaven that I object to
    Despite some bright spots in your outlook, another place you lose points with me is in such straw men.

    And also the more petty of your responses:

    You're talking about yourself, not me.
    Hey, you're arguing with history now. I've shown the paucity of your point that I objected to. You wish to dispute the argument on facts, that's fine. But--

    I enter many of these discussions from a right-side viewpoint because there's such a vast overbalance to the left on this board; somebody ought to post the other point of view. (shrug) I believe in opposition and discussion and debate, and using them to try and find objective truth.
    --such arrogant principles do not a strong argument make. I'm told there's a conservative viewpoint that doesn't wallow in the excess of its own loathing; perhaps you might please consider in the future finding some of those arguments. Simply reiterating the same dysfunctional tripe coming from the conservative wing doesn't do much to legitimize the perspective.

    You, on the other hand, post interesting, well-reasoned, thoughtful, inciteful, and 100% left-wing arguments, in order to further the left-wing cause, because that's what you believe.
    I can work with that despite its anemic simplicity:

    Oh, heaven help me. I forgot that what people are supposed to do is simply rant and rave irrationally and complain that interesting, well-reasoned, thoughtful, insightful posts are insulting.

    Getting at the truth has nothing to do with it.
    It's these kind of disgusting personal attacks that betray your desperate attempt to portray yourself as something you're not.

    It's all about the agenda
    What agenda? Perhaps you could forward me a copy; I seemed to have missed that memo.

    And god help anyone who disagrees -- they need to be attacked. Immediately. Personally. Righteously.
    This, from you?

    Okay, perhaps you do need some help: People are welcome to their opinions; I have no obligation to respect quasi-religious devotion to falsehood.

    I mean, if you're still upset about the Jew-hating bit, then perhaps you should reconsider the string of lies and distortions you posted that motivated that stinger on my part.

    You're dishonest, Pangloss. In case you missed it, my line in this is to generally downplay the significance of the Times editorial. That you choose to do it with bitter falsehood has nothing to do with disagreement, but rather the indignity of falsehood and your expectation that it should be respected as legitimate.

    Much like the Ann Coulter you seem to despise. That's a compliment, by the way -- you both write very well. You should write a book. Hell, I'd buy a copy. You're every bit as entertaining as she is!
    I'm working on it. Perpetually. However, you'd probably be disappointed; unlike Coulter, I don't hate and lie enough for your tastes.

    And while you might think the notion that I don't hate enough for your tastes humorous, I would remind you that I'm not the one constantly posting falsehoods in lieu of an argument and then complaining about the "disrespect" of having such bullsh@t called for what it is.

    But in terms of advancing society in spite of petty political disagreement, neither one of you has anything really useful to say.
    You've shown yourself reputable, Pangloss. You have the intellectual and moral authority to make such a judgment.

    (chortle!)

    Nonetheless, your opinion is noted.

    Speaking of petty political disagreements, don't you think a good number of our petty political disagreements could be resolved quite easily if you just stopped posting dishonest horsepucky and based your otherwise-respectable principles in something resembling fact?

    There's much to discuss. But unlike you, Pangloss, I cannot go forward discussing lies without acknowledging their falsehood.

    your constant implication that Democrats are saints from heaven that I object to
    Just to revisit this point again: You are offensively contrary to fact here. If you're going to hate, dislike, or otherwise have a problem with me, please do so based on honest criteria.

    You're not honest, Pangloss; and yes, I do object to your empty principles constructed on a foundation of lies.

    And no, you do not get to complain that an observation of fact equals a personal attack. If you don't like me calling you a liar, then stop being dishonest. If you don't like my refusal to respect lies as dignified, that's not my problem.

    The Dems are hardly any better. Trying to stop the military votes being included in 2000 was just as shameful as some of the crap Republicans were pulling. We're going to see a lot more of this bullshit in November, and the duty here is to see past it, not to prop it up and bolster it.
    In the meantime, how do you expect to "see past it" and "not prop it up and bolster it" if you're basing that vision on lies?

    That the Dems are hardly any better is a mere straw man.

    And it is a shame that our points of agreement are marred by these differences, but it's not a mere difference of opinion. It's a difference of principles. Dishonesty is unacceptable to me, and that seems to be a sticking point for you.

  9. #9
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    (shrug) If you don't like attacks, then don't start them. I was talking about the Democrats in 2000, and you lit into me with this:

    I find such disingenuous assertions of history an indicator that someone doesn't want to have a real discussion
    Just like our last breakdown, when you got all upset over something else I said and decided to attack me. Well, don't devolve it then. Real simple. :-)

  10. #10
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    Source: SFGate (AP)
    Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...418EDT0544.DTL
    Title: "Bush confident in integrity of vote-counting systems"
    Date: September 4, 2004

    President Bush today discussed vote-integrity issues at a campaign stop in Ohio today. The Associated Press reports:

    President Bush said Saturday he was confident in the integrity of ballot-counting systems throughout the country, but his campaign manager said GOP lawyers stood ready to "to make sure all eligible voters can vote" four years after the Florida recount.

    "We learned some lessons in the last campaign that we've got to be -- that we needed election reforms," Bush said at a question-and-answer session with supporters in Ohio. A law was passed "to encourage good, honest elections and to make sure that the registrations are good and honest, to make sure that every ballot is counted."

    The president's remarks were in response to a question about counting military ballots, a major point of contention in the 2000 recount. Election officials rejected hundreds of military absentee ballots, many because they lacked postmarks or signatures.

    "I'm confident that there will be a greater awareness when it comes to counting these ballots," Bush said.


    Source: SFGate
    Note: Bold and italic accents by Tiassa
    I'm hoping the full transcript of this stop comes up on the web in the next couple days; I'm very curious as to what specifically the question was.

    Left as it is, Bush seems to miss the issue; this may be a result of the actual question he was asked.

    But what of "counting these ballots"? Part of the issue seems to be on the voters' end, and as Pat Buchanan said of his own showing, those Jews in Florida weren't really voting for him--it was unimaginable. But unsigned ballots? Ballots lacking postmark? One of those is the voter's issue, and the other--was there even an affidavit of transport upon which we could affix blame to someone if something legitimately went wrong with any of those ballots? (e.g. Outright fraudulent ballots or ballots to be disqualified for being sent after the deadline.)

    "Greater awareness . . . to counting these ballots," doesn't say a whole lot, in part because I'm wondering how the actual term "counting" relates to the situation.

    Unsigned or late ballots are a matter of greater awareness given by the voter to voting; the lack of a proper postmark is an issue of interim custody. Are we seeking to change the election laws so that unsigned or late ballots can be accepted as a rule if they come from overseas military deployments?

    "Certainly we intend to make sure we have the appropriate lawyers and others to make sure that all eligible voters can vote," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said.

    Source: SFGate
    Lawyers--ah, good. My most infamous line of the 2000 election came in an office discussion right after the conventions finished. A coworker asked who I thought would win. I said it would be close, but Gore would edge it out, and something at the time about the state of the country actually had me believing that the entry of major litigation was something the parties were aware of the need to avoid for the sake of the voter. I told him, "It'll be close. Really close. But Gore will win, and I don't think we'll see the lawyers get involved."

    At any rate, that line alone made Sandra Day O'Connor's declared refusal of impartiality and the court battles of the 2000 election that much more painful.

    So certainly I can understand how lawyers are going to be on the front line to make sure eligible voters can vote. (Actually, that's sarcasm; those lawyers will not be out transporting and assisting voters. They're actually arguing about what votes get counted; before the 2000 election, I would consider myself splitting hairs on this point, but this is 2004, and the electorate is not expected to look past the subtle political twist.

    So ... um ... yeah. Let this be a lesson in the problems of the press. Or something. Seriously, I'll look around for a transcript of this campaign event because there's a lot that hinges on what specifically Bush was responding to, and as it is his remarks seem disingenuous. You'll notice that, as it is, Bush and Mehlman seem to be referring to each others' concerns: Bush speaks of counting when the questions take place before the counting, and Mehlman speaks of voting when the questions take place after the ballot is cast and on through its counting.

    A curious impression ....
    ______________________

    • Lindlaw, Scott. "Bush confident in integrity of vote-counting systems". SFGate.com (Associated Press), September 4, 2004. See http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...418EDT0544.DTL

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pangloss

    If you don't like attacks, then don't start them. I was talking about the Democrats in 2000, and you lit into me with this:
    Then please don't be so rude as to post irrelevancies based on distortions of history.

    Really, the sins of the Democrats are their own issue. If they're so important that we should look away from the apparent conflict of interest and lack of transparency in a voting system that also requires its participants to waive their secret ballot--a condition illegal in some places in the union--in order to bag on the Democrats, then I'm sure there's a legitimate, honest lead to the subject.

    Just like our last breakdown, when you got all upset over something else I said and decided to attack me.
    You never did provide any examples of what you were complaining about.

    Well, don't devolve it then. Real simple.
    Thank you for admitting the detriment of your posting methods; after all, I was merely taking my cues for communicating my displeasure from you.

    What you consider an attack is merely the employment of two of your methods of politely disagreeing with people. Or maybe you never thought they were polite; after all, I should know better than to take you at your word.

    So you have my apologies: I am very sorry for trying to express my displeasure at your seeming distraction of the topic with a politicized historical inaccuracy; I am sorry for my incorrect estimation of the tone of the phrases I adopted from you.

    But you do have a point: Don't devolve it, Pangloss.

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