That’s how I felt after reading this Christopher Hitchens piece from the March issue of Vanity Fair.  No doubt many of you have seen this before; I had not.

Sure, I’ve heard bits and pieces of the various complaints about Ohio.  But this article really piles them on.  And I guess what is most chilling is that the author says he doesn’t believe Kerry “should be president of this or any country”, yet he can’t help but be appalled at what he is discovering about the shadiness of this election.

I think I had actually wanted to believe the election wasn’t fixed.  Not because, heaven forfend, I wanted Bush to win!  Just because I want to believe that our side has a chance, and is not just playing out our part in a fixed fight we can never win.  Eight hour lines to vote are outrageous, and something has to be done about that.  But at least this is a visible problem.  At least it can be proven.  At least people could still vote if they were dogged enough.  If it only takes a small number of people to fix the electronic machines, and there is no “paper trail”, we could well be the victims of a coup that ended with a whimper rather than a bang.
Washington State’s gubernatorial election showed the value of a paper trail.  If there are actual ballots, it is always possible to go back and recount (or for the media to do so, as after Bush v. Gore).  So I think our #1 goal has to be to fight for this requirement.  The “Count Every Vote Act” included this provision, but it was overly broad.  Sure, I’d love to see each and every one of those reforms signed into law, but by packing it full of such goodies, the bill was automatically DOA.

On the other hand, if we pushed singlemindedly for a requirement that every vote produce some paper receipt or ballot that could be looked at in case of a recount, we might have a chance to win the war of public opinion (“why are they opposing this?  hmmm…”) and then have the very basics we need to ensure that we can engage in all the myriad other aspects of political combat.

For myself, I’ve made a personal vow: if there is no paper trail by ’08, and the Republicans still have control of the government after that election, I’m going to get the hell out of here, any way I possibly can.

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