On Thursday, Nathan Barker of upstate New York's Gouverneur Times --- a far-Right online publication (featuring columns by the likes of Michelle Malkin, Oliver North, Chuck Norris, and all the rest of the wingnutters) --- filed a lengthy, and somewhat breathless, report alleging a computer virus had infected several of the new e-voting systems in first-time use during the November 7th Special Election in NY's 23rd Congressional district between Democratic candidate Bill Owens, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, and Republican Dede Scozzafava (who dropped out of the race just prior to Election Day and threw her support to the Democrat).
Barker charged that a "VIRUS in the VOTING MACHINES" [his caps] resulted in "tainted results," "casting doubt on the accuracy of counts retrieved from any of the machines" used in the election.
Owens was reported to have won the election by a small margin on Election Night --- made smaller as errors were discovered during the post-election canvass --- before being hastily sworn in to the U.S. House just a few days later, in time to provide a crucial Democratic vote in favor of the health care insurance reform bill.
Barker's detailed report clearly offers a hard-right undertone, obviously in support of the Conservative Party candidate Hoffman. The article also advances several unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and features a number of out-and-out inaccuracies as well. A number of the piece's key allegations, though important, are also disputed by election officials, and at least one lead member of New York's election integrity community --- which is, itself, split between supporters of the new optical-scan e-voting systems and those calling for the retention of the Empire State's long-used mechanical lever voting machines.
Nonetheless, Barker raises a number of significant points and important concerns, about which The BRAD BLOG has been warning for years, often in the face of derision, notably from the same Rightwing circles crying foul now, who had previously dismissed such concerns as those of 'tin-foil hat wearing, sore losers and conspiracy theorists' despite actual hard evidence and scientifically-sound details proffered about such concerns.
It's somewhat amusing to see some on the Right, now that they have concerns about a close election, suddenly find religion on the very issues they'd derided as nonsense so stridently in the past. It's very tempting to either disregard them now entirely, or torture them mercilessly on that point. But we'll try to take the high road here since their central concerns, now that they've finally arrived and no matter how long overdue, have been ones that we've shared for years, whether or not they might have stood to adversely affect Democrats, Republicans or independents.
The bottom line is that whether a computer virus, malicious or otherwise, affected the results of the NY-23 Special Election or not --- we've seen no actual evidence that it did, and state officials offer a differing explanation for the e-voting system failures that did occur --- it certainly could have. The direct threat to democracy inherent in the concerns expressed by Barker (whether substantiated or not), underscore the foolishness of using such secret vote-counting systems at all. In New York --- where voters, in real elections, are essentially being forced to serve as beta testers of these new, federally-uncertified systems, made by a company with a long track-record of failure, lies, obfuscation, near-bankruptcy, secretive foreign ownership, election disaster after disaster, and dissembling to the media, as well as federal, state and local officials --- the foolishness is all the more apparent, unnecessary, unfortunate and a clear and present threat to democracy itself...