Election 2000, Opening the can of worms

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Playing with punch cards

Buying Elections


Again -- Bad Registration Lists

Electronic voting

Anyone who has gone door to door to get signatures on an initiative or referendum petition becomes aware of a dirty secret that could contribute to election fraud: County lists of registered voters are not up to date.

The person who answers the door may say that the person whose name appears on the registration list does not live there any more, or is dead. The list may be so out of date that the current resident has never heard of the voter who is supposed to be living at that address. In some neighborhoods, as many as 20% of the names on the registration lists are wrong.

What does this mean?

Someone, knowing that a voter on the list is not around to vote in the precinct where he is incorrectly registered, could vote in his place, falsely signing the registration list. This would be more difficult in small towns with little population turnover, but it may be easily accomplished in anonymous urban areas.

How would the gangsters know which registrations are incorrect?

A county or municipality could be surveyed for some sham commercial purpose. The caller asks, "May I speak to Mr. Smith?" If the answer is "You have the wrong number" or "He doesn't live here anymore," the caller has the information for the fraud.

The obvious question is "Why doesn't the County Board of Elections do an annual telephone survey to bring the registration lists up to date?"

All sorts of excuses could be made such as "We don't have the staff" or "It would cost too much." But what is the cost to our republic of stolen elections and voter cynicism?

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"Hanging chads ...

ELYRIA - Lorain County Commissioner Mary Jo Vasi has hired an elections-law specialist to review the results of the Nov. 7 election in which she lost by 421 votes.

Vasi said yesterday that she had retained Columbus attorney Don McTigue to oversee a recount of the approximately 101,000 ballots in her race. ...

The narrow margin of less than 0.5 percent between Vasi and Republican Eric Flynn triggers an automatic recount. By law, the recount cannot begin until the board certifies the results, which it plans to do on Nov. 30 ...

The Board of Elections began canvassing ballots yesterday, the process of determining which questionable ballots will be included in its final count.

These include 36 ballots with hanging or dimpled chads and other ballots rejected by the machine counters, said board member [head of the Lorain County Board of Elections] and Democratic Party Chairman Tom Smith [who has been an attorney for Edward Krystowski . and the Richard E. Jacobs Group] ... ''

E-mail: mnaymik@plaind.com


``Traficant fears election will be taken from Bush

CLEVELAND (AP) -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., D-Ohio [Youngstown], who plans to vote to re-elect GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, fears Florida recounts will take the presidential election from Republican George W. Bush.

"... I believe the machinations are underway to steal the election," Traficant said Wednesday [11-22-00] ..."

"I believe Bush has won. They should count the military votes and they shouldn't mess around with these dimpled votes," Traficant said ...

"Dimpled chads" are indentations in punch-card ballots, possibly made by voters who did not push the stylus down hard enough. Backers of Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore want vote-counters in Florida to count dimpled chads ...

Traficant, who has increasingly voted with Republicans in the House, was re-elected Nov. 7 [2000] despite his prediction that he will be indicted in an FBI corruption investigation ...''

Double punching a ballot is the modern version of Boss Tweed's technique of double marking, where the vote counter concealed a lead pencil tip under a fingernail, and could double mark selected ballots literally under the nose of a poll watcher, resulting in their disqualification.

With double punching, the fingernail conceals an instrument with a sharp point, rather than a pencil tip. Manual recounting of punch card ballots is an opportunity for this fraud.

County boards of election invite fraud by using punch cards rather than "heavy in the circle with a number 2 pencil" as is done on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The pencils should have no erasers. If a voter makes a mistake, he can request a new ballot.

The most dangerous proposal is to record votes electronically. A computer can rapidly read the votes and then, for example, change one out of each hundred votes in a random manner to avoid detection. An SAT-type hard copy ballot is essential to prevent massive election fraud.


Recount in Vasi's favor

ELYRIA -- County Commissioner Mary Jo Vasi won re-election courtesy of ballots not counted on Election Day ...

She trailed by 421 votes in the unofficial count Nov. 7, [2000] but when absentee ballots from overseas and provisional ballots were added to the totals, Vasi had defeated Republican Eric Flynn by 117 votes, according to official results certified Thursday.

But the margin of victory is so small that an automatic recount will be conducted Dec. 11.

In the other commissioner race, the margin closed enough to also require a recount, though Republican David Moore remained the victor over Commissioner Michael Ross.

Certified results show Moore won by 233 votes, rather than the 862 lead he had on Election Day.

Tom Smith, Democratic Party chairman, said he believes the roughly 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots helped out the Democratic candidates because he said those votes belong to a "more mobile group of people."

"The Democratic voting base tends to be more mobile," said Smith, who also chairs the election board.

Provisional ballots are votes cast by residents who failed to register changes of address with the board of elections prior to Election Day. They are permitted to vote but their past and present addresses must be verified before their votes are counted.

Robert Rousseau, Republican Party chairman, disagreed with Smith about the nature of the recently tabulated votes.

"Obviously, the bulk of the provisional votes must have come from Lorain," he said. "That's where (Vasi) did the best."

Vasi has hired an attorney, Don McTigue of Columbus, to oversee the recounting process, which will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 11 [2000]. The results of the recount will be certified at 4 p.m. that day when the elections board meets ...

It is possible that a protest of a recount in any race would result in the request for a hand count, in which case, Ohio has strict guidelines already in place for hand counts, Smith said. The guidelines were established in 1994 in the race for the 63rd House District, in which William Taylor won by nine votes ...

Commissioner-elect Moore said it was a "rough day."

"The bottom line is that no one has a mandate except the voters," he said. "As far as I am concerned Eric won and I won. If the results show (Vasi and Ross) win, then the voters lose. I'll just take one day at a time." ... ''

COLUMN from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 12-02-00, By Cal Thomas

"... Attention should be paid to former Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith, who wrote in The Wall Street Journal on November 10 [2000] (and spoke on CNN the day before) that those 19,120 presidential ballots at issue in Palm Beach County were "destroyed by deliberate double-punching...with a second punch for Al Gore or Pat Buchanan.'' ...

The error rate in Palm Beach County is 10 times greater than reported in any other county in the nation which uses paper punch ballots, according to Robert Cook, a nuclear engineer who holds a masters degree in statistical quality control and is experienced in analyzing and correcting trends and errors in heavy construction projects ...

In a phone interview, Cook tells me that only ... in Palm Beach County (and only in the most heavily Democratic precincts) were 19,120 ballots rejected in this race for double punching. That's an error rate of 4.4 percent overall. In the rest of Florida, there was less than one-half of one percent double-punch error rate.

What especially got Cook's attention was that in every Palm Beach precinct where Gore got more votes than there are registered Democrats, George W. Bush received less than 60 percent of the registered Republican votes. In no Palm Beach precinct did Bush receive more than 80 percent of the number of registered Republicans.

Does that sound fishy in a nation supposedly so evenly divided? It should, considering that it was only in Palm Beach County that more than 20 percent of Republicans "forgot'' to vote for their party's presidential candidate.

On average, says Cook, in every other Florida county, Bush received more votes than there were registered Republicans. Nationwide, polls indicate more than 90 percent of registered Republicans supported the Republican candidate ..."

[The effect of a hand count is to put more finger prints on all the ballots. Why? One reason could be that it would cover up the impossible feat of one person being in 40 precincts of Palm Beach County at the same time.]

Robert Cook's analysis may be found on Michael Reagan's Web page ... See Robert Cook Article.

Cal Thomas


`` Republicans admit altering defective ballot requests ...

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- One attorney charged there was a "sinister" conspiracy to aid George W. Bush. A former CIA agent said he was just trying to help GOP voters. A county elections official said she let Republican operatives correct absentee ballot applications.

Two trials that could affect tens of thousands of presidential votes played out just blocks from where Florida's highest court was set to hear legal arguments Thursday in the contested presidential election.

See Article.

FEATURE ARTICLE from Slate magazine (Slate.msn.com), 12-12-00, By Paul Berman

`` Simple Math and Dimpled Chad

... In obeyance to the laws of logic and probability, dimpled chad should always be counted as valid votes, together with any other mark on a ballot. Here is why:

A mark on a ballot might indicate an intended vote. Or it might indicate nothing at all and be the result of an accident--for instance, an accidental bruise made by a stylus. There is no other possibility. It must be one or the other.

But accidental marks, being accidental, will distribute themselves around a ballot randomly. Al Gore will receive a certain number of accident marks, but so will Bush, Nader, Buchanan, David McReynolds of the Socialist Party, and all the other candidates, unto the most minor. And each of those candidates, major and minor, will receive pretty much the same number of accidental marks.

A candidate who receives more marks than some other candidate can have done so only through the active choice of the voters.

Thus, if someone does eventually tally up the "undervote" ballots in Florida, and if, say, Gore comes in first, with Bush second, followed by Nader, Buchanan, McReynolds, and so on through the list of candidates, there can be only one possible explanation, logically speaking. The explanation must be that voters chose to vote in that fashion.

May I point out an obvious conclusion? The United States and its Supreme Court are right now bollixed up over a simple logical error.

Florida law instructs the ballot counters to determine the intent of the voters. Nothing could be easier or simpler to do. The ballot counters merely have to tally up all the marks on the ballots and not worry about the intentions of the voters. The unintended marks will cancel each other out, and the intended marks will register differently for each candidate. In short, a hand count of all marks will show the voters' intentions ..."

Mitchell Jones wrote:

`` Incorrect. A candidate who receives more marks than some other candidate can have done so only through the bias of the vote counters. The reason: *All* dimpled chads are random marks, because it is physically impossible to produce a dimpled chad using a Votomatic machine, as has been demonstrated by the inventor of the machine, who has been sending free machines, styluses, and blank ballots to journalists all over the country, accompanied by an adamant statement *defying* them to produce a dimpled chad using his machine.

Thus the fact that Gore was in the process of picking up votes while the hand recount was going on is *smoking gun proof* of what was obvious already to reasoning observers: ...

Since the distribution of dimpled chads is random, non-randomness in the interpretation of dimpled chads is a measure of the bias of the vote counters, nothing more, and nothing less. ''

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."

-Josef Stalin

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ARTICLE in the WASHINGTON POST, 11-21-00, By John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona

"New president must kill soft money

... The harsh partisanship of recent years, that has contributed to the American people's diminished esteem for public officials, could grow worse ...

The next president will have to embark immediately on a series of confidence-building measures ...

Patriots of both parties have offered sensible suggestions toward that end ... Let me offer one measure ...

When all the money that washed through this election cycle is counted, $4 billion or more will have been spent on federal and state campaigns, half again as much as was spent on all races in 1996.

Voter turnout, up slightly from 1996, was still only a little more than half of all eligible voters. Most discouraging was the low turnout among voters age 18 to 29, just 38 percent.

Clearly, the rushing stream of cash, coming in the form of huge, unlimited contributions known as soft money, has done precious little to encourage participation in our democratic processes. On the contrary, it has increased public indifference and cynicism by, among other things, underwriting much of the negative advertising THAT IS INTENDED TO DRIVE DOWN VOTER TURNOUT ...

I believe it is a healthy thing for Americans to be skeptical about the purposes and practices of public officials and to refrain from expecting too much from their government. Self-reliance is the ethic that made America great.

But when healthy public skepticism becomes widespread cynicism bordering on alienation, conservative no less than liberal officeholders should recognize that we share the primary responsibility for convincing Americans that our government still embodies our national ideals.

When the people come to believe that their government is so dysfunctional or even corrupt that it no longer serves basic constitutional ends, our culture could fragment beyond recognition ...

Were Congress and the president to agree to ban soft money - the five- and six-figure checks ... we would remove one of the most durable impediments to achieving bipartisan consensus on reforming entitlements, the tax code, government spending, HMOs, education and tort law.

Soft money's practical effect on the legislative process is to elevate both parties' allegiance to their chief donors above our ideological distinctions and our responsibility to address pressing national priorities ...

Partisan deference to core supporters of both parties is a less-significant cause of legislative gridlock than is our gratitude to the chief underwriters of our campaigns in elections that are less a battle of ideas than a test of political treasuries.

Trial lawyers, as major donors to the Democratic Party, prevent any reform of HMOs that doesn't encourage explosive increases in costly litigation, while insurance companies, as major donors to the Republican Party, resist even basic fairness in empowering patients to make life-or-death decisions regarding their own health care. Surely, we can do better than this.

When the new Congress and the new president are sworn in, let us remove soft money's negative effect on bipartisan cooperation and on our public discourse. Let us take this sensible first step on the long road to convincing the American people that their representatives in Congress and their president are patriots first and partisans second."

For more information: Soft Money

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In each of the past two years, and on the first day of class, Law Professor Butler Shaffer, Southwestern University School of Law, presented his students with the following voting exercise.

Bear in mind that these students knew nothing about the Professor nor had he said anything to them prior to opening up the class with this exercise.


"It is time to elect the leader of a great nation, and you have been presented with the following candidates:


A well-known critic of government, this man has been involved in tax protest movements, and has openly advocated secession, armed rebellion against the existing national government, and even the overthrow of that government.

He is a known member of a militia group that was involved in a shootout with law enforcement authorities. He opposes gun control efforts of the present national government, as well as restrictions on open immigration into this country.

He is a businessman who as earned his fortune from such businesses as alcohol, tobacco, retailing, and smuggling.


A decorated army war veteran, this man is an avowed nonsmoker and dedicated public health advocate. His public health interests include the fostering of medical research and his dedication to eliminating cancer.

He opposes the use of animals in conducting such research. He has supported restrictions on the use of asbestos, pesticides, and radiation, and favors government determined occupational health and safety standards, as well as the promotion of such foods as whole-grain bread and soybeans.


An ardent opponent of tobacco, he has supported increased restrictions on both the use of and advertising for tobacco products. Such advertising restrictions include:

[1] not allowing tobacco use to be portrayed as harmless or a sign of masculinity;

[2] not allowing such advertising to be directed to women;

[3] not drawing attention to the low nicotine content of tobacco products; and,

[4] limitations as to where such advertisements may be made.

This man is a champion of environmental and conservationist programs, and believes in the importance of sending troops into foreign countries in order to maintain order therein.



CANDIDATE 'B' _____ "

The combined vote total for these two years (4 classes) is as follows:

Candidate "A" 47 votes 25%

Candidate "B" 141 votes 75%

After collecting all the ballots, the professor informs the students that Candidate 'A' is a composite of the "founding fathers" (e.g., Sam Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, etc., etc.) while Candidate 'B' is ADOLPH HITLER (see Robert Proctor's book, THE NAZI WAR ON CANCER).

An interesting follow-up occurred in one of these classes last year [1999]. In the "commerce clause" segment of constitutional law, the students were discussing the Schechter case - in which the Supreme Court struck down the New Deal's National Industrial Recovery Act.

After describing this Act in some detail, the professor went on to inform his students just how popular state collectivism was throughout the world: Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco and Roosevelt being the better known examples; and of how Hitler and Mussolini had been revered by many renowned people throughout the world, including Gandhi, Churchill, etc., etc.

At this point, one student interrupted: "I don't see how you can say that. How could a man like Adolph Hitler have been popular with so many people?" The professor leaned over the podium and responded: "you tell me...just two weeks ago, 78% of you in this class voted for him." In about twenty seconds, the room became unbelievably silent.

From: Mitchell Jones

Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2000


***{An excellent point, well made. Americans are fascist to the bone, even though they don't like that word. Given that state of affairs, it is hardly surprising that they would vote for Adolph Hitler, provided only that he ran under a different name. (He might, for example, call himself "Al Gore" or "George Bush." :-) --MJ}***

***{ ... The point of the classroom exercise was to demonstrate that contemporary Americans have no comprehension of the nature of fascism, and that, as a consequence, they eagerly embrace it when contemporary proponents of fascism avoid the labels and the rhetoric used by their predecessors in the 1930's.

... In the present-day U.S. it is virtually impossible to get elected to any post, from dogcatcher to President, if you are not a believer in the fundamental premise of fascism -- to wit: that government can solve social problems by violating property rights. --MJ}***

Another fundemental premise of fascism is that victimless behavior can (and should) be criminalized. For example, homosexuality or attending a synagogue should be a crime because "it is contrary to the will of God."

Quote of the month:

"Here is an interesting fact: nationwide, the murder rate in precincts that voted for George Bush is 2.1 per 100,000, while the murder rate in precincts that voted for Al Gore is 13.2 per 100,000." --Neal Boortz

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`` Flynn expresses voter list concerns

ELYRIA -- Republican Eric Flynn and his attorney contend the Lorain County Board of Elections has violated state law by failing to remove inactive voters from its list of registered voters, thus allowing thousands of residents to vote illegally.

"We are just investigating who voted and what the law says about who can vote," Flynn said Sunday. "I am just concerned there are registration problems that need corrected . . that need to be looked at."

Marilyn Jacobcik, director of the Lorain County Board of Elections, said the board does not go through the registrations annually to purge inactive voters.

"We have a practice that the lists are reviewed from time to time but generally it is much more difficult to delete people today than it used to be," she said Sunday. "We can't delete people just simply for not voting."

On Friday, Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, said voters should be purged from registration rolls if they haven't voted at least once in a four-year period that includes two general federal elections.

However, Loparo said, if an election board fails to remove a voter's name from the list and that person chooses to vote after being inactive for four years or more, the vote will still count and the registration is "maintained." ...

On Sunday, Flynn suggested a revote might be necessary in his race against County Commissioner Mary Jo Vasi. He also suggested leaving the commissioner seat vacant for a year until the next general election.

Votes are being recounted in Flynn's and Vasi's race today [12-11-00] and also in the race between Republican David Moore and Commissioner Michael Ross.

On Election Day, unofficial election results showed Flynn beat Vasi by 421 votes and Moore's margin of victory was a bit larger at 862 votes. Once the nearly 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots were counted and certified, the results of the election changed.

Official election results, certified on Nov. 30, show Vasi beat Flynn by 117 votes and Moore beat Ross by 233 votes. A recount was automatic in these two races because certified results showed the candidates were separated by less than one-half of 1 percent.

On Friday, Flynn, who before had said he was content to watch the recount and accept the results, announced he had obtained an attorney and was questioning some of the provisional ballots cast in the election.

Flynn maintains an unusually high number of Democrats voted provisionally, and the results of the provisional ballots did not reflect the results on Election Day. For example, while Flynn won by more than 2,000 votes in Elyria on Election Day, he lost among provisional voters in Elyria ... ''

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, 12-15-00, By Melissa Dittmann

"Officials debate electonic balloting

ELYRIA -- More than 2 percent of the ballots cast in the general election in Lorain County did not register votes for president, more than double the average among the five counties in Ohio with electronic voting.

Of the 114,480 ballots cast in Lorain County, which uses a punch-card system, 2,300 or 2.01 percent did not show votes for president, according to figures from the secretary of state's office.

In the five counties with electronic voting, the average non-vote in the presidential race was less than 1 percent ...

Non-votes come from voters who choose not to vote, as well as those whose votes are not tabulated by voting machines, either because they voted for more than one candidate or did not fully punch out a chad.

Lake County, which uses electronic voting, registered 0.75 percent in non-votes out of 103,347 votes cast.

Linda Hlebak, deputy director of the Lake County Board of Elections, said with their electronic system if a voter chooses not to register a vote, the screen will tell the voter they are about to cast a blank ballot and then ask for confirmation if it is the voter's intention.

Lake County used a mechanical lever voting machine prior to switching to an electronic system last November. The change cost the county $3 million.

The estimated cost for Lorain County to change to an electronic system would be between $3 to $5 million ...

James Lee, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said electronic and punch-card systems have advantages and disadvantages.

Electronic systems prevent double voting, he said, but they don't leave a physical record to double-check and they don't give voters a chance for second thoughts.

Ballots cast in punch-card systems can be double-checked to try to determine voter intent, he said, and punch-card systems give voters time to consider whether they made the right choices as they walk from the booth to the box where they drop in their ballots."

Dean T. Miller (dtmiller@midiowa.net) wrote:

"Just about the best computer voting design I've seen calls for the votes to be tabulated and publicly listed. That is, every choice of every voter will be listed somewhere -- probably on the 'net, but they could be published in newspapers, etc.

However, the voting will still be secret. Each voter will receive a copy of how they voted (printed out locally) and their votes will be published by being associated with a code number. The code number will identify the polling place and then have a non-duplicated (pseudo) random number.

Every voter will be able to check the accuracy of their ballot selections in the published tabulation by matching the list entry to the code number on their copy of the ballot. (Of course, if they're paranoid, there could be an option to not print the ballot selections on the paper, just the code number.)

This method will virtually guarantee that each vote will be counted. Of course, I don't know of any system that will prevent "extra" votes from entering the voting tabulation (no matter what voting system is used). That's the major problem with secret ballots."

As mentioned above:

County boards of election invite fraud by using punch cards rather than "heavy in the circle with a number 2 pencil" as is done on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The most dangerous proposal is to record votes electronically. A computer can rapidly read the votes and then, for example, change one out of each hundred votes in a random manner to avoid detection.

Perhaps two hard copies could be generated at the time of electronic voting, one for the Board of Elections and one for the voter.

Jed Rothwell (jedrothwell@infinite-energy.com) wrote:

"Here is something I would be anxious to avoid with any voting technology ... Windows 98. This software is impenetrable, uncontrolled, and grossly unreliable.

A voting system that depends upon it would invite chaos much worse than the Florida brouhaha. Essentially, we would be entrusting democracy to the tender mercies of William Gates III, or to some lunatic computer virus programmer in Hoboken ...

Some voting machines commonly sold in the 1970s were based upon Data General Nova computers. According to a New Yorker article written at the time, they were wide open to fraud.

This does not surprise me. I was programming them at the time. They were multitasking and there was absolutely no memory protection. Any programmer could log onto a terminal or modem connection, and examine and change any byte in memory, leaving no trace.

Since there was only 16 to 64 KB of memory, it was easy to locate a memory location with a specific number, such as the totals for today's election. You could stuff a new number in with a ten line program written in Business BASIC.

It was also easy to have the main program surreptitiously dispatch a new process which would run in the background, perform some action, and then disappear.

This was a wonderful machine in many ways. It was easy to program and much more reliable than today's PCs, but it was a terrible choice for counting votes. When I read that it was being used for that purpose, I was shocked.

The machines I worked with were locked in accounting departments and well guarded, but there was legitimate concern about accounting controls, that is, computer literate employees stealing money ...

There were supposedly cases in which close elections were changed by people calling and over the modem and dealing with memory locations. Any programmer familiar with the machine could have done that easily.

Nowadays there are tightened standards for software transparency and computer security in voting machines. I have heard that the manufacturers and state elections commissions get together periodically to hash out these issues.

Any new voting machines would have to be exhaustively tested by groups of experts from government agencies, political parties, trade groups and trade magazine testing laboratories, and any group of private citizens who wishes to test the machine.

Machines must be made available to private groups for testing, just as Florida's used ballots are available to the press or any interested party.

I would advocate using a very simple special-purpose processor, in a specialized machine somewhat like an ATM (Automatic Teller Machines - cash machines). You might use an early generation Intel processors, a Z-80, or one of these processors for video games.

I would write the program in the simplest, shortest code, with no special features or multitasking. I would publish the code entirely on the Internet. Let every interested programmer in the world look for potential bugs and trapdoors. This is how the Linux has been developed into a robust and reliable system.

The machine output can be piped simultaneously to general purpose computers owned by the voting commission, poll watchers from major parties, the press, and the public via the Internet. The press and parties can tally the data themselves and build all the features they want in their own computers.

I saw some ATM software not long ago that was similar to what I describe. If we can build reliable ATMs that never lose track of the money, I'm sure we can make simple and reliable voting machines ... "

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