Monday, November 08, 2004

Voting questions are going mainstream

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, for my money one of the best SportsCenter anchormen in history, has begun to pursue some very disconcerting vote-counting developments in Florida and Ohio. (Check his Nov. 7 blog post if the link doesn't send you straight there.)

Leaders in one Ohio county decided to bar journalists from the administration building as election officials counted the votes, though they later buckled and granted nominal access. Olbermann is also investigating the results in several Florida counties where President Bush won big over Sen. John Kerry despite Democrats' 2-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans there. Florida, as you may know, relies heavily on the electronic voting machines that I've already blasted intensely in this site's short existence.

Even if it turns out that there's nothing to this story and Bush indeed trounced Kerry in formerly Democratic counties in Florida, I'm still glad to see Olbermann looking into the situation. For one thing, if there's some meat to the vote-counting rumors swirling around the Internet, the truth needs to come out before the Electoral College votes next month. And even if Olbermann finds nothing that might affect the election outcome, his work will still be valuable if it gets the public to think seriously about the danger of handing over our elections to computers whose numbers can't be independently verified by paper records. If we can't assure that the candidate for whom the majority voted is the candidate who takes office, we've lost our republic.

I've heaped criticism on the television news media in the past, and I'll do so in the future, but Mr. Olbermann just won immunity from my slings and arrows for a while. Thanks for keeping the spirit of fearless investigative journalism alive, Keith.

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