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Friday, August 10, 2007

The Evil Robot and the Iowa Straw Poll

Evil Robot
Typical Diebold Machine

It wasn't the headline that grabbed my attention, although it's pretty good (Say What?! The Straw Poll Explained, ABC News). It was the subheader that got me -- Unscientific State Poll Holds Tremendous Clout in Presidential Election.

Kinda true, kinda not so true. In the best case, the Iowa Straw Poll is somewhat indicative. In 1999 Bush won, but Malcolm Forbes -- who could not possibly have won the presidency -- came in second. In retrospect, winning might seem significant, but coming in second didn't mean a damned thing.

This year, the 'tremendous clout' of the straw poll has been extremely diluted. The only frontrunner actually participating is Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have decided to skip it. Fred Thompson, still playing the 'draft me' game and undeclared, is also sitting it out. Everyone's prediction is that you can count on Romney winning it and then write it off as meaningless.

The Iowa Straw Poll is really just an Iowa state GOP fundraiser anyway. It costs $35 just to participate. As a fundraiser, it's fantastically effective -- 40,000 are expected to participate and ticket sales could go over $1 million. And, like any fundraiser, the poll is gimmicky and one of the gimmicks isn't exactly topical anymore.

Raw Story:

This weekend, Americans will see images of voters emerging from polling booths proudly displaying their purple-stained thumbs as a mark of pride after their democratic effort.

The images will not be beamed from Baghdad, though, but from Ames, Iowa, where Republicans will gather for an annual straw poll. This year's straw poll will be the first to have voters dip their thumbs in the same kind of dye used in the 2005 national elections in Iraq.

What's it say about Iraq that the only positive symbol they could think of was from two years ago? And won't the sight of purple-stained thumbs bring back unfortunate memories of the party's brown-stained nose in regard to George W. Bush? After all, the first appearance of the purple-inked GOPer was at Bush's 2006 State of the Union, where he said, "We're continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom." Is it really a good idea to remind people we've made zero progress in that direction? It's this kind of connection to Bush that got them killed the last time. Proudly proclaiming that you're the party of George W. Bush and the Iraq war seems to be a pretty crappy marketing scheme -- especially in a race where candidates are busy trying to pretend that Bush doesn't exist or, at least, doesn't matter.

Another problem exists. Those purple thumbs of democracy will become enpurpled after voting on Diebold voting machines. I haven't looked up the origins of the term 'straw poll,' but it sure sounds rustic. You don't think of needlessly complicated, easily hacked, unsecure voting machines when you hear it.

The machines are so distrusted, the Republican Party of Iowa is being sued over their use.

KCCI, Des Moines, IA:

This weekend's Republican Straw poll is being challenged.

That comes from a national group that is threatening legal action over the voting machines that the Republican Party of Iowa is using.

A supporter of Republican candidate Ron Paul, who is not connected to the campaign, made the legal threat, NewsChannel 8 reported.

The Iowa GOP said the poll is 'fraud proof' -- a questionable claim in even the best of circumstances. But with the Diebold Vote-O-Matic -- a machine so insecure, so unreliable, and so easily rigged that its use has literally been outlawed in many districts around the nation -- the claim is bizarre beyond belief.

Seriously, what's the big deal with electronic voting anyway? All the machine does is count; why do you need some triumph of technology straight out of The Jetsons to do that? Not only are the machines untrustworthy, but they're totally unnecessary. Especially in a BS fundraising effort who's results are guaranteed not to make a damned bit of difference anyway. And, with only 40,000 voters to tally -- tops -- tracking the votes is hardly a herculean task.

It turns out that the purple ink might be a better security measure than the infernal machines. The only purpose the Iowa Straw Poll serves this year is to prove that the Diebold machines work. But with the results pretty much a given, that proof is going to be pretty weak.

All the poll will do is demonstrate the GOP's commitment to really bad ideas -- Iraq, electronic voting, Bush worship, and President Romney. Keep that in mind when you read the 'tremendous clout' headlines.


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1 comment:

Born2BearBabies said...
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