Despite Obama’s victory, problems with electronic voting machines should not be ignored

With Obama’s landslide victory over McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, I hope the problems of electronic voting will not be buried under the euphoria. U.S. media had been filled with all kinds of problems involving voting machines. These problems clearly indicated a trend of errors favoring McCain. There were so many reports in so many states that there seemed to be a machinery of cheating in place to make sure McCain would win.

Search the Web for “electronic voting machines in 2008 U.S. elections” and you will get these reports. Note that the search term given is completely neutral and does not include leading words like problem, error, failure and so forth. Yet, the bulk of the reports on the Internet are about problems associated with voting machines.

If we summarize the 2008 U.S. election experience from the perspective of clean and honest elections, this is how I’d put it: the threat of cheating came from those who controlled the electronic voting machines, and it was the massive turnout, the landslide for Obama, and the vigilance of U.S. election integrity activists which stopped the cheats from succeeding.

We were in a similar situation exactly ten years ago, in 1998, when the landslide victory of Joseph Estrada prevented any cheating effort by the administration party Lakas-NUCD although there were clear indications that the machinery to do so was in place.

We were not so lucky in 2004, when cheating was so rampant and brazen that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself was caught on tape micro-managing it. Yet, the whole system, including the business community, sections of the Church and even citizens’ watchdogs, colluded to cover up the cheating, probably because they thought “anyone but FPJ” would have been better.

I sure hope Philippine election authorities will get the correct lesson out of the U.S. 2008 experience.

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