The Common Good

The Machine Ate My Vote

Sojomail - August 5, 2004

Quote of the Week U.N. action or inaction on Sudan?
Batteries Not Included David Batstone: The machine ate my vote
Piece of Mind Time's running out!
Religion and Politics Paul's view of the state
P.O.V. American Indians deserve more than 'We're sorry'
Building a Movement Olympic sweat
Under the Wire News you may have missed
Soul Works Solzhenitsyn: Politics in perspective
Web Sitings Cocaine country | Fahrenheit 419 | Books not bombs
Boomerang Readers write
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Too often, people with disabilities are locked out, left out, or overlooked. While the Americans with Disabilities Act addresses fundamental civil rights for people with disabilities, the basics of everyday life are still out of reach for too many Americans with disabilities: getting a job, accessing health care, finding housing, using transportation, getting an education, and voting independently.

Help Easter Seals drive awareness of the challenges faced by 54 million Americans with disabilities. Encourage lawmakers to take action now.

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"The only thing the U.N. Security Council has delivered is...another 30 days in which civilians will continue to live in fear of being killed or raped."

- A humanitarian aid official, who asked not to be identified, criticizing last week's U.N. resolution on Sudan. Source: BBC

+ Read more


The machine ate my vote
by David Batstone

About 30 percent of the electorate - 50 million voters or so - will submit a ballot in the coming November elections using paperless machines. Be worried. The e-voting system in place is dangerously vulnerable to fraud.

In North Carolina's 2002 general election, six touch-screen machines malfunctioned and deleted 436 electronic ballots. In a post-election investigation, the manufacturer determined that the machines erroneously had stopped counting votes even while the polls were still open.

In a January 2004 special election for a House seat in Florida, paperless voting terminals recorded 134 cast ballots as blank. The race ended up being decided by a margin of 12 votes. Left without a printed record, election officials could not recapture how voters intended to choose, and the results stood.

Beyond unresolved technical problems, the people behind the machines do not provide comfort. The two dominant makers of voting machines have tainted themselves with close ties to GOP candidates. For example, last year the CEO of industry-leader Diebold Elections Systems, Walden O'Dell, wrote a donor-ask letter to wealthy Republicans announcing that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president" in 2004. At the time of the letter's delivery, Diebold was making a bid to the state of Ohio to become its supplier of touch-screen machines.

One does not have to be swimming in a sea of conspiracy theories to recognize the danger of voter fraud. Absent a paper record of cast ballots and with software that - according to respected computer scientists - is very hackable, fixing an election might pass without detection.

The e-voting industry considers these critiques as typical anxiety that accompanies technical innovation. Trust us, they say. But their interests, as well as the democratic process, would be better served by coming up with a system of accountability that might actually give us reason to trust the technology.

This past summer The New York Times sent journalists to investigate how the Nevada Gaming Control Board ensures that electronic gambling machines in Las Vegas operate honestly and accurately. Their findings: Protocols put in place on the Las Vegas Strip are much more stringent than those required for e-voting. "Electronic voting, by comparison [to monitoring of gambling machines], is rife with lax procedures, security risks, and conflicts of interest," conclude the editors of the Times.

It's troubling to think that we can walk into a casino with more confidence than we can approach the ballot box.

Excerpted from the September 2004 issue of Sojourners.

+ Read the full article online

+ Read more commentary by David Batstone

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Volunteer Vacations in Nicaragua with El Porvenir

Participate in building a sustainable water, sanitation, or reforestation project, or take the Educational Tour and visit rural water projects and see highlights of the country. Learn about Nicaragua's past, present, and future while working or meeting with many Nicaraguans. Spaces available for September 3-13 and November 6-20, 2004, as well as January 8-22, 2005. E-mail or call for more information: (303) 520-0093


Paul's view of the state
by Robert Sabath

Few passages of scripture have been as consistently misused and misunderstood as Romans 13. Such passages as this have forced Christians on both the right and left to wonder whether "biblical radicalism" is a contradiction of terms. Those on the right balk at talk of a discipleship that at times necessitates resistance to particular actions of a given state. They wonder whether such talk is being biblically irresponsible, because doesn't Paul plainly say, "Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment?"

Many Christians on the left, sensitive to the need for a Christian resistance and often wanting to be biblically responsible themselves, have tended to downplay their biblical roots out of embarrassment from Paul in such passages as Romans 13. Or they have dealt with such passages in a way that ultimately undermines the meaning of biblical authority in any practical sense, by arguing that some biblical teachings are culturally conditioned, but offering no criteria for determining which ones, except their own offended sensitivities (which are themselves culturally conditioned).

The full text of this 1974 Sojourners classic by founding member Robert Sabath is now available by purchasing either of these study resources:

+ Preaching the Word, our sermon preparation resource (September 19 edition)

+ Our Sojourners on the Issues discussion guide, "Christians and Politics" (Session 1)


"A masterpiece." - Jurgen Moltmann

Do you get questions about the Left Behind novels? Does your church focus too much - or too little - on the book of Revelation? In God's Time, a lively church-based adult education course from Wesley Seminary, takes direct aim at this challenge. Ten class sessions cover Craig C. Hill's acclaimed In God's Time: The Bible and the Future, which Tony Campolo called "balanced and inspiring and helpful," challenging the "right-wing political mind-set" of popular End Times books. Rowan Williams called In God's Time both "admirable" and "excellent." Please see for information about enrolling your church.

P.O.V. ^top

American Indians deserve more than 'We're sorry'
by Beth Kearney

Formal apologies from the federal government give many of us genuine pause, disrupting the prescriptive blame on Capitol Hill. However, this is not the case with Congress's "apology" to American Indians, which acknowledges its long history of depredations and ill-conceived policies toward them. Although well-intended, this proposed resolution (S.J.RES.37) cannot be a genuine apology - true apologies are expressed in changes of behavior, not in words of regret. As I learned this spring at the Gathering of Native Americans and Friends in Boulder, Colorado, there are many persisting grievances in Indian country to be reckoned with....

Congress has a history of abrogating treaties with tribes unilaterally, and there have been few remedies for these broken treaties in U.S. courts. The Department of the Interior has also abused the trust of tribal nations. During the past century, it has "lost" billions in profits owed to Indian landowners for oil, timber, grazing, and other leases on their land. Many Indians depending on government-assisted health care and housing should be living comfortably off inheritances and profits from their land.

+ Read the full article

P.O.V. articles offer a range of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners.


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Olympic sweat

Getting ready for the Olympics involves grueling, thankless hard work, often in 16- to 18-hour days, in a struggle to survive. We're not talking about athletes pursuing their dreams, but rather the thousands of sweatshop laborers who produce official Olympic garb while working mandatory long days, often seven days a week, for poverty wages. Oxfam, the Clean Clothes Campaign, and labor groups have joined together to demand that Olympic clothing makers clean up their act.

+ Read more and take action

+ Read Oxfam's full report on sweatshop labor conditions and the system that produces them


Seasoned ecumenical activist community in Colorado Springs needs volunteers with heart and grit to staff hospitality house, persevere in peace/justice efforts; arrangements negotiable:, Mary Sprunger-Froese, (719) 471-3405


News you may have missed

For those who remember that Osama bin Laden was once a CIA-supported fighter against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the U.S. is again playing favorites with the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO), or "People's Holy Warriors," who oppose the current Iranian government. + Christian Science Monitor

Critics are drawing ominous parallels with the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, as the Department of Homeland Security collects "specially tabulated population statistics" on Arab-Americans. + The New York Times

Avoiding the appearance of "crying wolf" gets more difficult as critics question recent alert's timing in relation to the Democratic National Convention. + The Washington Post

Allegations of mistreatment include torture and rape by coalition and Iraqi soldiers. + Christian Science Monitor


Politics in perspective

"I must say that among educated people, politics occupies far too great a proportion of time. All the periodicals, all the newspapers are saturated with politics, although many of the objects they are discussing are very transient and short-term. Of course, many people do occupy themselves with higher themes.... But in general, modern humankind is characterized by the loss of the ability to answer the principal problems of life and death. People are prepared to stuff their heads with anything, and to talk of any subject, but only to block off the contemplation of this subject. This is the reason for the increasing pettiness of our society, the concentration on the small and irrelevant."

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Found at: The Daily Dig

Preaching the Word is an online resource for preparing sermons and scripture reflections based on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays. We've done the work so you don't have to. Go to:


Cocaine country

This multimedia presentation by National Geographic explores the lives and harsh realities of impoverished coca growers in the Colombian Amazon.

+ Go there

Fahrenheit 419

Ever wonder about those strange e-mails from foreign dignitaries enticing you to cash in on suspicious-sounding schemes? Find out more about these so-called "419" scams, and what some folks are doing to fight them.

+ Don't be fooled

Books not bombs

Looking for a way to support the troops but not the war? This site facilitates donations of books to members of the military that request them. Some ask for specific titles, but many are open to anything - like, maybe, a spare copy of Gandhi.

+ The pen is mightier...


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.


Readers write

James Lusk writes from Orange Park, Florida:

I am an evangelical in the southern United States, and I often seek to explore the grand realm of opinions within our Christian faith. One of the most refreshing aspects of Sojourners, for me, has been its ability to adequately and clearly present ideas in an uplifting manner (something that most conservatives, by my experience, do not do). However, I have noticed a disturbing trend of more and more biting tones and condescending satires, culminating in Mr. Batstone's "Letter to the Bush-Cheney Campaign" [SojoMail 7/29/04].

When you can present a counterpoint to another's argument in a humble, truthful way, it is refreshing and thought-provoking. But I fear that the tone of articles such as Mr. Batstone's do not provoke readers toward thought - they simply provoke. Most evangelicals get their fill of sarcasm from other sources, and I pray that Sojourners can continue to be a light that illustrates not only the positions of Jesus Christ, but also communicates with the tone of Jesus Christ. I look forward to more articles from an organization that seeks not only to win arguments, but to win people as well.


David M. Holdren writes from Toledo, Ohio:

David Batstone has done it again! I had to have my wife read this wonderful letter to the Bush/Cheney Campaign. I've seen and heard sarcasm drip off of letters and statements before, but I've never seen or heard it POUR off, as "Rev." Batstone's letter overflowed! I'm still smiling, hoping our esteemed leaders will catch it (not a guarantee). Thank you, and here's hoping most of America will catch on, too.


Mandy Comish writes from New Malden, United Kingdom:

I was told that Americans don't understand irony. Having read David Batstone's letter, there seems to be heaps of it stashed away in at least one small, but very sensible, corner of America. Can't help thinking it would be lost on Bush, though.


Claudia Woodward-Rice writes from Honomu, Hawaii:

I like satire, even more these days when much is tense or divisive. But I found the letter referenced above to be so close to the bone as to be unrecognizable as such by the "faithful" who have confused religious activity with a requirement to rubber stamp authority. And I fear it describes the actual behavior of many - too many.


Dru Snyder writes:

I just read your article about supporting Bush and Cheney in the Sojourners e-mail newsletter. I appreciate your work to act as a leader in your church. As Christians we have a responsibility to God to be active in our communities to make them better. I would like to send you a video that I pray you will watch. It will definitely help you and others you know to better serve the Lord our God in the upcoming elections. I pray that He guides and directs this country and the world as well as its leaders and peoples to a brighter future.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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