As a regular reader of WhoWhyWhy, you know that we have focused like a laser on election integrity and uncovered story after story about voter suppression in Georgia, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and elsewhere. But important as all of this is, it’s only part of the bigger story.
It was Joseph Stalin who said that “it's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes.” The 2000 presidential election was a fantastic example of why that matters.
You all remember chads, hanging chads, punch cards, Votomatic machines, and how 540 votes and five Supreme Court justices changed America. What if those hanging chads had not been an accident? What if it wasn’t the fault — as was claimed at the time — of incompetent voters who didn’t know how to completely punch out a chad? What if the cards themselves had been engineered to fail?
In a never-before-told story that reads like a detective novel, investigative journalist Stephen Singular finds himself on the floor of the factory that made the infamous punch cards, in negotiations with 60 Minutes trying to get their help, and being given hundreds of unused punch cards to test as he tries to unravel the first great electoral mystery of the 21st century.
In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Singular talks to Jeff Schechtman about his just-published ebook Stolen Future: The Untold Story of the 2000 Election.
Singular takes us inside the machines that manufacture the perforated cards, whose precision, down to 1/5,000th of an inch, shaped the fate of the republic. Imagine that the war in Iraq could have been caused by a dull blade in one high-speed perforating machine in one factory, or maybe engendered by foul play.
Singular examines how the failure of punch cards not only impacted the 2000 election, but became the reason for states to place orders for hundreds of millions of dollars in new electronic voting systems — made by the very same private companies responsible for the 2000 mishap.
He tells Schechtman about ES&S, an Omaha-based company with close Republican ties and far-right roots, that manufactures most of the systems to which we entrust our vote.
Singular takes us inside 60 Minutes and their failure to pursue a story that may have been too hot for them to handle.
In the best tradition of investigative journalism, Singular’s journey goes from working with an old friend to test an idea, to having door after door slammed in his face. It’s a story that should add a sober new dimension to the efforts to preserve our democracy next week.