Vol. 4, Issue 4, April 4, 2006
Education for the Otiose

Thailand Very Sorry It Bought Voting Machines from Florida

Following the 2000 presidential election, when ambiguous ballots and outdated voting machines in Florida led to an embarrassing cliffhanger that required the Supreme Court to untangle, the state vowed to clean up its electoral act. Exactly how it accomplished that has just become clear for the first time.

"I said Floridians would never again have to deal with hanging or dimpled chads," said Florida Governor Jeb Bush. "And I am a man of my word." Every one of the state's controversial voting machines, mostly older machines by Diebold and ES&S, has been replaced with newer "E-touch" voting machines.

The older machines were quietly sold to Thailand, whose furiously controversial presidential election has given journalists all over America a severe case of deja-vu.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed a "surprise" victory Monday in Thailand's general election, despite weeks of anti-government protests which drew over 100,000 people and trailing badly in the polls.

"The voting systems we have deployed for this election have been provided from the world's leading democracy," said Shinawatra at a press conference. "Surely it is not only disingenuous, but insulting to imply that there is any impropriety in voting equipment provided by a family member of the American president."

Thaksin called the election three years early to reassert his mandate after weeks of growing street protests demanding his resignation. His opponents accuse him of corruption, abuse of power and eviscerating the institutions of Thailand's fragile democracy. Leaders from the opposition had urged supporters to tick the box on ballots signifying a "No Vote," or an abstention. However, as happened in Florida, a ballot printing error led to ambiguity.

"On many ballots the box for Shinawatra appeared directly opposite the 'No Vote' option," said Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the opposition Democrat Party in Thailand. "In other cases, the incumbent was 'pre-selected' as a convenience. Also, we have reports that many polling stations told voters that they could register their abstention on a 'special ballot' which appears to have been photocopied on the back of a takeout menu."

The Bush Administration was quick to support Thaksin, a longtime ally who even earned a degree at Sam Houston State University in Texas.

"Casting aspersions on the Prime Minister's clear mandate is, I think, sadly misguided," said White House Spokesman Scott McClellan. "We are extremely glad to be able to share the machinery of democracy with Thailand. Heck, I can think of a few other countries that could benefit from a little American voting technology. We've got it down to a real science now."

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