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Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

Posted September 24, 2008 12:00 AM by Sharkles

Unless you're living in the far reaches of the Earth, you probably know that it's election season in the United States. The media's horserace coverage is already predicting a winner, but that changes depending on the day. Already, the 2008 election appears to be a close battle – one that could be decided by the thinnest of margins.

Politics, by its very nature, is controversial; however, there is one aspect that to elections that should not be: whether or not voting technology is reliable. Two recent ballot-counting controversies in American politics include the infamous Florida recount in 2000, and the 2008 New Hampshire primaries.

According to a recent Discover article, one-third of Americans will use machines that are as reliable as their home computers in November. The move from paper ballots to software-based voting systems has cleared the way for numerous dilemmas: electronic voting can be confusing, and computer programs may have bugs or even be hacked – eliminating anonymity.

The "Magical" Solution

Cryptographer David Chaum and his team are now claiming that they have the solution to voting woes. Their new system, Scantegrity II, is a security enhancement for optical scanning voting systems that allows users to verify their results. Scantegrity II uses confirmation codes and invisible ink to ensure that each vote counts. By using transparent ink, the Scantegrity II aims to detect errors and vote-alterations. Importantly, it also protects the voter's privacy.

Let's look at how it works. When casting a vote, you are handed a ballot and a decoder pen. The Scantegrity II ballot has two parts: a voting portion and a receipt. Each part of the ballot also has unique serial number. Voting consists of marking the correct bubble with the decoder pen. When a bubble is marked, the pen reveals a confirmation code inside the bubble and leaves a dark mark to be used by an optical scanner. Like other voting systems, the dark-mark detection counts the vote for the candidate whose bubble has been marked. The receipt portion of the ballot is located at the bottom, and can be used to note your confirmation codes.

Ensuring Your Vote

According to David Chaum, the serial number and invisible confirmation codes make Scantegrity II secure from fraud. The makers of this voting system also say that even if people were able to replicate the ballot itself, it would be nearly impossible to forge invisible codes to match the real ballots.

Another way to ensure that your vote was counted correctly is to write the confirmation codes on the receipt portion. Once detached, the ballot is run through the scanner – but the receipt is yours to take with you. At home, you can log online and enter your serial number. In doing this, the invisible ink codes will appear – not the selected candidates themselves, protecting your vote from hackers. If the codes on the screen match those on your receipt, then your vote was counted correctly.

I think this is a pretty neat concept. I favor voting technologies that protect privacy, and count votes correctly. America doesn't want or need to have a repeat of the 2000 vote-counting controversy in Florida.

What do you think?

  • Do U.S voting machines need an overhaul?
  • Will the Scantegrity II be effective?
  • What other alternatives are there?

Resources:

http://www.scantegrity.org/

http://discovermagazine.com/2008/oct/04-protecting-your-vote-with-invisible-ink

http://scantegrity.org/papers/ScantegrityII-EVT.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scantegrity_II

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2004/11/the_problem_wit.html

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#1

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/24/2008 10:35 AM

Where is the good old pen and paper now? No offense, but I see this new technology as tedious. As good as it seems at protecting the identity of the voter, why is it that necessary? As much as I am an advocate anonymity, why is knowing who you voted for such a big deal? If you are ashamed or not proud of the person you chose, you probably shouldn't be voting at all. I can see to where anonymity would be necessary for perhaps high-class party members, but this would just be another scandal swept under the huge rug of secrets.

I think U.S. voting machines need better accuracy, but it doesn't seem to be as much of a stronghold in priorities for the machines as anonymity. I would rather my vote be counted accurately. Anonymity should be on the back burner compared to accuracy.

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#2

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/24/2008 12:24 PM

Hi Sharkles - Great topic!

I think our machines here in the U.S. could most definitely use an upgrade (and have been mandated by federal law - the HAVA act - to do so):

If the world's most populous democracy, India, can do it electronically, why can't we?

Scantegrity looks promising. A paper receipt is probably needed for the ability to audit, and for an individual to feel he or she has recourse if they feel there's something fishy going on.

Harmonizing all states on the same system, as soon as possible, is needed, in my view. Fifty discrete voting system technologies adds to the chaos, and we've already got enough of that in the financial markets at the moment.

My two cents. I look forward to seeing other points of view. Thanks for allowing me to share on this.

- Larry

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#3

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 12:09 AM

What difference does it make, if no one checks the identification of the voter? please read a couple of books out on election fraud, and how the biggest problem may be the use of non-registered voters in determining local and national races---re: Kennedy Vs, Nixon---How many Cook County voters "voted", that were already dead? cost Nixon the election---just a thought---C-Mac

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 3:06 AM

Whats all this need for an electronic system?

In 2000 it proved its not worth the components its made of!

Stick to paper and pencil this system has worked for hundreds of years so if it ain't broke don't fix it!

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#8
In reply to #4

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 9:09 AM

Hi Andy K - When margins are so razor close to 50:50, I don't see any other way to handle this other than a harmonized electronic system with a rock-solid audit trail. The current system only benefits the legal profession when they have to clean-up after the mess. An e-system that would integrate Internet technology is what we need, to support folks (of course, only eligible folks) voting from both inside and outside the U.S. (military, folks in Europe, etc.). Our current system doesn't make us look good around the world, in terms of "walking-the-walk" of democracy, and of course my competitive American juices get flowing when I see folks in India doing a better job with three times our population and many more poor people than we have. Maybe we could swallow a little of our national pride and consult with the smart Indian team that put together their equipment and see if it would work here? Food for thought. - Larry

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#18
In reply to #8

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 12:19 PM

Surely thats the problem with the American system is that the lawyers decide who is going to be president and not the people!

Margins are close in lots of elections so surely paper and pencil a better way to go!

As i said if it isn't broken why fix it!

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#5

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 3:31 AM

Well no one knows what happened to the computer program Ex Congressman Tom Finney(spelling) of Flordia had written to fix an elections.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrwToR2RpEI

And in Ohio in 2004 they had to carry votes from several Ohio County to Tennessee to have them counted. So solving Fla. problems might help Fla but not the whole USA.

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#12
In reply to #5

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 9:47 AM

Florida's voting practices are scandalous.

They fixed it so that the majority of the Black votes could not be counted.

Jeb Bush obtained lists of all the felons that had moved into the state of Florida and barred them from voting, even though the supposed felons had regained their civil rights from the States that they were convicted in. The US Supreme Court warned Jeb against doing that but Jeb did it anyway.

Then set it up so that it was nearly impossible for a person that had their right to vote returned to them to be able to prove their rights were restored.

The majority of these so called felons were Blacks.

Many of these felons weren't felons at all, they had names similar to someone convicted of a felony and from a list obtained from Texas, one of the so called felons was convicted in 2007, when it was for the 2000 election.

The ballot box was blatantly rigged. Al Gore was questioned about that and he acknowledged the scandal and said that now wasn't the time to address that issue.

I'm not a Democrat but I certainly feel that Bush obtained Office illegally.

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#32
In reply to #12

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 1:58 PM

The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, and the New York Times were all very democratic leaning papers who desperately wanted to claim that President Bush did not win the election fairly. Yet after months of study all three reluctantly said that Mr. Bush won fair and square.

I vote that it is time to stop spreading urban myths just because you don't like President Bush (Bush Derangement Syndrome?). Do I have a second?

PS I am not a fan of Mr. Bush, but I just hate it when people are not fair and not scientific.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 2:02 PM

Plz do not fight with an un-armed man! Not fair.

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#37
In reply to #32

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 3:01 PM

GREGPALAST.COM

Read up on it from an investigative reporter.

Read the book "The Best Democracy Money can Buy."

Newspapers can be censored and forced to rescind their statements.

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#38
In reply to #37

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

09/30/2008 8:22 PM

"Newspapers can be censored and forced to rescind their statements." If this were the case those newspapers would be a lot thinner. It takes a lawsuit to get them to retract the most outrageous of lies. Many of these rags publish nothing but lies and get away with it, Globe, National Enquirer, etc., but then they don't pretend to be upstanding newspapers either. The NY Times, Washington Post, etc., pretend to be impartial newspapers while they twist and slant everything to support one political side. Media bias is alive and sick there.

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#39
In reply to #37

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 8:31 AM

Lets look at this deductively, Janissaries. If the government had the power and motives you imply, then the NY Times would not be publishing top military secrets, plus a lot of vocal critics would have "disappeared" a long time ago. Your argument does not bear up upon closer inspection.

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 9:31 AM

And yet Dan Rather lost his job.

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 9:34 AM

But not Katie Couric?

Why?

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#42
In reply to #40

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 9:37 AM

Dan Rather lost his job because he embarrassed the news division with his low journalistic ethics, driven by his zeal to bash President Bush any way he could (including using documents that had not been validated as authentic). The government didn't fire him. You sound like you are spending too much time at MoveOn.org and similar smear sites.

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#43
In reply to #42

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 11:11 AM

That's what they tell you.

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#44
In reply to #43

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 11:47 AM

With that point of departure, how do you know the earth is round and not flat. Because they tell you. How do you know the holocaust occurred? because they tell you. Etc.

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#45
In reply to #44

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 12:44 PM

Well for starters, I've been around the Earth twice and I'm an experienced ocean going navigator so I'm pretty sure the earth is round.

If you want to go that far:

How do you know your home exists when you're at work or school, how do you know that all that isn't just a piece of your imagination when ever it's convenient for you to pull it up?

I use Greg Palast as a reference because he is an investigative reporter. I've had occasion to question him and he came back with evidenced sources for his information concerning some things that I was a part of in the Navy.

He publishes his information from England because he was being censored here in the U.S.

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#46
In reply to #45

Re: Putting a Little Integrity Into U.S. Politics

10/01/2008 1:16 PM

So you base your world view on the word of one man and the info he assembled while you were not there?

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#6

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 7:36 AM

I wouldn't rely on any HiTech technology applied for election process. You can't imagine how could be "inventive and innovative" some of people involved to election forging.

Yes piece of paper and a pen is the last barrier. Exit polls could give quite relevant results.

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#7

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 8:53 AM

Perhaps this would help reduce some of the miscounts. There's bound to be a margin of error, statistically. Some votes don't get counted, some voters turn out to be "ineligible", dead people vote, etc. Unfortunately our system is somewhat rigged, anyway, in that a candidate could win the popular vote, but still loose the election because the electoral college ultimately decides (or the Subprime Court appoints a President!)

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 9:30 AM

OMG, you didn't read the Constitution before spouting off!

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 9:45 AM

I didn't have to. I guess I paid attention in civics class. Do a little homework, the electoral college vote decides. Most of the time this reflects the popular vote. In 1876, 1888, and 2000, the winning candidate won the electoral college vote, and not the popular vote.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 10:05 AM

"United States of America", not the people's Republic of NJ or Mexico.

What grade did you say you received in eighth grade civics? The electoral college is supposed to determine the President. Thank you James Madison!

I noticed nobody mentioned the 1960 election where in Cook County, Il. the election was given to Kennedy by the votes of "dead" people. Thank you Mayor Daley! Now that was a popular vote!

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 9:43 AM

A Nurse at a Nursing Home called the Sheriff and told them a man came in with a arm load of absentee ballots wearing a Bush/Cheny pin.

He went to every room and it seems that even eldery people on Coma's voted in 2000.

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#14

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 10:09 AM

It's becoming a more challenging problem with every election cycle. The secret ballot was originally intended to protect the voter from whomever he didn't vote for. That should be less of an issue today, but probably is not. Personally, I think accuracy in the count is more important than total secrecy, but perhaps I am biased. I am not reluctant to share this - since there is no "none of the above" option on our ballots, I am, for the first time since I attained majority, not voting this year. I cannot in good conscience again vote for the lesser of two evils as I have done in the past. There, my secret's out. And my vote count cannot be fudged in any way, so I am fraud-proof and honest.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 10:20 AM

Please vote!

I was told by a old high school buddy that served as a page in Washington that some of that laws past given the Police more right to stop and search people was planned in hopes that more people would be prevented from voting because of a police record.

So vote while you can !

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#17
In reply to #14

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 10:27 AM

You can go there and make your ballot invalid by your own hand. It won't influence on your political choice either.

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#15

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 10:15 AM

I advocate a simple system of blue particles and red antiparticles. As each voter casts his vote a particle of either matter or antimatter is created. The particles are collected in a magnetic containment field. At the end of the voting an equal number of matter and antimatter votes will have canceled each other out, leaving a pure matter or antimatter result behind.

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#19
In reply to #15

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/25/2008 1:42 PM

Now, THAT is what I call high-tech voting!

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#20

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/26/2008 12:53 PM

Good post, Sharkles!

The Democrats designed the "butterfly ballot" that gave voters such a problem. The punch-card voting machines were not maintained properly or were just old and worn or perhaps the quality of the punch card paper was the problem. The "hanging chads" and such were certainly not an attempt at fraud.

Many states bar felons from voting and each has its own set of voting laws. It is not racist to do so, no matter what the racial makeup of felons as a group may be.

Scantegrity II may be a good solution to the voting machine problem. However it is often registration fraud and absentee ballot fraud which causes the problems. Obama's former employer ACORN is up to its eyeballs in election fraud.

Before the day of the secret ballot a public vote was to invite intimidation and violence. People were killed and even whole families were slaughtered by those who demanded that everyone vote only their way. Even today those who vote secretly and reveal how they voted can be in danger of retribution. That may be why exit polls are unreliable, people are lying about how they voted. So if an exit poll says a Democrat won, but the vote count says a Republican won, it is not a proof of fraud. It can just mean that the voters were afraid to say which way they voted.

And if I went into a nursing home to get helpless old people to vote, I would wear a big pin showing I was with the opposing candidate, so that any questions of fraud would be thrown at the opposition.

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/26/2008 3:12 PM

"...The Democrats designed..."

Ummm...actually, I think the Diebold voting machines are the ones most often touted as being subject to (potential) fraud, and I seem to recall that company is headed by a staunchly conservative Republican...but I could be mistaken.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/26/2008 3:30 PM

Never argue with someone who's still fighting the civil war.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/26/2008 4:47 PM

Good point...

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#28
In reply to #22

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/28/2008 1:29 AM

For your information, I'm what they call a "Damned Yankee" down here. Originally from upstate NY. And your condescending cowboy attitude is not appreciated.

[Aren't all Texans cowboys? LOL]

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#30
In reply to #28

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/28/2008 3:33 AM

I can see Russia from my house.

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#29
In reply to #21

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/28/2008 1:53 AM

Just because a Republican [or even one by a Democrat] built the machine does not mean that they were made purposely to commit fraud. Any machine can malfunction if not maintained and the paper stock used can also affect their function. Ask anyone who has used a copier that works fine with all kinds of paper then suddenly starts pulling through several sheets at a time of a new paper. If there is a method by which fraud can be done, it is possible that some people did. Using the Diebold machines does not automatically make the fraud Republican nor the fault of the owner of the company.

And the design of the confusing butterfly ballot that so many had trouble with was designed by an election commission dominated by Democrats. That design had nothing to do with its use in any particular machine. It was simply difficult to read and make the choices.

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#31
In reply to #20

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 2:52 AM

I guess your a republican then!

or at least voted for George!

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#24

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/27/2008 1:23 AM

Given the 700 Billion dollar bailout of the S & L banks that violated US Banking laws by securitizing mortgages for over 15 years, who wins is not as important as who is profiting from the corporatizing of the US gov. and controlling the purse.

We are still being dealt from a stacked deck.

And most of all: What are the unintended or intended consequences we will have to live with?

Brad

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/27/2008 2:42 AM

I was hoping to hear Obama slam McCain for voting to allow Bush to use the excess from the Social Security Trust Fund to off set those tax cuts for the Millionaires and Billionaires.

I guess that will come in the last debate.

Bush has not changed he did the same thing in Texas. He used the excess from the Texas Teachers Retirement fund to cover tax cutsd for business. Then Enron and other hit the stock market and the Retirement Fund almost collasped.

I am afraid that was the plan here for the Social Security Trust Fund. Lord know how they will ever pay all that money borrowed from it back.

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/27/2008 12:20 PM

No they will not, unless the public couch potatoes do their homework then hold them accountable. Not holding my breath, and the writing on the wall is ugly.

After cleaning out the stock market of all the retirees money now SSN can't cover the basic needs and medical that Medicare stop gap does not cover. SSN doesn't cut it now and it will not get better the direction Bush took it.

Yet our Congress and Executive branch give the appearance of sold to the highest bidder. And the public citizen plays on. All with fiat money. I fear FDR's house of cards is burning and we will pay dearly before we can get the money masters to put it out.

Brad

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/27/2008 1:35 PM

When Bush changed the funding of retirement accounts to 15 % from 35 % I got out of the stock market. I figured the if these companys were so desperate for funds they had to short their employees retirement plan they would not last long.

If the Compnays had gone to the employees and said "Hey this is our problem" then I could understand. But when they need the Federal Government to cover for them.

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#34
In reply to #24

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 2:26 PM

And also look at who stacked the deck with their insistence on "affordable housing" and pushing for home loans to the poor and those who were most risky. The same ones who now want the government to own big chunks of the financial market. Check who blocked legislation that would have helped avert the problem. It is in the records that the media won't discuss and too many politicians would like to forget.

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 2:33 PM

Oh go ahead and say it. Barney fa Frank from the people's republic of Taxachusetts!

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: Putting a Little Scantegrity Into U.S. Politics

09/29/2008 2:50 PM

You know! And I never had to mention political party or any of his cohorts. They are known by their actions and policies.

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