Adam Cohen Rehashes Old Conspiracy Theory - Was Max Cleland Robbed?

Editorial writer Adam Cohen is still mad over Democratic Sen. Max Cleland's 2002 loss, and cites suspicions from "skeptics" about "malicious software that changed votes."

Editorial board member Adam Cohen is the wide-eyed Internet conspiracy-monger on the Times' staff. His signed editorial Thursday, "A Tale of Three (Electronic Voting) Elections," questioned the validity of three previous elections, a Senate race, a House race and a gubernatorial race. Coincidentally enough, Republicans won all three. (And what about Washington state, when a Republican narrowly lost the 2004 gubernatorial election after a vote fraught with irregularities?)

Electronic voting has made great strides in reliability, but it has a long way to go. When reformers push for greater safeguards, they often argue that future elections could produce the wrong result because of a computer glitch or be stolen through malicious software. That's being too nice.

There have already been elections in which it is impossible to be certain that the right candidate was declared the winner. Here are three such races. It is not just remarkable that these elections were run so badly, but also that the flaws are still common - and could easily create havoc in this fall's voting.

Cohen then rehashed his theory he first put in print back in March 2004 - that there was some funny business involved in Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia losing his Senate seat in 2002 to Republican Saxby Chambliss, even after "polls had suggested" that Cleland would win.

The 2002 Georgia Senate and Governor Races - Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was defeated for re-election and Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, was unseated. Polls had suggested that both men would win.

(Actually, a late poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a local TV stationshowed the race a statistical tie.)

Cohen unfurled the strange accusations:

The votes were cast on Diebold A.T.M.-style machines. A whistle-blower who helped prepare the machines reported that secret "patches" - software intended to fix glitches - were installed late in the process without being certified by the state, as the law required.

The unexpected outcomes were likely because of heavy turnout by rural whites, prompted by a Confederate flag dispute, not faulty voting machines. Still, skeptics wonder if the patches contained malicious software that changed votes. Because the Diebold machines did not produce paper records, there is no way to put those doubts to rest.

Doubts most people are only now learning from Adam Cohen. And "skeptics" is an awfully broad term: People who think Bush caused 9-11 are also "skeptics." That doesn't give them any credibility.