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Voting Machines/ Sociology of Hauntings

Date Monday - August 15, 2016
Host George Noory
Guests Bev HarrisDennis Waskul

Founder of Black Box Voting a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative reporting and public education organization for elections, Bev Harris, has become known for her work researching the truth behind electronic voting machines. She began the first half by telling George that there is an established tradition of election tampering in the United States and that "we now have the ability to scale it up," meaning that instead of stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes, elections can now be changed with a few keystrokes. She continued by pointing out that there are three voting machine companies in the U.S. and that the media steers attention away from the most high-risk machines, which are referred to as "central tabulators." According to Harris, votes can be changed in seconds, swaying thousands and perhaps millions of votes with a "vote adjustment screen" built into the software.

Harris lamented the decline of oversight in elections and believes that our system is only about 5% reliable. She believes that things have "gotten much worse in the last 10 years" and pointed to the systematic elimination of any oversight or ways to check original votes cast, such as erasing images of all original paper ballots that many vote counting machines used to tabulate. Harris’ phone connection cut out multiple times during the program. She commented that "weird things happen to both of my phones during elections." Harris thinks that presidential elections by popular vote would be much more difficult to hack and supports the elimination of the electoral college for this reason. In spite of the potential for tampering, Harris concluded that we should "be out there voting because otherwise we have just given up."

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In part two, sociology Professor Dennis Waskul talked about his two years of fieldwork and interviews with people about how they experience ghosts and hauntings in everyday life. Contrary to many researchers who study ghosts and other paranormal subjects, Waskul and his wife Michele had no history of supernatural events or experiences that drew them to the subject. They are not paranormal investigators in the classical sense, as Waskul described their method using ethnography to study the phenomenon. As he said, they concentrated on "human experiences that surround these ghostly encounters." More than half of those he interviewed did not witness a ghost in the classical sense, rather they felt, heard, or smelled something that they could not explain by normal means. Waskul pointed out that the majority of his subjects merely "felt a presence that sought to be acknowledged" and that only a small percentage were perceived as truly frightening or evil.

One of Waskul’s cases may not have been a ghost in a classical sense, but an instance of someone who needed the model of ghostly encounters to deal with the loss of a loved one, which he pointed out as an example of a "will to believe." Others, such as rabid skeptics, he describes as struggling against this belief. The research seems to indicate that people who are highly religious or highly skeptical tend to have no ghost experiences. For most of his research subjects though, Waskul says that the "vast majority were reluctant believers." As for one of most frightening things he has encountered, he recalled seeing a murder confession from the early 20th century scratched into the floorboards of an old home that was experiencing poltergeist phenomena. It read, "I killed my baby sister on the chimney." Waskul has started another project to study haunted houses and "can’t wait to do it again."

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Bumper music from Monday August 15, 2016

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