Monday afternoon, just half a day before the polls opened, Professor Mark Crispin Miller was feeling pessimistic about the electoral process. Actually, he had been feeling pessimistic for years, certainly since Sen. John Kerry lost — or as Miller tells it, since the credulous citizens of the United States were told that he lost, and the news media swallowed that story hook, line and sinker.
When Miller, a member of New York University’s department of media, culture and communication, took a close look at that election’s results, he concluded that Kerry had been robbed.
Since then, he has been trying to warn the nation that electronic voting machines owned and operated by private corporations are a recipe for fraud and a danger to democracy.
Having previously established himself as a respected critic of television and advertising, Miller became a lonely voice of doom, the Cassandra of the American electoral system.
Tuesday loomed as a moment of truth, for the republic and for his worst fears.
"I’m apprehensive," he said. "It’s going to be a close election, and history tells us that close elections go to Republicans. I’m not saying they’re definitely going to steal it, I’m just saying I’m apprehensive."
He first presented his findings in "None Dare Call it Stolen: Ohio, the Election and America’s Servile Press," an August 2005 article in Harper’s Magazine that attracted a lot of attention. But when he expanded on it in "Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)," the book was all but ignored by the news media. He says that is because America cannot handle the truth.
Critics on the right and even the left have dismissed Miller as a conspiracy theorist.
"I have colleagues who assumed that I was yodeling in the blue distance of absolute crackpot speculation," he said.
Miller is not a firebrand. He is an understated presence in a cardigan and a fuzzy scarf, with a slight sadness about his bespectacled eyes. He speaks gently, sometimes resting his head in his hand, as if he is struggling to make sense of a crazy world. In the run-up to this election, electronic voting has gotten a closer look, and an interview of him by Heather Wokusch that was posted on YouTube on Friday has received more than 80,000 views.
Still, he said, he feels as though he has been banging his head against a wall. "It’s not an experience I wish on my worst enemy," Miller said.
As luck would have it, this year Election Day fell on his 63rd birthday. At his polling place in Greenwich Village, he filled out his ballot, rolled his eyes for comedic effect, then waited for the scanner’s cheery message of completion.
He made the effort, he said, because big turnouts make elections harder to steal. But he had no confidence that his vote would be counted, "and I defy anyone to tell me why I should," he added.
But late that night, of course, President Barack Obama was declared the winner. Having braced himself for a very different outcome, Miller wrote an email that sounded almost like a concession: "It simply is no longer possible to stage the sort of ‘upset victory’ that we’ve seen before, without inviting serious investigation."
By the next morning, however, his pronouncement had shifted to one of victory. "Score one (at last) for the Election Integrity movement!" he declared, back on message.