The New York Times just doesn't get it. You'd think, by now, they would. But they don't. And they should print a correction immediately.
In a brief, unbylined editorial yesterday, headlined "How to Trust Electronic Voting," the paper endorses this year's version of Rep. Rush Holt's election reform bill (H.R. 2894). The editorial is misleading and, even worse, blatantly (and inexcusably) inaccurate on at least one important point...
Due, in no small part, to the concerns expressed in our February analysis of the January draft version of this year's Election Reform bill being introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) in the U.S. House, along with a bit of "lobbying" his office for a key change after the publication of that article, the updated version of the bill [PDF], said by his office to be the "final" one before introduction, has been slightly --- one might even say, significantly --- improved to meet one of our major concerns.
Still, while there is a lot of much-needed reform in this federal legislation, there remain many concerns with it as well. So let's take a quick, updated look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the soon-to-be-introduced "final" version of Holt's "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2009"...
Okay, so I've been asked on several occasions, since the election last year, what I regard as the top priorities for election reform in the U.S. of A. In hopes of keeping it simple, stupid, at least until I hear opinions on these back from you folks, here is a summary list of the most important, and most eminently-doable-at-the-federal-level reforms as I see it.
I welcome your thoughts, recommended changes, additions, etc. For the moment, this is not meant as a comprehensive list of all needed reforms, particularly at the various local levels. But it's meant as a list of the big ones, as I seem them, and the ones for which I believe we could actually find a consensus in this Congress sooner rather than later. Nor is this meant as whitepaper with arguments and details for each item. But hopefully most regular readers of The BRAD BLOG will understand what these reforms entail and why they are necessary, as written in this summarized, simple list.
After hearing from you all, I may post an updated version later and/or set these up on their own page, in order track legislation for each of them as they roll (or don't) through Congress. Here's the list...
Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) is preparing to drop a new version of the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" legislation which met so much resistance during the last Congress from both Election Integrity advocates and those opposed to any reform whatsoever alike.
A recent draft of the new legislation [PDF], as obtained by The BRAD BLOG, is an improvement over last session's controversial HR 811 bill (which we covered, at the time, in exhausting detail, as indexed on this special coverage page) in that it would ban the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting devices by the 2012 general election. However, the new bill fails to ban all forms of computerized touch-screen voting and, indeed, encourages it through federal funding to help jurisdictions move from DREs to similar, but non-tabulating, Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs).
We could well jump out of the frying pan, and into yet another frying pan, if the legislation passes as currently drafted.
BMDs, which often use touch-screens to allow voters to make selections, offer many of the same flaws and dangers that DRE voting systems do, such as: the possibility that votes may be flipped on the touch-screen to selections other than those chosen by the voter (as seen in state after state on DREs over the last several election cycles); failures to boot up and power outages which keep citizens from being able to vote at all; machine shortages which cause long lines, discouraging voters from waiting to vote; and the requirement for voters to attempt to verify the accuracy of their ballots on three separate occasions, before the computer-marked version of the paper ballot is actually cast.
Holt has offered The BRAD BLOG a fairly puzzling response to our concerns, at least as we read it, which we'll share in full below.
Moreover, in addition to encouraging the use of troublesome, expensive, and hackable electronic BMDs, the new bill would federally institutionalize the ability of private election companies to keep their hardware and software from public review by requiring that anyone who wishes to examine the systems and source code for integrity, must show cause, get "approval" from a governmental body (largely, only scientists, academics, or election officials need apply) and sign a non-disclosure agreement before being allowed to do so.
While the bill offers some improvements over previous versions, the major flaws still inherent in the legislation --- as it's currently drafted --- will fail to ensure the security, accuracy, and transparency that American democracy requires and deserves. As a sweeping piece of (much-needed) federal reform, we'd better make sure that we get it right this time, since it'll be years, perhaps decades, before we get another bite at that apple should this legislation actually be signed into law this time...
We know what the excuse is in MN, but what's the excuse in Riverside County, CA?
Seems there is none, other than County Registrar Barbara Dunmore's hope to ensure the county remains one of the absolute worst places to cast a vote in the entire nation (and there's some stiff competition there!)
Though Dunmore certified the results of last November's election on Dec. 2 as "full, true and correct" --- 28 days after the election, as per state law --- it turns out she's still counting votes, months after the election. In secret...
Need more proof that the vendors have made elections expensive? The folks in Vigo Co Indiana find themselves having to hold a special election for mayor of Terre Haute, a city of over 44,000 voters. The county would probably pay for the election and then be reimbursed by the city. The last municipal election the county paid for cost $580,000. The cost for one race in the city would probably be something less than that.
Why so much? The county pays ES&S to manage the voting machines. What would happen if the county or city just decided to print the ballots and hand-count them? Well, the ballots would cost around $0.05 per ballot or around $3500. The cost to hand-count those ballots, based on the cost to hand-count ballots in WA in the 2004 gubernatorial hand-recount would probably be less than $10,000. Why is it that we have these vendors involved in making our elections much more expensive than they should be? ...
Why corporate mainstream journalists have a need to identify everyone as either "liberal" or "conservative" is beyond me. But setting that aside, of far more import is the substantive information in Washington Independent journalist Jonathon E. Kaplan's report today featuring lead Obama attorney Bob Baeur's attempt to defend against my fervent critique of the campaign's woefully inadequate and dangerously misguided efforts in dealing with the massive voting machine problems occurring around the country since early voting began (and, of course, well before even that)...
[Note 11/3/08: An updated version of the article, now posted here, scales by on the "liberal" thing, after I sent a gentle complaint to Kaplan.]
The article does nothing to assuage my concerns about the Dems' self-proclaimed "behind the scenes" efforts on these matters. Bauer was still unable to offer a shred of evidence that the campaign or the DNC has taken such concerns about the use of wholly unverifiable voting systems --- and worse, allowing and actually encouraging election officials to access those machines during the election, at the time they are most vulnerable to tampering, for "recalibration" --- with the gravity the issue deserves.
Incredibly (though no longer surprisingly), the Democrats persist with their tortured logic that taking action on problems with voting machines will somehow depress the electorate, before quickly changing the subject to concerns about Republican chicanery on the front-end voter suppression stuff.
As an Election Integrity advocate recently noted rather eloquently, the front-end voter suppression issues and the back-end voting machine failures are two sides of the same coin. You can't worry about one without worrying about the other. The Dems, unfortunately, are still worried about only one side of the coin, as Kaplan's report demonstrates all too clearly (yet again) today...
Jesus. This is what/who voters in Philadelphia are being forced to deal with, as per our Pennsylvania coverage this week (here and here), concerning the fight by the NAACP and a local Election Reform coalition to get paper ballots for citizens, so that they can be sure to cast a vote, from a Democratically-controlled state hell bent on fighting that.
Since she says in the video we should take care to spell her name right, the woman responsible for running elections in Philadelphia is Marge Tartaglione (D) and, as the video suggests, she's a horror. And not only for her indefensible statements against the distribution of paper ballots to the effect of "long lines are not a problem...Long lines are no justification for any thing but waiting...people wait in long lines overnight for baseball tickets...people wait in line all night for a new Ipod." Though I'm not aware of any 80 year olds who do either of those things, or anybody who does that in the middle of a word day, and I'm fairly sure anybody who does do that, does so by their own choice, not because they are forced to do so in hopes of exercising their right to cast a vote.
The video --- by citizen journalists Danielle Ivory and Lagan Sebert (more details and context here) --- is well-worth the 4:43 minutes of your life it'll take to view it. Good luck, Philly! Looks like you're gonna need it! Again...
In the suburban county of Montgomery, just outside of Philadelphia, election officials have, inexcusably, been caught off guard by a new, court-mandated directive by PA's Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes.
The directive requires that counties have enough emergency paper ballots (EPBs) on hand at polling places to ensure that voters can vote if half, or more, of a precinct's voting machines break down. County officials admit today that they were completely unprepared for the directive, and even for the likelihood of serious machine failure, despite known problems with the touch-screen voting systems they use, or the extraordinary voter turnout long-predicted for next Tuesday.
Cortes' original directive, and even the one issued yesterday, has been seen at odds with a PA statutory provision that allowed counties to offer paper ballots in the event that just one machine has failed. PA uses Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems across most of the state, and is a key battleground for John McCain's attempt to win the White House this year...
[The new, court-ordered directive from Secretary Cortes has now been issued. It's linked below, in the last update at the bottom of this article. - BF]
[Please note several important UPDATES added to the bottom of this article. - BF]
This just in from Pennsylvania... a federal court has found in favor of the NAACP and the 866-MYVOTE1 Election Reform Network, which were forced to sue the state's Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro A. Cortes, after his recent directive that emergency paper ballots need to be given to the voters only in the event that all of a precinct's touch-screen voting machines fail.
Most of PA uses 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems, and many of them broke down across the state during last April's Primary Election, leaving untold numbers of voters unable to cast votes.
As we reported when the lawsuit was filed last week, state law allows county clerks to give out paper ballots if just one machine breaks down on Election Day; Cortes' stunning decree, issued last month, went unchallenged by both the DNC and the Barack Obama campaign...
Finally! A lawsuit [PDF] has finally been filed today in federal District Court in Pennsylvania, against the Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro A. Cortes and the Commissioner of the state's Election Commission, Chet Harhut, over Cortes' recent directive that paper ballots only need be given out to voters in the event that every voting machine in a precinct breaks down.
That stunning decree was in opposition to PA's state law which allows election officials the discretion to give emergency paper ballots to voters if even a single machine breaks down in a precinct.
That neither Obama nor the DNC have said a word about this in the month or so since Cortes issued his directive has been maddening, and should be an outrage to voters of all parties in the Keystone State, sure to be another battleground state this November. The lawsuit was finally filed today by the state's NAACP in concert with the 866-MYVOTE1 Election Reform Network.
While the complaint should call for paper ballots to be made available to any voter who wishes one, or, at a minimum, to be given out if just one machine breaks down in a precinct, or even if the wait time in line is longer than 30 minutes, unfortunately, the suit calls very conservatively for emergency paper ballots to be given out if 50% or more of the voting machines in a precinct break down. But at least it's something, we guess, particularly in lieu of Obama and/or the DNC taking any action at all here, given they have the most to lose by the ridiculous action from state Democrats.
Pennsylvania uses unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) machines across most of the state, and saw machine failure after failure, as we documented in detail during their April primary this year. The failures resulted in untold numbers of disenfranchised voters, as noted in news reports, and logged by calls to the 866-MYVOTE1 hotline...
There is just too much news to fit into one DVN today so there will be one edition this morning (Pac time) and one at the normal time. We will be doing that through the election as the amount of news grows.
So far today a federal lawsuit has been filed in Pennsylvania seeking an earlier use of emergency paper ballots than is presently the dictate of the Secretary of State. The SoS has dictated that emergency ballots can only be used when all of the machines at a poll site are shut-down for some reason. The lawsuit hopes to loosen up that dictate to when 50% of the machines are shut-down for some reason.
While the West Virginia SoS has dictated that all of the states ES&S iVotronic touch-screen machines must be recalibrated we are still getting reports of vote switching.
'We the People' Win, as Thor Hearne's MO Voter Suppression Attempt Fails; von Spakovsky Withdraws FEC Nomination; TN to Require Paper Ballots; AZ Agrees to Follow Law, Perform Voter Registration at Public Facilities...
On the federal level, GOP voter-fraud zealot Hans von Spakovsky (cue evil music), finally withdrew his nomination to the FEC, which had been blocked by Sens. Obama and Feingold. The standoff had kept the FEC from have the required quorum of commissioners needed to do business in a crucial election year. With vS out of the way, perhaps a responsible, pro-voter set of commissioners can now take their place. But we'll see. Rick Hasen has the outlook. Either way, it's another very big victory.
In Tennessee, both houses have approved a bill to require a paper ballot for every vote cast! The bill has to go back to conference to work out one last point, but given its extraordinary success in both houses (it passed unanimously this week in the state Senate!) it's likely to be enacted quickly. This is a huge win for the tireless Election Integrity citizen heroes on the ground in TN, and a loss for the pro-machine, pro-invisible/unverifiable ballot crowd there, including Davidson County's Republican Election Commissioner Lynn Greer, who once told me, after I attended a meeting there, that "paper is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on this country." Apparently he was serious. The good news: the responsible folks in the state disagree with him. The bad news: the requirement for paper ballots won't take effect until 2010. But we'll take what we can get!
Finally, in Arizona, as Steve Rosenfeld, as one of my guests yesterday while I was guest hosting The Peter B. Collins Show told us, the DoJ has finally settled a lawsuit against the state where Sec. of State Jan Brewer, who once called Election Integrity advocates "anarchists" and "conspiracy theorists" has been doing everything she could, for years, to keep legitimate voters from being able to properly cast their ballots and have them counted accurately. The state has now finally agreed to follow the law (National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the NVRA or the "Motor Voter Bill") by performing voter registration services at public assistance facilities such as welfare clinics.
We spoke about most of the breaking good news above last night on the PBC Show (audio archive here), and will try, for the next few hours at least, to enjoy some of the great news, for a change, on several fronts in the continuing Republican War on Voting.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's column today on the awful Sarasota, FL, Supervisor of Elections, Kathy Dent --- and the criminal complaint against her outrageous, unlawful Election Day, in-precinct campaigning against a 2006 ballot initiative to ban touch-screen voting machines in the county (the initiative passed, despite her best efforts, and carefully placed brochures on voter sign-in tables!) --- is so good that I don't want to quote from it.
As the Herald-Trib describes, as revealed in Dent's interview conducted by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, concerning her inappropriate (and illegal) placement of pro-touch-screen brochures in polling places, Dent admits she was aware of a voter's complaint about it, but ignored it "because she had assumed it was from 'one of the activists' that had been criticizing her and her machines."
The FDLE report on the matter, including their interview with the apparently-pathological Ms. Dent, as referenced in the column as "good reading", may be downloaded here [PDF, 16mb].
Dent, of course, is the woman who also presided over the FL-13 U.S. Congressional election that same year, when 18,000 votes disappeared in her county only, and only on her precious, now-banned, ES&S Ivotronic touch-screen machines, as the Republican Vern Buchanan reportedly edged out Democrat Christine Jennings by just 369 votes.
If the linked column doesn't give you enough of an idea of what a horrible, anti-democracy villain Dent really is, perhaps the following lovely, 30-second phone message --- left on the voice mail of Tallahassee' Election Supervisor (and democracy hero), Ion Sancho, moments after he appeared on a Fort Myers radio show, heard in Sarasota, in which he was asked about, and praised, the Sarasota citizen ballot initiative to do away with the touch-screens --- will give you some idea:
Sancho adds that Dent was also scheduled to appear on the same program, but begged off, likely after she'd heard that he would also be a guest. Though when he got off the air and checked his cell phone messages, he found she'd called immediately after the program. So she was apparently available to listen to it, at least, even if she didn't have the courage to come on and defend her views.
We hope to have more soon on Dent and this case --- for which she's (incredibly) been exonorated by the FDLE --- in the not-too-distant future.
CORRECTION/UPDATE: We originally characterized the phone call from Dent to Sancho, posted above, as being in regard to the FL-13 election fiasco. In fact, Dent's call to Sancho was made prior to the '06 Election, in reference to his radio interview comments on the Election Reform initiative, as now explained above. We touched base with Sancho just now, and he had some additional thoughts about Dent and her inappropriate campaign to defeat the initiative in question. Said Sancho: "This woman knowingly campaigned against an initiative on the ballot. If she wanted to do that, at a minimum, she should have formed a political action committee to do so. Supervisors of Elections don't give up their right to free speech, but they have to follow the law, particularly if they wish to influence anything on the ballot."
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TAMPA - Workers today started loading more than 3,000 touch-screen voting machines destined to be resold, disassembled or crunched into bits by a recycler as Hillsborough County begins changing how ballots are cast and counted.
The devices will be replaced by machines that scan and record paper ballots as part of a legislatively mandated change requiring a paper trail after elections.
The machines being hauled away by Creative Recycling of Tampa were 6 years old. The company has a state contract to dispose of 27,785 of the touch-screen machines in counties using them.
Hillsborough County's Supervisor of Elections, Buddy Johnson, offers the best use of the machines --- he says in the article that "he wanted to donate one to the county's history museum" --- but beware, while some are to be scrapped, some of these bad machines may show up at an election near you...
The first step for the recycling company is to try selling the machines to states that still allow touch-screen voting.
Then, Creative Recycling workers will extract parts that can be resold, such as a thermal printer in each machine.
Any pieces that can't be sold will wind up shoved into a two-story-tall machine that will mash them into bits that will be separated and recycled.
We shall drift off to bed tonight, imagining the sweet, sweet sound of touch-screen voting machines being "mashed into bits." We never thought we'd say it, but: Thank you, Florida.
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