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Latest Featured Reports | Friday, September 19, 2014
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To Replace Promoted Mikel Haas, County Hires Riverside County, CA's Mischelle Townsend as 'Interim' Registrar, Who In Turn Hires Disgraced Cuyahoga County, OH Registrar Michael Vu as 'Assistant'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/12/2007 12:00pm PT  

{Ed Note: This article was original to have been published at ComputerWorld on 4/12/07. Due to a technical problem there, it never ran, I'm running it here, back-dated to tje originally planned publication date so at least it's available here on the Internets, at least for the "historical record". --- BF, 5/22/07}}

Blogged by Brad from the road...in San Diego, of all places...

The latest news out of the People's Republic of San Diego brings to mind Scooter Libby's now infamous note, sent to former NY Times' administration plant Judith Miller, encouraging her to maintain her silence while she was in jail.

"Out West, where you vacation," the disgraced Libby wrote to the disgraced Miller, "the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."

The same seems to be true for the Elections Officials, and their various operative/enablers around the country. Where ever you turn over the rock of a disastrously administered election in any part of the country --- such as in San Diego or Riverside County, CA or Cuyahoga County, OH --- it seems you also find the same band of recognizable folks slithering amongst the slime time and again. Turning in clusters, if you will, because their roots connect them.

Such seems to be the case now that one of America's worst Registrars of Voters, San Diego's Mikel Haas --- he of the infamous Busby/Bilbray debacle and voting machine "sleepover" fame --- has been promoted by the county. Failing up, if you will, like so many other 21st Century Wingnuts before him in Bush's America.

He's been replaced on an interim basis by Mischelle Townsend, the retired former Registrar of Voters in Riverside County, CA. She was responsible for bringing unverifiable, inaccurate, hackable touch-screen voting systems to America for the first time, as Riverside was the first in the nation to offer this "luxury" to voters. Riverside has been on a collision course with election integrity ever since.

Aside from conflicts of interests she brought to the dubious transaction in 1998 --- her husband, was VP for a firm which directly benefited from the county's purchase of the Sequoia touch-screen voting systems --- Townsend is tellingly quoted during an interview on the DVD version of HBO's Hacking Democracy proudly declaring: "Electronic touch-screen ballots are 100% accurate. We've not seen a single example in which their accuracy can be disputed."

As if that's not a horrific enough punishment to subject the otherwise beleaguered and battered voters of San Diego to --- they deserve far far better, especially following in the carnage of the county's disastrous Reign of Haas --- she has now hired as her "assistant," the disgraced and recently resigned-by-force, Michael Vu, the Election Supervisor for Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Vu was pushed out of his job in the Buckeye State just weeks ago after two of his poll workers were convicted and sentenced to the maximum allowable time in prison for having rigged --- yes, rigged --- the 2004 President Recount in the county.

Vu oversaw the entire affair and reportedly admitted that county workers opened sealed ballot boxes to do a pre-count prior to the recount which was requested and paid for by the Green and Libertarian parties. As the trial revealed, the outrageous violation of law was carried out to ensure the mandated the 3% "randomly" selected precincts (which were not randomly selected after all) would match the previously reported results. Both the judge and the prosecutor made it clear that they believed the conspiracy went much higher up the food chain.

As well, Vu ran one of the worst election debacles of the 2006 cycle --- and that's saying quite a bit --- when absentee ballots couldn't be read by his Diebold optical scan system and his brand-spanking new Diebold DRE touch-screen voting systems failed to record votes properly, as determined by an independent analysis commissioned after the primary election meltdown in the county.

But that's not all. Another new criminal investigation is now underway in Cuyahoga looking into a number of troubling recent discoveries. Among them, computer audit logs have been discovered to reveal that early and absentee voting results were printed by someone at Vu's county headquarters prior to Election Day. (The same thing also was recently discovered to have occurred in Pima County, AZ where a law suit is currently underway to get to the bottom of it...just so you'll keep your eye out for what may well prove to be a concerted national conspiracy if the Aspens keep on turning in such remarkable clusters.) Oh, and a network cable was left in one of the tabulation computers overnight, and in violation of regulations, for some odd reason. But certainly that was just an accident, right?

Little surprise then, that San Diego's North County Times reported that Haas told them "the county immediately moved to contact Vu when he became available and felt lucky to hire him."

Of course they did.

Haas also continued his impressive, and growing track record as an accomplished liar of some reknown, by telling the paper that "Vu resigned for personal reasons and had family living on the West Coast."

Of course he did.

The BRAD BLOG has spoken at length with Vu in the past, and we've found him, like Haas the Horrible, to be a very affable fellow. Even if his actions, not his words, reveal him, like Haas, to have an extraordinary disdain for democracy and the voters who they supposedly serve.

We've been told that Vu has said he regards Townsend as "a mentor". So it comes as little surprise that he'd show up when beckoned by her, and littler surprise, after all we've come to learn about the County of San Diego, that their Board of Supervisors so despise their own voters that they'd allow Vu, despite all that's known about him, to be hired as an "assistant".

Rest assured, however, with Townsend --- who had previously been enjoying a quiet retirement from the madness that she had wrought on Riverside --- only committing to "interim" status at the Registrar's office, it won't be long before the full Reign of Vu commences. We believe you can bank on it. On a Diebold ATM if you wish.

America's Elections Officials, those who are most assiduously dedicated to subverting democracy with electricity, and those who time and again are found at the rotten core of virtually every bad election in the country, are indeed connected at the roots. And they continue turning in clusters.

And the voters continue to pay the price.

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New Charges Announced Against Chair of BoE Who Refused to Resign: He Allegedly Ordered $15k PR Contract Awarded to 'GOP Spokesperson'
By Brad Friedman on 4/3/2007 9:36pm PT  

Ohio's Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner cleaned out the last dead-ender from the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Board of Elections today. That would be the chairperson of the BoE and the head of Ohio's Republican Party, Bob Bennett (see previous coverage here.)

Bennett was the last of the four directors of the Board of Elections (supposedly two Democrats and two Republicans) to leave the board of the state's most Democratic-leaning county. The other three resigned after requested by Brunner in the wake of the convictions of two Cuyahoga Elections Officials for rigging the 2004 Presidential Election recount, a raft of disastrously run elections and a new criminal investigation into malfeasance at the county election board. The new investigation includes the early printing of absentee ballot results and an unexplained network cable left attached to the central tabulator overnight.

According to a statement posted to the SoS website, Brunner notified Bennett today about his suspension in writing, and has also announced yet another new charge against him:

"The Secretary of State's office will be working with the current and emerging leadership of the board to develop a plan improving, with the assistance of the Secretary of State's office, the board's operations and service to the citizens of Cuyahoga County. To further these efforts, I believe it to be in the best interests of all involved to suspend your participation as a member of the board," said Brunner. The notice of suspension pointed to the reasons addressed in the complaint filed against the Cuyahoga Board of Elections members by Brunner on March 23, 2007.

Brunner cites an additional reason for the suspension involving instructions to former Executive Director Michael Vu to award a contract to a consultant without Board approval.

Bennett instructed Vu to award a second contract to David Hopcraft in the amount of $14,750 on or about February 26, 2007, for public relations services to be paid for by public dollars by the board of elections. The Dayton Daily News on March 26, 2007 reported Mr. Hopcraft to be a "GOP spokesperson."

Accountability to continue in Ohio...

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Another Resignation Leaves Only the Chair of Both the Ohio Republican Party and Cuyahoga's Election Board After SoS Demands All Resign in State's Most Democratic County...
By Brad Friedman on 3/27/2007 7:36pm PT  

One more of the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio, Board of Elections directors, Republican Sally Florkiewicz, has stepped down this afternoon. Her resignation leaves just one member, the board's chairman, Bob Bennett, left to fight the demand by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner that all board members resign in the wake of a years-long string of elections disasters, two criminal convictions related to the recount of the 2004 Presidential Election, and a new criminal investigation which was launched last week into newly-revealed administrative election improprieties and irregularities in the county.

The resignation of Florkiewicz from the board of Ohio's most Democratic county leaves only Bennett --- who is the chair of both the Election Board and the state's Republican party --- to fight the order by Brunner. A hearing will be held next Monday concerning the complaint filed along with the SoS's resignation demands, after which Brunner is free to fire Bennett directly, according to state law. As ever, the members of Ohio's supposedly "bi-partisan" boards of election have always served at the pleasure of the SoS, who, for years, was the highly partisan right-winger and co-chair of Ohio's Bush/Cheney 2004 committee, J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Brunner replaced Blackwell last November after the former SoS was thoroughly rejected by Ohio voters in his bid for Governor.

"Regrettably, the lone board member who has refused to resign will face removal," Brunner said in a statement posted to the SoS website late this afternoon. As to today's resignation, she added, "It's unfortunate that Ms. Florkiewicz was unable to resign until faced with a complaint to remove her from the board."

While the board's two Democratic members resigned last week not long after receiving Brunner's request, an official in Ohio closely following the matter has told The BRAD BLOG that Florkiewicz exited her post today with anything but grace.

"The Secretary of State has decided to use the Cuyahoga County Board of Election to advance a partisan agenda," Florkiewicz contended in her resignation letter, "and I am not willing to be used as a political statement."

But one of our sources wonders how the request to remove "2 D's and 2 R's demonstrates a partisan agenda"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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They Were Warned To Resign or Come What May...And So It Shall Be...
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2007 12:53am PT  

The Year of Accountability continues apace. In a statement released Thursday Ohio's new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, lays out the case against the two remaining Cuyahoga County Board of Elections members.

On Wednesday, The BRAD BLOG reported that Brunner would be personally delivering termination notices to members of the board after she'd sent notice, asking for their resignations, on Monday. That came in the wake of the conviction and sentencing of two county elections works for rigging the 2004 Presidential Recount, and a subsequent, newly announced criminal investigation in the county this week.

One of the two Democrats on the board resigned Wednesday, as requested, and the other resigned Thursday. This leaves Bob Bennett, the state Republican Party chair and chairman of the board in Ohio's most Democratic-leaning county, as well as the board's other Republican member, Sally Florkiewicz. They're the only two remaining hangers-on. And as a witness to Bennett's public statement yesterday described it to us, he was "raving" and succeeded in even shocking many of the Republicans present by blaming everyone but himself for the county's string of failed elections.

Bennett's recalcitrance at leaving has led Brunner to begin spelling out precisely why they are being fired. The list of accusations against the two remaining members will be aired in full during an April 2 hearing and, according to the SoS's statement, includes "numerous instances of misfeasance, nonfeasance and violations of state election law." Among them:

· Failure to adopt adequate procedures for election recounts resulting in the felony convictions of two board employees.

· Failure to manage competently the board's financial affairs.

· Failure to ensure the efficient administration of elections in 2004 through 2006.

· Failure to ensure an acceptable level of performance of voting equipment.

· Election administration in Cuyahoga County has led to a lack of public confidence in elections in the county.

After the April 2 hearing, a report will be issued to Brunner by the appointed hearing officer, William Owen, the first assistant prosecuting attorney of Delaware County. According to the statement, she will then rule on the removal of Bennett and Florkiewicz, as "under state law, the secretary of state may 'summarily remove' board members for cause, upon complaint and hearing."

We'll note again here --- despite the claims of former SoS J. Kenneth Blackwell and other Buckeye State officials in the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential Election disaster in the state who said nothing untoward could happen anywhere in Ohio due to their "bi-partisan elections boards" --- all such board members always served at the pleasure of the SoS. Many of them, therefore, were loath disobey or incur the wrath of Blackwell, who was also state co-chair for Bush/Cheney '04, in light of his horrendous, partisan oversight.

What goes around, comes around, Mr. Bennett. Consider the worm now turned.

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Election Results of Early Voting Found Printed Prior to Election Day
NATIONWIDE EFFORT? - Identical Situation Recently Discovered in Pima County, AZ...
By Brad Friedman on 3/21/2007 7:19pm PT  

Another criminal investigation has begun in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where two elections officials were found to have rigged the 2004 Presidential Election recount.

A special prosecutor has now been appointed to look into the early printing of absentee ballot and early voting election results prior to Election Day in 2006. As well, the investigators will be looking into a network cable which was left plugged into a tabulator computer overnight, allowing for unauthorized access all night long.

Fox 8's I-Team has a good video report.

As well, The BRAD BLOG has learned that Ohio's new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, will be personally delivering termination notices to the county's four Board of Elections members tomorrow. On Monday, Brunner demanded the resignation of the entire board in Ohio's most Democratic-leaning county. The head of that election board, Bob Bennett, is also the chair of the Ohio Republican Party. He has vowed to fight Brunner in court, which, we're told by sources, she welcomes.

It should be noted that the illegal printing of election results prior to Election Day was recently discovered as well by Election Integrity advocate John Brakey, down in Pima County (Tucson), Arizona. That discovery has led to a lawsuit currently in hot progress down there.

Was a nationalized effort in place to print out election results prior to elections, to allow for the last-minute pinpointed targeting of Get Out the Vote efforts? We'll stay tuned...

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56 of 125 Machines Tested, after Voter Complaints, Incorrectly Registered Votes!
By Brad Friedman on 3/21/2007 3:35pm PT  

Finally. Someone is actually bothering to test the voting machines which voters have been complaining about as flipping their votes for years. In Montgomery County, OH, where an official complaint was recently filed by 20 voters who claimed vote-flipping on their Diebold DRE touch-screen systems, comes this refreshing, if disturbing, report from today's Dayton Daily News...

DAYTON — After two days of tests, the results are in: About 2,500 people cast ballots in November on 56 malfunctioning electronic touch-screen voting machines in Montgomery County, said Steve Harsman, county board of elections director.

He said it is impossible to know how many people finalized their electronic ballots without realizing that the Diebold Elections Systems machines were inaccurately registering their votes.
...
"No other counties in Ohio have done this analysis yet," said Ellis Jacobs, senior attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. "My guess is now that we've done it here and found there were real problems, it will encourage boards of elections in other counties to do this same investigation."

From Jacobs' lips to God's ears.

Oh, and there's this little tidbit from the story:

Harsman said several malfunctioning machines were clustered at certain precincts, indicating they may have been damaged during delivery by a trucking company that hauls the machines to the polls.

Ah, yes. The trucking company dunnit! That's the ticket!

(Hat-tip again to BRAD BLOG reader "A Concerned Citizen" for the heads up!)

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Robert Bennett, Ohio's GOP Chair and President of the Board of Elections in Ohio's Most Democratic County, Vows to Stay On
Growing Battle Underscores a Host of Other Myths, Disinfo Campaigns Concerning Buckeye State Election Administration...
By Brad Friedman on 3/19/2007 12:21pm PT  

Just out from AP...

CLEVELAND (AP) - All four election board members for Cuyahoga County, troubled by recount rigging charges and voting machine problems, have been told to resign or face being fired, a state official said Monday.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said she called the four board members of Ohio's most populous county late Sunday, asking them to leave by close of business Wednesday.
...
Brunner, a Democrat, said new leadership is needed in the county before the 2008 presidential election. She said that if the board members don't resign by her deadline, they would face public hearings and removal.

The board's chairman, Robert Bennett, is also chairman of the state GOP in Ohio. His term on the board ends in 2010. The other board members are two Democrats and one Republican.
...
Bennett said Monday he plans to finish his term.

"We are making progress on our major goal, which is to restore voter confidence in Cuyahoga County elections," he said at a news conference

The issue comes in the wake of two Cuyahoga County Election Officials recently found guilty of rigging the 2004 Presidential Election recount and subsequently sentenced to the maximum 18 months in prison after they refused to cooperate with the state's special prosecutor, Kevin Baxter.

Both Baxter and the district court judge, Peter J. Corrigan, indicated they believed the conspiracy to game the recount was part of a larger, higher-reaching conspiracy. "It seems unlikely that your superiors wouldn't know what you were doing," Corrigan declared during the sentencing.

Brunner told the Plain-Dealer this morning that the convictions were "so serious that I don't think I had any alternative" but to request the resignations of the entire board. "It has to do with public confidence and perception," she said.

In a news conference this morning, Bennett vowed to fight Brunner in court rather than leave on his own accord.

Cuyahoga County's then-Election Director, Michael Vu, who was not charged in the incident but has since resigned, had previously admitted that sealed ballot boxes were opened and secretly counted prior to the state-mandated recount in order to assure the recount would not reveal any inconsistencies with the officially reported results. He has since recanted his original story.

After the recent sentencing, Bennett, who was ultimately responsible for overseeing the convicted elections officials --- supposedly one Republican and one Democrat --- who rigged a presidential election recount in his county said, incredibly enough, "the convictions are a travesty of justice."

The issue also underscores an important point we've been trying to make for years: Despite the claims by disgraced former Buckeye State SoS J. Kenneth Blackwell and his operatives (including Bennett) for the travesty that occurred in 2004, which suggest that Ohio's supposedly "bi-partisan" structure of county elections boards --- theoretically all comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats each --- prevents any partisan malfeasance, those boards and the officials who work under them have always served ultimately at the pleasure of the state SoS. That power and pressure were wielded frequently by Blackwell during his tenure, resulting in a host of not-so-bipartisan decisions and oversight from Ohio elections officials in 2004 and beyond.

UPDATE: We heartily recommend "OhioRebel's" superb citizen journalist coverage at ePluribus Media, with many useful additional details. Would that the non-citizen journalists were as thorough!

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Judge Says He Believes the Conspiracy Goes Higher...
By Brad Friedman on 3/13/2007 6:20pm PT  

From AP...

CLEVELAND (AP) - Two county election workers were sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison for rigging a recount of 2004 presidential election ballots so they could avoid a longer, detailed review.

Jacqueline Maiden, 60, a Cuyahoga County election coordinator who was the board's third-highest ranking employee, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer, 40, each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Peter Corrigan allowed the women to remain free on bail pending appeal, but indicated he thought there was a more widespread conspiracy among election officials.

"I can't help but feel there's more to this story," Corrigan said.

And I can't help but feel the two election officials should have been sentenced to 18 years instead of months (though we understand that to be the max sentence), given the number of folks who have died in Bush's War since the 2004 Election and the fact that there were enough votes in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) alone to give the race to Kerry instead of Bush had the election been administered legitimately.

Just for the record, only 6 votes registered for Kerry instead of Bush in each of Ohio's precincts would have changed the result of that election.

Must run, so we'll refer you to our previous coverage when the two Ohio elections officials were found guilty in January for more details.

NOTE: Hat-Tip to "Ninepatch" over at DailyKos for tipping us off to the news of the sentencing. It's a rather sigh-inducing irony to get the news from dKos given it's proprietor Markos Moulitsas Zúniga had once shamefully banned all diarists, and purged their diaries, for daring to discuss and/or investigate the Ohio 2004 Presidential Election conspiracy. Thank you for continuing to make noise on these matters anyway those of you who have done so at dKos!

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County's Election Director, Steve Harsman, Wholly Clueless...
By Brad Friedman on 3/9/2007 11:35am PT  

And still another complaint registered against DRE/touch-screen voting systems. It's Diebold's turn again this time. According to the Dayton Daily News...

DAYTON — A legal rights advocacy group wants Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to investigate complaints from about 20 voters that Montgomery County's [Diebold] touch screen electronic voting machines changed their votes during the November election.

The avalanche of these types of complaints and lawsuits is just beginning, people. Will Congress and Elections Officials figure it out any time soon?

In any case, it doesn't look like Montgomery County's Election Director, Steve Harsman, has joined the rest of us here in Reality Land yet.

Even after the story linked above detailed a member of the board of elections who "said the machine he used would not record his vote" properly, Harsman told the paper that "he believes most of the problems can be explained by voters unfamiliarity with the new machines, rather than equipment failure."

The BRAD BLOG begs to respectfully disagree with Harsman. We believe most of the problems can instead be explained by Mr. Harsman's overfamiliarity with the bullshit he's been peddled by Diebold, in addition to a complete Election Director failure.

E-Voting - Game Over. We win. They lose. Move on. Get over it. The only question now is how long it takes them to get it and how many more elections jerks like Harsman are willing to see trashed (and how many voters he's willing to trash along the way.)

(Hat-tip BRAD BLOG commenter "A Concerned Citizen")

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Big Doings in the Buckeye Today...
By Brad Friedman on 2/6/2007 3:48pm PT  

Blogged by Brad from the road...

As is too often the case, the proverbial shit seems most likely to hit the erstwhile fan whenever we're on the road and unable to cover the splatter sufficiently. This week has been no exception.

There is much movement in Ohio today as Michael Vu, the Election Director for Cuyahoga County, where two Election Officials were convicted two weeks ago of having rigged the 2004 Presidential recount, has now finally resigned from the Board of Elections after what is hopefully his last failed election.

The official BoE statement generously says: "Michael Vu has chosen to pursue future career growth and will resign as director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections March 1 of this year."

In related news --- and speaking of failed elections and "future career growth" --- the office of the new Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, has now officially requested an audit of the SoS's office over the last two years as it was led by the corrupt former SoS and democracy-hater J. Kenneth Blackwell.

In addition to the $80,000 in bonuses given to employees on the way out the door, and the $250,000 settlement Blackwell agreed to concerning the 2004 Election last December (as we reported two weeks ago), Brunner expressed a new concern in her hand-delivered letter to the Republican State Auditor Mary Taylor: Shredded documents.

As reported today by the Columbus Dispatch:

Brunner cites five major concerns that prompted her request, including the revelation that a member of her transition team witnessed "many shredding machines in operation" while Blackwell was in office — and those machines are no longer in the office.

"We hope that this does not affect your ability to perform the complete and thorough audit that we request," Brunner wrote.

Blackwell shredding documents?! We're shocked! Shocked!

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Will be Questioned by Special Prosecutor Before Sentencing to Learn if Higher Ups Involved
RELATED: Kerry Drops Out of 2008 Race. In Advance This Time.
By Brad Friedman on 1/24/2007 6:21pm PT  

From AP...

CLEVELAND (AP) — Two election workers in the state's most populous county were convicted Wednesday of illegally rigging the 2004 presidential election recount so they could avoid a more thorough review of the votes.

A third employee who had been charged was acquitted on all counts.

Jacqueline Maiden, the elections' coordinator who was the board's third-highest ranking employee when she was indicted last March, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee.

Maiden and Dreamer also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure of elections employees to perform their duty.

Golly. We're shocked. We wish we would have paid closer attention to that whole 2004 Ohio Presidential Election scam thing instead of ignoring it all these years.

Oh, wait, that was just about everyone else other than The BRAD BLOG, across the near-entirety of both the MSM and the bulk of the Progressive blogosphere.

That aside...as pointed out in the article, the two who were convicted in Cuyahoga County were still pretty small fish...

[Special prosecutor Kevin] Baxter said he intends to speak with Maiden and Dreamer before their scheduled sentencing on Feb. 26 to see if they wish to make any statements that might influence the sentence.

"We'd like to listen to them if they had anything to say, if anyone else was involved with this. We still haven't been able to determine that," he said.

A message was left Wednesday with elections board director Michael Vu.

By way of reminder, the recount --- the one that was rigged by Ohio Elections Officials --- came by way of the Green and Libertarian Party candidates, not by way of the Democrats or John Kerry. As well, the money to pay for the gamed recount was raised by folks on the Internet, not paid for out of the $15 million or so that Kerry reportedly had left in his campaign war chest after the "Election" in Ohio.

All of that, despite Kerry's continued and then broken promise to "Count Every Vote" in 2004.

These convictions occurred in Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold of some 600,000 voters. Kerry "lost" the state of Ohio, according to the history books anyway, by just 118,000 out of some 5.5 million votes cast in the Buckeye State.

In related news, today Kerry decided to quit the 2008 Election, mercifully this time before it instead of afterwards.

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Another Suprise: $250k in Legal Settlements for 2004 Election, Helping to Leave Office $1 Million Short as New SoS Takes Helm
BRAD BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Memo Listing Bonus Payments to 19 of the Outgoing Buckeye State SoS' Office Pals, Legal Action May Follow...
By Brad Friedman on 1/23/2007 2:25pm PT  

Former Republican Ohio Secretary of State and failed Gubernatorial candidate, J. Kenneth Blackwell may be mercifully out of office in the Buckeye State, but it looks as if his former constituents will continue to pay for his atrocious tenure in the SoS office for some time to come. That, in addition to the price they are already paying, along with the rest of the country, by suffering George W. Bush who remains in office due, in no small part, to Blackwell's abhorrent mis-administration of the 2004 Presidential Election.

Last week it was revealed by the office of the new SoS, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, that Blackwell got in his last licks by authorizing some $80,000 in year-end bonus payments to 19 different staffers in his office. The BRAD BLOG has obtained a copy of that memo (posted in full at end of this article) which includes type-written payment amounts to 18 now-former employees, along with the hand-written addition of a payment to be made to Blackwell's obnoxious press spokesman and noted democracy-hater, Charles "Carlo" LoParo.

The previously unannounced bonuses, along with the additional surprise revelation that payment for a $225,000 litigation settlement made by Blackwell last December was suddenly due just after Brunner took office in January, has left the new SoS with a $1 million shortfall to meet standing obligations for the office between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30th.

Both matters were a shock to the incoming SoS who said the discoveries made her "kind of sick, really" as her office has suggested to The BRAD BLOG that there may be administrative and/or legal follow-ups to the issues. The Toledo Blade's coverage of the news as it was revealed last week is excellent.

The legal settlement, according to the Columbus Dispatch, was apparently "related to a lawsuit filed in November 2004 against Blackwell and the Lucas County Board of Elections on behalf of voters who did not receive an absentee ballot and were not allowed to cast provisional ballots."

All of that, of course, as the trial began last week against three Cuyahoga County Elections Officials who are accused of having rigged the 2004 Presidential Election recount while serving at the pleasure of Blackwell under County Election Director Michael Vu. Despite massive failures in 2004 and just about every election in the county since then, Vu has yet to be charged for that incident or any others.

The Bonus Memo

The memo detailing Blackwell's farewell bonuses was signed by his former chief financial officer, Dilip Mehta, who approved $7,765 --- a full extra month's pay --- for himself in the bargain. LoParo's payment of $1,702, one of the lowest amounts listed, was added in what appears to be a handwriting other than Mehta's. That payment is earmarked, according to the memo, for "Carlo."

Naturally, it was LoParo who mouthed off to the media in defense of his old boss and the free, tax-payer largess he received from the state. He claimed the payments were "severance packages offered to members of senior staff," and that "depending on the severance package received, 10 members of the staff agreed not to accept unemployment benefits, which is a net savings for the office in terms of total pay-outs."

But a Brunner staffer has told us last week that 3 former employees had already filed for unemployment benefits. While they had been initially unable to locate any such "severance packages" last week, as based on the 'executive transition document' received from Blackwell, a spokesperson today has informed The BRAD BLOG they have now discovered the elusive "mutual separation agreements" that were signed by Blackwell and the former employees.

The office is currently uncertain whether they will be honored or not.

We're told the letters of 'agreement of mutual separation' also counter LoParo's claims that there would be a net savings for the SoS office for unemployment compensation that wouldn't have to be paid. The letters signed by the three employees who have already applied for such benefits, stated "that it is not intended to affect an employee's eligibility for unemployment compensation," according to Brunner's office.

"It seems Carlo and Ken are telling two tales that don't jive," the staffer wrote in a recent email in reply to our query.

The comments to the media by LoParo --- who also signed one of the "mutual separation agreements" himself --- are quite directly contradicted in the final graf of the agreement which speaks to the matter explicitly as follows:

This voluntary agreement allows for separation without a record of termination and is not intended to affect an employee's eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits should these benefits be needed.

As far as we know, however, LaParo has yet to apply himself for unemployment benefits.

For 'Outstanding Service Through the Years'

LoParo went on to tell a number of media sources that the money was "given because the secretary felt taxpayers had been given outstanding service through the years, and it was within his prerogative to dispense. It's not unusual and not unprecedented in the private or public sector."

It was unclear whether the disastrous administration by Blackwell of Ohio's 2004 and 2005 and 2006 elections were a part of that "outstanding service through the years."

LoParo took his usual cheap shots at anybody with the temerity to catch the office, yet again, with their hand in the cookie jar or thumb on the scale. "I would just have to chalk (Brunner’s comments) up to overall inexperience," he was quoted as mouthing off to several media outlets.

The staffer we spoke with from Brunner's office noted that the public sector is different from the private sector where such bonuses might be more run of the mill. "While these bonuses are not illegal," the staffer wrote, "in contrast to Carlo's contention that they are appropriate and customary, that is pure unadulterated balderdash."

Ben Piscatelli, a spokesman from the Ohio Dept. of Administrative Services backed up the assertions of Brunner's office. "It is not common for a state agency or elected official to pay bonuses, but there is no state law or policy that forbids it," Piscatelli was reported as telling the Columbus Dispatch today.

Despite LoParo's claims, however, The Blade reported they were unable to confirm any such similar bonuses handed out to officials in 2006 throughout the rest of Ohio's government at year's end:

The governor's and state auditor's offices said no bonuses were paid by outgoing officials at the end of 2006. A spokesman for the attorney general's office was still checking, but said he was unaware of any.

The treasurer's office did not return a call. With one minor exception in the Senate, there were no year-end bonuses for legislative staff in 2006.

While there were no such bonuses to speak of in 2006, other than from Blackwell's office, a report by Ohio's 10TV last week, said that 65 state employees at the State House received a total of $89,000 in bonuses in 2005. That, in contrast with the more than $80,000 in bonuses handed out by Blackwell to just 19 of his own staffers on his way out the door.

Legal Action Against Blackwell May Be Coming

Brunner's office has told us they intend to request an audit from Ohio's new Republican State Auditor, Mary Taylor "to assess the state of our agency now that Blackwell is gone." Whether or not Taylor will be willing to potentially take on one of her party's own local titans remains to be seen. Today's Dispatch article also quotes a spokesperson from the office of Attorney General Marc Dann, saying their "would look into the matter if someone asks."

We imagine "someone" will.

The memo containing Blackwell's $80,000 bonus list for 19 now-former staffers follows in full below...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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'Tens of Thousands Encountered Voting Machine Failures, Confusion over New ID Rules,' Reports Paper...
By Brad Friedman on 11/26/2006 2:35pm PT  

The New York Times' Ian Urbina (this time with Christopher Drew) continues to stay on point with his Electoral Failures coverage at the Grey Lady. Unlike Urbina's last report, this time he wasn't undermined by the Times headline writers. (Does anyone with a hard copy of the paper know what page this was reported on, btw?)

To his additional credit, he didn't use the word "glitch" even once. Thank you, Ian. Here are a few highlights from his piece in today's paper...

After six years of technological research, more than $4 billion spent by Washington on new machinery and a widespread overhaul of the nation’s voting system, this month’s midterm election revealed that the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts.

Tens of thousands of voters, scattered across more than 25 states, encountered serious problems at the polls, including failures in sophisticated new voting machines and confusion over new identification rules, according to interviews with election experts and officials.

Of course, BRAD BLOG readers will remember our desperate call for "Emergency Paper Ballots" here in the weeks prior to the election. On that, Urbina reports...

In many places, the difficulties led to shortages of substitute paper ballots and long lines that caused many voters to leave without casting ballots.

Wow. Who could have predicted that?!

And there's more...Of course, the "experts" (word used very cautiously!) are beginning to notice that things on Nov. 7th were worse than they had originally understood. "Voting problems may actually have been wider than initially estimated, with many malfunctions simply overlooked," reports the Times.

So how bad were they? How about 60,000 missing votes in Florida, bad. 20,000 voters who couldn't vote in Colorado, bad. Or in Arkansas, where "election officials tallied votes three times in one county, and each time the number of ballots cast changed by more than 30,000," bad.

And then there's the erstwhile election "expert" Doug Chapin of Electionline.org whose "expert" opinion ensures his presence in just about any mainstream media coverage of these matters. Mr. Chapin continues, on schedule, working all sides of the street in Urbina's piece. It's a tricky juggling act for this "expert" --- mustn't offend the Voting Machine Companies or the Elections Officials who pay his bills, or even, to a lesser extent, the Election Integrity advocates who might just call him a phony if he's not careful --- but, as John Gideon pointed out in yesterday's DVN, even Chapin's having a difficult time avoiding the obvious:

"If the success of an election is to be measured according to whether each voter’s voice is heard, then we would have to conclude that this past election was not entirely a success," said Doug Chapin, director of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan election group that plans to release a report Wednesday with a state-by-state assessment of voting. "In places where the margin of victory was bigger than the margin of error, we looked away from the problems, but in 2008 we might not have that luxury."

And the award for "Understatment of the Year" goes to...

UPDATE 9:01pm PT: Reader Adele writes to tell us that Urbina's article was on "page 30 of 36 pages in the National section" of today's paper.

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And a Concession in New Mexico...Despite Our Own Personal Best Efforts...
By Brad Friedman on 11/22/2006 1:54pm PT  

Of course, we've been covering Christine Jennings's (D) refusal to concede and her stand in favor of the voters in the FL-13 fiasco. And though we haven't mentioned it lately, vote-rigging whistleblower Clint Curtis (D), rather than conceding, is convening a group of volunteers to verify the reported "results" of his race against the corrupt Tom Feeney (R) in FL-24.

But several other House candidates, from North Carolina to Ohio (but not New Mexico), are still fighting to assure the voice of the voters is accurately heard...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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BRAD BLOG: New Mexico's 1st Congressional District Should Be Re-Counted by Hand in Full!
By Brad Friedman on 11/17/2006 3:50pm PT  

We hate to rely on such questionable fringe sources as Associated Press, but for lack of time today, we'll point to their coverage of the remaining "handful of close contests for the House" which are still undecided.

The races that AP describes as "still in dispute" are in NM, NC, FL, and two in OH (naturally).

In addition to the completely obvious and resignation-worthy mess in the FL-13 race, The BRAD BLOG would draw particular attention to the less-discussed contest in New Mexico's 1st Congressional district. We've been plowing through first-hand accounts sent our way detailing the disasterous state of conditions in the counting rooms out there where there's a very close race between incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and her opponent Patricia Madrid (D).

Based on the exceedingly detailed reports we've read so far of the (ahem) less-than-optimal-or-accurate initial tally of votes (yes, Bernalillo County, we're talking to you), we'd suggest any recount of that race must be done as a complete hand count of all ballots in order to assure the final result actually resembles the intention of New Mexico's voters.

But we just may be radical that way.

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