Late last night we detailed just some of the reasons why it's impossible to know, short of actually counting the paper ballots by hand in Wisconsin, if Republican Gov. Scott Walker actually received more votes than his Democratic challenger Mayor Tom Barrett or not.
Without both a recount request and a court order for the ballots to be hand-counted, rather than machine-counted yet again, the state of Wisconsin does not manually examine any of its paper ballots to ensure that the flawed, oft-failed and easily manipulated computer optical-scan systems and central tabulators tallied any of them as per the voters' intent.
Well, the same concerns hold true this morning for Democrat John Lehman in his important recall challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard in the District 21 state Senate race. His declaration of victory late last night is based on the same completely unverified computer tallies as Walker's was earlier in the evening...
"It was a great demonstration of democracy, whether you agree or disagree with the outcome," Huffington Post's political reporter Howard Fineman told Ed Schultz on MSNBC late tonight, while discussing the results of the historic Wisconsin recall elections.
Fineman's comment is either accurate or it is not. Just as the results reported by the computers across the Badger State are either accurate or not. Who knows? Nobody in WI does, and that's exactly the problem.
The early Exit Poll results had reportedly predicted the race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett a virtual tie, leading media to plan for a long night tonight. A second round of Exit Polls results, however, was said to have given Walker a broader lead over Barrett. Even so, we were told, the race based on the Exit Poll data alone was still "too close to call." Those data were either accurate or they were not.
Of course, the raw, unadjusted Exit Polling data are no longer entrusted to us mere mortals. They can be seen only by members of the mainstream media, and we are simply left to trust them to report it all accurately to us or not. And when, after all, have we not been able to rely on the mainstream media to report everything accurately to us?
But never mind the Exit Polls. We've got real polls, real votes, actual ballots now to tell us who won or lost. If only we'd bother to actually count them...
As I'm on the road and largely off the grid this week, I was about to post the following video from last night's Rachel Maddow Show, thanking her for covering so much of what we've been covering here at The BRAD BLOG, for so long, in one nice long top-of-show segment.
I'm still going to do that, but below that, I'm happy to post a press release just sent out by the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, breaking the news that a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the "key provisions of a restrictive voting law in Florida today." The Brennan Center describes the ruling as "a breakthrough victory for Florida voters and voting rights advocates nationwide."
The new law, H.B. 1355, had included onerous criminal restrictions on third-party voter registration workers. The new rules were so onerous, in fact, that the League of Women Voters of Florida was forced to call off their registration drive in the state for the first time in 70 years. In the wake of the FL GOP's new law, high school teachers had been charged with crimes for registering their own students to vote, and a registration worker had received a threatening letter from the Sec. of State for turning in voter registrations one hour late after a holiday weekend.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle blocked most of the FL law's new registration requirements today, finding they accomplished little more than suppressing the registration of new voters without serving any legitimate state interest. "If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, this may work," wrote Hinkle in his frequently scathing decision [PDF].
The Brennan Center quotes from Hinkle's ruling this way: "Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one's rights in a federal court. … [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever ... And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives --- thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote --- promotes democracy."
See the Brennan Center's full release today posted below. It's very good news, as once again another law passed by the GOP with the intention of nothing more than suppressing the vote of largely Democratic-leaning voters is found to be in violation of the Constitution and/or federal law, as has been the case with almost every single one of these GOP-passed laws over the past year --- at least when someone (too often not the U.S. Dept. of Justice, unfortunately) bothers to go to court to challenge them.
Yesterday, at Rolling Stone, Ari Berman had calculated that some 35,000 Florida voters stand to be purged this year if the Republicans' new voter suppression efforts there are carried out in full.
As to Rachel Maddow last night, here's some of the very important coverage she offered at the top of the show, including details on the state of Florida's current effort to purge thousands of legal voters from the rolls by claiming, inaccurately, that they are non-citizens. (NOTE: That effort is a separate voter suppression measure by Republicans in the state of Florida, and is not related to today's federal court ruling blocking the earlier voter suppression measure by Republicans in the state of Florida)...
Recently, The BRAD BLOG criticized the undemocratic features of the new "Top Two" open primary system (aka the "Cajun Primary") in California. The new system, approved via a ballot initiative in 2010, changes the state's primary to system to allow a single, open primary in which the two candidates who receive the highest numbers of votes, go on to face each other in the November general election even if the combined totals of the 'Top Two' do not amount to a majority of votes cast in the primary.
In our critique, we cited the race for the newly created CA-26 Congressional seat where, despite a Democratic Party voter registration advantage, come November, voters may be forced to choose between a 'Tea Party' Republican and a stealth Republican who changed her party registration to independent just days prior to the candidate filing deadline because the two are matched against four Democrats on the June 5 "Top Two" primary ballot.
Our analysis drew criticism in comments from some right-leaning readers claiming our critique was simply a case of sour grapes by a progressive author. But, the state's upcoming U.S. Senate race reveals that the undemocratic potential of the 'Cajun Primary' cuts both ways; that there is a distinct possibility that all Californians, come November, will be forced to choose between the incumbent corporate Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, and the Occupy Wall Street-connected, computer scientist David Levitt (see video below), who is also a Democrat...
Four hundred and eighty-eight voters, all but four lifelong Democrats, and nearly all Black, had their voting history erased by Shelby County (Memphis) election workers, setting them up for purge from the voter list. These selective alterations appear to target the race of US Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-09).
To alter voting histories for a selected set of voters, putting them at risk for strategically selected and improper removal from the voting list, is to demean them, to treat them as if they have less worth as human beings than they do. And to demean them is to wrong them. What Shelby County's election staff has done, in altering the records, is morally wrong.
Shelby County voters owe a debt of gratitude to Darrick "D" Harris (no relation). This information has come to light because, when I spoke with Harris by telephone recently, he expressed concern to me about his discovery that his voting history had somehow evaporated.
An active Democratic voter and political consultant, Harris had copies of voter databases containing his own voter history. He knows he votes regularly, but as of Oct. 2011, the voter list reports that he has never voted --- not once!...
"Last night," Daily Kos blogger "Wisco Wherls" wrote today, "I felt like an atypically politically-motivated little kid on Christmas Eve waiting to receive the only gift I asked for: a chance to reclaim our Wisconsin from tyranny."
Wisco was so excited about the first day of Early Voting in the Badger State's historic recall elections of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state Senators, that he (or she?) "ascended the front steps [of the Middleton City Hall] at 7:40 a.m., five minutes earlier than the building was even scheduled to open," in order to be among the first to cast a vote for Tom Barrett for Governor and Mahlon Mitchell for Lieutenant Governor.
Wisconsin voters were supposed to be able to cast early, in-person "absentee ballots" beginning today, according to state law and a memo sent to the state's Municipal Clerks [PDF] last week by the Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), the state's top election agency. But, alas, Wisco would leave disappointed this morning --- unable to cast what he/she had hoped might even be the first recall vote cast in the entire state --- after being told (inaccurately) that absentee ballots for Early Voting had not yet arrived at the Middleton municipal City Hall.
"I left my phone number and received confirmation that they will supposedly call me as soon as the ballots arrive," Wisco wrote today. "I guess that's what I get for getting my ass out of bed early for once. Nothing like waking up on Christmas morning only to find a lump of fucking coal in your stocking."
The blogger, appropriately enough, described the situation as "unequivocally unacceptable."
But we may have some good news for Wisco Wherls and the rest of Wisconsin's voters. The problem that he/she ran into may have been only an isolated incident, and the result of a miscommunication at the Middleton City Hall, at least according to a statement we received from the G.A.B. late today, after we'd inquired about the reported problem.
Though there remain other concerns with the way Municipal Clerks are handling the delay in the printing and receipt of official absentee ballots, which had not yet arrived at some municipalities around the state in time for the first official day for Early Voting...
Happily HuffPo's Dan Froomkin --- who Tweeted it out this week by noting: "Hey! Did you just feel the campaign finance firmament move? I think Karl Rove did." --- has at least been staying on top of it...
WASHINGTON --- One of the most consequential campaign finance loopholes affecting the 2012 race --- the one allowing big-money donors to secretly funnel millions into campaign ads --- is now closed, after an appellate court ruling on Monday.
In April, a district court judge struck down a Federal Election Commission regulation that allowed donors to certain nonprofit groups --- including those created by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers --- to evade normal disclosure requirements.
"This case represents the first major breakthrough in the effort to restore for the public the disclosure of contributors who are secretly providing massive amounts to influence federal elections," said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, one of the lawyers who filed the original lawsuit that led to the April decision, in a statement.
The office of House Administration Committee ranking Democrat Robert A. Brady issued a statement Tuesday saying, "As of today, any entity creating electioneering communications will have to disclose the identity of their top donors."
Now the Rovians have a remarkable ability to slither through newly found loopholes to ensure they are able to continue not doing the right thing when it comes to gaming our embarrassingly obscene campaign finance system. Moreover, election law professor Rick Hasen expects the "stay request to now end up before the Supreme Court, where the outcome may be different."
Nonetheless, this is a very positive development for those who believe in transparency, particularly in the dark infamy of our post-Citizens United world, and I'm amazed, on one hand, that this story isn't being discussed more by the media. On the other hand, given that the corporate media are actually the top beneficiaries of the Citizens United ruling, perhaps I shouldn't be so amazed.
The head of a firm which was paid some $50,000 by the Republican Party in Sacramento to sign up new Republican voters this year has "an extensive criminal history, including a prison sentence for stealing from a family she befriended and buying a van with funds stolen from a youth agency."
Moreover, one of the employees that "professional con-artist" Monica Harris, the head of the GOP's Momentum Political Services, hired to work with her at the firm, where she was paid per Republican registration, recently pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a multimillion-dollar mortgage scheme.
The growing scandal, all but ignored by those on the Right who professionally pretend that Democrats and ACORN are stealing elections, underscores yet again the extent to which the Republican Party is willing to go in order to win elections, even while falsely accusing Democrats of undermining them...
Absentee ballots that normally would have been sent to voters as early as Tuesday won't get mailed until Friday, according to the head of the state's election agency.
The situation arose because of a conflict between state election law and the state constitution, which lays out a tight time frame between a primary and recall election, said Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board.
Under one state law, absentee ballots should have been available Tuesday because the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker and four GOP state senators is three weeks away, on June 5. But another law says ballots cannot be made available in a general election until after the period to ask for a recount in the primary passes, and that won't happen for the May 8 primary until Friday, Kennedy said.
Normally, there is a longer period between a primary and general election. But the state constitution requires four weeks between a primary and a recall election. That causes conflicts between the absentee schedule and the election certification schedule, Kennedy said.
As a result, a small number of people who will be out of town June 5 won't be able to vote because they won't be able to get an absentee ballot this week, Kennedy said Tuesday.
"We're dealing with a short time frame," Kennedy said. "Some people are going to get caught."
State law used to allow election clerks to email absentee ballots to voters at the discretion of the clerks. Voters would then fill out the ballots and return them through traditional mail. But last year, Republican lawmakers eliminated the ability of clerks to do that except in limited circumstances.
"It would be wise to go back to allowing municipal clerks to transmit (ballots) electronically. We thought it was shortsighted" for legislators to change that law, Kennedy said.
The Journal-Sentinel goes on to report that the Republican who amended the law claimed the change was needed "because some municipalities emailed out ballots while others did not, and she thought all communities should handle it the same way." And her even weaker reasoning was that "what voters returned by traditional mail had to be transferred by clerks onto ballots, which she said could be time-consuming for staff on election day."
While this development doesn't seem, in and of itself, to be an issue nefariously targeted at undermining the Scott Walker recall election specifically (as it had appeared in some of the more vague reportage I'd seen elsewhere this morning), it's certainly troubling for those folks leaving town this week who will not receive ballots in time to vote, and who will have no recourse to receive them while overseas. Those folks are most likely disenfranchised, whether that was the plan or not, thanks to the short-sighted amendment to state law written by state Sen. Mary Lazich, Republican of New Berlin.
The mailers, which offered incorrect dates and deadlines, and instructed voters to send back the forms to the PO Box of a "Right to Life" group in Wisconsin, were sent out not only by the Kochs' AFP, but almost identical misleading mailers were sent out by a mysterious "group" calling itself "United Sportsmen of Wisconsin". As The BRAD BLOG subsequently reported, to the surprise of almost nobody, the front man for that purported WI gun organization, John W. Connors, turns out to have been a longtime AFP affiliate and National Director, with a history of running deceptive campaigns.
Watch for these same insidious democracy haters and their ugly dirty tricks tactics to appear very soon now in advance of the historic June 5th recall elections of Walker, his Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state Senators whose seats --- along with the political balance of the state Senate --- are all now up for grabs.
New paper ballot optical-scan computer tabulator systems used to tally millions of votes in New York --- as well as "swing states" such as Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin --- do not tally votes correctly. That stunning admission comes courtesy of a new report released by the private company which manufactures, sells, services and programs the systems which are now believed to have mistallied tens of thousands of ballots in New York in 2010.
The votes of more than ten million voters could be affected by a newly revealed failure in the voting systems set for use in those four states in this year's Presidential election, and in more than 50 different jurisdictions in Wisconsin during next month's historic recall elections.
Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S), the largest e-voting machine company in the U.S. and the maker of the paper ballot op-scan tally systems in question, have confirmed that their systems may overheat when used over several hours (for example, during an election!), and that they then may mistally and/or incorrectly discard anywhere from 30% to 70% of votes scanned by the machines.
The only way to know that a hand-marked paper ballot had been mistallied by the system would be to examine the ballots by hand to assure that the computer had read and recorded the voters' selections correctly.
The New York Daily News editorial board --- which has been persistently forcing the issue on state Election Officials who initially ignored massive mistallies discovered in the South Bronx during the state's 2010 election --- reports on ES&S' confirmation of the latest failure in a story headlined "We told you so: Newfangled voting machine screwed up". Their article today begins this way...
You know those new electronic vote-scanning machines that are supposed to be foolproof in reading and counting every ballot in an election? Well, they're anything but foolproof.
In fact, they can screw up voter tallies to a fare-thee-well even after technicians carefully calibrate and test them.
So state and city election officials have discovered, along with the machine's manufacturer, thanks to insistent prodding by this page.
Earlier this year, the newspaper discovered --- through public records requests for the paper ballots in a single precinct in the South Bronx --- that the ES&S model DS200 op-scan system had failed to count some 70% of paper ballots correctly in the 2010 primary election. In that November's general election, some 54% of the ballots were mistallied at the same precinct.
The result, as confirmed by ES&S, tens of thousands of perfectly valid votes may have gone uncounted, while thousands of "phantom votes" in races that voters hadn't intended to vote in at all were counted as valid votes.
The Daily News characterizes the initial response by election officials in NY, after the paper had discovered the massive failures, as "a statement of severe psychological denial."
All of the above likely sounds very familiar to long-time readers of The BRAD BLOG, where we are considering changing the name of our news site to "We Told You So: Newfangled Voting Machines Screw Up," as a tip of the hat to the NY Daily News, and to better reflect a great deal of our nearly 10 years worth of content here.
Unfortunately, the latest example of secret vote-tallying computers made by private companies failing to accurate tally our once-public elections, is not only affecting New York. Moreover, the failure isn't isolated to the ES&S model DS200 paper ballot optical-scan system. As we've reported here for years, and on a number of recent occasions over just the past few months, similar failures have been discovered in other states and on other similarly designed paper ballot optical-scan systems.
If you think that simply because you are not forced to vote on a 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting machine that your ballot will be counted and counted accurately this year, think again...
Good news for democracy. Bad news for the GOP deceivers and the billionaire sociopaths, like the Koch brothers, who fund them. Missouri's courts have shown that their state's nickname, "The Show-Me State," is apropos.
In Weinschenk v. State (2006), the MO Supreme Court struck down a GOP-enacted polling place photo ID law because it violated the Equal Protection clause of the MO Constitution which treats voting as a "fundamental right." It recognized a compelling governmental interest in preventing voter fraud, but observed that "the Photo-ID Requirement is intended to prevent only impersonation of a registered voter and will not affect absentee ballot or registration fraud."
As the GOP could not muster evidence of in-person impersonation, they failed to establish that their 2006 Photo ID law was narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest. The Court, in Weinschenk, based on the facts presented, also determined that the 2006 GOP Photo ID law operated as an unconstitutional poll tax, thereby violating the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But since when have Republicans hell-bent on undermining our system of electoral democracy let a few negative court rulings or fundamental Constitutional rights stand in their way?...
Last week, The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernest Canning reported on the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and the ACLU in Pennsylvania, together with the Homeless Advocacy Project and the Advancement Project, against the state Republicans' new polling place Photo ID restriction passed into law in March.
The law, unless it's blocked, is set to make it much harder, if not impossible for many previously-legal student, elderly, minority and urban dwelling voters to cast their vote this November.
Canning predicts, however, that, like a similar GOP law in Wisconsin this year, and one in Missouri back in 2006, the new attempt to remove voting rights will be found in violation of the fundamental right to vote guaranteed under Pennsylvania's state Constitution. We'll see if he's correct.
In the meantime, the lawsuit, Applewhite vs Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [PDF] names 11 plaintiffs, the majority of whom have tried to get a birth certificate in order to then obtain their so-called "free" ID to vote from the state under the new law --- only to be told there is no record of their births. Several of those plaintiffs, not surprisingly, were born in the Jim Crow south and are now facing the forces of disenfranchisement again under the GOP law this year even up in the Keystone State in 2012.
Last week, MSNBC's Al Sharpton interviewed the lead plaintiff in the complaint, 92-year old Viviette Applewhite who marched for civil rights alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Georgia, and who has been voting in Presidential elections without a problem for more than 50 years. She has never had a driver's license and, though she says she paid a fee for a birth certificate from the state, she has never received it.
Despite the fact that state officials have been unable to produce evidence of in-person, polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that could possibly be deterred by polling place Photo ID laws --- Republicans seem more than happy to disenfranchise long-time voters like Applewhite and potentially tens of thousands of others this year.
Applewhite says she believes it's all little more than an effort to stop President Obama from being re-elected, and she fears there are far more people than many realize who will be disenfranchised this year unless the law is overturned.
"Looks like most of the people in my building, they're senior citizens, but they don't have the proper thing to vote with," she says near the end of the interview, "and it's going to be a whole lotta people that's not going to be able to vote"...
Judith Browne Dianis, civil rights litigator at the Advancement Project also appears in the interview above and correctly notes: "This is not about preventing fraud, it's about preventing voting."
She is supported in that contention, ironically enough, by PA's Republican Governor Tom Corbett, seen in a clip above exhorting his supporters to help him keep turnout below 50% during his recent election. Moreever, just after Corbett signed the GOP's voter suppression bill in March, he lied to the media by claiming that it was needed since Pennsylvanians had seen 112% voter turnout in some precincts. Longtime election watchdog Marybeth Kuznick of VotePA, however, told us the Governor's claim was "ludicrous."
For more on the plaintiffs in the PA complaint who are facing disenfranchisement for the first time in their lives --- folks like 59-year old Wilola Shinholster Lee, 72-year old Grover Freeland, 86-year old Dorothy Barksdale and 93-year old Bea Booker --- and why Ernie Canning predicts the new legal challenge will be successful in the Keystone State, see his report from last week right here.
You're unlikely to hear a peep about this on Fox "News" (unless they happen to have me on), but the California Secretary of State's Election Fraud Division is now reportedly investigating a firm hired by the Sacramento County Republican Party said to have submitted thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms.
According to a report today from Sacramento ABC affiliate News10 [see video posted below], a private, for-profit firm calling itself Momentum Political Services, hired by the local Republican Party "to boost GOP registration ranks in key battleground communities" has turned in more than 3,100 invalid voter registration cards during their recent drive.
[UPDATE 5/7/12: According to Sacramento Bee's 5/5/12 report, the number of bad registration forms is much higher than 3,100. The paper reports that since September, out of some 31,000 cards turned in by Momentum Political Services, "at least one-fourth of them have been thrown out because of inaccuracies," according to the Sacramento Registrar of Voters. That puts the questionable registrations from the GOP's company at more than 7,500.]
Voter registration forms have allegedly been turned in with fake addresses, voter names that don't exist, duplicate Social Security numbers, and party affiliations that seem to have been changed "by someone" to Republican. The head of the firm has admitted she has hired workers with criminal backgrounds, as found via Craigslist.
The charges of serial voter registration fraud sound very similar to those leveled in 2008 against another outfit hired by the California State GOP to register Republican voters before that year's Presidential election. In that case, the head of the firm was arrested, and eventually pleaded guilty to voter registration charges himself.
In 2006, another firm hired by the CA Republican Party turned in thousands of registration forms with fake names and an error rate as high as 60 percent. And in 2004, a firm hired by the GOP was investigated in a number of states for shredding Democratic voter registrations and tossing them into dumpsters. Despite those allegations, the same folks were later hired by the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008 to run voter registration drives before the Presidential election.
Of course, you probably haven't heard of any of those stories, even while you've heard plenty about a handful of ACORN workers --- no actual ACORN officials, mind you, and they were never hired by the Democratic Party, and never led to a fraudulent vote --- turning in fraudulent registration forms in past years.
But nobody who ever worked for the non-profit ACORN has ever been accused of what these Republican firms continue to do on behalf of the Republican officials who hire them, paying them per Republican registration, year after year, as is once again apparent in the allegations surfacing today against Momentum Political Services...
92-year old Viviette Applewhite, 59-year old Wilola Shinholster Lee, 72-year old Grover Freeland, 86-year old Dorothy Barksdale and 93-year old Bea Booker are just a few of the Pennsylvania residents and long-time legal voters now fighting to retain their right to vote under the state GOP's new polling place Photo ID restrictions, according to a new lawsuit filed this week in the Keystone State.
The complaint goes on to argue that "there are countless other Pennsylvanians like them [some 80-90,000 according to the state's own data], who will lose the most cherished of all rights, the right to vote, unless the Photo ID Law is declared unconstitutional."
There is now, indeed, a very good chance that the law will, in fact, be declared unconstitutional according to The BRAD BLOG's analysis of the complaint, the state constitution and prior rulings in similar cases.
PA is just the latest of more than a dozen states over the past year where Republican-controlled legislatures and executive mansions have instituted voter disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions. Governor Tom Corbett signed his state's bill into law in March, and promptly lied about his reasons for supporting the removal of voting rights for those lacking Photo ID on Election Day, claiming, without evidence, that some precincts in the state had 112% voter turnout in recent elections. As we reported at the time, that charge was dismissed as "ludicrous" and without evidence by a longtime state election integrity expert.
Nonetheless, "Act 18" has become the law of the land in Pennsylvania, for now, and, unless successfully challenged, will require that voters present a state-issued Photo ID when voting at the polling place in this year's November Presidential election for the very first time.
For the identical reasons that The BRAD BLOG accurately predicted that the League of Women Voters' legal challenge to a polling place Photo ID restriction law under similar provisions of the Wisconsin's Constitution would prevail (absent a political intervention from the Badger State's extraordinarily partisan Supreme Court), we also predict that new legal challenge filed this week in PA, attempting to block the state's draconian polling place Photo ID law, will similarly succeed...