Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) joins guest host Nicole Sandler to discuss stunning turns of events in GOP plan to replace Boehner; Also: Emptywheel's Marcy Wheeler on U.S. bombing of hospitcal in Afghanistan...
Here's a welcome sign that at least some in the corporate media are finally beginning to understand the complicated threat to democracy that is the boondoggle of electronic voting.
Bill Mego, in the Naperville Sun, asks all of the right questions (and granted, they are complicated ones to understand, unless one tries) about the junk Diebold voting system irresponsibly employed, at great tax-payer expense, by the DuPage County, IL Board of Elections.
One could as easily replace "Diebold" in the above sentence with any other voting system vendor, and "DuPage" with almost any other county in the nation (even though DuPage features one of the worst Election Boards in the country, and you'll be hearing still more about them soon). But the "good news" for today: at least a few in the media --- okay, at least Bill Mego --- finally "get" it, and are beginning to serve their readership well.
Let's get a few hundred more and we'll be in business. (And I'd be out of it! Happily!)
Over at HuffPo, Nancy Scola files a nice piece asking whether or not "New Media's obsessiveness" can save democracy, given that "Elections in the U.S. involve countless moving parts and...so many different players [that] Improving the way we vote demands sustained, focused attention --- not exactly the strong suit of the American Press."
It's a job for bloggers, she suggests, since the corporate media have, at least so far, not proven up to the task. She may be right, even though the thought simply exhausts me more than I am already.
She goes on to mention a few of us (yes, she names me specifically) who have been fighting this battle for quite some time. "From the sidelines, their campaign often seemed quixotic," she writes, "But [as electronic voting machines are now being scrapped for junk, recycled and/or sold on eBay] we're watching history bend their way."
Nice. Though not as nice as the following turn of phrase, so well writ that I had to share it:
When it comes to injustice, there are the "overlooked Americans": soldiers and other overseas Americans voting still have to hop over hurdles to cast their vote. (While I'm on this point, it's inconceivable to me that someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan should have anything less than a ballot served to them on a silver platter that's then carried directly to the ballot box in the beak of a bald eagle.)
Game, set, match. Well done, Nancy.
With that, one friendly critique for her if I could be so bold: Paperless electronic voting is not the problem --- as she suggests in the piece --- as if adding "paper trails" to touch-screens makes a damned bit of difference (this article and its accompanying video from the Computer Security Group at UC Santa Barbara should make that crystal clear, no matter what some computer scientists like Princeton's Ed Felten and Verified Voting's David Dill keep saying out loud.) The problem is that democracy in this country demands nothing short of the transparency offered by a hand-marked paper ballot --- one that is actually counted, and counted accurately --- for every vote cast in America. Period.
And that point should be served from a silver platter, and carried directly to every election official and election official in the country, in the beak of a bald eagle.
SAVE R VOTE is a group of election watchdogs in Riverside Co California. Yesterday the group gave the county Board of Supervisors a report that they wrote after pouring over more than 10,000 documents for the past three months. Their report included evidence of elections staff correcting documents to balance ballot inventory; electronic voting machines being delivered up to 11 days before the election, some times to bathrooms [Election law permits officials to deliver voting machines a week before Election Day]; and missing electronic voting cartridges. Of course the county registrar could only do all she could do to minimize the issue. Congratulations to SAVE R VOTE. They got the county supervisors to listen. They have ordered an audit of the Registrar’s office to determine why there were hundreds of violations found. ...
In today’s featured article the Brennan Center for Justice and the Advancement Project have reported that thousands of Florida voters may be disenfranchised by a last minute decision by the Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, to enforce a “no match, no vote” law. “No match, no vote” essentially says that if a voters name or information on their registration does not exactly match their name or information on their ID they cannot vote or they can vote a provisional ballot and take the same ID to the county election office after the election to prove they are who they say they are.
"This 11th-hour decision is an ill-advised move to apply a policy the state has never enforced in its current form, at a time when registration activity is at its highest," stated Beverlye Neal, director of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, a plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenges Florida's matching law. "The Secretary's decision will put thousands of real Florida citizens at risk due to bureaucratic typos that under the 'no-match, no-vote' law will prevent them from voting this November," said Alvaro Fernandez of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, another plaintiff in the case.
"Voters who do everything right, who submit forms that are complete, timely, and accurate, will suddenly find themselves unregistered when they go to vote, just because someone somewhere punched the wrong letter on a keyboard," said Myrna Pérez, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "The no match, no vote policy is unjust and unnecessary, and Florida voters will pay the price this fall," stated Jean-Robert Lafortune, president of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, another plaintiff in the lawsuit...
I've been getting panicked email and phone calls, and everything else, since a caller to the Thom Hartmann Program yesterday mentioned receiving an Absentee Ballot Request form in the mail from the McCain campaign. Apparently, the caller from Wisconsin was a Democrat, suspected foul play (and not without reason!) and was followed by several other callers and emailers reporting the same in that state and others around the country.
Lee Rayburn, who was guest hosting for Thom, called me just after he got off the air yesterday to let me know what was going on, and to forward some of the emails he had been receiving so I could check them out to figure out what was going on. In fact, I had already received some of those McCain Absentee Ballot Request forms from others in the days preceding yesterday's show.
Well, with panic among Dems (understandably) reaching a fevered pitch by last night, claims of "massive Republican vote caging" going on, as based on these mailings, he asked me to come on today and explain what I was able to learn about the situation. (Audio of interview posted below.)
As discussed during my appearance with Lee on Thom's show this morning, in this case at least, those mailers seem to be generally on the up and up. While it appears to be a massive and very aggressive GOTV effort from the McCain campaign --- even targeting Democrats in places they consider "swing states," like Wisconsin --- there doesn't seem to be anything nefarious going on with these particular mailings. At least so far as I've been able to tell...
On Tuesday, while the corporate media was helping along John McCain's faux controversy over lipstick and farm animals, and while Republicans were otherwise preparing to celebrate 9/11 on Thursday, a group of so-called "third-party" Presidential candidates gathered for a news conference at the National Press Club, as sponsored by Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)'s CampaignForLiberty.org. Paul's introductory statement, endorsing third-party candidates as a whole, is here.
Paul recently announced his refusal to endorse his party's nominee, John McCain, despite their personal entreaties. The entire press conference is on video here.
The three candidates who did show, all spoke to various aspects of the detrimental nature of the dangerous two-party duopoly the country is currently saddled with, thanks in no small part to the corporate media's unwavering support thereof. (See this condescending coverage from WaPo clown Dana Milbank, whose never run for even dog catcher, as far as I know, much less President on a national party ticket, by way of just one such example.)
Only McKinney spoke directly to the issues surrounding Election Integrity. She is, to my knowledge, the only Presidential candidate of any party this year, to speak substantively to the most important matter underscoring every freedom we have and every serious issue we face in this nation.
She begins her remarks by pointing out: "What has not been mentioned this morning, and has rarely been mentioned throughout this presidential election season, is the issue of election integrity." She speaks rather eloquently both about "massive disenfranchisement" and "manipulation of electronic voting machines." The video clip of her comments on the topic (appx. 3 mins, courtesy Alan Breslauer) is below. A text-transcript is included at the end of this article…
None of the candidates, including McKinney, have yet signed the StandingForVoters.org pledge to challenge any questionable election results and not concede until every vote is counted, and counted accurately. We (The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VelvetRevolution.us, the creators of the StandingForVoters.org initiative) welcome all such candidates, from any political party, running for any office on the national, state or local level, to sign the pledge and stand up for voters as they have/will stand up for them. The SFV campaign calls on voters to demand candidates sign the pledge, and makes materials available to hand to them during campaign events. For more info, see the website or write to info@StandingForVoters.org.
The text transcript of Cynthia McKinney's statement yesterday on Election Integrity, follows below…
Experts from CA's 'Top-to-Bottom Review' of E-Voting Systems Demonstrate How to Insert Virus, Access Machines Without Disturbing 'Security Seals' in Hack Which Would Not Be Discovered Even in 100% Audit of 'Paper Trails'
Single Malicious Individual Shown Flipping Entire 'Touch-Screen w/ Paper-Trail' Election in Seconds...
The Computer Security Group at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has released a short, chilling video demonstrating how a single person can hack an election on a touch-screen voting system --- even one with a so-called "Voter Verifiable Paper Trail" (VVPAT) added to it --- in such a way that it is highly unlikely that the manipulation would ever be detected by either the public or election officials.
The video which shows "just examples of the different ways in which the system can be compromised" is the latest in a similar string of such demonstrations that have been released over the last two years, all showing how easily electronic voting systems can be tampered with, often undetectably.
In the UCSB video posted below, the hack of Sequoia voting system being prepared for use in an entire county, is done in approximately 3 seconds, by a single person with simple insider access and a $10 USB thumb drive. Every machine used in the county, in such a case, would be effected. Moreover, the viral hack would not be discovered by pre-election "Logic and Accuracy" testing --- in cases were election officials actually bother to perform such tests prior to elections --- nor would it likely be discovered even in the event of a complete, 100% post-election audit of the touch-screen "paper-trail" records.
The hack demonstration, prepared by the UCSB scientists as part of California's 2007 Top-to-Bottom Review" of all of the state's e-voting systems, also reveals how so-called "security seals" placed on such machines after they've been programmed for an election, can be easily defeated without detection...
Last night we offered the quick skinny on the abrupt resignation of Colorado's state Election Director, Holly Lowder, just 60 days out from what promises to be one of the largest and most important --- and potentially closest --- elections in the state's history.
We summarized some of the dizzying background on the exceptionally embarrassing and dysfunctional state of certification, decertification and recertification of e-voting systems in the Centennial State over the last two years, under current Sec. of State, Republican Mike Coffman (who is overseeing his own election for the U.S. House this November), and in previous years under two former Republican SoS' (one of whom was promoted by George W. Bush to do the same lousy job of e-vote testing for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission).
We also suggested, based on information from sources in the states, that the old euphemism about "election officials being in bed with voting vendors" may well become more than just a euphemism when the full explanation for Lowder's sudden departure became known.
And today, as we'd hinted last night, some of that information has now become known...
The director of elections at the secretary of state's office resigned suddenly Thursday.
The departure of Holly Lowder, former Alamosa County clerk, comes two months before what is expected to be one of the biggest elections in recent Colorado history. Lowder's work centered on the implementation of the new statewide voter registration system, said Richard Coolidge, spokesman for the agency.
Lowder could not be reached for comment.
Coolidge would not give details on why Lowder stepped down. He said Thursday was her last day.
Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle said Lowder was more involved with the voter database early on but had become less involved in recent months.
AP reports that county officials were notified of Lowder's departure via email on Thursday, from the SoS office, which noted only that she had "retired and wanted to 'pursue other opportunities.'"
Sources in CO tell us there will be more coming, likely tomorrow, on this. We're also told that there may be a salacious aspect here that might just make the well-worn euphemism about "election officials being in bed with voting machine vendors," um, somewhat more than just a euphemism. (Talk about your voting machine "sleepovers"!)
[See update for more details on the above, now at bottom of article!]
Aside from the noteworthiness of Lowder's sudden exit, as pointed out in the article, in regard to the importance of Colorado in this year's elections --- the state's 9 electoral votes are thought to be very much up for grabs this year, despite going to Bush in the previous two elections --- BRAD BLOG readers will remember a bit of the background here concerning the utterly dysfunctional state of e-voting in the Centennial State under their current SoS, Mike Coffman...
Velvet Revolution - co-founded by Brad Friedman - today launched its newest campaign at StandingForVoters.org, calling on candidates across the country to pledge to challenge elections when necessary.
"This election, let's make democracy the winner!" the Standing For Voters site proclaims. Readers of The BRAD BLOG know that's quite a stretch, that we're a long way from having a true democracy in this country. Yet challenges by candidates --- before, during and after the elections --- could be an important step in the right direction. In many situations, only candidates have standing to challenge elections.
StandingForVoters.org is primarily directed towards candidates themselves and serves to educate them about election integrity issues, types of election challenges, and recent history of candidates who challenged elections. Voters are encouraged to participate by finding candidates who will pledge; tips about how to do this are provided on the site, including:
Attend candidates' nights or other campaign activities. During the Q&A portion of the program, make a statement about the importance of election integrity and ask the candidates publicly if they will sign the Standing for Voters pledge.
Call in to radio shows where candidates are being interviewed. Ask the candidates on the air to sign the pledge.
Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece in the local newspaper urging candidates to pledge. (You can also encourage the paper only to endorse candidates who have made the pledge.)
Visit candidates' websites and send them emails asking them to sign the pledge. Include a link to StandingForVoters.org.
Talk to your local political clubs. Find out who has direct contact with candidates and enlist their help.
Once one candidate for a particular office has signed on, call their opponents and ask them to match that pledge.
The first two candidates to sign the site's more robust pledge, "The Super Pledge," are no strangers to election integrity issues. Ellen Brodsky, candidate for Supervisor of Elections in notorious Broward County, Florida is a long-time election integrity advocate, founding Broward Election Reform Coalition. Brodsky was thrilled to pledge, saying, "You can count on me to speak about fair, accurate and transparent elections in every breath I take."...
If you didn't happen to pay close enough attention to Ellen Theisen's guest blog on Friday, now that I'm back on the grid (after a few blissful days in the mountains with family friends on the way to Denver here), let me re-iterate the main points of her article quite directly: Diebold has admitted that their tabulator software, known as GEMS, and used all across the country, in at least 34 states, does not count votes correctly.
In fact, it actually loses votes, by not counting them at all, yet gives the system administrator no indication that the votes were not counted. Instead, it tells them that all votes have been counted correctly. This bug has been in Diebold's software --- where it remains to this day-- for years. Diebold has only admitted it now that it's been found by someone else (a number of counties in Ohio, of all places) and with the 2008 Presidential election less than 80 days away. Washington Post's coverage here.
Coinciding with that startling admission, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)'s Gracia Hillman, one of the two Democratic-recommended appointees, has gone on public record stating that the federal certification testing process is too stringent.
While all of that was made clear in Ellen's blog item, I found both of the above points so remarkable that I wanted to underscore them now that I've finally made it to Denver (or at least Boulder, for the moment), since I was simply stunned to read it myself after getting back on the grid.
Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
UPDATE: CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight covered the stunning admission by Diebold on their show Friday. Here it is (thanks to Alan Breslauer, as usual!) ...
UPDATE 8:43pm PT:McClatchy's Greg Gordon picks up the ball, and advances it a bit, noting the failure in oversight by the feds which allowed for the failure, as we've been trying to get across here for years. He begins this way...
Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure
WASHINGTON — Disclosure of an election computer glitch that could drop ballot totals for entire precincts is stirring new worries that an unofficial laboratory testing system failed for years to detect an array of flaws in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003.
Texas-based Premier Elections Solutions [Diebold] last week alerted at least 1,750 jurisdictions across the country that special precautions are needed to address the problem in tabulation software affecting all 19 of its models dating back a decade.
Many jurisdictions are realizing their voting systems are horribly flawed and they want to get them fixed before November. But the new systems currently under test by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) have so many defects that the manufacturers have to keep repairing them before testing can continue. Consequently the EAC has not certified anything yet.
Kudos to the EAC for this!
But Gracia Hillman, one of the EAC Commissioners, recommends a way around this “roadblock” for the jurisdictions using systems that are no good. She suggests a contingency plan that would allow the jurisdictions to use new and different systems that are no good, but at least they would comply with their state laws. Her ideas:
1) Emergency Certification of Voting System Modifications;
2) Waiver of EAC Certification;
The systems are so bad they can’t meet the federal standards, so to get around this “roadblock,” Commissioner Hillman proposes to bypass the testing process.
She wants the EAC to bless new, defective systems for the vendors to sell to replace the old, defective systems that are currently in use.
But that’s what NASED (National Association of State Election Directors) did when it oversaw the voting system testing process, and the decade-long, widespread use of Premier/Diebold’s vote-losing software is one of the results.
After ten years of use in election after election, all across the country, Premier/Diebold’s vote-dropping software flaw has finally come to light — thanks to Butler County, Ohio’s Elections Director Betty L. McGary and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner...
Guest Blogged by Mary Mancini of the Uncounted Blog
Everyone has different tastes, and hey, if you aren’t moved after watching Uncounted that’s your prerogative. But an uniformed and half-assed review that tries to nail the 80-minute movie on one ten-second factoid - like the one delivered to Mother Jones readers by former MJ Senior Online Fellow and current TPM Media News Editor, Justin Elliott - is inexcusable.
In the review, Elliot references the following that briefly appears on screen: “Two voting machine companies --- ES&S and Diebold --- electronically counted 80 percent of the votes in the 2004 presidential election. Both companies have extensive ties to the Republican party.” He then runs the 80% number by Kimberly Brace, “a respected voting expert with the consulting firm Election Data Services” who calls it “totally wrong.” And that’s it. Proof by assertion. No follow up. End of review.
You can, of course, read the rest for yourself at MotherJones.com, where you can also read the comments of some very smart MoJo readers who recognize not only Elliott’s shoddy work but also the importance of the bigger issue - that our democracy is at stake because of bad electoral practices.
You’ll also find Uncounted's filmmaker, David Earnhardt's response, which I am also printing in its entirety...
The launching point for the column: conservative "founding father" Paul Weyrich's remarkable comments to 15,000 preachers in Dallas in 1980, as seen in the video at right, featuring this Rosetta Stone phrase:
"Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome - good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
Yes, that's what he actually said. Out loud. And the GOP has been working to make Weyrich's anti-democracy dreams a reality, at no small cost, ever since. My complete Guardian column is here...
Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Secretary of State, has issued Directive 2008-68 [PDF] entitled Voting Machine Delivery Requirements. The directive contains storage specifications regarding temperature, humidity, dust, fire protection, and proximity of liquids. It also makes it clear that there are to be no more election component "sleepovers" in which poll workers take home voting equipment days or even weeks before an election for so-called safekeeping. In actuality, the "sleepovers" are an invitation to tampering and hacking.
The BRAD BLOG was the first to report on these sleepovers, truly a menace to election security, back in 2006, and coined the phrase "sleepover," which seems to have made its way into the national lexicon. AP themselves used the phrase in their coverage this week of Brunner's new directive.
As Lou Dobbs Tonight noted in 2006 following The BRAD BLOG's original exposé of the practice, the sleepover procedure is still used in many states and counties. But now, at least, Ohio's Brunner has taken a step in the right direction by ordering an end to the practice. It remains to be seen whether all of Ohio's local election officials will comply.
However, while we applaud this latest initiative by Brunner, it looks as if it may not go far enough in at least one very important aspect...