ANCHORAGE - If democracy were a religion, voting would be the sacrament.
I grew up in what I call “The First Free-Range Organic Christian Church of Homer.” Sundays brought a message, fellowship, and a line of repentant souls taking communion-a remembrance of sacrifice.
The first time I cast my vote, it struck me as similar. The blood shed for my right to stand at a flag draped table and make my choice part of the collective wasn’t lost on me. I had one of those “Come to Jesus” moments and in 20 years I haven’t missed an opportunity to vote. Unlike Christ, the idea of democracy has never shed a drop of blood; patriots did. The same cannot be said of the suffragettes. Unlike the sacrament celebrated in religious ritual, elections should not be faith-based. The framers never intended our government to be run on trust; hence the myriad of checks and balances. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Election integrity is not about restoring faith in the system. Checks and balances are...
During a discussion on last Friday's Real Time w/ Bill Maher on HBO, the topic of electoral reform came up. There were the usual discussions of electoral college concerns, primaries vs. caucuses, and then Ashton Kutcher broke in with a point that may well signal he's a reader of The BRAD BLOG, as I believe we were the first (only?) to call for Wednesday as a national election/voting holiday, for the precise reasons that Kutcher points out in the following video clip (appx 1 minute)...
Hey, Ashton! Drop us a line! Given the above, as well as other comments you made on last Friday's show (one of them we posted earlier here), we'd be delighted to make you our first official BRAD BLOG Celebrity Ambassador At-Large! No, seriously. We could use one.
For the record, we most recently wrote about Wednesday as a national election holiday in our piece last week warning about the dangers of the increasing move towards the bad idea of "Vote-by-Mail" elections. Quoth yours truly at the time:
[M]aking Election Day a holiday would ease the crush of voters turning out at once (at poll opening before work, during work lunch hour, or after the work day). Though I'd recommend changing Election Day to a Wednesday when making it a holiday, so that a Tuesday holiday doesn't simply turn into a long out of town 4-day holiday weekend for many.
BTW, while we fully support making Wednesday an official national Election holiday, for the reasons Kutcher describes (and a few more), such a move would likely require a Constitutional amendment, unfortunately. But we could use one anyway for that electoral reform and a number of others (e.g., Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s amendment to ensure a Constitutional "right to vote," as well as making it a felony offense to deny even one voter that right, as originally advocated by the legendary Leon County, FL, Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho.)
Kutcher's quick comments on this topic are transcribed in full below...
Need more proof that the vendors have made elections expensive? The folks in Vigo Co Indiana find themselves having to hold a special election for mayor of Terre Haute, a city of over 44,000 voters. The county would probably pay for the election and then be reimbursed by the city. The last municipal election the county paid for cost $580,000. The cost for one race in the city would probably be something less than that.
Why so much? The county pays ES&S to manage the voting machines. What would happen if the county or city just decided to print the ballots and hand-count them? Well, the ballots would cost around $0.05 per ballot or around $3500. The cost to hand-count those ballots, based on the cost to hand-count ballots in WA in the 2004 gubernatorial hand-recount would probably be less than $10,000. Why is it that we have these vendors involved in making our elections much more expensive than they should be? ...
ANCHORAGE - It doesn't bother me to have fundamental differences with people. If it did, I'd never get out of bed. The person I most respected growing up, my Pop, was and is a conservative ideologue. I'm crazy about him. Disagreeing with facts is fair and healthy. Arguing from a place lacking intellectual curiosity is quite another as nothing is learned nor gained.
Since my first post questioning the voter turnout and other anomalies in Alaska's election, I've been accused of all sorts of things. I have been misquoted in the Anchorage Daily News. They claimed I wrote the election was "stolen." I wrote "Stolen Election in Alaska?" It wasn't the word, it was the punctuation.
But there is good reason to be concerned. A lawsuit filed in 2006 in State Superior Court to release the Diebold GEMS Software from 2004 revealed the database had been tampered with. Unfortunately, the user log-in and password were set to the default settings so it was impossible to tell who had edited the software numerous times post election, since all entries were made by "administrator" with password: "password". So it's not too outrageous for anybody to believe it's important, this time, to pay very close attention to the results of last Tuesday's election...
"DavidNYC" at DailyKos files a well-meaning diary today headlined "How I Became a Vote-by-Mail Convert" in which he offers some reasons, after years of opposing it, that he now supports VBM based on his experience as a poll watcher last Tuesday.
I've previously offered just a few of the most noteworthy reasons that I believe VBM is a terrible idea for democracy, even as I realize that many hard partisans --- from both sides of the political aisle --- love the idea of VBM as it tends to increase turnout and allows them to target their voters quite directly. Lists of who already voted are routinely made available to the major political parties in the days leading up to the election, allowing them to more specifically target their expensive Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts on, and before, Election Day.
That's swell for partisans, but not so good for many of us who are more concerned that voters be allowed to vote freely, and that their votes be counted accurately and transparently. And some of "DavidNYC's" thoughtful arguments are misleading at best...
An ironic and interesting item that we missed as it ran yesterday, but which we'll store away for future reference [emphasis added]...
On Tuesday, Forensicon, a Chicago computer forensic company, said that it was contacted last week by a security firm last week to assist the Republic National Committee (RNC) in challenging cases of "computerized voter fraud."
"If the election returns vary significantly from the polled numbers in any precincts that proves crucial to the election outcome, I expect that a legal struggle over the validity of the election results will ensue," said Forensicon's President, Lee Neubecker in a press release.
The move seems to indicate a future move by the RNC to challenge certain voting results, in some contradiction to past RNC actions regarding electronic voting
California's Proposition 8 --- a Constitutional amendment to ban the right to same-sex marriage in the state --- currently has more "yes" (in favor of discrimination) votes than "no" votes tallied, 52.2% to 47.8%, according to the CA Sec. of State's website. This represents a difference of 434,830 votes. But according to the No on 8 campaign, three to four million provisional and vote-by-mail ballots remain uncounted...
Republican Congressman Tom Feeney, rated by nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (C.R.E.W.) as one of the "most corrupt members of Congress" for three years straight, has been defeated in Florida's 24th district. Regular readers of The BRAD BLOG readers know Feeney as the man who allegedly asked computer programmer Clint Curtis to write vote-flipping software in 2000 and escaped all accountability in an investigation stacked with Jeb Bush loyalists. (Full Curtis/Feeney scandal story summarized here, indexed in full here, new documentary film about the terrifying story here.)
According to the official FL Sec State website, as of 9:25 PM Eastern time, Feeney is losing to his Democratic challenger, Suzanne Kosmas by 19 percentage points--59% Kosmas, 40% Feeney. While we here at The BRAD BLOG are of course saddened that it was not Clint Curtis himself --- who left the Republican party after his dealings with Feeney and ran as a Democrat to unseat him in '06 and again in '08 when he lost in the primary --- who finally ended Feeney's ruinous reign, hey, any way we can get rid of Feeney, we'll take it. Of course, Kosmas is a corporate blue dog Dem with ethics issues of here own, as we've discussed here previously, but at this point we'll take the lesser of two evils and happily discharge Mr. Feeney. Here are your walking papers, sir. Job poorly done. Now Go Away. Hopefully to jail. Until then, we're sure he'll land in a cush lobbyist gig within a week.
In other great news, Congressman Robert Wexler is projected to win Florida's 19th district handily with 69% of the vote. Wexler, one of the few Congressional Democrats with teeth, has been a proponent of impeachment and accountability for the Bush administration. His return to Congress to finish his work is a very good thing indeed.
For more info on The BRAD BLOG's continuing investigative series on The Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney/Yang Enterprises Vote-Rigging Scandal series, please see:
- A Quick Summary of the story so far.
- An Index of all the Key Articles & Evidence in the series so far.
In late 2008 a documentary film, Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story was released. More info on the remarkable film here.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) received this letter [PDF] well over a week ago from Oakland County, MI, concerning ES&S precinct-based optical-scan systems that "yielded different results each time" the "same ballots were run through the same machines"...
The issue is this - four of our communities or eight percent - reported inconsistent vote totals during their logic and accuracy testing with the ES&S machines. The same ballots, run through the same machines, yielded different results each time.
ES&S determined that the primary issue was dust and debris build-up on the sensors inside the M-100.
Unfortunately, they [local clerks] are prohibited from performing any maintenance/cleaning on the machines as it voids the warranties. ES&S has not performed any preventative maintenance under the state contract, since the machines were delivered three years ago.
This problem, discovered during pre-election "Logic & Accuracy" testing of the systems, would hardly be the first time that ES&S has failed to deliver on maintenance contracts, adversely affecting voters and election results in the bargain. We saw many similar problems during the 2006 primary election cycle. These precinct-based scanners are used throughout the nation, as ES&S is the nation's largest distributor of voting systems in the U.S.
The EAC received this letter a week ago, and we're trying to learn when it was finally posted to their website. But, more importantly, as they have a mandate via the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 to serve as a "clearinghouse" for such voting system problems, has the EAC sent a warning about this issue to any other jurisdictions where the same equipment or company is used?
Why corporate mainstream journalists have a need to identify everyone as either "liberal" or "conservative" is beyond me. But setting that aside, of far more import is the substantive information in Washington Independent journalist Jonathon E. Kaplan's report today featuring lead Obama attorney Bob Baeur's attempt to defend against my fervent critique of the campaign's woefully inadequate and dangerously misguided efforts in dealing with the massive voting machine problems occurring around the country since early voting began (and, of course, well before even that)...
[Note 11/3/08: An updated version of the article, now posted here, scales by on the "liberal" thing, after I sent a gentle complaint to Kaplan.]
The article does nothing to assuage my concerns about the Dems' self-proclaimed "behind the scenes" efforts on these matters. Bauer was still unable to offer a shred of evidence that the campaign or the DNC has taken such concerns about the use of wholly unverifiable voting systems --- and worse, allowing and actually encouraging election officials to access those machines during the election, at the time they are most vulnerable to tampering, for "recalibration" --- with the gravity the issue deserves.
Incredibly (though no longer surprisingly), the Democrats persist with their tortured logic that taking action on problems with voting machines will somehow depress the electorate, before quickly changing the subject to concerns about Republican chicanery on the front-end voter suppression stuff.
As an Election Integrity advocate recently noted rather eloquently, the front-end voter suppression issues and the back-end voting machine failures are two sides of the same coin. You can't worry about one without worrying about the other. The Dems, unfortunately, are still worried about only one side of the coin, as Kaplan's report demonstrates all too clearly (yet again) today...
Jesus. This is what/who voters in Philadelphia are being forced to deal with, as per our Pennsylvania coverage this week (here and here), concerning the fight by the NAACP and a local Election Reform coalition to get paper ballots for citizens, so that they can be sure to cast a vote, from a Democratically-controlled state hell bent on fighting that.
Since she says in the video we should take care to spell her name right, the woman responsible for running elections in Philadelphia is Marge Tartaglione (D) and, as the video suggests, she's a horror. And not only for her indefensible statements against the distribution of paper ballots to the effect of "long lines are not a problem...Long lines are no justification for any thing but waiting...people wait in long lines overnight for baseball tickets...people wait in line all night for a new Ipod." Though I'm not aware of any 80 year olds who do either of those things, or anybody who does that in the middle of a word day, and I'm fairly sure anybody who does do that, does so by their own choice, not because they are forced to do so in hopes of exercising their right to cast a vote.
The video --- by citizen journalists Danielle Ivory and Lagan Sebert (more details and context here) --- is well-worth the 4:43 minutes of your life it'll take to view it. Good luck, Philly! Looks like you're gonna need it! Again...
Just a comment to those who want to dismiss ‘vote-flipping’ as voter error. All kinds of people go to the polls to vote. They are highly educated and high-school dropouts. Rich and poor. They have long fingernails and nails bitten to the quick. They have thin fingers and wide fingers. They are going to softly touch the screen or touch it hard. Vendors and election officials tend to blame vote-flipping on the voters. They touched the screen too hard; drug their finger; had long fingernails; or their fingers touched too large an area. So, is it the voters fault? NO! It is the vendors who designed, built and sold these machines that don’t work for all voters and it is the election officials who bought those machines.
A large majority of the ‘vote-flipping’ has been on older ES&S iVotronic DREs; those machines that were featured on last year’s Dan Rather Reports. The cheaply built, poorly tested touch screens that were used as components on those systems should have been scrapped long ago. It’s not the voters fault and this constant pointing of fingers is wrong. The vendors need to remember that when they point a finger at the voters they have three fingers pointing back at the real culprit, themselves; and it makes no difference what those fingers look like, they are the fingers of blame....
[Comments turned back on, but the first 57 may have been lost when our server crashed under the straight of huge traffic on Saturday. We're trying to recover, but my apologies if we cannot get them back. Please repost as needed. - BF]
Well, now, finally we may be able to get rid of these damned things, now that it's actually happened to Oprah. Via Huff Po...
"When I voted yesterday electronically, the first vote that you vote for on the ballot is the presidential candidate. It was my first time doing electronic, so I didn't mark the X strong enough, or I held down too long. Because then when I went back to check it, it had not recorded my presidential vote," she said.
She then simulated her meltdown, shaking and breathing heavily while stuttering out the words, "It didn't record my presidential vote."
Here she is explaining what happened on video, followed by me explaining that it's not her fault (as she suggests in the video), and what both she, and every other voter in America needs to know about what happened to her, and how to keep it from happening to them...
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- Election officials scrutinizing absentee ballots in Duval County have rejected more than 500 ballots out of the 1,600 questionable ballots examined so far.
Most of those were rejected because they lack signatures or the signatures don't match the voter's signature on file.
Lisa Rigg was worried her signature didn't match and contacted the Supervisor of Elections office.
"It's that important to me. I want my vote to absolutely count for this election. It is very important," Rigg said.
She was right. Her absentee vote is one of those that was rejected.
"I was a little shocked," Rigg said. "But then again, my signature does not always match, from day to day. I said, 'What can I do to fix this? Can I come down and prove to you that I am who I am and I signed that ballot.'"
Unfortunately, the answer was no. Once a ballot is cast, it cannot be changed or replaced by a new ballot.
If the signature doesn't match the voter is not asked to provide proof of who they are? In Washington state if our signature does not match on our absentee ballot the county contacts you and gives you the opportunity to go to the county election office and provide ID and your ballot is then accepted.
In the suburban county of Montgomery, just outside of Philadelphia, election officials have, inexcusably, been caught off guard by a new, court-mandated directive by PA's Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes.
The directive requires that counties have enough emergency paper ballots (EPBs) on hand at polling places to ensure that voters can vote if half, or more, of a precinct's voting machines break down. County officials admit today that they were completely unprepared for the directive, and even for the likelihood of serious machine failure, despite known problems with the touch-screen voting systems they use, or the extraordinary voter turnout long-predicted for next Tuesday.
Cortes' original directive, and even the one issued yesterday, has been seen at odds with a PA statutory provision that allowed counties to offer paper ballots in the event that just one machine has failed. PA uses Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems across most of the state, and is a key battleground for John McCain's attempt to win the White House this year...