Will The 2008 Vote Be Fair? That was the topic addressed by host David Brancaccio and former Justice Department official David Becker on NOW last Friday. Part I (at left, 10:01) begins with a discussion of Photo ID laws to prevent the "invented problem" of voter fraud. The discussion continues at the 6:15 mark on the topics of voter caging and voter purging --- when the DoJ requires jurisdictions to purge their voter rolls when they do not match census estimates.
Part II (at right, 9:50) begins with Becker explaining how the Bush 43 Justice Department has subverted its traditional mission: "During about a five year span, not one single case was brought on behalf of African Americans in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division". Becker goes on to state that policies were established that favored Republicans and disfavored Democrats in an effort to "gam[e] the system" to retain power.
Next, Brancaccio and Becker explore how the U.S. Attorney scandal fits in to the bigger picture. Becker: "The DoJ, especially under Alberto Gonzales, was being used as an arm of the right wing of the Republican Party to effectuate partisan gains in elections". Finally, the program concludes with a discussion on voting machines and Florida's 13th District.
It was an eventful day in the courtroom in Pima County yesterday, with opening statements and the first two plaintiff's witnesses' testimony. Already, the general shape of the controversy is becoming more clear and many of the media access issues have been favorably resolved. The Election Integrity press pool is providing video to local news and other interested parties on a non-exclusive basis and there is a ground-swell of support and interest in the trial and use of the resultant footage among journalists and documentarians.
See our initial backgrounder/intro to this trial, as posted yesterday, right here.
The position of the Democratic Party, argued in the courtroom yesterday, is that the statutory role of the political parties in Arizona, and in America historically, has been to oversee and participate deeply in our elections. The elections belong to the people, not the government. The database the party seeks access to on behalf of all political parties is the only computer record of the election that can provide the information needed to ensure that elections insiders cannot, and have not, manipulated the election. Absent a clear statement by the legislature, the parties should not be denied access to this crucial information to carry out their traditional role of ensuring the public's political rights. Certainly no tortured interpretation of outdated language regarding computer technology from a statute written in the 1980s should be allowed to deny the people access to their election data, only a clear and unambiguous expression from the legislature should be able to do that.
The position of Pima County, however, is that the database requested must remain confidential.
They argue that providing the database to the political parties would violate the standards promulgated by the Arizona Secretary of State because the files contain procedural information and code that is used to program elections machines, and could reveal information that might compromise future elections. The county agrees that the Diebold GEMS software used to tabulate votes has serious security flaws, but that is all the more reason to not allow the information in the database into the public domain...
I am Michael Bryan, an attorney and blogger whose home is Tucson, Arizona. Starting today and continuing through Thursday, at BlogForArizona.com (my blog) and The BRAD BLOG, I will be covering the trial of Pima County Democratic Party v. Pima County. The proceedings will be live-blogged at BlogForArizona every day, with a daily summary posted each evening of the trial here at The BRAD BLOG.
The trial concerns the Pima County Democratic Party's demand for access to public records. Specifically, they seek access to database files that contain the raw tabulator vote data from a past local bond election. They seek to establish the public's right to inspect and analyze those records to search for any irregularities or manipulation by elections department insiders. Ideally, the Democrats want the judge to declare that all such files must be given to all political parties in Pima County in all future elections, so that public scrutiny can help ensure that the vote is honestly counted.
Why the concern that public officials, whose job it is to count the vote, may be instead manipulating the vote? Because the software Pima County (and many, many other jurisdictions around the country) is using to tabulate the vote is "fundamentally flawed" as to security according to an independent audit [PDF] commissioned by the Arizona Attorney General.
The "fundamentally flawed" software is made by Diebold and is called Global Election Management Software, or GEMS. Election integrity activists and researchers have long known that vote totals can be easily manipulated by insiders with access to the computers on which GEMS runs. The software is so fundamentally insecure that vote data can be changed by simply using the common database software Microsoft Access --- and the fraud can potentially be completely untraceable. With security conditions like that, it becomes imperative that the public have oversight of that data, just as the public has (or should have) oversight over the rest of the elections process.
If you would like to just listen to a discussion of the issues in the trial, please take a few minutes to listen to my recent interview with Action Point host Cynthia Black on Phoenix' Air America station...
For additional context here, I'll point you to a video (at right) of one of the men at the center of this controversy, Pima County's Election Director Brad Nelson. BRAD BLOG readers may remember this remarkable video referred to as "Election Director Gone Wild" as Nelson breaks into a tirade after being questioned by Pima County Election Integrity activist, John Brakey, about the Diebold DRE voting systems that Nelson was preparing, back then, in February of 2006, to bring into the county.
Please check my blog, BlogForArizona.com, for regular updates on the trial as it unfolds, and here at The BRAD BLOG for updates at the end of the days proceedings today through Thursday. Please use the comments on either blog to ask questions or make suggestions, we'll have someone monitoring the comments during the trial and will do our best to respond.
While we put a lot of miles on our car, at our own expense, we're not nearly clever enough to figure out how to get to places like Hawaii or Cape Cod, much less trick the government into picking up the tab like the DoJ's John "Minorities Die First" Tanner.
But we will be visiting lovely Denver for a day or two in December, as we've been invited to speak this weekend at Progress Now's Root Camp on our way back towards Los Angeles.
If you're in the 'hood, please stop by for some Election Integrity strategizing in the Mile High City and to say hello! In addition to discussing EI and blogging at the free conference, we'll also be moderating a Q&A to follow a screening of David Earnhardt's new documentary UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections. Would love to see ya there!
Blogged by Brad Friedman from the Kansas/Colorado border...
Salt Lake City Weekly covers the state's recent electoral woes in the wake of moving to Diebold touch-screen voting machines. They even use a word we reference often here at The BRAD BLOG in regard to upcoming elections: "train wreck."
Meanwhile, in Salt Lake County, election officials are trying to figure out how to persuade voters not to come to the polls. With the switch from punch cards to touch-screen voting, the county ended up with 40 percent fewer polling booths. A large turnout will overwhelm the setup, says county Clerk Sherrie Swensen.
The presidential primary in February might be a good test of what is in store next year. Utah is participating in Super Tuesday with Mitt Romney on the ballot, and Swensen expects at least 40 percent turnout. If the vote goes anything like the recent city election, it could be a train wreck.
Utah, of course, was the home of one of the most notorious touch-screen voting system investigations in the country when Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk allowed renowned computer security expert Harri Hursti and e-voting watchdog group BlackBoxVoting.org to examine the new Diebold touch-screen systems forced on him for use by the state.
For his diligence on behalf of his voters, Funk, the 23-year elected County Clerk, was subsequently locked out of his office and removed from his job with the support of the very state officials who had gone into business with Diebold to create the mess the state now faces.
Things are really expensive in Marin County, California. For example, the cost to the county, so far, for each vote cast on their brand-new AutoMARK touch-screen voting machines has been $45,588.23.
Yes, that's more than $45,000 per vote for each of the 17 votes cast on the county's 130 machines over the last two countywide elections since they began using them.
And apparently, the county's elected Registrar of Voters, Michael Smith, really wants to continue using those machines, even though ES&S, the company which distributes them, is now being sued by the State of California for deploying uncertified AutoMARK machines in counties across the state, in violation of state law.
Nonetheless, Smith is asking CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen if he can continue using the uncertified machines in the upcoming Presidential Primary election next February, despite all of that, according to the Marin Independent Journal, who reports today:
Marin was one of five California counties that bought the machines. The county spent $775,000 to buy 130 machines. They were used by 17 voters in the two countywide elections during which they were used.
True, the cost per vote on the AutoMARK in Marin will theoretically come down with each successive election in which they are used (depending on what ES&S charges the county to program them each time, plus the excessive costs of warranties). In a decade or two, at this rate, if the same machines are still in use, each vote cast would come at a bargain basement price of just a few thousand dollars a piece.
California Sec. of State Debra Bowen has announced a $15 million lawsuit against voting machine company ES&S for their use of uncertified AutoMARK voting systems in the state.
The BRAD BLOG initially reported on the likelihood of such a suit, in some detail, after Bowen's initial announcement of ES&S's violations of state law last August.
“ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught,” said Bowen in a press release just issued this evening. “California law is very clear on this issue. I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into this state, ignore the laws, and make millions of dollars from California’s taxpayers in the process.”
According to the release, ES&S seems to have simply lied about their use of the uncertified voting systems in the state of California. "The Secretary of State’s office held a public hearing on the matter on October 15, 2007. At that hearing, ES&S asserted the Secretary of State was notified about changes to the AutoMARK. However, ES&S provided no evidence before, during, or after the hearing to substantiate its claim."
Such deceptive practices are not uncommon for ES&S, as well as the other major e-voting machine companies. Diebold's touch-screen voting systems were decertified in the state in 2004, after it had been found that they had similarly deployed uncertified hardware and sofware, in violation of state law, in a number of counties in the state.
The complete press release from CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen's office follows below...
Individuals installing Trane air conditioning units observed smoking and smelled a burning odor in three units during installation testing procedures. No injuries were reported.
In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Trane voluntarily initiated a product safety recall of the offending 265 volt model and included the 208 and 230 volt models even though no incidents were observed with those models.
During the November 2006 general election in Tennessee, a defect in the voltage system caused a Hart InterCivic eSlate voting machine to start smoking. Approximately 2,625 citizens were injured when the voting machine refused to report their votes.
Hart InterCivic failed to retrieve the votes and took no action to protect consumers or voters. According to one report, a Knoxville computer company retrieved the votes from the chips inside the machine.
The votes were essential to deciding an extremely controversial, deadlocked pension question involving Knox County sheriff's officers.
The question eventually passed by 497 votes out of over 103,000 cast — less than ½% margin. The plan will cost tax payers $15 million initially and a projected $100 million over the next 20 years.
It's time to call for accountability in the machinery of our electoral system. Please sign the petition in support of VoterAction's call for Congressional investigations into blatant and destructive commercial fraud in the electronic voting machine industry.
As anyone who has given electronic voting more than a cursory look knows, the "flexibility" of these computer systems is also their weakest and most dangerous link. This weakness was underscored in Houston earlier this week when Johnnie German, the Harris County administrator of elections --- with proper witnesses looking on, including representatives of the two major parties --- accessed the county's eSlate system and altered the tally of votes on a tax referendum from the Nov. 6 ballot, according to the Houston Chronicle:
German's late-night deed, said by officials to be a first-time event in the six years Harris County has used the eSlate voting system, has rekindled the debate about whether the newest electronic methods for counting votes should be trusted.
What German graphically demonstrated was that with the proper physical and informational access, one person can alter the results of an election in a county of 1.8 million registered voters.
One witness, John R. Berman, a computer expert representing the Democrats, was unpleasantly surprised at how easily the votes could be changed:
"What we need, is we need paper ballots, so votes can be verified," says John Edwards directly in response to Why Tuesday's video Candidate Challenge. He says a bunch of other good stuff on the topic as well in his brief response...
Edwards is the only Democratic candidate so far (12 candidates from both parties have so far answered the challenge issued by Why Tuesday's Jacob Soboroff) to speak that directly to the issue of paper ballots, and other needed reforms.
On the R side, believe it or not, only Duncan Hunter understands the need for paper ballots. But then again, he also sees imaginary "people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls, we've seen that in California, voting illegally." So we'd have to call his position on election reform a wash.
Also, watch for our buddy Jake's questions on Election Reform to be asked of all of the candidates at tonight's Democratic debate, where his video question was voted into the Top 10 questions (atleast at last count before they shut down voting!) after being voted into the top 10 at 10Questions.com, a project of TechPresident in cooperation with the NYTimes Editorial Board and MSNBC. They will pose all the top 10 questions to the candidates over the next month and ask for a video response, similar to the Why Tuesday? Candidate Challenge. Waytago, Jake!
Why Tuesday? will be at the CNN/YouTube Republican debate in Florida on Nov 28th and The BRAD BLOG looks forward to further partnership with them (Why Tuesday?, not necessarily Republicans, CNN or YouTube)
Of course, the dirty trickster Republicans, who are again attempting to put an undead initiative on the California ballot to re-apportion the state's Electoral Votes to split them up by Congressional District (instead of winner-take-all, as it has been for years, and is in almost every other state), would never resort to dirty tricks --- and fraud --- to get their initiative onto the ballot, would they?
Worse, they would never stoop as low as using the guise of support for children's cancer hospitals to achieve their goal, would they?
Today I witnessed what I think is an incidence of ballot petition fraud relating to the electoral vote apportionment initiative - the proposal to apportion California's electoral votes by congressional district, unilaterally giving 19 of California's electoral votes to the Republicans in 2008.
Outside the UCEN (student center plus bookstore plus food court) at UC Santa Barbara, there were a number of people with cardboard clipboards soliciting people to sign ballot petitions for a proposal to spend $1 billion on cancer hospitals for kids. If you agree to sign, they tell you "you need to sign 4 times." What they do not tell you is that the three pages after the ballot initiative on cancer hospitals are different ballot initiatives: the second proposes to abolish eminent domain, the third proposals to abolish rent control, and the fourth is the proposal to apportion California's electoral votes by district (the so-called Dirty Tricks Initiative).
I should note that the clipboard is arranged such that a rubber band holding the petitions to the cardboard is positioned on the top of the page, across the actual ballot language in question - thus, partially hiding the text of the ballot initiatives on pages 2-4 unless you actually stop and pull down the top of the page.
I agreed to sign the cancer initiative, but the comment about signing four times raised a red flag, because I'm familiar with the structure of ballot petitions, so I paused before signing and looked at the other initiatives. However, I'm absolutely sure that most of the people signing, young college students on a rush to get their lunches and off to class, did not take this step.
After all the work on the film, last night was “a real shot in the arm for all of us,” the director says—with one small exception. “There was a long, long line to get in,” Earnhardt says, chuckling. “The irony wasn’t lost on us.”
And from an emailer who just sent us the following, after having received and watched his signed DVD version of the film, that we sent to him via our recent premium offer (sorry, we've got no more, it sold out very quickly!)...
Received and watched Uncounted yesterday. I'm gonna start by ordering 10 more copies, giving them to friends, asking them to watch it, and then have them pass it on to another friend who cares. You don't think that'll count as a chain letter do you? What a great movie!!!!! FINALLY, SOMETHING THAT LAYS IT ALL OUT CLEARLY AND BEAUTIFULLY FOR THE WORLD TO SEE!!!!!!!If I was rich I'd buy thousands of copies but I'll have to be content to start with ten. My holiday presents to the country and the hope of restoring democracy here.
If you've yet to get your own copy of the DVD, we strongly recommend it! You can do that, as well as watch the film's trailer, right here.
DISCLOSURE: Though we show up in this film a number of times, and the filmmaker, David Earnhardt, has purchased a banner ad here at The BRAD BLOG for the film, we make no money from sales of the film, or even click-throughs on the ad. We just think it's damned good and ought to be seen by everyone in America, so we're happy to point it out.
Congrats to David on the great reaction at the premiere! He reported to us after Monday's screening in Nashville that "The enthusiasm people had was over the top positive - people cheered several times during the film - like when Steve Heller printed the documents (a rousing cheer!)" What? No cheers for my appearances, David? Never mind. Don't buy this film!
We don't normally run full articles from elsewhere, but since I'm on the road with very limited time online, and since this item is so important right now and of note to so much that we've covered here over the years (take a look at our Special Coverage page on ACVR to get a taste), I'm making an exception and taking the liberty.
The following is from Josh Marshall at TPM, and was originally published here yesterday. Click through the links below for much more detail!...
In our coverage of the US Attorney Purge story a major issue looming in the background was the Republican party's effort to reduce minority voting. And a key way of doing that was to get states to pass (and the gutted Voting section at DOJ to approve) so-called voter ID laws to crack down on vote fraud for which there was in fact no evidence.
The truth is that if you're an educated and reasonably well-off person who has time free to read about politics during the day at TPM you very likely have one or more pieces of ID, in all likelihood a driver's license. But among minorities, low-income voters, the young and the old that's often not the case. And those who don't have acceptable voter IDs are disproportionately Democrats.
Remember, the point of voter ID laws is not to eliminate fraud it is to eliminate Democratic voters. So if your voter ID law disenfranchises 10% of voters and 80% of those are Democrats you've just handed yourself several percentage points that can win you a bunch of close elections --- it's certainly easier than winning them the old fashioned way.
In any case, I return to this topic because one of these laws has been enacted in Indiana. And the Brennan Center and others have filed an amicus brief with a new quantitative study which finally puts real numbers on how many people will effectively lose their right to vote.
I'm quoting here from the press release on some of the study's key findings ....
# 21.8% of black Indiana voters do not have access to a valid photo ID (compared to 15.8% of white Indiana voters - a 6 point gap).
# When non-registered eligible voter responses are included - the gap widens. 28.3% of eligible black voters in the State of Indiana do not have valid photo ID (compared to 16.8% of eligible voting age white Indiana residents - a gap of 11.5 percent).
# The study found what it termed "a curvilinear pattern (similar to an upside down U-curve)" in the relationship between age and access to valid ID - younger voters and older voters were both less likely to have valid ID compared to voters in the middle categories. 22% of voters 18-34 did not have ID, nor did 19.4% over the age of 70. (compared to 16.2% of Indiana voters age 35-54 without valid ID and 14.1% for 55-69 year olds).
# 21% of Indiana registered voters with only a high school diploma did not have valid ID (compared to 11.5% of Indiana voters who have completed college - a gap of 9.5%).
# Those with valid ID are much more likely to be Republicans than those who do not have valid ID. Among registered voters with proper ID, 41.6% are registered Republicans, 32.5% are Democrats.
The study puts in a very stark relief what the Republican effort to keep minority and low-income voters from the polls is really about. And the Supreme Court will soon sign off on whether this is permitted --- a decision that will have a huge effect on voting rights in this country for years to come. Please take a moment to check out the press release and find out more.
If there's a more ineffective federal agency than the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), we're unaware of it.
The EAC was created in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), in large part to oversee federal certification and maintenance of e-voting systems for the entire country. One of their key mandates was to be a "clearinghouse" for information concerning such systems. Though they have been twice reprimanded by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) for their failure to set up such a clearinghouse of information concerning known problems with voting systems, another news report over the weekend confirms that they are more determined than ever to avoid any such responsibility.
Incredible comments given by EAC spokesperson Jeannie Layson and EAC Chairwoman Donnetta Davidson to the Daytona Beach News-Journal underscore the agency's hellbent efforts to avoid any and all responsibility for alerting election officials to known failures of electronic voting systems made by private corporations such as Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and others.
The BRAD BLOG has chronicled the short, but storied, history of the EAC's failures, compromised nature, and unwillingness to do their job over the years, but the latest comments --- and subsequent lack of action --- as reported yesterday by M.C. Moewe in the News-Journal are nothing short of astonishing...
Voter turnout was light in many parts of the country yesterday. Ironically enough, that's the good news.
Alternet ran a preview of voter suppression issues of concern in yesterday's elections across the country. Sure enough, the author, Steve Rosenfeld, wrote in during the early evening to let us know there were problems concerning Photo ID issues popping up in pockets around the country, and that he'd have more soon. Our own Alan Breslauer touched base as well with several reports he'd been getting from around the country.
John Gideon's "Daily Voting News" yesterday pointed to some of those issues that had been reported in the media as of yesterday afternoon around the country. GOP voter suppression, through specious claims of Democratic "voter fraud" and the invented "need," therefore, for disenfranchising photo ID laws and challenges at the polls, is at the top of the Republican strategy for '08. Naturally, it was taken out for a test spin yesterday.
(Speaking of spin, don't miss wingnut Mychal Massie's despicable retread diatribe --- including the mandatory quotes from GOP "voter fraud" fraudster, John Fund, who wrote the book on it, literally --- in the wingnut WorldNetDaily. His tragically misguided piece, headlined "Vote fraud: Democrats' meal ticket" gives you just about all you need to know. Read it once, save yourself a thousand or so near-identical reads between now and November 2008. But we digress...)
The other major prong of voter disenfranchisment is, of course, the machine issue. Problems in that area, in particular, tend to reveal themselves in the days after elections. Early on election day such problems are frequently downplayed in the media, who tend to turn to Election Officials for information despite the inherent conflict of interest such officials have in hoping to portray their elections as "successful."
In the early hours, then, hints of such breakdowns are reported as little more than computer "glitches" "hiccups" "snafus" and "snags" (though "kinks" makes it debut today, see below) until later on, when the true extent of the voting system failures --- and that's what they are, not "kinks" --- become known.
With that in mind, here are just a few of those e-voting glitches, hiccups, snafus, snags, and yes, kinks, from around the country so far yesterday, as culled from Gideon's DVN last night...