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Judge finds Plaintiffs' Request for 'Access to Trade Secrets' of ES&S Would 'Result in Destroying, Gutting' Voting Machine Company's 'Protections,' Rules Jennings's, Voters' Motion Based on 'Nothing More Than Conjecture'
[FURTHER STORY UPDATES] Plaintiffs Announce They Will Appeal Decision, Additional Late Details on Congressional Challenge to House Seating of Buchanan...
By Brad Friedman on 12/29/2006 1:27pm PT  

In a ruling issued this afternoon just prior to the Holiday weekend, the presiding Florida Circuit Court Judge William L. Gary denied the plaintiffs motion to allow review of the source code for the paperless touch-screen machines used in the contested U.S. House race in Florida's 13th district between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan.

Jennings, and a number of Florida voters and Election Integrity organizations, had filed suit asking for a revote and to allow them to review the software used on the voting machines made by Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), after some 18,000 votes seemed to have disappeared in the race to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by former FL Secretary of State Katherine Harris. The state has previously certified Buchanan as the winner by a 369 vote margin.

Gary's terse ruling [PDF], issued this afternoon denying the motion to compel the company to turn over their source code, states that ES&S has a right to keep their software hidden from review by both the Jennings camp and voters, supporting the company's "right" to keep their "trade secrets" protected.

An audit of the machines was previously conducted by a panel convened by the state. The various plaintiff groups had roundly criticized both the make-up of the panel and the procedures used during the testing, characterizing it as an "exercise in futility." The panel was led by a known hard-right Republican partisan and included the state's own official responsible for voting machine certification. No independent Election Integrity advocates were included on the panel.

That audit --- to nobody's surprise --- revealed no problems in the hardware or software as tested. But the plaintiffs have argued that only an independent investigation of the source code used on the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines might reveal reasons for the inexplicably large undervote rate in the race, more than 12%, only found on Sarasota's paperless touch-screen systems. Absentee paper balloting in the county, and on voting machines in other counties which make up the FL-13 district, revealed no such anomalous undervote rate. Undervote rates on paper absentee ballots in the same race, in the same county, were just over 2.5%.

Neither the Buchanan camp, nor anyone else, has been able to give a credible explanation for the disparity.

Gary's ruling denying Plaintiffs' motion to examine the voting machine source code finds that:

D. The machines now challenged were tested as required by law prior to the early voting and election day voting and were found to be working properly.

E. Because the election was a close one and due to Plaintiffs' allegations an audit was conducted on the voting system to verify its accuracy.

F. Two parallel tests were conducted on the subject screen systems and representatives of both Plaintiffs and Defendants were present. The test results revealed 100% accuracy of the equipment in reporting the vote selections.

G. Plaintiffs have presented no evidence to demonstrate that the parallel testing was flawed and or the results not valid.

H. The testimony of Plaintiffs' experts was nothing more than conjecture and not supported by credible evidence.

I. For this Court to grant Plaintiffs' motions would require this Court to find that it is reasonably necessary for the Plaintiffs to have access to the trade secrets of Defendant, Election Systems & Software, Inc., based on nothing more than speculation and conjecture, and would result in destroying or at least gutting the protections afforded those who own the trade secrets.

The plaintiffs had been requesting a revote for the election in the Florida circuit court. Jennings has filed a contest in the U.S. Congress, under the Constitutional provision which allows the House to determine the seating of members. When the new Congress convenes in January they must decide whether to seat Buchanan as is, seat him provisionally, seat Jennings instead, or leave the seat vacant, essentially forcing a Special Election in FL-13, or take some other action.

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

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(Might Have Been #1, But Diebold Handled the Vote Tabulation)
By Brad Friedman on 12/27/2006 1:03pm PT  

Tech Mag PCWorld named E-Voting #3 on their list of "The 21 Biggest Technology Mistakes of 2006"...

3. Hacking the Vote
Are electronic voting machines insecure? In May, security researchers discovered a previously unknown backdoor in Diebold's AccuVote-TS touch-screen voting machines that could allow an attacker to manipulate votes, cause malfunctions, or create a 'voting virus' that spreads from machine to machine--all in under a minute and with little fear of detection. Meanwhile, Princeton researchers also found Diebold's touch-screen machines could be opened with the same kind of key used for hotel mini-bars, offering easy access to the machine's memory card. Diebold promised to fix the vulnerability eventually, but also said they weren't too worried. Why? Because such hacks would require "evil and nefarious election officials"--who don't exist.

We feel much better now.

Big Mistake: Allowing insecure voting machines anywhere near this country's electoral process.

Bigger Mistake: Electing Homer Simpson president--which might happen if we keep using these machines.

We've come a long way, baby.

And we also take year-end great pride in that folks look back on Princeton's Diebold Virus Hack as one of the seminal moments in this whole sordid affair. (The machine used in the research was a DRE/touch-screen system supplied to VelvetRevolution.us by a BRAD BLOG source and we then gave it to Princeton for their now-infamous study.)

First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they attack you.
Then you win.

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By Alan Breslauer on 12/23/2006 12:47pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer


Christine Jennings and her lawyer, Kendall Coffey, appeared Wednesday on Lou Dobbs Tonight with guest host Kitty Pilgrim to discuss the latest news concerning Florida's 13th Congressional District. As BRAD BLOG has reported often (most recently here, here and here), Vern Buchanan was declared the winner in Florida's 13th after the disappearance of 18,000 votes left the Republican with a paltry 369 vote lead over his opponent Jennings. Subsequently, a handful of experts including one provided by e-voting manufacturer ES&S, concluded that the inclusion of the missing votes would have propelled Jennings to an easy victory based on an analysis of the Sarasota votes which did not spontaneously combust.

Unfortunately, the will of the people is a foreign concept among those controlling the Florida election apparatus which declared Buchanan the winner after recounting nothing a couple of times. With no paper trail (much less a paper BALLOT, and there is a big difference!), a "recount" merely refers to state election staffers testing whether a few selected machines are working properly and is entirely unrelated to the vote count. By certifying Buchanan the winner, the state forced Jennings to seek relief in the Florida courts.

This did not sit well with Sean Hannity who, with Buchanan on as a guest a few weeks ago, found the entire affair "unbelievable" and further evidence that Democrats are sore losers. Juxtaposing the Hannity clip as well as Tom Feeney's reaction to the election controversy, recounted by Brad here, to Jennings appearance on CNN (clip above right), makes for quite an interesting experiment. While hardly evidence that could be used in a court of law like the damning statistical evidence, the contrast is, nevertheless, telling.

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And Who Knows 'Total Political Dictatorship' Better Than the Corrupt Bully-Boy Feeney?!
(Who Also Has Now Had a Congressional Challenge Filed in His Own Election!)
By Brad Friedman on 12/21/2006 2:31pm PT  

Tom Feeney (R-Abramoff) is back! And he's not taking any shit from any of those democracy loving pussies!

Now that he's temporarily been sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives --- after having spent more than $1 million in corporate PAC money to achieve an unimpressive victory over Clint Curtis, the computer programmer who spent about $40k on his campaign and has accused Feeney of conspiring to create vote-rigging software in Florida --- Feeney is ready to rumble!

"That is total political dictatorship," Feeney tells the Orlando Sentinel today in regard to the Congressional election challenge filed yesterday by Democrat Christine Jennings in the U.S. House after 18,000 votes disappeared in her recent election in Florida's 13th District, leading to a reported "loss" by 369 votes to Republican Vern Buchanan.

And, if anybody knows anything about "total political dictatorship" it would be Tom Feeney. The man who, as Speaker of the Florida House in 2000, promised to deliver the state's Electoral Votes to George W. Bush no matter what those democracy haters on the U.S. Supreme Court had to say about it!; the man who worked as general counsel and registered lobbyist (even while speaker of the Florida House) for a company that had harbored at least one illegal alien who pled guilty to charges related to sending Hellfire anti-tank missile chips to Communist China; the man who keeps his campaign headquarters in the firm's headquarters building even today!; the man who didn't raise a peep when the Republican controlled U.S. House sent a letter ordering a California judge to dismiss a lawful election contest in San Diego's special U.S. House election last Summer after the House had rushed to swear in apparent-winner Brian Bilbray just 7 days after the election, with thousands of votes still uncounted and a full two weeks before the state would even certify the close and disputed election which was run illegally on compromised, decertified electronic voting machines.

Now --- even after the only expert witness put forward in Florida by ES&S, the voting machine company that makes the touch-screen systems used in FL-13, admitted yesterday on the stand that Jennings would have won the election were it not for problems with the voting equipment --- Feeney is the man sticking his bright red, irony-impaired face out to declare that Democrats would be participating in "total political dictatorship" by exercising their constitutional right to "determine the manner and seating of their members."

"Total political dictatorship" - Nobody knows it better than Tom Feeney.

Oh, and could he also be so angry about this because it turns out that Clint Curtis himself has now filed a Congressional challenge in his race against Feeney? More on that, hopefully, later....

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County Elections Website Claims Voters Are Asked for Specific 'YES or NO' Confirmation of Undervotes at End of Voting Process
Sources Confirm it Didn't Happen That Way in Contested FL-13 U.S. House Race on November 7th...
By Brad Friedman on 12/10/2006 5:05pm PT  

An instructional web page, explaining the ES&S touch-screen electronic voting machines in use during Florida's disputed FL-13 U.S. House Election gives faulty information to voters about the way the county's paperless voting systems works, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

The information offered on the county's election website, concerning the crucial process during which voters might choose to adjust any "undervotes" found on their electronic "ballots" at the end of the voting process, is misleading and incorrect. According to several sources, the systems in use during the contested November 7th U.S. House race between Vern Buchanan (R) and Christine Jennings (D) did not operate as advertised by the Sarasota County website.

The county web page in question is described as "a technical look at how the ES&S iVotronic touch screen system works." Yet, Sarasota's ES&S iVotronic systems, apparently, didn't work as described on the site.

The "VOTE button" on the iVotronic, as explained by the text on the website, will cast the vote only after the summary page is given to the voters, allowing them to explicitly approve or disapprove of any undervotes found on their "ballots."

"The iVotronic will review the ballot for any races for which the voter did not cast a vote (undervote), and asks if this is the intent of the voter," according to the webpage. The voter is then said to receive a YES or NO option to confirm their intention of undervoting in the particular race(s).

(The webpage is here. Click the #5 option to see how the "VOTE button" on the system is supposed to work. A screenshot of the page follows at the end of this article.)

Lowell Finley, however, an attorney for VoterAction.org --- one of several non-partisan organizations leading a voter lawsuit demanding a revote in the election --- tells The BRAD BLOG that "the statement on the Sarasota website is false" and that voters were not given such an option on November 7th.

We also inquired about the matter on Friday afternoon with the office of "the Honorable" Kathy Dent, Sarasota County's Supervisor of Elections...

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

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'Constitutional Option' Likely to be Invoked in Fight Over U.S. House Seat According to Paper
Howard Dean Says Election 'Not Valid', Agrees House Should Not Seat Buchanan; Tom Feeney Bullies...
By Brad Friedman on 12/7/2006 9:35am PT  

ED NOTE: See our own thoughts on the "Constitutional Option" of a Congressional challenge in the Jennings/Buchanan FL-13 race, and how this version differs from the same law (mis)applied in last Summer's Busby/Bilbray Special U.S. House election in CA-50 as posted yesterday.

From today's St. Petersburg Times...

WASHINGTON — Republican Vern Buchanan may be the official winner in a messy Sarasota-area Congressional race, but Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says the Democratic-controlled Congress should not seat Buchanan without another election.

“Absolutely not,’’ Dean said in a taped “Political Connections” interview airing Sunday on Bay News 9. “You cannot seat someone if you don’t have an election that’s valid.

“This election is not valid. There are 18,000 people who may have voted and we don’t know what happened to their votes,” he said. “You can bet that if the Republicans were 500 votes short they’d be calling for a new election, and they’d be right.”

On Wednesday, Democrat Christine Jennings said she will ask the U.S. House to take the extreme measure of conducting its own investigation into the election.

In a side note, Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Abramoff), a man who knows a thing or two about both bad elections and bullying people to get his way, is quoted in the story as well:

“I think there would be a huge pushback in terms of the American people,’’ said Rep. Tom Feeney, an Orlando area Republican. “I think that the consequences of that would be severe for the Democratic leadership.”

Feeney, aside from allegedly asking computer programmer turned whistleblower Clint Curtis to create vote-rigging software back in 2000 (which is notorious enough), notoriously also announced, back in 2000 as Speaker of the Florida House, that he would take it upon himself to ensure that Florida's Electors went to George W. Bush no matter what the United States Supreme Court would ultimately decide during the 2000 imbroglio.

Feeney is a bully of the highest reknown. With a fresh election "victory" under his belt (albeit one which his challenger, the whistleblower-turned-candidate Curtis, has questioned) watch for him to crank up his bully-boy-ness as things move forward in this and other related affairs in the new Congress. Watch for The BRAD BLOG to keep calling him on it.

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VIDEO - Hannity Begins to Carry Disingenuous Buckets of Anti-Democracy Water
Jennings May Have to Play the Congressional Constitutional Card to Gain the House Seat Which Obviously Should Belong to Her...
By Brad Friedman on 12/6/2006 3:11pm PT  

It's a lovely change of pace when some of the other "big boy bloggers" beat me to the punch on Election Integrity-related stories. Perhaps I can start sleeping in for a while. I could use it.

That said, TPMMuckraker gives us a fine update on the FL-13 sitch, and Sean Hannity's virtuoso performance in what is likely his most disingenuous performance to date last night on Hannity & Colmes, where Republican Vern Buchanan spouted off with neither a Democratic nor a non-partisan Election Integrity advocate to counter his nonsense.

In addition to TPMM's points, it should also be pointed out that Hannity stated incorrectly --- twice --- that Sarasota is the strongest Republican stronghold in the contest. That, despite, his later admission that the Democratic Christine Jennings won the area by 7%.

As well, Hannity (again unchecked) is allowed to rant about how Republicans don't challenge elections when they lose, they accept defeat gracefully. Guess Sean doesn't read The BRAD BLOG and thus doesn't know about the Conservative TX Supreme Court Justice Steven Smith, or the mess in Maricopa County, AZ, still percolating from back in 2004, or the fact that Rick Santorum and the PA Republican party demanded that touch-screen systems where votes reportedly flipped be impounded in 27 counties on Election Day, just to name a few instances.

But we'd expect nothing less from water boy Hannity.

Most of note in the video, perhaps, is Buchanan's un-checked (and by now, expected) outrageous claim that Jennings is "destroying democracy" by calling for a revote. A funny turn of phrase from a guy who is doing everything he can to ensure that the rather clear voices of the voters are ignored in favor of a 369 vote "victory" gained only due to faulty, paperless touch-screen voting machines.

Even Buchanan is unable, in the clip, to explain why 18,000 votes in Jennings's strongest county simply disappeared. Of course, he'd have to admit he lost if forced to come up with an answer to that mystery. So he avoids the question twice by explaining only that "there's a lot of speculation out there you can read."

Got nothing, Vern? But don't give a damn anyway? We thought so. Now that's what we call "destroying democracy"!

In other FL-13 coverage around the 'sphere, both the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and a group of political scientists [PDF] are averring that it was bad ballot design which caused the problem (The BRAD BLOG earlier posted a photo of the way in which the race was displayed on the touch-screen systems, such that it would have been very easy for voters not to see the race at all on Sarasota's ES&S touch-screen machines.)

The "bad ballot design" explanation, however --- that voters didn't notice the race --- fails to account for all of the affidavits from voters claiming they tried and tried to vote in the race, but couldn't get their vote to register properly for Jennings, as one of the attorneys representing the voter lawsuit calling for a revote recently told us.

Finally, DailyKos (of all places) has some decent front page coverage of the rather conservative (we've found) Election Law professor Rick Hasen's explanation [PDF] of the Constitutional card that can be played by the U.S. House to settle the matter. At this point, it's looking more and more like that will be the way this thing is ultimately settled...

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

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Information on Sunday's 'Revote Rally' and Video Testimony from Voters Who Had Trouble in Sarasota on November 7th
ALSO: Lead Attorney on Lawsuit Says Court-Allowed Testing Will Corrupt the Voting Machines...
By Brad Friedman on 12/1/2006 3:15pm PT  

People for the American Way (PFAW) just released the following update on the latest goings on in the FL-13 battle where their lawsuit (filed along with several Election Integrity organizations) has now been joined by the court with Democratic candidate Christine Jennings's own suit. Both are calling for a revote.

The press release (posted in full below) says that the state-run audit testing of a few of the machines in use on Election Day is an "excercise in futility" due to the small sampling size of the tests and the fact that the commission chosen to carry it out has reasons to ensure that nothing is actually found to be "wrong" with the paperless ES&S voting machines on which some 18,000 votes disappeared in the U.S. House race down there.

By the way, I recently spoke with Lowell Finley, the lead attorney from VoterAction.org, one of the groups filing the lawsuit on behalf of voters down there. He confirmed that the machines being used for today's testing --- two chosen by Buchanan, two by Jennings (from precincts with the highest undervote rate) --- will essentially be compromised by today's state-run audit testing. Though Finley and the others tried to make that point to the judge assigned to the matter, that testing these machines in this way would corrupt the original data, the court decided to allow the state to use them in this way nonetheless.

PFAW's news release, issued moments ago, also gives details and a link for more info concerning this Sunday's planned "Revote Rally" in Sarasota, as well as a link to video testimony from more than 50 voters who had trouble voting in the Jennings/Buchanan race on November 7th.

The PFAW press release follows in full below...

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

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State Officials Blame 'Human Error' of State Officials Who Performed Tests in the State's Official Testing...
...While County Commissioners Make Plans to Scrap Their $4.5 Million Dollar Touch-Screen System...
By Brad Friedman on 11/29/2006 1:11pm PT  

Yesterday Sarasota County, FL, began their state-run test audits of the paperless ES&S touch-screen systems used in Florida's 13th District House race where 18,000 votes disappeared, resulting in a 369 vote margin between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R) to fill the seat vacated by former Secretary of State of Katherine Harris.

The first day of testing revealed miscounting errors on all four of the machines used during the test, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and at least two citizen observers who blogged their account of the day's testing.

State officials who convened the panel blamed the miscounting on...wait for it...human error!

Of course they did. The panel itself has already been plagued with controversy after Election Integrity organizations criticized the selection of several members assigned to the commission, including the very partisan Alec Yasinsac, who appeared on the steps of Florida Supreme Court in 2000 wearing a "Bush Won" button, and David Drury, the state official who certified these particular systems in the first place for the state of Florida, declaring them safe and accurate for use in an election.

The first day of testing employed machines that were not actually used in the November 7th election (Friday's testing will include machines actually used that day) and were not performed under normal voting conditions (e.g., the machines were hung from the wall, instead of placed on stands to approximate the height they would be for most voters --- important, since these machines tend to register votes differently for tall voters than they do for other voters.)

Nonetheless, errors in the counting were registered by all of the machines used in testing. The results differed from the votes in "scripted" ballots that state testers had punched into them. Ironically, the errors ended up giving Jennings a higher vote total than she should have had according to the prepared voting scripts.

The Herald-Trib --- who, by the way, has reinstated its FL-13 Special Coverage page since we pointed out its removal a few days ago --- is reporting today that, "All four voting machines that officials used to simulate the Nov. 7 election had miscounts, and three of them had miscounts in the District 13 race."

A diarist over at DailyKos who has been on-site, covering the day-by-day details of the goings-on --- and who has a user name we well approve of --- "BeTheMedia" describes yesterday's results this way:

Some testers required two or three attempts to get a touch to register on the screen. Some appeared to have one in every three attempts to register a touch fail. So, even practiced test voters are having trouble with the touchscreens during the "audit." Not a good sign.
...
While today's procedure may have tested for a narrow range of possibilities, it failed to test broadly for a wider range of possibilities that could have been revealed by more rigorous and thorough testing. It is valid and reasonable for testing to try to make a system fail. That's what thorough testing is supposed to do.

The tests today did indeed revealed discrepancies. At least three votes recorded as undervotes in the election changed to Jennings votes in today's "audit." That's comes out to an approximate 7% shift in a race decided by less than two-tenths of one percent. It will be quite interesting to see how the State Division of Elections explains this shift.

And, of course, it is interesting to see how the State explained the shift, though their explanation is no longer much of a suprise...

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

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Mayoral Candidate's Own Votes Repeatedly Flipped in County Clerk's Office --- in Front of County Clerk --- Told 'Election Must Go On, Go Get Court Order'
By Brad Friedman on 11/27/2006 5:30pm PT  

Yes, we're as tired of writing about it as you likely are of reading about it. But as run-off elections proceed (Arkansas's is tomorrow), touch-screen votes are still flipping from one candidate to the other on ES&S's touch-screen machines during early voting. (ES&S made the touch-screen machines in FL-13, btw.)

Heber Springs, Arkansas, mayoral run-off candidate Jackie McPherson began to suspect problems when both his mother-in-law and her mom told him their attempted vote for him flipped over to McPherson's opponent during early voting. He went to the Cleburne County Clerk's office to test the problem for himself --- in front of the County Clerk, who at first told him it was not possible --- and then they were both able to watch the vote flip about 20 times in a row.

McPherson says the head of the local Elections Commission then told him "the election would have to go on," and that he "would have to get a court order to review the machines and the problem that obviously exists."

Neato, huh?

Key grafs fom McPherson's description of his vote-flipping adventure at the County Clerk's office are below. The Sun-Times full coverage is here...

And the beat goes on...

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

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Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln, How Was the Play?
By Brad Friedman on 11/27/2006 4:27pm PT  

Apropos of our previous piece --- in which we pointed out that nothing exists until the corporate mainstream media says it does --- Associated Press has now officially characterized the Florida 13th Congressional Race as a "meltdown" --- one which is "a microcosm of the 2000 Florida election fiasco that put George W. Bush in the White House."

Of course, simply calling it a "meltdown" (gosh, where have we heard that description before?), doesn't mean the corporate mainstream media will treat it as one. If it's really "a microcosm of 2000," one would think the issue would lead to banner headlines everywhere. It should, of course, since the only actual difference between Florida's Bush/Gore 2000 and Florida's Jennings/Buchanan 2006 is that, as good luck would have it, the balance of neither Congress nor the White House depends on the final outcome. But that's just a stroke of luck. One that --- one would think --- even the CMSM could connect the dots on.

But perhaps not.

Even Sarasota's Herald-Trib which, as we've previously pointed out, has been the bible of mainstream FL-13 coverage, has now disappeared their website link to, and apparently ceased updating, their FL-13 Special Coverage page.

We hope that will change since the story is, quite clearly, far from over down there and we've been closely following the Herald-Trib's excellent body of coverage and archives for reference.

But for now, at least, it's back to the blogs for the latest. Paul Kiel over at TPMMuckraker has the latest updates on this week's scheduled and controversial (some would say pre-discredited) state-run audit of the paperless ES&S touch-screen machines which caused 18,000 votes to disappear in the election.

UPDATE: We also meant to point you to this spot-on satire from H-T columnist Daryl Lease, by the way, when we originally published this article.

In case you missed it, over the Thanksgiving Weekend the Orlando Sentinel found that --- had the machines actually worked as well-advertised and promised --- the Democratic candidate Christine Jennings would have won the race that has since been certified by the state of Florida in favor of the Republican candidate Vern Buchanan.

With that, and the following statement from Katherine Harris (whose U.S. House seat, ironically, is the one at stake in FL-13) quoted by the AP article which kicked off this item --- "Now we're the national model instead of the national concern. There'll never be a hanging, dangling or pregnant chad again," she said in 2001 when Florida certified their "upgrade" to the machines they now use --- we might suggest the following new slogan for the Sunshine State...even if it's perhaps too long to fit on license plates:

Florida: Fucking up American Elections Since at Least 2000

For the record...AP also mentions that Florida's former and now-disgraced Secretary of State --- never one previously to let anything get between her and a press appearance --- seems to be taking a page from Diebold's Cut-and-Run PR Playbook at this point: "Harris, who lost her bid for U.S. Senate, did not respond to several messages left this week by The Associated Press."

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While Scientists and Partisans Have Appropriate Concerns About the Team Florida Has Commissioned to Investigate
But We're Thankful, At Least, That the National Media is Beginning to Wake Up...Sorta...Kinda...Momentarily...Maybe...
By Brad Friedman on 11/24/2006 4:17pm PT  

Let's start with Krugman's "When Votes Disappear":

I've been shocked at how little national attention the mess in Sarasota has received. Here we have as clear a demonstration as we're ever likely to see that warnings from computer scientists about the dangers of paperless electronic voting are valid - and most Americans probably haven't even heard about it.

As far as I can tell, the reason Florida-13 hasn't become a major national story is that neither control of Congress nor control of the White House is on the line. But do we have to wait for a constitutional crisis to realize that we're in danger of becoming a digital-age banana republic?

"In danger of becoming..."?!! Okay, it's Thanksgiving weekend, so we'll just be thankful Krugman has decided to finally notice.

He also notes the concerns about the very partisan (natch) Prof. Alec Yasinsac whose been placed in charge of Florida's state investigation despite having "made an appearance on the steps of the Florida Supreme Court during the 2000 recount battle wearing a 'Bush Won' sign," as Krugman reports.

We'll also note that Livermore Labs' Prof. David Jefferson, who spent the last two weeks in Sarasota himself writes in several comments here at The BRAD BLOG that he is more optimistic about Yasinsac and the state investigation over all. Johns-Hopkins computer scientist Avi Rubin reports a similar sentiment on his blog today, defending Yasinsac and concluding about Krugman:

Sadly, I think this incident illustrates that this columnist is willing to embrace whatever circumstances and appearances serve his message with no regard for whether they are legitimate.

While we certainly hope that the Jefferson/Rubin evaluation/hopes end up being the correct ones, we're not sure they are keeping in mind the necessity of even the appearance of impartiality here.

If Yasinsac's group finds trouble in the machines, great. It can be said that even a tream led by a Republican partisan agreed the machines were to blame. On the other hand, if Yasinsac's group concludes there was no problem with the machines, the analysis will receive no confidence from the general public...where such confidence is much needed right about now.

Yasinsac should recuse himself from the team of analysts for exactly that reason, even if the rest of his team at Florida State University --- whom Rubin regards as excellent --- stay on the job. The same is true, and for the same reason --- as we discussed the other day --- for David Drury, who is also on the team, even though he is the man responsible for certifying these paperless ES&S touch-screen systems in the first place for the state of Florida. A "machines worked fine" conclusion from the team, as long as both Drury and Yasinsac are on it, will be regarded as partisan and/or self-serving. Whether it actually is will be completely beside the point.

Moving on then...Even WaPo's E.J. Dionne is beginning to get it. Today, he writes something remarkably similar to what I wrote for ComputerWorld on the day after the election about the huge bullets that the nation just happened to dodge on November 7th. Here's Dionne this morning...

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

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

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

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

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

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Second Member of State-Convened Investigative Panel Charged With Having 'Vested Interested' in Demonstrating That the Failed ES&S Touch-Screen Voting Systems 'Functioned Properly'...
By Brad Friedman on 11/22/2006 1:19pm PT  

Sarasota's Herald-Tribune has emerged as the bible of local, and in-depth, coverage in the FL-13 undervote fiasco. Today, however, the Orlando Sentinel published the results of an audit of "records of 17,846 touch-screen ballots that included no vote in the tightly contested 13th District congressional race to determine whom voters selected in other major races." They find that those ballots strongly favored the Democrats:

The group of nearly 18,000 voters that registered no choice in Sarasota's disputed congressional election solidly backed Democratic candidates in all five of Florida's statewide races, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of ballot data shows.

Among these voters, even the weakest Democrat --- agriculture-commissioner candidate Eric Copeland --- outpaced a much-better-known Republican incumbent by 551 votes.

The trend, which continues up the ticket to the race for governor and U.S. Senate, suggests that if votes were truly cast and lost --- as Democrat Christine Jennings maintains --- they were votes that likely cost her the congressional election.

The Herald-Tribune editorial board today correctly writes that "Jennings Should Not Concede" as they argue there is "too much room for doubt about election's true outcome."

And finally, for the moment, one of the groups involved in the voter lawsuit --- which calls for an investigation and a revote in the election where 18,000 votes went "missing" with the margin between the two leading candidates at just below 400 votes --- charges that the state-convened audit committee is cooked (no suprise, this is Florida after all). In a news release sent to us moments ago, and posted in full below, People for the American Way reports that committee member David Drury, the man responsible for certifying voting machines for the state of Florida, clearly has "a vested interest in finding that the [paperless ES&S touchscreen machines used in FL-13, which] he certified functioned properly." Additionally, the PFAW release points out, Drury is also responsible for approving the shipment and "illegal distribution" of uncertified voting machines to the state of Florida.

Oh, and Sarasota County's Supervisor of Elections, Kathy Dent, has still not resigned. Just thought we'd mention that.

The complete PFAW press release follows in full below...

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

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Complaint and Press Release from Election Integrity Groups Posted Here in Full
PLUS VIDEO: Republican Election Supervisor Dent Failed to Take Corrective Action Before the Election, While Democrat Jennings --- and Her REPUBLICAN(!) Attorney --- Stand Very Tall...
By Brad Friedman on 11/21/2006 1:51pm PT  
"The voters of Sarasota and of the entire country deserve answers about what went wrong with this voting system. This is not about Democrats, this is not about Republicans. It's about fixing a voting system that appears to be broken.

I believe we all feel strongly that our next representative to the U.S. Congress should be chosen by the will of the people and not by a problem in the voting machines.

I am committed to seeing that the will of the voters is carried out in this election of 2006. I will not rest until the intended votes are counted and every person's vote is counted and reflected accurately."

-- Christine Jennings (D), Press Conference, Sarasota Florida, 11/21/06

Details follow below the fold on the voters' lawsuit filed today calling for an investigation and full re-vote in the FL-13 U.S. House race between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R). There are currently 363 votes between the two of them, with more than 18,000 votes unaccounted for on the paperless ES&S touch-screen systems used in Sarasota County. We'd give more of a recap of our story so far, but the press release from the four non-partisan groups who filed the case --- Voter Action, Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACLU, and People for the American Way (Florida) --- does a great job in summarizing the issues. We recommend you give it a read.

For our complete FL-13 coverage, you may click here for all of our stories to date, in reverse order.

UPDATE: The full complaint is now available for download here [PDF].

One point, however, to make clear, especially in light of the many calls for Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, Kathy Dent, to take responsbility for the disastrous administration of this election by resigning immediately: the press release notes that the legal complaint charges "misconduct by election officials" and "evidence that legal votes were rejected in sufficient numbers to place in doubt the outcome of the election.":

The voters’ lawsuit cites misconduct of election officials, including the failure of Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent, to adequately investigate, identify or report equipment malfunctions, software malfunctions, or ballot layout errors in the ES&S iVotronic touch screen voting machines, even after receiving numerous complaints about the machines from voters and poll workers during the two week period of early voting.

Indeed, Dent knew about the problem well before Election Day, according to her statement on this video, and yet clearly failed to take appropriate remedial steps before 18,000+ votes were lost to the ether in her paperless ES&S touch-screen voting machines.

By the way, the Democratic candidate Jennings held a press conference herself yesterday (video here) --- along with her Republican(!) attorney --- and answered to Buchanan's obnoxious press conference held earlier in the day (we covered that here.)

As far as we're concerned, Jennings, in making her pledge that she "will not rest until the intended votes are counted and every person's vote is counted and reflected accurately" --- along with her courage in not allowing herself to be pushed around by the anti-democratic thuggery of her opponent --- has shown herself to be the model of what every candidate ought to look and sound like in the wake of such a horrendously administered election, in which the ability to determine the will of the people has been so clearly subverted.

The press release from the groups filing a lawsuit on behalf of Florida's voters follows in full...

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

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