“According to mythology, Apollo, the sun god, was so taken with Trojan Cassandra’s beauty that he gave her the gift of prophecy. When she did not return his love, he punished her with a curse. Reluctant to revoke a gift once given, Apollo’s curse was to make Cassandra’s prophesies fall on deaf ears.” ~Cassandra, Chanting, page vii.
Cassandra, Chanting is a novel that — while copyrighted in 2008 — will be nothing short of too familiar to election integrity activists around the country.
The blurb on the jacket starts out by saying:
At the center of Cassandra, Chanting is a plot to steal the next American presidential election. Written by an election world insider who must remain anonymous, the novel exposes in authentic and chilling detail just how vulnerable our electoral system is today.
But even though the plot is intriguing, it isn’t what I found most intriguing. And even though the book’s primary message of our election system’s vulnerability is as serious as it is true, the author’s stark revelation of that truth isn’t what captured my heart.
As a long-time election integrity activist, what I loved most about the book is that the anonymous author has clearly been paying attention, and he (yes, that much we've been able to learn about him - ed) managed to put into novel form the Alice In Wonderland world that many of us have been living in for the past three, four, five, or even more years...
By all means, let's not pay attention to this report until after November.
This is a follow-up to several previous items we ran last week (here, here and here) on a number of elections in Arkansas where the outcome was reversed after the lucky discovery of mistallies on the ES&S electronic voting system which failed widely in a number of counties during local primary elections there last week.
Here's the latest explanation, most notable passages excerpted below, on what went wrong in Faulkner County's very low turnout election for their District 45 State Representative Democratic Primary in which voters casting ballots in the Cadron Township Constable race had their votes recorded erroneously for the Dist. 45 State Rep race instead.
While these same touch-screen voting systems, the ES&S iVotronic, are widely used across the country, and have failed notoriously in a number of races over the years, and thus, theoretically prone to the same or worse failures this November when the turnout will be far higher, the full article by Joe Lamb in Arkansas' Log Cabin Democrat notes two more additionally chilling points:
"[T]he votes for the constable race were later found to have recorded accurately on the voter-verifiable paper trail and therefore would not have appeared erroneous to voters either." (Which means there also would have been a fight, in any contested recount, about which numbers actually reflected voter intent!)
"What makes the situation all the more baffling, [Faulkner County Election Commissioner Bruce Haggard] added, is that the machine in question, along with its associated software and coding, were found to have worked to perfection during early voting." (So pre-election tests and early voting gave no indication that something would go wrong on election day, despite election official and voting machine company claims that such tests protect against such problems!)
Last week we told you about the hard fought victory by the Pima County (Tucson), Arizona, Democrats to finally gain access to the Diebold databases which include the tallies of how folks voted in elections going all the way back to 1998.
The county had argued (on Diebold's behalf, natch) that the database files were both proprietary, and a security risk should they be released. The judge, finally, found that to be nonsense, and ordered the release of the files which the local Election Integrity advocates now hope to comb over for evidence of fraud and/or other malfeasance.
Now that they've got all the info, they're seeking a geek or two who may be able to help build a tool to make it a bit easier to go through the mountains of data they now finally have access to.
AZ's Libertarian Election Integrity champ Jim March, whose been working closely with the Dems, sends us the following "Help Wanted" ad, seeking a programmer to help 'em make sense of "the world's largest private collection of Diebold election data files anywhere." (Note: If someone could kindly Slashdot this item to maximize the number of coder geek eyeballs it gets in front of, it'd be much appreciated!)...
What's a Grand Ol' Party to do when they wish to disenfranchise Democratic voters via the specious specter of "voter fraud" when they can't actually find any evidence to make their case? Why, call their media wing at Fox "News" of course!
Fox picks up today where the DoJ and Republican Party have had no luck so far, but not for lack of trying. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, publicize 'em, and make it sound like you're beating 'em, at least.
David Edwards and Muriel Kane report at RAW STORY today that Fox is running a "special investigation" into non-citizens throwing elections:
"Could illegal immigrants sway an election?' Eric Shawn of Fox News asked on Wednesday, raising the terrifying specter of "people who are not even citizens voting for whomever they want."
Since 2005, the Bush administration has been pushing the idea that "voter fraud" is a widespread problem, even firing US Attorneys who did not make the investigation of claims of fraud a priority. However, investigations have never found more than a handful of votes being cast illegally, while requiring proof of citizenship seems likely to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, mostly the poor and elderly who may not be able to secure required documentation.
Fox News has now set out to find the evidence of fraud that the Bush Department of Justice could not, whipping up their audience with the threat of non-citizens "getting a fake ID, a driver's license, or a social security card and voting in this year's election."
"If you think there's voter fraud where you live, or there are other election problems, we at Fox News want to know about it," Shawn told viewers. "You can email us. ... firstname.lastname@example.org."
Well, you heard 'em, kids. Fox is looking for voter fraud! Feel free to email them this link: http://www.bradblog.com/CoulterFraud documenting the no-uncertain-terms case of Ann Coulter having committed voter fraud in Palm Beach County, Florida!
Fox would love to hear from you at: email@example.com. Feel free to let 'em know I sent you, in case they have any further questions. I'll be happy to speak to them, and help 'em root out those voter fraud criminals!
BTW, Fox & Friends, at least, already knows about Coulter's voter fraud, since they called me last year to ask me to appear on their morning show to talk about it after Liz Smith ran an item on the matter in Murdoch's NY Post pointing to BRAD BLOG's coverage...
I don't mind admitting it. For an Election Integrity journalist, HBO's Recount is pure pornography. Anticipation for Sunday's Memorial Day premiere showing was at the top of last weekend's holiday agenda. And the excitement grew still more late Friday when the good folks of PDA Florida made my week (my month? my year? my last four eight years?) by sending me an actual Palm Beach County "CES Votomatic III" voting booth, one which they tell me was among the 24 used in HBO's film itself.
Since I have a very difficult time paying the bills around here --- contrary to popular opinion, election integrity blogging isn't the windfall it might otherwise appear --- perhaps I'll consider the kind gift a reward for my too-many years on this beat. Though perhaps my consolation prize would be a better way to look at it.
When I first opened it, actual chads (HBO's film advises the plural of "chad" is actually "chad") from the 2000 election spilled out of the machine all over the office floor. The gods of democracy and the goddess of the Butterfly Ballot were taunting me. I rather enjoyed it. I learned long ago that I'd have little choice.
So it was with great anticipation that I sat down on Sunday night to watch the film as it premiered, along with the "Diebold Document Whistleblower" (and my new colleague at VelvetRevolution.us) Steven Heller and his wife, and Robert Carillo Cohen, one of the filmmakers of HBO's landmark documentary, the Emmy-nominated Hacking Democracy which enjoyed a re-airing earlier in the day, as the cable net set the stage for its newest democracy thriller/heart-breaker, Recount.
None of us, including Heller, who anticipated hating the fictionalized re-telling of America's crushing democratic abortion of 2000, would be disappointed...
Not really. But it's a damned funny headline. And it's probably accurate "enough" for the New York Times, where accuracy doesn't much matter anymore, apparently.
We'll have some of our own thoughts very soon on Recount, which we much enjoyed over the holiday weekend. Until then, our preview of the new HBO film, filed before we finally got to see it when in premiered Sunday night, is posted here.
But it's worth noting, for the moment, that the New York Times, the disgraced "Paper of Record," even today persists in misreporting the story of the 2000 Florida Election debacle. As Larry Beinhart documents today at Smirking Chimp:
"In 2001 painstaking postmortems of the Florida count, one by The New York Times and another by a consortium of newspapers, concluded that Mr. Bush would have come out slightly ahead, even if all the votes counted throughout the state had been retallied."
-- Alessandra Stanley, New York Times, May 23, 2008 in a review of the HBO television movie, Recount
That's not true.
The New York Times did not do its own recount. It did participate in a consortium. Here's what they actually said:
"If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin."
-- Ford Fessenden And John M. Broder, New York Times, November 12, 2001
Why did Ms. Stanley make such an important and fundamental error?
It is not a trivial matter. It is a common piece of misinformation. Many, many people believe it. Now a few more do, as a result of Ms. Stanley's review.
It is not a trivial matter. Because that misinformation was created by one of the most bizarre, and still completely unexplained, journalistic events in modern times.
Here's what happened.
Read Beinhart's piece for the remarkable details in what really is one of the "most bizarre, and still completely unexplained, journalist events in modern times." Unfortunately, he doesn't include links in his coverage (please add them if you can, Larry!), but for the doubters, here's the report [PDF] showing that Al Gore did, in fact, receive more votes in Florida in 2000 than George W. Bush. That, despite the stunningly contrary headlines, as Beinhart shows, from almost every paper that reported on that complete state count. Even the papers who bothered to report --- if you read them closely enough --- that Gore received more votes than Bush, still used inexplicably misleading headlines for the story.
Given the wholly inaccurate claim, as includied in their review of Recount, it would appear that NYTimes is intent on simply ensuring the matter is inaccurately reported forever. We'll remember to keep that, and their year-long front page pre-Iraq War-mongering, in mind next time we're inevitably told by some wingnut on the radio, just how "liberal" the NYTimes is.
Pollack had been slated to direct Recount originally, but was forced to bow out due to being diagnosed with cancer last August. He lived, at least, long enough to see Recount premiered on Sunday night on HBO. He had stayed on with the production as Executive Producer.
Given his great sense of humor, we'd like to believe he would well have appreciated the satirical headline above.
Says the candidate who ended up losing in the very-low-turnout race after the ES&S machine failure was discovered: "What's going to happen in November when there's a presidential race and there's all sorts of people here. This was a 1,500 person turnout. What's going to happen when there's a 20,000 turnout?"
What's going to happen indeed. Arkansas is quickly becoming Florida/Ohio, it seems. Worse, these very same, oft-failed ES&S machines are used all over the country.
Good news for voters across American on Friday, as the judge in the Pima County, AZ, court case has finally agreed that citizens can try and see how citizens voted in elections, even if they are run by Diebold.
Via email from AZ Electon Integrity advocate Jim March...
Judge Miller's final decision came in this morning on the public records case filed by the Pima Democratic Party.In short:
All Diebold database files held in the trust's vault are to be released.These go back to 1998.
Database files in future elections are to be made available at the time of the final canvass.The judge appears to be suggesting that CD/DVDs or similar media with this material be prepared by the county for immediate release so that the material can affect challenges within the statutory five-day limit from the day of the canvass.
There is nothing in this order regarding the legal bills rung up by [plaintiff's] Attorney Bill Risner. However, given the now-absolute victory in this revised order (attacheded note:download here [PDF]) plus recent changes to AZ law supporting legal fees and costs where a government agency loses a public records suit, it seems very clear Mr. Risner is getting paid
As God is my witness, there will be blood...okay, hopefully not blood...but massive Election Disasters this November. Disasters which might have, should have, could have, otherwise been averted had Election Officials bothered to actually read this blog every couple of days over the last four years, and done a damned thing about it other than make excuses for their horrible decisions and continuing state of denial.
Keep in mind, we are going to save the most troubling aspect of this report for the very end, so those of you who can take no more of this garbage, will be able to bail out before hand.
If you can take it, prepare to be amazed by the end, as we wend through the massive failures in Arkansas last Tuesday, through mind-blowing new (disastrous) federal "Electronic Voting Reform" legislation just announced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) with Sen. Bill Bennett (R-UT), before landing in West Virginia, where a candidate on last week's ballot assures us everything is just fine because the guy spotted by voters opening up the voting machines and going inside of them to make adjustments at the polls during Election Day was him.
It's as bad as it sounds. Read on, if you feel strong enough, otherwise, abandon hope all ye who enter here...
"The recount never really happened," notes Kevin Spacey, correctly, about the 2000 Florida election debacle in his interview Wednesday night on Countdown, in advance of Recount, HBO's theatrical retelling of the nightmare. The film premieres this Sunday.
Some weeks ago, we ran an item which included the theatrical trailer for the film and noted that we've neither seen it, nor been contacted by anybody from the production (they didn't purchase an ad here either, boo hoo) but that they did manage to use our "Stuck in the Middle With You" theme song for the film, curiously enough, as you'll see in the trailer. We'll take it as a compliment, as if we have a choice.
We also noted, with evidence, that Al Gore received more votes than George W. Bush in the state of Florida in 2000, and that seven whistleblowers from the company, Sequoia Voting Systems, who produced the paper ballots for Florida, have come forward to reveal that they were forced by someone to use bad paper on those ballots (only in Florida) against their objections, and to misalign the chads on them (only in Palm Beach County). To this day, other than Dan Rather at HDNet, who originally ran the report, nobody in the corporate media has found that story worthy of following up, or even merely reporting.
But for the third in our countdown of productions with the word "count" in its title, we turn to our friend Mary Mancini, who smartly blogs at the website of the documentary film Uncounted (We're in it, so see FULL DISCLOSURE at end of this article). Mancini notes that Olbermann, during his interview with Spacey (at left, including clip from film), joined so many other journalists who have taken the opportunity of the premiere of HBO's film to miss more than a few good journalistic opportunities...
With all the publicity surrounding this movie, now would be the perfect time for journalists to take the national conversation to the next level and ask the most logical follow up questions:
1) Why wasn’t our electoral process equipped, as Kevin Spacey says in the interview, “to handle margins of victory so small and margins of error so big” in 2000?
2) Are we equipped to do so now?
Another great opportunity was lost last night when during the interview Spacey explains the punch-card recount process:
That when you have a margin of victory so small, you have to go to what is called an automatic machine recount and yet, 18 counties, over 1,500,00 votes, didn’t bother to put their ballots back through the machine. They just re-tabulated the memory card, and you always get a different count when you do a machine recount. So, when you kind of realize that, well, that’s ’cause people just couldn’t bother to do it, um, it’s pretty stunning that…that…so..when Baker and Bush kept coming out and saying, “The votes have been counted, and they’ve been counted again, and Gore wants to count them a third time,” they were actually never counted.
No, they weren't. And the Supreme Court demanded that they remain uncounted, so Bush could be named "President."
Only the media and academic consortium who actually did bother to count all of those ballots [PDF] afterwards in Florida would know that Gore received more votes than Bush. Period. Even if they've done a superb job of keeping that little fact to themselves ever since. Whether HBO's Recount tells that truth, we'll have to wait until Sunday to find out.
Following below, for your convenience, are both the HBO trailer for Recount and, once again, the breathtaking Dan Rather report on the gaming of the paper ballots in Florida's 2000 election...
Arkansas had huge problems with their ES&S voting systems during local elections last Tuesday. Malfunctioning machines at multiple sites, and thousands of vote disparities, led to recounts, changed outcomes and at least one race was overturned in the bargain.
It's hardly he first time they've had problems with their ES&S voting systems in the state. Arkansas uses ES&S for almost everything with regards to elections and the vendor has a record of terrible work there, as we saw in 2006. (See bottom of article for links to scores of previous examples.)
"No voting machines functioned properly at any of the 32 White County voting sites on Tuesday," according to the Daily Citizen. That problem, most likely related to failures in the Ballot Definition Files as we'd warned about on Monday, seems to have led to a 3,954 vote disparity in two different races. That discovery then led to a "recount" of all the races on the ballot, which subsequently changed all results, and even overturned one of the races.
In Crawford County, it was "faulty" flash cards, reportedly, which initially led to the inability of the central tabulator computer to read the voting results from the county's 43 electronic voting machines.
Some 33,500 registered voters in Oregon received two ballots in the mail for this year's primary election in the country's only 100% Vote-by-Mail (VBM) state. Though Secretary of State Bill Bradbury says he's confident the problem will be handled, and that no voter will get to cast two ballots, that snafu is a small concern compared to the larger ones presented by VBM.
Many Oregonians will tell you they believe their system is wonderful, yet many of the Election Integrity advocates on the ground there, including many we've spoke with at the Oregon Voting Rights Coalition, warn that the success of the state's VBM program is largely based on good procedures put in place by Bradbury, and which they fear may disappear, as they are not statutory, when he is someday no longer the state's SoS.
In the meantime, one of the unintended consequences of the success that EI advocates have had in helping to expose the failures of electronic voting systems, is that absentee and/or VBM systems have been growing in popularity.
For the voters, they believe such systems offer a "paper trail" not available to voters using touch-screen systems at the polling place. Many are unaware that their mailed-in ballots will be scanned by the same error-prone, easily manipulated optical-scan machines which handle paper ballots for precinct-based voting. But even worse, ballots mailed in, if they arrive safely, and are counted at all, are usually counted "in the dark," versus ballots scanned either at the polls on Election Day, or at county headquarters after the close of polls when citizens are often there to watch.
It is also much harder to track such ballots. Unlike ballots cast at the polls, where sign-in rosters can be compared to the number of ballots counted, it's far more difficult to match up such numbers after ballots are dropped into the black hole that is the U.S. Postal System.
For both major political parties, particularly the Democrats of late, the control they can have over ensuring voter "turnout" under such systems, and the increased participation that comes with it, is a big plus, and one of the reasons why they've been pushing mail-in elections of late.
But for those of us who prize transparency, security, privacy, and verifiable accuracy over partisan politics, all VBM elections remain a terrible idea. Here's why...
Texas' Republican Attorney General has found that there's little or no "voter fraud" of note down there either, despite a promise two years ago, according to the Dallas Morning News, to "root out what he called an epidemic of voter fraud in Texas," and his creation of a special unit which "tapped a $1.4 million federal crime-fighting grant" to expose the election stealing rascals.
For all of his crime-fighting in those two years, across the big Lonestar State, TX AG Greg Abbott has prosecuted just 26 cases, "all against Democrats, and almost all involving blacks or Hispanics," according to the Morning News, most of which resulted in "small fines and little or no jail time."
Additionally, almost all of them (18 of 26) involved mail-in absentee ballots where elderly voters were "illegally" given assistance in mailing their ballots, versus in-person voter impersonation of the type that cynical GOP attempts to mandate draconian polling place Photo ID restrictions are purportedly meant to deter. (In reality, they are meant to deter Democrats from being able to cast their legal ballots, so Republicans can more easily "win" elections.)
Just eight of the 26 prosecuted cases, the Morning News found, out of Abbott's two-year effort, involved any kind of ineligible or manufactured votes --- only 2 actually involved individuals casting fraudulent ballots at the polls, the rest were registration fraud issues --- and none of them revealed any larger conspiratorial scheme meant to effect the results of an election.
In the meantime, critics charge Abbott has been ignoring complaints about Republican election skulduggery, and we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that nobody has bothered to prosecute Republicanist Ann Coulter, for her several demonstrable voter fraud-related felony crimes in Florida despite, dead-to-rights evidence as published by The BRAD BLOG since early 2006.
We'd also like to point out, that in addition to there not being "an epidemic of voter fraud in Texas," there is similarly no such epidemic among space aliens either. Though Ted Rall suggests we may wish to implement some new measures there too...just in case...
The software most likely to steal elections is the BALLOT DEFINITION SOFTWARE loaded onto paper-based optical-scan and DRE (usually, touch-screen) voting machines in county elections offices across the U.S. just before the machines are sealed with security tape and transported to election polling locations.
And yet, the frightening reality is that there is little or no oversight of that software itself, nor of the people --- usually sub-contractors, who could be anyone from a non-U.S. citizen, to a criminal, to a political party operative --- who program that ballot definition software. Moreover, there is little or no testing of such software, despite the fact that it stores the ballot positions for all candidates and initiatives on every ballot, on every voting machine, and tallies the votes for all of them on election day.
For all of the concerns about election fraud, via the electronic voting systems in use across the nation today, and the eye on the source code for the software itself, few seem to have their eye on the ballot definition software, which can --- even on e-voting systems where the hardware, and main program software has been tested, certified, and audited --- succeed in flipping an election without detection, either by error, or on purpose.
Miller-McCune'sDavid Rosenfeld files a good story on the dreadful state of the hackable, insecure, error-prone machinery --- both DRE/touch-screen and paper-based optical scan --- still used across our electoral landscape in 2008.
Despite a few small-ish errors, Rosenfeld succeeds where so many before him have been unable: Properly quoting both the scientists and Election Integrity experts who know what they're talking about, while giving fair opportunity to respond from voting machine company and elected officials who are either in denial, uninformed, or simply willing to lie.
On the misleading and/or state of denial and/or lying side, we hear from a Diebold spokesman, and officials from both the NH and TX Secretaries of State offices.
The latters' comments --- particularly those from the SoS offices, where one would think they have a duty to both be informed and tell the truth about their voting systems (unlike Diebold, where we might expect them to continue their long, unfettered, and desperation-built reputation for lying) --- are simply stunning.
Diebold spokesperson Chris Riggall (yes, an unfortunate name for a voting machine spokesperson) offers the usual nonsense in response to all of the many independent tests around the country which have found the company's voting systems --- both paper-based and touch-screen --- to have been easily hacked in seconds. "In some cases the studies have been lacking in appropriate perspective and balance," Riggall misleads in response.
But the TX and NH SoS officials quoted were even more outrageous in their outright states of denial, and/or the ease with which they are willing to simply mislead (okay, lie to) the reporter...