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ES&S voting systems fail yet again...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2012 1:28pm PT  

Before, during and after last week's historic Wisconsin recall elections, we detailed why there is reason to be concerned about the computer-reported results of the votes cast across the state, even with the majority of those votes having been cast on paper ballots.

In short, the results are, and will remain, 100% unverified unless someone bothers to get a court order.

As we previously reported...

[T]hose ballots ... are tabulated by computer optical-scan systems like the ones in Palm Beach County, FL, which, in March of this year, had named several losing candidates to be the "winners." And like the ones in New York City which, in 2010, managed to toss out thousands of valid votes, including as many as 70% in one South Bronx precinct. And like the ones in Oakland County, Michigan, where officials found the same machines failed to count the same ballots the same way twice in 2008. And like the ones in Leon County, FL, which, in 2005, were hacked to entirely flip the results of a mock election.

In Palm Beach County, FL, the failure was discovered during a state-mandated, post-election spot check of 2% of the paper ballots. In New York City, it took nearly two years before the failures were discovered after the New York Daily News was able to examine the paper ballots via a public records request. In Oakland County, MI, election officials were lucky enough to discover the failure during pre-election testing. And in Leon County, FL, the hacker --- a computer security expert --- revealed the op-scan system flaw he exploited to flip the results of the election in an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary.

In all cases, it was only a hand examination of the paper ballots that revealed the mistabulations by the op-scanners.

Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, no such post-election hand-examination takes place for any ballots --- at least not without both a recount request and an order from a judge. There are no spot-checks to ensure accuracy, so there is no way to know if the results reported by the computers reflect what the actual voters said in Wisconsin. The reported results are therefore either accurate or they are not. Who knows?

We explained why all of the above means that we cannot know if Republican Scott Walker actually won his gubernatorial recall election anymore than we can know if John Lehman (D) won his challenge against incumbent state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R) in the District 21 state Senate recall on the same day. (If Lehman is certified as the winner, the Democrats will take majority control of the state Senate. Wanggaard should demand a hand count of all ballots. To do so, he needs to file for a recount, and then beg a judge to allow that count to be done by hand, rather by the same machines once again, as is the standard under the WI election code.)

For those who think such concerns are overwrought, if the above instance of op-scan machine failure aren't enough for you, take a look at what happened last week in three different counties in Montana, on the very same day of the recall elections in Wisconsin...

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

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Latest attempted GOP voter roll scrub of legal voters continues growing tradition in Sunshine State...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/11/2012 6:35am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

The state of Florida and it's Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) are knowingly violating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in their attempted purge of "potential non-citizens" from the Sunshine State voting rolls, according to a new federal lawsuit [PDF] filed by the ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The complaint follows on the heels of a May 31, 2012 two-page letter submitted to FL election officials by T. Christian Herren, the chief lawyer of the U.S. Justice Department's Voting Rights Division. In his letter, Herren opined that the state's voter roll purge is in violation of Section 5 --- at least in the 6 Florida counties "covered" by that section --- because the state has not sought preclearance from either the DOJ or a federal court, as required by that section of the 40-year old federal law.

Additionally, the DOJ notes in its letter, the purge, coming as it does within the 90 days before Florida's federal primary election, is also in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which covers the entire state.

In response, FL State Department spokesman Chris Cates initially said they would continue the purge nonetheless, as they were "firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot." In his official response to the DOJ a few days later, Detzner all but challenged the feds to bring a suit in order to stop the state from continuing their efforts.

Of the original 180,000 names identified by the state as potential non-citizens, out of some 11.3 million registered voters in the state of Florida, 2,700 were sent to county election officials with instructions to notify those voters that they had just 30 days to prove their citizenship or be removed from the rolls. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, "Before heeding DOJ’s order to stop the purge" county election officials had identified just four noncitizens who "may have voted in past elections, making them potentially guilty of voter fraud," while clearing hundreds of voters who had, in fact, been legally registered voters. Hundreds of others may have been removed from the rolls, despite being legally registered citizen voters.

As The BRAD BLOG previously reported, Herren had demanded that FL officials "advise whether the State intends to cease the practice," but stopped short of issuing an actual "order" that FL immediately cease and desist. Such an order would have to come by way of an injunction issued by a U.S. District Court. The ACLU lawsuit now seeks that injunction even though, according to the Miami Herald, county elections supervisors across the state, led by Leon County's Ion Sancho, are now refusing to carry out a purge which Sancho describes as "illegal."

The ACLU lawsuit alleges facts that suggest the FL GOP is relying upon a FL Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) database that it knows cannot provide an accurate basis for establishing non-citizenship until 2017.

Unfortunately, this year's purge in Florida continues a tradition that has been affecting legal voters in Florida --- and, along with them, the rest of the nation --- cycle after cycle since at least the 2000 election...

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

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By Sue Wilson on 6/8/2012 10:35am PT  

Guest blogged by Sue Wilson

Whatever questions remain about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recall election, there is no question that his campaign was built on big money, the likes of which we've never seen in a gubernatorial campaign before. And where did all that money go? Right into thin air - OUR air.

And as owners of the air - our public airwaves, to be precise - there is plenty we can do to combat the corrosive effect of big money on our elections, by holding our partners in broadcasting, local TV and radio stations, accountable to the communities they serve.

Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions, is the reason huge amounts of money poured into the Walker camp from third parties like the billionaire Koch Brothers and others, (compared to the relatively paltry sum given to his opponent Mayor Tom Barrett by unions and others.)

As previously noted by The BRAD BLOG:

Focus will turn to the unprecedented amount of dark money raised and spent in the election, with Walker's campaign raising at least $30.5 million (a majority of it coming from out of state) to Barrett's $3.9 million. That, of course, is just the money raised by the two campaigns themselves. It doesn't take into affect the extraordinary amount of money spent by outside groups on behalf of the candidates, largely in support of Walker by a reportedly outsized ratio of 25 to 1.

So the Walker recall gave us the first glimpse at how the infamous Supreme Court ruling will affect campaigns for years to come unless something changes. . There is a large and growing movement now from organizations such as Move to Amend, to amend the Constitution to help put the brakes on the unlimited spending allowed by Citizens United. Such an effort, however, will take years to accomplish, if it ever happens at all.

But what's not being talked about is where most of this unrestricted money goes: about half of all campaign dollars go directly into your local radio and TV stations' wallets --- local broadcast stations which get licensed in the public/private partnership of broadcasting ONLY IF they "serve the public convenience, interest, and necessity."

As to the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has also ruled, in Red Lion v. FCC that "it is the right of the viewing and listening public, and not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."

Nonetheless, until Citizens United is changed or overridden in some fashion, things are only going to get worse --- unless we the people do something about it now with a few, still-unused tools that remain at our disposal...

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

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With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 6/7/2012 2:28pm PT  


TWITTER: @GreenNewsReport
VIA SMART PHONE: Stitcher Radio!

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Congressional Republicans attack the military's clean energy programs; NC Republicans vote to outlaw physics; Germany sets solar energy world record; Warming Arctic now growing 'pop-up forests'; PLUS: US wildfire season, off to a roaring --- and record --- start... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

Link:
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Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Top 5 US cities most vulnerable to hurricanes; House GOP's 7 bills increasing drilling, rolling back public health standards; Cost of deaths from coal pollution higher than value of electricity produced; Big US firms to develop plant-based plastics; Secrets of the first artificial leaf; Geo-engineering may disrupt rainfall; Solar Plane completes intercontinental voyage; Why are US taxpayers subsidizing the coal industry? ... PLUS: Warning: you are approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere ... and much, MUCH more! ...

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

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By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2012 7:05pm PT  

I was on cable/satellite news channel RT this afternoon discussing concerns about the Wisconsin Recall elections. Here's the hit...

For more details on some of the thoughts I offered above, in regard to questions about yesterdays results, please see my article last night on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's reported win, and my piece this morning on Democratic state Senate challenger John Lehman's declaration of victory --- both before any ballots have actually been examined to assure that the all-secret computer tallies were accurate in any way.

* * *
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Control of chamber hangs in balance, but all ballots, and current 800-vote margin, completely unverified by human beings...
By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2012 11:05am PT  

Late last night we detailed just some of the reasons why it's impossible to know, short of actually counting the paper ballots by hand in Wisconsin, if Republican Gov. Scott Walker actually received more votes than his Democratic challenger Mayor Tom Barrett or not.

Without both a recount request and a court order for the ballots to be hand-counted, rather than machine-counted yet again, the state of Wisconsin does not manually examine any of its paper ballots to ensure that the flawed, oft-failed and easily manipulated computer optical-scan systems and central tabulators tallied any of them as per the voters' intent.

Well, the same concerns hold true this morning for Democrat John Lehman in his important recall challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard in the District 21 state Senate race. His declaration of victory late last night is based on the same completely unverified computer tallies as Walker's was earlier in the evening...

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

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By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2012 12:50am PT  

"It was a great demonstration of democracy, whether you agree or disagree with the outcome," Huffington Post's political reporter Howard Fineman told Ed Schultz on MSNBC late tonight, while discussing the results of the historic Wisconsin recall elections.

Fineman's comment is either accurate or it is not. Just as the results reported by the computers across the Badger State are either accurate or not. Who knows? Nobody in WI does, and that's exactly the problem.

The early Exit Poll results had reportedly predicted the race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett a virtual tie, leading media to plan for a long night tonight. A second round of Exit Polls results, however, was said to have given Walker a broader lead over Barrett. Even so, we were told, the race based on the Exit Poll data alone was still "too close to call." Those data were either accurate or they were not.

Of course, the raw, unadjusted Exit Polling data are no longer entrusted to us mere mortals. They can be seen only by members of the mainstream media, and we are simply left to trust them to report it all accurately to us or not. And when, after all, have we not been able to rely on the mainstream media to report everything accurately to us?

But never mind the Exit Polls. We've got real polls, real votes, actual ballots now to tell us who won or lost. If only we'd bother to actually count them...

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

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By Brad Friedman on 6/5/2012 1:00pm PT  

After well over a year of political, if not all out civil war in Wisconsin in the wake of the state's Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the majority-GOP legislature unilaterally stripping many of the state's citizens of their rights to collectively bargain, Walker's fate is finally up for grabs today, along with that of his Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and the political balance of the state Senate via the seats of four Republican state Senators.

A Democratic win in just one of those Senate seats will return the majority in that body to the Democrats, making remarkably extreme actions like those we've seen over the past two years in the Badger State much more difficult to accomplish no matter who wins today's gubernatorial race.

But we'll see what happens today, tonight and, under several foreboding scenarios, over the next several weeks and/or months as the citizens of the state exercise some direct and wonderful democracy today at the ballot box --- or, at least, at the computerized tabulators.

Aside from expectedly heavy turnout being reported across the state (and particularly in Milwaukee), and races that are thought to be exceedingly tight, here are a few morning news items out of Wisconsin which may (or may not) turn out to have much more relevance in the near future, depending on how things go in the next several hours...

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

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Right to same sex marriage in CA stayed pending filing of a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/5/2012 11:11am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal issued a terse decision denying a petition for rehearing of the earlier 2-1 9th Circuit panel decision in Perry vs. Brown [PDF] in which the majority ruled that CA Proposition 8's effort to strip away the previously recognized right of same sex couples to marry was unconstitutional.

The court order noted: "The matter failed to receive a majority of the votes of non-recused active judges in favor of en banc consideration." (En banc essentially means 'by the full 9th Circuit', as opposed to a three judge panel.)

The order added, however: "The mandate is stayed for ninety days pending the filing of a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court. If such a petition is filed, the stay shall continue until final disposition by the Supreme Court."

This essentially means that, despite the determination that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, same sex couples in CA cannot effectuate their right to marry until either 90 days have lapsed, or longer if a Supreme Court challenge is filed.

As The BRAD BLOG previously averred, U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt's earlier majority opinion in this case was "so narrow and so tightly crafted to meet the criteria of a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Romer v. Evans, that it minimized the chances that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide to hear the case, let alone reverse the decision."

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What you can do in Wisconsin and elsewhere...
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2012 3:03pm PT  

We're just back in town, with lots of catchup work to do. But with Wisconsin's Recall Elections tomorrow, here are some important actions that folks (of any party!) who care about accurate election results can do to help protect the election results.

Remember, WI mostly votes on paper ballots. Unfortunately, however, most of those paper ballots are tabulated in secret inside of computers systems similar or identical to ones which have failed time again elsewhere, as seen most recently in places like Palm Beach County, FL and New York City. In WI, there is no mandated manual examination of paper ballots after the computer tabulates them in order to make sure they were tabulated accurately. That's a very bad (and dangerous) system.

In Palm Beach, several candidates incorrectly declared to be the "winners" by the Sequoia Voting Systems optical-scan tabulation computers in a March election this year had, in fact, been the losers of their races. The failure was discovered during a manual post-election spot-check of a tiny percentage of the paper ballots. WI does no such post-election spot-check of ballots to test the accuracy of their computer systems. Only a full hand-count of all the paper ballots in the Palm Beach elections revealed the correct winners. The identical tabulation system are used in WI's very Republican-leaning Waukesha County, as well as elsewhere in the state.

In New York City, it took nearly two years, but finally last month, ES&S, the company which manufacturers the paper-ballot optical scanners now used there, admitted that it was a flaw in their scanners which led to thousands of votes going uncounted during the 2010 elections. The company admitted to the system failure after the New York Daily News confirmed an error rate of 70% during the primary election and 54% in the general election in just one precinct in the South Bronx after a public records request and hand-count of the paper ballots. Those same flawed systems, the ES&S model DS200 paper-ballot op-scan system, are used in much of Lincoln, Portage and Wood Counties in WI.

There are many other systems used across the Badger State which have similarly failed in election after election. As always, "Democracy's Gold Standard" is a full public hand-count of ballots by actual human beings on election night, at the precinct, in front of all parties and video cameras, with results posted right there before ballots are moved anywhere. Unfortunately, that is rarely, if ever, done in Wisconsin. So it's up to you to try and help ensure the results on Tuesday are as accurate as possible, at least until those paper ballots are actually hand-counted and confirmed to have been tabulated accurately --- if they ever are.

To that end, here's a few things you can do tomorrow in Wisconsin (and one thing you can do even if you're not in Wisconsin), to help cover at least a few of the bases where computer tabulation systems can either be gamed or might simply malfunction to report inaccurate results...

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

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By Ernest A. Canning on 6/3/2012 12:28pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

Reports by the Miami Herald and by Democracy Now report that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has "ordered Florida...to end a controversial voter purge that's primarily targeted Latino, Democratic and independent-minded voters" (see video below) may not be technically accurate.

Both refer to the two-page letter submitted by T. Christian Herren, the chief lawyer of the DOJ's Voting Rights Division, to FL officials which suggested that the purge, ordered by Republican Gov. Rick Scott under the unsubstantiated pretense that the state had thousands of non-citizens registered to vote, violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because FL had not sought preclearance for the new voter roll purge either from the DOJ or a federal court. Herren, as the Miami Herald article observed, demanded that FL officials "advise whether the State intends to cease the practice," but stopped short of issuing an actual "order" that FL immediately cease and desist.

Election officials across the state have confirmed that the Governor's purge list includes hundreds, if not thousands, of legally registered U.S. citizens who are improperly identified as "non-citizens" to be removed from the rolls.

Only five of Florida's 67 counties are "covered jurisdictions" under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That means that while Supervisors of Elections in some counties had vowed not to carry out Scott's purge, others, like Seminal County's Republican Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, signified their intent to carry out what amounts to a new form of GOP "caging lists" in which those voters who do not respond to official letters in a designated fashion are automatically purged from the eligible voter rolls. On Friday, an attorney from the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, representing all 67 counties, sent a memo to officials recommending they do not carry out the scrub as called for by the state.

The DOJ letter to FL also noted that the voter roll purge across the entire state appears to be in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which bans the removal of voters from the rolls in the 90 days prior to a federal election. Florida is set to hold its federal primary election on August 14th, making May 16th the last legal day for the type of voter roll maintenance the state now claims to be carrying out.

Even assuming that Herren's letter to the state amounts to a DOJ "order," it may not be enough to stop what The Advancement Project estimated in its May 17 letter to Herren [PDF] could ultimately produce an illegal purge of as many as 180,000 otherwise eligible voters based on a flawed, eleventh hour pre-election effort to match voter rolls against the FL driver's license data base.

After receiving the letter from the DOJ, Florida Dept. of State Spokesperson Chris Cates said they intended to continue with their purge anyway. "Bottom line is," Cates told Think Progress, "we are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot."

The purge has already ensnared U.S. citizens like Bill Internicola, the 91-year old, Brooklyn-born, World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Archibald Bowyer, another 91-year old WWII vet who has been citizen since the age of 2, and who received his letter from the state warning he would be purged just as his wife had died.

Cates has marginalized such incidents as "a handful of people [who] have been inconvenienced.”

To halt the purge, groups like the ACLU and the DOJ may need to initiate a federal lawsuit in which they seek yet another preliminary injunction, like the one issued late Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle in League of Women Voters v. Browning [PDF]. That ruling, as we reported on Thursday, spoke to a different aspect of this year's GOP voter suppression effort in FL. Hinkle's ruling ordered an official federal injunction on the draconian restrictions imposed on voter registration workers by the FL GOP, which had earlier led to groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida being forced to cancel their voter registration drives for the first time in some 70 years.

Florida has until June 6th to official respond to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

* * *

Video of Democracy Now segment on the DOJ's response to the FL purge follows...

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

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