After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Last Saturday, we told you about a rare case of polling place voter fraud, when a Republican voter attempted to vote twice in Nevada during Early Voting in the state. Appropriately enough, she was quickly arrested and taking into custody by the FBI. Nevada's system of preventing double-voting at the polls worked well and efficiently, it seems, despite the woman's deluded, disinformed, Fox "News"-fueled belief to the contrary.
Now, however, 56-year old Roxanne Rubin, the woman who was arrested when she showed up for work at the Riviera hotel-casino last Friday for her attempted voter fraud, is reportedly claiming that she was just "testing" the system.
And she's not the only one. On Election Day, another Republican, this one a party-trained poll watcher, was detained in New Mexico after claiming to have been "testing" the system by obtaining a second ballot.
Ironically, after years of false allegations of "Democratic voter fraud" by the GOP and their minions, it has been Republicans this year who have been found defrauding the system in state after state, in case after case. They are failing their own "test"...
On Election Night, Democrats and progressives celebrated the reported defeat of far Rightwing Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-FL22) by his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in Florida's newly redistricted 18th Congressional district in Eastern Florida.
With precinct votes unofficially tabulated in the three counties which comprise the new Democratic-leaning district --- Martin, St. Lucie and part of Palm Beach --- Murphy reportedly leads West by 2,456 votes out of 318,200 electronically tallied to date. That number does not include what West's campaign manager describes as "tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in Palm Beach County and potential provisional ballots across the district."
Nonetheless, Murphy has declared victory, which carries no particular legal weight, while West has filed legal documents in St. Lucie and Palm Beach calling for the impounding of voting systems, paper ballots and a hand-count of those ballots.
West may be a far Right extremist. A fair amount of evidence even suggests that West may be certifiably insane. But, even far right, possibly insane candidates, and especially their supporters, deserve to have their votes counted in a way that they can know, for certain, that they either won or lost an election.
Given the oft-failed, easily-manipulated, unoverseeable electronic voting and tabulation systems --- each with a long and well-documented record of failure and miscounts --- used in the three counties that make up Florida's new 18th district (as well as the rest of the state of Florida, and the rest of the 50 states for that matter), West and his supporters have every reason to demand a public, 100% hand-count of paper ballots before conceding defeat. Particularly in an election with such a slim margin, as reported by the flawed electronic systems, said to stand between the two candidates...
We've got a lot of mopping up to do around here today, tomorrow and in the days and weeks ahead. There are still races outstanding, recounts apparently coming and, despite encouraging reported results yesterday, an electoral system left in shambles. If you haven't noticed or guessed, yes, we intend to hold President Obama to this remark (and many more) from his victory speech last night.
Keep in mind, by the way, that while the President was promising to "fix that" problem, at 2am ET, voters were actually still reportedly in line to vote in Miami-Dade County, FL. An American disgrace.
So, for now, two quick things. One: Our usual reminder that while much of the front-end voter suppression stuff yesterday was plainly obvious, it's often not until the days and, sometimes, weeks or more after any given election that the most serious concerns about election integrity issues having to do with things like voting machines and computer tabulators begin to come to light. And two: Since we were so buried yesterday chasing down incoming reports and talking about what was going on on more media outlets than we care to count, we didn't get to offer a compiled list of reporting voting system problems.
Here's a few of those problems that we can all start digging into a bit...
A little more than four months ago, when The BRAD BLOG first covered the ACLU's legal challenge to the deceptive ballot language that the MN GOP state legislature had used to describe its polling place Photo ID restriction initiative on the November 6 ballot, we expressed the concern that the legal challenge might succeed before the MN Supreme Court, yet fail in the court of public opinion. At the time public opinion polls revealed that 80% of Minnesota voters favored the amendment. We were wrong on both counts.
In August, a divided MN Supreme Court rejected the ACLU's challenge to the language used in the ballot question. By late September, the once popular "Photo ID needed to stop voter fraud" scam had become well enough debunked by so many that, as we we noted at the time, support for the misleading measure in the Land of 10,000 Lakes had "cratered" in public opinion polls there. And, finally, yesterday, MN voters reportedly rejected the Photo ID amendment by a decisive margin of 54% to 46%.
In our original coverage, we cited Mark Twain's famous quip that "a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," and the pervasive failure of the mainstream media to expose the truth about the GOP's "Big Lie" about pretend "voter fraud." But we had underestimated the extent to which legal challenges to Photo ID and other forms of GOP voter suppression, especially in Pennsylvania, would compel MSM coverage and educate the public...
"I want to thank every American who participated in this election ... whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time ... By the way, we have to fix that." - President Barack Obama, November 6th, 2012
That said...Fox' Chris Wallace just reported he heard from the Romney campaign "who is unhappy with us for calling Ohio for Barack Obama". Karl Rove makes a case that Romney can still win Ohio, says the call by Fox is "premature". In a trip to the Fox 'News' "Decision Desk" room, Megyn Kelly is told by their statistician that there aren't enough votes out there for Romney to win. The "Decision Desk" says they are "99.95%" certain.
[Now UPDATED at bottom with comment from Philadelphia's election chief, City Commissioner Stephanie Singer .]
Okay, this one is quite troubling. It's being reported that long time voters in Philadelphia have been showing up to vote today, only to find out that they are not on the voting rolls anymore at all.
In the bargain, "large numbers" of voters are being forced to vote on provisional ballots which may, or may not be counted later.
This is beyond the reports we've seen all day of voters being forced to vote provisionally after inaccurate instructions that they must have a Photo ID to vote. These are long time voters, who have voted for many years in the same place, simply missing from the rolls.
Does this indicate a larger problem than we can even know about yet in Pennsylvania? Here's the details...
More than 12,500 voters received robocalls this morning from the Pinellas County, FL Supervisor of Elections office, letting them know that the deadline for turning in their absentee ballot was "tomorrow", the day after the election. Unfortunately, the real deadline for turning in absentee ballots is 7pm today, Election Day, Tuesday, November 6th.
Pinellas County is home to Tampa and St. Petersburg. So here's why this monumental screw-up, presuming that's what it was, seems to have happened...
As this year’s election comes to a close, True the Vote, a Texas Tea Party group, has begun attacking the NAACP Houston Branch and our volunteer poll monitors for handing out water to voters at Early Vote locations and for assisting Disabled and Elderly voters by standing in line for them or asking younger people in line to let the elderly and disabled go ahead of them in the line to vote.
Carroll G. Robinson, Chairman of the NAACP Houston Branch Political Affairs Committee said, “It is a shame that the NAACP Houston Branch and its volunteers are being attacked by a right wing extremist group for being “Good Samaritans”. The NAACP will continue to help elderly and disabled voters, as well as all other voters, exercise their right to vote.”
Chairman Robinson further stated, “The NAACP is not afraid of being attacked by an extremist Tea Party group for doing our job – helping to protect the right to vote and ensuring that when people show up at the polls, they get to vote.”
Well, imagine that, the very first reported fraud of Election Day 2012 appears to have been committed by the supposedly anti-fraud, Rightwing "election integrity" group, True the Vote, in Ohio. Their election observers poll-challengers, as Plunderbund reports, "will not be allowed in Franklin County polling locations" today after they appear to have forged signatures of their very own volunteers...
This seems to be the first official video of touch-screen vote-flipping 2012, reportedly captured today in Pennsylvania, where elected officials so disrespect their own voters that they still force almost all of them to vote on these 100% unverifiable systems...
I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney's name and started tapping very closely together to find the 'active areas'. From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.
Of course, this same sort of thing has happened every single election since 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting was forced on Americans ten years ago or so, but when it was first heavily reported by Democrats as having happened in 2004 all across the country, Republicans (and elections officials of all parties) called them "conspiracy theorists" and sore losers. Here's just a couple of examples caught on video from 2008. I've even written an entire chapter for Sonoma University's Project Censored book, Censored 2010, about the largely unreported nationwide vote-flipping epidemic during the 2008 election.
This year, it's been the Republicans who have finally decided, wisely, to be concerned about it. Last week, the GOP sent a letter [PDF] to top election officials in six different states, offering bad advice to them about what they should do, after a few unconfirmed complaints of touch-screen votes flipping from Romney to Obama were reported.
We've only seen a few reports of this, but don't necessarily doubt it. While, historically, most touch-screen votes flip away from Ds, we've seen reports of them flipping to Ds on a few occasions as well. Either way, these systems are 100% unverifiable (with or without a so-called paper trail print out, as some have) and should never be used in any American election. The GOP has sent their letter to Secretaries of State in NV, OH, KS, MO and CO, and the Executive Dir. of the Election Board in NC. Three of those folks are Ds, three are Rs. The letter requests that they "Make arrangements for additional technicians on Election Day in case of increased calibration problems." Of course, when machines flip votes, they should be taken out of service, not re-calibrated when they are in "Election Mode" and most sensitive to manipulation. The letter also foolishly asks for signs to be posted warning voters to "double-check that the voting machine properly recorded their vote", which is, with these sorts of machines, scientifically impossible.
Fortunately, it's being reported that the machine seen above has been taken out of service, rather than re-calibrated as so often happens, and as the GOP stupidly requested be done in such instances.
[Update: Mother Jones is now reporting that PA Dept of State officials are saying "they recalibrated the machine, did a test run, and put it back online." That's the dumbest thing they could do. Wonder who "fixed" it?]
All of that said, last night we offered several tips for voting today in ways that might help maximize the chances of your vote being counted and counted accurately. We included these quick tips on WHAT TO DO IF YOUR VOTE FLIPS ON A TOUCH-SCREEN MACHINE:
If you have problems or see problems at the polls, be sure to report them to 866-OUR-VOTE, or at OurVoteLive.org!
Catch any problems at the polls on photo or video? Upload it to YouTube and social sites, and tell VideoTheVote.org! Also tag it with the #VideoTheVote hashtag.
Be at the polls when they close and photograph and video tape the results tapes that are printed out from electronic systems. Results have a way of changing between the time they're printed out at the close of polls and the time they show up on the web. Your photographic evidence could help save an election!
Watching results on the web throughout the night? Take screenshots, save them as you go, and include a timestamp in the filename when you do. Those web results also have a way of changing, sometimes in the wrong direction, throughout the night. Your evidence could help save an election!
Vote on a Paper Ballot!
In some places, it may be too late to vote on paper ballots. In others, know your rights and whether you are entitled to vote on a paper ballot if you wish, even if they try to direct you towards an electronic voting system. For example, in OH and CA every voter may vote on paper if they wish and if they know to ask for one. So (politely) demand a paper ballot! Check with your County Clerk or Sec. of State if you're not sure.
A touch-screen system with a little paper printout is NOT a paper ballot! Those paper printouts are never counted and your vote will be 100% unverifiable, like Barack Obama's foolishly was. We made this short toon to explain that point quickly in 2008, so let's roll it out once again...
If You Must Vote on Touch-Screen and Your Vote Flips...
Try to capture it with your cell phone camera
Call poll supervisors to observe the problem.
Fill out a problem report.
Refuse to vote on that machine.
Request that the machine be taken out of service.
Get the serial number of the machine if possible (may be difficult in some cases).
Tell other voters in line which machine it was and that they should NOT vote on that machine!
Report it to county/town election office.
Report it to the Secretary of State.
Call local reporters and tell them the story.
Call 866-OUR-VOTE and tell them.
Contact bloggers and Election Integrity websites.
Raise holy hell.
Other Useful Stuff to Keep in Mind
Make sure you have the exact type of ID you'll need to be able to vote before you leave for the polls. If you're unsure what type of ID is needed, check with your Sec. of State or County Clerk.
Be prepared for disgracefully long lines, particularly in swing states. Your vote definitely won't get counted, much less accurately, if you leave the line before voting.
If you're challenged by a pollwatcher, take their picture with your cell phone, get their name, and then report it to 866-OUR-VOTE. But do NOT leave without voting, at the very least on a provisional ballot. But try to vote on a normal ballot, not a provisional ballot, if you possibly can.
If you're in line when the polls close, you still get to vote. Period.
Help others stay in line. If you can offer water, folding chairs, a snack, etc., to those in line fighting to cast their vote, you're doing a great public service for what's left of our democracy.
Share this list and/or this blog item with others. Print it out, share it via social networks, etc. to help spread the word.
Election protection begins with you! Good luck! You may need it!
Got any more advice we should add to this list? Let us know in the Comments section...
Earlier today, Brad Friedman reported in detail on the uncertified, "experimental" software patches that Ohio's Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) had secretly contracted [PDF] with Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) to create and install at the very last minute onto electronic central vote tabulation systems in 39 Ohio counties, encompassing more than 4 million Buckeye State voters.
We noted that Bob Fitrakis, one of the Ohio journalists at the Columbus Free Press who had initially broken the story late last week, was planning to file a legal complaint and temporary restraining order in hopes of blocking the use of the mysterious, untested software on the ES&S central tabulation systems in those counties.
Late tonight, just hours from the official opening of Election Day polls in the Buckeye State tomorrow, we obtained copies of both the complaint [PDF] and the motion for a temporary restraining order [PDF] which have now been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division and where oral argument has been scheduled for tomorrow morning, Election Day, at 9am local time before Judge Gregory L. Frost, a George W. Bush appointee...
Wow! We've got a new winner of the much sought, if incredibly rarely bestowed "BRAD BLOG Intellectually Honest Conservative Award!" It's so rarely bestowed, in fact, that it seems like several years since we've found anyone to bestow one upon for some odd reason...
Former John McCain 2008 presidential campaign adviser Steve Schmidt said in an interview Monday that voter fraud is not a serious problem in U.S. elections, despite conservatives' extensive talk of such a threat.
"It's part of the mythology now in the Republican Party that there's widespread voter fraud all across the country. In fact, there's not," Schmidt said on MSNBC
"And, so, I think that all of this stuff that has transpired over the last two years is in search of a solution to a problem --- voting fraud --- that doesn't really exist, when you look deeply at that question," Schmidt said.
Might have been nice if Schmidt had said something about this earlier, for example when his old boss, during a 2008 Presidential Debate falsely claimed that ACORN was "perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." Or when his party was on a tear passing purposely disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restriction laws in advance of this year's Presidential election.
Nonetheless, so desperate are we to find an Intellectually Honest Conservative out there somewhere, anywhere, that we'll even generously overlook all of that today and simply say: Congratulations, Mr. Schmidt! And thank you!