Paper Wastes No Time in Getting Story Wrong, Right From the First Sentence...And Going Downhill from There...
By Brad Friedman on 6/30/2006, 12:00pm PT  

It's still remarkable how many in the MSM regard bloggers as "unreliable"...even as they get story after story wrong and report unsubstantiated, unverifiable nonsense as fact.

I wrote early on in the Busby/Bilbray election results saga about AP (and all the rest) reporting that Brian Bilbray had won the election. They did so without a shred of evidence to prove that assertion.

Yesterday, the San Diego Union-Tribune's John Marelius jumped in to report on the Busby/Bilbray fiasco (where the world's most hackable voting machines were sent home overnight with poll workers days and weeks before the election, to be stored in their cars and garages or who-knows-where in violation of both state and federal laws, effectively decertifying all of the voting machines used in that U.S. House special election.).

Here's how the U-T article began:

A coalition of election watchdog organizations is calling on the San Diego County Registrar of Voters to conduct a full manual recount of the June 6 primary election because of alleged security breaches involving touch-screen voting machines.Specifically, the California Election Protection Network contends the county violated federal and state regulations requiring "secure custody" of voting machines by allowing poll workers to take them home before election day.

Okay...For a start...Who is calling for a recount, as Marelius writes? You can't recount something that you haven't counted in the first place and I know of no organization declaring "No Confidence" who has called for a "recount." Yet, the story uses the word "recount" again and again.

While it may be a subtle distinction, it's a very key one that I assure you both Karl Rove and Frank Luntz would understand quite clearly.

If the concept is too difficult to understand, however, the California Election Protection Network's press release announcing their eloquent "No Confidence" declaration --- referred to in the article --- not only never uses the word "recount", it also spells out clearly that they are not asking for a "recount". "Calling it a 'Free-Count' rather than a recount," the press release states, "the CEPN citizen watchdogs insist that this manual counting of the ballots be conducted without charge to the voting public."

If that was the only problem with the U-T article, we might have let it slide. But it's not. Not by a longshot. Marelius then goes on to "report" that a townhall meeting was held on Wednesday in San Diego. It was, of course. But apparently Marelius neither bothered to attend it, nor talk to anybody who actually did attend it.

He did, however, bother to report the point of view of SD County Registrar Mikel Haas (who also didn't attend). In fact, Marelius devoted a full five grafs to Haas' point of view. By my count, there are at least 5 different complete inaccuracies, misrepresentations and out-and-out misleading pieces of information passed on in those grafs...

Now we may ask for much needed donations here from time to time, but they're always optional. Nobody actually has to pay to access the information available easily and quickly on The BRAD BLOG. So what Marelius' excuse is --- for reporting repeating Haas' horseshit directly and without bothering to verifying one iota of it --- is beyond me.

It's just after 3:30am as I draft this article, and I was up and on the air at 7am Thursday for my first radio interview of the day, which haven't stopped until now. So I'm a bit too tired to take the next 2 hours to detail all of those errors. But please read his article and you'll see what I mean. If you don't, come back here and read this article or this article or almost any of these and you'll begin to get most of the key issues which Marelius apparently didn't bother to look into, concerning the massive security breaches that occurred through Mikel Haas' atrocious mismanagement of the election.

One slick bit of misdirection from Haas, however, was somewhat new in this article, so we'll point it out specifically:

Haas noted that only about 7,000 of the nearly 500,000 people who voted in the June 6 election in San Diego County used touch-screen machines. They were mostly voters who were handicapped, required translation or voted in person at the registrar's office. Most other voters used an optical scan voting system that required them to fill out a paper ballot.

That's a clever way of suggesting that the thousands of Americans who have declared "No Confidence" in the CA-50 election and demanded a full manual hand count of all paper ballots and "paper trails" are somehow only concerned about the touch-screen machine votes. Wrong. 100%. And Marelius could have figured that out if he'd spent just 1 minute less time on the phone with Haas, and 1 minute more actually learning what all the hubbub is about and what everyone has been asking for in these declarations. Indepedently.

"No one, except Mikel Haas, has differentiated between the optical scan and DRE [touch-screen] machines," wrote John Gideon, executive director of non-partisan election watchdog VotersUnite.org in reply to Haas' comment in the article. Both Diebold's op-scan and touch-screen machines "are all just as much in need of control and they all, as far as NASED [the federal voting machine certification body] is concerned, have the same security requirements. This argument about 7,000 or 500,000 is a red-herring," wrote Gideon.

Marelius could have learned that, of course. In less than 1 minute. With a call to me, Gideon, or any other expert familiar with the issues in this case. But Marelius apparently didn't bother.

Lastly, it was disappointing to see the subsequent 3 grafs in the article offer still more misinformation. This time, from California Voter Foundation's Kim Alexander who has otherwise, as far as we can tell, been working hard for election reform in this country.

I'll hope that Alexander simply misunderstood the issues at hand (she wasn't at the townhall meeting either) when she is quoted as saying that the CA Sec. of State's regulations "did not include prohibiting election officials from allowing machines to go home with poll workers before and after an election."

Well, that's true. And, the SoS's regulations did not include prohibiting election officials from setting the machines on fire, either.

But I'm pretty sure there are rules and laws that would prohibit that. Much as there are very specific and recent rules and laws (both state and federal) that clearly prohibit the breach of security that occurs when poll workers take home these specific voting machines.

We've reported on these pages one regulation, statutory law, provision, code and rule after another that specify the required security for these particular voting machines at both the state and federal level. Clearly those rules and laws were violated when the voting machines were sent home unsecurely with pollworkers, who were given no information on secure storage procedures for these machines. When they were stored in garages and cars, accessible to neighbors, family members, and complete strangers, they were effectively and immediately decertified for use in the June 6th election as mis-administered by Mikel Haas.

Fortunately, not all California Registrars are as wrecklessly irresponsible as Haas.

We'll have a report later today from a Registrar of Voters in a different California county who clearly understands what's going on here, has concerns about the deployment of voting machines in the way that Haas decribes in the U-T article as having been "followed without incident for about 40 years." As well, she knows better than to blithely dismiss the concerns of election integrity advocates on this as simply "paranoia" as Marelius allows Haas --- without challenge --- to do in the embarrassingly bad Union-Tribune report.

(UPDATE: That statement, from Yolo County, CA Registrar of Voters, Freddie Oakley is now posted here...)

And imagine, Marelius gets paid for articles like that as a staff reporter, and I'm guessing he never has to beg for donations to support his work.

A courtesy to Mr. Marelius...

-- CA Election Code Sections 19250 & 19251
-- CA's Diebold Optical Scan & Touch Screen System "Conditional" Certification (2/17/06)
-- Federal NASED Certification Security Memo (3/22/06)

A courtesy to BRAD BLOG readers...

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