Guest Blogger Attorney Ken Simpkins Seeks Your Help in Bringing Accountability to One of America's Worst Elections Officials...
By Ken Simpkins on 2/18/2007, 4:39pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Ken Simpkins

ED NOTE: Over the last nine months or so, along with attorney Paul Lehto, Carlsbad, CA attorney Simpkins has filed a number of voter lawsuits in San Diego in his continuing attempt to help bring accountability to the unaccountable San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas and his atrocious elections administration. Those suits included complaints and appeals in the now-infamous Busby/Bilbray Special Election as well as voter lawsuits brought both before and after last November's General Election in San Diego.

After being stonewalled by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office on requests for recounts, information regarding the right to vote on paper ballots, and the results of an audit of the November 2006 election, citizens are taking action. Last Thursday, a complaint [PDF] was submitted to the new California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, addressing voters’ concerns. Secretary Bowen was voted into office on the promise of cleaning up elections.

SD County's Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas, has attracted the attention of The BRAD BLOG for many months as "one of the worst elections officials in the country." His policy of sending pre-programmed, election-ready Diebold voting machines home with poll workers weeks in advance of elections, without any training on security or assurance that the machines would be held in a secure environment, likewise attracted the ire of many San Diego County voters. Those same voters are signing a petition urging the Secretary of State to investigate the allegations in the complaint and report on the findings. I urge you to sign it as well.

The complaint reports on the violations of the certification requirements under state and federal law, the failure to properly test the machines pursuant to official procedures, the policy of undermining the right to vote on paper ballots, and the disregard of basic auditing principles in conducting the required one percent manual tally.

The voting machine "sleepover" policy is one example of the disregard by the Registrar of Voters of the proven vulnerabilities of the Diebold machines, which can be hacked in one minute and made to change the outcome of an election. In defending the sleepover policy, Mr. Haas points to the "tamper-evident" tape used to seal the memory card compartment as sufficient security against fraud. But, when one observer discovered on election day that the tape had been removed from the machines at two precincts, and reported the violation of the certification requirements to Mr. Haas, he refused to take the machines out of service and allowed voters to cast their votes on the then-uncertified machines...

While voters knew that Mr. Haas loved his machines, they did not know how much until the Secretary of State required him to make paper ballots available. Mr. Haas ordered poll workers not to inform voters about their right to vote on paper ballots, and most of them zealously obeyed. Mr. Haas opposed in court a voter’s request to ensure that sufficient quantities of paper ballots be made available and to require that notices be placed at the polls informing voters that they could vote on paper ballots. The court sided with Haas. Voters who asked for paper ballots were chided for not wanting to vote on machines. And, Mr. Haas waited until after the media had called the election before canvassing paper ballots.

Mr. Haas undermined the audit by "randomly" selecting the precincts to be audited before the votes from the precincts had been counted. That allowed the canvass to proceed with the foreknowledge of which precincts would be checked before workers completed the canvass. When the canvass revealed discrepancies, Mr. Haas certified the election without resolving the discrepancies as required by law.

Responding to the complaint will be a test for Secretary Bowen. She will either show voters that she will not tolerate elections officials who violate election laws, or she will show them that she is not up to the task of challenging those who care more about their own convenience than the integrity of elections.