-- Brad Friedman
Last night we offered the quick skinny on the abrupt resignation of Colorado's state Election Director, Holly Lowder, just 60 days out from what promises to be one of the largest and most important --- and potentially closest --- elections in the state's history.
We summarized some of the dizzying background on the exceptionally embarrassing and dysfunctional state of certification, decertification and recertification of e-voting systems in the Centennial State over the last two years, under current Sec. of State, Republican Mike Coffman (who is overseeing his own election for the U.S. House this November), and in previous years under two former Republican SoS' (one of whom was promoted by George W. Bush to do the same lousy job of e-vote testing for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission).
We also suggested, based on information from sources in the states, that the old euphemism about "election officials being in bed with voting vendors" may well become more than just a euphemism when the full explanation for Lowder's sudden departure became known.
And today, as we'd hinted last night, some of that information has now become known...
The Rocky Mountain News offers the scoop today on the reasons for Lowder's sudden departure, reporting that the 27 year election official had taken up residence with one of the vendors doing business with the state:
Holly Lowder, 66, resigned from her post as elections director two months before what is expected to be one of the biggest elections in recent Colorado history. She held that job since 2006. Before that, Lowder served as Alamosa County clerk for about 25 years.
Colorado Ethics Watch had been pursuing documents from the state regarding Lowder's ties to John Paulsen.
Paulsen, 59, operates a software company called LEDS, LLC from his home in Castle Rock, records show. LEDS has installed voter databases in more than 30 counties and recently got two contracts worth almost $184,000 with the secretary of state's office for data work related to the current election season.
Records show that Lowder recently lived at a Cherokee Street home in Denver that is owned by Paulsen.
Ethics Watch had made a number of public records requests concerning Paulsen's relationship with the SoS' office. Those requests were due for release on Thursday, the same day Lowder resigned.
She tells the News, however, that she didn't resign. "I retired. I did not resign," Lowder is quoted as having told them. Of course, Lowder denies any wrong doing, claiming that there was no conflict of interest here, and that she did not help Paulsen receive state contracts.
Claudia Kuhns, a local voting activist, said Paulsen was a subcontractor on the original state contract with Accenture to develop a new state voter registration database known as SCORE. The state cancelled that contract in 2005 and then hired Saber Corp. to develop the system, which was rolled out to all the counties earlier this year. Paulsen is listed as "key personnel" with the SCORE team.
As elections director, Lowder was responsible for overseeing all state elections. However, [SoS spokesman, Richard] Coolidge said [Lowder] was mostly involved with SCORE.
The News goes on to offer a few more details about the living arrangements between Lowder and Paulsen, which was not publicly disclosed and which the Ethics Watch director says should have been, "at a minimum."
Lowder's husband, apparently, was unaware of the relationship as well, according to the report:
"She's mentioned him," Terry Lowder said.
He said he thought his wife was living on her own.
Federal Government Encouraged Official/Vendor Relationship...
We've written many times, over the years at The BRAD BLOG, of the inappropriate co-dependent relationship between public election officials and the private voting system vendors to whom previously public functions have been outsourced at an alarming rate over the last 6 years.
The issue has been accelerated at an alarming rate with the help of some $3.8 billion dollars in federal, tax-payer dollars under the so-called Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. Though the bill was a bi-partisan effort to supposedly "upgrade" the American electoral system following the debacle of 2000, it's lead sponsor, former Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) drafted the legislation with help from lobbyists at Diebold and disgraced Republican lobbyist, Jack Abramoff's firm, Greenburg Traurig.
Ney has recently been released on parole after serving some 18 months in federal prison, as part of the 30 month sentence he received for taking bribes from Abramoff. Abramoff, now serving a 6-year term on charges of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion in the purchase of gambling cruise ships in Florida. He was given another 4 years last week in regard to a broad criminal influence-peddling probe, having pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion. 13 other high-powered D.C. players, so far, have been caught in the net in which Abramoff is now said to be cooperating with federal investigators.
Just last month, the non-partisan voting watchdog organization VotersUnite.org, released a 50-page report [PDF] detailing the dangers inherent in the growing relationships between election officials and private vendors, as encouraged by HAVA. The report also describes how some public officials are finally fighting back against complete private vendor control of public elections.
As Voters Unite's Ellen Theisen guest blogged here at The BRAD BLOG, vendors are "undermining" U.S. elections by removing transparency from the process and, with it, the public's ability to oversee elections and ensure accurate voting registration databases and election results.
"If the vendors withdrew their support for elections now, our election structure would collapse," wrote Theisen, who underscores that particularly chilling notion in her report.
Indeed, many are the election official who have told us, usually off-record, that they'd love to take legal action against their voting systems vendors for all sorts of failures and fraud, but that they are concerned about jeopardizing upcoming elections which still rely on those same vendors.
While, unlike Lowder, most of those officials don't actually live in the same residence with their vendor, they may as well in many cases. The Colorado situation, ultimately, can be seen as little surprise. Instead, it's just another election scandal that will likely disappear into the ether of the corporate media-sponsored and promoted "horse race", even as we barrel towards one of the most important elections in both our nation's and in Colorado's history.
Both voter registration roll problems, as well as concerns about the validity of election results, as reported by easily-manipulated, non-transparent, admittedly error-prone private voting systems may pose a nightmare for the country this November.