[Now updated with a load of new details on the election conspiracy, how it worked, and who the candidates were that allegedly benefited from it, following today's guilty plea entered in court. See bottom of article for that new information.]
A Republican election official, one of six allegedly bi-partisan [ed note: see update below for more on that] Clay County, KY, Board of Elections officials arrested last March and charged with a long-term conspiracy to rig elections, buy votes, and manipulate vote-selections on electronic voting machines without the knowledge of voters, has asked to change his plea from not guilty to guilty, according to local news reports...
That charge alleges that members of the conspiracy used the county Board of Elections as a vehicle to corrupt voting between 2002 and 2007 so they could hold on to power and enrich themselves and others.
According to the indictment [PDF], Bishop was a Republican election judge at precincts in 2002 and 2004, and hosted meetings at his house where candidates pooled money to be used for buying votes. The latest report also notes that Bishop, and some of the other conspirators, even employed Rush Limbaugh's illicit drug of choice, OxyContin, as part of their scheme...
Bishop's re-arraignment is thought likely to be an indication that he has decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors. That could be bad news for the other 7 charged in the scheme, 6 of whom were Board of Elections officials including a Circuit Court Judge, the County Clerk, a School Superintendent, and the county's Democratic election commissioner.
As we noted when we first reported on this matter in March, the arrests came at a moment when the denialist Baghdad Bobs of the electronic voting industry, and their enablers, facilitators, and apologists in the election official world had been clinging to their last, yet-to-be-fully-destroyed argument in favor of the use of oft-failed, easily-hacked, fully-untransparent electronic voting systems. The argument in short: though it's now recognized that all e-voting systems on the market are incredibly easy to hack in order to flip elections, nobody has actually yet been caught doing so.
The Clay County arrests, while they involved a fairly low-tech, and incredibly simple, manipulation of actual votes on ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines at the polling place after voters had left the booth --- as opposed to direct manipulation of a central vote tabulator machine, as computer scientists, security experts, and election integrity experts had most feared --- quickly pulled the rug out from under one of the "election industry" dead-enders' last arguments for the continued use of failed, un-democratic, vote-casting and counting equipment which uses private, untested, proprietary, "trade secret" software to unverifiably count votes in secret in our public elections.
The fall of that last rationalization for the use of these systems comes on the heels of one of the previously-discredited rationalizations: we must trust our election officials, they'd never take advantage of their positions as insiders, with unfettered access to e-voting systems, in order manipulate elections. (The arrest of Monterey County, CA, 13-year Registrar of Voters Tony Anchundo, among others, helped shred that myth several years ago.)
An interesting new bit of information in the Lexington Herald-Leader's coverage of Bishop's new plea notes that the conspirators are alleged to have used OxyContin --- also known as "Hillbilly Heroin," the same illegal narcotic which led to the arrest of rightwing drug-addict Rush Limbaugh in 2006 --- to buy votes in the earlier years of their scheme:
A long-term federal narcotics trafficking sting in the County had previously snagged the local mayor and a number of other elected officials prior to the recent arrests in the alleged election-manipulation conspiracy.
In one (or two) additional related ironies, Limbaugh himself reportedly had problems voting on the touch-screen used by Palm Beach County, FL, in last year's primary election in the Sunshine State when his fully-unverifiable Sequoia Edge DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting machine seemed to have frozen on him, leaving him unaware whether his vote had been counted twice, once, or at all.
Rush's Palm Beach County, FL, of course, is also the same county where fellow Republican mouthpiece Ann Coulter was found to have committed several voter fraud-related felonies herself. More recently, she has also been accused of committing voter fraud in the state of Connecticut. The BRAD BLOG hopes to offer a follow-up report on that ongoing investigation in the near future.
LATE UPDATE: Reports are now coming in following today's guilty plea by Bishop, including this excellent coverage by the Herald-Leader's Bill Estep. Pardon for the long quotage below, but there were a lot of interesting details coming out of today's plea.
For example, while we've previously argued that it doesn't really matter whether this scam was meant to benefit Republicans or Democrats, and seemed as much about enriching the conspirators as anything else, details from Bishop's plea seem to point to Republican officials who benefited from it.
Noteworthy new details from Estep's coverage follows...
Paul E. Bishop, a former Republican precinct judge, pleaded guilty Friday to helping buy votes.
His plea agreement included new allegations in an investigation that has already shaken the county's longtime power structure.
For instance, Bishop said that in 2004, Clay County school Superintendent Douglas C. Adams gave him $2,000 to bribe voters. Bishop said he paid around 100 voters about $20 each to vote for a slate of candidates that included state Rep. Tim Couch.
Couch, a Hyden Republican, had defeated Rep. Barbara White Colter in the 2002 GOP primary and was running for re-election in 2004.
Couch said Friday that he did not ask or tell anyone to buy votes for him and, if it happened, he had no knowledge of it.
But Couch said in an interview that people might have bought votes for him.
"That's a possibility that they included me on it," he said of the slate. "I know there was things that went on over there that I didn't want to be no part of."
Colter had been part of a group that a drug dealer was asked to buy votes for in May 2002, according to a court motion filed in an earlier phase of the investigation.
Colter told the Herald-Leader earlier that she heard in 2002 that for a certain price, candidates could join a slate for which votes would be bought, but said she refused.
Couch and Colter have not been charged in the case.
Bishop said people involved in the scheme pooled $150,000 to $250,000 at a meeting in his garage days before the 2002 primary election. The jailer running for re-election, Charles Marcum, came in with about $10,000 in a bread bag and tossed it on the table, Bishop said.
Bishop said others at the meeting included Adams, Thompson, Stivers, Jones and Roy Morgan, a well-known businessman who has been active in county politics.
Marcum and Morgan have not been charged, and neither could be reached for comment Friday.
A woman who answered the phone at Marcum's house Friday evening said, "That's ridiculous. No comment," when told of Bishop's allegation.
Adams, who called the 2002 meeting at Bishop's garage, instructed Bishop how to use some of the cash to buy votes for a slate of candidates that included Marcum and Thompson, who was running for county clerk in the Republican primary against incumbent Jennings B. White, according to the plea agreement.
Bishop, a disabled former school-bus driver, faces up to 20 years in prison. His sentence will probably be much lower than that under advisory guidelines, however.
Bishop's sentencing is scheduled for October 19th. The trial for the other 7 conspirators in the case is currently scheduled to begin in September.