Massive irregularities, e-voting vulnerabilities wholly ignored by corporate media throughout contentious, landmark contest...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/6/2011, 5:30am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

For nearly two months, The BRAD BLOG has furnished in-depth coverage and analysis of the contentious WI Supreme Court election. Our coverage not only focused on the horse race, but, more vitally, on the vulnerabilities of the Badger State's e-voting systems, its lack of transparency, massive violations of basic chain-of-custody procedures revealed during the woeful, nearly-month long "recount" process, concluding with the state Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.)'s certification of the election results as "accurate" despite all of the above, and despite never having received the minutes of the Waukesha County "recount," as mandated by state law.

Beginning with our April 6 article, "WI Supreme Court Election Virtually Deadlocked, According to the Machines Anyway," and ending with the May 31 coverage of WI Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg's description of a "cascade of irregularities" during her concession speech, followed by Brad Friedman's exclusive June 1 interview with Kloppenburg on KPFK, we've offered an extensive and independently verifiable historical record of the extraordinary and exploitable flaws discovered and exposed in the state's electoral system.

Unfortunately, as has repeatedly occurred with thousands of election integrity articles published by The BRAD BLOG over the past seven and a half years, the issues concerning lack of transparency, the potential for insider election fraud, and a reliance upon "faith-based" electoral results, with rare, against-the-grain exceptions, have been greeted by a silence within our hollowed-out, corporate-owned mainstream media that has been so deafening as to call to mind an Orwellian suppression of public consciousness.

"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and never happened," penned George Orwell in his classic 1984, "that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death."...

When will they ever learn?

"Free and responsible government...can't exist without an informed public." - Bill Moyers, Moyers on America

Long before the "recount," on April 8, Brad Friedman produced "WI's Supreme Election Debacle (And What We Should, But Probably Won't, Learn From It)." In it, he noted that "a transparent" election system, "which can be overseen by we, the people, is the key to democracy. Without being allowed to oversee the counting of our elections, it's impossible to have a democracy that can stand the test of time."

Later that night, as he guest-hosted the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show, Brad added, in a "special comment" at evening's end:

This is our democracy. This is the life blood of this nation. If we can't figure out how to run an election in this country [where] the supporters of both the winner and the loser believe...that the results are accurate, then we don't have a democracy.

We need to be able to oversee the counting of our own ballots in our own elections.

That is self-governance. That is what is envisioned in our Constitution. And when we are cut out of that process then our democracy has been taken away from us.

Transparency is best assured by application of Democracy's Gold Standard: hand-marked paper ballots, publicly hand-counted at the precinct level on Election Night --- a process still utilized by many towns in New Hampshire whose results are frequently produced more rapidly and more accurately than those "reported" by their machine-tabulated counterparts.

What investigative journalism and election integrity are supposed to look like

Throughout its coverage, The BRAD BLOG took pains to point to a massive record of e-voting system vulnerabilities and failures --- both with regard to the oft-failed and easily manipulated optical-scan and 100% unverifiable, fully faith-based Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch screen) systems --- a record supported not only by numerous academic studies and two U.S. Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports but by repeated Election Day e-voting system meltdowns and train wrecks.

The most recent study comes from the Vulnerability Assessment Team, led by Dr. Roger Johnson, Ph.D., at Argonne National Laboratory. Johnson has "made it his mission to crack into every security system labeled as foolproof by their creators." He says that "most voting machines have almost no security to reveal tampering." E-voting systems can easily be manipulated "while machines are in storage or being transported by the truckload. He...demonstrated how he can turn cheating mechanisms in voting machines on and off by remote control."

Johnson provides the perfect response to the voting system vendors (such as Sequoia) that claim their optical-scanners and DREs are "tamper-" or "fool-proof" via the "Arrogance Maxim": "The ease of defeating a security device or system is proportional to how confident/arrogant the designer, manufacturer, or user is about it, and to how often they use words like 'impossible' or 'tamper-proof.'"

That being the case, perhaps it would be appropriate to suggest that a nation that entrusts democracy to these opaque, oft-failed, and easily manipulated systems is governed by fools.

In the 22 articles produced here to date regarding the WI Supreme Court election, The BRAD BLOG did not stop with the April 7 surprise announcement by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus of her "discovery" of 14,000 votes from the City of Brookfield. It detailed portions of Nickolaus' horrific record, including her practice of keeping election results only on a circa 1995 personal computer in her office; using the same user ID and password for all of the employees allowed to access it; and refusing to release municipality-by-municipality, much less ward-by-ward election results on Election Night. Brad covered the virtually impossible results reported by Nickolaus and her computer in past elections, such as the 20,000 more votes report than ballots said to have been cast in Waukesha's 2006 general election, and a remarkable 97.63% voter turnout there in the 2004 Presidential election.

The 'Judicial Independence' of Justice David T. Prosser - A BRAD BLOG Special Investigation exposed a hornets nest of corruption dating back to the days when Nickolaus served under Prosser in the WI Republican Assembly Caucus --- one which found the sitting Supreme Court Justice, then fighting for his political life, and the Waukesha County Clerk who "discovered" the votes that converted the Kloppenburg lead into a Prosser "win," as inextricably linked to Prosser's former number two man in the Assembly, Scott Jensen, and the felonious misuse of state employees and resources for partisan gain.

The BRAD BLOG's special investigation was launched because the American people were, once again, asked to "trust" unverifiable results coming from the e-voting machines and an election official with insider access to the system, one who had herself received immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation with prosecutors investigating the actions of Prosser's man Jensen.

The circumstance was all too reminiscent of the occasion back in Oct. 2005 when 13-year Monterey County, CA, Registrar of Voters Tony Achundo told Brad about his decision to utilize 100% unverifiable DREs. Achundo responded, when Brad asked about the potential for questions about the machine-reported results: "There is obviously going to have to be some trust and faith in the elections official, or in this case, it's me." That was just a few months before "Trust Me" Tony was charged with, and then plead no contest, to 43 criminal counts, including forgery, misapplication of funds, embezzlement, falsification of accounts, and grand theft.

Beginning with its very first article on the WI Supreme Court election, issued when Kloppenburg was said to be leading by 204 votes, The BRAD BLOG warned that a secure chain of custody of the paper ballots that were fed into the easily-manipulated and oft-failed optical scanners was vital to assure reliable electoral results. There was no other way that a "recount" could be trusted, because the absence of a secure chain-of-custody would mean there was no way to ensure that the paper ballots that are examined during the “recount” are the same ones that had been cast on Election Day.

In article after article, The BRAD BLOG documented appalling irregularities, including, but not limited to "wide open" ballot bags in Waukesha's City of Brookfield or ballots bags with missing or scratched out or changed serial numbers --- all in violation of secure chain of custody procedures. The Kloppenburg campaign objected. The objections were noted for the minutes in each county (the minutes which, from Waukesha, were never received or reviewed by the state G.A.B.). The unverifiable ballots were then counted anyway and included in the G.A.B.-certified "correct" results.

During the course of the "recount," some 2,700 votes from the original tally were found to have been counted inaccurately originally, according to the results posted each day throughout the "recount" by the G.A.B. That number comes as the result of hand-counts of paper ballots in just 31 of the state's 72 counties. The rest of the ballots cast were re-tallied yet again during the "recount" by the same oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer systems which tallied them, either accurately or inaccurately, on Election Night.

Those computer systems included a DRE in Waukesha's City of Pewaukee whose "official results report" poll tape is dated March 30, 2011. Just goes to show how much smarter the machines are than human beings. They can produce the official results seven days before the votes were supposedly cast on April 5, 2011.

All of this culminated with Kloppenburg’s concession speech, during which she said [emphasis added]:

Over 150 ballot bags containing tens of thousands of votes were found open, unsealed or torn. Waukesha County had twice as many torn, open or unsealed bags as every other county in the state combined. In many cases, municipal clerks in Waukesha testified the bags weren’t torn when they left cities, towns and villages so the security breaches occurred sometime when the bags were in Waukesha County’s custody.

(Keep in mind that there are 72 counties in WI and that 31 of those counties were ordered to do a hand-count of some, if not all, of the ballots cast in each. In one county, Waukesha, there were twice the number of chain-of-custody violations than all other counties combined, according to Kloppenburg's assessment.)

Waukesha was the only county in the entire state which failed to turn in its "recount" minutes prior to the G.A.B.'s certification of the results (though it is unknown if minutes from any county were actually reviewed by the G.A.B. prior to their certification. G.A.B. General Counsel Michael Haas has said there is no statutory requirement for them, the state's top election agency, to do so).

When we inquired how the G.A.B. would be able to confirm that ballots counted during the "recount" were actually the ones cast on Election Day, given the extraordinary number of ballot bags and security procedures which were found to have been in violation of the state's secure chain-of-custody procedures, the G.A.B. cited the correlation of the hand-count and the computer-printed results from Election Night.

The G.A.B.'s rationale was nothing short of Orwellian. The purpose of a hand-count is to determine whether or not the the otherwise unverifiable machine count was accurate. The gross violations of the chain of custody were precisely the type of cover-up an objective observer would expect to find if the machine-count had been gamed to begin with and an effort was made to manipulate the paper ballots in order to cover it up posthaste.

Was it a coincidence that the same county (Waukesha) whose partisan clerk "discovered" the 14,000 votes two days after the election had, according to Kloppenburg, "twice as many torn, open or unsealed bags as every other county in the state combined"? And what are we to make of that unusually high number of chain-of-custody violations when, according to the Asst. Attorney General, municipal clerks in Waukesha testified "the bags weren’t torn when they left cities, towns and villages"? Why were ballot bags, properly sealed when they left the cities, towns, and villages to be later found opened wide, torn, or re-serial numbered after they were received by the Waukesha County Clerk's office and before they were to have been officially opened by the "recount" Board of Canvassers in the presence of both parties and their public observers.

Instead of a transparent election where everyone can know that the results are both verified and accurate, there was an opaque election that produced a result that no one can say is accurate with certainty. That is the story of the 2011 WI Supreme Court election --- a story that the corporate-owned media failed to report.

Whatever it is that the corporate media do, it isn't journalism

In New York Times vs. United States (the "Pentagon Papers" case), Justice Hugo Black observed: "In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy...The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government."

Measured against those standards, the corporate media's performance in "covering" the WI Supreme Court election should be ranked as somewhere between dismal, bleak, and utterly dishonest.

While we can appreciate the adverse impact of newsrooms, depleted in numbers to meet the corporate bottom line, the plain and simple fact is that the leg work on this story had been already performed by scores of on-the-ground election integrity advocates, the Kloppenburg legal team and, of course, by The BRAD BLOG. The full story was always no further away than a link on a "reporter's" computer.

Yet, none of the WI corporate "news" outlets so much as mentioned the issue of e-vote tabulator vulnerability or the fact that the G.A.B. certified the results without ever having received or published, much less reviewed, the minutes of the recount in Waukesha which are said to include more than 800 documentary exhibits of evidence.

As we previously reported, the Journal Sentinel shamefully published an editorial which mocked the need for a recount at all. The article failed to mention the massive irregularities or the fact that the paper had endorsed Prosser. To its credit, the Journal Sentinel embedded a TMJ4 TV video containing the full Kloppenburg concession speech. The printed version mentioned Kloppenburg's statement that "150 ballot bags with tens of thousands of votes were found open, unsealed or torn," but it conveniently neglected mention that more than half of those bags were from Waukesha County. As in its previous editorial, the primary focus of their concession speech article was the cost of the recount --- a cost which, like that of the Badger State's overpriced e-voting systems, could have been avoided if WI elections were conducted in accordance with Democracy's Gold Standard in the first place.

The caption beneath the TMJ4 TV video placed a "(D)" after the name "Kloppenburg."

TMJ4 TV is owned by the Journal Broadcast Group. The Group owns and operates 33 radio and 13 TV stations in 12 states. Too bad with all those resources, TMJ4 TV couldn't figure out that Kloppenburg is not a Democrat. She's an independent.

The Huffington Post provided only a scant three paragraphs in which it mentioned the concession and the fact that Kloppenburg "picked up only 300 votes" as a result of the "recount."

Channel 3000 of Madison WI discussed the fact that Kloppenburg found miscounts in every county, as she noted during her concession speech. It furnished an appropriate quote that not only were 150 ballot bags torn, open, or unsealed, but that twice as many such bags were found in Waukesha County as in the rest of the state combined. It "balanced" that coverage by including Prosser's unsupported assertions about people making errors and "the number of errors is really very small," but made no effort to dig behind the "small" assertion or to discuss "machine errors."

If your only source of information were the LaCrosse Tribune, you'd have no knowledge of the massive irregularities that emerged during this "recount," for its Kloppenburg concession article fails to mention any despite the fact the statewide election was for a 10-year seat on the state's highest court, a seat that is likely to determine the balance of the court for years at one of the most politically tumultuous moments in state history.

WFR5 Green Bay furnished only cursory coverage, and WKOW Madison, while noting the Kloppenburg reference to the 150 ballot bags, displayed photos on-screen of properly sealed bags instead.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported [emphasis added]: "Kloppenburg, an assistant state attorney general, said problems uncovered during the recount should serve as a 'wake-up call to improve Wisconsin's election processes,' but there was no compelling proof that the integrity of ballots had been compromised."

Apparently, the Wisconsin State Journal does not see the photo at right as compelling "proof that the integrity of the ballots had been compromised" despite the fact that such a gross chain-of-custody violation eliminates the ability of any objective observer to ascertain whether the ballots inside such an open bag were the "same" ballots that had been cast on Election Day.

In either event, when you compare MSM "coverage" with ours, you come away with the disturbing recognition that whatever it is that the corporate media are engaged in, it isn't journalism.

UPDATE: On April 15 the Wisconsin State Journal reported that the G.A.B. was investigating "vote irregularities in Waukesha County" that "stretch back at least five years..."

Yesterday, the Journal Sentinel reported that the G.A.B., which previously promised a detailed report of that investigation by the end of June, is now refusing to "comment on whether there is an investigation, or when an investigation might be complete." A G.A.B. spokesperson went on to state that the G.A.B. would decide "whether to make the results [of any investigation] public," according to the Journal Sentinel.

As a testament to the fact that election integrity is not about Left or Right, but right and wrong, we find it appropriate to quote the words of Fox "News" legal analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano:

The government needs to be exposed because it cannot be trusted to expose itself. The light of day and the light of truth are the best disinfectants for the government.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).

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