Who Really Won?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NC Judge Declines To Protect Diebold

One of the nation's leading suppliers of electronic voting machines may decide against selling new equipment in North Carolina after a judge declined Monday to protect it from criminal prosecution should it fail to disclose software code as required by state law.

Diebold Inc., which makes automated teller machines and security and voting equipment, is worried it could be charged with a felony if officials determine the company failed to make all of its code - some of which is owned by third-party software firms, including Microsoft Corp. - available for examination by election officials in case of a voting mishap.

The requirement is part of the minimum voting equipment standards approved by state lawmakers earlier this year following the loss of more than 4,400 electronic ballots in Carteret County during the November 2004 election. The lost votes threw at least one close statewide race into uncertainty for more than two months.

About 20 North Carolina counties already use Diebold voting machines, and the State Board of Elections plans to announce Thursday the suppliers that meet the new standards. Local elections boards will be allowed to purchase voting machines from the approved vendors.

"We will obviously have no alternative but withdraw from the process," said Doug Hanna, a Raleigh-based lawyer representing North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Poll Tax Update: Blacks Are Paid To Vote

The wisdom of Sue Burmeister...

The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law. It also says that despite Republican assurances the law would not disenfranchise elderly, poor and black voters, Susan Laccetti Meyers, the staff adviser for the Georgia House of Representatives, told the Justice Department "the Legislature did not conduct any statistical analysis of the effect of the photo ID requirement on minority voters."

It cites analyses showing that, in fact, the effects of the law --- which will require Georgians seeking to vote to present a driver's license or an identification card for which they must pay --- could fall disproportionately on blacks. It concludes that the state had failed to show the law would not weaken minority voting strength, and recommends that the attorney general's office formally object to it.

However, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in August approved the law. Last month, a judge suspended the photo ID requirement after finding the law imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and will not effectively combat voter fraud. A lawsuit in the case continues.

A Justice Department spokesman, Eric Holland, on Thursday said the memo was only "a draft that did not include data and analysis from other voting section career attorneys," and that Georgia's law was approved because the department determined that it would not adversely affect minorities. The draft, he said, "was subsequently corrected by the state, and also contains a number of factual errors," though those corrections did not include the statements made by Burmeister and Meyers.

Georgia Democrats reacted angrily to the memo and to reports that the department had approved the voter ID law even though staff attorneys recommended against it. They said the law is the most blatant evidence that Georgia's election laws should remain under federal scrutiny, as required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, despite attempts by Georgia Republicans to free the state from federal oversight.

U.S. Rep. David Scott, an Atlanta Democrat, said he would push the House committee on government oversight to call a hearing into the Justice Department's approval of the law, though even Democrats said it was unlikely that a Republican-controlled committee would investigate the Republican-run department.

"We cannot allow these slaps to go unanswered. We've got to slap back," Scott said at a Capitol Hill news conference held by five of Georgia's six Democratic congressmen. "We are at war."

State Rep. Stan Watson (D-Decatur), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said reports that the politically appointed leadership of the Justice Department overruled its staff and approved the voter ID law "bears out that the law would hamper blacks, other people of color and the elderly in voting."

According to the memo, Burmeister told the Justice Department that she was "aware of vote-buying in certain precincts" and detailed one episode in which she said former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre offered to put her name on a card and then round up black voters and "pay them to vote for the candidates on the card in exchange for $2,000." McIntyre, who died last year, was convicted in 1984 in connection with extortion.

The memo, leaked to The Washington Post, went on to state: "Rep. Burmeister said that if there are fewer black voters because of this bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. She said that when black voters in her black precincts are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls."

Burmeister said Thursday that the memo's record of what she said "was more accurate than not," but added: "That sounds pretty harsh. I don't remember saying those exact words."

"There is other documentation available that proves there is significant cause for voter fraud in Georgia," she said. "We've had counties with dead people voting. We have a history in Georgia that shows there is fraud going on. This [memo] was a letter that was dropped by bureaucrats who want to put a chink in it."

Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement, derided Burmeister's remarks.

"It's unbelievable that any elected official would say something like this. It doesn't have any, any merit," Lewis said. "This is an affront to every black voter and would-be black voter not just in my district but in the state of Georgia."

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) called Burmeister's claim "reprehensible demagoguery."

"That is racist," he said. "I think the African-American community deserves an apology."

The memo also states that in defending the Georgia law, Burmeister claimed the voter IDs would not be as difficult to obtain as critics claim because Gov. Sonny Perdue "had passed legislation to mandate a [state Department of Driver Services] office in every county and that individuals can obtain state IDs in Kroger grocery stores."

"Neither statement is correct," the memo concludes.

Perdue spokeswoman Heather Hedrick said Thursday that memo's claims that the voter ID law would adversely affect minority voting doesn't change the governor's support for the measure.

"This is common-sense legislation," Hedrick said. "Under the old rules, an illegal alien could pick up a library card out of the trash and use it to cast a ballot. Voting is a sacred right and it deserves safeguards to prevent fraud."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

More Questionable Results in Ohio

Those Ohio referendums? Amazing how the votes for some of them differed so much from the polls!

The November 6 Dispatch poll showed Issue Two passing by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One.

But on November 8, the official vote count showed Issue Two going down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5% against, with just 36.5% in favor. To say the outcome is a virtual statistical impossibility is to understate the case. For the official vote count to square with the pre-vote Dispatch poll, support for the Issue had to drop more than 22 points, with virtually all the undecideds apparently going into the "no" column.

The numbers on Issue Three are even less likely.

Issue Three involved campaign finance reform. In a lame duck session at the end of 2004, Ohio's Republican legislature raised the limits for individual donations to $10,000 per candidate per person for anyone over the age of six. Thus a family of four could donate $40,000 to a single candidate. The law also opened the door for direct campaign donations from corporations, something banned by federal law since the administration of Theodore Roosevelt.

The GOP measure sparked howls of public outrage. Though again opposed by the Christian Right, Issue Three drew an extremely broad range of support from moderate bi-partisan citizen groups and newspapers throughout the state. The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed.

Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed. For this to have happened, Issue Three's polled support had to drop 28 points, again with an apparent 100% opposition from the previously undecideds.

The reversals on both Issues Two and Three were statistically staggering, to say the least.

The rest here from the Free Press, via The Smirking Chimp.

New Mexico Officials Block Machine Inspections

In the past week, two New Mexico election officials refused to allow the voter plaintiffs in the case of Patricia Rosas Lopategui v. Rebecca Vigil-Giron, et al. to conduct meaningful inspections of their electronic voting machines. This despite clear indications that there were serious problems in last years presidential election with these same machines, which do not produce a voter-verifiable and auditable paper record.

Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera has given no explanation for her sudden, flat refusal to permit any inspection after weeks of discussions between plaintiffs attorneys and attorneys for the county. Plaintiffs have sworn statements from Bernalillo County voters who tried to vote on the countys paperless touchscreen voting machines, manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, and whose votes were switched before their eyes from the candidate they supported to a different candidate. Plaintiffs also have evidence that the Countys widespread use of another type of paperless machine, the Shoup 1242, resulted in the erasure of votes that citizens tried to cast for presidential candidates.

San Juan County Clerk Fran Hanhardt permitted limited inspection of her countys voting machines. She would not, however, open the voting machines to permit plaintiffs experts to examine their components. The experts included Dr. David Dill, a computer science professor from Stanford University with extensive knowledge of electronic voting machine issues. The reason? Doing so would void the Countys warranty from the manufacturer, Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

Ms. Hanhardt also refused to allow plaintiffs experts to examine or copy electronic files containing the results of the November 2004 presidential election that were stored in the machines redundant memories. The reason? The machines store the results of public elections in a secret, proprietary format that ES&S claims as its private property. According to Ms. Hanhardt, allowing plaintiffs experts to see those results in their original form would violate the countys contract with ES&S, which prohibits disclosure of proprietary information.

However, plaintiffs experts did cast votes in simulated voting on two touchscreen machines, and noted several anomalies. Several times when they tried to vote for a candidate, the X appeared instead in the adjacent box for a different candidate. Once when boxes for two candidates were pressed at the same time, neither registered a vote but an X appeared in the box of a third candidate between them. In addition, the experts were able to cast ballots that contained no votes whatsoever, something the County Clerk and her staff had told them the machines would not permit. They did this by first selecting the straight party option, which marked votes for every candidate of the selected party on the ballot. Next, they pressed the boxes for each of the partys individual candidates, which erased those votes. Finally, they pressed the Vote button, and the screen notified them that they had successfully voted.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Obama: Cut the Crap

It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.

Think about the story of the 2004 presidential election when voters in Milwaukee received fliers from the non- existent ``Milwaukee Black Voters League,'' warning that voters risk imprisonment for voting if they were ever found guilty of any offense--even a traffic violation. In that same election, in a county in Ohio, some voters received mailings misinforming voters that anyone registered to vote by the Kerry Campaign or the NAACP would be barred from voting. Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only to keep Americans away from the polls.

I hope voters who go to the polls today are not victims of such malicious campaigns, but I know hoping is not enough. That is why I am introducing the Deceptive Election Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005 to provide voters with real protection from deceptive practices that aim to keep them away from the polls on Election Day.

The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. And the bill seeks to address the real harm of these crimes --voters who are discouraged from voting by misinformation -- by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed and intimidated voters with accurate and full information so they can cast their votes in time. Perhaps just as important, this bill creates strong penalties for deceptive election acts, so people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the hand.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Repub Dirty Tricks Fail In Blue Jersey

"Today, attorneys for the Corzine for Governor Campaign and the State Democratic Party challenged an apparent statewide effort by the Republican State Committee to train its Election Day workers to challenge voters based on signature comparisons. Responding to numerous complaints received by the Democratic campaigns, the Attorney General issued the following directive making clear that such challenges violate New Jersey election laws and informing Election Board officials statewide to prevent the reoccurrence of these practices anywhere in New Jersey."

An excerpt from the Attorney General Memo (11/08/05):

As you further know, in terms of the signature comparison process, it is the exclusive duty of the district board workers to compare signatures. This process must be done openly and in the full view of the challengers, but the challengers cannot engage in this process.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fool Me Everytime, Shame on Us

Election day voting is going on across the Old Dominion, but everything has not gone smoothly in Roanoke County.

News 7 has received calls from several voters in at least four different precincts who say their votes for Tim Kaine were not recorded or took several attempts to go through.

They contend the electronic touch screens repeatedly indicated they were voting for Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore instead of registering their intended vote for his Democratic opponent Tim Kaine.

Roanoke Co. Registrar Judy Stokes says she doesn't want to say the problem is operator error on the part of the voters, but she points out the touch screens are sensitive. She says anyone who is having difficulty voting should ask one of the poll workers for assistance.

State election officials have been told of the problem. They believe if there is a problem, it could have been caused by the way the machines were stored.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Wash: Repubs Try to Purge Voters, Blame the Interns

Steven Lacey is a regular voter whose plan for Election Day next Tuesday was to walk a few blocks from his Belltown apartment building and cast his vote, as usual, at his local precinct. At least, that was his plan until he received a letter last night informing him that his right to vote had been challenged by a woman from the east side named Lori D. Sotelo.

The letter reported that Sotelo had declared to King County election officials, “under penalty of perjury,” that Lacey’s voter registration was not valid because he couldn’t possibly be living at the address he was claiming. “Which is insane,” Lacey said. The 35-year-old insurance company account manager lives at the Watermark, a 60-unit downtown apartment building built in 1908. However, Sotelo appeared to believe the Watermark was a storage unit, a P.O. box, or some other location that Lacey could not legally be using as an address of record.

Furious, Lacey did a quick web search and realized that Sotelo was a leader in the King County Republican Party. He couldn’t understand how she came to think he was illegally registered, since the Watermark, Lacey said, “couldn’t more clearly be a physical residence.” He left Sotelo a phone message telling her as much, but he never heard back.

Then he asked around, and found that many people in his building had received the same letter, informing them that their votes would not be counted until they proved, at a hearing or through a signed affidavit, that they were legally registered.

“A lot of the people that live in the building are over 50 and have voted in dozens of elections and are incredibly pissed,” he said. “Everybody’s pretty pissed.”

It turns out that Lacey and his neighbors were just a few among at least 140 King County voters who were wrongly challenged by Sotelo, who chairs the King County Republican Party’s “Voter Registration Integrity Project.” Sotelo could not be reached for comment on Friday morning, when The Stranger first reported the mistakes on our blog, but Chris Vance, chairman of the state Republican Party later confirmed for The Stranger that a serious mistake had been made.

“We are withdrawing those challenges today and apologizing to those folks,” he said. He added that it is “just coincidence” that a significant number of the wrongly challenged voters live in a strongly Democratic neighborhood.

The Republicans’ “Integrity Project,” announced on October 26, was part of a running effort by Republicans to highlight what they claim is an ineffectual effort by Ron Sims’s King County Elections Office to purge illegal voters from King County voter rolls. Republicans announced in October that their project had discovered 1,943 King County residents who were not living at the address to which they were registered—which would be illegal, if it were true.

“If they were doing their jobs,” Vance said of King County election officials, “we wouldn’t have to do this.” But if that’s why Republicans undertook the project, how did they then come to do such an ineffectual job themselves?

“We’re off by less than 10 percent,” Vance said, establishing what appeared to be a lower standard of accuracy for his party than for the King County elections officials his party claims to be watch-dogging. “For having this done by volunteers and interns, this is very good work.”

Rest here via "The Stranger".

Your Liberal Media: Drop Dead

Brad Friedman wonders how much reporting has been done on the non-partisan GAO report that basically said, "The Electronic Voting Machines which are proliferating counties and states across America..are not secure, not accountable, not recountable, not transparent, not accurate and not adequately monitored or certified by anybody."

But there has not been a single wire-service (not AP, not UPI, not Reuters, not AFP etc.) nor a single mainstream American print newspaper (not NYTimes, not Washington Post, not any of them) to run even a paragraph on any of it. Not one.