Friday, July 28, 2006

Grand Juries and Election Investigations

On Thursday I got a call from Tom Courbat down in Riverside County. He does a lot of great work with Democracy For America - Temecula Valley (DFA-TV), including presentations for the Board of Supervisors, the elections department and all sorts of other actions parallel to what I've done up here with the Voter Confidence Committee.

Tom reached out to me because his local Grand Jury asked him to testify about election systems
next week. Through the California Election Protection Network Tom knew that I had previously testified (January 2006) to the Humboldt Grand Jury. This is true, though I never did write about that experience in detail because at the time I was bound by the Grand Jury admonition, an affirmation that I will keep my testimony secret until the Grand Jury's final report is published.

That report was published last month (.pdf). It does not even come close to doing me justice. The report does not indicate that the Grand Jurors investigated the things I testified about. It was a pretty wide ranging interview covering topics including the questionable legality of Humboldt's election machines, various reports of demonstrated security failures, ranked choice voting, and the GAO (.pdf) and other government reports, most notably this Staff Report (.pdf) from the CA Secretary of State's office in April 2004 which charges Diebold with installing uncertified software in voting machines in 17 CA counties, including Humboldt.

On that last point, I have written many times that this scenario must ultimately lead to accountability in the elections department. Did anyone know the installation of uncertified software was happening? This is a very telling question because the buck still stops somewhere no matter the answer. If someone in the elections department knew about the installation, that suggests complicity. If nobody knew, that suggests negligence and an alarming lack of security.

I had hoped this to be a good jumping off point for the Grand Jury to begin investigating but apparently not. Based on this experience, my advice to Tom Courbat was to make it as easy as possible for the Grand Jurors to do their jobs, and to lead them by the nose as much as possible. I have recently been doing some of the research I had hoped the Grand Jurors would do. Rather than presenting a compelling question, I hope to go back to them in the next few months with a case all ready to be made.

I will share more on this in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are the curious sort, I have obtained Humboldt's original contract with Global Election Systems (later bought by Diebold). Take a look and see what questions arise. Post them in the comments section of this post at WDNC. Also visit your county's website to find the contact information for your local Grand Jury. Use their process to submit a complaint about your local election conditions.


Posted by Dave Berman - 11:50 PM | Permalink
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I was very disappointed in the Grand Jury report, which (as far as I could tell) includes nothing at all about your usual topics. They seem to find it commendable that poll supervisors pick up the AccuVote scanners the night before Election Day, in fact.

I am curious about the Observer Panels. Is it true that ordinary citizens (such as VCC members) can volunteer? Do we know what the process is, such as how and when to apply? Would they automatically reject our applications, or feel confident we would share the Grand Jury members' impression that everything is in good order?

Posted by Anonymous wormtorturer @ Jul 29, 2006, 1:22:00 AM
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VCC members in particular, as non-partisan watchdogs, should be considered good candidates to serve on the Observer Panels just as we are welcome at the Election Advisory Committee meetings on the first Thursday of each month, 6:30pm at the County Courthouse conference room A. I don't know exactly how to volunteer but I expect you could find out by calling the elections department: 707 445-7678.

Posted by Blogger Dave Berman @ Jul 29, 2006, 1:13:00 PM
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