Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Voter Confidence Committee Secures Greater Election Transparency For Humboldt County

On Thursday night we got a major announcement from Humboldt Registrar Carolyn Crnich in support of a 10% manual audit of Tuesday's election. Late Friday afternoon, County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams left a voice message for public interest attorney Daniel J. Kosmal stating that a memo would be sent to poll workers instructing them to post the precinct poll tapes outside their polling places in accordance with CA election code 19384. These announcements would be welcome news at any time but especially in these crazy final days prior to the "election." The following was just sent to the VCC e-mail announcement list.

Monday morning at 10am the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County will hold a press conference in front of the County Courthouse in Eureka. We'd love to have your support if you can be there but what is more important is that you know about these items we'll be announcing...

1. With the support of Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, Humboldt will likely expand its manual audit (hand recount) for double checking machine accuracy from 1% to 10%. While the VCC has hoped for a 100% hand count, the 10% audit has been our fall back position based on this paper from the Election Defense Alliance: Official confirmation of the expanded hand count will come Tuesday morning when we invite you to join us at 9am for the Board of Supervisors meeting, also at the County Courthouse. Let's make sure they are convinced that the community requires this degree of verification for our election results, that we are willing to do the work to count the ballots, and that the extra expense (~ $10k) is money well spent.

2. Just before Monday's press conference we will be confirming in writing a verbal message from Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams stating that, in accordance with CA election code 19384, poll tapes will be posted outside each polling place immediately following the close of voting on Tuesday night. If we are unable to secure Lindsey's written commitment, our paperwork is all ready to go to court. Join us at the press conference to see which way it goes!

3. Our big volunteer project hinges on our ability to access the precinct vote totals that appear on these poll tapes. All citizens are encouraged to observe the poll closing procedures at their polling place at 8pm Tuesday night. Please visit our website at for a list of things to watch for. You can also let us know which polling place you'll be at, and when you've collected your info, you can also use our site to submit what you've learned. If you prefer, you can call in your report to our new hotline: 707-709-VOTE. Use that number if you observe anything improper throughout election day.

Mon 10am @ Courthouse - press conference
Tues 9am @ Courthouse - Supes meeting
Tues 8pm - monitor the closing of your polling place and contact the VCC with info

Listen to KGOE 1480 AM all night on election night for Peter B. Collins and Brad Friedman reporting on election problems in Humboldt and across the country. If necessary, the Voter Confidence Committee will provide real-time updates to organize a united community response.

The Voter Confidence Committee


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Friday, November 03, 2006

LISTEN ONLINE: Today at 1:50PM PST, Dave Berman Radio Interview on KZYX

As I mentioned last week, tonight I will be in Fort Bragg, CA (Mendocino County) at the invitation of the Alliance For Democracy. We'll be screening the new film Stealing America, Vote By Vote at the Fort Bragg Town Hall, and then I'll do a presentation about election integrity and peaceful revolution. The event is free and open to the public. Just before I get on the road, at 1:50pm this afternoon, I'll be on KZYX to promote the event in an interview with Linda Perry & Jim Tarbell on the Corporations and Democracy show. Listen live here.

Also, for those here in Humboldt, the Voter Confidence Committee just issued a terse press release announcing a press conference Monday morning at 10am in front of the County Courthouse in Eureka. We intend to announce details of election day monitoring efforts and invite the participation of the community. In addition, it is almost certain that a legal action will be announced regarding the posting of poll tapes as polls close on election night. Read here and then here for background.


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Humboldt Registrar Crnich To Propose 10% Manual Audit

In a stunning development at Thursday's meeting of the Humboldt Citizens' Election Advisory Committee, Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich told the small group she would ask the County Supervisors on Tuesday for the funds to expand the County's manual audit to 10%, far exceeding California's minimum 1% requirement. 10% would be consistent with the recommendations of the Election Defense Alliance, which I have touted here at WDNC and through the Voter Confidence Committee (and below).

Supervisor Jimmy Smith was present and assured Crnich that there was sufficient time to properly announce the agenda change. Apparently Crnich was already planning to address the Supes during their election day meeting regarding expenses for the eSlate machines. It now would seem Crnich's intention for Tuesday is to present a plan outlining how much it would cost to have the additional hand counting done. This amount would not change based on the number of counters since in theory it would take the same total number of person-hours to do the work. How long this would take is the other relevant variable that is tied to the number of counters.

The Humboldt Transparency Project was also discussed Thursday night. Much to her credit, Crnich has continued to explore ways to bring this process to life, even after her legal counsel suggested it could not be done. Crnich told us she is awaiting a response from the state Attorney General. Meanwhile, some testing has occurred that identified a physical obstacle - the scanner is clipping the timing marks off the side of the ballot. Research is ongoing to find a suitable "fit to page" program that would allow the ballot images to be recorded fully intact so that they can be made available on CDs to community members wishing to perform their own verification of the vote totals.

"It doesn't look like we'll be on the ground with the Transparency Project for this election, due partly to legal reasons and partly to technical reasons," said Crnich. It was immediately after this comment that she revealed her intention to introduce greater transparency anyway via the expanded hand count.

The issue of transparency presented itself in yet one other way Thursday night. In an exclusive WDNC report last Friday, guest blogger and VCC member Kathryn Hedges revealed that County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams had stated that he does not think it is required to post poll tapes outside polling places at the conclusion of election day. This despite the language of the election code, section 19384:

The precinct board shall, before it adjourns, post conspicuously on the outside of the polling place a copy of the result of the votes cast at the polling place. The copy of the result shall be signed by the members of the precinct board.
Other VCC members went through the standard poll worker training this week and confirmed that McWilliams is directing them to ignore (break) the law. Crnich said that she agrees with our reading of the code and doesn't understand "what's the big deal." She went on to say "I think Lindsey is trying to follow the California election code the way he understands it but I'm not sure his understanding is the same as mine."

It is huge to know that Crnich is taking our side on this though she wouldn't promise to instruct McWilliams to order the poll tapes posted. I asked her if she would ask McWilliams why he hates transparency. She declined. The Voter Confidence Committee is not likely to be as forgiving. Earlier on Thursday, VCC member Carol Brannan issued two public statements on behalf of the group. The first is a letter to the editor that has also been sent to the District Attorney, Board of Supervisors and Crnich; and the second is more like an opinion column meant for general distribution in the community. Both are shown below.

This marks a significant step forward for the VCC. While I am a founding member, my previous calls for McWilliams's resignation have always been my own lonely cry that the group did not publicly support. The times they are a changing. At the EAC meeting Crnich mentioned several times that she had been hearing from people in the community regarding this issue. She seemed to suggest that these people were all my associates. Even I can't be sure of that. I did ask what the appropriate channel would be for people to continue to make their concerns known. I said that it seemed more appropriate for community members to register their views with elections department officials rather than attempting to influence pollworkers directly. Since it is not clear what will be the final word on this matter, nor when that word will come, all concerned citizens are encouraged to continue to bring pressure on McWilliams to do the right thing. If necessary, bring this message and support for the 10% audit to the Supes meeting Tuesday morning at 9am.

* * *


Letter to the Editor:

We are both dismayed and outraged by Mr. Lindsey McWilliams’s comments at the voting machines test-run demonstration on Friday, October 27th at the Elections Office. Apparently Mr. McWilliams, an appointed elections official, stated that on November 7th he fully intends to break the California Election Code # 19384 requiring the public posting of vote totals at each precinct. By refusing to post the precinct tape he would effectively prevent a public comparison of the results of voting at the precincts with the final totals from the central tabulator.

The outright arrogance and obvious disdain for the rule of law that was expressed by Mr. McWilliams last Friday are offensive to all Humboldt County voters and citizens. Mr. McWilliams is fully aware of what can and cannot be done on Election Day according to the codes. If he chooses to ignore Code #19384, and, also directs the poll workers to disobey this law making them complicit in his crime, the citizens of Humboldt County will then be obligated to pursue this issue publicly and perhaps legally.

This behavior calls into question his ability to properly conduct the duties of his office. We request that the District Attorney conduct an investigation into this matter, and that our elected Board of Supervisors and Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich also determine the appropriate and decisive action warranted by such behavior, up to and including relieving Mr. McWilliams of his duties at the Elections Department.

The Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County
Carol Brannan, member

* * *

Take A Stand For Democracy!

As a member of the Voter Confidence Committee I have been handing out voter education flyers around the Eureka/Arcata area recently, in preparation for the November election, and thought it would be important to share some of the feedback I’ve received from the community. Most of the response has been positive and encouraging, but I felt compelled to include the following observations.

Some say that election irregularities are a national and not a local issue. – Helloooo! Each precinct total is added to each county total, to each district total, to each state total that is added to the national total. Every vote from every corner of the U.S. is supposed to count, and if there is a problem on the national level it had to start somewhere. Our group is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local grass roots organizations working on election integrity across the U.S. The sum total of all those efforts will change the voting process… nationally! National Zogby polls showed an astounding 92% of Americans want verified election results.

Many people turn down the offer of information because they say they already know how screwed up the process is and don’t want to be reminded. They are overwhelmed by the situation and see no hope of improvement in the near future. – Don’t give up! This is the best opportunity we’ve had to make a difference in years. If we don’t try then it is certain that nothing will change. How frightening is that thought?

Some others seem to think that our paper ballots confer a magical protection of our voting rights – Huge misconception! Without a publicly conducted hand count of the paper ballots to compare to the machine count there is no way to be sure the results are accurate. If the County continues to do the required 1% hand count of all precincts we only have a 50/50 chance of catching discrepancies in the results. Statistics experts say a 10% hand count in 100% of the precincts ensures a 99% certainty of catching discrepancies as small as 1%. Obviously, a 100% hand count is absolutely the best alternative.

Most people say that they have no time to help with an important initiative such as election reform – When will they have time? When it’s too late? Our constitutional rights are being eroded at an alarming rate and scope. We can no longer accept any measure of doubt as to whom has won an election… anywhere in the country!

How much do you cherish the rights, freedoms and benefits we all share in this country? As self-respecting citizens, loving parents and hard-working Americans we have an obligation to act:

Stand up for fair and transparent elections - demonstrate at the Elections Office, 3033 H St., Eureka and polling places throughout Humboldt County on Election Day. Call the Elections Office, 445-7481, and tell our county officials you will not accept less than an openly conducted 10% hand count to verify the election results and a 100% hand count would be even better!

Speak out for media accountability – call, write or email area newspapers and radio stations to tell them they have no business reporting election results that they cannot verify are accurate.

Volunteer to be an Observer at the polls @
Report Election Day problems @ 709-VOTE

Pass the word.

Think globally. Act locally.
Carol Brannan
Former Humboldt County Peace Ambassador to Washington D.C.
Member – Communities for Peace & Voter Confidence Committee


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We Do Not Consent, Volume 1 (left) and Volume 2 (right), feature essays from Dave Berman's previous blogs, GuvWurld and We Do Not Consent, respectively. Click the covers for FREE e-book versions (.pdf). As of April 2010, paperbacks are temporarily out of print. Click here for the author's bio.

Back Page Quotes

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