Saturday, October 28, 2006
Kathryn Hedges is a long-time member of the Voter Confidence Committee who comments frequently here at WDNC and whose writing I have previously highlighted in the GuvWurld Blog. On Friday she attended the Three-Card Monte Dog and Pony Show, also known as the Logic and Accuracy (L&A) Testing conducted by the Humboldt County Elections Department on the County's voting equipment. What follows is her lengthy report with a few editorial comments inserted by me - Dave Berman
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On Friday morning, October 27, 2006, I attended the Logic & Accuracy public "test" with Lindsey McWilliams. (He actually just demonstrated the process for one Accuvote optical scanner. It will take the rest of the week to test all the machines, and they don't even test all combinations of ballots possible at a polling place--just each memory card with at least one ballot.) Also attending were 3 poll workers and a reporter for the North Coast Journal (whose name I don't recall). A reporter for Channel 3 taped some video footage of poll tapes printing and interviewed Lindsey.
I arrived slightly late, but I hadn't missed much. Lindsey started by gathering us in a conference room to explain the different levels of elections in California (Federal, statewide, county, city), the types of races, and how these relate to the number of different ballots used in a given election--even at the same polling place. He went on to tell a story about a poll worker (who's now on the Arcata City Council) who inadvertently gave people ballots for the wrong precinct and is now immortalized in poll worker training.
**The L&A 5 Matrix**
Getting along to the actual testing, he explained the way the test ballots are filled out for what's called an "L&A 5" setup. The reporter, bless his heart, wanted Lindsey to explain how everything worked. Interestingly, Lindsey prefaced his explanation of how the L&A 5 test works with the statement "There is an element of faith in how it works..." How the test ballots are set up actually makes sense; what I see as a leap of faith is whether test mode actually reflects election mode. [Secret vote counting also amounts to faith-based voting. - DB]
So, what does this cryptic "L&A 5" mean? Well, it's no great leap that "L&A" is short for Logic & Accuracy. The "5" refers to the pattern of votes allocated to candidates in the sample deck of 30 ballots. Candidate A gets 1 vote, B gets 2 votes, and so on up to Candidate E getting 5 votes. So when the totals print, this should make a nice pattern of A = 1, B = 2, etc. "Should," as in "theoretically" is the operative word here.
**Visiting Election Central**
Finally it was time for Lindsey to lead us down to the basement. Along the way, he answered questions about how many observers were required for the testing by law (none) and how many usually show up (varies from none to more than 20 after the 2000 election, when a PoliSci class from College of the Redwoods made it a field trip).
In the testing area, we were surrounded by stacks of Hart Intercivic ESlates and shelves full of Diebold Accuvote terminals in laptop cases. The Accuvote terminal for the public testing sat on a conference table next to boxes of test ballots, with a phone cord dangling towards it from the ceiling beams. Off to one side, our account representative from Hart was busy doing stuff on a PC next to the GEMS server. Past us in the adjacent room, employees sorted absentee ballots.
**Detour for Absentee Ballots**
First, he explained the computer-assisted system for verifying signatures on absentee ballots and answered questions about absentee ballot rumors. In the last election, two elderly people accidentally voted early by absentee ballot, forgot they voted, and voted in person on provisional ballots. Lindsey found their original ballots in 5 minutes each, the system works so well. [VoteRemote is the Diebold signature verification system that requires no state or federal approval. It can be calibrated to require varying degrees of matching precision so that fewer or greater numbers of voters are disenfranchised. - DB]
**Accuvote and GEMS**
He asked us to randomly select a precinct for the test. The reporter picked one, and Lindsey opened the corresponding box of ballots. He turned on the Accuvote and invited us to get close enough to see the two-line LCD status display that walks users through the test. I didn't take exact notes of the process, but basically you start by running through a blank ballot and a ballot with all bubbles filled in to "train" the machine. He demonstrated that the scanner can read ballots inserted in any orientation--but it will reject one for the wrong precinct. Sometime along here, a reporter from Channel 3 came in and set up a camera.
Then you print a zero tape that lists all the races with zero votes in each one. Finally you run the "L&A 5" deck of ballots through, which are pre-printed with TEST TEST TEST in red letters above and below the reading area and have votes bubbled in according to the pattern I described. Each observer got to feed it a few ballots. Then he closed out the test and printed a poll tape. The reporter got some footage of poll tape printing out, and Lindsey made a snarky comment about Some People who get all upset about interpreted code--"All the interpreted code does is generate this list." (And exactly why isn't that important?) I asked if that was the poll tape to be posted at the polling place and seemed to hit a sore spot with Lindsey. More on that below. [Actually, interpreter code scrambles the information that humans could otherwise read on a ballot, into AccuBasic, the secret and proprietary language that only Diebold can read. It is forbidden by federal regulations, which are required to be met as a condition of CA state certification. - DB]
The next step after an election is sending the results to the central GEMS tabulator, so he demonstrated how that works. Poll workers plug a normal phone cord into the Accuvote and go through the script to connect to the modem at the Elections Office. The Accuvote sends the data over an analog phone line to the AT&T switching station, where telco equipment converts the signal to the digital trunk line for the Elections Office. Inside the building, in a locked cabinet somewhere in Sempervirens Mental Health, this connects to the analog line going to the GEMS tabulator. He explained the different safeguards in this process. First, he said it would be impossible to decode the signal if it were intercepted after the digital interchange. Second, he said that if the Accuvote didn't communicate properly with the GEMS because someone intercepted the signal or tried to send false data (to make a long story short), this would generate error messages and people at both ends would know there was a problem. (Whether they'd know it was malicious rather than operator error or a blip in the phone line is something I didn't think to ask at the time.) [The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has a different view of the security of modems, citing a report by RABA Technologies that shows control of GEMS can be obtained via a modem hack. - DB]
Next, Lindsey printed out the GEMS totals and we had a couple of surprises--first of all, the 1-2-3-4-5 pattern doesn't come out so neatly because GEMS does not list the candidates in the same order as the ballots, or in the order of the winners (which would be the reverse order from the ballots). I didn't look at it well enough to figure out the pattern. We were too busy noticing that the maximum number of votes wasn't 5 per race--it was 7. After perusing the results a bit, Lindsey decided the printer had made up an L&A 7 instead of an L&A 5 without asking him, and said he'd complain to the printer.
While we waited for the Hart rep to finish setting up the ESlate for us, Lindsey chatted quite a bit about watching the displays update on GEMS as results come in, how the six modems rollover incoming data calls, and how he wished he had more analog phone lines to test them with. (The building is using nearly all the analog lines for fax machines.) Then the TV reporter wanted to interview Lindsey, so we waited a few minutes for that. The North Coast Journal reporter used that time to ask who we were and why we were there.
**The Infamous $800,000 ESlates**
Everyone was pretty curious about the Hart Intercivic ESlates; in fact, one of the poll workers has a disabled son who plans to use it. Lindsey demonstrated one and let us play with it a bit, then explained that he would conduct the actual testing later in the day--we could stay if we liked, but he hinted it would be a waste of time. The tests will be less extensive than for the Accuvote, since no results will be transmitted to GEMS from the ESlates. I managed to annoy him by mentioning the VotePAD after his explanation of how much trouble it is to transcribe votes from ESlates onto ballots for scanning in an Accuvote to get them into GEMS. More on this below.
Everyone else loved the ESlate, but I had a hard time remembering when to use the wheel to advance or back up and when to use the arrow buttons. I guess they are not meant for people with ADD.
Apparently, part of why the e-Slate is so expensive is that the units the voter uses are basically dumb terminals and must be connected to a central control (Judging Bench Controller, I think it's called) at the polling place. Ordinarily you'd have a bunch of terminals connected to the central unit, but here we have a 1:1 ratio.
***News and Gossip***
**Poll Tape Posting Not Required, Says Lindsey**
Probably the biggest news of the day was that Lindsey said the poll tapes will NOT be posted. When the Accuvote printed out a poll tape for the test, I asked if this was like the poll tape to be posted at the polling place after the results are tallied. He got fairly annoyed and claimed this only applied to a system that has since been retired. His other excuse was that when they used to do this, people would steal the tapes, then the next people who tried to check them after that would get upset they weren't there. Conclusion: Don't bother posting poll tapes at all. (So why can't you tape them inside a window? I'm not familiar with all the polling places in Humboldt; is Arcata City Hall the only location with glass by the entrance?) [The CA Election Code is HERE. Scroll toward the bottom and see section 19384 requiring poll tapes be posted. - DB]
**HAVA and ESlates: Disabled Votes Counted Last**
Although HAVA decreed that disabled voters must be able to cast votes without assistance at any polling place, Humboldt County was backed into a corner and bought a system that's incompatible with their Diebold Accuvote and GEMS systems. So disabled votes will be transcribed at the Elections Office onto scannable ballots to get them into the system. Although I agree with Lindsey this is more honest than manually editing the GEMS totals to add the ESlate totals, it also means that votes cast by disabled voters on ESlates will not be counted along with other votes at the precincts. I'm not sure how long it will take officials to get around to transcribing these ballots from the paper tape in the ESlates. They have a system where poll workers will mark ESlate equipment that was actually used, so those units will be checked first. Luckily, they'll check all 58 units (in case poll workers forgot to mark the newfangled box after a long day), but it will take a while to get through the ESlates. This didn't seem like a top priority, given how few votes they expect. [How can it be considered an independently cast vote if that vote CANNOT be counted in the official tally without the intervention of multiple other people to do the ballot duplication? - DB]
Based on the experience of other counties introducing accessible voting machines, Lindsey and the Hart rep expect less than 10 votes in Humboldt County will be cast on the $800,000 equipment. Only 58 units will actually be rolled out this time. Lindsey said he was glad it's unlikely they'll be used much, for two reasons.
His first reason is the hassle factor of transcribing the votes onto ballots usable by the Accuvote. (To give Lindsey credit where due, the reporter made a big deal about "Why can't you just add the total from the ESlates to the GEMS total?" and Lindsey said it was technically possible but he wanted to have all votes in the GEMS backed up by scanned ballots.) There's already a process described in the Elections Code for transcribing spoiled ballots (usually absentee ballots with coffee stains or holes) they'll use to make sure the votes cast on ESlates are recorded correctly. Lindsey admitted that transcription is tedious enough that the process routinely catches 10-15 errors per 100 ballots transcribed.
His other reason he's glad only a few people will use the ESlate is that he says that implementing it in such a rush is "like being on an old wooden roller coaster, and it shakes and rattles," as he told the reporter from the North County Journal. Doesn't that just build your confidence in the system--and the administrators?
**Lindsey Loves DREs**
As you may recall (or not), the ESlate was a last-minute replacement for the VotePAD preferred by Lindsey's boss, Carolyn Crnich, the Humboldt County Recorder. After this gripe session about how much hassle and expense the ESlates are, I commented that it was too bad the VotePAD hadn't been certified so we could use the same ballots for disabled voters. Well, that hit a sore spot. Lindsey started ranting about how inferior VotePAD is compared to the ESlate, and contradicted just about everything I'd read about the device or heard from Carolyn about it.
After I got home, I called Ellen Thiesen at VotePAD to confirm some of his statements that didn't jibe with my recollection of her device. Among other things, she said it is NOT true you have to back up the whole tape and start over if you want to review/back up on the ballot, as Lindsey stated. The rep from Hart claimed he had been in Yolo County when they used it in an election and it was a big mess. Ellen said it has never been used in an election in California, so that statement is obviously false. (And what would the Hart rep be doing there if his equipment wasn't selected? Even if he got confused and meant the testing in Sacramento, what's he doing there either?)
Lindsey said he tried to use a VotePAD with his eyes closed and it was confusing. (Therefore, he assumes it would also be confusing to blind people who are accustomed to working by touch.) He described his attempt to verify his selections by running the vibrating wand down the page, and it had buzzed every time he crossed a mark or scratch. Ellen said he was using it wrong--you are supposed to touch the wand to the holes over the ballot bubbles. He also said it was only useful for blind voters, and of course Ellen said he was absolutely wrong about this too. She said Carolyn could tell that despite the badly-designed usability testing it was a good solution. Unfortunately, I'd managed to elicit this rubbish from Lindsey in front of the press. I gave Ellen the phone number and URL for the North Coast Journal.
Lindsey admitted he'd had calls from unhappy disabled voters who said they did not want to use a DRE. They will be allowed to vote on paper, and poll workers are allowed to assist. Oh, and he told the reporter about the blind people who were so happy to vote on touch-screens in the 2000 elections. That's what convinced him we had to go electronic for accessibility. Nothing like a good sob story. (I wondered if those videos were made before or after Diebold started funding organizations for the blind/disabled.)
**Absentee Ballot Chatter**
One of the poll workers asked about missing absentee ballots. Lindsey confirmed that he's had a lot of calls, particularly from Blue Lake, from people who haven't received theirs yet. He is following up on this, but he's puzzled because those were some of the first sent out and his office has already received about 25% back already. (So what happened to the missing ballots? Does someone think they could get away with using them to stuff the ballot box? Does Blue Lake have one of those postmen who just gets tired of delivering mail and trashes it instead?)
The poll workers also heard that some of the absentee ballots had been misprinted and had to be replaced. Lindsey said it was actually just the sample ballot in the voter information packet, but that this had been garbled and spread around before his office could announce the correct information.
I tend to believe him on those items because he was open about what was going on. I've noticed he gets defensive when he's making s*** up--and he starts making snarky comments about his nemesis, Dave Berman of the Voter Confidence Committee. [Moi? Just because I'm the only one in town who has publicly said it is obvious that Lindsey McWilliams should resign in disgrace, all of a sudden I'm his nemesis? - DB]
For example, I'm not sure if Lindsey was responding to my query about poll tapes or the reporter's question about data transmission security, but he threw out this comment: "Dave Berman has made a conscientious effort not to educate himself about what we do here." When discussing the ESlate and electronic voting, he said Dave kept bugging him about hand-counting ballots, but that it was too slow and everyone knows it's inaccurate. A couple of other times he made passing references, but I didn't make notes. I thought this was rather unprofessional, to say the least. I'm sure he doesn't think he's doing anything wrong, because he made those comments to the reporter... you'd think he wants to be quoted or something. [If you are describing public servants who believe they're acting in the best interest of the community while actually sabotaging Democracy, you might be describing a Manchurian. - DB]
**Two Sides to the Story**
I wish I'd noted the reporter's name. He asked who I was and why I was there, and in front of Lindsey and everyone, I just said I was a concerned citizen and curious about how things worked. (Which is true, but not the whole story.) Then I realized I was missing an opportunity, and caught him as the meeting broke up. I told him I had heard about the testing from Dave Berman's mailing list, and I wasn't sure why Dave hadn't been able to make it, but yes, I was definitely not confident in the outcome of our elections. [Confident? How could you be? There is no basis for confidence. - DB]
I also said that Lindsey was wrong about hand-counting being slow and inaccurate. Canada and the EU hand-count ballots quickly and accurately--if voting machines are so great, why don't they use them? He hadn't heard these countries don't use voting machines. He insisted that it would be easy for hand-counters to collude to report more votes for a certain candidate. I tried to describe the safeguards against it, but his mind was made up.
I agreed that the L&A test *seemed* to work, and that it had caught the unexpected ballots since the test was changed without notice. My argument was that how do we know that election mode does the same thing? And how do we know the machines won't "hiccup" under field conditions? He wasn't familiar with the technical problems in other states or with the Bilbray race this June, since he's apparently too busy reporting to follow other news.
I didn't think of pointing out that Lindsey's boss Carolyn was a VotePAD fan and had taken the time to learn more about it than Lindsey had, even though it's his job to do more than poke at it randomly for a few minutes.
Yeah, I can see why Lindsey's irritated with Dave--he's not accustomed to being held accountable.
It will be interesting to see what comes out in the news.
I don't know if this information is helpful, but I noted that the version of Accuvote software printed on the poll tape was 1.94.6. I wonder if this is the currently certified version, and if there are any Known Issues with the software? [The main issue, above all others, is that the votes are counted with secret programming code. - DB]
Well, that visit this morning was interesting in ways I didn't expect. Although I wish the Accuvote had malfunctioned--that would have been very fun to watch. More precisely, it would have been fun to watch Lindsey cope with it.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Friday, November 3 @ 7pm
Fort Bragg Town Hall
Free Film and Presentation (donations accepted):
STEALING AMERICA, VOTE BY VOTE, premier of a new film by CPB Gold medal and Emmy award wining producer Dorothy Fadiman This movie is an examination of ways in which privatized election systems, disenfranchisement of certain populations and vulnerable voting technology are impacting our democracy. The film introduces a spectrum of issues, including discrepancies between exit polls and final official tallies, the silence of the media following the election and the impact of technological glitches such as vote flipping. The film documents stories such as those of inner city voters and students at Kenyon and other campuses who experienced waiting for hours in line, along with the apparent unequal distribution of voting machines. The movie underscores that election reform is not a partisan issue but the responsibility of both Democrats and Republicans working together towards real solutions, some of which are suggested in the film. The film's goal is to open the dialog among all Americans about what is actually happening to our election system, to open people's minds to the irregularities in voting systems and their hearts to the impact of disenfranchising voters. The final question that the film poses is: How can we create an election system in which voters have confidence, and in which they can trust that their vote is being counted fairly? (70 min.) http://www.stealingamerica.org/
Following the film will be a presentation by Dave Berman, author of "We Do Not Consent", founding member of the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County, and author of the Voter Confidence Resolution, a template for communities to create their own standards for election integrity that was adopted by the cities of Arcata and Palo Alto. He is blogging at: http://www.wedonotconsent.blogspot.com/
sponsored by The Alliance for Democracy
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
This post was inspired by attention given at Democratic Underground and elsewhere to Lou Dobbs's election integrity coverage on CNN.
Many of us know that the next "election," as with the last few, will not produce unanimous agreement about the results. Despite their political dominance, the regime in power has forfeited all of its credibility and can never again be convincing - of anything. So they don't try to have a believable election, instead drawing more power to themselves by dividing the public opinion over who really won.
Along the way to the "election," society must be primed for acceptance (think yellow cake and mushroom clouds, or leaked Diebold source code). In this case we are supposed to accept uncertainty (actually, inherent uncertainty is the most common thing we are choking on).
I realize it could seem uptight and possibly irrational to attack Dobbs, so I want to be clear that this is not what I'm about to do. Look at this series of reports he's done. It has surely raised the level of doubt about election results by multiple orders of magnitude. From my view that's a great thing. But Dobbs is not playing the role we really need, the one I choose for myself, that of advocacy journalist. Dobbs is informing his audience, occasionally showing some emotion. But, as far as I know, he is not using his precious air time to actively engage in creating solutions. Perhaps this is because he is trying his best, despite the occasional emotion, to be a straight-up neutral objective news person.
OK, nothing there that should seem like an attack, I hope. Maybe it even sounds like I'm cheering for him and appreciating his delivery of otherwise antiquated professionalism. That's what I'm hearing around me, actually, though its not where my analysis stops. I submit that Dobbs may be unwittingly contributing to the regime's overall effort to keep Americans divided. In this way, he is like a Manchurian Candidate. I have written about this paradigm before, in the GuvWurld Blog (in an essay that is also in my book, We Do Not Consent).
Many people in trusted roles in society behave in ways that are sympathetic to those controlling the regime's war of terror. Like many such people, Dobbs may have done this with the intention of doing the opposite. All Manchurian-like. What we have is a huge Trojan Horse in this country and inside are the Registrars for paperless DREs, airport screeners who detain babies and old ladies, teachers and principals who punish students for art or words criticizing government, police who regard peaceful protestors as terrorists, and many other groups central to the functioning of society. In these examples the people are mostly going to be acting in ways that society supports and encourages, despite the damage they cause. This is why the essay linked above is called We Are Being Set Up: The Manchurian Nation.
So by no means am I saying don't watch Dobbs, or don't put his segments out on the web. Just consider if he could possibly be filling the role I described, and whether so many others may be unaware of their own appeasement. Appeasement. This is a word we should own. The biggest appeasers in the world are the loyal corporate media and the tiny fraction of people who still give blind trust to this regime.
Now, if Dobbs were to start advocating for hand counted paper ballots, in a way intended to actually cause that to happen, I will be happy to be wrong here. If Dobbs uses his air time to organize masses in protest, you will know that I was the first to say I was incorrect. Shall we try to get him to do these things, to become the advocacy journalist we need? Maybe if you know him personally, but otherwise don't give away your energy hoping someone else will produce the results you seek. The energy is better invested in organizing on the local level where a united community can draw upon the enormous strength of People Power.
I believe we should challenge the legitimacy of our local governments. Such offices are occupied by politicians who currently have our implicit Consent to govern us. This Consent is not really being sought. It is instead being assumed because we allow it to be taken for granted. Local government is our last level of representation, after the federal and state bodies that have long since stopped listening to We The People. Not listening is the least of it, though, when you consider first the craven lawlessness and then the blatant harm done to the People by those claiming to be our protectors. If the local government will not actively resist and provide its own protection against these harms, their reticence might be seen as the mark of the Manchurian.
We simply cannot continue cooperating in a system where the power that (selectively) enforces law also has the ability to indefinitely detain us without regard to that law. The Constitution is our social compact. It has been rendered largely inoperative. To me that means the deal is off. If the fascists are going to behave like they're not bound by it anymore, what good does it do us to fearfully measure our actions within these now phony confines? I'm not looking for rules to break or suggesting we all get together to violate anyone's Constitutional Rights. I'm saying those rules and Rights only exist as part of a deal that has been broken and no longer exists. We have to stop thinking like we're playing the old game. This is a new game. Only it is no game at all. Peaceful revolution is necessary, NOW!
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I don't see a lot of movies in the theater. But when I heard that Robin Williams was starring in Man of the Year, a film about a comedian who runs for President and "wins" only on the strength of dubious election machines, I knew this would be worth it.
In the film, Delacroy is the company with a national monopoly on touch screen voting systems. I did not detect obvious signals to suggest homage to Diebold or any other real vendors. In a way, this made its own point to me: these crooked companies are indistinguishable and their reprehensible behavior has become a caricature of itself. So while Delacroy may not have been a pseudonymous depiction of an actual company, it was essentially a metaphoric representation of the election machine manufacturing industry as a whole.
Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, a TV talk show host who runs for president using schtick on the campaign trail. The media reports he has built up sizable support for his candidacy but he is not expected to win. It is regarded as mildly surprising when he is declared president-elect. To quote Christopher Walken as Dobbs's manager (quoting Tom Clancy), "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."
There is a scene in which Dobbs, in a three-way presidential debate, completely breaks the format and refuses to yield control of the floor while ranting about a variety of taboo subjects. It was very easy to feel like this is what is really needed. I think other reviews of this film have suggested the Dobbs character may be based somewhat on Jon Stewart. I don't know about that in terms of directly comparing personalities or styles of humor, but it sure did seem to me like the real world is ready for Stewart or David Letterman or Brad Friedman or whomever to show up the suits who usurp our power just as in this movie.
As a writer who has devoted untold thousands of words to the very specific problems with American voting technology, it would be easy to describe many issues unaddressed by Man of the Year. Yet I feel no compulsion to do that. The movie addresses election security, transparency and accuracy in a very simplistic way that I think should be very effective at challenging the comfort level and assumptions of those who have not stopped to learn or even think about this problem.
A programming "glitch" is discovered by a Delacroy employee who feels honor-bound to inform Dobbs despite corporate pressure, intimidation and assault aimed at silencing her. To make the story work, we are supposed to accept that she identifies a single computer algorithm that has altered the results in at least 13 states. Again, without trying to pad this with more context from the real world election security situation, it struck me that even the most uninformed viewer would likely be lead to conclude that the machines make it impossible to know the true outcome of an election. I may use different evidence or arguments, but I have consistently stuck to this same point for a very long time.
If there was a weakness in this film it was the lack of skepticism on the part of Dobbs when he is told about the "glitch." He accepts that claim without any proof and without asking to see evidence. But then that only would have complicated the otherwise basic lesson of the movie. Is it possible that Man of the Year has dumbed down the "no basis for confidence" argument just so far that it can finally reach the general population through the movie screen? My magic Delacroy brand 8-ball says YES.
See this movie and tell people about it, individually, through e-mail lists and websites, by writing to print media and calling talk radio shows, and however else you know to put out a message. It is time to lay off of some of the arguments that haven't been working despite what would seem like their likely devastating impact (McPherson, I'm looking at you and your ridiculous certification of Diebold in response to the Berkeley report saying the equipment is illegal and unsecure). Sorry, just had to get that last one out of my system. We can bring this back at any time, but for now, we have an opportunity to use a gift we've been given to make what should already be known as the strongest argument. The movie is not complicated. It can be summarized in a paragraph with the conclusion so obviously drawn as to be universally understood.
There it is. It's simple, succinct, and as attorney Paul Lehto says in the Foreword to my book, We Do Not Consent, it "approaches scientific certainty." Want to say it another way? Fine. The concept is more important than the meme, but let's also see this phrase for what it can be. A plainer way to put it might be: With elections like this, there is no way to be sure who won. You can't see this movie and not come away with that. To do what we need to do in the interest of election reform and peaceful revolution, it behooves us to make sure the whole country is clear on this one point. We now have a better way than ever to deliver it.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Guest Blogged By Jane Allen
We Do Not Consent EXCLUSIVE Report
San Francisco Elections Commission Meeting October 18, 2006
With the pressure off, one might imagine that the commissioners and Director of Elections John Arntz would breathe a sigh of relief and take time to reassess their rush to sign a contract with either ES&S or Sequoia before January 1, 2007.
One would be wrong.
The backstory: These folks hopped on a train a while back and still haven't jumped off. They (and the California Secretary of State) were operating under the mistaken belief that a decision about HAVA-compliant voting machines had to be made by the end of 2006 because Federal monies could be used only for accessible equipment after that date. Thus, Mr. Arntz and the Elections Commission have been racing to finalize a contract before end of year. At the commission meeting of October 4, Roger Donaldson (a voting activist) questioned that interpretation and then pursued the issue with the SoS and the Elections Assistance Commission. He was able to resolve the matter in seven working days.
Chris Reynolds, the California Secretary of State HAVA coordinator, said in an email dated October 13, 2006:
"HAVA funds that are now available via the Section 301 Voting Systems upgrade contract expended after January 1, 2007 are NOT restricted to purchases of voting systems or voting units that are fully accessible to voters with disabilities. Of course, all other Section 301 voting system standards - including 301(a)(3), which requires at least one fully compliant voting unit be available at each polling place - is STILL required. What this means, however, is that funds not committed or expended by the counties before January 1, 2007 CAN be used to purchase any type of voting equipment needed - again, as long as the voting system as a whole meets all requirements, including the requirements of Section 301(a)(3)." (emphasis in original)
This information was sent by email to Deputy City Attorney Ann O'Leary on October 13.
A tentative plan existed to hear public comment on the future of San Francisco voting systems at the November 1 Commission meeting. Despite Roger Donaldson's information and regardless of the woefully bad timing of that date, not one of the commissioners suggested a change of schedule. Public comment ensued. Probably the most compelling argument for moving the date was that such short notice and a week before election day would likely mean that the only public who would be commenting were already in the room. In the end, a bit of common sense prevailed and that agenda item was tentatively pushed to December 6.
Mr. Arntz showed considerable lack of interest in considering any equipment other than ES&S or Sequoia. He noted that his negotiations with those two vendors are ongoing and that San Francisco will continue to use paper ballots (with one touch screen per precinct for HAVA compliance and others for early voting).
Another public comment urging a slow down suggested that the present voting system could be used next year. Mr. Arntz replied that the Eagle equipment will not be recertified again. There was a curious statement by Ms. O'Leary during this discussion. She asserted that the existing equipment contract had been amended many times, so it could not be amended again. When Brent Turner asked for clarification about what law specified how many times a contract could be amended, Ms. O'Leary did not respond.
All of the passionate rhetoric was on the public side of the room. Jim Soper's "we need to do better than this" speech referred to unsecured machines and unknown software. He and several others urged the commissioners to slow down and take the time to get it right. Mr. Soper pointed out that by using open source code, San Francisco "could lead the way" and "show others how it's done."
And I sat there wishing for a sign that the people up front at the big tables had the vision and courage to make that happen.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Peter B. Collins came to Humboldt on Wednesday, broadcasting his afternoon talk radio show from the theater in the Dell'Arte School of Physical Arts in Blue Lake, CA. Over 100 people were in the theater audience for this show heard in five cities as well as online. Wednesday's show, devoted entirely to issues of election integrity, is archived here (.mp3).
The event was presented by the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County in cooperation with Peter's local affiliate, KGOE 1480 AM, and the Veterans For Peace Chapter 56. I was honored to be asked to sit with Peter at the broadcast table throughout the entire show.
Dave Berman (L) with Peter B. Collins (R), Oct. 18 2006.
Guests on the show included Brad Friedman, Paul Lehto, Bev Harris, Ohio Gubernatorial candidate Bob Fitrakis, and CA State Senator and Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen. All of these people had high name recognition by the theater crowd and the energy was so high that it really made for great radio. Download the show and advance to 1hr 56min 35sec to hear me ask Sen. Bowen about interpreter code. In her reply Bowen mentions discussing this earlier in the day while debating CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. The debate was presented by the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle. Watch it here and check out BradBlog's meticulous dissection here. In concluding her response to me, Bowen said:
"I totally agree with you Dave, and thank you. You have been a stalwart. You've done an awesome job. You have educated so many people." (applause)Looks like I'll have to add that to the WDNC sidebar quote collection! Incidentally, BradBlog reported on Monday that McPherson's office issued a memo on Oct. 3 ordering that all counties must make paper ballots available to any voter wishing to use one. At least that appears to be the intent of the memo's message while its vague wording leaves great discretion to Registrars who may well choose to keep an insufficient supply of paper ballots on hand. Brad's piece honors the general goodness of the memo while also citing criticisms from Bowen and Lehto.
Peter B. pointed out that while Bowen came on the show, McPherson had not even responded to an invitation to do the same.
Throughout all of the 1990's I worked as a DJ at rock radio stations. In reflecting back on that time, the two most memorable occasions I dealt with on the air were the outbreak of the first Gulf War and the death of Jerry Garcia. Wednesday's forum hit that same peak. There was an extraordinary energy that was visible and tangible among the people filling the theater seats. This energy had a sense of intention - we MUST do something about our elections. For many, what to do is still a perplexing puzzle. I see even more clearly now the need to help such people become involved in unifying community actions. Here I have returned to my definition of advocacy journalism - working for change in the community and writing in a way that furthers those efforts.
Following the radio show we took a short break and then re-convened for a media roundtable discussion. Peter and I were joined on the panel by Tom Sebourn from KGOE, Bob Doran from the North Coast Journal, Pete Meyer from Power 96.3 (KFMI), and Jimmy Durchslag who was one of the founders of KMUD and who currently books guests for the Mainstream Media Project.
The evening part of the event was not broadcasted or recorded, as far as I know. The audience had dwindled to about 25 but we had a passionate dialog for more than 90 minutes. I was asked to facilitate this exchange and I framed it as an opportunity to close the loop in what is supposed to be two-way communication. The audience must tell the media how it is doing, and how it could be doing better. And the media must let the audience know the feedback has been heard and assimilated.
Of all the topics we covered, amid a steady stream of audience comments and questions, what is etched the deepest in my mind is the terror people are experiencing as the result of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which eliminates Habeas Corpus. As devoted as I have been to issues of election integrity, I have also written and publicly stated many times that election reform is not the end goal, but rather the best tactic we have toward peaceful revolution. I was encouraged to see others recognize that even if we fix our election problems, losing Habeas Corpus still means we're not Free People. On understanding this, I think it is possible for people to reach the conclusion that peaceful revolution is necessary, NOW!
I pointed out to the group that creating this kind of public dialog, and the consensus building experiences that went along with developing the Voter Confidence Resolution, and repeatedly publishing in Humboldt's media a message that the press should not report unverified election results as fact when such information can't be proven; all of this paradigm shifting is what defines my role as an advocacy journalist.
We discussed the well known phrase "be the media." Anyone can do it, through any number of means and with a variety of approaches. But it matters why anyone would want to be the media. If the answer is in any way connected to wanting to be involved with efforts for progressive change, then it should be an easy extension to think of the media as one of the best tools. Being the media, to me, means using this crucial tool to achieve all other aims. I certainly don't think it is going to be possible to generate significant community cohesion, or create a national groundswell, without being able to coordinate the dissemination of information on a mass scale. We literally need to be advocacy journalists to do the organizing work necessary for peaceful revolution.
Another way I was able to illustrate this point was in reference to Air America Radio, the newly bankrupted "progressive talk" network. For as long as AAR has been around I have stated my doubts that they would deliver any meaningful change. The reason is simple: they didn't make it their top priority. AAR has always been about making money, a difficult enough challenge on its own. While I won't condemn the profit motive, I do see that prioritizing it over the pursuit of true progressive change dooms both prospects. On the other hand, clearly stating tangible goals and then advocating for them is what I see resulting in cohesive, consensus-based communities operating in cooperation. Such a loyal audience will appeal to advertisers, bringing profit along the way.
Other topics I recall from Wednesday night's roundtable include the FCC, media ratings (Arbitron and Nielsen), corporate consolidation, and blacked out stories. Also, Tom Pinto from 911TruthHumboldt.org was in the audience. Pinto said that various media people, including Alexander Cockburn, have ducked his recent challenges to engage in public debate about 9/11. Peter B. said he would try to book Cockburn on his show for exactly this purpose. I believe Pinto said he had directly confronted Cockburn at the recent World Can't Wait rally in Eureka, an event at which I also spoke (.mp3).
Since I haven't had time to blog as frequently as I'd like lately, I want to tag this post with a few related comments and links. First, Peter B. Collins is a consummate professional and I hope his show gets syndicated more widely.
Tom Sebourn is a righteous dude who was recognized by audience members on Wednesday for doing what really does match up with my advocacy journalism definition. Check out his coverage (.mp3) of this Raw Story article about Charles Grapski, a FL election integrity advocate charged with wiretapping and prevented from mounting a defense.
I was glad to get Bob Doran booked on our panel and to finally begin to forge a relationship with the North Coast Journal. This paper has not previously given any coverage to the Voter Confidence Committee, although in a cover story on blogs back in January the paper did recognize my work at GuvWurld as "gaining some stature in the larger blogosphere."
Perhaps even more importantly, last week I met with Journal editor Hank Sims for the first time as well. In our hour long interview I definitely gave him hooks for at least a half dozen possible stories. One that I know is going forward is the parallel reviews of my scrapbook. I first brought this up on the night of the first media accountability forum. Just as Diane Batley suggested, we now have HSU journalism professor Marcy Burstiner doing an analysis of Humboldt media coverage of election issues as reflected in articles I've collected over the past 2.5 years. This is meant to run beside another review of the same material written by VCC member Ruth Hoke. What better way to pursue media accountability than to review the performance of the media in a comparative context over a period of time with multiple perspectives judging the same content?
Alright, at this point I have a huge list of other things I've been wanting to post here but I'm going to forgo them all to announce a scoop I have just received from correspondent Jane Allen in SF. That will be coming up in a few short minutes...
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I'm writing this from the Dell'Arte School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, CA. The auditorium is about half full right now but it will be overflowing in about 30 minutes when Peter B. Collins begins his daily broadcast. Today his show is happening in front of this live audience, featuring Brad Friedman on the phone and yours truly sitting right beside the man himself. Tune in! 1480 AM KGOE in Humboldt or anywhere in the world at www.PeterBCollins.com
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Dave Berman
Live Broadcast and Media Roundtable Set For Oct. 18 at Dell'Arte
The Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County (VCC), in cooperation with KGOE (1480 AM) and Veterans for Peace Chapter 56, presents a rare Humboldt appearance by radio talk show host Peter B. Collins on Wednesday, October 18. Collins will broadcast his regular 3-6pm program before a live audience at Dell'Arte in Blue Lake. Audience participation will be encouraged.
Collins intends to devote his entire show this day to election issues and to restoring election integrity. He will be joined by Eureka resident Dave Berman, author of We Do Not Consent, and, via telephone, by investigative reporter Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com. Friedman is credited with breaking countless stories about election problems, particularly related to Diebold, maker of Humboldt's voting equipment. Other nationally known election experts are also expected to call in to the show.
"Many reasonable people of almost every political stripe have serious concerns about election machines and processes that have cast doubt on the legitimacy of many important elections over the past few years," Collins said. "We'll talk about the key problems--and some simple solutions that can help restore integrity and confidence in our elections. Please join us!"
The broadcast will be followed at 6:30 by a roundtable discussion involving representatives from local media. Again, the public will be encouraged to question the panelists.
"Media makers have a unique responsibility in reporting election results," said Berman, who co-founded the VCC in March 2005. "There is a peculiar secrecy about current vote counting methods," Berman continued, "and so the VCC is leading a community challenge for the media not to report what cannot be proven or independently verified."
Humboldt voters mark paper ballots that are inserted into optical scanners containing proprietary computer programming designed to translate ballot information into Diebold's "trade secret" language. Once in this form, the vote data cannot be read by the public, the media or even government elections officials.
The VCC recommends the paper ballots be counted by hand in the precincts with media documenting the process. Such transparency would be a basis for voter confidence as well as grounds for media reports to be considered credible.
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Friday, October 06, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Attorney Paul Lehto send me this appellate brief (.pdf) today. It is an attempt to revive the previously dismissed CA-50 lawsuit. Click here for more background.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
It bugs me when I don't get to update WDNC for a week. As you'll see, I've been busy though I finally decided I cannot be too busy to blog. Reporting on what I am doing in order to further these efforts is what makes this advocacy journalism, my raison d'etre.
Before I get to recent activities of my own, I want to briefly comment on the Military Commissions Act (.pdf) passed by both houses of Congress last week and now awaiting Mr. Bush's signature. This article is a good summary of this bill's affront to humanity, though it does not connect the suspension of Habeas Corpus with the 800 year old Magna Carta as the legal precedent that by itself defines whether a society is free. I've written many times about the lost presumption of innocence, the cornerstone of American jurisprudence. We know of some cases where people have been jailed without charges or access to an attorney. From the point of view of Congress, if that had been a dubious practice, it will now be perfectly legal. The U.S. government has jumped the shark. Peaceful revolution is necessary, NOW!
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Today's Eureka Reporter includes the letter to the editor I submitted on Monday, as well as an opinion column submitted by Jon Koriagin about the misdeeds of CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.
I have several public speaking gigs coming up, starting with this Saturday, 10/7. There is a World Can't Wait rally in the parking lot of the County Courthouse in Eureka. From what I can tell, the approach to the event resembles the community forum on non-violent revolution held back in February. Jack Nounnan is one common link here. Jack just ended an 11 day fast during which he spent 12 hours each day in front of the Courthouse. Others have been fasting too, and even greater numbers of people are making time to keep a constant presence for peace in front of the Courthouse.
Sociology professor Nezzie Wade has invited me to speak to her social problems analysis class at College of the Redwoods next Monday, 10/9. She has given me a whole hour. Over the past few semesters, Nezzie has brought me in to her various classes four or five other times. I need to use a different approach this time, informing people, but focusing in the end on recruiting volunteers for the Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) and our work around the upcoming "election." I will probably even bring another VCC member with me this time.
The biggest upcoming event is another forum on media accountability. The VCC takes no credit or claim on the first forum, which KHUM's Mike Dronkers and I set up independently of the group. This time, the VCC is bringing syndicated talk show host Peter B. Collins to town. Peter's show airs weekdays from 3-6pm on KGOE 1480 AM in Humboldt. On Wednesday 10/18 he will be broadcasting from the Dell'Arte performing arts school in Blue Lake. The event will follow the show in the same location. There will be at least one other election integrity all-star joining us on this occasion but I'll leave that for next time when I'll also describe what we have in mind for the event.
It is a really good time to get involved with the VCC. We've recently had a very strong and active bunch of new members join the group. Our meetings have been more frequent, and productive, with everyone taking on some responsibility for making things happen. By now, all candidates running in this November's "election" should have received a mailing from us about their position on secret vote counting vs. hand counted paper ballots. We will compile their responses and issue a report. This is only one of the new ways we are reaching out into the community. We are also making connections with various religious leaders as we hope to create the broadest and most diverse coalition we can to stand up for fair and transparent elections. We have also made it possible to download and distribute our new Humboldt Voter Advisory flier, with a separate event-specific item coming very soon.
I have spoken with Palo Alto Mayor Judy Kleinberg, as well as two Palo Alto City Councilmembers who voted to adopt the Voter Confidence Resolution on 9/18. They have confirmed that the "unofficial" version of the resolution I posted two weeks ago is indeed the wording they adopted. The City Clerk told me Monday that no official copy of the resolution will be available for a few weeks. I've been trying to get around to writing a press release but it hasn't happened. It will though, because I want to make use of the quotes I got from these folks and Arcata City Councilmembers too.
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There is legislative news to catch up on. This past weekend was the We Count conference in Cleveland, OH. Congressman Dennis Kucinich surprised many by introducing HR 6200 calling for hand counting paper ballots at the precinct. Read more about this bill and the conference in this thread at Democratic Underground. And really look closely at the speakers list for the conference. These people are heroes to me. I remember speaking in Portland last year at the National Summit To Save Our Elections. I met many people for the first time, some of whom I was in contact with online, others whom I only knew by reputation. How odd, then, that I felt like it was a family reunion, and that this feeling should return browsing the bios of the more recent conference speakers.
AB2948, the "suicide pact" legislation I wrote about a few weeks ago has been vetoed by Arnold. This prevents CA from joining into a multi-state compact that would go into effect only once enough states had joined to represent a majority of electoral college votes. Had the bill become law CA electors and those of other participating states would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how the majority the state voted.
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And a few important reads I'd like to recommend starting with this TruthOut.org essay by Cindy Sheehan with some choice words at the end. These should be familiar to WDNC and GuvWurld readers:
Come join GSFP and the Camp Casey Peace Institute in Washington, DC, on election day to show BushCo that we are withdrawing our consent to be governed by torturers and killers.Here is the Princeton team hacking the Diebold TS. That link has an abstract, plus links to a full report, video, FAQ, and a rejoinder to Diebold's weak response to this devastating demonstration.
Following up on his June article, Rolling Stone has published a lengthy piece by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that quotes heavily from a Diebold whistleblower. The new article confirms the "rob-Georgia" patch that I first recall reading about via BlackBoxVoting.org. I archived an article in March 2003, with the author's permission, which is good because it means I'll leave it in the archive even though the original link no longer works and I can't find another. Looking through the BBV site, though, I did find that Bev Harris deals with "rob-Georgia" in chapter 10 of her book, Black Box Voting. It is great that Kennedy has now confirmed this story that accounts for the premature ouster of Senator Max Cleland and Governor Roy Barnes.
Since there probably is no such thing as "caught up," I'll just stop here with this closing thought: Inconclusive "election" charades and corporate controlled politicians do not have any foundation of legitimacy except for the submissive obedience we give them. Resist with everything you've got because you can be indefinitely imprisoned for far less than that.
"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose"Permalink:
--Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone
"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"
--Kris Kristofferson, Me and Bobby McGee
Monday, October 02, 2006
UPDATE 10/4 1am: This letter will be in Wednesday's Eureka Reporter and it is already on their website HERE. Also see cross-postings at Daily Kos and Democratic Underground for discussion.
Jerry Partain raises a good question: Aren't we being taken for fools? (9/30/06). On August 25 this paper covered the results of a recent Zogby poll showing 92% of Americans believe we have a right to know and see how our votes are counted. Why, then, does Humboldt County use optical scanners containing "interpreter code"? This type of computer programming obscures the public's view of the vote counting process by scrambling all of our ballot information into Diebold's proprietary language called AccuBasic.
Isn't it foolish to put blind trust in Diebold's "interpretation" of the results, when the CA Secretary of State, the Government Accountability Office, and independent computer scientists have all published reports explaining exactly how to hack the machines and change election results without leaving a trace of evidence?
Isn't it foolish for Humboldt County to do business with Diebold, a company that employs felons convicted of computer fraud, makes partisan donations and statements, and faces at least six class action lawsuits filed by its own shareholders alleging fraud?
Isn't it foolish to aggregate precinct vote totals using the GEMS central tabulator program labeled as a national security threat by the Department of Homeland Security?
Isn't it foolish for the media to report election results as fact without questioning or verifying the information provided by only one source - the very same government whose grip on power is at stake?
Isn't it foolish to believe that Democracy can coexist with secret vote counting?
Yes, as Partain says, we are being taken as fools. But worse, we are acting the part. Government (and media) legitimacy comes only from the Consent of the Governed. Isn't it foolish for the 92% of us who know better to Consent to such election conditions?
We must count the ballots by hand, the most transparent, secure, and verifiably accurate way to conduct an election. Isn't it foolish to assign legitimacy to any government that prefers counting votes in secret?
No fooling - if this letter is published, an annotated version will appear at http://WeDoNotConsent.blogspot.com with links to support every claim above.
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