Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Eureka Times-Standard: As primary fast approaches, election offices are in turmoil

Monday's Eureka Times-Standard has a front page story that continues on the back page called "As primary fast approaches, election offices are in turmoil" (archive).

This article describes some of the fallout experienced by elections departments throughout CA in the wake of Secretary of State Debra Bowen's Top To Bottom Review. Humboldt is depicted as being on relatively stable footing, and though that may be the case, no mention is made that there has still been no Election Manager named to replace Lindsey McWilliams, who left in June. The last hiring update I got was at the Nov. 20 Election Advisory Committee meeting when Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich told us she was checking references on three candidates and didn't have a time frame for making a decision. She also emphasized that she was not feeling desperate because current staff is performing great. So none of that was in the article.

T-S reporter Thadeus Greenson does paint a very favorable picture of the Humboldt Transparency Project, including referencing David Dill, Bev Harris, and Harri Hursti. There was not even a hint of irony in describing Hursti "who famously hacked into Diebold voting machines." Excuse me, but it wasn't just Diebold voting machines, it included the exact equipment we use here in Humboldt. No criticisms of the Transparency Project were included, though I have detailed several on many occasions, as recently as Saturday. That may get recycled into the letter to the editor or My Word column this will prompt me to write.

As with many previous T-S articles, this one contains false balance. This is probably the biggest issue I have with this story. While there are no quotes from VCC members our group is mentioned:

Still, some feel Bowen's decision didn't go far enough and the optical scan vote counting machines are also inaccurate and susceptible to hacking.

The Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County released a report on voting conditions in the county that called for a complete transition to hand counting for all ballots. While Crnich said this would put a tremendous strain on poll workers and the election office, she isn't convinced it would be any more reliable than the machine counts and hand-count audits are in place.

"It's just not a practical solution," Crnich said.

But Humboldt's committee is far from the only ones calling for hand counting, which they say is both practical and more accurate than machines counting.

Earlier this month, the committee and 30 other election integrity groups joined an amicus brief in the suit brought against New York State by the Department of Justice. The brief argues hand counting paper ballots is compliant with the Help America Vote Act, and asks the court to order the two federal races on the state's next ballot to be hand counted.

Meanwhile, the Humboldt Committee is busy recruiting Humboldt voters willing to hand count ballots come election day. But Crnich said no such hand counting will take place. She said the procedures are simply not in place, but visitors are welcome to observe election-night happenings according to Bowen's guidelines.
This is false balance because the Registrar offers an opinion with nothing to back it up. How do I know? Because the VCC has asked, repeatedly, and the Registrar does not have data comparing hand-counting and optical scan counting for cost, accuracy or anything else. Yet her dismissive opinion is supposed to balance the VCC recommendations, which come backed by our report (and many others), and tangible projections that will allow the community to judge what is practical. Naturally our ability to take the discussion out of the range of "he said/she said" was left out of the article.

One more bone to pick. This article refers to a lawsuit brought by San Diego County to push back against Bowen's new guidelines. But it does not mention the memory cards that disappeared from a FedEx shipment last week en route from Sacramento to San Diego. If its balance ye want, I'm just sayin'...


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Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Missed Opportunity

Almost a month ago I wrote a post called Time To Check Your Least, in which I said I wasn't going to beat myself up for not writing enough. Since then I've posted more often than in quite some time. This reinforced the notion explained in that post that commitment to the least you can do philosophy will inherently increase what the least can amount to. I have to take this same outlook in considering yesterday's appearance on the Peter B. Collins show as a missed opportunity.

Click here for the full .mp3 archive of the show. Drag the slider of your media player to the start of the third hour and listen to Peter B. and Brad Friedman question Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich about the so-called Humboldt Transparency Project. I was not given an opportunity to respond or comment on this, but I would have only repeated the concerns I have raised previously, including in this Eureka Reporter OpEd from July 6, 2007.

In summary, the Transparency Project would allow the public to view pictures (scanned images) of all ballots cast to perform a recount in whatever way one chooses. However, a secondary computer count is promoted as the way to go, although this completely defeats the purpose of checking the official, original count done by secret computer programming; and it relies on post-certification auditing which recent history shows will have no chance at overturning an inaccurate outcome. In addition, to do this ballot image recount without a secondary computer count would be entirely unwieldy and impractical, without even the prospect of proper observation or witnessing typically associated with post election hand-counting or manual auditing.

Not getting to respond to that wasn't really the crux of my missed opportunity. After returning from a commercial break, Peter B. prompted an exchange between the Registrar and me. This is where I blew it yesterday. The Registrar questioned the assumption of six seconds to count each contest per ballot. I noted that this is a variable that can be changed by the user of the hand-count forecast tool, but I then veered off into discussing the New Hampshire origins of that data point. What I should have said is that we have been trying for months to get assumptions from the Registrar herself plugged in to the forecast tool so that the community would have the opportunity to judge the Voter Confidence Committee's (VCC) hand-counting proposal based on the Registrar's official assumptions. Immediately after the segment had ended I realized my missed opportunity and e-mailed Peter B. with one last thought...

Peter B. took a call at that point from Jim Lamport, another regular attendee of the Registrar's monthly Election Advisory Committee meetings here in Humboldt. I have no problem with Lamport's defense of the Registrar, especially since I was not attacking her. I do respectfully disagree with Lamport's assessment that computers are ideally suited for vote counting. Since my phone line into the broadcast was already cut off, I was very glad to hear Brad Friedman challenge this position. Upon concluding that call, Peter B. did me a real solid and read the e-mail I submitted, quickly summarizing that the VCC is in search of official numbers from the Registrar precisely so the public can objectively judge our proposal. This was a save, in my view, salvaging to some extent the opportunity I see as missed.

There was another aspect of the discussion I wish I had handled differently. I noted that New Hampshire counts votes by hand in 45% of its polling places and the Registrar replied that this leaves a 55% majority of polling places being counted by optical scanners. Of course this is true, and I explained it as a function of jurisdiction level choice as opposed to being a state mandate. The opportunity I missed was not asking the Registrar whether Humboldt voters have had an opportunity to make the same choice, which of course we have not.

Earlier in the day, several hours prior to the radio show, the Registrar left me a voice message in response to the two messages I had left her in the two days prior. She mentioned that she and Kelly Sanders in the Humboldt Elections Department were busy gathering up all the data the VCC requested last week in an open letter. When these numbers are provided, yesterday's missed window of opportunity will open once again.


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

NY Judge Threatens To Jail NY Board of Elections (Was He Just Kidding?)

A quick search of Google News this morning just after 9am Humboldt Standard Time turned up this brief Newsday article posted just moments before (NOTE: the article currently at this link is an updated and much longer version):


Judge says NY must comply with voting machine law by Jan. 4

12:03 PM EST, December 20, 2007

ALBANY, N.Y. - A federal judge is giving New York until Jan. 4 to comply with a federal election law to make voting more accurate and easier.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe spent much of a court hearing Thursday expressing his disgust with the state for its failure to meet the requirements of the Help America Vote Act while every other state took action. He reminded officials several times he could jail members of the state Board of Elections for contempt of court.

If the state doesn't act by Jan. 4, Sharpe says he will consider establishing a "special master" _ perhaps Gov. Eliot Spitzer _ to force the state into compliance with the law, which was enacted after the contested 2000 presidential election.
That seems pretty heavy duty. Will members of the NY Board of Elections really be jailed? According to Election Defense Alliance attorney Jonathan Simon, who was in the Albany courtroom this morning, "the threat to jail the Board members was a rhetorical flourish, not a literal threat. It was more of the nature of, look, here is what my powers are, here is the scope of my options."

Simon tells me the judge was clearly frustrated and angry and rejected the role of having to become involved in choosing voting systems. "The Judge wants a definitive plan as opposed to competing plans from the Republican and Democratic parties, which essentially become delay tactics. From the Judge's standpoint it is about getting it done and getting it done now. It is not about whether HAVA is good or bad or what other states are doing."

Was the hard work of the NY amici all for naught? It certainly doesn't appear to have influenced the Judge in our favor. But he didn't complete ignore us either. He took the time to slowly read the names of supporting organizations, "dealing with them in a formally respectful way," said Simon. Then adding, "but with a hint of derision."

Simon described "near-stroke" laughter from the Judge, "mocking California or Pennsylvania for trying to tell New York how it should run elections. What struck me," continued Simon, "was what he didn't get (and he had a lot on the ball) but what he didn't get was why everyone was weighing in, choosing not to acknowledge the national repercussions and why this transcended the timing or particulars of the state. To the judge it was cut and dry. He wants to see HAVA compliance and it appears and he was aligned with the DOJ argument."

Politics on the Hudson, a blog written by reporters and editors from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, as well as Albany and Washington, reports that Judge Sharpe "berated state elections officials" and "said the situation makes him 'embarrassed' to be a New Yorker." The PotH article concludes:
In a speech tinged with hyperbole, Sharpe asked if he needed to do what the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower did in 1957—call out the National Guard to force compliance with a federal court order. In that case, the military was sent to Little Rock, Ark., to enforce school desegregation. Black students were being blocked from entering a high school there.

"We didn’t let Little Rock, Ark., thumb its nose at the country, and we're not going to let New York thumb its nose at the country," he said.
So what about the copious evidence of machine failure and NY's high standards for certifying voting systems? Forgive me, but, Simon says, "The Judge doesn't care that no systems jibe with state requirements. Federal law trumps state. Federal law is preemptive. The judge is prioritizing meeting federal requirements, no matter how poorly conceived, rather than trying to satisfy state certification requirements."

As for what to expect next, Simon reports the Judge made a potential concession and may allow rolling compliance to occur through 2008, provided a firm plan for full compliance is in place for after that. Simon added: "NY has to come back by January 4 with a definitive plan. Since the Democrats' plan is the plan that has the most definitive time table, there was a strong urging that the plan should be modeled after the Democrats' "Zalen" plan."

Aside from what sounds like the spectacle of it all, this outcome can't really come as too much of a surprise. But it isn't the end for the work of the NY amici. The combined effort in detailing and forecasting the logistics of hand-counting paper ballots across New York will serve the election integrity movement just as pivotal reports in the past have become oft-quoted sources (i.e. Hursti Hacks, Bowen's Top To Bottom Review, etc.).

This is also a national story with a big local hook here in Humboldt. Continuing the outreach I wrote about last night, this morning I left a message for the Journal's Hank Sims (and a second one at the end of the day) and another for James Faulk at the Times-Standard. A call to T-S editor Rich Sommerville then confirmed my hunch that Faulk wasn't the reporter I should be looking for. He referred me to Kimberly Wear, who I spoke with at the end of the day, only to learn that the VCC media advisory and press release had never crossed her desk. She asked that I e-mail same and we'll see about coverage in the next few days.

While nothing in the above paragraph should be construed as awesome progress, you may say what you will about this newscast (.mp3) this afternoon on KGOE. My next call after the newspapers was Tom Sebourn, who recorded me detailing the Newsday article, the amicus brief which creates the local angle here, and finally the plug for Friday's Peter B. Collins show on which both Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich and I will be appearing between 5-6pm HST. Rather than paraphrasing what I called in to tell Sebourn, he actually broadcast a lot more of the news segment in my voice and words than I would have imagined. Score.

At noon, new Voter Confidence Committee webmaster(!) Paula Long and I met with some of the members of the Redwood ACLU. Their prepared agenda included discussing support for the VCC hand-count proposal. However, certain key people were not present. While those of us in the room did discuss at length much of what I hoped would be covered, ultimately revising their draft statement was tabled until their January 17 meeting.

At the end of the day I also called the Registrar, leaving her the second message in as many days offering to touch base with her prior to the Peter B. show in order to familiarize her with the updates to the hand-count forecast tool (.xls) created in front of her eyes and now used across the country. And so it grows. I have received adapted or spin-off versions of the spreadsheet from several people in recent weeks, most recently today from Brian Rothenberger who has done a tremendously detailed analysis of hand-count needs in Monterey County, CA. If he is making it publicly available I'll post a link here soon.

UPDATE/CORRECTION 12/25 4:25pm: Sincere apologies to Brian Rothenberger. His spreadsheet was developed completely independently of mine. He was not even aware of my work at the time he developed his model, which he has not made available online at this time. While our two spreadsheets are entirely different in approach, layout, and various other aspects, what they have in common with each other and several additional forecast spreadsheets circulating in the election integrity movement is the tactic of creating quantifiable projections for hand-counting paper ballots. Should Registrars everywhere be able to do this on their own? Of course. But have they done the work? It does not appear so, particularly here in Humboldt, which is why the VCC is intent on ultimately presenting forecasts based on our Registrar's assumptions. Thanks also to Brian for suggestions now included my hand-count forecast tool (it is permanently archived there with a record of revisions embedded in comments).


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advancing the HCPB Framing, Outreach and Media

Thursday's Eureka Reporter, online as of a few minutes ago, carries a solid report from Cerena Johnson on both the recent Voter Confidence Committee media advisory and press release, plus a phone interview conducted this morning. Excerpts:

The VCC is renewing the request for information following a meeting with Crnich in May and participation on the Nov. 30 Peter B. Collins radio show.

The VCC has developed a forecast tool that illustrates how hand-counting is possible, factoring in costs, time and required labor.

"The community can judge the viability of what we are proposing," VCC co-founder Dave Berman said.

Among many concerns, Berman said the main problem with the current system is that the voting machines operate in secret.

In a related matter, the VCC recently joined more than 30 election groups throughout the country in an amicus brief filed in the case of U.S. v. New York State Board of Elections, intended to enforce compliance with requirements in the Help America Vote Act of 2002.


Berman and Crnich are scheduled to return on the Collins show, KGOE 1480 AM, Friday between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Much of the article details the information we requested in the letter distributed with the media advisory. The best thing about this article, without a doubt, is the extension of the key new frame: let the public judge the viability of our proposal.

Johnson called me this morning before I had a chance to call her, as I intended. I did reach out to James Faulk at the Eureka Times-Standard but he has not yet returned my call. In addition, I left a voice message for Humboldt Registrar Carolyn Crnich just to be sure she knew I was also going to be on with Peter B. on Friday, but also to make sure she knows about the amicus brief (.pdf), and most importantly, to propose that we meet prior to Friday's broadcast so I could bring her up to speed on the many changes that have been made to the hand-count forecast tool (.xls). I told her I hope we can avoid appearing adversarial.

In further outreach efforts, tomorrow I'll be attending the regular monthly board meeting of the Redwood ACLU. Their agenda includes: "consideration of the request by the Voter Confidence Committee for support of a policy to require the use of hand-counted paper ballots in Humboldt County elections." I have attended several of their recent meetings and engaged them in dialog about the VCC Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County. I have been shown a draft of a statement they are considering making with regard to a variety of election issues. However, it does not quite cover everything I would hope they might address so tomorrow's meeting is all about potential.

Finally, Dan Ashby of the Election Defense Alliance called me Tuesday afternoon to see if I could appear on the debut episode of EDA's new radio show. We made it happen and you can listen to the .mp3 archive here. Other guests on the program included Jonathan Simon, EDA attorney in the courtroom Thursday representing the NY amici, and also Mary Ann Gould, host of Voice of the Voters. This is one of many broadcasts archived on this page, which also includes a recent series hosted by Bev Harris of Black Box Voting. EDA also now has a page devoted to documents related to US v NY Board of Elections.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

HAVA: Help Aging Volunteers Activate

My recently widowed grandmother is looking for an election integrity group to volunteer with in the vicinity of Boca Raton, FL. I told her I would put the word out and help her make a connection.

In all fairness, she can be difficult. She is blind in one eye and losing what sight remains in the other (in medical parlance: "she can't see worth spit"). She is not quite deaf, but has trouble hearing. And on a scale from ornery to cantankerous, she's both. I'm just guessing, but I think she'd be good at rallies or protests because she likes to yell.

Since an accurate picture may not necessarily be flattering, and I don't want to distort your first impression, here is an actual image of my grandmother, Edith Berman, at a family function a few years back.

I love that picture. And I'm pretty sure it is popular with others in my family. So it seems like as good a choice as any.

So here's the thing. I have no idea how she might make herself useful to an election integrity group. But she is a human being striving to maintain a sense of vitality in what remains of her life. For all its flaws, the Help America Vote Act is at least on the right track in recognizing that all voters, including those with any kind of handicap or disability, should be able to vote privately and independently. Can the election integrity movement set a similar standard? We would do well to embrace our own HAVA: Helping Aging Volunteers Activate.

I did some preliminary searching but didn't find an election integrity group in Boca Raton, FL. Please leave a comment at We Do Not Consent or e-mail me any referrals. Thanks!


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Monday, December 17, 2007

Suggested Reading For The Teenagers In Your Life


My friends at Veterans For Peace Humboldt Bay Chapter 56 have really put together a phenomenal counter-recruitment pamphlet. Please share it with parents or young people you know.

* * *

Perhaps of less interest to teenagers, but relevant for the regular WDNC reader, Teresa Hommel has far surpassed me with her compilation of documents from the amicus brief (see this press release if you haven't been following this story).

Peter B. Collins responded to the press release this morning by inviting me back on his radio show this Friday at about 5:20pm or so. Brad Friedman and Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich will both be on at that time as well. As an old friend used to say, "Let's get nice!"


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PRESS RELEASE: VCC Joins Amicus Brief in Federal Election Lawsuit


Contact: Dave Berman, 707-845-3749 or info@VoterConfidenceCommittee.org

Voter Confidence Committee Joins Amicus Brief in Federal Election Lawsuit
Election Integrity Advocates Urge Court To Order Hand Count In Next Presidential Election

12/17/07 - Humboldt County election watchdog group The Voter Confidence Committee (VCC), together with more than 30 other election integrity groups and advocates from coast to coast, have joined an amicus brief filed just prior to Friday's deadline in the case of US v NY State Board of Elections (Case # 1:06-cv-263). The Department of Justice is suing New York State to compel compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) passed in 2002.

The amicus cites multiple legal precedents defining the right to vote as not only including the right to cast a ballot, but also to see the ballot fairly received and counted. Submitted with the brief is overwhelming evidence that electronic voting systems are not only error and manipulation-prone, but also unconstitutional in their secrecy of operation. The amicus argues hand-counting paper ballots is HAVA compliant, and urges the court to order the two federal races (President, and US Representative) on New York's ballot next November to be hand-counted.

New York Attorney Andrea Novick of Election Defense Alliance (EDA) filed the brief, tentatively scheduled to be argued in United States Federal Court in Albany, NY on December 20 by EDA Attorney Jonathan Simon. Simon called the brief "an opportunity to offer an alternative solution that moves away from disastrous experiences of other states’ use of secret, computerized electronic vote counting equipment."

The brief offers over 200 pages of supporting documentation -- including evidence and analysis of outcome-determinative electronic vote mistabulation, as well as guides, tools, and detailed instructions for hand counting -- prepared and submitted by election reformists from a broad spectrum of organizations. Novick saluted the "cooperation and enthusiasm displayed by our colleagues across the election integrity spectrum" in preparing these critically important documents for the court.

The VCC has been advocating hand-counting all ballots in Humboldt elections and created a forecast tool to project cost, time and labor needs. The forecast tool has received national attention with applicability for any jurisdiction willing to objectively judge the feasibility of hand-counting.

"Andrea Novick and other nationally known election integrity advocates such as Rady Ananda asked for my help," said VCC co-founder Dave Berman. "We're a world away here in Humboldt but our work is making a difference. The forecast tool shows it is possible for every legally compliant polling place in NY to hand-count two federal races on election night in the poll site with one team of four people in four hours or less."

The VCC is currently collecting names of Humboldt voters willing to hand-count ballots on election night in local precincts. For more information on the VCC's Humboldt hand-count campaign, visit www.VoterConfidenceCommittee.org.

For further information on the amicus brief and federal case, including updates on scheduling, please contact Sally Castleman at Sallyc@ElectionDefenseAlliance.org (781-454-8700) or Jonathan Simon at VerifiedVote2004@aol.com (617-538-6012). The amicus and related materials may be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2vjphf.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

I am Voter Hear Me Roar: Meet the New York Amici (Guest blogged by Rady Ananda)

This is a perfect companion piece to the one I published yesterday looking at highlights of the amicus brief. Here Rady show us the thinking of many of the minds behind it all. This piece was originally published at at OpEdNews.com. - DB

I am Voter Hear Me Roar: Meet the New York Amici
By Rady Ananda
December 15, 2007
aka http://tinyurl.com/yrdqqg

Over 200 pages of legal documents from dozens of organizations, activists, election officials, and county legislators, representing tens of thousands of people, spoke on behalf of hand-counted paper ballots yesterday, through an amicus curiae brief (friend of the court), filed in USA vs. NY State Board of Elections.

In this federal case, the Dept. of Justice seeks to force New Yorkers to buy computerized voting systems, which have failed across the nation, election after election, and which the scientific community repeatedly condemns. Attorneys Andi Novick and Jonathan Simon, from Election Defense Alliance, head the cooperative effort. Novick saluted the "cooperation and enthusiasm displayed by our colleagues across the election integrity spectrum," noting that "it means a great deal in court, as well as in the court of public opinion, when so many groups and leaders pull together behind such a proposal."

Dave Berman's HCPB Forecast Tool provides the Court with a simple and effective means of calculating what it would cost New York to hire a 4-person hand-counting team per precinct (Election District) should the court allow it.

Also on December 14th, Ohio released the results of its "Project Everest," but not in time to be included in the annotated bibliography of expert reports submitted in the New York case. Ohio's team looked at Hart InterCivic, ES&S and Premier (fka Diebold), and all systems are still hackable. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner insists Cuyahoga County will switch to a computerized, networked system that uses centralized tabulation, a process wholly condemned in the scientific literature.

But, ignoring that absurdity for now, have a bowl or a glass of wine (or for those who can relax without chemical assistance, sit back) and quietly contemplate these gems of wisdom from people who stand for government by the people:

This … federal takeover of a state election board … is 'bizarre and unworkable.'

Friend of the court, Joel Tyner, NY Dutchess County Legislator, continues:

Secret vote counting is not only unconstitutional, but is un-American. All touch screen and optical scan voting machines … count the votes (in) secret... This is beyond absurd— from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"New York's Constitution of 1777 makes the observation that a vote cast on a tangible ballot preserves democracy better than one cast in the air:

And whereas an opinion hath long prevailed among divers of the good people of this State that voting at elections by ballot would tend more to preserve the liberty and equal freedom of the people than voting viva voce

Citing NY history (above) to make her point, Nancy Tobi of New Hampshire continues:

With theadvent of computerized voting, a new form of voting viva voce has made its way into the nation's elections, with the lion's share of America's total ballots now being counted – and often cast – in the Ethernet.

Author and four-time research award winner, Professor Steven Freeman states in his Declaration:

There is little question but that elections using newer HAVA-indicated op-scan and Direct Record Electronic machines can be stolen. Indeed, it has been proven time and time again.

Ulster County Legislator Gary Bischoff, who chairs the Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, asserts:

Our democracy depends on citizens to express their will and choices in a repeatable, fair and reliable election.

Pokey Anderson of Houston's radio news show, The Monitor, writes to the Court:

While there has always been manipulation in elections, the difference between stealing in a hand-counted paper ballot election and an electronic election is the difference between successfully robbing a convenience store and successfully robbing Fort Knox.

She goes on to quote others, starting with former National Security Agency code-breaker, Michael Wertheimer:

If you believe, as I do, that voting is one of our critical infrastructures, then you have to defend it like you do your power grid, your water supply.

And computer security professional Dr. David Dill:

Think about it rationally. What are the assets being protected? If we're talking presidential elections or control of Congress, there aren't a lot of assets in this world in monetary terms that are worth more than that. You're talking about the whole US economy.

And another computer security professional, Bruce O'Dell:

The technology to invisibly compromise voting systems is mature and the rewards are essentially limitless. It's professionally irresponsible to not presume vulnerable extreme-high-value systems are already actively being exploited.

Peacemakers of NY Schoharie County supports the proposition that

Federal election ballots could be hand counted in 2008 (and Peacemakers) commits to participating in the hand counting of ballots.

Wayne Stinson promises, "We will actively promote other citizens' engagement in the process."

Parallel Elections use a hand-counted paper ballot system, and are run outside of an official polling site.PE organizer and national speaker, Judy Alter, then analyzes the difference between official results and voter reports of how they voted. She writes:

We will continue to hold parallel elections and train others to do the same so that we can demonstrate the assault (computerized voting has) on our democracy.

Karen Charman of the Ulster County Shandaken Democrat Club recognizes the precarious position in which computerized voting systems puts us:

If the people lose control over the election process, they lose the right to govern themselves.

The inalienable right of self-governance rests squarely on the integrity of our elections. We believe that only an observable
transparent count of the votes can protect our elections and our sovereignty.

Our organization will volunteer to assist our county in finding as many volunteers as we need to help hand count the elections should the Court order same.

Susan Zimet writes in her amicus Declaration:

As a County Legislator, I will not allow my constituents to be disenfranchised on unreliable and theft enabling machines. I am prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary for the voters of Ulster County to know that their vote was counted accurately.

We have been looking for the most secure means to provide our constituents with … a transparent, accountable, fair and reliable electoral system. Hand counting of the Federal Elections is HAVA compliant.

I will personally assist in organizing citizens in my county to be trained and available to hand count elections in my county should the Court order same. I know of many Ulster County residents that would gladly make themselves available to assure that we could successfully accomplish this endeavor.

ARISE.org spokesperson Dennis Karius declares:

Where there's a will there's a way and the people are willing to help our officials effect our will through the most secure, reliable, transparent electoral system that exists: hand-counted elections.

ARISE is made up of thousands of active citizens thru congregations and community groups in the tri-county area of Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady in the CapitalDistrict. As part of this amici team, it stands for voters.

So did Abraham Lincoln:

Elections belong to the people. It is their decision.

Abe is quoted by Mary Ann Gould (Voice of the Voters Radio) in her Declaration.

Hand Count in 4 Hours

Everyone involved in this team of amici assures New York that if the Court rules for hand-counting the two federal elections in NY's November 2008 election, they will bring enough people to get the job done in less than four hours. Dave Berman and I crunched the numbers that allowed us to conclude:

In most of the counties studied only one team of four will be needed per (Election District of 1,150 registered voters) to complete hand-counting in four hours or less.

Oral Hearing Next Thursday

Jonathan Simon will appear for oral arguments being heard on Thursday, December 20th at 9 AM, at the US District Court, Albany, NY 12207.

He explains, "It is a lot less likely that I will be called upon to give an oral presentation per se; more likely that, if the court sees merit in or takes an interest in our brief, I may be asked questions about areas we have covered." He's confident in the merits of the HCPB position, "which I hope will prick the interest of the court.

"I think the sheer number of groups and individuals who have signed on will help in that regard… But a lot of it will be determined by the interests of the court and the parties."

The brief (p.14) points out the most important interest - that the public be able to "see" the vote count:

Electronic voting machines have caused citizens to lose their ability to observe and oversee the voting process. For this reason the use of computers destroys the basis for legitimacy of elections and the elected government.

The loss of these integral aspects of the right to vote is in direct violation of the repeated pronouncements of the highest court in New York that the constitutional right to vote includes the right to "see " that one's vote was "given full force and effect." Deister v Wintermute, supra at 108.

Given the millions of voters whose interests are represented by the HCPB amicus team, a democratic election run by the people will again have its day in court.


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Hand-Counting Paper Ballots Proposed In NY District Court

In March 2006, the US Department of Justice began legal proceedings ostensibly aimed at bringing the state of NY into compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). As of today, NY is still the only state that hasn't been bullied into outsourcing its election administration to the secret counting of a private corporation. Arguments will be heard in Case No. 06-CV-0263(GLS), US v NY State Board of Elections, starting next Thursday, December 20.

Yesterday was a big day in the long arc of this story. Attorney Andrea Novick filed a Memorandum of Law of Proposed Amici Curiae, also called an amicus brief or a friend of the court brief, on behalf of 33 election integrity advocates and organizations proposing to hand-count the two federal races on the November 2008 ballot. While it was Novick who filed the brief, it will be Jonathon Simon who will be in the courtroom with the possibility of a rare and extraordinary opportunity to make oral arguments.

There are many documents related to this case and I have started collecting some of them in a new folder in the GuvWurld News Archive. In particular, there are some very impressive declarations filed to provide the credentials of those involved in crafting the brief. You can now also see the projections for 15 NY counties developed using Rady Ananda's voter turnout projections and the hand-count forecast tool I built. Our methods are detailed in our declarations and the brief. It's all in that new folder.

More documents will surely be added in the days and weeks ahead. As of this hour, I am withholding my declaration as corrections are being made. It is uncertain whether an amended declaration can be filed, but when the update is complete you can at least locate it as described above. This is so unfortunate because we all spent ridiculous amounts of time this week, only to get snagged by document version control.

Here are some of the highlights of the brief:

p.7 of the brief - crux of our "proposal":

As the United States' memorandum has made clear, HAVA recognizes the State's right to hand count paper ballots, as long as Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) are provided in every polling place, producing a paper ballot identical to the paper ballots marked by able voters. Thus, were the Court to direct a hand count of the two Federal races, the defendants would not have to choose between purchasing failed computerized systems or remaining in violation of a federal statute, thereby subjecting the State to this Court's directing an outside party to decide how New York's elections will be held in 2008.

p.11 - closing of the summary section; features some points made previously by Paul Lehto and here at WDNC:

Amici Curia respectfully urge the Court to act as the judiciary has and must when government's potential conflict of interest, in having the authority to determine the means by which it may be re-elected, would so regulate the people's elections as to thwart the full exercise of the franchise as secured by the Constitution. The right to choose our representatives means nothing if the people cannot know - not merely trust - that their will has been accurately reflected by the results of our elections. That right was not granted to the people, but rather was deemed "unalienable," by nothing less than our Declaration of Independence. Governments' role is to secure that right. There is nothing secure about voting on computerized systems which have shown themselves time and again to be readily corruptible while defying detection. We implore the Court to protect the citizens' means to observe and secure our elections so that we may see, not trust, that our consent to the outcome was respected.

page 16 - from the core of the argument, a fine distillation of a point this country should have seen about five years ago as "Do not pass go, do not collect $200":

Not only have the essential democratic safeguards been obliterated by oblique computerized processes, but all of the voting systems sold by these voting vendors have been revealed to be seriously vulnerable to attacks that can change the outcome of entire elections. As demonstrated below and in the declarations of Lukacher, Anderson, Simon and Freeman, computerized voting offers by far and away the greatest opportunity for theft this nation has ever seen. After 200 years of successive legislative efforts to protect the integrity of our elections by minimizing the opportunities for tampering, we are witnessing a complete reversal wherein the opportunities for tampering are massively multiplied, enabled solely by the introduction of computers into our electoral process. Such action is in direct conflict with our Constitution.

pages 23-24 - another part of the main argument, and another point we have tried to make here in Humboldt about how unsavory (really how unthinkable) it is now to do business with Diebold/Premier:

New York's Procurement Laws prohibit the State from entering into contracts with "non-responsible" vendors26. The voting vendors who sell America's computerized voting systems share a history of multiple infractions of "non-responsible" conduct as defined in New York's laws -- including, in addition to failed performance and unethical conduct, criminal indictments and convictions, bid rigging, computer-aided embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and kick-back scandals to name a few -- any one of which would render them ineligible to do business in New York.
26 http://www.wheresthepaper.org/Memo1NYSvendorsProhibited.pdf, http://www.wheresthepaper.org/UpdatedProcurementVendorIrresponsibility070822.pdf,
http://www.votersunite.org/info/IrresponsibleVendors.pdf and see Lukacher Declaration.
Two memorandums (amici's exhibits "B" and "C") containing 80 pages of documented reports of vendors disqualifying "not-responsible" conduct were submitted to the SBOE and various agencies within the Governor's office. The defendants ignored the evidence, avoiding their affirmative obligation to investigate these vendors.

The evidence of the disaster of computerized voting presented herein is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In urging that New York become HAVA-compliant by purchasing this equipment, the United States' motion fails to mention that none of this equipment can provide a secure, reliable or accurate election result. The United States cannot justifiably compel the purchase of equipment that would disenfranchise millions by virtue of these machines' unacceptably high security vulnerabilities and documented failures.

New York should be free to abide by its rich democratic history in which the rights of citizens to oversee and monitor their elections has historically and progressively been recognized, respected and upheld as constitutionally required. This would be impossible if New York State were forced to purchase these machines, as the United States is urging this Court to direct.

pages 26-27

To satisfy the United States' motion that the State become HAVA-compliant for the federal election (since that is the only election relevant to the federal statute), the State only has to hand count the two Federal races in 2008, providing BMDs in every polling place so that disabled voters could create the same paper ballots as abled voters. Amici have gone to great lengths to assist New York by determining what would be required to hand count these two races, demonstrating as well how simple and feasible it would be for New York to return to a hand count for 2008's Federal election.

Rady Ananda and Dave Berman have analyzed the official data for each New York county and, using a forecast tool designed by Mr. Berman expressly for this purpose, have demonstrated that New [sic] will require only four citizen-counters in each polling place to be able to count the two races in less than four hours.29
29The forecast tool is based on the procedures as explained to Mr. Berman by New Hampshire's Assistant Secretary of State, Anthony Stevens. Forty-five percent of New Hampshire's polling places still hand count their ballots and, as explained in greater detail in the Tobi declaration, New Hampshire's ballots are far more complex, and their precincts larger, than New York's. [WDNC: Note that the first part of this footnote is among the points of clarification in my declaration. I did not attend Assistant Secretary Stevens' presentation or ever meet or speak with him. The forecast tool was inspired by a .pdf of Stevens' presentation on the website of Democracy For New Hampshire.]
page 29 - arguing that lever machines are HAVA compliant, and that failing to approve HCPB, all levers would still be preferable to anything electronic:

Lever machines do produce a permanent paper record. Some lever machines imprint the total number of votes cast onto a piece of paper. At the close of the election, poll workers remove the paper from the lever machine and use it to create another paper record of the tallies. Other lever machines don't produce an imprinted piece of paper with the tallies, but the poll workers perform the same function, taking the voting tallies off the lever machines and writing them down on a piece of paper, thus satisfying HAVA's requirement for a permanent paper record.

The United States' argument that the lever machine doesn't produce a permanent paper record with manual audit capacity presumably ignores the human being's role as part of the "voting system". However, just as with a hand count, a human being is very much a part of the voting system, and in the case of lever machines a human being is producing the permanent paper record required by HAVA.29
29 It is worth observing that there are voting systems which the United States considers HAVA-compliant that clearly do not "produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity" as required by the statute. Certainly no paperless DRE can be said to produce a permanent record, but the United States is not suing those states with paperless DREs to compel their compliance with HAVA. Moreover the paper produced by DREs with printers attached to them, creating so-called voter verified paper audit trails (VVPATs), have been shown unreliable for auditing purposes in that they have been known to have as high as 20% unreadability, and as corroborated in the recent reports from California, can be rigged to correspond to the electronic tally, neither equating with the machine's official tally.
* * *
I have immense respect and admiration for all the people working on this project, many of whom I haven't named and some of whom I may not even realize are on the team. I believe that everyone understands what a long shot this is but I have seen nothing but positivity toward the project. We know that regardless of the outcome of the case, in which we are neither plaintiff nor defendant, we have created a new body of work that advances the election integrity movement and will serve as a future reference countless times. In this way, I again cite confluence with the Voter Confidence Committee's Humboldt hand-count campaign. In Thursday's media advisory, we did not just request public information from the Registrar, we made a leap in our framing. Months ago, when our Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County was first released, we postured "Hand-Counting Paper Ballots Is On The Table - Let The Community Dialog Begin!" Like the District Court in NY, with enough information to demonstrate the time, cost, labor and other logistical concerns, the Humboldt community shall now be asked to judge the viability of our proposal.


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

NY Attorney Stands Up For Hand-Counting Paper Ballots

Coming right up on tomorrow's filing deadline, NY attorney Andi Novick will be submitting a brief regarding the state's response to Department of Justice pressure to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). New York is the last state not in compliance and the DOJ appears intent on forcing the state to purchase and implement some ridiculous electronic vote counting system or other in time for the November 2008 presidential election. The state, political parties and watchdog groups are all weighing in. Novick's brief, a proposal really, would keep NY's lever machines in place through next November, and it would allow hand-counting paper ballots for the two federal races on that ballot.

I suppose I have been peripherally aware of this situation, and began to learn a little about it before speaking in Commack, NY at the end of August. Here are several articles about the situation:

As I noted at the end of my "teamwork" post last weekend, I was recruited onto Novick's team to apply the hand-count forecast tool (.xls) I built for the Voter Confidence Committee to forecast cost, time and labor needs for hand-counting in 15 NY Counties. Over the past week the forecast tool has done some more evolving. Once Novick files I will make available the workbook showing the NY forecasts. In the meantime, the version that has been publicly available (.xls) for months has been updated to reflect these innovations:
All innovations developed in cooperation with Andy Novick, Rady Ananda, Nancy Tobi, Sally Castleman and Pokey Anderson.

The biggest fundamental difference in this new version is the distillation to the exact number of hours *required* for a four-person team to be able to hand-count an average poll site in the county. The benefit of this is showing very small numbers, in some cases, and also instances where a second team might be considered.

This still computes the number of people needed countywide, but now makes a more accurate computation of their collective pay. Before it was based on an arbitrary user input suggesting how late counting would be allowed to occur. Now the pay is completely prorated to the actual amount of counting time required.

Two new guide calculations have also been added for the sake of creating checks and balances, really a reality check for other numbers in the equation. The first new one is registered voters per poll site, computed by dividing the total number of registered voters by the number of poll sites. The other new guide is the poll site-level voter turnout, derived by dividing the average number of ballots cast per site by the average number of registered voters per site.

Removed from this version: time *allowed* for counting (both hours and seconds), teams required per poll site, and people required per poll site. Instead of quantifying people on a per poll site basis, it is now framed around the exact amount of time counting will require.
As part of Novick's brief, I had to draft a declaration stating my qualifications and specific contributions. I look forward to sharing that soon too. Papers due tomorrow are for the case scheduled to be heard on December 20.

* * *

There was a wonderful confluence of events today as the VCC released this media advisory making public a letter we delivered yesterday to Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich. We have waited a long time for her to provide her own forecast assumptions to be plugged into the forecast spreadsheet tool. By renewing our request publicly, we are hoping the media will become determined to know these numbers as well. This is how the community will be able to judge the viability of our proposal for hand-counting all ballots in Humboldt elections. The Registrar has already agreed to return to the Peter B. Collins show a week from tomorrow, December 21, presumably between 5-6pm when Brad Friedman is a regular guest.


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MEDIA ADVISORY: VCC Renews Call For Release of Public Info

MEDIA ADVISORY: VCC Renews Call For Release of Public Info

Contact: Dave Berman, 707-845-3749 or info@VoterConfidenceCommittee.org

Voter Confidence Committee Seeks Data For Comparison of Electronic and Hand-Counted Election Costs
Election Watchdog Group Repeats Request For Details From Humboldt Registrar

12/13/07 - Humboldt County election watchdog group The Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) hereby makes public a letter hand-delivered to the office of the Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich on December 12, 2007. Many of the questions included were first posed to the Registrar in May 2007, just prior to the release of the VCC "Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, CA." More recently, this topic was discussed on the Peter B. Collins talk radio show with both members of the VCC and the Registrar. The information being sought will enable the public to determine the viability of the VCC's proposal to hand-count all ballots in Humboldt County elections. A formal copy of this letter is attached to this e-mail and a plain text version appears below.

The VCC Report is archived online here: http://tinyurl.com/29vhhu.

Listen to an .mp3 of the Registrar on the Peter B. Collins show here: http://tinyurl.com/2f9jdj.

# # #

The Voter Confidence Committee
PO Box 5131
Eureka, CA 95502

December 12, 2007

Dear Carolyn Crnich, Humboldt Registrar of Voters:

As a follow up to participation on the Nov. 30 Peter B. Collins show and renewing our request for information that you agreed was reasonable when you met with members of the Voter Confidence Committee in May 2007, we respectfully submit the following questions:

1. What were all the costs associated with the use of Diebold optical scanners, the GEMS central tabulator, and the Hart InterCivic eSlate machines in the November 2006 election, including:

a. Depreciation
b. Storage
c. Repair
d. Software updates
e. Ballot printing
f. Ballot definition programming
g. Back-up systems
h. All staff time
i. Contingencies for power failure
j. Legal expenses (i.e. Holder v McPherson)
k. All other costs

2. What were the funding sources to cover the above costs, and who authorized those expenditures?

3. Regarding the 10% manual audit of the November 2006 election:

a. How many hand-counters were hired?
b. What was the collective total paid to those hand-counters?
c. How many total hours of counting were required?
d. How many total contests (cumulative individual voting opportunities) were counted across all ballots in the audit?

4. In the November 2006 election, countywide, how many total votes (not ballots) were counted by precinct-based optical scanners? How many precincts were used in Humboldt County for this election? How many ballots were cast either provisionally, absentee, or mail-in?

5. Regarding the upcoming February 5, 2008 presidential primary:
a. How many precincts and how many physical polling places (excluding mail-in only precincts) will there be in Humboldt County?
b. How many contests will be on the ballot?

We look forward to a prompt and timely written response, directed either to the address above or via e-mail to info@VoterConfidenceCommittee.org.


Aryay Kalaki, for
The Voter Confidence Committee

CC: Peter B. Collins, Brad Friedman, Humboldt County Supervisors and all local governments, Eureka Reporter, Eureka Times-Standard, North Coast Journal, Arcata Eye, KHUM, KGOE, KSLG, KMUD; (Added after letter delivery: GreenFuse, HSU Lumberjack, Humboldt Sentinel)


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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Teamwork On Display

I wasn't really sure what to call this blog post but then I realized all the things I wanted to cover had to do with...well check it out.

Jane Allen, a long time contributor to the GuvWurld News Archive and occasional guest blogger here at WDNC, has landed the second letter to the editor in the Eureka Reporter in less than a week calling out Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich for remarks she made on the Peter B. Collins show two Fridays ago. Click here for the letter written by Ruth Hoke and George Hurlburt published Tuesday. Jane's letter follows this transcript of a relevant excerpt from the PBC show:

CC: "Frankly, having 800 people handle our live ballots is not an appealing idea to me."

PBC: "Because..."

CC: "Do you not think that opens a door to fraud, too? 800 people handing live paper ballots? I'm not saying its the wrong thing to do. I'm saying I think it is an excellent audit tool for the way we count ballots now or, or in the future on some other equipment perhaps but..."

PBC: "I would argue that in a group situation, the group would basically police itself. So you're not putting individuals in a room with ballots that they could tamper with, you're putting a group to count them"

CC: "Yes, and I don't know that group and you don't either, and, and, do you see my concern?"

* * *


Voting software more trusted than citizens?

Dear Editor,

Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, during the Peter B. Collins radio show Nov. 30, said hand-counting paper ballots is an "excellent audit tool," but 800 people hand-counting "opens the door to fraud." It sounded like she believes that the same people who serve as poll workers (registered voters) aren’t honest enough to count ballots.

Of course, it is part of her job to be concerned about election fraud, but do I have this right - machines counting votes with secret software are more trustworthy than volunteers? I thought stepping up to help out during elections was called being a good citizen. Ms. Crnich apparently sees it as suspect activity.

Jane Allen
San Francisco
I think Jane shows a little more fang there than usual, though not uncalled for. I can hear Jane chuckle as she reads that last sentence. She recently brought up the expression "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" My crazy artist friend Dave Migliore (Bardoodle.com) had coincidentally just sent me this YouTube clip from the movie Network, a classic satire I hadn't seen. Until recently. Then what happened?

Last week I walked into a bank to pay my credit card statement. I recently learned that this is a way to pay as close to the due date as I want, and always be sure it is received on time. Very good tip that you could pass on, though likely this only works when the card and the bank branch are the same. So I walked into Bank of America to pay my BofA card and I noticed televisions dangling from the ceiling a few feet above the head of each teller. MSNBC was on the screen showing a school in Pennsylvania and that the lock-down had been lifted. I wasn't there long enough to find out anything more. I stepped up to the teller and had something along the lines of the following conversation:
DB: Hi, I'd like to pay my credit card statement.

BofA: OK, I can help you with that. How are you doing today?

DB: Well I'm not really comfortable with that television above your head.

BofA: Really? How come?

DB: Imagine at your house there were some pipes coming in, filling your house with toxic goo and causing your family to have brain cancer. You wouldn't want those pipes coming in, would you? That's what TV is doing, and what TV has already done.

BofA: (Blank stare)

DB: Ooh. Sorry. Did I just make you think?
Maybe my fang was showing there too. I think I have generally been doing a good job of playing nice and sharing. I am proud to announce that the Voter Confidence Committee has collected 206 names thus far for our hand-count volunteer drive. We now have a sign up form on our home page, which is great, but we also still desperately need a webmaster, another way we can put teamwork on display. It this theme working for anyone?

I have to also shout out to NY attorney Andi Novick. She is planning to file a legal brief this week that basically aims to keep the Department of Justice from forcing NY state into quickly buying and implementing some secret electronic vote counting system or other. Andi will be proposing that the state keep its lever machines through next November's presidential election, and hand-count at the precincts only the two federal races on the November 2008 ballot.

I got involved with this project when another GuvWurld News Archive contributor and WDNC guest blogger, Rady Ananda told me she was helping Andi and asked if I could use the hand-count cost estimator (.xls) to add some detail to the proposal. Other familiar names like Nancy Tobi of Democracy For New Hampshire, and Sally Castleman of the Election Defense Alliance (who I remember fondly from the Portland conference on election integrity), have also played key roles. I will have a lot more on this story in the coming days.


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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Media Notes

A few days ago I wrote about meeting Marcy Burstiner, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Humboldt State University, who also writes the Media Maven column for the North Coast Journal. I noted that she was expecting some big news about the Eureka Reporter to be announced on Sunday. Sure enough, here is the announcement:

Please come and see The Eureka Reporter's new ePaper.

The ePaper is a free, exact replica of The Eureka Reporter. Readers can log onto any computer with Internet access and view all the text, photos and advertisements exactly as they are printed in the daily paper.Please take a moment to register to access the ePaper.
Elsewhere in the paper, Publisher Judi Pollace revealed that the Reporter will stop publishing on Mondays and Tuesdays when 2008 arrives, remaining a free publication five days per week. Burstiner's Media Maven column this week is called "Pray for the Reporter!" Some excerpts:
For those who like to bash the Reporter, consider Humboldt County without it. When a newspaper goes from publishing seven days a week to five, that's a sign of hard financial times. There are others. Its reporters are disappearing and more articles in the paper now carry no byline than stories that do carry a byline. (Generally that means that what you think is an article is just a printed press release.)


But don't write off the paper yet. It eliminated paper publishing on Mondays and Tuesdays, but it recently added a fourth member to its editorial board: Peter Hannaford, a key adviser to Governor Ronald Reagan and a former partner to former Reagan adviser and lobbyist extraordinaire Micheal Deaver.

It makes for some interesting dynamics on the paper. The way editorials used to work involved a majority vote from the members of the three-person team. That led, at least once, to managing editor Glenn Franco Simmons writing a separate column opposing the paper's stand. If they still use the voice vote, I'd like to see how they get out of a split.

I like having the Eureka Reporter around. It gives jobs to my current and former students. And it prints any opinion out there. For those who see it as a bullhorn for Arkley, they ignore how it prints columns by Amy Goodman, Dave Berman and others. It gives a forum for the 911 Truth folks — those pushing to reopen the investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Centers — who can't get their voices into the North Coast Journal or Times-Standard. My stand isn't whether I support the opinions or not. What I support is the forum for expression. (emphasis added)
I got name-dropped in the North Coast Journal by the Media Maven, in the same sentence as Amy Goodman no less (even though she is a left gatekeeper). I'll take that as a feather in the cap, right next to the Journal's January 2006 comment that my previous blog GuvWurld was "gaining some stature in the larger blogosphere."

As for the ePaper, it is labeled as Beta which means kinks are still being worked out and perhaps some features have yet to be added. My first experience was that I needed to increase magnification so much to read the text that the portion of the text displayed was a fraction of an article. It took me a while to figure out that if I click and drag the image of the paper I can move it around to reveal parts not visible when zoomed in enough to read. It looks kind of snazzy but I'm not sure I like it any better than the regular Reporter site.

Back to Burstiner again. The credits listed above are taken directly from her Media Maven column and omit her role as faculty adviser to the Humboldt State University student newspaper, The Lumberjack. One thing this paper has been steadily following is a faculty-driven "no confidence" campaign directed at University President Rollin C. Richmond. When I met Burstiner last week she encouraged me to submit letters to the Lumberjack and so I saw this all too obvious connection. This week's paper contains a letter I wrote, reprinted in full below (the paper's website is woefully outdated):
The Lumberjack, December 5, 2007, Vol. 91 No. 14, Page 22

Voter confidence should count

Dave Berman
Letter to the editor

Dear Lumberjack Editor:

All this talk about a no confidence vote on President Richmond reminds me that many HSU students may be unaware of another no confidence vote that made news here a few years ago.

On July 20, 2005 the Arcata City Council adopted the Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR). This is a statement outlining election conditions around the country, primarily the fact that election results have become unverifiable. From this, the VCR concludes that there is "no basis for confidence" in the results reported. We are instead forced to "trust" the government using secret vote counting machines that produce results we must accept with blind faith.

Votes on a ballot are tangible and should be countable and recountable, indefinitely, reliably producing the same results over and over. Government legitimacy is derived, according to the Declaration of Independence, from the Consent of the Governed. Elections that can't be recounted and results that can't be questioned mean that our Consent is being assumed and taken for granted, rather than sought and freely given.

The Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County is committed to improving local election conditions to create transparency, security, and verifiable accuracy as a basis for confidence in the results. We aim to do this by persuading the County Supervisors and Registrar of Voters to get rid of our secret electronic vote counting systems and instead use voters to hand-count paper ballots in the precincts on election night.

This is one of many recommendations in our "Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County," based on an intensive eight month study of the situation. Readers can find this report, as well as the VCR and many other materials related to our campaign for hand-counting in Humboldt, at www.VoterConfidenceCommittee.org.

If you are registered to vote in Humboldt, please use the sign up form on our site to let us know you are willing to join in the counting. It is important we show the skeptical local government there are in fact enough of us to get the job done. We estimate it will only take about 1% of registered voters.

Dave Berman is the co-founder of the Voter Confidence Committee


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Humboldt Registrar Explains Opposition to Hand-Counting Paper Ballots

In my recent report on Peter B. Collins' live Eureka broadcast, I mentioned that Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich had phoned in unexpectedly during the final few minutes of the show. I didn't go into any detail about her comments but they are worthy of note. First, to hear the full show, click here. To hear just the excerpt with the Registrar, click here. The entire third hour features Brad Friedman from BradBlog.com, as well as Aryay Kalaki and me. You can drag your media player's slider 2/3 of the way if you want to queue that up.

Now, here are the Registrar's words that I think didn't sit right with people. Peter B. asked Carolyn to comment on the Voter Confidence Committee proposal for hand-counting paper ballots:

CC: "Frankly, having 800 people handle our live ballots is not an appealing idea to me."

PBC: "Because..."

CC: "Do you not think that opens a door to fraud, too? 800 people handing live paper ballots? I'm not saying its the wrong thing to do. I'm saying I think it is an excellent audit tool for the way we count ballots now or, or in the future on some other equipment perhaps but..."

PBC: "I would argue that in a group situation, the group would basically police itself. So you're not putting individuals in a room with ballots that they could tamper with, you're putting a group to count them"

CC: "Yes, and I don't know that group and you don't either, and, and, do you see my concern?"
The process of hand counting has checks and double checks built into it. Four people have to agree on everything and additional citizens may be observing. There is less trust required with hand-counting than with trade-secret proprietary software.

That's just for starters. Notice how she says "opens a door to fraud, too?" She is acknowledging the manifest weaknesses in the security of electronic vote tabulation and attempting to say hand-counting would be at least as bad. I'll have to go looking around, but I know there are studies comparing "attack vectors," points within a vote counting system that may be vulnerable to tampering (perhaps my best researcher friend Rady Ananda will post a link in the WDNC comments?). It would be embarrassing to think anyone believes hand-counting has more security holes than any existing electronic vote counting system.

Now think of how community members likely feel, being told by a public official in a small rural community where people actually know each other, that counters would somehow be untrustworthy strangers as opposed to respected neighbors. This is bordering on incitement. In fact, it did move VCC members Ruth Hoke and George Hurlburt to submit the following letter published in Wednesday's Eureka Reporter, online as of two hours ago.

County has the human power to hand-count ballots

Dear Editor,

Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich astonished the audience of Peter B. Collins’ live radio broadcast from the Eureka Theater Friday evening by stating on the air that she would not trust 800 (registered voters) to count live ballots. This was during a conversation with Mr. Collins, well-known election integrity journalist Brad Friedman and Dave Berman of the local group Voter Confidence Committee. VCC members are gathering signatures to show there is enough human power to hand-count all ballots during Humboldt County elections.

Having met with Ms. Crnich on several occasions, our impression is that she is honorable and dedicated in her profession; therefore, we’d like to assume she made an off-the-cuff comment without forethought. But if the statement does reflect her real view, we must respond.

First, why would the ballots be more valuable or important than the voters who created them? Keep in mind that hand-counters must be registered voters. When we were hand-counters after the 2006 election, we both thought the security measures were reassuring and counters were competent and diligent.

Consider our judicial system, which uses ordinary citizens as jurors. They are expected to possess and exercise good judgment, not just an ability to count. The system has served us well for more than 200 years. Why is Ms. Crnich so resistant to counting by citizens? Does she think there aren’t enough people in the county who can count or follow directions? Or does she hold the belief that more technology is always better?

We hope she will call Peter B. Collins’ show on Dec. 14, as she promised, and address these issues in depth.

Ruth Hoke
George Hurlburt
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Posted by Dave Berman - 1:37 AM | Permalink
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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Alex Jones Interviews Naomi Wolf, Blows Her Mind

On Thursday I posted a bunch of links to interviews, lectures and articles by author Naomi Wolf, whose book End of America I've been writing and talking about a lot. Last night I came across an interview Wolf gave on Thursday to radio talk host Alex Jones. Neither of them had to convince the other of anything, and it was amazing to hear them sharing information the other didn't know. There was mutual admiration and respect and Wolf will give Jones a longer interview in the near future.

Meanwhile, the historical echoes and direct connections between the Bush family and the Nazis grow ever more concrete as Jones talks about visiting the National Archive, the official treasure trove of our nation's forgotten memories. If you didn't click on any of the links I provided the other day, listen to this interview. And if you did click any of them the other day, still listen to this interview.

This Jones/Wolf interview came to my attention via this thread at Democratic Underground. Commenter tom_paine responded, seemingly in frustration, that "99% of the American People see nothing" even as this info becomes increasingly abundant and clear. It was obvious to me he was exaggerating, prompting my reply:

There are way more of us who are awake than we give ourselves credit for. It is not really a quantifiable figure. We each have a sense of it, and I suspect that for most of us it can even vary over time, influenced by circumstances. So for example, someone feeling cut off from like-minded people wanting change, or someone who is burned out from activism that hasn't produced change, or someone who goes to a new community and experiences an intense disconnect with people; any of these situations could understandably tilt a person a little towards the pessimistic side.

On the other hand, today Peter B. Collins did his syndicated talk radio show live in my town (.mp3 archive). I work with a group called the Voter Confidence Committee and we had a table in the lobby of the theater. Two of us were guests on the show for the whole final hour. Afterwards, I drove to the community center in the next town and the Peace and Justice Center was having its annual holiday dinner. It was held for the first time this year in an enormous gymnasium, having outgrown the venue of the past several years. I'm buzzing so hard from the good vibes of today. That might tilt me a little towards the optimistic, but I won't claim there is 99% of us who are awake and ready for the revolution.

For whatever it is worth, I think we have passed the turning point and the numbers are on our side. Our challenge, all of us in this country, is to learn to be better community organizers. Think global, act local. This is how we build the peaceful revolution.
* * *
A few other postscripts from yesterday's events, starting with humblest apologies to Jimmy Durchslag, who I didn't immediately recognize when I saw him in the Eureka Theater lobby. Jimmy co-founded KMUD and participated in the media round table discussion I organized following Peter B. Collins' live Humboldt broadcast last year. Most notably, Jimmy subsequently met me for coffee to discuss the Project-Based Format.

At the Redwood Peace and Justice Center dinner later in the evening, I also at long last met Marcy Burstiner, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Humboldt State University who also writes the Media Maven column for the North Coast Journal. Her column began last year on my suggestion that local election coverage be compared across various local media, as viewed through the dozens of articles assembled in my scrapbook. She never talked to me prior to writing her first column and for reasons that no longer matter I never contacted her about the issues I had with that column.

Much later, and actually quite recently, I did begin to correspond with her by e-mail and felt frustrated that she declined or refused to make the connection between election conditions that inherently guarantee uncertain results and the irresponsibility (corrupt complicity, really) of media that print such outcomes as if they are fact. When we were introduced last night, the first thing she said to me was that she liked my OpEd in Thursday's Eureka Reporter. Tom Pinto had introduced us and the three of us talked for several minutes after that. I wasn't totally surprised when Marcy said she believes our elections are a "sham." But I also didn't get the opportunity I was looking for to ask her to reconcile this with the dilemma above. A little more ruthless honesty is in order here.

One really interesting thing that Marcy brought up last night was her expectation that something major was about to happen with the Eureka Reporter this Sunday, tomorrow. Each of us agreed there had recently been some unsettling signs for the paper, including eliminating distribution to some outlying areas, changing the paper used for printing, and the addition of a new editorial page editor named Peter Hannaford.

I shared something then that I haven't blogged before. I told Tom and Marcy that when Stephanie West from the Reporter called me to confirm I wrote the OpEd that ran on Thursday, she said that the decision to print it was now up to Peter Hannaford. I asked if he was the one responsible for the sharp change in tone in the paper's recent editorials. Yes, said Stephanie. I then said that I was compelled to offer her the feedback that his writing is juvenile and lowers the level of discourse this community is accustomed to as a result of having so many print publications. Here are three (one, two, three) examples.

Something about that third example really stuck in my head. I was astounded at the absurdity of referring to the "MoveOn.org-Code Pink wing of the Democratic Party." I am not a member of either group, having abandoned MoveOn long ago when it was obviously not effective at creating the real change I seek. If you ask any member of either group whether they feel they are having an influence on the Democrats, I am certain a vast majority will express frustration that the answer is clearly no. This frustration is certainly the prevailing attitude across the country, not just in these two groups. There is no evidence to indicate the Democrats have become beholden to these two groups in any way, especially given the repeated commitment to funding war profiteering, big pharma, etc. So in essence, there is no such thing as the "MoveOn.org-Code Ping wing of the Democratic party", just as there is no such thing as Islamofascism.

So what is this all about? I've been over it a few times. Harken back to this GuvWurld blog post, We Are Being Set Up: The Manchurian Nation (which also landed in my book, We Do Not Consent (free .pdf)). This talks about how Homeland Security and media propaganda combine to brand protest as treason, and dissenters as terrorists. In End of America, Wolf lists this as step nine of ten taken by all dictatorial regimes closing down open societies. How transparent and obvious has this become in America today? This YouTube video of CNN footage from Wednesday night features talking head Campbell Brown referring to MoveOn.org as "American insurgents."

* * *

I mentioned on Thursday that I am currently reading Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This YouTube video is author Naomi Klein interviewed by Keith Olbermann on Thursday night. Her thesis:
"So there's three kinds of shocks in the Shock Doctrine. The shock of a crisis, then an economic shock therapy program, and then, if people don't behave, a third shock, which is the shock of torture."
Like Wolf, Klein talks about understanding oft-repeated patterns, showing multiple examples of this three shock sequence. Both women believe these patterns are predictive. I say they are right, but the things being "predicted" are as much in the present as in the future.


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