Recognizing the 'gravity and importance' of right to an accurate count, court directs parties in lawsuit to focus on 'practical realities' of converting to hand-marked paper ballot system within 3 months...
UPDATE: Court schedules hearing for Sept. 17; rejects defense motions to dismiss...
Plaintiffs in a Georgia lawsuit seeking to force the state to move to a hand-marked paper ballot system in time for this year's midterm elections, promise to produce expert testimony to the court, demonstrating that "Georgia's voting system is a catastrophically open invitation to malicious actors intent on disrupting our democracy."
The Coalition for Good Governance and a group of multi-partisan individual plaintiffs filed a motion [PDF] on July 31, seeking a preliminary injunction in the federal case, to prevent Georgia from conducting this year's midterms on the state's notorious Diebold AccuVote TS (touchscreen) Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines. Instead, plaintiffs seek an order that Georgia's election officials utilize, for in-person voting, the same already-certified, Diebold paper ballot-based optical-scan system currently used for tabulation of the Peach State's absentee ballots.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ordered an expedited briefing schedule on plaintiffs' motion to compel the State of Georgia to adopt this simple method for conducting a verifiable paper ballot election on November 6, 2018.
The plaintiffs cite a massive body of scientific evidence finding the 100% unverifiable Diebold touchscreen systems as essentially electronic black holes, prone to unintended systemic failures and vulnerable to all manner of undetectable malicious manipulation by insiders or anyone else who acquires minimal access to the system or any of its machines. They also point to evidence that the statewide system was previously compromised via the Internet. Plaintiffs argue the 16-year old system deprives the electorate of their constitutional right not only to cast a vote but to have their vote accurately counted.
Recognizing "the gravity and importance of the constitutional issues," the court directed the parties (principally GA Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state's GOP nominee for governor), as well as the plaintiffs to address "the practical realities surrounding implementation of the requested relief in the next one to three months." Judge Totenberg asks defendants to address the "practical realities" issue in a response by August 14. Plaintiffs' reply is then due by August 20.
The question before the court is monumental and could help set a precedent across the country in other jurisdictions where voters are forced to use unverifiable touchscreens on Election Day, rather than a paper ballot system that is already available via the absentee systems used in all 50 states.
As we documented last year, in "Why Do Georgia Election Officials Insist on 100% Unverifiable Elections?", if the court issues the preliminary injunction, November 6, 2018 would mark the first time in more than a decade and a half that the State of Georgia will have held an election in which it will be possible for human beings to verify or refute the accuracy of an electronic vote tally, thanks to the use of hand-marked paper ballots...
"I worry that what we have here in Georgia is the Titanic Effect," Georgia Tech Computer Scientist Richard DeMillo observed, regarding the myriad security issues revealed during the course of last month's U.S. House Special Election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
"Georgia officials are convinced the state's election system cannot be breached. Shades of the 'unsinkable ship'. They have neglected to give us life boats...a fail-safe system designed so that in case of a catastrophe Georgia voters can easily verify that reported vote totals match voter intent. It is the sort of common-sense approach that first-year engineering students learn. Other states have that capability. Inexplicably, Georgia does not," DeMillo said in a statement quoted in support of a legal challenge filed contesting the 100% unverifiable results of the June 20 contest.
The computer scientist's concerns are hardly the first expressed about Georgia's absurd voting system. In fact, they cap well over a decade of chilling revelations, shocking vulnerabilities and dire warnings issued from the community of experts who have examined the Peach State's voting system, including a number of those who installed it in the first place back in 2002.
For election integrity advocates, the allegations set forth in the July 3 complaint (Curling II) --- filed by the Coalition for Good Governance and a multi-partisan (Republican, Democratic and Constitution Parties) group of electors --- should be enough to make their hair stand on end. That's especially true as it relates to official intransigence and even outright hostility towards computer scientists and researchers who revealed critical vulnerabilities within the state's 100% unverifiable and Orwellian-named Diebold "AccuVote" TS touch-screen voting and tabulation system.
Curling I involved an earlier unsuccessful effort, filed just prior to the election, to secure a temporary restraining order that would have compelled Georgia to use paper ballots during what had become the most expensive U.S. House race in American history.
With the exception of a relatively small number of verifiable paper absentee ballots, Georgia 6th Congressional District electors were forced to cast their votes into electronic black holes. The result: an "election" in which Republican Karen Handel reportedly defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff 51.9% to 48.1%, despite almost all pre-election polls predicting an Ossof win, with some surveys finding the Democrat with a 7 point lead over his Republican opponent. The touch-screen "victory" for Handel, the state's former Secretary of State, is now being contested in Curling II precisely because the reported results were produced by a wildly vulnerable and 100% unverifiable e-vote tabulation system.
As Brad Friedman accurately reported in his first BradCast following Election Day, the results "may be absolutely right or completely wrong...Nobody knows for certain either way...[What we] do know, according to the state's reported results, [is] that Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated Republican Karen Handel in GA-06 by a nearly 2 to 1 margin on the only verifiable ballots used in the race, the paper absentee mail-in ballots"...
The Politicus USA headline typified MSM coverage of what Brad Friedman often refers to as the "horse race" --- "Democrats Surge As Michelle Nunn Leads Georgia Senate Race In Third Straight Poll."
For The BRAD BLOG, and for a good many election integrity advocates and computer scientists, that narrow focus ignores "the track conditions," which, in Georgia entails the continued use of touchscreen voting systems courtesy of a 2009 determination by the Georgia Supreme Court that "unverifiable elections are just fine."
Where horse race coverage focuses exclusively on the here and now, this site feels it helpful to look back a dozen years to what took place in Georgia shortly after Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox signed a May 2002 contract with what was then known as Diebold Election Systems Inc....
Picking up on The BRAD BLOG's exclusive statement from the imprisoned former Governor Don Siegelman (D-AL) in regard to the alleged $20 million money laundering conspiracy by the currently-acquitted Tom DeLay, former convict Jack Abramoff, fugitive from justice Karl Rove and others to take down Alabama's popular former Governor, I was joined by Siegelman's son Joseph on this week's KPFK/Pacifica RadioBradCast.
Not familiar with the outrageous prosecution and conviction of Siegelman? Or of what appears to be his blatantly stolen 2002 election (on a Diebold paper ballot electronic tabulator?) This is great episode to listen to, as it also includes a lot of background and a few clips from my interview with the former Governor just days before he was ordered back to federal prison last year.
But before you get outraged all over again, we started off the show with a rarely heard good news segment to help soften everything else a bit. Yes, there have been a number of things to be happy and/or encouraged by, of late...though admittedly it's been very hard to notice.
Now, the last Democratic governor to serve Alabama is speaking up for himself, in a statement he's furnished to The BRAD BLOG from federal prison, slamming DeLay for what he describes as his part in a $20 million criminal conspiracy with convicted GOP uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist and others to defeat him in his bid for re-election, and to ensure he never took office again.
Siegelman is currently serving a 6.5 year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana for something that 113 bi-partisan former state attorneys general agree had never been regarded as a crime until Siegelman was convicted for it. (Watch 60 Minutes' 2008 story on Siegelman's outrageous prosecution here.)
In his statement, the former governor speaks out against "The Hammer" and hammers him hard for what he describes as collusion to "engineer a money laundering scheme to defeat me in my race for re-election as governor and to elect Karl Rove's and Tom DeLay's Republican colleague from the U.S. House, then Congressman Bob Riley."
"I know first-hand, personally --- what I'm about to tell you is not hearsay," Siegelman writes about the alleged scheme to remove him from office through a late night ballot tampering scheme. He explains how the conspiracy resulted in robbing him of his 2002 re-election after it had already been called in his favor by all the networks. Later, before Siegelman --- the only person to hold all four top statewide offices in Alabama history --- could run for Governor again, he says the same cabal worked to have him thrown in jail on what appear to be trumped up charges brought by a Bush Administration prosecutor who also happened to be married to Riley's Chief of Staff.
In the fiery, no-holds-barred statement (posted in full below), Siegelman cites Abramoff's own book, Capitol Punishment, in which he says the former GOP lobbyist "admits for the first time to money laundering to the tune of some $20,000,000 dollars 'to stop Siegelman.'"...
Following Thursday's 2-to-1 decision by a three-judge panel from an appellate court in Texas overturning the 2010 felony money laundering convictions of former U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R), the Travis County District Attorney announced her intention to seek a review of that decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
"We strongly disagree with the opinion of Judges Goodwin and Gaultney that the evidence was insufficient," Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg said in a statement. "We are concerned and disappointed that two judges substituted their assessment of the facts for that of 12 jurors who personally heard the testimony of over 40 witnesses over the course of several weeks and found that the evidence was sufficient and proved DeLay's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
She said her office is "preparing a response to this opinion and will ask the full Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to review the ruling."
I've been poring over both the majority decision [PDF] by the three-judge panel's two Republicans, and the dissent [PDF] issued by the Democratic Chief Justice of that court. I'm no expert here, and I'm trying to learn more, but the majority's decision seems to invoke some fairly impressive tortured logic in order to overturn the 12 jurors finding that DeLay committed these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nonetheless, that logic, twisted or otherwise, may well work at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the court of last resort for criminal matters in the Lone Star State...
Eight top election officials from Clay County, KY previously found guilty in a massive vote buying and selling conspiracy --- which prosecutors charged had been run over several decades and included the manipulation of electronic voting machines in 2006 --- have had their convictions overturned and a new trial ordered by a panel on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of appeals.
The eight co-conspirators --- which included the County Clerk, a Circuit Court Judge and the School Superintendent, among others --- had previously been sentenced to a total of more than 156 years in federal prison following their 2009 arrest and 2010 trial and conviction over fraud carried out in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 elections.
The group had been found guilty of complex, endemic vote buying and selling schemes carried out over many elections over several years, often meant to game the Republican primary elections in the very rural, very poor, Republican area of the Bluegrass State in a location where winning the GOP primary was usually a guarantee for also winning the general election.
The schemes became more sophisticated over the years, according to prosecution evidence and cooperating witnesses, including in 2006 when poll workers participating in the conspiracy were said to have changed the votes cast by voters on touch-screen voting machines after they'd left the "booth" on Election Day. (The same 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems, the ES&S iVotronic, which allowed for the manipulation of votes in Clay County, are still in widespread use across the country today.)
Evidence presented during the trial also included testimony that one of the defendants, Circuit Court Judge R. Cletus Maricle, said to have been one of the scheme's main ringleaders, used his position as a judge to convince a woman, whose brother was a defendant before his court, to change her voter registration from Republican to Democratic so that she could serve as a "Democratic" poll-worker during elections there and take part in the scheme.
Over all, during the original trial, the prosecution had presented a remarkably wide-spread conspiracy taking place over many elections, with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to buy votes and manipulate results, year after year, election after election, by highly-placed election official insiders --- precisely the type of folks who those concerned about the manipulation of elections, particularly via computer manipulation, frequently warn about. At the end, the officials placed on trial were all found guilty and sentenced to an average of about 20 years apiece.
So, why did the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturn the original convictions this week, and remand the case for a new trial?...
Last week, Bob Fitrakis and Gerry Bello at FreePress.org reported an important story concerning what they described as "uncertified 'experimental' software patches" being installed at the last minute on electronic vote tabulation systems in 39 Ohio counties which service more than 4 million voters Buckeye State voters.
The story included a copy of the contract [PDF] between Republican Ohio Sec. of State Jon Husted's office and ES&S, the nation's largest e-voting system manufacturer, for a new, last minute piece of software created to the custom specifications of the Sec. of State. The contract itself describes the software as "High-level enhancements to ES&S' election reporting software that extend beyond the current features and functionality of the software to facilitate a custom-developed State Election Results Reporting File."
A subsequent story at The Free Press the following day included text said to be from a November 1 memo sent from the OH SoS Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske to a number of state election officials confirming the use of the new, uncertified software on Ohio's tabulator systems. The memo claims that "its function is to aid in the reporting of results" by converting them "into a format that can be read by the Secretary of State's election night reporting system."
On Friday evening, at Huffington Post, journalist Art Levine followed up with a piece that, among other things, advanced the story by breaking the news that Fitrakis and his attorney Cliff Arnebeck were filing a lawsuit for an immediate injunction against Husted and ES&S to "halt the use of secretly installed, unauthorized 'experimental' software in 39 counties' tabulators". Levine also reported that Arnebeck had referred the matter to the Cincinnati FBI for criminal investigation of what the Ohio attorney describes as "a flagrant violation of the law."
"Before you add new software, you need approval of a state board," says Arnebeck. "They are installing an uncertified, suspect software patch that interfaces between the county's vote tabulation equipment and state tabulators." Arnebeck's alarm is understandable.
Since the story initially broke, I've been trying to learn as much as I could about what is actually going on here. During that time, a few in the mainstream media have gotten wind of the story as well, including NBC News and CNN, and have been able to press Husted and other officials in his office into finally responding to the concerns publicly. The Ohio officials have attempted to downplay the concerns, though in doing so, they appear to have given misleading information which, at times, seems to conflict even with the contract itself.
I've also spoken to computer scientists and election integrity experts, in trying to make sense of all of this, though many of them seem to be scratching their heads as well. My own queries to the Sec. of State's office have gone unanswered, as had Fitrakis' and Bello's before they published their initial story, begging the question as to why, if this software is as benign as Ohio officials are suggesting, they didn't respond immediately to say as much. Furthermore, why did they keep the contract a secret? Why did they wait until just before the election to have this work done? And why did they feel it was appropriate to circumvent both federal and state testing and certification programs for the software in the bargain?
I'd like to have been able to learn much more before running anything on this at all, frankly. But the lack of time between now and Tuesday's election --- in which Ohio's results are universally believed to be key to determining the next President of the United States --- preclude that.
So, based on the information I've been able to glean so far, allow me to try to explain, in as simple terms as I can, what we current know and what we don't, and what the serious concerns are all about.
And, just to pre-respond to those supposed journalists who have shown a proclivity for reading comprehension issues, let me be clear: No, this does not mean I am charging that there is a conspiracy to rig or steal the Ohio election. While there certainly could be, if there is, I don't know about it, nor am I charging there is any such conspiracy at this time. The secretive, seemingly extra-legal way in which SoS Husted's office is going about whatever it is they are trying to do, however, at the very last minute before the election, along with the explanations they've given for it to date, and concerns about similar cases in the past, in both Ohio and elsewhere, are certainly cause for any reasonable skeptic or journalist to be suspect and investigate what could be going on. And so I am...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT:HURRICANE SANDY SPECIAL REPORT: The storm, the aftermath, and the impacts of climate change; PLUS: A reminder of one Presidential candidate's position on federal disaster relief --- Mitt Romney has called for privatizing it ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Chevron: $2.5 Million To GOP Super PAC. Single Largest Corporate Donation; BP Oil Spill: Researchers Take a Deep Look at Gulf Seafood Safety; BP returns to profitability; WY coal art dispute rages on; There Is No 'Simple Fix' for Commodity Farming; Protests Against Expansion of China Chemical Plant Turn Violent; Sand Mine Riches Are Tough to Refuse ... PLUS: Hurricane Sandy: Haiti in emergency aid plea as disaster piles upon disaster ... and much, MUCH more! ...
It is now officially impossible to know whether thousands of paper ballots being counted in the state of Wisconsin's Supreme Court election "recount" are the same ones actually cast on Election Day. It didn't have to be that way, unlike in Kentucky, where the voters never had a chance, and where high-ranking election officials have now been sentenced to more than 150 years in federal jail following "decades" of manipulated elections.
Thanks to serious chain of custody violations in Wisconsin --- such as ballot bags discovered to have been left "wide open" and unsealed in Waukesha County, and ballots left completely unsecured for weeks in the office of the Verona City Clerk in Dane County --- that now make it quite likely the real winner of the April 5th election for a 10-year term on the bench of that state's highest court will never be known for certain. That, even though thousands of votes have now been verified as having been miscounted during the state's partial hand-count, and even as the hotly-contested seat in question will determine the ideological balance of the court during one of the most contentious moments in Badger State history.
With results that will never be known for certain, the razor-thin contest has now become a fully "faith-based election," in contradiction to the checks and balances necessary for true self-governance.
But where Wisconsin could have had an overseeable and fully verifiable election in which voters might have had confidence, voters in Kentucky, for years, never even had a chance as they were forced to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting machines.
The good-ish news? That is changing, as much of the Bluegrass State is finally turning to the use of hand-marked paper ballots, though they plan on tallying them similarly to Wisconsin, via oft-failed, easily-manipulated optical-scan systems manufactured by private vendors, rather than counting them transparently in front of the public.
Given Kentucky's recent history, that's a particularly troubling prospect, as underscored by several developments in two different counties in the state of late.
In 2009, a spate of high-ranking election officials in Clay County, KY --- including the County Clerk, a Circuit Court Judge, the School Superintendent, a former Magistrate, and several polling place officials --- were arrested in a massive vote buying/selling and electronic vote-machine rigging conspiracy which netted the criminals millions of dollars over the past decade. The federal charges included the County Clerk and other members of the Board of Elections having intentionally falsified election reports to include inaccurate voting results when submitted to the state.
One Republican election official pleaded guilty after the arrest two years ago, and the other eight were found guilty and convicted last year in federal court. They were sentenced this past March to a total of more than 1,871 months in federal prison.
And last week, in a separate, newly developing case, state officials impounded electronic voting machines in Perry County, KY, after Republican candidates in last November's election complained of "vote rigging" on the county's 100% unverifiable electronic voting machines...
Judge Pat Priest sentenced Tom DeLay to three years in prison.
The three-year sentence was on the charge of conspiring to launder corporate money into political donations during the 2002 elections.
On the charge of money laundering, DeLay was sentenced to five years in prison, but that was probated for 10 years. That means he would serve 10 years’ probation.
DeLay was taken into custody but he was expected to be released as soon as he posted an appeals bond.
UPDATE:WaPo now has more, including details on the only one to testify on behalf of DeLay at the sentencing hearing today: former Republican U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (who has his own legal issues).
The Connecticut State Election Commission announced this morning in Hartford that "it cannot make a full and fair determination of the allegations" against Ann Coulter who was alleged to have committed voter fraud twice in the state by voting illegally from her residence in New York City while being registered at her parents home in the Nutmeg State.
However, The BRAD BLOG can report that, based on the Commission's five-page "Findings and Conclusions", it appears the Connecticut board either overlooked or ignored key evidence, including specific documentation of Coulter's illegal voting history in the state of Florida (they were only off by more than a year!), as well as her own incriminating admissions on the Fox "News" Channel about living in New York City......
Will Ann Coulter finally be held accountable for having committed voter fraud? We may find out on October 14th when the matter will come up at a public hearing by Connecticut's State Elections Commission after an extraordinarily long two-year delay since the complaints about her allegedly illegal absentee votes in 2002 and 2004 were filed.
As The BRAD BLOG spent years documenting beyond a shadow of a doubt concerning her voter registration fraud and voter fraud in a different state, Florida, Ann Coulter committed third degree felony voter registration fraud, along with a first degree voter fraud misdemeanor, when she lied about her residency and then knowingly voted at the wrong polling place in Palm Beach County, FL, in 2005.
Years of lying to the media, as well as election and law enforcement officials, and a last-minute, inappropriate intervention by a former boyfriend in the FBI, helped run out the clock on those charges. Her offenses in the Sunshine State were eventually found to be beyond the statute of limitations by the Florida State Election Commission (FSEC). The stalling by other friendly Florida agencies took so long that the FSEC didn't receive the case until years after it had been originally reported to law enforcement by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections. So she got off the hook and was never held accountable for easily documented crimes in Florida. [After years of reporting that part of the story in pieces as it developed, we told the entire sordid tale in one fell swoop in Hustler magazine. That April 2008 exposé can be read in full here.]
However, in Connecticut, where official complaints were filed in 2009 --- by a conservative activist --- that she also committed absentee voter fraud in the years prior to moving to Florida, when she allegedly voted illegally from her residence in New York, there is no such statute of limitations for voter fraud. [See UPDATE at bottom of story for someone who disagrees with that point.]
After a 20-month delay, Coulter's case is finally coming up for a vote at a public hearing before CT's State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) on October 14th at 9:00am, 20 Trinity St. in Hartford CT, according to an email from the commission's MaryAnn Stratton and confirmation from the commission's director of communication...
All eight defendants in Clay County, Kentucky's election fraud trial have been found guilty today by a federal jury. Six of those eight were high-ranking election officials, including the county clerk, a circuit judge and the school superintendent. The conspirators were charged with having manipulated federal elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 by buying and selling votes and manipulating electronic voting machines.
According to AP, each of the now-convicted felons could face up to 20 years in prison for what prosecutors had described as a conspiracy to manipulate elections for decades in the rural, heavily Republican county.
In additional to federal racketeering, several of the defendants were also convicted of charges that included mail fraud, extortion and laundering money used to buy votes.
The BRAD BLOG has been following this story since the conspirators were originally arrested in March of last year, and as details of the election officials' manipulation of ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines has emerged...
Meanwhile, back in Clay County, Kentucky, where election officials (including the county clerk, a district court judge, and the school superintendent) were arrested last year, and are now on trial, accused of having "fix[ed] elections for decades," a "precinct worker testified...that top election officers in the county taught her how to change people's choices on voting machines to steal votes in the May 2006 primary." The vote stealing was accomplished on ES&S touch-screen electronic voting machines, without the knowledge of legitimate voters, after they'd left the booth thinking they had cast their votes.
The scheme also included Republicans changing their party registration to Democratic in order to serve as Democratic poll judges and officers on Election Day, as has been alleged elsewhere (for example, in Ohio in 2004)...