"Suppose an article had been introduced into the Constitution, empowering the United States to regulate the elections for the particular States, would any man have hesitated to condemn it, both as an unwarrantable transposition of power, and as a premeditated engine for the destruction of the State governments?" --- Federalist No. 59, 1788 In today’s world yes, the authors of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 would hesitate. Rush Holt would hesitate. Diane Feinstein would hesitate....
The Colorado Secretary of State seems to be having a bit of problem with the big 4 vendors. The state has been ordered by the court to re-certify all voting systems used in the state. This order is a result of a lawsuit that proved that previous SoS Gigi Dennis had failed in her job to ensure voting systems were actually certified. Now Secretary Coffman is trying to follow the court order but the vendors seem to be standing in the way and making the pre-certification testing and inspection a process that is harder than necessary. Of course the vendors claim that they are doing all they can to assist the state. One has to wonder why Secretary Coffman would lie about the lack of support. Do the vendors want to drag the process out as long as possible so time runs short and the certification process has to be rushed? Are they all trying to hide something?...
Must get off the grid today very shortly (and will be gone until after Labor Day), so not much time for comment here. Rather, I'll give you quick pointers to three superb editorials in today's papers as the voices of the good guys return to counter the charlatans and propagandists who've been dominating the media pages for far too long.
Please read on, for some heroic cries for accountability --- finally --- from the hopelessly compromised U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Election Officials in general, and Sequoia Voting Systems in particular, all found in the op/ed pages today from Coast-to-Coast!...
Last Thursday we had the opportunity to speak briefly with California U.S. House Rep. Brad Sherman about election integrity reform during one of his appearances here. Sherman, who had nothing but praise for the election integrity efforts of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen, is a cosponsor of Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) controversial “Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007,” otherwise infamously known as HR 811.
Sherman stated that he believed that Bowen's landmark, independent “Top-to-Bottom Review” of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems --- which resulted in the near-decertification of all but one California voting system after it was found they were all vulnerable to hackers and manipulation and failed to meet even marginal federal disabled voter accessibility standards --- was consistent with the Holt Bill that relies so heavily on the use of the same DRE voting systems.
That Sherman was apparently confused about the difference between what Bowen's study revealed (DREs are not safe to use in elections) and what Holt's bill allows (DREs, as long as they have so-called paper trails of the type Bowen's study found could not guarantee secure, accurate elections), is little surprise. Even in the wake of findings which undermine his own bill, Holt has been using Bowen's study, disingenuously, to tout his own exceedingly flawed bill as The BRAD BLOG reported some weeks ago.
However, to Sherman's credit, he agreed to withdraw his co-sponsorship of HR 811 if he learned that Bowen did not support it.
With this in mind, we direct the Congressman to radio talk show host Peter B. Collins's interview with Bowen on June 27, 2007 (audio below, appx 3 mins). Responding to a direct question from Collins about whether she supports the Holt bill, Bowen responded, "I have not. I have worked with the author to try to strengthen the bill, but have not taken a position of support."
We have sent on this information to the Congressman's office, per his instructions, and await his reply.
The BRAD BLOG has previously reported on several other HR 811 co-sponsors, including Reps. Maxine Waters and Dennis Kucinich, who have indicated their intent to withdraw from the bill in the wake of strong opposition to a number of the bill's provisions by many advocates in the Election Integrity community.
UPDATE: Congressman Sherman responds through staffer Esther Azal:
According to the conversation you had with the Congressman, he stated that he would withdraw his support of the Holt Bill if Debra Bowen were to "oppose" it. I spoke to Debra Bowen's office and her legislative staff informed me that she has not taken an official position on this piece of legislation.
A Sequoia VP told Riverside Co., California, officials that the company may be willing to discuss a rebate or credit if state or federal regulators decertify their equipment. May be willing? The county, like every county that has purchased these machines, needs to demand its money (our tax money) back from the vendors. Sequoia sold its machines as being accessible. They aren’t accessible as proven by the California “Top-To-Bottom” review. The company sold its machines as meeting the voting systems standards. As proven by the source code review team, Sequoia uses banned software components. May be willing? If Sequoia misrepresented its system at any time to those who were spending our money, then Sequoia needs to give our money back or go to court and prove that it hasn’t misrepresented its product. And the other vendors need to do the same in other counties across the nation. Meanwhile, KY has discovered that machines used in their largest county were not state certified; more on the retirement of Conny McCormack; and the four major vendors are dragging their feet in providing information to Colorado that is necessary to allow the state to do court mandated inspections....
"I don't want to preside over the dismantling of voter services that have been successful and accurate," LA County Registrar of Voters Conny McCormack tells the LA Times this morning. "I suppose I do take that personally."
McCormack's systems were "dismantled" after ES&S, one of her vendors, refused to supply its source code in time for testing of her paper-based InkaVote Plus system, and after her other vendor Diebold's touch-screen machines were disallowed for use because they were found vulnerable to hacking. Only one such machine will now be allowed per polling place in order to marginally meet federal disability voter accessibility standards, and the paper trails from those machines, as per Bowen's orders, will have to be 100% hand-counted.
Though that didn't keep McCormack from signaling, in a Bush-style signing statement, that she didn't think she had to actually count them prior to the final certification of the election. In a a statement [PDF] posted on the LA County Registrar's website in reply to Bowen's order, McCormack wrote, "However, it is important to clarify that the SOS Order does not require the 100% manual count audit to occur prior to completion of the official results certification."
The link to that document from the front page of the site has now been replaced by McCormack's resignation statement.
The LA Times Hector Becerra goes on to report that McCormack "angrily accused Bowen of unfairly attacking the voting machines to gain political points."
While we're not sure what "political points" Bowen gains (she was elected last November on the promise of doing exactly what she's done, won't have to run again for another three years, and has come under considerable criticism in the media for her courageous, principled stand), it's little surprise that McCormack, who has been fighting for the voting machine companies instead of the voters for years --- even appearing on a Diebold sales brochure to sing the company's praises --- would bug out of the nation's largest county just a month before the first Presidential Primary Election in 2008, leaving the voters to whatever may happen.
McCormack's official statement of retirement [PDF] didn't mention her anger at Bowen for taking away her toys and those of the companies she's concerned about. Rather she claimed...
My decision to leave at this time is based on several factors:
I have been approached by several foundations and, at this stage of life, am interested in shifting my energies and experience to election administration research and consulting both within the U.S. and worldwide.
So the question we pose to you is...
Who will be LA County Registrar of Voters Conny McCormack's next employer?
Let us know your opinion. The BRAD BLOG will, of course, let you know when we find out. It shouldn't be long. Something tells us, McCormack already knows where she's going from here...
UPDATE: I'm told the print edition version of Becerra's LA Times story on Conny was longer than the one posted on the web as linked above. In the carbon based version, there is a quote from yours truly, as Becerra interviewed by phone for reaction to McCormack's announcement late yesterday:
But not everyone will miss her. Brad Friedman whose Brad Blog has taken a leading role in questioning the electronic voting machine companies, said McCormack seemed more concerned about the voting machine companies than whether their machines were vulnerable to fraud, particularly by people involved in the voting process. "I suspect Conny understands there’s a new sheriff in town," Friedman said referring to Bowen. "I hope her replacement takes the concerns of election integrity seriously.”
Just prior to the AG's investigation, Diebold Elections Systems, Inc. (now re-named Premier Election Solutions), sent a letter to Jefferson County, KY, election officials to tell them that they had been using an uncertified voting system for the last three elections.
At the beginning of the investigation Stumbo had contacted the Secretary of State, Republican Trey Grayson, who is rumored, like Stumbo, to be a gubernatorial candidate. SoS Grayson assured him that only certified systems were being used in the state.
Just after the “Dan Rather Report” ran for the first time Sequoia Voting Systems issued a press release and promised exculpatory evidence in the way of documents. These documents were promised to demonstrate proper paper thickness; to demonstrate the ballot card chad removal pressure was within the appropriate industry specifications; and to demonstrate proper overall specifications, signed by quality control. Over a week after the press release the documents were finally released. The documents did nothing that was promised. What was presented was numbers on paper with no comparison with the industry standards and no signatures. The only dates on the documents were pre-Florida primary, which brings into question whether the documents even represent documents for the general election run of ballot cards. Also of interest today is that Conny McCormack, Diebold’s spokeswoman and LA County Registrar of Voters, has decided to retire....
Joining Karl Rove and Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales in announcing their retirements is Conny McCormack, the much embattled and always friendly to voting machine vendors Registrar of Voters for Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation.
In a statement on the LA County Registrar's website McCormack begins by saying:
After 30 years of public service, I have decided to retire at the end of this year. It has been an honor to serve the residents of Los Angeles County for the past 12 years as Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk and to lead a Department of exceptionally talented and dedicated employees committed to providing top quality service in all three diverse functional areas --- from election administration to recording property deeds to maintaining the public’s official records regarding voting, property ownership, birth, death, marriage, and more.
Here's a picture from a Diebold brochure that features McCormack. Could our question that accompanies the picture, which we used in a recent article on McCormack's expressed concerns for Diebold's profits, be an omen of what is to happen in the future?
UPDATE FROM BRAD: Despite McCormack's exit statement to the contrary, as linked above, she has left Los Angeles County a mess. At this time, we have no idea what voting system will be used in next February's Presidential Primary Election, as she's sided with the vendors, rather than the voters, when it came to meeting the requirements for CA SoS Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of voting systems.
Furthermore, while she joined the throng of California Registrars all too happy to rush to the media, to bitch about having just six months to implement Bowen's new security requirements with just six months before the next big primary, it's telling that she's willing to leave nation's largest county altogether just a month before that primary. What does that tell you about her (and the other Registrars') feigned concern about having enough time to make sure the voters are well served in the next election?
The question is not will she go to work for a voting company, the only question seems to be which one, and how soon.
You'll recall that Curtis alleged --- in sworn affidavit [PDF], live video-taped testimony before a U.S. House Judiciary delegation, and via polygraph test --- that he was asked by Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) to create a touch-screen vote-rigging prototype program, just months prior to the 2000 election when they both worked at the same Florida software firm.
One of the main criticisms of Curtis's striking allegations at the time was that "nobody was even thinking about touch-screen voting systems in Florida prior to the 2000 Presidential Election debacle."
Dan Rather's remarkable investigative report, however, would seem to indicate otherwise: seven Sequoia company whistleblowers reveal on camera that, despite their objections, they were forced to use poor quality paper for the punchcards to be used in Florida in 2000. They also revealed that they had been instructed to deliberately misalign the chads for ballots going to Palm Beach County, FL, only.
Some details of Curtis' statements don't check out. West Palm Beach city didn't use touch-screen machines in 2000, something Curtis didn't know when Wired News spoke to him. It was the pregnant chad controversy in that year's presidential election that led Palm Beach county, where West Palm Beach resides, to replace its much-maligned punch-card system with touch-screen machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems in December 2001.
Unknown to the dubious Zetter at the time, was that someone at Sequoia, as the Rather report now reveals, seems to have known what they were doing when they gamed those paper ballots in Florida in 2000, since the company had already had touch-screen voting machines in the pipe-line, and indeed, already in use since as early as 1999 in California. If someone at Sequoia was pushing towards a change to touch-screen voting for Florida in 2000, the charges that Feeney might well have been aware, and supporting such a move is not quite as absurd as Zetter seemed to suggest in her article.
As well, another recent revelation puts the lie to Feeney's claim, made years ago, that he no longer had anything to do with the owners of the Oviedo, Florida, firm where he was the general counsel and registered lobbyist in 2000 (even as he served as Speaker of the FL House at the same time). Curtis was employed as a computer programmer for the company, which had multi-million dollar contracts with both the state and NASA, where Feeney's wife has worked for several years.
New information reveals that the owners of the company remain personal friends with Feeney, and continue to funnel money to him even while they hope for further contracts from the U.S. House Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics, in which Feeney has recently been promoted to ranking member.
TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING SYSTEMS AND PRE-2000 FLORIDA
Connecting a few dots here... Sequoia had already deployed its new touch-screen voting systems in several precincts in Riverside County, CA, back in 1999. In 2000 the systems were to be used county-wide for the first time. Sequoia knew damned well that they stood to make millions from the use of touch-screen voting systems long before the 2000 election, even as their paper ballot shop was preparing the flawed paper ballots for use in Florida's election that same year.
As reported by Rather, the company made just pennies per ballot on the punchcards and only a few hundred dollars on punchcard counting machines. But millions stood to be made on their newer technology, which sold for thousands of dollars per touch-screen machine. The stunning on-camera testimony from the seven company whistleblowers suggests that the company --- and/or someone else --- may have had a plan in place to speed the transition to touch-screens prior to the 2000 election in Florida. That, of course, is precisely the same moment in time that Curtis alleges Feeney asked him to create touch-screen vote-rigging software, when they both worked for Yang Enterprises, Inc....
Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org, with additional reporting by Brad Friedman
The latest set of documents released by Sequoia Voting Systems, in an attempt to clear its name after a recent damning news report, fail to answer any of the questions that the company had claimed that they would. Worse still, The BRAD BLOG has learned that the documents proffered by Sequoia may not even refer to the specific election about which new and alarming questions have been recently raised.
The day after damaging revelations about several touch-screen voting machine manufacturers was aired in a remarkable exposé on Dan Rather Reports, the Vice-President and lead spokeswoman for Sequoia Voting Systems, Michele Shafer, responded in a press release to the charges made, on camera, by seven company whistleblowers featured in the broadcast.
The charges included claims that the workers at Sequoia's paper punchcard ballot plant had been forced to use inferior paper stock for ballots that were created for the 2000 general election in Florida and, as well, they were instructed to misalign the chads for punchcards made specifically for Palm Beach County.
Nobody at Sequoia was willing to take credit for the use of the bad paper, even as the seven workers had, time and again, refused to accept delivery for the inferior stock which was ultimately used anyway. The company failed to provide documents to Rather's team, showing who it was who finally signed off on the delivery. And when pressed, Sequoia had given questionable "received" documents for the paper which didn't have anyone's signature, as the Sequoia Quality Control specialist interviewed said she would have expected.
Shafer responded in her statement by promising to deliver exculpatory documents to prove that Rather's report was all wrong. The documents finally produced late last week, do nothing of the kind...
SAN DIEGO - “We believe dissent is patriotic. We believe in the constitution and we believe in the United States of America,” AM 1360 KLSD talk show host Stacy Taylor said on his morning show in San Diego on Monday, drawing cheers from a crowd of more than 500 listeners who showed up at 7am to rally in protest of Clear Channel's plan to convert San Diego’s only progressive radio station to an all-sports format.
Over 1,100 people have signed a petition calling on Clear Channel to keep KLSD’s progressive format since word of the planned format change leaked out late last week. Clear Channel executives have also been deluged with thousands of emails, virtually all in favor of keeping Air America on the air in America’s sixth largest city.
KLSD has received letters supporting KLSD progressive radio received from Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Mike Gravel, and Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of former CIA-agent Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked to the press by a White House source.
“Clear Channel has no agenda to shut down progressive voices,” programming director Cliff Albert said at the rally. Consideration of a format change is motivated solely by falling Arbitron ratings and concerns over advertising dollars, KLSD insiders have disclosed.
But some expressed skepticism.
“I think this is another effort to shut down progressive voices where the message is most effective, especially here in a military town,” said Bree Walker, an Air America host in Los Angeles and former San Diego TV newscaster who recently purchased Cindy Sheehan’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild and author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, shared that concern. “I suspect they’ll be starting in San Diego and moving around the U.S. to shut down the progressives,” she predicted...