Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer
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BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
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Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer
A good report from a couple of days ago from the I-Team in Cleveland, Ohio. Unfortunately, they tend to run such reports just before Election Days, when it's too damned late to do a damn thing about it.
Nonetheless, some very good stuff here. Of particular note are the points from Diebold's recommendations which "appear to border on the absurd," that should voting machine memory cards be lost, "elections must be re-scheduled." Or if they fail, as our recent story concerning Diebold's admissions about memory card failures in Florida pointed towards, the company says "all voters will have to be called in to re-vote."
Heckuva voting system guys. Check out the report, above right.
NOTE: Discussion of suing Diebold comes up in this piece yet again. Along with the same concerns, as heard elsewhere, about "the Catch-22" of suing voting machine vendors. Namely, counties are afraid to sue the company they rely on to run their next election! The counties and the vendors are "joined at the hip," as the I-Team report points out. Call it a soft form of extortion, really.
If you haven't already, please sign VoterAction's petition calling on Congress to "conduct a full investigation into the dangers associated with the privatization of our public elections and to determine whether certain US voting systems companies have committed crimes under federal and state anti-fraud laws."
For an early look at concerns, largely of voter-suppression issues, around the country, Alternet has a very good state-by-state preview this morning.
Wasn't able to follow things live, as David Swanson did, so still trying to unravel what specifically happened today on the floor of the U.S. House, where Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) used a "privileged resolution" to try and force a vote on his measure to begin Impeachment proceedings of Dick Cheney.
But as best as we can tell, and if we're reading this correctly, it seems the Republicans are playing a very interesting game of chicken here. From RAW:
"Midway through the vote, with instructions from the GOP leadership, Republicans one by one changed their votes from yes --- to kill the resolution --- to no, trying to force the chamber into a debate and an up-or-down vote on the proposal," reports the Washington Post.
And then from WaPo...
So, in trying to summarize: While the Democratic House Leadership had initially tried to table Kucinich's resolution to Impeach Dick Cheney, the Republicans voted against that, presumably after making some sort of calculation (an incorrect one, in our opinion, but it's just our opinion) that a debate on whether he should be Impeached would somehow benefit Republicans. They would seem to share that calculation with the Democratic House leadership.
The effort to table discussion of the matter thus failed. But Hoyer's next attempt to dispatch with the measure (for the moment) was his call for a vote to send the matter to Committee for further consideration, instead of debating it on the floor of the House.
Which, if we've got our analytics correct here, means the ball gets tossed over to HJC Chairman, John Conyers for now...
UPDATE: Statement just in from a U.S. House Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, in response to the referal of the Impeachment resolution to the committee...
Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer
The NY Times calls for the firing of John Tanner, the chief of the Justice Department's Civil Rights voting section, because of the “offensive” and “bigoted” comments originally captured and reported by The BRAD BLOG:
The administration should, of course, fire Mr. Tanner. Congress should pass a bill to criminalize deceptive campaign practices. And it should reject a pending nominee to the Federal Election Commission, Hans von Spakovsky.
The Justice Department has a long history of protecting the voting rights of minorities. In the Bush administration, the department’s voting rights section has been taken over by ideologues most interested in denying the ballot to minorities, poor people and other groups likely to vote Democratic.
There have been calls for Mr. Tanner to be removed, and he should be, but that is not enough. The Senate must refuse to confirm Mr. von Spakovsky, an anti-voting-rights advocate cut from the same cloth as Mr. Tanner, to the F.E.C. Based on his record, Mr. von Spakovsky would use the job to undermine the right to vote.
This administration seems to believe that the right to vote is something only Democrats should care about. It is too important to be reduced to a partisan issue.
Tanner has come under a great deal of fire, since, our original report of his assertions that while it was "a shame" that elderly voters were likely disenfranchised by his approval --- on behalf of the DoJ, and against the advice of his staff --- of a Georgia Photo ID poll restriction, minorities were somehow better served by it. His objectionable, and now-discredited, argument: "Minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
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Sent in from a reader, as purportedly published in the Charlotte Observer...
The Senate Judiciary Committee has been unable to extract a yes or no answer from Mr. Mukasey, Bush's candidate for attorney general, about whether waterboarding does or doesn't constitute a form of torture. Why not do what the C.I.A. would do to get him to answer the question and that is, waterboard Mr. Mukasey himself so he could find out about it firsthand? Wouldn't that speed things up?
Several weeks ago we excoriated Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) for his unsubstantiated claim, made during a recent Republican Presidential Debate, that "We have right now a real danger of people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls, we've seen that in California, voting illegally."
Multiple attempts to contact both his presidential campaign and congressional office for specifics on the allegations he was making went unanswered. So we best-guessed, and detailed, what we believed he was likely referring to, along with our final conclusion that, barring any information to the contrary from him, he and his claims were "entirely full of shit."
But fair's fair, and we're happy to recognize the odd moments when Hunter says or does something that isn't "entirely full of shit," especially when it has to do with paper ballots.
In this case, his response to our pal Jake Soboroff, who caught up with him in Iowa to interview him for the Why Tuesday? "Candidate Challenge" concerning election reform issues, is --- of the candidates Soboroff has gotten on tape so far (more on that below) --- the only one to directly point out the need for paper ballots in American elections...
Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org
Today is a bit of housekeeping chores so please bear with me. First, tomorrow is election day for state and local positions and issues across most of the nation. As is normal the news for the next few days will be filled with machine failures and election officials and vendors blaming those failures on the voters or poll workers. Of course they neglect to say that if they had didn’t have the unreliable voting systems they have the voters and poll workers would not have problems. Also, I will be attending the “Claim Democracy” Conference in DC this coming weekend. I will do all I can to keep the flow of news going out to you but I may miss a day or two. I will do all I can to combine days or otherwise get the news out.
And with that, today's notable voting news stories are linked below as usual...
Thirteen Democratic Senators have introduced a bill that would outlaw "voter caging," the practice of sending mail marked "Do Not Forward" to a targeted list of voters in hopes of using the returned mailings as a basis to challenge the right of the voters to vote.
The tactic was used by Republican operatives in both the 2000 and 2004 election, despite the Republican party having agreed in two consent decrees in 1981 and 1986 to end the practice.
A press release from Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) office announcing the new bill is posted in full below.
"The practice of 'caging' is reprehensible and has absolutely no place in our democracy," Kerry says in the statement. "Here in America, every citizen, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation has the right to cast his or her vote. These are the very foundations of our democracy and this bill will ensure that we protect fundamental freedoms for millions of voters across our country."
The press release goes on to refer to evidence, much of it reported over the years here at The BRAD BLOG, of GOP vote caging that took place in important swing states such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania during the 2004 election. Kerry's statement also points out the re-emergence of the topic earlier this year, after former DoJ staffer Monica Goodling testified to a Congressional panel that information concerning the involvement of former Karl Rove associate and GOP opposition researcher Tim Griffin in voter caging had not been fully disclosed during previous Congressional testimony.
Goodling's revelations led to Griffin's sudden (and teary) resignation from his post as interim US Attorney in Arkansas, where he had been appointed by the DoJ under new provisions in the PATRIOT Act allowing such appointments without congressional approval.
The controversial practice of vote caging has been used primarily to target minority voters; evidence has shown that some who ended up on the caging lists were military personnel who were unable to return the mailings because they were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A DoJ investigation into Griffin's, and the GOP's, 2004 vote caging activities was then demanded by several U.S. senators last June. The American mainstream media have given little coverage to the issue of caging, despite original reporting from Greg Palast and the BBC prior to the 2004 Presidential Election.
In addition to Kerry, the original co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)
UPDATE: Here's the actual bill [PDF]. Looks good from a quick read, though the part that allows the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) --- a four-member commission appointed by the President, and which has proven tremendously inept and compromised in all manner of things --- to add new reasons why voters may be challenged is a concern. The EAC shouldn't be entrusted with anything, much less deciding criteria for challenging voters' right to vote. But that's just our knee-jerk opinion.
The press statement from Kerry's office, announcing "The Caging Prohibition Act," is posted in full below...
Just in from the House Judiciary Committee...
***Update: House Judiciary Committee Files Contempt of Congress Report with House Clerk***
(Washington, DC)- Today, at approximately 2:45 p.m., the House Judiciary Committee filed its contempt of Congress report with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. The full text is available online here.
The report filed (as linked above) is an 842-page PDF file.
Earlier today RAW STORY reported the "one last chance" being offered to the White House by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), that would lead to his committee dropping the contempt recommendation.
UPDATE: The report filed is for criminal contempt, versus inherent contempt. The former relies on any contempt citation being picked up by the U.S. Attorney from D.C. The latter is an option, rarely used, available to either house of Congress to hold their own hearings in the Capitol, in which the Sergeant-at-Arms could be instructed to jail those found guilty of such contempt. Unlike criminal contempt, inherent contempt would not rely on the DoJ's agreement to pursue the charges. Bush attorneys have already made clear that they would not allow attorneys in the Justice Dept. to do so.
Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org
Two elections so far this year and Cuyahoga Co Ohio is 0-2 in successful recounts. Both recounts were in small municipal elections and in both cases the recounted voter verified paper trail (vvpat) votes failed to match the official machine results. Why? Mistakes in counting? Not according to the county. The problem is that the vvpats are at times difficult and sometimes impossible to read. These vvpats along with audits of those vvpat ballots are supposed to be an acceptable solution to the problems with DREs. Cuyahoga Co is now concerned that they may have a close county-wide race that will require many days of trying to decipher what is on the vvpat tapes. Remember that in Ohio the vvpat is the vote of record in an audit so any damaged or unreadable ballots may be lost ballots and they could affect the results of an election. This, again, is proof that adding a vvpat printer to a DRE is like adding a seat belt to a Pinto. Let’s “Rage Against The Machines” and recall them all....
Sure, the reporter at TIME magazine gets much of the terminology wrong (hey, he works for TIME, he doesn't have the kind of resources we do here at The BRAD BLOG to get things right when we report them, so we'll cut him some slack), but as a national writer friend of ours commented in a late-night email last night, "DREs are now junk, officially, in mainstream publications such as Time.com"
Well, it's about damned time.
Reporting on the new Nelson-Whitehouse Election Reform bill, which we covered late last week, and which would ban Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems by 2012, TIME declares that the reversal, since 2000, away from such unverifiable, unauditable, unsecurable voting machines "couldn't be more stunning," adding that the bill is "the clearest sign yet of the stampede away from touch-screen."
The report also quotes Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) mirroring his comments when he released the legislation with co-sponsor Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) as saying "Voters have to feel confident that their ballot will count as intended." Last week he had said, in his statement, that DREs are "unreliable and vulnerable to error," and that "[t]he bottom line is we have to ensure every vote is counted – and, counted properly."
To which occasional BRAD BLOG Guest Blogger, Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us, asked Nelson rhetorically in comments here, if that's true, "as declared in your November 1 statement, why would you be willing to wait until 2012 for DREs to be banned?...I mean, isn't there a somewhat important election coming up in, oh, let's say, 2008?"
Good point, Em!
The TIME piece also quotes Dan McCrea, of the Florida Voters Coalition borrowing one of our own oft-used metaphors (which we are quite happy to donate to the cause!) in regard to those who fear banning DREs would be a huge waste of their previous investment in the shitty machines.
McCrea tells TIME that such thinking is similar to "buying a fleet of Pintos whose gas tanks you later find out blow up on you, but insisting you're going to keep using them because you spent all that money on them."
Thanks for getting that into TIME, Dan! Smartly done!
He also points out, for those who claim there is not enough time to switch away from dangerous DREs to paper ballots before the November 2008 Presidential Election, "New Mexico voted to convert back to a paper ballot system in the spring of 2006 and had it ready by last November's elections."
Thanks again, Dan. Now if we can just get those Democrats and Election Integrity folks who continue to negotiate with themselves by watering down their own bills, and putting off reform for years down the road --- in order to garner support from folks who are going to oppose them on such bills no matter what --- to start realizing that, and calling instead for real reform NOW, we might actually be in business!
Guest Blogged by John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org
Saturday's Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Diebold Election Systems, now having renamed itself Premier Election Solutions, has admitted that some of its 25,000 optical scan voting machines used in Florida and elsewhere across the nation may have a problem that causes memory card failures during elections.
As we would expect, Florida election officials and Diebold/Premier have downplayed the problem as they say that the problem does not threaten the integrity of U.S. elections. However, the Volusia County, FL Supervisor of Elections, Ann McFall, said [emphasis ours], "I don't think votes are lost". Her office has also admitted that the problem has caused problems and adds to the cost of elections.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has yet to take action on this matter, despite impending elections, the commission's statutory mission as the oversight body for certification of electronic voting systems their mandated mission to be a "national clearinghouse" for information on them and two GAO reports critical of their failure to do any of the above. If they follow previous patterns, they will do absolutely nothing to alert other states and counties who use the same system, about this problem.
Diebold/Premier, of course, and again, is attempting to downplay the severity of their failures in Florida and refusing to release their own information gathered on it, characterizing the true extent of the failure as "proprietary business information"...
Diebold officials said the 4.4 percent error rate in Volusia was unusual, that the average was about 1 percent. The company conducted a survey of 27 Florida counties that use its machines but refused to release the results, calling them "proprietary business information."
But because the News-Journal could not get the percentages from Diebold/Premier, they submitted public records requests to all counties affected and found the results were not quite as rosy as the company would have us believe...
Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.
Late on Friday, two Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee announced that they intend to vote to confirm Michael Mukasey, Bush's nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general of the United States.
Mukasey has indicated that while he finds the Bush administration's use of waterboarding on suspects to be personally repugnant, he will not object to its use when he becomes the nation's top law enforcement officer.
The Judiciary Committee's vote on Mukasey is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007.
If you find the use of torture by the United States to be abhorrent, please call these two Democratic senators on Monday to urge them to vote against torture --- and vote against Mukasey.
UPDATE FROM BRAD: Feinstein op/eds her reasons for giving Mukasey her vote in the LATimes today. She believes he's "the best nominee we are going to get from this administration", and says she "hopes" for the best, believing that Congress can race to have legislation passed outlawing waterboarding by the CIA (and have it signed by Bush) before Mukasey can rule it to be legal as the previous AG did. She also, apparently, is ignoring the fact that Mukasey is in favor of disenfranchising Photo ID laws, as we reported here last week. What must this woman be thinking?! Is this her first day on Planet Bush?!
The phone numbers for the offices of Feinstein and Schumer in D.C. and in-state follow below...Call them...
Guest Blogged by Pokey Anderson
Just down the road from Mount St. Helens, there's an unexpected eruption. The small southwest Washington town of La Center is having a political eruption --- its state legislator is embroiled in a sex scandal, details of which are still unfolding.
This time, there's no resorting to the time-honored "wide stance" defense, and no encrypted toe tapping in an airport public restroom. This time, there is no explicit text messaging to a Congressional page from a member of Congress, then co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, while a bill is being debated on the floor of the Capitol.
This time, the stage is a booth in back of an X-rated video store, and then a room in the nicest hotel in Spokane, Washington.
This time, there's a lawmaker wearing black sequined lingerie...
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