VotersUnite would like to express our gratitude to all who have assisted us in the past year. We truly appreciate your support and friendship. We would like to wish you all the best for the New Year. While great strides were made this past year, unfortunately, it takes the failures of the voting machine vendors for us to get some people to listen; but they are beginning to hear now and actions are being taken. We have a very busy year in front of us with primary elections and then the general election in November. Unfortunately this year may be another “Train Wreck.” Hopefully this will be the last. We hope you have a better year than last.
And with that, today's notable voting news stories are all linked below as usual...
At least someone's bringing some accountability of some sort this year....
Looks like our old friends at Diebold have left us with an end-of-year gift, as their share prices continued tumbling today to close the year at $28.98/share. Just a smidgeon above their 5-year 7-year low set earlier in the day. (DBD stock hasn't been this worthless since April of 2001.)
But, as we reported in our recent summary of the years-long undoing of one of America's worst voting machine companies (we know, it's a close contest), there has yet to be any accountability, for the company insiders who, with stunningly fortuitous coincidental timing, just happened to sell off thousands of shares at $53.04 last August.
Those lucky executives moved at just the right time, right near the year's peak of $54.50, last August, and just prior to the precipitous 43% plunge over the rest of the year. We --- and we alone, unfortunately --- reported on that apparent insider trading just after the sell-off in late Summer.
Whether the recently announced DoJ investigation of Diebold has anything to do with that chicanery, we can't tell ya. And we're still waiting for any of the thousands of Election Officials, who've been screwed by the once-beloved America-hating company, to file suit themselves. But at least the shareholders, if no one else so far, are beginning to bring some accountability.
Happy New Years, Diebold! We'll see ya on the other side. And that's one thing upon which, you can finally count correctly, for a change...
The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is attempting to build a case of misconduct against Alberto Gonzales by showing that the former attorney general may have played a hands-on role in ousting former New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias based on pressure he received from former White House political adviser Karl Rove, according to several individuals familiar with the agency's probe.
Succumbing to improper political pressure in firing a US attorney would constitute a violation of Justice Department policy.
Recently, the OPR contacted Iglesias's former executive assistant, Rumaldo Armijo, to interview him about whether he was pressured by Pat Rogers, a Republican attorney in Albuquerque, and Mickey Barnett, a Republican lobbyist, to bring charges of voter fraud against Democrats in the state, individuals with knowledge of the scope of the OPR probe said.
Rogers was affiliated with the American Center for Voting Rights, a now defunct non-profit organization that sought to defend voter rights and increase public confidence in the fairness and outcome of elections. However, it has since emerged that the organization played a major role in suppressing the votes of people who intended to cast ballots for Democrats in various states. Rogers is also the former chief counsel to the New Mexico state Republican party, and was tapped by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) to replace Iglesias as US Attorney for New Mexico.
In an interview with Truthout in May, Iglesias said he had investigated so-called voter fraud allegations and found zero evidence to support the claims. He added that, based on evidence that had surfaced thus far and "Karl Rove's obsession with voter fraud issues throughout the country," he now believes GOP operatives had wanted him to go after Democratic-funded organizations in an attempt to swing the 2006 midterm elections to Republicans.
The BRAD BLOG has, of course, been following the GOP's voter suppression scam, headed by the so-called "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR) for years, ever since we first outed them as a phony GOP front group back in March of 2005. See our ACVR Special Coverage page for the entire sordid mess.
As well, in March of 2007, we ran exclusive comments from John Boyd, one of the top Democratic attorneys in New Mexico, who offered his first hand account of the pressure being brought to bear on Iglesias by Republicans in the state to bring phony charges of Democratic "voter fraud" as far back as prior to the 2004 election.
A review of Boyd's insider perspective is instructive, to say the least, particularly as we head into 2008 when disingenuous cries of "voter fraud" will be heard from Republicanists from coast to coast --- as long as they don't concern Ann Coulter's own voter fraud --- and as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a key case on Photo ID polling place restrictions, described by the Century Foundation's Tova Andrea Wang, in her year-end column, "The Best and Worst of 2007: Voting Rights and Elections," to be "a far more important decision than Bush v. Gore ever was."
But with the continuing --- some might say, snail's paced --- OPR criminal investigation of Gonzales, we should note that the probe, as mentioned above, at least can be said to be moving forward in some fashion. Unfortunately, that's a far cry more than we can say for the job the Democrats are doing in bringing accountability via the U.S. Congress after a full year on the job.
Even the New York Times, in an editorial over the holiday, called on the lackluster Dems to get their act in gear, calling for "a full investigation into the misconduct that may have occurred," in the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal, adding that "it needs to be investigated vigorously and completely."
Then, unfortunately, they offer readers the bad news...
Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt is a professional propagandist. Any remaining doubt that Hewitt was not a legitimate journalist was removed earlier this month by former White House counsel, Dan Bartlett, who had the following exchange with The Texas Monthly:
TM: Yeah, or what if [conservative blogger] Hugh Hewitt called?
Bartlett: That’s when you start going, “Hmm . . .” Because they do reach people who are influential.
TM: Well, they reach the president’s base.
Bartlett: That’s what I mean by influential. I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.
But pointing out the obvious fact that wingnut bloggers and talk-radio hosts are hardwired to do White House bidding is hardly newsworthy.
What makes Hewitt an interesting study today is that his overwhelming support for presidential candidate Mitt Romney has exposed his propagandist ways to even his "conservative" listeners, one of whom recently noted on air, before being cut off by Hewitt, the host's apparent "man crush" on the Presidential Candidate...
We don't pretend to fully understand the strange and confusing mechanics of the Iowa Caucuses (the Hawkeye Caucii, as Rush refers to them), nor do we make predictions about the results of such things (Edwards and Huckabee), but BlackBoxVoting.org sent out a missive over the weekend, with some very helpful information about how the Election Integrity aspect of the two respective party caucuses will, or won't, work, along with a the request to forward the info to folks in Iowa.
As the corporate MSM will undoubtedly be watching the horses only as they cross the finish line --- not bothering to notice what their owners and jockies are up to on the way there --- we're happy to help with anything that increases citizen participation and transparency in the process, and empowers citizen vigilance and reporting. So with that, we pass along the following important and interesting info from BBV's Bev Harris...
BUILDING A CITIZEN ARMY TO MONITOR ELECTIONS - All of us, in all 50 states, should be very concerned about what's going to happen on January 3. The stated results --- generated with secret central tabulation --- will play a large role in which candidate YOU can vote for in your state.
Black Box Voting has only a few members in Iowa. We need your help to forward this message to other distribution outlets and to every single person you know in Iowa. By positioning itself as the first presidential preference contest in the nation, Iowa has a disproportionate influence on candidate viability --- which candidates can stay in the race, and how well they'll do.
Although some will tell you that the system has checks and balances because delegates assigned at the Jan. 3 Iowa precinct caucuses will go to a county convention where their vote will be clear, this is misleading. Iowa's convention is months away --- more than a month AFTER "Super Duper Tuesday" and many if not most candidates will have dropped out by then, so the delegates at the county conventions ALWAYS are reapportioned and NEVER match the original caucus results.
The situation is very serious, especially for Republican election integrity but also for the Democrats.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? If you live in Iowa, instructions are within the message below. If you do not live in Iowa, but can go observe, photograph and act as a citizen reporter, that would be magnificent. But, if you don't want to freeze your buns in Iowa in January, here's what you CAN do: FORWARD THIS E-MAILBLOG ITEM TO SOMEONE YOU KNOW IN IOWA.
If you don't know someone in Iowa, forward this e-mail to activism groups and write letters to news organizations.
"Problems and issues with the Iowa Caucuses" --- for both the Democratic and Republican parties, including the lack of precinct-based reporting of tallies, and even an apparently Republican-leaning company who is running one of the Democratic caucus web servers --- "And what every Iowan can do" about it, follow below from the BBV newsletter...
Pennsylvania has now decertified all Advanced Voting Solutions voting systems used by three counties. This action followed the EAC's cancellation of testing of AVS software. One of the three counties has already announced that they plan on filing suit against AVS for breach of contract. Can this be the end of another vendor?
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has now proposed that two or three counties test her newest plan to use vote centers in Ohio. The test would take place during the March 4 primary. There are now about 40 working days before the primary election. There are seven months between the primary and general election. Why this rush to test out major changes in elections in as short a period as possible? ...
Election officials in Colorado and Ohio seem to have a different opinion every day. Now Colorado SOS Coffman wants legislation that will say that federal certification is good enough. He doesn’t want the state to do any certification testing of voting systems. Of course, that does nothing for any voting system presently used in the state but it may make a difference sometime next year when there are actually federally certified voting systems. Meanwhile Ohio SOS Brunner has reportedly announced that DREs used in counties other than Cuyahoga are alright and don’t have to go away in favor of central-count optical scan. Do either of these people understand what they are doing? It seems not....
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) is trying again. After learning a lesson or two, from his failed attempt to push an unpopular Election Reform bill (HR811) through Congress, he's scaling back in hopes of getting something passed that may help bring accountability to the 2008 election cycle.
We certainly applaud the effort in general, and note that it mirrors some of the simple, doable-by-'08 initiatives we've been speaking with a few folks in Congress about behind the scenes.
In brief, the bill we've been discussing, with several Congressional offices, after common ground discussions with a number of EI advocates, a representative from the National Association of Counties (NaCO) and even a Republican who had initially worked on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), but disliked the resulting bill, would call for the following:
Money to states and/or counties who wish to move to paper ballot systems.
A requirement that all voters be asked before voting if they wish to vote on paper (and that those paper ballots actually be counted before unofficial tallies are released to the media).
Grant money to further study disability voting technology and hand-counting systems.
Restrictions to no more than one DRE per polling place to marginally meet HAVA's mandate for voters with disabilities.
Holt's new bill would do a few, if not all of those things.
In his run at it this time, his bill would simply offer federal funding for jurisdictions who wish to move to paper ballots (that's good), and also offer money to help pay for post-election audits of those ballots...if they choose to do so. It also sets aside money for study of disability voting technology, as we'd also recommended.
Perhaps he has become a bit too timid after his previous unfortunate experience. Though the bill has not yet been introduced officially --- so language is not yet finalized, thus we'll hold full fire until we see the final product --- the audits recommended in his bill would be optional. As well, there are currently no requirements in his bill to mandate that Election Officials actually count those paper ballots, paid for with federal dollars, before releasing unofficial vote tallies to the media. That last is no small point (just ask Al Gore or Christine Jennings).
And most puzzling of all, in the bill which would only apply to the 2008 general election, there is also no requirement at all to make those federally-funded paper ballots available to all voters who'd like to vote on them.
It seems to us that if a state or county chooses to take federal money to pay for their paper ballots, attaching a few common sense strings, like the ones mentioned above, would be perfectly appropriate. Perhaps such changes can be made during the committee process or on the Senate side.
But hey, no bill's perfect, and this one certainly appears to be a welcome step, at least, in the right direction. It would help to begin turning the Titanic around by making the move to paper ballots much easier. And, most notably, it would not federally institutionalize secret software and Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, touch-screen) voting machines as Holt's previous HR811 would have. That bill, and the many concerns about it, was exhaustively covered by The BRAD BLOG over the past year. (See our special coverage here.)
If you haven't noticed yet, and this morning notwithstanding, we're under "light posting conditions" in general until after the holidays, barring anything that must receive massive and immediate attention. We're trying to catch our breath a bit.
But, a few year-end and holiday housekeeping items during the lull before the '08 Storm...
First, upon arriving back in town a week or so ago, we were barraged with an extraordinary run of news (which we also hope you noticed). In the bargain, I haven't been able to offer a proper thanks, until now, to the good Jon Ponder of Pensito Review for filling in so smartly while we on the road in November and beyond. I hope you enjoyed his Guest Blogging work --- and the periodic break from me - as much as I did. Hopefully he'll stay an active presence at The BRAD BLOG, even while I'm around, as well as in the future when the road beckons again, as it looks like it may again shortly. You can join me in thanking him by adding the lively and informative Pensito Review to your daily rounds. You'll not be sorry.
But wait! That's not all!...
As well, I'd like to toss in my thanks to so many who contribute here on a regular basis, whether I'm around or not. The list is large, but, of most notable distinction, my thanks to John Gideon, Alan Breslauer, Agent 99, Czaragorn and Des for daily or near-daily efforts above and beyond. Thanks also to Emily Levy for transcripts-in-a-jiffy, and other regular contributors throughout the last year here --- Arlen Parsa of The Daily Background, D.C. Correspondent Margie Burns and the very wise and tenacious Michael Richardson come to mind for starters. Additionally, my thanks in advance, to those who have indicated they'll be joining us more frequently in the future. Stay tuned for that.
"We enthusiastically support Secretary Coffman's recommendation that Colorado move to paper ballots," said Myriah Conroy, a plaintiff in the Colorado voters' 2006 lawsuit. "We are pleased that Secretary Coffman has recommended that Colorado join with California, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio in rejecting the widely discredited DRE voting systems. DRE computerized voting systems are easily hacked and compromised, and have a history of operational problems that have disrupted elections across the country. For that reason we believe that the Secretary should support electronic ballot-marking devices, not DRE computerized voting machines, to accommodate voters with disabilities. Nonetheless, the Secretary's decision to support paper ballots represents a major milestone on the path to election integrity in Colorado," said Conroy.
That story, and today's other notable voting news, posted below...
"To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!" brags Kansas GOP chairman Kris Kobach in his end-of-year letter.
Blue Tide Rising has the scoop, along with details on what "vote caging" is, for those who don't know by now. We should note, however, it's not immediately clear from Kobach's letter what exactly he means by his use of the term, and if he's referring to the illegal type of caging or not.
In any case, it's clear that the undemocratic (small "d") practice of working to keep Democratic (large "D") voters off the rolls, through any means necessary, in order to keep them from voting, through any means necessary, has been mainlined as perhaps the top strategy for the GOP in 2008. Even Bush's Dept. of Justice, under the hand of John "Minorities Die First" Tanner, has now been officially mobilized to direct such practices on behalf of the Republican States of America.
For more, see PBS's long-overdue video report from last summer, on the GOP's sordid history of vote caging and the corporate American mainstream media's failure to cover it when it might have mattered.
Plus, Crooks & Liars has details on the piece of work that is this Kris Kobach, a former counsel to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Bhutto, 54, was being driven from the rally in her bulletproof vehicle when she asked that the rooftop hatch be opened so she could bid supporters farewell, according to several aides, including one who was sitting next to her.
As she leaned her head through the hatch, between three and five gunshots rang out, aides said. Bhutto sank back into her seat, just as a large bomb detonated to the left of her vehicle. Those inside the car said her face was badly bloodied. It was not clear whether she'd been hit by bullets or shrapnel from the bombing. She lost consciousness, aides said, and never regained it.
The explosion, apparently by a suicide bomber, killed at least 20 people outside the car, and injured many others. Police were investigating whether the bomber was also the gunman. One possibility was that the assailant fired the shots and then, after being tackled by security officials, detonated the bomb.
Coverage from around the world, including the inevitable politicization in this country, and a late update or two, all follow below...