Our Electoral System is supposed to be open and transparent and accurate. Our democracy is worth fighting for and, if you believe the politicians in D.C., worth sending our troops to fight and die in order to spread around the world. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) amongst other things, is supposed to help disabled voters vote in private and on their own. All of these things, I believe Arizona's Secretary of State, Jan Brewer would probably agree with. And yet, she seems to have a very different belief about how to ensure the integrity of our democracy at home and how disabled voters should be treated.
Therefore, I am inviting her to a public debate on the matter. I will travel to Arizona on a date of her choosing to accommodate her schedule. Tickets can be sold to the events, and all proceeds will go towards supporting our troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars for a charity which builds accessible housing for the most severely disabled of them. More on that below.
I appeared on the Jay Lawrence Show over the weekend on KTAR Newsradio 620 in Phoenix. (Link to full audio from the show at bottom of this article.)
Lawrence, and the entire station, are very rightwing. Nonetheless, to his credit, Lawrence is very concerned about the non-partisan crisis in our 2006 Electoral System vis a vis the proliferation of Electronic Voting Machines in the wake of the HAVA. This was my second time appearing on his show.
This time around, he attempted to invite his friend Jan Brewer to join us for a discussion on these important matters. Brewer has recently come under fire for her decision to bring Diebold systems into the state even after they were proven to be hackable in Leon County, Florida late last year. They were then confirmed to be even more unsecure than previously realized by an independent study [PDF] commissioned by CA Sec. of State Bruce McPherson (a big Diebold supporter himself) after the security vulnerability was discovered in Leon County.
Lawrence said during the show that he had personally discussed some of these matters with her at a speech not long ago and learned that, apparently, she's no fan of The BRAD BLOG. As Lawrence reported during the show...
Of course, Brewer, despite many previous appearances on Lawrence's show, turned down the invitation to show up and discuss the matters along with me. She did, however, send a spokesperson instead who agreed to appear only if he would be allowed to do so without being questioned by me.
So at the bottom of the hour, after I'd been on for the first part by myself with Lawrence, SoS spokesman/attorney --- and, I've since learned, State Elections Director --- Joe Kanefield came on for a few minutes while I was made to sit on hold. Kanefield to tell several untruths to Lawrence and his listeners, to suggest that I have been "spinning" these issues, and then he scrammed before I was allowed to come back on the air to question or challenge his assertions "face to face."
During his drive-by appearance, Kanefield said that he's "absolutely confident" that Arizona's untested voting systems are "rock solid". But for an idea of just some of the misinformation and untruths that he gave to Lawrence and his listeners (while I was unable to respond) consider this exchange concerning the Leon County hack, and the statement The BRAD BLOG was able to receive from the Leon County Election Director, Ion Sancho himself, in response to it...
LAWRENCE: Is Diebold any problem? They're supposedly a problem in other states. Why are you so certain that they are not a problem here?
KANEFIELD: Well, ya know, I've heard these allegations from time to time and, you know, we get the same media reports that everyone else does and we always follow up. And ya know, half the time...or most of the time, these reports turn out not to be how they're spun. For example, Brad talked about this, uh, this, this...report out of Florida, where Leon County...the election system was supposedly hacked and, uh, Diebold equipment was found to have, ya know, security vulnerabilities. Well we looked into that, ya know. We talked to both the company, we looked into the reports, and other election officials and we found out that, ya know, if look at what happened in Leon County...What happened was the election director there, gave these people unfettered access to this equipment. Gave these people his password. Opened the door, the back door to the voting equipment. Let them plug their computers in. Ya know, gave these computer scientists the ability to hack into the system. Now ya know, that's akin to giving someone the keys to your car, and opening it up and acting surprised when they take it away. It's not how an election is conducted.
Well, where to start? Most regular BRAD BLOG readers can probably already spot the misinformation in that exchange, but for a start, Sancho never gave anyone his passwords, nor did he "let them plug their computers in." Kanefield's account is just preposterous and complete misinformation.
But why trust me? As Kanefield says, "half the time...or most of the time, these reports turn out not to be how they're spun."
So The BRAD BLOG has, yet again, done what Kanefield and Brewer, apparently, couldn't be bothered to do...despite claiming to have "looked into the reports." We went to the source of those reports, Leon County Election Director, Ion Sancho.
Here's what Sancho wrote us in response to the comments from Kanefield quoted above:
Further, Sancho wrote: "none of their computers were ever connected to our elections server."
He then added this for good measure:
As the chief elections administrator for the citizens of Leon County I have the responsibility to find out the real world vulnerabilities of our voting system and act accordingly. I have done so.
You're welcome, Ion! Thank you!
The "officials from California," whom Sancho speaks of, filed their own independent report [PDF] at the behest of CA SoS McPherson, on the Leon County hack by Finnish computer security expert Harri Hursti for BBV. They concluded in their report (amongst many other things, which Kanefield and Brewer apparently haven't bothered to read)...
It should also be noted that the memory card Hursti used for the attack was one purchased off the shelf for use in a crop scanner. It was reportedly obtained online for about $100.
Also for the record, Kanefield's metaphor of giving the keys away to the car is almost identical to the one frequently given by Diebold representatives to spin the hack. They tend to compare it to leaving the door open on a bank vault and acting surprised when the money is gone the next day, but clearly, them's the talking points old Joe was working from. It certainly wasn't from having actually informed himself.
Kanefield then went on to disinform listeners a few more times by telling them all votes in Arizona are "memorialized on a piece of paper" so if there is any machine malfunctions, they can always go back to that piece of paper. Never mind that the Leon County hack was also "memorialized" on paper, since it was done on the Diebold optical scan system which uses paper ballots. However, as the hack left no trace of itself, and certainly gave no signs of a machine malfunction, the only thing which would have alerted officials to a problem would have been a manual, hand-counted audit of those ballots. That is something which Brewer has avoided calling for despite a multi-partisan initiative (SB 1557) currently languishing in the Arizona legislature without Brewer's support.
He also misinformed listeners by telling them that the HAVA requires that every polling place have available a "machine" that allows disabled voters to vote independently and in secret.
It does not. Despite the Voting Machine Companies well-moneyed efforts to spread that hooey, HAVA only requires a disabled-accessible voting device in each polling place. Not a "machine". There are several non-electric, non-machine devices available that Arizona could have chosen to use.
As well, they could have chosen the AutoMark machine which, though electronic, at least creates a countable, voter-verifiable paper ballot for disabled voters, unlike the hackable and uncountable Diebold touch-screen systems which Brewer has chosen for most of the state. The AutoMark, preferred by many disabled voters --- who may be blind, but not stupid, to paraphrase one such voter I spoke with not long ago --- was only allowed for use in two or three of the smallest counties in the state, according to Arizona Election Integrity Advocate, John Brakey of AUDIT AZ.
Brakey also reports, incidentally, that Brewer set up a big demonstration of the AutoMark for disabled voters in the state capitol building, but she failed to put the Diebold touch-screen systems on similar display. We wonder why.
The sort of cowardice that this sort of thing --- the unwillingness to actually discuss these matters on air with someone like myself who won't allow these officials to get away with their misinformation --- really underscores how the AZ Secretary of State's office (and many others like it around the country) seem to feel they are not beholden to the citizens. They seem to forget entirely that they work for those citizens for whom they are elected or appointed to provide free, fair, accurate and transparent elections in which confidence can be had by all of the voters.
Instead, Brewer and others like her, seem to have sold their allegiance to the Voting Machine Companies.
It's bizarre. Why wouldn't these people want to talk to the voters? Why wouldn't they be concerned about them having confidence in elections and election equipment that they have been designated to select and oversee? If they have so much personal confidence in them, why are they so afraid to answers questions directly about them? If they have nothing to hide, and have real confidence in the way they are running elections, shouldn't they be more than willing to answer any and all questions about their equipment and elections?
One would think. And yet, so many of them do nothing but hide, obfuscate, lie, disinform, misinform and avoid any kind of scrutiny or questioning from concerned citizens. (For another example of an Arizona Election Official unable to appropriately answer questions from voters, see this video of Pima County Elections Director and President of the Election Officials of Arizona, Brad Nelson, going haywire in front of cameras after being questioned about Diebold touch-screen machines at a public meeting recently.)
Apparently Jan Brewer's office feels no responsibility and has no interest in answering to such concerns from her own voters. Election Integrity Advocates recently interrupted her re-election campaign announcement with protests against her decision to allow proven-hackable Diebold voting systems into the state. When asked about the incident by AP, who was there, she called the demonstrators "anarchists" and "conspiracy theorists" instead of speaking to their concerns. We reported on that AP story. Perhaps that's why she doesn't like us.
Anyway, since we have nothing to hide, and no particular dog in this hunt other than free and fair and accurate elections in which the citizenry can have confidence, we will make this public offer:
I will travel to Arizona, at a date of Brewer's choosing, to have a public debate about all of these matters and to take questions from any and all audience members in any format she likes. We can call it a "Debate for Democracy on the Homefront" and all proceeds from tickets sold to the event will go to Homes For Our Troops, a charity which builds accessible homes for the most severely disabled Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans.
We should be able to collectively raise thousands of dollars for the organization, and allow a healthy, public, transparent debate about all of these issues for the good of the country and the state of Arizona.
I have already asked Jay Lawrence if KTAR might be interested in sponsoring the event, but he didn't feel they would, saying that he didn't feel the station was interested at all in the topic. (Don't ask me why.) He's a conservative, and a friend of Brewer's, and so I'd be happy for him to moderate the debate either way if he wishes.
If any other radio station and/or newspaper in Phoenix, however, would like to help organize and publicize such an event, it would be most welcome. Perhaps the Phoenix New Times, who has been doing a bang up job reporting on many of these issues in Arizona, would be interested. Or maybe the folks at Air America Phoenix would like to help? (If you are from one of those organizations, or another similar, or able to contact them, please ask them about this, and let them know they may contact me here about it.)
Of course, Brewer herself would have to agree to show up, but certainly she supports our troops and wouldn't pass up the opportunity to raise thousands of dollars for the most disabled of them while at the same time being able to do her job of answering questions from the public and the media about Arizona's electoral system, right?
I even promise to be polite --- as I almost always am --- in the bargain. No anarchy here.
The complete hour on the Jay Lawrence Show, with myself and Joe Kanefield and many callers from last Saturday night, is available in full right here [MP3]...