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...
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
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...
PROBLEMS AND ISSUES WITH THE IOWA CAUCUSES - AND WHAT EVERY IOWAN CAN DO
Black Box Voting needs live IOWA CITIZEN REPORTS on Jan. 3. Note that the Iowa caucuses must allow observers and must allow both video and photography, as long as you do not disrupt the proceedings. You do not need to be a member of the party to observe or videotape (but you must be registered for that party if you want to participate in the caucus).
In some locations, there will be a Republican caucus AND a Democratic caucus in the same building, giving observers the opportunity to capture evidence in both parties' caucuses.
Below is an update on election integrity problems with both Republican and Democratic caucuses, in addition to info on how to find your local caucuses.
LATEST BLACK BOX REPORT ON IOWA [REPUBLICAN] CAUCUS
PROBLEMS AND ISSUES:
The Republicans are running such an opaque dog and pony show that, unless they correct procedural issues, citizens nationwide should demand that Iowa lose its "first in the nation" status. Here are the issues for Republican caucuses:
1) Black Box Voting has received reports that political operatives have urged citizens NOT to ask too many questions and NOT to take photos or video of precinct caucus results, warning them that only "conspiracy theorists" would want to independently confirm the announced results.
It is your DUTY as a citizen to oversee your governmental processes. Because Iowa caucus procedures lack basic checks and balances, such as posting the precinct caucus results at the precinct caucus location for the public to examine, it is actually very important for members of the public to take video and photographs and share them.
WHAT TO DO: If you see or hear anyone ridiculing, name calling, or implying that citizen oversight actions will cause "blowback" on their candidate, please REPORT THIS to Black Box Voting, via e-mail or online, live-time forum reports in the IOWA FORUMS section at Black Box Voting, http://www.blackboxvoting.org
2) The Iowa Republicans have NOT publicly agreed to promptly release precinct results for the Jan. 3 caucus. Instead, we are seeing bait and switch tactics, as they emphasize to caucus participants that the counting will be done in public at the precinct. While they keep your eye focused on the front end, a switch can take place at the back end. When they release a total result to the media without releasing the individual precinct results at the same time, there is no way at all for citizens to confirm that their precinct results added up to the announced total.
Please CONTACT both the Iowa Republican Party and the Iowa Secretary of State to tell them you expect to see those precinct results published at the SAME time they announce the statewide total. Iowa Republican Party: (515) 282-8105 Iowa Secretary of State: 515-281-0145
515-281-7142 (Fax) firstname.lastname@example.org
(But aren't caucuses "owned" by the parties and not the Secretary of State? It's like this: If Iowa wants to position itself as the first in the nation for caucuses, perhaps the ONLY possible influx of mass tourist dollars in January in Iowa, they need to run transparent caucuses with proper checks and balances. If they don't citizens nationwide will recommend dropping the Iowa First in the Nation concept).
3) One thing the Republican Party of Iowa has done RIGHT is making caucus locations transparent. All you have to do is go to http://www.iowagop.org and click the map to find every Republican caucus location in a county. Not so for the Democrats, who are making it harder to get a complete listing!
4) We have received conflicting reports as to the procedures at the Republican caucus. A spokesman for the Republican Party of Iowa told Black Box Voting that the votes would be written on paper and counted in front of candidate representatives and observers, then signed off on by precinct captains or whoever they've got in charge. WHAT TO DO: If that's the case, get a photo of the signed results and e-mail it to Black Box Voting - email@example.com --- or upload it directly to the IOWA FORUM section of http://www.blackboxvoting.org.
Another report says the vote will be by a show of hands, then the winner announced. In that case, it will be important to come equipped with a video camera to capture the show of hands!
In either case, at the end it all goes into a black hole. Party officials dial a result into a cell phone, which goes we don't know where, following a telecommunications routing that is unspecified, and is totalled up in a central tabulation program made by a vendor no one knows the name of, programmed by we don't know who, and voila! The result is announced.
WHAT TO DO: Get video and photos. Anecdotes don't do diddly. Report to Black Box Voting any efforts to tell citizens they are "conspiracy theorists" or "hurting their candidate" if they take photos and/or video.
IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CAUCUSES
ISSUES AND POTENTIAL PROBLEMS:
1) The overcomplexified, overcomputerized, silly smoke and mirrors game:
Again, we see the Amazing Randi in action --- look here, don't look there. Your attention will be drawn to the transparent "count the warm bodies" procedure at the precinct, with no explanation of exactly how the results were arrived at on the other end, after they go into a computerized central tabulation black hole.
Here, in part due to pressure from Black Box Voting, the Iowa Democratic Party says it is at least making an attempt to publicly and promptly release the precinct results. But then comes the overcomputerized, unexplained, overcomplexified process that is front-loaded with reasons it might not happen.
The concept here is simple: THE PUBLIC needs to be able to see the precinct results before they leave the precinct and after they are accumulated into the total. The precinct results BEFORE should match the precinct numbers AFTER, and all of these should match the final total. WHAT TO DO: Encourage your local county Democratic Party to add the simple step of posting a copy of the signed precinct results at each location.
2) About the results web site: the Democrats are saying there will be a special Web site that precinct totals will be posted on. The catch? They have yet to publicly announce the name of the Web site or even confirm publicly that this will happen. There has been some talk of using a password only for the media and/or caucus attendees to be able to see, which would be inappropriate. The public needs to see. WHAT TO LOOK FOR IF THE PRECINCT RESULTS GO UP: Get screen captures of any wandering tallies or changes in figures during the tally process.
IT MIGHT NOT BE PUBLIC: Look for a rationale in the form of a fear of "overloading the Web server."
And realize that there is NO REASON to withhold precinct results from the public because you are creating an automated special program that may get overloaded. Let's think about this:
The results can be extracted as a simple spreadsheet and posted as a PDF file that is only about 25 pages long. There is no earthly reason for the simple uploading of precinct results to become a techno-extravaganza, nor to give out special passwords just for the press or for caucus attendees. It needs to be made available to everyone.
3) WE DON'T REALLY KNOW: How this computerized tabulation will occur. Who is the vendor? Who programmed it? Who owns the server?
The Iowa Democratic Party has a bit of a black hole as well, with an automated cell phone-initiated computer tabulation. In 2004, this was handled by a fellow named David Vogelaar and his colleague, Andrew Brown. We don't know if they are the ones writing the program this time, but regardless --- any time data goes through this kind of process, questions arise as to how the program works, whether citizens can check what went in to compare with what came out, and so forth.
WHAT TO DO: Get photos of the results sheets, which are supposed to be signed off on by precinct leaders. E-mail the photos to Black Box Voting - firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not interfere with any of the goings-on. Get video if you can. Upload the video to youtube.com and e-mail a link to Black Box Voting or post it directly in the IOWA FORUM at Black Box Voting.
4) THE LAST CONCERN: This brings us to the last concern regarding the Democratic Party caucus procedures. For both parties, the telecommunications routing of the data enroute from the precincts to the final announced totals is important. Who has access to this along the way?
There is an interesting situation with the Iowa Democratic Party's official caucus site. It is called "iowafirstcaucus.org" --- http://www.iowafirstcaucus.org --- and this is not actually owned by the Democrats, but the site says it is "paid for" by them.
The domain name and the server for iowacaucusfirst.org appear to be owned by The Forbin Project (weird and creepy science fiction name, Google it) --- maybe someone's idea of a joke. The Forbin Project is part of VGM, and the principals of VGM/Forbin seem to be big Republican donors, and very vested in privatized national healthcare providers. What I found interesting was the candidates they have chosen to donate to --- like Randy "Duke" Cunningham of San Diego (why were these Iowa guys supporting him?) and Ohio's George Voinovich, and another fellow who's under investigation in Iowa named Nussle.
The Iowafirstcaucus server provides the location mapping for the precinct caucus locations. In fact, to find out where to go if you want to observe or participate in Democratic caucuses, go to http://www.iowafirstcaucus.org.
THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT IF: If for some reason the computerized central tabulation and results server is routed through or sitting on iowafirstcaucus.org, that's a conflict of interest problem, in my book.
"THE END" ... for now. Long report, looking forward to hearing from you this week to learn of your observations.
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