Circuit court judge, county clerk, and election officials among eight indicted for gaming elections in 2002, 2004, 2006
Used popular, unverifiable ES&S touch-screens to flip votes...
By Brad Friedman on 3/19/2009, 4:59pm PT  

[Now updated at bottom with details from the indictments.]

Those of us who have demanded transparent voting systems because we understand that only the ability for complete citizen oversight and transparency can effectively counter those who would game elections, have been disingenuously criticized over the years as somehow questioning the integrity of the hard-working, honest election officials out there.

The fact is, those who know anything about computer security understand that it is the insiders who are, by far, the greatest threat to security on such systems, as even the phony, GOP-operative-created Baker/Carter National Election Reform Commission determined in its final report: "There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries."

The best election officials in the country, however, will underscore that point, and agree that there is no reason any citizen should ever have to simply "trust" them.

Over the years, we've detailed the arrests and other unsavory behavior of many of the not-so-good election officials who, we were told, should simply have been trusted (our "favorite" has always been the case of Monterey CA's Tony Anchundo, who told us on air we should "trust" him, just a month or two before being arrested on 43 counts).

Well, now we've got a whole passel of still more crooked officials to add to the list. Moreover: The Kentucky officials arrested and indicted today, "including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers" of Clay County, have been charged with "chang[ing] votes at the voting machine" and showing others how to do it!


From Lexington, Kentucky's NBC affiliate this afternoon:

Five Clay County officials, including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers were arrested Thursday after they were indicted on federal charges accusing them of using corrupt tactics to obtain political power and personal gain.

The 10-count indictment, unsealed Thursday, accused the defendants of a conspiracy from March 2002 until November 2006 that violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO is a federal statute that prosecutors use to combat organized crime. The defendants were also indicted for extortion, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to injure voters' rights and conspiracy to commit voter fraud.

According to the indictment, these alleged criminal actions affected the outcome of federal, local, and state primary and general elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006.

[Ed Note: According to the indictment, there were actually six, as opposed to "five", county officials arrested, counter to the NBC affiliate's original report above. See the "Clarification" at bottom of this story for more details.]

The article goes on to list some of the criminal actions listed in the indictment. Among them [emphasis added]:

  • Clay County Clerk, Freddy Thompson, 45, allegedly provided money to election officers to be distributed by the officers to buy votes and he also instructed officers how to change votes at the voting machine.
  • Election officer William E. Stivers, 56, allegedly marked votes or issued tickets to voters who had sold their votes and changed votes at the voting machine.
  • Paul E. Bishop, 60, allegedly marked voters or issued tickets to voters who sold their votes and he also hosted alleged meetings at his home where money was pooled together by candidates and distributed to election officers, including himself. He was also accused of instructing the officers how to change votes at the voting machine.

In addition to the absurd charge that those of us who believe in transparency are unduly "attacking" election officials, the latest PR line from e-voting vendors, and election officials alike, is that there is no proof that any election has ever been manipulated electronically.

Setting aside that we disagree --- wholeheartedly --- with that oft-used bit of propaganda, the above indictments would seem to give us a very specific allegation of exactly that, manipulation of electronic votes.

Clay County uses the horrible ES&S iVotronic system for all of its votes at the polling place. The iVotronic is a touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) device, offering no evidence, of any kind, that any vote has ever been recorded as per the voter's intent. If the allegations are correct here, there would likely have been no way to discover, via post-election examination of machines or election results, that votes had been manipulated on these machines.

ES&S is the largest distributor of voting systems in America and its iVotronic system --- which is well-documented to have lost and flipped votes on many occasions --- is likely the most widely-used DRE system in the nation. It's currently in use in some 419 jurisdictions in 18 states including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

We will certainly continue to follow this story as it develops...

UPDATE: Complete indictment now posted here [PDF]...

* * *

FURTHER UPDATE: Having now reviewed the indictment, as linked above, here are some additional details on the alleged conspiracy which included election fraud though the buying and selling of votes to be cast in a certain way, with the aid of one of the defendants who served as a poll worker during the Early Voting period. Also, at the polling place on Election Day with aid of poll workers, drafted as both Democratic and Republican judges, to elect a slate of candidates --- some of them bribed --- the conspirators would manipulate the votes of "qualified voters" at the voting machines themselves. [Update 3/23/09: More on the political affiliations of the conspirators now posted here.]

Many of the voters, it seems, had no idea that their votes were manipulated after they'd left the touch-screen voting machine. While the Early Voting scheme involved finding voters who might wish to be paid to have their vote cast a certain way, the Election Day scheme, carried out in primary and general elections in at least 2004 and 2006, was accomplished by taking advantage of a "feature" on all DRE (usually touch-screen) voting systems and "voter unfamiliarity with new voting machines."

Essentially, they tricked voters into leaving the 'booth' after pressing the "Vote" button on the ES&S iVotronic. That button, does not actually cast the vote, as one might think (and as these voters were told), but instead, it brings up a review screen of the voter's "ballot."

Instructing the voters that they were done, the conspirators then, after the voter had left, would change the voters' votes as they saw fit, before finally pressing the "Cast Ballot" button.

Here's the explanation of how they did this on Election Day, according to the indictment:

3. It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants and their co-conspirators agreed to take advantage of voter unfamiliarity with new voting machines by misleading voters as to the mechanics of casting their votes once they were selected.

4. It was part of the conspiracy that WW serve as the Democrat election judge in the Manchester Precinct. It was further part of the conspiracy that CW serve as the Republican election judge in the Manchester Precinct. Both WW and CW were instructed by Defendants Freddy W. Thompson and Charles Wayne Jones to tell voters that when they had pushed a button labeled “Vote” that their votes had been cast, when, in fact, that function merely provided a review screen of the voter’s selections in each race, and that the further step of pushing the “Cast Ballot” button was required. This review screen gave the voter the opportunity to change any candidate selections prior to casting the ballot.

5. It was part of the conspiracy that when the misled voters left the voting booth after pushing the “Vote” button, WW and/or CW entered the booth, changed their votes to candidates selected in part by Defendant Russell Cletus Maricle and cast the ballot by pushing the “Cast Ballot” button.

As mentioned, the voters in question were all "qualified voters". The fraud could not have been accomplished without the conspiracy carried out with the aid of the insiders at the polling place, who changed election results on the voting machines, as needed.

"Many of the qualified voters duly voted for one or more of the aforesaid candidates and their votes were counted and certified as part of the total number of votes cast for such candidates," the indictment reads. "Other voters had their votes destroyed by the Defendants and their co-conspirators."

The Early Voting scheme, which included vote buying and selling, also required the aid of insiders, stationed at the early voting location:

8. It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants discussed and agreed to buy votes also during the early voting of absentee voters in favor of “the slate.” This plan involved having Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, and Debra L. Morris pay absentee voters for their vote and then sending them to Defendant Charles Wayne Jones who was acting as operator of the voting machine at the Clay County Clerk’s Office. Voters who sold their votes were given a mark or otherwise told to signal to the Defendant Charles Wayne Jones by Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, or Debra L. Morris and, based upon the mark andior signal, Defendant Charles Wayne Jones would cast their vote for “the slate.”

9. It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants discussed and agreed that in order to implement the method of corrupting the voting process described above, it would be necessary to cause to be appointed as precinct workers for both major parties persons who were in the conspiracy. It was further necessary that their assignment to respective precincts be coordinated so that no one outside the conspiracy would be in place to observe their actions.
11. Over numerous days during on or about a date in January 2006 to on or about November 7,2006, a list of voters who agreed to sell their votes was compiled by Defendants Russell Cletus Maricle and William E. Stivers and other co-conspirators made
arrangements with these persons for voting and payment. On numerous occasions, voters were brought to the courthouse during normal voting and the early voting period for absentee voters and paid to vote for candidates on “the slate” by Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, and Debra L. Morris.

12. On or about May 16,2006, and November 7,2006, Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, and Debra L. Morris paid voters to vote for members of “the slate,” as described above. They informed these voters to ask for assistance from selected precinct workers who then took them into the voting booth and selected the votes for them.

Of course, to accomplish all of this, the defendants had to be able to draft poll workers who would do what they needed. Three of the named defendants, circuit court judge Russell Cletus Maricle, Clay County Superintendent of Schools Douglas C. Adams, and election officer Charles Wayne Jones, all had among their powers on the election board the ability to "exert influence over the selection of precinct workers" for local elections.

Election officer Jones, it's alleged, is the one who "instructed other election to change votes at the voting machines."

"Part of the scheme to defraud," according to the indictment, also included that "defendants instructed election officers to assist the voters who sold their votes and to destroy voter assistance forms which may have resulted so as to not report the number of people they assisted at the voting polls as required by law."

So will the voting machine company representatives out there (and that includes many election officials who have forgotten for whom they work) continue to report that no election has ever been manipulated via an electronic voting system?...

CLARIFICATION: The original report quoted above from Lexington's NBC affiliate described "Five Clay County officials" being arrested, but, according to the indictment, it was actually a total of six officials, out of eight total arrested (two were a local husband/wife business team, rather than officials.) The original NBC report seems to have left out Charles Wayne Jones who "served on the Clay County Board of Elections during the election cycles of 2002, 2004 and 2006" according to the indictment.

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