As originally aired on the 4/8/11 'Mike Malloy Show'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/11/2011, 9:05am PT  

As several folks have requested, here is my "Special Comment" on "Democracy's Gold Standard" in the wake of Wisconsin's Supreme Election Debacle from my final night of the week guest hosting the Mike Malloy Show last Friday night. It's presented here in quick and dirty video form in hopes that it'll get a few more eyes and ears than just the audio would by itself...

Please see this article for more on "Democracy's Gold Standard." And here is Nancy Tobi's book: Hands-On Elections: An Informational Handbook for Running Real Elections, Using Real Paper Ballots, Counted by Real People.

A text transcript of the "Special Comment" follows below...

Brad Friedman's Special Comment on Democracy
in the Wake of Wisconsin's April 5th, 2011
Supreme Court Election debacle

As heard on the Mike Malloy Show,
guest hosted by Brad on April 8, 2011

Transcribed by Emily Levy of

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[Bumper Music…Leonard Cohen's 'Democracy'. "...Democracy is comin'…to the U.S.A…"]

BRAD FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that's what they keep tellin' me. Democracy is coming to the USA. They tell us that every year, every two years. But if we learn anything from Wisconsin and the Supreme Court election, we don't yet have a real democracy. At least not a citizen-overseeable democracy, in this country. We learned once again this week in Wisconsin when suddenly, out of nowhere, with almost no explanation, at least no plausible explanation, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced 14,000 votes that she didn't know about previo-, well, she knew about them, but nobody else knew about them, and suddenly a race with 1.5 million votes cast which had a 204 vote margin suddenly has a 7,500 vote margin, or just over 7,500 votes.

Interesting number in that 7,500 votes is just about 0.5% in the gap between Justice David Prosser, who is a supporter of the Republican Governor, Scott Walker, and Assistant Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg. It may put an automated state-sponsored recount just out of reach. Joanne Kloppenburg would have to pay for that recount herself.

The question is why does there need to be a recount in the first place? And why do we use the word 'recount' when the ballots have not actually been counted at all? Yes, they have paper ballots in most of Wisconsin. That's the good news. But they run 'em through optical scan machines made by Diebold (you know the name), Sequoia (you know the name), ES&S (you know the name), Populex: systems that are often failed, systems that are very easily manipulated. The paper runs through the systems and tells us what the result is and nobody bothers to check it. Nobody bothers to oversee it. In Wisconsin you can't have a hand count unless you go to court to get a court order for a hand examination of the ballots.

Now, with this news that Kathy Nickolaus came out with, this Republican activist who is the County Clerk who oversees the elections in Waukesha County, that she suddenly found these votes out of nowhere --- and, by the way, she used to work with Justice David Prosser in the Republican Assembly there --- she was given…she would not be charged with criminal charges back in 2001 when they were investigating some pretty bad doings there inside the Republican Caucus. And, in fact, they had to put the Republican Caucus out of business because they were doing politickin' on office time. She was let off the hook in exchange for her testimony.

These are the people that we are told we should trust. People like Kathy Nickolaus. People like Kathy Nickolaus who keep the election results on their own computer in their own office where nobody else can oversee the process. Election results of paper ballots that have been scanned by computer systems where nobody can see the process. Nobody can tell if they've been counted accurately or not. These are the people that we are told we should just trust. Oh, "just trust, just trust in the process."

Now, we have some evidence today, as we spoke a little bit about earlier in the show, that in fact those 14,000 votes that suddenly appeared out of nowhere may not have appeared out of nowhere. That in fact there was a newspaper, a small local paper in Brookfield where these votes were said to have appeared, a report by Lisa Sink of the Brookfield Patch, and she in fact posted on election night, a little bit after midnight on April 5. It would have been the morning of April 6, --- 10,859 votes for Prosser, 3,456 votes for Kloppenburg. That's 3-4-5-6 for Kloppenburg. The exact same numbers that Kathy Nickolaus announced yesterday. There was no change.

These numbers were posted and published and you can go to and you can see the link to the article. They were posted on Tuesday, Tuesday night. Lisa Sink says that she got these numbers, she told me --- because I contacted her today to confirm this --- she told me that she got the numbers straight on election night at City Hall from the City Clerk's office, typed it up at City Hall and posted the story at 12:24 a.m. and that's why it says April 6 instead of April 5. She says she didn't get any results from the County or AP because she only needed the Brookfield city votes for her report.

Well, that's good. It gives some confirmation of these numbers. She said what was or was not included in the county-wide totals that Nickolaus gave to AP on election night, "I have no idea". That's according to Lisa Sink. Only Nickolaus and maybe AP have that info. Why don't we? Why don't we, the people have this info?

Well, Kathy Nickolaus determined that she did not want to include the municipalities in her totals on election night, that she sort of bunched everything together so nobody noticed, nobody knew what was real, what was not, and that was her decision. She made that alone. It made it impossible to have citizen oversight. We are supposed to trust Kathy Nickolaus.

I don't think we should have to trust anybody in an election. Our system was not built on trust. It was built on checks and balances and the greatest election officials in this country like Ion Sancho, who we had, from Florida, Leon County, Florida, who we had on this show earlier this week, he will tell you, "Don't trust me. There's no reason to trust me. There's no reason to trust anyone in an election. If you can't see it, there's no reason that you should accept it."

I agree.

I've been talking about these stories here on the Mike Malloy Show, on Stephanie Miller's show, all over the radio. At we have thousands and thousands of pages on this stuff, trying to make this point over and over and over and over. And yet, we still keep these same stupid secret proprietary systems and we allow our election officials to tell us that we don't have to see what's going on, that we should trust them.

Back in October of 2005 I was on the air talking about this on my friend Peter B. Collins' show --- I was on the air with the 13-year Registrar of Voters in Monterey County, California with his new voting systems made by Sequoia. (Audio of full interview here, text transcript here, Court TV's Catherine Crier picked up on our reporting of this in a video editorial here.) He was quite proud of those systems, the systems that were 100% unverifiable and have since been decertified in the state of California, thankfully.

But when I was asking him questions about this system, this 13-year election official, Tony Anchundo, the Registrar of Monterey, California, well, here's the question and his answer from October of 2005...

[Audio clip from interview with Anchundo on 10/24/2005]

BRAD FRIEDMAN: It sounds like Mr. Anchundo is suggesting that the vote count will actually be taken from the cartridge. So, in other words, when one votes, and you see that result on that piece of paper, how does a voter or anyone else know that what is actually marked on the cartridge is the same as what's on the paper?

TONY ANCHUNDO: How will the voter know? They won't know, obviously, at that time. There is obviously going to have to be some trust and faith in the elections official, and in this case it's me.

[end of audio clip]

"There obviously has to be some trust and faith in the election official, in this case it was me." That's Tony Anchundo, the well-respected 13-year Monterey County Registrar of Voters back in October of 2005.

A few short months after that interview, in July of 2006, Tony "Trust Me" Anchundo was charged with 43 criminal counts including charges of forgery, misapplication of funds, embezzlement, falsification of accounts, and grand theft of nearly $80,000 of County money. Remember, you have to have trust and faith in your election officials, "In this case it would be me," said Tony Anchundo.

In December of 2006 Anchundo pleaded no contest to all 43 criminal charges.

I am sure Tony Anchundo was a very nice fellow. He seemed very nice. I have no idea, as a matter of fact, what party he was even from. I don't know if he was a Democrat, a Republican, I don't really care. All I know is that after spending all of these years writing thousands of pages at and seeing these same situations happen over and over and over and over again where we have no idea who won an election, where we are told we are supposed to simply trust in the computers that count these ballots, that we are supposed to simply trust in the election officials, election officials like Tony Anchundo who pled no contest to all 43 criminal charges, election officials like Kathy Nickolaus, who says, 'Nothing to worry about, I'll keep the computers that have the election results in my office so that nobody else can see it. Because it's more secure that way if only I see it.' Security by obscurity.

And then when she finds 14,000 votes in one of the most important elections in the state of Wisconsin in years, we're told, 'Oh, it's just an accident. I forgot to hit the save button.' But there is no save button in Microsoft Access. But we're supposed to trust her. And we're supposed to trust these machines that count our paper ballots.

A lot of people say, 'Well, there's paper ballots. There is nothing to worry about.' --- Yes. There. Is.

If citizens can't oversee it, they can't trust it. If they can't see inside a computer counting these optical scan ballots, there is no reason to trust it. I have been saying this over and over and over for years. Do we really need another 2000 election debacle to hit us in 2012, in 2014, in 2016? 20? When? When is it enough?

There is a Gold Standard for Democracy. In the closest elections, when we have no idea who won because it's so close, what do we do? We hand count the paper ballots in front of the citizenry. In front of the public. In front of the video cameras. So there is no question about who won or lost that election. That is, presuming if the chain of custody for those paper ballots has been secure. And on that, we generally have to - what? - trust the election officials that the chain of custody has been secure.


This is our democracy. This is the life blood of this nation. If we can't figure out how to run an election in this country that the supporters of both the winner and the loser believe, when they walk away, that the winner and loser can both believe that the results are accurate, then we don't have a democracy. We need to be able to oversee the counting of our own ballots in our own elections. That is self-governance. That is what is envisioned in our Constitution. And when we are cut out of that process then our democracy has been taken away from us.



Of course, I can't do it alone. There are a lot of great election integrity advocates out there, but there are not enough. There are not nearly enough. You are needed.

And I'm not going to tell you that hand-counted paper ballots at the precinct on election night in front of the people. with the results posted at the precinct before the ballots move anywhere, I'm not going to tell you that that is going to work everywhere every time. I don't know. I'm not going to make the mistake that the voting machine companies made when they came in and said, 'Trust us. This will work.'

But I know it works in New Hampshire. I know that in New Hampshire quite often where, in 40% of the towns where they do count by hand, the totals are often done, completed, overseen by everybody in the community without question before the Diebold towns have their results in. I know they can do it in New Hampshire. So I know we can do it elsewhere in this nation.

We need pilot programs. Hand-counted pilot programs. And you can go to, look up "Democracy's Gold Standard," and learn more about this and take action. And look for Nancy Tobi's book on this (Hands-On Elections: An Informational Handbook for Running Real Elections, Using Real Paper Ballots, Counted by Real People), from New Hampshire, on verifiable hand-counted elections, counted by actual people. Actual human beings. It ain't that hard. It ain't rocket science. It's democracy. We don't need fancy computers. We don't need secret software.

We don't need to trust our election officials. I don't care if they're Republican, if they're Democratic, if they're independent. I don't care. It's not about trust. It's about checks, balance, and oversight. This is not about right and left, it's about right and wrong. I continue to say it for years. I hope you will join me in saying it out there in your local community because I can't do this alone and there's not enough of us fighting this fight.

This is what matters. This is what matters. Democracy matters.

Please, go out, educate yourself. Go to your county official. Ask them, "Can we have a hand-counted paper ballot pilot program in this county?" Do it in a small election. Don't ask too much all at once. Let's learn how to do this. But we need to be able to have transparency, transparency, transparency, oversight, oversight, oversight for true self-governance in this country.

Enough of these supreme debacles like the one we're seeing in Wisconsin and that we seem to see now in each and every election.


Democracy's Gold Standard. It's there. Let's get it.

You're listening to Brad on the Mike Malloy Show.

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