Tuesday, May 24, 2005

My Letter to Assemblywoman Patty Berg

written by hand, sent by snail mail 5/24/05

Dear Assemblywoman Patty Berg,

I'm writing this letter to encourage your support of SB 596 which would make it easier for individual communities to implement their preferred voting methods.

I have written a great deal about proposed election reforms and my ideas have been published in the Eureka Times-Standard and Arcata Eye, and discussed on KMUD and KHUM. I've also been quoted in the North Coast Journal, Humboldt Advocate, HSU Lumberjack, Eureka Reporter, and The Independent. An exhaustive collection of my election reform work can be found at: http://guvwurld.blogspot.com.

It should be clear that America's elections are currently conducted under conditions which ensure inconclusive outcomes. The need for election reform could not be greater or more urgent. I welcome your reply, or even better, a chance to speak or meet with you about specific election reform possibilities.

Regardless of whether this comes to pass, please consider support for SB 596 as a means of empowering communities in your jurisdiction to begin the enormous process of identifying and implementing better best practices for elections. It is the least you can do to start creating a new basis for confidence in our elections.

In Respect and Peace,

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

[J30] - Election Reformers in OH Considering Support For Voter Confidence Resolution

Check out the [J30] yahoogroup. This is their mission:
The mission of J30 Election Coalition is to implement fair, honest and transparent elections by raising public and political awareness, by organizing and empowering activists, by pursuing and/or supporting civil and/or criminal actions as appropriate, and by cooperating with and supporting other voting rights activists with which we agree, as a unified body, and for which we can provide human and other resources.
You probably have to join the group to have access to their files and meeting minutes, etc. Having signed up, I can say I'm very impressed at how organized, disciplined and efficient these folks appear to be, plus they seem to be beyond false alternatives.

One of their members has taken a strong interest in the Voter Confidence Resolution, requesting a reply to her suggestion to add two reforms to the list. This was what prompted me to look them up and join. Here is a copy of the one post I made to introduce myself and respond to the suggestion:
Hi J30 Group,

I see your message archive is vast and applaud all the work you are doing for election reform. I have joined your group because Rady tracked me down through the Voter Confidence Committee in Humboldt County, CA. I understand you have been discussing the Voter Confidence Resolution, a living, breathing document that has been evolving on my blog (http://guvwurld.blogspot.com) since April 2004. This is excellent. I'd like to hear more about where you're at with it. I also want to respond to Rady's comments in this public space so the whole group can take into account the direction I am going to offer.

The Voter Confidence Resolution (link below) shown at GuvWurld is a template meant to be tailored by any group or community wanting to adopt it. We don't need communities to pass identical versions of this resolution. The resolution contains three key frames that I suggest leaving in place in order to facilitate the cumulative impact of passing this in lots of places:

1. The resolution says there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from U.S. federal elections. If I were to simply say I have no confidence I would expect to encounter an arbitrary reply that defiantly says "well I do have confidence." This goes nowhere. To argue against no basis for confidence requires accounting for the existence of a basis (or reason; as a talking point, saying "I have no reason to believe" is an effective translation to reinforce "I have no basis for confidence"). There can be none and the body of the resolution makes this plain using the second key frame.

2. Current conditions ensure inconclusive election results. I saw on Democratic Underground today that the Republican Party put out a letter in Washington state that listed very specific numbers of all sorts of different voting improprieties. Their aim is to unseat the Democratic governor by casting doubt on the legitimacy of her win. Their position advances this frame immensely. The letter mentions the voting improprieties but it does not presume for whom the mystery votes were cast. Their position implicitly supports the main body of the Voter Confidence Resolution which concludes that current conditions ensure inconclusive outcomes.

3. The third key frame is how we connect nationally. The final clause currently reads: "When elections are conducted under conditions that prevent conclusive outcomes, the Consent of the Governed is not being sought. Absent this self-evident source of legitimacy, such Consent is not to be assumed or taken for granted." And so, as each new resolution passes, the question we ask is: Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET? This ups the ante each time until we hit an inevitable tipping point.

So, like I said, editing the resolution in any way is totally ok. I hope these three elements will stay intact. To be clear, this is envisioned for the most local of levels available and is not at all intended for members of Congress.

To briefly address Rady, who provided two additional reforms to be considered for inclusion. I support the ideas (direct election of Prez and Veep; voter privacy through decentralized database) and encourage this group to use them in putting forth your own version of the resolution. This is the crux: you need to OWN it. That means taking it out in your community and letting other people's responses continue to shape it. You want something that everyone should be willing to say with one voice.

Because the resolution is pending before the City Council of Arcata, CA I'm working with two of the Councilmembers, designated as a subcommittee, to do a final edit that will get a public hearing next month. I'm a little reluctant to change the version on GuvWurld right now, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in feedback. Locally, my current response to feedback is to say thank you, will you please pick up the phone and repeat that on the voice mail of the Councilmembers. Nationally I say show me the version your group endorsed and I'll put it up as such.

I got the impression there is at least one geographic cluster among list members. Are there more? Into how many communities can this group introduce the Voter Confidence Resolution? Which ones?

In Respect and Peace,

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Building Bridges, Making Plans

As I mentioned last week, on Monday afternoon I met with Kevin Matlock, Executive Director of the local Republican Party. We started out discussing preferential voting but spent a good part of an hour talking about the causes and cures for society's divisiveness. I was pleased that we could agree that throughout history governments have tightened their grip on power by creating wedges among the public. We acknowledged a common interest in building bridges. I was surprised to learn how poorly some members of the community treat Kevin, and likely other Republicans. He told me several times that he appreciated the respect I showed him and the calm and reasonable manner in which I was speaking, even if he didn't agree with everything. This seemed healthy. I think it is a very big deal that Kevin invited me to address the local Republicans. Details TBD.

The Voter Confidence Committee meeting immediately followed my chat with Kevin. The meeting drew almost twice as many people as last week and everyone accepted some amount of responsibility for action steps before our next meeting. I am highly encouraged by the number of different things we are working on.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Municipal Response to Federal Lawlessness

This is the full text of the resolution passed by the Arcata, CA City Council on May 4, 2005. For GuvWurld commentary, click HERE. Thanks to Councilmember Dave Meserve for supplying this document, and infinitely more so for his courageous and determined leadership.


Whereas, a large majority of Arcata residents oppose the war on Iraq for one or more of the following reasons:Whereas, the cost of the war in dollars is a root cause of local economic hardships.

Whereas, the human cost of the war is unacceptable.

Whereas, issues of local and global importance are intimately linked, and the City Council is our most locally accessible governmental body and the most direct political connection between individuals and the federal government.

Therefore be it resolved that the City Council of the City of Arcata budgets $1000 annually (which amounts to approximately one penny for every person killed in Iraq as a result of the US invasion, currently estimated at over 100,000 civilian deaths and over 1500 American military deaths) to be used as outlined below.

Be it further resolved that The City Council of the City of Arcata commits itself to do anything within its power to influence the Federal Government to end immediately the American occupation of Iraq.

Be it further resolved that The City Council of the City of Arcata supports those enlisted men and women who are currently serving in Iraq by repeating its demand for the immediate withdrawal of all troops; and the Council commits itself to support, in any way within its power, both those residents who have returned from serving in Iraq and those who have refused to serve for moral or legal reasons;

Be it further resolved that The City Council of the City of Arcata will consider placing a measure on a future city-wide ballot, asking voters if Arcata should be declared a sanctuary for those who refuse to participate in war.

Be it further resolved that The City Council of the City of Arcata will take the steps necessary to expand the mandate of the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission to include “Promoting peace locally and globally”, to rename the Commission as the “Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and Peace Commission”, and to empower the Commission to use the additional $1000 budget allocation, as they are able within budget and time constraints, to:
  • Inform troops returning to Arcata from foreign duty about locally available services.
  • Inform resident members of the armed forces about access to free legal advice and counsel for those who are considering refusal, or who have already refused to serve in the war on Iraq or other wars.
  • Work with local school boards and Humboldt State University to limit access of military recruiters to school and college campuses, and to provide equal time for views offering alternatives to military service.
Be it further resolved that The City Council of the City of Arcata will provide ongoing opportunities for public discussion of current issues by sponsoring regular Town Hall Meetings at our public facilities.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

AccuPoll Has VVPAT and Federal Certification

AccuPoll is an election machine manufacturer that has been getting largely favorable attention in the election reform community. AccuPoll only recently made my radar after the circulation of the new Voter Confidence Resolution attracted a reply from Brett of Velvet Revolution (and then again in this thread at Democratic Underground). Finally making time for my over-due diligence, some of the more interesting results of my search are below.

AccuPoll made big news this past Wednesday:
TUSTIN, Calif. May 11, 2005. -- AccuPoll, Inc. (OCTBB: ACUP), a developer of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems, today announced receipt of certification under the 2002 Federal Election Commission Voting System Standards. As a result, AccuPoll becomes the first vendor of an end-to-end voting system featuring a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) to be certified under the more stringent 2002 standards.


The newly certified AccuPoll voting system, previously code-named Balboa, will now be known as Version 2.5. Version 2.5 includes new features such as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), electronic VVPAT audio review, early voting support, encrypted election results as well as additional enhanced security features. AccuPoll thus becomes one of the most feature-rich and transparent election systems available to election officials across the country.
This article from last July announces AccuPoll's certification in West Virginia.
"With the latest addition of West Virginia to our list of state certifications, we are now able to sell our equipment to roughly one third of the states across the country," said Dennis Vadura, CEO of AccuPoll.
Last month AccuPoll was certified by the state of Louisiana. Notice how this piece, like the one directly above, does not explicitly say how many states have approved AccuPoll:
TUSTIN, Calif. — AccuPoll Inc., a developer of Direct Recording Electronic voting systems, announced in a news release the receipt of state certification for its voting system in the state of Louisiana. The designation marks yet another state where AccuPoll's electronic voting system featuring a voter-verified paper audit trail is now available.
Given what an inside look we've recently been able to get at Open Voting Consortium's open source electronic voting system, I thought for sure I could get good details on how AccuPoll counts votes. What I've seen talks about printing a paper ballot for the voter to review before dropping the ballot in a box. The electronic record can later be compared with the paper record but I see no explanation of how the paper is counted. Such info may be available but I didn't find it.

Instead I found this page at VotingIndustry.com devoted entirely to AccuPoll. It contains links to four cartoonish documents purporting to be serious, none of which satisfies my curiosity. I was similarly stymied by this PowerPoint presentation created for a voting technology conference at M.I.T. on October 1, 2004. And the bulk of the AccuPoll website itself revolves around the Corporate Profile, Management Team and Investor Relations. Run Rudolph Run.

This point has been included in some form in every version of the Voter Confidence Resolution over the past 13 months: the results yielded by corporate owned election machines can directly help or hurt the manufacturer's ability to provide stockholders with a return on investment, thus demonstrating an inherent conflict of interest in allowing corporate ownership of election machines. What would be better is keeping all election methods (not necessarily machines!) owned and operated entirely in the public domain.

Finally, I am confused about AccuPoll's position on open source code. This page and this .pdf, both found on AccuPoll's site, both say open source is in use. On January 13, 2003, seemingly several lifetimes ago, Insight Magazine published "High Tech Voting Raises Questions":
[AccuPoll CEO Dennis] Vadura supports keeping the codes proprietary. From a business standpoint, he explains, typically the goal of the software company is to keep the code it developed a trade secret. "I don't want my competitor to see it because I might have certain abilities or techniques that we implemented in our code that give us a competitive advantage." But he adds, "You have to balance that [business need] with [the question], 'How can people trust it?'"

Vadura says he understands calls for making the software freely available to the public. But even a publicly owned firm such as AccuPoll would be reluctant openly to relinquish its code, because of profit responsibilities to its stockholders.
When I said there was an inherent conflict of interest for corporations to make elections machines, I meant it in the legal prima facie sense that this is self-evident and obvious at first appearance. Vadura's quote may be over two years old but I don't think the statute of limitations can really run out on putting your foot in your mouth. That can come back around to kick you in the ass anytime.

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Voter Confidence Resolution Endorsed By Humboldt County Green Party

At a General Assembly held earlier today, the Green Party of Humboldt County endorsed the Voter Confidence Resolution. Consensus was reached in less than 20 minutes, requiring only one word to be changed. The sixth item in the list of reforms now calls for equal time provisions to be "restored" by the media rather than "observed."

It is time to request an update from Bay Area Greens who professed interest in working on the resolution after participating in a workshop back in March.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Diebold (De)Certification Delayed

This just in...
Please be advised that the May 19th VSPP meeting has been cancelled. All the agenda items for that meeting, including the Diebold system, have been tentatively rescheduled for consideration at the June 16, 2005 VSPP Meeting.

Bruce McDannold
Election Specialist: Voting Systems
That info comes courtesy of the Open Voting Consortium newsletter, and refers to the (de)certification meeting that election reformers have been planning to swarm. It also mentions a "rumor" that the delay may have come at Diebold's request. Regardless, this is somewhat of a reprieve. We may be close to getting the County Supes to create an election reform task force (see below) but we must still keep emphasizing No Deal With Diebold!

* * *

I made a fantastic contact today while calling people who had attended last month's town hall forum on preferential voting. Next Monday I'll be having coffee with Kevin Matlock, Executive Director of the local Republican Party. At least he claimed that title when we spoke. I think I saw him on the news recently, and I really don't doubt him. I'm just surprised that I haven't been able to find out *anything* about him searching through Google and all over the Republican website above. Anyway, it's just a little due diligence and I shall get by. We had a very cordial discussion today and he readily agreed to meet me. We established that I am non partisan and that I am interested in working toward systemic change favoring voter confidence without inherent bias. He accepted this frame as a starting point for our next conversation. I look forward to the continued construction of a bridge.

* * *

Sometime this afternoon I got a call from Kathy at the Board of Supervisors' administrative office. She confirmed the Supes had each received the letter, Diebold/OVC comparison, and copy of the Voter Confidence Resolution that I had dropped off last week. She reinforced what Supervisor Jimmy Smith told me Monday which is that Elections Clerk Carolyn Crnich is completing a budget that will soon be submitted leading to the approval of an "Elections Advisory Committee." That is the first time that specific phrase has popped up, at least for me. It seems innocuous enough. The time frame appears to be weeks. Kathy said she would call me as soon as the matter is agendized for a specific meeting date.

* * *

This morning I spoke with Humboldt County Green Party Chairman Greg Allen. He encouraged me to attend this Saturday's Green Party General Assembly (GA) at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center. The meeting starts at noon and is open to the public. Greg said the Voter Confidence Resolution would definitely get on the agenda. It is a good bet the group will move to endorse the resolution, as they did an earlier version. There is video of the presentation that lead to the endorsement. It may take awhile to download. I think it is about 10-12 minutes.

In my last entry I incorrectly referred to this video as coming from the most recent Green GA. As I now see on the Humboldt County Green Party website, there was a GA as recently as April 10. Missing from this website is any announcement of the meeting coming up this weekend. I also see no reference to the previous endorsement, nor any mention of the resolution or even a link to GuvWurld. The site needs a more attentive webmaster to keep it current. Contact Greg Allen if you can help.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Strategy Development for Voter Confidence Resolution

The first thing I saw Monday morning was the Eureka Times-Standard mention of the Humboldt County Green Party's General Assembly coming up this Saturday at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center. In February, at their last Assembly they endorsed an earlier version of what is now the Voter Confidence Resolution. I didn't quite get the follow-up support I had hoped for but then we didn't have the Arcata City Council preparing to officially vote on the resolution. June 15 is the tentative date.

The Voter Confidence Committee met earlier this evening. We will continue to gather Mondays at the Liquid Cafe. Everyone is welcome to join us. Starting next week we'll begin at 6pm. Most of tonight's meeting was follow-up work on the recent town hall forum on preferential voting. We'll be doing some phone banking this week to touch base with people who signed in at the event.

We also discussed some strategy for the Voter Confidence Resolution. It has always been regarded as a template, and as a work in progress. At this point, I'm trying to smooth out my awkward choice to deflect further input over to Dave Meserve and Harmony Groves, the Arcata City Councilmembers designated for the subcommittee duty of editing the resolution before bringing it up for the vote. As I've said before, people who want to support the resolution can much more effectively do that if they don't spend a lot of time quibbling over precise details they'd like to change in the resolution. We did that for a year.

I'm still interested in what people think. I just want to make sure they share those thoughts with the Councilmembers who of course need to be hearing from the community that there is interest and support. I can say it plainly here: please call members of the Arcata City Council to provide your feedback on the resolution and express your support for its passage. Now I just need to get better at saying that in person.

So at the VCC meeting, we didn't discuss wording, but we did latch on to an add-on concept. Scott pointed out that as a template the Voter Confidence Resolution is passive. It may be most universal right now for circulation on the Web, but to get past the Council it will need to contemplate doing something. This would usually include instructions to forward the resolution to certain people. In this case, I'm recommending the City Councils of the following cities:
Ann Arbor, MI
Asheville, NC
Berkeley, CA
Boulder, CO
Burlington, VT
Ithaca, NY
New Paltz, NY
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
Santa Cruz, CA
San Francisco, CA
I've never laid out this list before, and certainly more cities could be added, but this has always been the basic plan. Responding to my words, published in the Arcata Eye in January, Arcata Mayor Michael Machi has said that he thinks national resolutions are a waste of time. They don't serve to amplify the message of the people, he claims and I agree, because they get sucked into the black hole of Washington DC where nobody is listening to us. I say this doesn't mean we should stop speaking our truths. It means we have to redirect the message to the accountable local leaders of other progressive communities.

Anyway, inclusion of instructions to disseminate is only one part the active component we discussed. We also want to encourage the Council to show support for state bill SB596 which would make it possible for general law (non-charter) cities to implement preferential voting. This could easily be tucked in with reform #8. And finally, we talked about calling for the creation of a commission or committee or task force whose role it would be to study and make recommendations about how to pursue implementation of the full set of eight reforms.

It sure feels like we have momentum again. We also had partial good news from the Supes today. I talked with Jimmy Smith and he spoke about creating an election reform task force. Apparently he's waiting for something to be submitted by Elections Clerk Carolyn Crnich. She, it seems, is really in favor of this. That's a hopeful sign. No word yet on what the scope of the group's work will include. The downside of the chat with Jimmy was that he was unmoved by my arguments about Diebold. It is somewhat galling, considering the Board's position is "minimal compliance." I gave Jimmy this analogy: with a whole bottle full of poison pills, just one is still enough to kill you. There is no safe amount of Diebold in our election systems. A.C.S. (Absolute Common Sense) requirements should permit no more than zero parts per million.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Update on Bob Koehler and Don Wycliff

See this entry from last week for the back story.

The Tribune has continued to shut down Koehler's attempts to bring the election fraud story to the mainstream. His most recent column was spiked in favor of this mail bag compendium. According to Koehler, Wycliff's off-topic pseudo-rebuttal resulted in only one published letter to the editor, despite the roughly 200 submitted, and the one switched the topic to Wycliff's bait (Nixon) rather than addressing the circumstances of 2004 or election conditions in general.

Brad Blog filed a report on this on Wednesday, Editor & Publisher followed on Thursday, and this Rense piece is dated Saturday. A Google search reveals many a blogger now on this story too.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ukiah, CA Opens New Front For Election Reform

This post was written and back dated on 5/8/05.

Kaitlin from Democracy Unlimited wrote to let me know that the Ukiah, CA City Council will soon be considering a resolution to support a state bill, SB 596, which would make it possible for general law (non-charter) cities to implement preferential voting. It would be a meaningful measure of support to have Arcata and the Humboldt Supes also get behind this. I just sent Kaitlin's message, including the proposed Ukiah resolution, to Arcata Councilmembers Meserve and Groves.

Today I also spent about 90 minutes at a Communities For Peace meeting featuring a lengthy report by recently returned Peace Ambassador Linda Sorter. I'll have a more detailed report on that in a future GuvWurld entry.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

OVC Outreach Continues

This post was written and back dated on 5/8/05.

On Friday May 6 Lara from OVC wrote to tell me about her meeting with Warren Slocum, County Registrar of Voters for San Mateo County, CA. Lara reports that Warren may be willing to spend some or all of his County's $7 million HAVA allotment toward becoming the first County to use OVC. Of course, it is not as easy as simply adopting the voting method; it must first be certified. Apparently Warren intends to press CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, an approach which stands a better chance if other election officials, Councilmembers and Supes are also vocal about.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Diebold Certification Hearing Set For May 19

This post was written on 5/7/05 and back dated when posted 5/8/05.

Thursday, May 5 brought an action alert from VotersUnite.org announcing the May 19 Diebold certification hearing. It is already on the agenda of the CA Secretary of State. VU is looking for people to attend and/or speak at this meeting. It starts at 10am at:
Office of the Secretary of State
1500 11th Street
1st Floor – Auditorium
Sacramento, California 95814
Ellen at the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project also checked in on Thursday. She mentioned speaking with Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams, who she says told her that:
"he thinks the 2006 HAVA deadline is now in stone. He said the projected but not definite scenario is: he will be given paperwork next month to complete the application process to be sent back to SoS as soon after July 1 as possible. An agenda item asking for $986,000 at the board on July 5 will be signed by [Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Chairman Roger] Rodoni and Fed Exed to Sacto, to be spent on immediate need stuff like new computers."
According to Ellen, Lindsey also said, "I don't see any government putting up funding to create open source equipment." I assume this was in response to learning about OVC, but I can't be sure Lindsey wasn't already familiar. Ellen continued: "He was surprised to hear that the software has been created and can run on PCs...I put in a call to Woolley asking for a task force resolution or advice on how to do it, haven't heard back yet." On April 12, Mark Konkler from the Voter Confidence Committee also made a public request that the Supes create a task force.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Arcata Passes Municipal Response To Federal Lawlessness

Updated 5/15/05: The full text of the resolution is HERE.

This post was written on 5/7/05 and back dated when posted 5/8/05.

On Wednesday night, Arcata's City Council passed the Municipal Response To Federal Lawlessness (MRTFL) resolution, quite possibly the most progressive measure in the country this year to date. I haven't yet found an online version though I have a hard copy for reference. What passed is quite different from the original version (scroll down) that spawned the town hall forum in Arcata back in March. I like that the official version says:
Whereas, issues of local and global importance are intimately linked, and the City Council is our most locally accessible government body and the most direct political connection between individuals and the federal government.
This is essential to embracing the big picture strategy of the Voter Confidence Resolution.

MRTFL commits Arcata's City Council "to do anything within its power" to influence the Federal Government to leave Iraq; it commits Arcata to supporting all troops, including those "residents who have returned from serving in Iraq and those who have refused to serve for moral or legal reasons"; it promises the community "regular Town Hall Meetings"; it contemplates the possibility of a ballot measure for voters to decide on declaring Arcata a sanctuary for those who refuse to participate in war; and it expands the name and mandate of the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission, tagging "and Peace Commission" on the end of the name plus providing a budget of $1000 and at least three direct responsibilities aimed at educating the community about alternatives to war and military service.

Public discussion extended over more than two hours. I noted 28 speakers in favor of passing, seven opposed and three who didn't clearly pick a side. It seemed like healthy community involvement without any rudeness or interruption.

For my part, I was glad to roll out the police communications system analogy once again. This was a strong way to show that official civil disobedience is sometimes something even opponents of MRTFL would favor, even though their current position might seem to suggest they universally oppose the Council taking such positions on national issues. I also talked about the impossibility of accepting "the threat of civil war breaking out" as an excuse not to withdraw troops. After all, the stated mission of U.S. troops is to train Iraqi police and military to fight so-called insurgents. So which is it, do we want Iraqis fighting Iraqis or are we stuck there to prevent it? I also mentioned Rebecca Solnit's "Hope In The Dark" once again, citing its definition of revolution (a shift in the balance of power between the people and government) and the need for us to make the phrase "peaceful revolution" socially acceptable. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many people, both later in the Council meeting and all the next day, have commended me for these remarks.

Also Wednesday, the North Coast Journal published a brief paragraph about Eureka's town hall forum on preferential voting. It included a great quote from the Voter Confidence Committee's Scott Menzies: "I really don't think it's a matter of if anymore. I think it's a matter of when." Way to go Scott - perfect framing!

And I heard from Lara at OVC that she wanted to do an event in Humboldt, perhaps showing the film Votergate or another, soon to be released movie, Electile Dysfunction. I referred her to the Redwood Peace and Justice Center and the Minor Theatre. I also put Ellen and Lara in touch and Lara wound up appearing on Ellen's monthly radio show.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Diebold/OVC Comparison Sheet Complete

This post was written on 5/6/05 and back dated when posted 5/8/05.

On Tuesday May 3, I finished this document (.pdf), a comparison between Diebold and Open Voting Consortium. Thanks to OVC's Alan and Lara, plus Jim Sopert for collaborating on this. I had been wanting it for a while to submit to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, which I finally did on Wednesday, along with the letter below and a copy of the Voter Confidence Resolution.

I was also interested to learn from Ellen at the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project that seven CA counties may switch to all mail-in voting. She sent me this article from Santa Rosa's Press Democrat. It says Oregon votes this way and has a very high rate of voter participation (I don't think you can really call it turnout). This increase is also seen in places that currently have a lot of absentee voters. Increasing voter participation is certainly a selling point. Another trend spotted: fewer polling places leads people to create the community aspect of election day through witnessing the vote counting, also encouraged by the Voter Confidence Resolution. So far, so good. Now show me the chain of custody for the ballots.

Discussions about Diebold's ability to accommodate RCV also got my attention on Tuesday. Actually, I was reminded of this April 20 SF Chronicle article. Berkeley, San Leandro and Oakland have all approved RCV and cannot yet implement it thanks to Diebold's inadequacies. Adding insult to injustice, Diebold is now trying to gouge the cities for making modifications necessary for using RCV. The pertinent question now relates to Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams, and whether he is making a supportable assumption about the ease of using Diebold machines in Humboldt for RCV.
* * *

May 3, 2005

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
825 Fifth Street, Room 111
Eureka, CA 95501

Dear Chairman Rodoni and members of the Board,

I understand that your recent decision regarding Diebold touch screen voting machines was to authorize the Elections Department to negotiate for their purchase. Fortunately, this is not a commitment to buying such machines, which means you still have the luxury of time to find a better alternative.

Accompanying this letter is a page describing some of the many ways that Diebold fails to meet the standards for reliable voting technology. Further, if you read the attached you will also see that Diebold fails to meet any criteria that might possibly describe an appropriate business partner for Humboldt County.

The flip side describes an open source alternative voting system made by Open Voting Consortium. This system also relies upon a computer interface voters have grown increasingly accustomed to using. However, since it is open source, we can all be privy to the inner workings of the machines. Perhaps even better, OVC relies upon a voter verified paper ballot that creates a triple redundant record of votes cast. Please become familiar with this emerging option and consider contacting Lara Shaffer to arrange a free demonstration (831-419 -0758).

The second attached document is the Voter Confidence Resolution, descended from similar earlier works provided to you under a different name. I ask you to consider the logic of this statement, which makes the case that our current election system is inherently designed to produce an inconclusive outcome. As long as any precinct in our entire country conducts voting on “black box” machines with secret programming and without paper ballots, there will be no basis for confidence in the results reported from U.S. federal elections. Please think deeply about the implications of this line of reasoning, and the evidence that supports it.

I am requesting the opportunity to meet with each of you to discuss these serious concerns and proposed responses. I think it would also be welcome and appropriate for you to place the Voter Confidence Resolution on the agenda of a future Board meeting to engage the community about the breadth and depth of concern for our lost democracy. We are not defeatists or complainers but rather optimists with an election reform platform and a positive message for re-establishing a basis for confidence in U.S. federal elections.

In Respect and Peace,

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Eureka Councilmember Kerrigan Sits In On VCC Meeting

This post was written on 5/6/05 and back dated when posted 5/8/05.

On Monday, May 2, the Voter Confidence Committee had its regular weekly meeting at the Liquid Cafe. This was mostly to debrief on last week's town hall forum, but also to do some planning. There was a strong sense that preferential voting should become the term we will emphasize over ranked choice or instant runoff voting. This led to a revision of reform #8 in the Voter Confidence Resolution. The wording of the second RESOLVE clause was also tightened and so the version number was advanced to 6.1 (earlier versions).

Eureka City Councilmember Chris Kerrigan attended part of the meeting. While he was there we compared a citizen initiative and a ballot measure crafted by the Council as potential paths to ultimately implementing preferential voting. With optimism he encouraged us to pursue the second path, in the form of a Town Charter Amendment Review Committee, though clearly nothing is for certain.

Also Monday, the Eureka Reporter published this story on the forum. The Reporter was also running an opinion poll on Ranked Choice Voting. As I write this, it appears they've already moved on to another topic. The result was 53.19% in favor of RCV to 46.81 opposed.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Report on Eureka Town Hall Forum

Thursday night was Eureka's Town Hall Forum on Ranked Choice Voting. For me, the most valuable bit of new thinking was the suggestion of Holistechnology founder River Hume who seemed to have an epiphany during one of the demo elections displayed.

Everyone who attended was given a sample ballot asking for their ranked choices on six cartoon characters. When the votes were first tallied there was no majority winner. Several rounds of runoffs narrowed the field to three. At this point, the candidate with the third highest and simultaneously the lowest vote total was eliminated. Votes for this candidate were then transferred to one of the two remaining candidates to determine the winner. It was at this decisive point that River concisely observed the supporters of the third place candidate were merely expressing which of the other two they preferred.

In thinking about future message development, I will favor preferential voting over instant runoff voting or ranked choice voting. BTW, it was Yogi Bear who started in third place after the first vote count and went on to win our demo vote.

We also conducted a physical exercise called the Ice Cream Demo. This involved asking people to join one of three lines, depending which flavor of ice cream they preferred. Unfortunately, chocolate was such a heavy favorite that there was a majority from the start and no need for a runoff. Fortunately the Voter Confidence Committee had discussed this contingency. Three of us were heading up the ice cream lines by holding up signs announcing the flavors. On the reverse side was written a color. People then shuffled to stand in line as a vote for their favorite color. Lo and behold there was no majority. People in the smallest line were asked to transfer their vote to the color they preferred from the remaining two. Wouldn't you know it but we had an even number and a flat-out tie.

Scott Menzies ran most of the program including a PowerPoint presentation and a question and answer session. He handled the ice cream stymie with charm and we avoided what could have been a bit messy. Overall he got high marks for making the subject clear and easy to understand. Scott also did well with the audience. There were a few seniors in the crowd, known to the community for legendary rants at City Council and Board of Supervisor's meetings. The off-topic and largely non-sensical harangues drew laughter and some "hisses and sighs of exasperation" in the account published by the Eureka Times-Standard on Friday. Several other local media had representatives present. References to further coverage as it becomes available.

David Cobb, Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, and other members of Democracy Unlimited were in attendance and helpful. They counted the votes in the cartoon election. David also chimed in with some helpful answers during the Q&A. For example: if a hypothetical election had 100 voters, and three voters indicated only a single preference who did not win, then the exhaustion of these ballots would make 97 the number used to determine the majority threshold of 50%+1 (in this case 49 votes, different from the 51 that were required from the original pool of 100).

BTW, David's website featured the Voter Confidence Resolution as its top story on Tuesday and now has it archived here. It is also worth mentioning that Solar Bus has added to its archive the January 18 Arcata Eye piece I wrote about voter confidence.

At the forum I was very encouraged to hear David say the words Voter Confidence Committee several times. It seemed like a conscious choice to assist us in establishing credibility and presence. Of course, we've done a few things to help in this department too. We unfurled an eight foot banner while setting up for the forum, earlier in the week we launched VoterConfidenceCommittee.org, and of course our ongoing media presence is pretty strong.

I also consider it a shot in the arm that David is taking an active part in planning next steps for pursuing preferential voting in Eureka. In the end it will require a vote of the people so the question is whether the City Council will create a ballot measure of if we will have to collect signatures for a citizen initiative. One is preferred and the other is a fall back position.

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