Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Big Day For Voter Confidence

Another quick reminder about the VCC event happening tonight (6/29) at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center in Arcata, CA starting at 6pm.

Also today, the Green Party's 2004 Presidential Candidate David Cobb is scheduled to present the Voter Confidence Resolution at the Election Assessment Hearing in Houston. This is a prelude to tomorrow's sham event put on by the Baker-Carter Election Reform Commission. In solidarity with, GuvWurld requests that you use this link to sound off to the B-C commission about the real election reform work happening through the Voter Confidence Resolution.

Last but FAR, FAR, FAR from least, the following GuvWurld essay was published today in this week's Humboldt Advocate.

Has the Consent of the Governed Been Withdrawn, YET?

Imagine it is November 8, 2005, the day California will hold Governor Schwarzenegger's special initiatives election. Voters are queued up awaiting their turn to cast a ballot. One by one the constituents approach the celebrity politician and whisper in his ear. At the end of the day, Arnold tells us the outcome. That is neither practical nor reliable, though it is strongly analogous to the private source code and secret vote counting prevalent in recent American elections.

Roughly 30% of the votes cast in last November's general election did not create a paper record. That means the votes were not verifiable and could not be recounted. That also means the so-called "irregularities" cannot be reconciled. So when an election machine loses data or counts backwards or registers more votes than there are registered voters, we have an inherent uncertainty about the results reported. Our elections are conducted under conditions that ensure inconclusive outcomes.

Many people clearly understand these systemic problems yet persist in data analysis and endless debate about election fraud. However strong the evidence may be, this is not an effective election reform tactic because it necessarily exacerbates partisan tension. It should not be surprising for election systems to be designed for ambiguity. Such conditions can be relied upon for polarizing controversy, which is to the advantage of those in power and detrimental to the rest of us.

The reforms we need are all systemic, just like the problems we must address. Thus, the point more important than fraud is: Because inconclusive results, by definition, mean that the true outcome of an election cannot be known, there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from U.S. federal elections. Do not accept the arbitrary argument from someone attempting to claim they still maintain confidence. Insist on understanding their basis for such confidence. You have the means to illustrate that no basis for confidence exists.

In order to repair our election process we must ensure conclusive outcomes and create a new basis for confidence. How can we accept anything less?

Clearly this is all easier said than done. Many worthwhile reforms have been proposed and it is important to note that no single one of them will ensure conclusive outcomes and create a basis for confidence all on its own. This will require a comprehensive election reform platform such as the list below, found in the Voter Confidence Resolution:

1) voting processes owned and operated entirely in the public domain, and
2) clean money laws to keep all corporate funds out of campaign financing, and
3) a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast and additional uniform standards determined by a non-partisan nationally recognized commission, and
4) declaring election day a national holiday, and
5) counting all votes publicly and locally in the presence of citizen witnesses and credentialed members of the media, and
6) equal time provisions to be restored by the media along with a measurable increase in local, public control of the airwaves, and
7) presidential debates containing a minimum of three candidates, run by a non-partisan commission comprised of representatives of publicly owned media outlets, and
8) preferential voting and proportional representation to replace the winner-take-all system for federal elections

Notice these are all systemic changes that do not reflect a partisan skew at all. In my view, partisanship has too often been put before the greater good. This is treason. Bi-partisanship is also problematic. This is where the two parties openly rather than covertly collaborate under the guise of competition. This is the death of ideas.

To eventually realize all these changes would reflect a re-birth of ideas and a new free market within which they can compete. May the best ideas win. May the people's voices be heard. And when the day comes that our voices are again heard, where previously they had been silenced, this will be a revolutionary shift in the balance of power between the Government and We the People.

What will it take for the phrase "peaceful revolution" to become socially acceptable? If each of us asks this question of one or two other people, pretty soon the answer will be obvious.

The Voter Confidence Resolution explains that the Consent of the Governed is not being sought. Universal disenfranchisement through privatized corporate elections is but one proof. We the People did not authorize suspension of the Constitution such that citizens are now subject to arrest without charge or access to an attorney. Nobody asked us if pollution for profit could trump sustaining the environment for future generations. And consider that we have no say in how our federal budget dollars are spent, even though this impacts many aspects of our local economy. During the first American revolution patriots in revolt decried "taxation without representation." This is not different.

It must be clear that the U.S. federal government is acting with the implied Consent of the Governed, only because we have not stood up to acknowledge that if they don't honestly seek our Consent they shall not have it. That's the point we're at. The peaceful move of revolutionary caliber--capable of causing the balance of power to shift between Government and We the People--is simply to ask other communities to consider the Voter Confidence Resolution and the question: Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET?

The Arcata City Council has scheduled a hearing on the Voter Confidence Resolution on its July 6 agenda. Read the full text here:

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

VCC Presents Free Screening of Votergate the Movie

The Voter Confidence Committee will hold its next public event at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center next Wednesday, June 29, from 6-8pm. The agenda includes presentations on the Voter Confidence Resolution and preferential voting, a screening of Votergate the movie, and more. Click here for the event flier.

The timing is outstanding since the Voter Confidence Resolution has been confirmed for the July 6 Arcata City Council agenda.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Quick Report on Sacramento Trip

I can't write too much right now but here are highlights of the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel hearing that I attended with three other members of the Voter Confidence Committee on Thursday in Sacramento:

Packed (SRO) with election reformers

The crowd immediately stood its ground against a clearly partisan panel chair who opened by trash talking former CA Secretary of State Kevin Shelley - I mean audience members shouted him down

First agenda item was Diebold; one after another fabulous speakers gave great testimony in opposition - no one approved; at 12:30 lunch break was called; one-sided public comment then continued until almost 4pm; they really did give everyone who signed up a chance to speak

After a 4pm break they moved to agenda item #2, ES&S; staff reported and then two out-of-town experts got to testify before the hearing was shut down to be continued tomorrow with public comment

They will also have to get through two other agenda items with public comment: Federal Qualification Process Report and Other Business

In response to specific question, the panel members would not say when exactly they would make their decision; they emphasized that public comment will be open for written submission until 6/30

For more on this event, see these two threads on Democratic Underground.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Press Release: VCC Calls For Rejection of CA Special Election Results

June 15, 2005

Media Contact: Dave Berman, Voter Confidence Committee

Voter Confidence Committee Calls For Rejection of CA Special Election Results

The Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) of Humboldt County, California, an election reform and watchdog group, announced today it will not accept as conclusive any results from the special statewide election called for Nov. 8 by Governor Schwarzenegger. Citing the election reform platform of the Voter Confidence Resolution, the VCC maintains that this election will be held under conditions that do not ensure an outcome that is conclusive beyond all question and indicative of the will of California voters.

"Until corporate money is removed from elections, voting systems are no longer privatized, and vote counting is not done in secret, election results in America can't be seen as beyond question," said VCC principal Dave Berman. "And until these deficiencies are remedied in California, how can we possibly have a basis for confidence in election results?"

The Voting Systems and Procedures Panel is scheduled to meet in Sacramento on Thursday June 16th to rule on certification of voting equipment made by Diebold and Elections Systems and Software (ES&S). Diebold has been under heavy scrutiny for alleged employment of felons, internal memos discussing programming loopholes, partisan fundraising activities of executives and dozens of examples of vote tally discrepancies.

ES&S is partially owned by Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. ES&S machines counted over 80% of the votes that first put Hagel in office in 1996. Combined, ES&S and Diebold count over 80% of the votes in U.S. national elections and are run by brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich.

"We can choose to allow these blatant conflicts of interest, or we can recognize that sensible laws prohibit them," says Berman. "Isn'’t it bad enough that private corporations are counting our votes in secret? Does it make any sense to use these machines when they don't even meet requirements established by the state of California?"

In April, 2004 the CA Secretary of State's office issued a report stating that counties throughout the state, including Humboldt, were using machines lacking state certification, federal qualification, or in some cases both.

The Voter Confidence Committee is encouraging other public interest groups to support the Voter Confidence Resolution by lobbying their local City Council for its passage. "We must refuse to accept elections held under conditions that can't and don't ensure conclusive outcomes and a basis for confidence in the results reported," says Berman.

"When we begin to make this stand community by community, We The People will have begun the process of ensuring the Consent of the Governed," Berman added. "This doesn'’t need to be controversial. Elections must be transparent, fairly executed, and lead to unanimous agreement about the outcome. The system must be beyond question, period."”

Voter Confidence Committee website
Voter Confidence Resolution
Facts on Diebold
Facts on ES&S
Facts on corporate ownership of election machines
April 2004 CA Secretary of State report

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Social Security Elephant

I've talked about this a bunch of times but I've never written about it because it is a bit outside the scope of usual GuvWurld fare. However, today the NYTimes has a news story about the Social Security "debate" called "In Overhaul of Social Security, Age Is the Elephant in the Room". The article focuses on the increasing lifespan and tendency toward earlier retirement. We are now supposed to believe, if you get the metaphor of the title, that this is the most central element of a crucially important issue and we've all known it but refused to discuss it. In my recent conversations about this topic I've seen a lot of a-ha! moments when I describe the different elephant I see.

First of all, the figures used for the discussion of Social Security include forecasts for 2040 and beyond. Have you ever tried to keep to a budget? Ask any small business owner how far out she can project costs when revenues are uncertain. Look at all the corporate re-statements of earnings. Anything this government says about 2040 is a joke. Even allowing a generous margin for error, the scenarios used do not consider the economic turmoil that Peak Oil will bring us. Likewise, how economically devastating will another terror attack be? Cheney and others have said they are guaranteed to happen. Sounds like a terror threat to me alright.

The entire push for Social Security reform is a canard.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Guide to the Voter Confidence Resolution

This is a guide to the strategy and talking points of the Voter Confidence Resolution. For a more comprehensive presentation, please read A Blueprint For Peaceful Revolution.

Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET?


The Voter Confidence Resolution shows us that the Consent of the Governed, referenced in the Declaration of Independence as a self-evident truth from which Government derives "just Power," is no longer being sought through elections in America. Unverifiable votes, privatized source code, and secret vote counting ensure inconclusive outcomes. Since the results are inherently uncertain, we have no basis for confidence.

What's Next?:

People in communities around the country are organizing and lobbying their City Councils to adopt the Voter Confidence Resolution. While the resolution is a template that should be customized somewhat in each community, these three frames should remain intact to generate a cumulative impact as more and more resolutions pass.
  1. The way it works now we're guaranteed inconclusive outcomes and we'll never have unanimous agreement about election results.

  2. The Voter Confidence Resolution contains a comprehensive election reform platform designed to ensure conclusive outcomes and create a new basis for confidence in U.S. federal elections.

  3. Since the Consent of the Governed is not being sought, we ask: Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET?
The benefit of cumulative impact means it is assumed we will eventually switch the answer to this question from no, to YES, the Consent of the Governed HAS been withdrawn. How many communities must pass this resolution for this point to be made?

The Big Picture:

By uniting citizens on the community level, bridges are built across partisan divides. This consensus-building process will make it easier for any City Council to feel free to pass the Voter Confidence Resolution as a collective declaration. So begins the shift in the balance of power between We The People and the government gone awry (the very definition of revolution, according to Rebecca Solnit's "Hope In the Dark").


Who: City Councils
What: Adopt the Voter Confidence Resolution, ask: Has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, YET?
Where: Communities all across America
Why: Election conditions ensure inconclusive outcomes and fail to seek the Consent of the Governed (and because peaceful revolution is a birthright)
When: It's already begun; On July 20, 2005 Arcata, CA became the first to adopt the Voter Confidence Resolution (scanned copy of the original resolution signed by Mayor Machi).


Palo Alto, CA Human Relations Commission
David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate
Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County
Green Party - Eureka, CA, Humboldt County, CA
Progressive Democrats of WA
Veterans For Peace, Humboldt Bay Chapter 56
Black Box Voting, Inc.
Velvet Revolution
Paul R. Lehto, Attorney at Law
Jane Allen, GuvWurld contributing editor

Submit your endorsement or the version of the resolution that your City Council is considering; or post your comments HERE.


Permalink for the Voter Confidence Resolution:

Permalink for this Guide to the Voter Confidence Resolution:

An archive of prior related work is HERE.

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OVC Plans Proposal For Sacramento VSPP Hearing

This is an excerpt from an OVC e-mail blast I just got:

Also, please attend the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel (VSPP) meeting in Sacramento if you can (June 16th). When you get there, please find someone holding an OVC sign and find out what you can do during the meeting to help the Open Voting Consortium. We will be making a proposal during the meeting to build open source tabulators. We will need volunteers to either read a speech we prepare or waive their time (if the VSPP lets us). The goal is to get the VSPP to make a motion that the Secretary of State give Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money to the University of California to develop an open voting system for California (starting with open source central tabulators).

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Friday, June 10, 2005

BuzzFlash Posts GuvWurld Letter in Mailbag

Last weekend I published a letter I submitted to new NYTimes Public Editor Byron Calame. Today BuzzFlash posted it in their mailbag. It is halfway down the page so the easiest way to find it is to press CTRL-F and then start typing Calame in the box. It will take you right there.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

My Public Comment for Voting Systems and Procedures Panel

Sent to:

Dear Mr. McDannold,

I live in the City of Eureka, in the County of Humboldt and I will be traveling to Sacramento for the VSPP hearing on election machines next week. If it is still possible to do so, I would like to request the opportunity to publicly address the panel. In case this is not possible, I would also like to submit this written statement for the record.

When an election is held, the outcome must be conclusive. This should seem self-evident. A finite number of voters cast ballots to record their preferences for representation. These records, once created, do not change in number or disposition. To tally them is to arrive at a conclusive outcome. Yet many recent elections have not produced unanimous agreement about the results because unverifiable votes, privatized source code, and secret vote counting have eliminated any remaining reason voters have for trusting the system. In short, there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from U.S. elections.

I hope that it would be easy for all VSPP members to agree that a sound and reliable voting system must provide conclusive outcomes and create a basis for voter confidence. If I have any bearing on this occasion I want it to be these obvious, common sense guidelines that should serve as litmus tests for even deciding to put a voting system up for consideration of certification.

Clearly, Diebold and ES&S don't belong. I respectfully request that you deny their certification, freeze all spending on the purchase of privately owned election machines, and devote more resources to helping Open Voting Consortium develop their open source electronic voting solution featuring a voter verified paper ballot and ultimately three cross-referencing confirmations of every vote.

Thank you for taking my views into consideration. I hope we'll have a chance to meet in person next Thursday.

In Respect and Peace,

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

New Television Program Seeks Local Solutions

The following is an announcement I received by e-mail:
New Television Program Seeks Local Solutions

HCTV, Public Access Channel 12 in Humboldt County, will begin airing a new locally-produced series called SEEKING SOLUTIONS every Monday at 5 p.m. and Thursday at 6 p.m. beginning Thursday, June 9th.

SEEKING SOLUTIONS producer Eileen McGee exposes the general television-viewing public to more than the usual 90-second television news piece about some of the most important local challenges in our community. Who benefits from public policies? Who pays for our decisions (now and in the future)? Are policies fair and honest? What else do we need know about key issues and decision-makers? Who can we trust? And what can we do to move in more sustainable directions?

"Many of our current economic and cultural models are sending our community down a destructive path from which we may never be able to recover- without local solutions," said McGee. "SEEKING SOLUTIONS is about figuring out now how we can create a livable future here and now for the coming generations – locally and globally."

"SEEKING SOLUTIONS focuses on the exploration of community issues from a progressive, solutions-oriented perspective and provides a forum for in-depth discussions with local people who are working together to provide their community with alternative models for a healthy, sustainable future. "

Upcoming programs include:
  • US military use of depleted uranium;
  • The Humboldt County Peace Ambassador project;
  • Growth and development issues in Humboldt County;
  • Counter military recruitment in local high schools;
  • A conversation with founders of the new local grass-roots political action committee, Local Solutions
  • Hoopa Modular Building Enterprise: Tribal Low-income Home-Building Success
SEEKING SOLUTIONS airs Mondays at 5 PM and Thursdays at 6 PM on HCTV, Cox Cable Channel 12.
This is so needed, overdue really. Eileen has been very friendly to me as I worked on Humboldt Day back in January and then later with the Peace Ambassador. I just sent an e-mail suggesting a feature on the Voter Confidence Committee.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Eureka Mayor La Vallee, Councilman Kerrigan Attend VCC Weekly Meeting

The Voter Confidence Committee had special guests at our regular 6pm Monday meeting at the Liquid Cafe. Eureka Mayor Peter La Vallee and City Councilmember Chris Kerrigan watched and discussed two presentations conducted by Scott Menzies. Scott made a set of PowerPoint slides to explain why we should use Choice Voting to provide for proportional representation. He also ran through an abbreviated version of the Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) presentation he gave at the town hall forum. Part of the exercise was to choose which of these would be shown to the City Council on Tuesday night. It looks like the more familiar IRV. The Mayor acknowledged that the new presentation should be brought back at a different opportunity.

I didn't get a chance to write about last Thursday's tour of the Elections Department. It wasn't really a tour in the sense I had imagined. We sat in the basement and heard Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams walk us through a PowerPoint show of his own. He then did a machine demo. Missing was the casual walking and talking other VCC members and I had envisioned. Supervisor Jimmy Smith and Elections Clerk Carolyn Crnich were present for some of the time and we had hoped to continue the dialog on setting up a County task force on election reform. Sensing that we hadn't capitalized on this occasion, VCC member Mark Konkler promptly set up a meeting with Supervisor Smith for later this week.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Are We Helping Voting Machine Companies, or Opposing Them?

This is a great thread at Democratic Underground. My two favorite excerpts:
"Because the voting machine companies are performing the most central governmental function of all by counting votes, we are well beyond corporate influence on government, or even corporate "control"”. The corporations now claim our democracy as their private property."


"The solution is not to aggressively seek new laws, except to the extent of mandating additional disclosure of data results and other things not claimed as trade secrets, but to realize that the imposition of secret vote counting and the contracts for sale of these machines were illegal on the day they were signed. Having never existed (because they are void), there can be no "“taking"” when they are canceled, and the voting companies can go back to the private sector they came from, if they wish to keep secrets."
The author is prominent WA attorney Paul R. Lehto, whose writing I previously referenced here.

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My Letter to New NYTimes Public Editor Byron Calame

The NYTimes has a new Public Editor who used his first column to introduce himself with a pledge of greater transparency and accountability. It inspired the following letter.

Dear Mr. Calame:

Welcome to the New York Times and congratulations on your new position. Your opening column was inspiring and cause for hope. You made it seem like you want to be held accountable for your work. I can think of only one relevant way for me to judge your performance. My view is that in repeatedly failing to cover major stories getting significant attention around the world and on the Internet, The Times has migrated from the so-called reality-based community into the land of advocacy journalism. Readers are told what to think is real, not necessarily what is real.

If you are going to represent the readers, you will have to approach your new job like a whistleblower, pre-cleared for immunity and acting with impunity. Here are the two most important things you could address:

--Why should election results be accepted as legitimate when the elections are conducted under conditions which ensure inconclusive outcomes? Please see the Voter Confidence Resolution which is targeted for City Councils and already scheduled for a vote in Arcata, CA on July 6.

--Why do so many unanswered questions about 9/11 remain unasked? Please see:

As the reader's representative, the only way I can judge your performance and hold you accountable is by how much myth-busting you do to bring the Times either to the reality-based community or obsolescence. Welcome to the peaceful revolution, Mr. Calame, and congratulations again on your new position. I look forward to working with you.

In Respect and Peace,

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Voter Confidence Committee Active on Many Fronts

Arcata - despite earlier suggestions of a tentative June 15 hearing date for the Voter Confidence Resolution, it now appears set for July 6...this after a meeting with Councilmember Dave Meserve where he confirmed that he and fellow Councilmember Harmony Groves had officially done their subcommittee duty of considering edits...they have chosen to leave the language I submitted completely intact...absent direct quotes I submit this alone is proof plenty of support.

Eureka - at next Tuesday's City Council meeting (6/7) Scott Menzies will be doing another presentation on preferential voting...this will include an explanation of Single Transferable Vote which is essentially Instant Runoff Voting for multi-seat is also the method used to produce proportional representation...the presentation will be followed by a request that the Council create a Town Charter Amendment Review Commission...the end goal there would be for the Council to place a ballot measure on the next election slate...the fallback is to collect signatures and offer voters the chance to approve preferential voting for Eureka through a citizen initiative.

Humboldt County - Thursday afternoon several members of the VCC will receive a tour of the Elections addition to our hosts, County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams and his boss, County Elections Clerk Carolyn Crnich, we hope to be joined by Supervisors Jimmy Smith and Bonnie Neely...I have been advised that we should use this time to discuss the parameters and goals of the soon-to-be-created election reform task force.

State of California - VCC members are planning a road trip to Sacramento for the June 16 re-scheduled hearing on (de)certifying Diebold...we have also begun to broaden the scope of our appeals for support of SB 596...we sent several letters to Assemblywoman Patty Berg...I also contacted Trinidad City Councilman Terry Marlow...others have done outreach to Blue Lake, Rio Dell and Arcata, Dave Meserve agreed support for SB 596 would make a fine addition to the Voter Confidence Resolution...SB 596 would allow general law cities like those mentioned to modify their election procedures without first having to draft and pass a town charter.

National - On June 30, the Baker-Carter Election Reform Commission (or whatever misleading name they've chosen) will hold another hearing in Houston...I am aware of a prominent national group planning to hold a counter event...I have been told they are going to use the Voter Confidence Resolution in some way...once these plans have solidified, an appropriate splash can be designed to announce the endorsement on their website...I will reveal the organization and site as soon as their support is official...I'm also still monitoring Ohio's [J30] group...a member named Rady has made multiple posts to their list about getting individual group members to put their name to the customized version of the resolution posted in their document archive...privately, Rady responded favorably to the idea of doing workshops for the Voter Confidence Resolution.

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