Thursday, January 26, 2006

Progress Report on CA Unity Campaign

About six weeks ago, GuvWurld launched a campaign to unite California election reformers. Earlier this week, posted this endorsement of the effort. I've also teamed up with VR co-founder Brad Friedman at to present this exclusive footage (Video in Windows Media format...) of a press conference held this past Monday when CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson visited the office of Humboldt County Clerk/Recorder Carolyn Crnich. McPherson's appearance walked, smelled and shat like a re-appointment campaign, despite assertions to the contrary by his handlers.

There are no major revelations in the video though we did get confirmation that the hack test tentatively scheduled last month did NOT actually take place. This lays to rest a controversy spurred by this erroneous Wired article. According to McPherson, the hack test was not performed because Diebold's equipment was instead referred back to the federal testing labs. That referral came in this letter from McPherson to Diebold citing the presence of interpreter code.

If there is anything worth seeing in this video it may just be McPherson's eyes as I asked him how previously certified machines could still be usable if we now know they contain the interpreter code forbidden by the 2002 Voting System Standards/Guidelines. McPherson easily squirmed out of the obviously loaded question leaving me wishing I had asked it differently.

Perhaps I should have said: Will you inspect Humboldt's election machines today and enforce the state election code by decertifying them when you find interpreter code? That would have been a better way to establish the frame. Still, the message came out clear enough that the Eureka Reporter printed it as a quote. The Eureka Times-Standard (archive) also covered the event.

As I've written on this topic previously, I have been talking with several lawyers about making a direct attempt to prevent continued use of previously certified Diebold machines. There is an interest and an appetite for using this particular issue and angle. The point of the campaign to unite California election reformers is to use the same tactics in each of the 17 CA counties using Diebold equipment. This would include calling for investigations of local election departments to determine how Diebold was able to install uncertified software.

As a result of my complaint, the Humboldt Grand Jury interviewed me earlier this week. I am not permitted to discuss or write about the meeting but I want to encourage you to submit your own complaint in your county on these same grounds. Is it possible Diebold installed uncertified software in your county's election machines without the knowledge of anyone in your election department? Was there complicity or negligence or what?

I believe, at this time, that it is even more important for us to require and obtain personal accountability from our local government than from our federal government. At least consider for a moment, which is it even feasible to strive for? To resist an illegitimate and out of control federal government, local government is going to come increasingly upon a hot seat. For how much longer can city and county officials cooperate with the feds, so often at the expense of the community? Non-violent revolution is necessary, NOW! If you are ready for a serious conversation about how we will do this, come to the town hall forum on Saturday Feb. 11, 2pm, at the Eureka Veterans Hall on 10th/H St. If you are revolted, revolt!

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Monday, January 16, 2006

My Speech to the NAACP Today, MLK Day

There were probably about 200-300 people at Eureka's Adorni Center today for the NAACP's annual remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. I was asked to speak about voting but felt that I didn't know enough about the audience, other speakers, or the event in general to prepare a fully written presentation. I went in with a few notes and improvised something along the following lines...
When the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 I was not yet born. I do remember last August when the NAACP put on a big event in Atlanta to commemorate the 40th anniversary of this landmark legislation. I remember Barbara Lee, Cynthia McKinney and John Conyers. They all spoke about stolen elections. The Black Caucus has shown the country's greatest leadership since our constitutional crisis began during the 2000 election.

I remember a year ago last week when the Congresswoman from Ohio, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, along with California's own Barbara Boxer, stood up and made the unprecedented challenge to the 2004 election.

When we hear about the problems with our elections, we learn that 30% of the votes cast around the country in November 2004 were cast on paperless electronic machines. Those votes are unverifiable. They cannot be recounted. No matter what, we can't really know how those votes were truly cast, or what the election's outcome rightfully ought to be.

We hear about private corporations that make these election machines. The machines run on software considered "proprietary," and it is kept secret from the public. Not even our local elections officials know how it works.

Of course we hear a lot about disenfranchisement too. But that's not just for the poor, or African Americans. It isn't even limited to Democratic strongholds. Let me tell you something. Disenfranchisement is universal. And it is guaranteed. If we can't recount the votes, nobody's vote counts and we are all disenfranchised. When we hold elections under these conditions, the Consent of the Governed is not being sought.

Where does this phrase come from, Consent of the Governed? I see a lot of children here today and I know that the Declaration of Independence is still taught in school. Parents, is it enough for your kids to hear the words, or do you think the spirit of Dr. King says they must grasp the meaning too? For some context, the Declaration says:
Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends--the self-evident truths that we are created equal with unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness--it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness
And so we must say, to such unacceptable election conditions: WE DO NOT CONSENT. And to the destruction of the environment: WE DO NOT CONSENT. Can I hear you say it with me now: WE DO NOT CONSENT. Spying on Americans: WE DO NOT CONSENT. War, war, and more war on phony scapegoats: WE DO NOT CONSENT. Peaceful demonstrators labeled as terrorists: WE DO NOT CONSENT. No more innocent until proven guilty: WE DO NOT CONSENT.

How long are we going to continue to allow our citizens to be jailed without charges, detained indefinitely without access to an attorney? We must understand, in the greatest spirit of Dr. King, that non-violent revolution has become necessary, NOW!

I want to invite you all to attend a community forum on Saturday, February 11, starting at 2pm at the Vets Hall. We will be working on what each of us can do, and what we can all do together to take responsibility for turning our words into deeds and truly beginning the peaceful revolution.

Dr. King spoke of Freedom, of being In the Light, and of Every Person Counting. Of this responsibility we each have to the Dream. That Each of us can stand up in a NON-violent way, Oppose the wrongness in our ill society. That only by each of us standing up, being responsible, and demanding that responsibility from our leaders, will we be a Free People. Without a vote, we have no voice, and without a voice, how can we demand this responsibility? Without a voice, we are not a Free People.


Thank you.

Special thanks to Ian Blei.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Updates on Palo Alto, Diebold and Much More

Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission (HRC) discussed but did not vote up or down on the Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR) on Thursday night. According to Commissioner Winifred Lew, "more wordsmithing" is in order. Lew will be working with Commissioners Jeffrey Blum and Shauna Wilson on the revisions. Wilson, the Commission Chair, assures me the resolution will appear again on the next HRC agenda for a Feb. 9 meeting.

Changes we might expect to see could include more localized context for Palo Alto and Santa Clara County, additional details about uniform standards (perhaps audit protocols or enforcement mechanisms), and maybe a nod towards a public forum on open source solutions. The version of the VCR considered by the HRC was almost identical to that adopted by the City Council of Arcata, CA. Actually, it included every single word, also adding four points to the election reform platform and tacking on a call for a Voter Confidence Task Force. The proposed new verbiage comes from a resolution adopted by Berkeley, CA in the aftermath of the 2004 "election":
  • A requirement that the top elected official responsible for overseeing elections in each jurisdiction be elected in a non-partisan race, and may not serve in any capacity in any political campaign other than her or his own.

  • Consistent national standards for security, including physical and electronic security, of election systems, including tallying systems.

  • Uniform and inclusive voter registration standards and accurate and transparent voting roll purges, based on fair and consistent national standards.

  • Consistent national standards for the number of voting machines and poll workers per 100 voters in each precinct, to ensure reasonable and uniform waiting times for all voters.
In passing this resolution, the City of Palo Alto, California will take concrete action to increase, protect, and ensure Voter Confidence through the formation of a City Voter Confidence Task Force or the appointment of a City liaison to an existing County Voter Confidence Task Force, whichever is appropriate.
* * *

What is happening with voting systems in CA? Santa Rosa's Press Democrat is one of many publications to report the apparently increasing interest held by County Registrars toward all mail-in elections.
Mail-only vote in primary possible
Sonoma, Mendocino, other counties join Alameda's request to Legislature

Friday, January 13, 2006

The June primary in Sonoma, Mendocino and other counties could be conducted entirely by mail - with no polling places open - if the Legislature approves a plan gathering steam across the state.

The idea for emergency legislation allowing counties to conduct absentee-only balloting stems from Alameda County, where officials are concerned their new electronic voting machines aren't working well enough to use in June.


[Sonoma County Clerk Eeve] Lewis said Alameda County's proposal for emergency legislation went out this week over an intranet system that connects election officials.

She said it quickly attracted messages of support from at least a dozen counties, including Marin, Humboldt and Solano.
It is very interesting to note such widespread support for this drastic change as it represents an admission of the inadequate election conditions currently in place. If Humboldt really is one of the Counties looking to jump under this bus, you wouldn't know it from reading Friday's Eureka Reporter, which notes that CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson is tentatively scheduled to meet with Humboldt County elections officials on January 23. Without addressing the mail-in scenario, the Reporter published some very revealing quotes from Humboldt Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams:
“We had what I thought were reasonable expectations that Diebold’s touch screens were going to be certified before the end of the year,” McWilliams said. “We had a contract with Diebold that we were ready to take to the board and then things got put off to the point that there are not a lot of choices.”


“To change things midstream when Diebold could be certified shortly just didn’t seem like a prudent thing to do,” McWilliams said.

Next week I will call McPherson's office and see if I can get five minutes of his time while he is here. I don't know that anyone has directly asked him to comment on the status of previously certified Diebold machines but it would be great to get him on the record affirming that interpreter code is prohibited by federal standards that must be met as a condition of approval for use in CA.

I really wish there wasn't so much to harp on here but I have to cite one more McWilliams quote from the Reporter:
“We do not have accessible voting systems and we do not have an inventory of what polling places are accessible,” Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams said.

According to McWilliams, these two issues are among the biggest problems that cannot be fixed soon even though McWilliams said he plans to attend a seminar on how to identify polling places that meet accessibility requirements in San Rafael next week.
These accessibility requirements pertain to the Help America Vote Act, ostensibly in effect as of the first of this year though Humboldt and many other Counties are not yet in compliance due to the machine certification boondoggle. Not having the equipment to comply is one thing, and certainly understandable. But not having an inventory of accessible polling places, and requiring training on how to identify such locations, that is the very definition of incompetence. McWilliams prepared a report for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, dated February 22, 2005, that said in part:
"...we have just started reviewing polling places so we
do not have an estimate of costs or storage needs related to accessibility."


"Our schedule for initial polling place reviews targets May 2, 2005, as a goal for identifying site remediation needs and funding requirements . At that time we will better understand what we need in terms of costs, storage space, and delivery logistics."
What has happened in the past 11 months? Why is McWilliams going for training next week, to begin preparing to meet requirements in effect two weeks ago, when he told his superiors the polling place review had begun early last year? More to the point, why is Lindsey McWilliams still the Humboldt County Elections Manager?

* * *

Courtesy of Steve A. Play at Democratic Underground, a collection of links to seven class action suits against Diebold:
12/13/05 Federman & Sherwood Announces That a Securities Class Action Lawsuit Was Filed Against Diebold, Inc.

12/13/05 Scott + Scott LLC Law firm says filed suit against Diebold

12/16/05 Schatz & Nobel, P.C. Announces Class Action Lawsuit against Diebold Inc. and the Investigation of Diebold, Inc. 401k Plans

12/17/05 Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, P.A. Announces Class Action Lawsuit Against Diebold Inc.

12/20/05 Wechsler Harwood Announces an Investigation of ERISA Violations Relating to the Diebold, Incorporated 401(k) Savings Plan

12/28/05 Smith & Smith LLP Announces Class Action Lawsuit Against Diebold, Incorporated

12/30/05 Shareholder Class Action Filed Against Diebold, Inc. by the Law Firm of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP
* * *

Attention musicians: Solar Bus is accepting submissions for a compilation CD of election justice related songs. Check out this great song from Victoria Parks, "My Vote Don't Matter Anymore."

* * *

One of the only people I think of as a hero is GuvWurld correspondent Dennis Kyne. Dennis just announced his candidacy for a vacant seat on the San Jose, CA City Council. Rock on! We need more people in local government who are prepared to run their city with an understanding of the need to stand up to the federal government. It is the most important platform that anyone can campaign on today.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Voter Confidence Headed For Palo Alto, CA

According to this agenda (.pdf) the Human Relations Commission of Palo Alto, CA will be considering the Voter Confidence Resolution (VCR) this Thursday night. I found out about this from Commission member Shauna Wilson.

Back in September I linked to a previous HRC agenda (.pdf) that included discussion of a Voter Confidence Resolution. I wrote that I found the Commission members' contact info and would be following up. I did that but never reported further because the story went cold. I had found Wilson and she said the previous agenda item was tabled and the resolution still needed work. It looked like she was writing something entirely separate from the VCR created at GuvWurld and adopted (.pdf) by the City Council of Arcata, CA.

Well this past Sunday Wilson called to thank me for providing such a useful template. We discussed some potential additions to the election reform platform, but otherwise she said it would be the model language coming forward. She was optimistic about passing it, sending it to Palo Alto's City Council in February, and watching the 3-2 progressive majority do the right thing.

Bay Area readers, if it is the least you can do, please go to Palo Alto this Thursday night. The meeting starts at 7pm and the VCR is first on the agenda. The meeting is in the Council Conference Room at the Palo Alto Civic Center, 250 Hamilton Avenue.

* * *

Almost a month ago the GuvWurld Blog launched a campaign to unite California election reformers. The local Humboldt media has noticed. At least six recent pieces can be found in the GuvWurld News Archive, plus a couple of new references at the Humboldt Sentinel.

New Zealand's Scoop ran a story and I also got to do this New Year's Day radio interview (.mp3) on KPFT in Houston. You can hear the whole show here (.mp3), featuring a lengthy discussion with Mark Crispin Miller. Also see his blog about the censorship he has encountered trying to promote his latest book "Fooled Again - how the Right stole the 2004 election, and why they'll steal the next one, too (unless we stop them)".

I'd also like to thank the election reform discussion board crowd at Democratic Underground for putting this story at number nine in a top 10 stories of 2005 list. I have talked with various DU members about coordinated actions in other parts of California. That is, after all, the whole point of this campaign. Diebold installed uncertified software (.pdf) in voting machines in 17 counties. Voters in those counties also have common cause around the interpreter code (.pdf) that is prohibited by federal standards. As I explained in Previously Certified Diebold Machines Approved Erroneously, it would seem all Diebold machines are currently out of compliance with the federal requirements and susceptible to an injunction against their continued use.

I have been doing some legal research and networking. For the most part I have been encouraged to continue this pursuit. The only thing I want to reveal right now is that my complaint to the Humboldt Grand Jury was received and I was asked to come in for an interview. I suppose I need to learn the implications my upcoming appearance will have on my ability to write. At any rate, I hope this shows election reformers in the other 16 counties that this can easily be done.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Listen to GuvWurld Interview on KPFT

The full hour long program is archived HERE. It starts with headline news then a long chunk of time with Mark Crispin Miller before concluding with my six minutes. I have archived just that excerpt HERE.

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