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.
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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?

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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
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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."

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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.



Dennis, I visited your website and found numerous references and links to Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and Mother Jones.

Do you share the overall outlook and beliefs espoused by these folks? If so, do you plan to bring their ‘hate America first’ idealogy and add a Berkeley-esque flavor to the City Council?

find more of this at San Jose Inside

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:19 AM  

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