Wednesday, March 22, 2006

VoterAction.org Sues CA Sec. of State, Humboldt Registrar, Others

Tuesday was a landmark day for the election integrity movement. Attorney Lowell Finley and VoterAction.org filed a lawsuit in San Francisco naming as defendants CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, and 17 other CA registrars. The case alleges that McPherson did not follow proper procedures in certifying Diebold voting machines for use in CA; that Diebold's equipment is not compliant with the law; and that voters' constitutional rights are being violated. GuvWurld readers will recognize some of these points as familiar.

The case was filed Tuesday morning though word had started to leak out Monday afternoon via BradBlog.com. See Brad's Tuesday coverage for more details, where he links to the actual court filing (.pdf) and posts an excellent response from Debra Bowen, State Senator from Redondo Beach and challenger to McPherson for the Secretary's office. GuvWurld correspondent Dan Ashby, speaking on behalf of the California Election Protection Network, also gave a great interview (.mp3) Tuesday morning to Will Durst and former SF Mayor Willie Brown on their Will and Willie radio show for Air America.

Around this same time, I was at the Humboldt County Courthouse for the Board of Supervisors meeting at which we knew that Crnich would be presenting a proposal for the county to buy Vote-PAD rather than Diebold touch screen machines in order to satisfy the disability requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). I did not learn until later in the day that Crnich was named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Crnich's proposal did not seem to arouse any enthusiasm from the Board though it received a modicum of acceptance. She was told that they would need more specific financials in order to give final approval and so the item was rescheduled for next Tuesday's agenda. Board Chairman John Woolley did at least two unfortunate things in this process. First, he did not call for public comment immediately and in direct response to Crnich's proposal. Instead, he allowed a motion to be made, seconded and discussed by the Board before calling for public comment.

As the first speaker, I noted the rarity of my agreement with the elections department and stated my support for Vote-PAD as a partial solution that eliminates half of our problem by removing the prospect of buying Diebold touch screen machines. The other half of the problem, I began to explain, is how the Vote-PAD votes would be counted, using the optical scanners, just like all other votes. The optical scanners, I pointed out, have interpreted code that is illegal.

Before I could mention the lawsuit, which I had in front of me on a brief list of talking points, Chairman Woolley did the second unfortunate thing. He cut me off and said this was beyond the matter at hand which was the motion to bring the matter back next week for funding approval. I somewhat meekly said that you can't consider a voting system without taking into consideration how the votes are counted. But somehow I did not stand my ground and continue my testimony. The "woulda, coulda, shoulda" thought I had only a few minutes later was that I had missed a great chance to use another item from my notes:
"The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything" - Joseph Stalin
I do wonder now whether Crnich and/or Chairman Woolley were already aware of Crnich's status as defendant in the VoterAction lawsuit. When I arrived at the meeting, Crnich was rather cold to me but this did not surprise me since she had told me late last week that I had offended her here on the pages of GuvWurld by suggesting the possibility that she might not be honest with the public about the Diebold training she was attending. It is hardly impossible to imagine such behavior when the track record shows repeated defenses of illegal election machines and irresponsible denial of the problems these machines pose.

Frankly, it is getting tiresome to have people in the community defend the elections department entirely on the basis of personal relationships, or on the mistaken impression that personnel is really trying to address core issues. Citizens need to educate themselves, and I am doing my part to assist, in order to understand that the supposedly upstanding, reputable and popular community members responsible for administering our Democracy are in fact lying repeatedly and standing in the way of transparency, security, and verifiable accuracy.

The media, for their part, are uneven about all this. I certainly won't complain about how often I get on the radio or quoted in newspaper articles. But we've heard repeated calls (.pdf) for investigation regarding Diebold's installation of uncertified software two years ago, and while the press will report the call for investigation, there does not seem to be the will to do real investigative journalism. Heck, Tuesday's Eureka Times-Standard (archive) sets the bar even lower.
Dave Berman, a founder of the Voter Confidence Committee, claims the Diebold machines are illegal.

"Polite and passionate speakers are greatly needed to escalate the resistance to the illegal Diebold machines that count our votes in secret and are unreliable," said Berman.

County Elections Officer Lindsey McWilliams has said that the county's Diebold machines are legal and certified by the California secretary of state.
I don't know why this article has no byline other than The Times-Standard, but that is beside the point. The conflicting statements are a matter of verifiable fact that the newspaper simply doesn't bother to research, even though the Secretary of State's own report (.pdf) reveals all. Instead, McWilliams is permitted to flatly lie and go unchallenged and uncorrected. Too bad his name isn't included in the VoterAction lawsuit.

2 comments

2 Comments:

Well I think you have a pretty good reason for not trusting Crnich, it does seem as thought she is overlooking the shear facts.

What a great quote:
"The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything" - Joseph Stalin

Thanks again for all of your hard work, some of us really appreciate it.

By Anonymous xzula, at 9:58 AM  

Here's what I took from that mtg. - I distinctly heard, (and wrote down), Carolyn Crnich state in her report on the progress of the Elections Advisory Committee that one of the initiatives that the group had agreed on as important was, "How to instill confidence in elections." Yet no discussion was allowed concerning this point or in regard to the fact that use of the proposed "disabled-voter pad" with the uncertified and illegal Diebold Electronic Voting machines will also render those votes uncertifiable. It appears that everyone concerned is determined to blindly rush forward...willing to compromise the outcome of yet another national election!
Peace,Carol

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:31 PM  

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