Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So Osama Walks Into This Bar, See?

by Greg Palast
Monday August 14, 2006

So, Osama Walks into This Bar, See? and Bush says, "Whad'l'ya have, pardner?" and Osama says...

But wait a minute. I'd better shut my mouth. The sign here in the airport says, "Security is no joking matter." But if security's no joking matter, why does this guy dressed in a high-school marching band outfit tell me to dump my Frappuccino and take off my shoes? All I can say is, Thank the Lord the "shoe bomber" didn't carry Semtex in his underpants.

Today's a RED and ORANGE ALERT day. How odd. They just caught the British guys with the chemistry sets. But when these guys were about to blow up airliners, the USA was on YELLOW alert. That's a "lowered" threat notice.

According to the press office from the Department of Homeland Security, lowered-threat Yellow means that there were no special inspections of passengers or cargo. Isn't it nice of Mr. Bush to alert Osama when half our security forces are given the day off? Hmm. I asked an Israeli security expert why his nation doesn't use these pretty color codes.

He asked me if, when I woke up, I checked the day's terror color.

"I can't say I ever have. I mean, who would?"

He smiled. "The terrorists."

America is the only nation on the planet that kindly informs bombers, hijackers and berserkers the days on which they won't be monitored. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to get a jump on George Bush's team.

There are three possible explanations for the Administration's publishing a good-day-for-bombing color guidebook.

1. God is on Osama's side.

2. George is on Osama's side.

3. Fear sells better than sex.

A gold star if you picked #3.



The Fear Factory

I'm going to tell you something which is straight-up heresy: America is not under attack by terrorists. There is no WAR on terror because, except for one day five years ago, al Qaeda has pretty much left us alone.

That's because Osama got what he wanted. There's no mystery about what Al Qaeda was after. Like everyone from the Girl Scouts to Bono, Osama put his wish on his web site. He had a single demand: "Crusaders out of the land of the two Holy Places." To translate: get US troops out of Saudi Arabia.

And George Bush gave it to him. On April 29, 2003, two days before landing on the aircraft carrier Lincoln, our self-described "War President" quietly put out a notice that he was withdrawing our troops from Saudi soil. In other words, our cowering cowboy gave in whimpering to Osama's demand.

The press took no note. They were all wiggie over Bush's waddling around the carrier deck in a disco-aged jump suit announcing, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." But it wasn't America's mission that was accomplished, it was Osama's.

Am I saying there's no danger, no threat? Sure there is: 46 million Americans don't have health insurance. IBM is legally stealing from its employees' pension plan and United Airlines has dumped its pensions altogether. Four-million three-hundred thousand Americans were injured, made sick or killed by their jobs last year. TXU Corporation is right now building four monster-sized power plants in Texas that will burn skuzzy gunk called "lignite." The filth it will pour into the sky will snuff a heck of a lot more Americans than some goofy group of fanatics with bottles of hydrogen peroxide.

But Americans don't ask for real protection from what's killing us. The War on Terror is the Weapon of Mass Distraction. Instead of demanding health insurance, we have 59 million of our fellow citizens pooping in their pants with fear of Al Qaeda, waddling to the polls, crying, "Georgie save us!"

And what does he give us? In my own small town, the federal government has paid for loading an SUV with .50 caliber machine guns to watch for an Al Qaeda attack at the dock of the ferry that takes tourists to the Indian casino in Connecticut. The casino dock is my town's officially designated "Critical Asset and Vulnerability Infrastructure Point (CAVIP)." (To find the most vulnerable points to attack in the USA, Al Qaeda can download a list from the Department of Homeland Security -- no kidding.)

But that's not all. Bush is protecting us from English hijackers with a fearsome anti-terrorist tool: the Virginia-class submarine. The V-boat was originally meant to hunt Soviet subs. But there are no more Soviet subs. So, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin have "refitted" these Cold War dinosaurs with new torpedoes redesigned to carry counter-terror commandoes. That's right: when we find Osama's beach house, we can shoot our boys right up under his picnic table and take him out. These Marines-in-a-tube injector boats cost $2.5 billion each -- and our President's ordered half a dozen new ones.

Lynn Cheney, the Veep's wife, still takes in compensation from Lockheed as a former board member. I'm sure that has nothing to do with this multi-billion dollar "anti-terror" contract.

Fear sells better than sex. Fear is the sales pitch for many lucrative products: from billion-dollar sailor injectors to one very lucrative war in Mesopotamia (a third of a trillion dollars doled out, no audits, no questions asked).

Better than toothpaste that makes our teeth whiter than white, this stuff will make us safer than safe. It's political junk food, the cheap filling in the flashy tube. What we don't get is safety from the real dangers: a life-threatening health-care system, lung-murdering pollution production and a trade deficit with China that's reducing mid-America to coolie status. Protecting us from these true threats would take a slice of the profits of the Lockheeds, the Exxons and the rest of the owning class.

War on Terror is class war by other means -- to keep you from asking for real protection from true menace, the landlords of our nation give you fake protection from manufactured dangers. And they remind you to be afraid every time you fly to see Aunt Millie and have to give up your hemorrhoid ointment to the underpaid guy in the bell-hop suit with a security badge.

Oh, hey, you never got the punch line.
So, Osama Walks into This Bar, See? and Bush says, "Whad'l'ya have, pardner?" and Osama says, "Well, George, what are you serving today?" and Bush says, "Fear," and Osama shouts, "Fear for everybody!" and George pours it on for the crowd. Then the presidential bartender says, "Hey, who's buying?" and Osama points a thumb at the crowd sucking down their brew. "They are," he says. And the two of them share a quiet laugh.

*****

Greg Palast is the author of the just-released New York Times bestseller, "ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War" from which this is adapted. Go to www.GregPalast.com.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Why Democrats Don't Count

Lessons from the Un-Gore of Mexico

July 14, 2006
By Greg Palast

[Watch "Florida con Salsa," Palast's 15-minute investigative report from Mexico City for Democracy Now!]

The Exit polls said he won, but the "official" tally took his victory away. His supporters found they were scrubbed off voter rolls. Violence and intimidation kept even more of his voters away from the polls. Hundreds of thousands of ballots supposedly showed no choice for president -- like ballots with hanging chads.

And the officials in charge of this suspect election refused to re-count those votes in public. Everyone knew full well a fair count would certainly change the outcome.

You've heard this story before: Gore 2000. Kerry 2004.

But Lopez Obrador 2006 is made out of very different stuff than the scarecrow candidates who, oddly, call themselves "Democrats."

For six years now, I've had this crazy fantasy in my head. In it, an election is stolen and the guy who's declared the loser stands up in front of the White House and says three magic words: "Count the votes."

This past Saturday, my dream came true. Unfortunately, it was in Spanish -- but I'll take what I can get. There was Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, presidential challenger, standing in the "Zocalo" -- the square in front of Mexico's White House, telling the ruling clique inside, "Count the votes!"

Most important, his simple demand was echoed by half a million pissed-off, activated voters chanting with him, "Vota por vota!" -- vote by vote.

And you know what? I think they are going to have to listen. I suspect that the rulers of Mexico, a vicious, puffed-up, arrogant elite, may well have to count those votes. But, for that to happen, someone had to ask them to do it -- in no uncertain terms.

Traveling the USA, I'm asked again and again 'Why don't Democrats stand up when their elections are stolen?'

The answer: for the same reason jellyfish don't stand up... they're invertebrates.

I'm beginning to find that answer a bit too glib (though darn funny). Because it's not about electoral cojones; it's about a devotion to democracy deep in the bone. Yet weirdly, candidates that call themselves "Democrats" seem kind of, well, indifferent to democracy.

Why? Elections are the radical tool of the working class -- the great leveler of the powerless against the too-powerful. But the candidates themselves, both Republican and Democrat, tend to come from the privileged and pampered class. Votes are just the surfboards on which their ambitions ride.

Right now in Mexico's capitol, nearly a million ballots sit in tied bundles uncounted. That's four times the "official" margin of victory of the ruling party over Lopez Obrador. Supposedly, they're "votos nulos" -- null votes, unreadable. But, not surprisingly, when a few packets were opened, the majority of these supposedly unreadable votes were Lopez Obrador's.

If you think that's a Mexican game, think again. Because that's exactly what happened in Florida and Ohio.

In Florida, 179,855 ballots supposedly showed no vote for President. A closer look by the US Civil Rights Commission statisticians showed that 54% of those Florida "votos nulos" were cast by African-Americans. Did Black folk forget to vote for President, couldn't make up their minds or, as one TV network implied, were too dumb to figure out the ballot? Not at all. Machines can't count some ballots. But people can. For example, several voters wrote in, "Al Gore," which the machines rejected as his name was already printed on the ballot. The write-in could fool a machine but a human has no problem figuring out that voter's intent.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reviewed all 179,855 "uncountable" votes and found the majority attempted to choose Gore. And they would have been counted -- but Florida's Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, ordered a halt.

So Bush was elected not by counting the votes but by preventing their count. And he was reelected the same way in 2004 when a quarter million votes were nullified in Ohio.

But why fixate on Florida and Ohio? Here's a nasty little fact about voting in the Land of the Free not reported in your newspapers: 3,600,380 ballots were cast in the November 2004 presidential election that were never counted. In 2000, the uncounted ballots totaled just under two million.

And where were the Democrats? In 2004, behind the huge jump in uncounted votes was a mass challenge campaign aimed at poor, Black and Hispanic voters by the Republican Party -- pushing these voters, mostly Democrats, to "provisional ballots." They could have been counted, if someone had fought for it. Hundreds of lawyers were on stand-by but the head of the biggest legal team told me in confidence -- and in frustration -- that the Kerry campaign told them to stand down.

Recently, Al Gore was asked if the election of 2000 was stolen. "There may come a time when I speak on that, but it's not now," said the beta dog. (I suspect that if Al Gore were found bleeding in an alley, he'd answer the question, Who shot you? with "There may come a time when I speak on that...").

Lopez Obrador is of a different breed. At the rally last Saturday in Mexico City, he played video and audio tapes of the evidence of fraud on a screen eighty feet tall. Imagine if Gore had projected the "scrub sheets" of purged Black voters on a ten-story-high screen in front of the White House.

Lopez Obrador put political force behind his legal demands by calling on voters from every state in Mexico to march to the capital. Two million are expected to arrive this Sunday. The result: the word among the political classes is that the election may be annulled. Even the conservative Financial Times has warned Mexico's elite not to "fool itself" by ignoring the demand for a full vote count.

North-of-the-Border Democrats just don't get it. The Republican Party is pushing "provisional" ballots, pushing voter ID requirements, compiling secret challenge lists, scrubbing voter registries and selling us vote-nullifying ballot boxes: they get it completely. The GOP knows the key to their electoral domination is not in winning over their opponents' votes, but in not counting them.

The un-Gore of Mexico City has a lesson for the Blue-party gringos. Either the Democrats demand that all votes count, or the Democrats will count for nothing.


**********
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War." Go to www.GregPalast.com.

Palast's report, "Florida con Salsa? Vote Fraud in Mexico" was filmed and produced by Rick Rowley and Jacquie Soohen (Big Noise Films). Matt Pascarella, in Mexico, contributed to this investigation.
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Friday, June 16, 2006

Massacre of the Buffalo Soldiers

African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List
by Greg Palast
As reported for Democracy Now!

Palast, who first reported this story for BBC Television Newsnight (UK) and Democracy Now! (USA), is author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse.

The Republican National Committee has a special offer for African-American soldiers: Go to Baghdad, lose your vote.

A confidential campaign directed by GOP party chiefs in October 2004 sought to challenge the ballots of tens of thousands of voters in the last presidential election, virtually all of them cast by residents of Black-majority precincts.
Files from the secret vote-blocking campaign were obtained by BBC Television Newsnight, London. They were attached to emails accidentally sent by Republican operatives to a non-party website.

One group of voters wrongly identified by the Republicans as registering to vote from false addresses: servicemen and women sent overseas.

*******
For Greg Palast's discussion with broadcaster Amy Goodman on the Black soldier purge of 2004, go to http://gregpalast.com/armedmadhouse/palastDN6-14-06.mp3

*******

Here's how the scheme worked: The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes marked, “Do not forward”, to be returned to the sender. These letters were mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home addresses. The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as "undeliverable."

The lists of soldiers of "undeliverable" letters were transmitted from state headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could then challenge the voters' registration and thereby prevent their absentee ballot being counted.

One target list was comprised exclusively of voters registered at the Jacksonville, Florida, Naval Air Station. Jacksonville is third largest naval installation in the US, best known as home of the Blue Angels fighting squandron.

[See this scrub sheet at http://flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=160156893&context=set-72157594155273706&size=o ]

Our team contacted the homes of several on the caging list, such as Randall Prausa, a serviceman, whose wife said he had been ordered overseas.

A soldier returning home in time to vote in November 2004 could also be challenged on the basis of the returned envelope. Soldiers challenged would be required to vote by "provisional" ballot.

Over one million provisional ballots cast in the 2004 race were never counted; over half a million absentee ballots were also rejected. The extraordinary rise in the number of rejected ballots was the result of the widespread multi-state voter challenge campaign by the Republican Party. The operation, of which the purge of Black soldiers was a small part, was the first mass challenge to voting America had seen in two decades.

The BBC obtained several dozen confidential emails sent by the Republican's national Research Director and Deputy Communications chief, Tim Griffin to GOP Florida campaign chairman Brett Doster and other party leaders. Attached were spreadsheets marked, "Caging.xls." Each of these contained several hundred to a few thousand voters and their addresses.

A check of the demographics of the addresses on the "caging lists," as the GOP leaders called them indicated that most were in African-American majority zip codes.

Ion Sanco, the non-partisan elections supervisor of Leon County (Tallahassee) when shown the lists by this reporter said: “The only thing I can think of - African American voters listed like this – these might be individuals that will be challenged if they attempted to vote on Election Day.”

These GOP caging lists were obtained by the same BBC team that first exposed the wrongful purge of African-American "felon" voters in 2000 by then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Eliminating the voting rights of those voters -- 94,000 were targeted -- likely caused Al Gore's defeat in that race.


The Republican National Committee in Washington refused our several requests to respond to the BBC discovery. However, in Tallahassee, the Florida Bush campaign's spokespeople offered several explanations for the list.

Joseph Agostini, speaking for the GOP, suggested the lists were of potential donors to the Bush campaign. Oddly, the supposed donor list included residents of the Sulzbacher Center a shelter for homeless families.

Another spokesperson for the Bush campaign, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, ultimately changed the official response, acknowledging that these were voters, "we mailed to, where the letter came back – bad addresses.”

The party has refused to say why it would mark soldiers as having "bad addresses" subject to challenge when they had been assigned abroad.

The apparent challenge campaign was not inexpensive. The GOP mailed the letters first class, at a total cost likely exceeding millions of dollars, so that the addresses would be returned to "cage" workers.

“This is not a challenge list," insisted the Republican spokesmistress. However, she modified that assertion by adding, “That’s not what it’s set up to be.”
Setting up such a challenge list would be a crime under federal law. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlaws mass challenges of voters where race is a factor in choosing the targeted group.

While the party insisted the lists were not created for the purpose to challenge Black voters, the GOP ultimately offered no other explanation for the mailings. However, Tucker Fletcher asserted Republicans could still employ the list to deny ballots to those they considered suspect voters. When asked if Republicans would use the list to block voters, Tucker Fletcher replied, “Where it’s stated in the law, yeah.”

It is not possible at this time to determine how many on the potential blacklist were ultimately challenged and lost their vote. Soldiers sending in their ballot from abroad would not know their vote was lost because of a challenge.

__________________________________

For the full story of caging lists and voter purges of 2004, plus the documents, read Greg Palast's New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hand counted paper ballots in 2008

by Sheila Parks
April 14, 2006

The right to vote, as well as the principle of “one person, one vote,” are cornerstones of our democracy. The anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights movements as well as the expansion of voting to young people are all part of the history of electoral reform in this country. Equally fundamental is the assurance that each voter knows that her or his vote counts and is counted as intended. At this time in our history, many have lost confidence in our voting system.

The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, and at least six contests in the mid-term elections of 2002, raised many questions about fraud and electronic voting machines. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) established by HAVA, and the Carter-Baker National Commission on Federal Election Reform were all created after the 2000 election to improve the electoral process. All of these efforts, however, have been detrimental to the prevention and detection of election fraud and error due to their advocacy of the use of electronic voting machines. One election reform advocate, Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, provides a particularly vivid glimpse into the scope of the problems associated with electronic voting machines. She notes that, at a special Texas meeting of the Carter-Baker Commission, “I asked a member of the Panel why they [the Commission] had not asked a single question about how hacks can be done. He said it is not necessary to understand how the system can be compromised in order to protect it.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its nonpartisan September 2005 report on elections states in its conclusions: “Numerous recent studies and reports have highlighted problems with the security and reliability of electronic voting systems…the concerns they raise have the potential to affect election outcomes.”

Currently there is no government agency that regulates the voting machine industry in the United States. Roughly 80% of votes in the 2004 presidential election were cast and counted on machines manufactured by two private companies, Diebold and ES&S (Election Systems & Software, Inc.), both controlled by registered Republicans. There are two principal types of machines now in use: (1) touch-screens (DRE – Direct Response Electronic), on which no audit or recount is possible because they have no paper trail and (2) optical scans, which use paper ballots for the vote but are counted by central tabulators (particularly susceptible to fraud).

Although several bills currently pending in the U.S. House and Senate, introduced by both Republicans and Democrats, propose changes to electronic voting machines, as do HAVA, the EAC and the Carter-Baker Commission, none consider hand marked, hand counted paper ballots (HCPB) as a possible solution. Most of the proposed legislation advocates for what is variously called a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), a voter verified paper trail (VVPT) or a voter verified paper ballot (VVPB). A discussion of the nuances between and among these systems is beyond the scope of this article, but all share a potential weakness – namely, there is no way to prevent hacking of electronic voting machines later in the process, whether a voter receives a record of how she or he voted and/or whether there is a paper trail in the machine. Mandated random audits of the vote raise the question of whether the audit will really be random and bring back flashes of Florida in 2000 and a long drawn out struggle. Will the Supreme Court again put a non-elected person in office as president of the United States?

Although much has been published on the Internet, the mainstream media have mostly chosen to ignore or dismiss the questions of fraud and error raised in relation to electronic voting machines. Notable exceptions are discussions by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s “Countdown” and Mark Crispin Miller’s article “None Dare Call It Stolen” in Harper’s Magazine, in which he strongly suggests that the presidential election of 2004 was rigged, much of it by electronic voting machines.

HCPB are an alternative to the current widespread and increasing use of electronic voting machines. An HCPB system of voting has the following major advantages over electronic voting machines: (1) Counting of ballots is publicly done, observed and filmed by everyday citizens who are registered voters in the precinct where the counting takes place. (2) Security safeguards are much more easily built in to protect against tampering. (3) The cost is far less.

There have been two recent efforts to promote an HCPB system in the United States, and a third will take place later in 2006. In 2004, voting rights activists Sharona Merel, Kaen Renick, Ellen Theisen, and Kathleen Wynne proposed federal legislation for federal offices. In 2005, four voting rights activists (this writer and three members of CASE Ohio – John Burik, Phil Fry, and Dorri Steinhoff) began work on a protocol for HCPB. Some of this writing has been modified and is included in this paper in the specifics for HCPB. In November 2006, voting rights activist Joanne Karasak plans to promote a state constitutional amendment for HCPB in Ohio. There are 18 states where such constitutional amendments are possible.

The key elements of an HCPB system are as follows: (1) Electronic voting machines are not involved in this process in any way whatsoever. (2) Nothing used in an HCPB system is purchased from companies or vendors who have ties to partisan political groups or parties. (3) Each voter hand marks a sturdy paper ballot with a black felt pen provided at the precinct. (4) The counting process happens at each precinct immediately after the polls close. (5) Each ballot is hand counted by registered voters from that precinct in full view of other registered voters from that precinct. (6) The counting process is filmed. (7) A chain of custody of the ballots and ballot boxes is specified. (8) Ballot boxes are observed and filmed as they are opened and closed and move from place to place.

Three categories of registered voters are included in this process: the official counters, the official observers of the counters, and the public watchers of the counters and observers. The hand marked, paper ballots are hand counted in full view of the public in each precinct by a specified number of registered voters in that precinct – e.g., four, six or eight voters. Half of the counters will consist of one person from each party on the ballot, chosen by the party itself; the other half of the counters will consist of registered voters, chosen by lottery. The hand counting is observed by the same number of registered voters (e.g., four, six or eight), and chosen in the same way as the counters. Counting is filmed by a video projection unit; a process will be set up to determine how the videotaping unit will be selected. The videotaping will be broadcast over closed-circuit TV and streamed over the Internet while the counting is happening. All watchers may also videotape and/or take photographs.

Each polling place must be arranged so that registered voters from that precinct (in addition to the above mentioned official observers) can easily watch the vote counting. These watchers are not to be confused with the observers of the counters. Watchers will include two registered voters from each party on the ballot, chosen by the party, and eight registered voters chosen by lottery. The polling place must be large enough to accommodate these numbers.

Even with all these safeguards in place, the chance for fraud still exists. Therefore, immediately after the first count, there will be a 100% hand counted audit of the vote, carried out in the same way as the first hand count, but in the audit, the observers will be the counters and the counters will be the observers.

Ballot boxes must be clearly marked and visible in plain view. Ballot boxes will be sealed and locked whenever they contain ballots and are not being actively used. Ballot boxes are secured from the beginning of voting until the end of counting by a chain of custody procedure. Ballot boxes never leave the precinct until after the vote is counted, audited and certified. Each time ballot boxes move from the physical control of or visual contact from one person to another, a duplicate record signed by all counters and observers must be made relinquishing and gaining control. There will be a documentation process wherein each ballot box will have a record of its handling from the beginning of the day to the end of counting. On the web site of computer science expert Professor Douglas W. Jones, there is a very clear and detailed protocol for “Ballot and Ballot Box Transportation” and “Ballot Storage.”

The call to action now is: HCPB for all federal races in the 2008 elections. This would mean hand counting just 1-3 races (the president and vice president; your U.S. senator if s/he is up for re-election; your U.S. Representative). Yes, we would need two ballots, one for these races and one for all other contests and questions on the ballots. Canada already uses an HCPB system for its federal races. Various states and municipalities already have protocols for HCPB, and one has been presented in this paper. These could easily be adapted from one jurisdiction to another. Elections are governed by state rather than federal statutes (HAVA notwithstanding). According to electionline.org, a website that provides an ongoing analysis of election reform, “Each state strikes a unique balance in allocating responsibility for elections between state and local governments. A survey of all 50 states reveals a wide spectrum of power-sharing arrangements.” There is a “Snapshot of the States” on pp. 11-14 of the Election Reform Briefing. When you begin this work, call your local Secretary of State and get the exact rules for your state.

It is time to make electronic voting machines a NIMBY (not in my back yard and not in anyone else’s back yard either) issue. To begin a movement for HCPB, ordinary citizens, registered voters, must begin organizing door-to-door with their neighbors to petition their local election officers and demand HCPB in their city or town. Although organizing could also proceed on a state level, going municipality by municipality is a good way to start, depending on your state’s laws.

Sheila Parks, Ed.D. (sheila.parks@verizon.net) is a longtime activist/organizer. She has been working against electronic voting machines for four years. Please contact her to get involved with other election reform activists working for HCPB across the country
Copyright 2006 Tikkun Magazine http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/specials/article.2006-04-10.1693298872

Monday, April 10, 2006

Shocking Diebold conflict of interest revelations from Secretary of State further taint Ohio's electoral credibility

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
April 6, 2006

Ohio is reeling with a mixture of outrage and hilarity as Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has revealed that he has owned stock in the Diebold voting machine company, to which Blackwell tried to award unbid contracts worth millions while allowing its operators to steal Ohio elections. A top Republican election official also says a Diebold operative told him he made a $50,000 donation to Blackwell's "political interests."

A veritable army of attorneys on all sides of Ohio's political spectrum will soon report whether Blackwell has violated the law. But in any event, the revelations could have a huge impact on the state whose dubiously counted electoral votes gave George W. Bush a second term. Diebold's GEMS election software was used in about half of Ohio counties in the 2004 election. Because of Blackwell's effort, 41 counties used Diebold machines in Ohio's highly dubious 2005 election, and now 47 counties will use Diebold touchscreen voting machines in the May 2006 primary, and in the fall election that will decide who will be the state's new governor.

Blackwell is the frontrunner for Ohio's Republican nomination for governor. The first African-American to hold statewide office, the former mayor of Cincinnati made millions in deals involving extreme right-wing "religious" radio stations.

As part of his campaign filings he has been required to divulge the contents of his various stock portfolios. Blackwell says that in the process he was "surprised" to learn he owned Diebold shares. According to central Ohio's biggest daily, the conservative Republican "Columbus Dispatch," Blackwell claims his multi-million-dollar portfolio has been handled "by a financial manager without his advice or review."

Blackwell says he gave verbal instructions to a previous fund manager about which stocks not to buy, but failed to do so when he brought in a replacement. He claims the new manager bought 178 Diebold shares in January, 2005, for $53.67/share. He says 95 shares were sold sometime last year, and that the remainder were sold this week after Blackwell conducted an annual review of his portfolio. He says both sales resulted in losses.

Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell tried to award a $100 million unbid contract to Diebold for electronic voting machines. A storm of public outrage and a series of lawsuits forced him to cancel the deal. But a substantial percentage of Ohio's 2004 votes were counted by Diebold software and Diebold Opti-scan machines which frequently malfunctioned in the Democratic stronghold of Toledo. Many believe they played a key role in allowing Blackwell to steal Ohio's 20 electoral votes---and thus the presidential election---for Bush. Walden O'Dell, then the Diebold CEO, had pledged to "deliver" Ohio's electoral votes to Bush.

Blackwell has since continued to bring in Diebold machines under other multi-million-dollar contracts. In 2005, while he owned Diebold stock, Blackwell converted nearly half Ohio's counties to Diebold equipment.

Those machines have been plagued by a wide range of problems, casting further doubt on the integrity of the Ohio vote count. A number of county boards of elections are trying to reject Diebold equipment. Two statewide referendum issues on electoral reform were defeated in 2005 in a vote tally that was a virtual statistical impossibility. The deciding votes were cast and counted on Diebold equipment.

In recent months, Blackwell has ordered all 88 county boards of elections to send into his office the memory cards that will be used in the primary election, in which Blackwell expects to win the gubernatorial race. There is no effective statewide monitoring system to protect those cards from being rigged.

Matt Damschroder, the Republican chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections has also reported that a key Diebold operative told Damschroder he made a $50,000 contribution to Blackwell's "political interests" while Blackwell was evaluating Diebold's bids for state purchasing contracts. Blackwell denies the contribution was made to him.

Damschroder is former chair of the Franklin County GOP. He says former Diebold contractor Pasquale "Patsy" Gallina boasted of making the contribution to Blackwell. Damschroder himself has publicly admitted to personally accepting a $10,000 check from Pasquale, made out to the Franklin County GOP. That contribution was made while Damschroder was involved in evaluating Diebold bids for county contracts.

Damschroder was censured but not removed from office. On Election Day 2004, Franklin County voting officials told the Free Press that Blackwell and Damschroder were meeting with George W. Bush in Columbus. AP accounts place both Bush and Karl Rove unexpectedly in Columbus on Election Day. Damschroder has denied that he met personally with Bush, but refuses to clarify whether or not he was at GOP meetings with Bush in attendance on Election Day.

An eyewitness ally of Blackwell told a small gathering of Bush supporters, with a Free Press reporter present, that Blackwell was in a frenzy on Election Day, writing percentages and vote totals on maps of rural Republican counties, attempting to figure out how many votes, real or manufactured, Bush would need to overcome the exit poll results in Cleveland and Columbus.

Meanwhile Blackwell has run one of the most vicious primary campaigns ever seen in Ohio politics. A series of expensive television ads have assaulted Blackwell's GOP opponent, Attorney-General Jim Petro, vehemently charging him with extreme corruption and dishonesty. GOP operatives fear Blackwell's attacks could shatter the party.

Now Blackwell's Diebold revelations have both Petro and the state's extremely feeble Democrats jumping for joy. Petro, who has a large portfolio of his own, says he will pursue the question of whether Blackwell has broken the law. "Considering Ken Blackwell's history with Diebold, I think this warrants further investigation to remove any hint of impropriety," says Petro campaign manager Bob Paduchik.

Democratic candidate Ted Strickland has reported no stock portfolio at all. "If [Blackwell] doesn't know what's going on with his own checkbook, why in the world would voters want him to be in charge of the checkbook as governor?" asks Democratic spokesperson Brian Rothenberg.

The common statewide wisdom is that "Ken Blackwell will never lose an election in which he is in charge of the vote count."

But Ohio Democrats never seriously questioned Blackwell's rigged 2004 vote count that put Bush back in the White House. They've mounted no serious campaign challenging Blackwell's handling of the tally in 2005. They've presented no plan for guaranteeing the integrity of upcoming 2006 November election, which will again be run by Blackwell, even though he may be the GOP nominee.

Attorney-General Petro has become Blackwell's sworn enemy. A rugged campaigner with extensive statewide connections, it's not likely Petro would quietly accept an election being stolen from him. That might explain Blackwell's vehement attacks on his fellow Republican.

But having accused his cohort of widespread corruption, and with a long history of scornful contempt for all those who challenge him, Blackwell's own Diebold revelations have opened a Pandora's Box. What comes flying out could affect state and national politics for years to come.

--Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, and are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, upcoming from The New Press.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Utah testing of the Diebold touch-screen reveals new problems

by Black Box Voting
March 19, 2006

Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk has been running elections for 23 years. He was quite content with his optical scan system. The state of Utah thought otherwise: On Dec. 27, Funk took delivery on 40 Diebold TSx touch-screen machines, part of a statewide directive.

"I had concerns about Diebold," says Funk, "but I thought, 'If the state is going to mandate it, then I guess they'll assume responsibility if anything goes wrong.'"

Not so. He soon learned that he will be responsible but the state will decide what election system will count the votes.

"YOU'RE GOING TO HATE MY GUTS ON ELECTION DAY"

Funk's concerns escalated when he heard a particularly unusual statement by Diebold sales rep Dana LaTour.

"Some of you are going to hate my guts on Election Day," she said to the assembly of elections officials. Later, another Diebold representative named Drew was asked what LaTour meant when she said "Some of you are going to hate my guts..."

"We're going to have problems on Election Day, and we're just going to have to work through them," he said.

FAILURES RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE

Shortly after Funk received his "brand new" TSx machines, Diebold helped him do acceptance testing. Two of the 40 machines promptly failed the test. Diebold arranged to take them away.

The remaining machines showed several defects -- crooked paper feeds that jam, memory card bay doors that wouldn't close, parts getting stuck, coming loose, falling off.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

Funk thought it might be a good idea to take a closer inventory.

He booted each machine up to check the battery. Some of the machines were marked with little yellow dots, and he got to wondering about that, too. He studied the screen messages, and noticed something very odd.

Most machines had about 25 MB of memory available, but some had only 7 MB of free memory left. One had only 4 MB of available memory. For perspective, the backup election file generated by the Diebold TSx is about 7.9 MB. Now why would brand new voting machines have used-up memory?

TIME TO GET A MORE IN DEPTH EVALUATION

This prompted Funk to seek an evaluation. He asked Black Box Voting to help him analyze his voting system.

After several consultations, Black Box Voting determined that the nature of the problems in Emery County might be systemic and might be national in scope. Therefore, we arranged for and underwrote the services of Harri Hursti and also Security Innovation, Inc.

Neither Funk nor Black Box Voting were prepared for the depth and breadth of the problems discovered. Based on these discoveries we will begin with a series of articles followed by concise, but more formal reports.

PART I

Hursti quickly determined the three most likely causes of the low memory problem:

1. There might be completely different software in the machines with low memory.

2. Some machines might contain different external data

3. Or, some of the machines might have been delivered with natively different amounts of memory available.

Hursti approached issue #2 first. If the used memory was due to external data or archived election files stored on the system, he reasoned, removing any such files would clear the memory. He discovered that some of the machines did contain test election data, and he deleted the extra data. This produced only a small improvement in available memory, however.

As for issue #1, different programs on the machines -- or, the existence of something stored in memory which is hidden, such a find would obviously be disturbing.

Issue #3, the possibility that some machines had different amounts of memory left in their life cycle, is particularly troubling. The technology choice Diebold made -- memory storage consisting of flash memory, which is known to degrade over time -- carries with it a possibility that used machines will be near the end of their memory life cycle. If such machines were delivered to Emery County as "new," this would be like buying a "new" car with 100,000 miles already on it.

The only thing that was known about the cause of this problem was that there were different amounts of memory. The reason remained to be discovered. In the course of evaluating the reason for the low memory, we learned much more about the TSx.

IS THERE AN INFRA-RED PORT FOR REMOTE COMMUNICATIONS?

Hursti also examined the remote communications capabilities of this system. He found no infra-red (IrDA) ports.

"The whole thing here is that it's network aware even when RAS is not running. You're not dialing out and it's network aware. And it's actually configured to use an Ethernet board.. .It's all the time network aware...Perhaps all you need is this Ethernet cord and a wireless cord inserted and off you go."

Of course, the software would need to be installed for this kind of communications. Unfortunately, we could find no way for elections officials to find out whether inappropriate software is in the touch-screen.

"I haven't asked any 'pins' (Personal ID Number). It hasn't been hostile to me at all. It's a very friendly guy," Hursti reports.

Hursti made a number of observations about the touch-screen, and connected it to his laptop for further "conversation."

In the interest of brevity, we will return to this issue in a later article in this series.

A "SHOCKING" DISCOVERY

It's common for polling places to have too few outlets for a bank of voting machines. The normal cure is to set up hook the computers up in a daisy-chain configuration, with one plug to the wall, and the rest of the plugs linking voting machines together.

Diebold's output plug falls out readily, exposing live 110 volt wall outlet power on bare wires.

This happened on every TSx we tested, and presents a significant safety hazard for poll workers, especially the elderly. According to Hursti, the electrocution might only result in a burned hand, and probably wouldn't be fatal.

This is a design flaw worthy of a general recall for standard consumer and office electronics.

DIEBOLD: DOWN FOR THE COUNT?

While analyzing the memory storage problem, Hursti discovered a critical security hole in the foundation of the touch-screen. Then he found another in the "lobby," and another on the "first floor." Taken together, these present a potentially catastrophic security hole.

These are not programming errors, but architectural design decisions.

Black Box Voting is turning the "road map" of the most dangerous security findings over to the proper authorities. We won't let anybody sit on this for very long because elections are looming and elections officials need to know what to do now.

A concise and more formal report will be released in a few weeks, and this will discuss the procedures for preparing a recovery path for these security holes.

TWO THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED ALREADY:

1. Source code reviews alone are NOT sufficient. Access to fully functional systems MUST accompany source code reviews.

2. Honest election officials and citizens again take the lead in learning the truth about voting machines. We ask for maximum public support for Bruce Funk, who showed courage and commitment to responsible elections. The important and effective work of Utah voting integrity advocates Kathy Dopp (http://www.uscountvotes.org) and Jocelyn Strait should be applauded by fellow activists. They have played an important role to inspire this study in Utah, which may in turn assist with efforts in many other states.

---
Black Box Voting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501c(3) organization dedicated to investigating issues of election accuracy and fairness.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why did J. Kenneth Blackwell seek, then hide, his association with super-rich extremists and e-voting magnates?

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
March 10, 2006

The man who stole the 2004 election for George W. Bush -- Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell -- has posted a picture of himself addressing the white supremacist ultra-right Council for National Policy (CNP). He then pulled the picture and tried to hide his participation in the meeting by removing mention of it from his website, kenblackwell.com.

First discovered by a netroots investigator (uaprogressiveaction.com), Blackwell's photo at the CNP meeting was found on Blackwell's website on Monday, March 6. Then it mysteriously disappeared.

Blackwell has ample reason to hide his ties to the CNP. When the Free Press investigated the CNP and its ties to the Republican Party, Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates told the paper that the CNP included "a former Ku Klux Klan leader and other segregationist policies." Berlet emphasizes that these "shocking" charges are easy to verify.

Berlet describes CNP members as not only traditional conservatives, but also nativists, xenophobes, white racial supremacists, homophobes, sexists, militarists, authoritarians, reactionaries and "in some cases outright neo-fascists."

Some well-known figures affiliated with the CNP include Rev. Jerry Falwell, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and the Rev. Pat Robertson. But its the lesser-known CNP mainstays that are more indicative of the organization's politics. They include:

Richard Shoff, a former Ku Klux Klan leader in Indiana.

John McGoff, an ardent supporter of the former apartheid South African regime.

R.J. Rushdoony, the theological leader of America's "Christian Reconstruction" movement, which advocates that Christian fundamentalists take "dominion" over America by abolishing democracy and instituting Old Testament Law. Rushdoony's Reconstructionalists believe that "homosexuals . . . adulterers , blasphemers, astrologers and others will be executed," along with disobedient children.

Reed Larson, head of anti-union National Right to Work Committee.

Don Wildmon, TV censorship activist and accused anti-Semite.

Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other principals from the Iran-Contra Scandal.Investigative reporter Russ Bellant, author of OLD NAZIS, THE NEW RIGHT AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY;THE RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT IN MICHIGAN POLITICS; and THE COORS CONNECTION, told the Free Press that the "membership of the Council comprises the elite of the radical right in America."

Blackwell is not the only Ohio Republican with ties to white supremacists, according to Bellant. He found ties between Senator George Voinovich and members of fascist groups formerly from Eastern and Southern Europe living in the Cleveland area.

In 1997, the Free Press disclosed that then-Republican Speaker Pro Tempore of the Ohio House, William G. Batchelder, was listed as a member of the little-known and highly secretive cabal, the CNP. Bellant told the Free Press in 1997, "the CNP is attempting to create a concentration of power to rival and eventually eclipse traditional centers of power in the U.S." Batchelder's wife Alice sits on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and was recently considered for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The CNP was founded in 1981. Moral Majority Leader Tim LaHaye assumed the presidency with the backing of Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt. In 1982, Tom Ellis succeeded LaHaye as CNP president. Ellis was a director of the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that finances efforts to prove that African-Americans are genetically inferior to whites. Recipients of past Pioneer Fund grants include eugenicist William Shockley, Arthur Jensen and Roger Pearson. Pearson is on record advocating that "inferior races" should be "exterminated."

Newsweek reported that the CNP's first executive director, Louisiana State Representative Woody Jenkins, told CNP members, "I believe that one day before the end of this century, the Council will be so influential that no president, regardless of party, or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government."

In 1999, GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush appeared before the secretive white supremacists at a gathering in San Antonio. Bush refused to make public his comments before the group. The CNP may have reached its intended goal of eclipsing all other power groups in U.S. politics when Bush took the presidency in 2000.

Jeremy Leaming and Rob Boston, writing for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, detail the sordid history of the CNP in their article "Who Is The Council For National Policy And What Are They Up To? And Why Don't They Want You To Know?"

Blackwell is Ohio's Secretary of State, and a Republican candidate for governor. He was a highly visible "on the ground" player in the Bush election theft in Florida 2000. On Election Day 2004, he met in Columbus with Bush and Karl Rove to solidify plans for winning the Buckeye State's 20 electoral votes, which turned the election to Bush. Blackwell's extremely controversial handling of the election and the vote count have the prompted widespread belief that it, too, was stolen. The results ran counter to the historically accurate exit polls, and Blackwell has stonewalled three successive court battles against public scrutiny of the results and has resisted a verified, accurate recount.

The idea of an African-American like Blackwell speaking to a racist cabal like the CNP may seem incongruous. But Blackwell has been courting extremist right wing support for a long time. Most importantly he has been embraced and supported by Rev. Rob Parsley of the powerful World Harvest Church. Parsley is a wealthy right-wing extremist with a powerful grassroots network throughout the state, and a major stake in Blackwell's taking to the governorship. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. With Blackwell's continued control of the voting apparatus, the CNP and Republican Party could well step into an era of unchallenged national domination.

Not surprisingly, Blackwell and a few CNP members share crucial ties to the election/vote counting industry.

The electronic voting machine industry is dominated by only a few corporations - Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Together, Diebold and ES&S count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box electronic votes.

In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S's seminal corporation, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from relatives of the far-Right-wing CNP-linked Howard Ahmanson in 1984, who purchased a 68% ownership stake, according to the Omaha World Herald. Ahmanson has also been a chief financier of Rushdoony's Christian Reconstruction movement.

Brothers William and Robert Ahmanson, cousins of Howard, infused Data Mark with new capital. The name was changed to American Information Systems (AIS). The Ahmanson brothers have claimed that they have no ties to their more well-known right-wing cousin.

But in 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that Howard and Roberta Ahmanson were important funders of the Discovery Institute, a fount of extremist right-wing publications, including much that pushes creationism in California schools. The Times said the Institute's " $1-million annual program has produced 25 books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral research."

According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member of the CNP. Heir to a savings and loan fortune, Ahmanson is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English papers like The Independent are more informative. They list Ahmanson alongside Richard Mellon Scaife, one of the most important of all right-wing money men. "Such figures as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the driving engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into President Clinton's sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White House insider Vincent Foster)," wrote The Independent last November.

The Sunday Mail described an individual as, ". . . a fundamentalist Christian more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his fortune to promote so-called traditional family values.. . . By waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole candidates into backing his right-wing Christian agenda."

Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that supports the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement's philosophy advocates, among other things, "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards."

The Ahmanson brothers sold their shares in American Information Systems to the McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.

The presence of Ahmanson relatives and Hunt's sister in e-voting software may be a coincidence. But it certainly raises questions as to why family members of anti-democratic forces are getting heavily involved in non-transparent election software. And why they are forging ties to the man in charge of counting votes in Ohio elections.

In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by the company he served as chairman, and in which he maintained a financial investment. In both his successful 1996 and 2002 campaigns, Hagel's ES&S counted an estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel's first election victory was described as a "stunning upset" by one Nebraska newspaper.

Hagel's official biography states, "Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy and Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served as Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems." During the first Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).

Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob later headed Diebold Election Systems, but resigned prior to the 2004 election. His brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold's original electronic voting machine software.
Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic votes cast in the United States.

That J. Kenneth Blackwell would now address an organization so thoroughly entwined with the extreme right wing and the electronic voting machine industry can hardly be seen as an accident. Blackwell's active presence in both Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 make him a critical player in the rise of the Bush regime. As governor of Ohio, he could solidify Republican control of presidential elections for decades to come.

Toward that end, the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature has passed a series of laws making it virtually impossible to monitor electronic voting in the state, or to challenge the outcome of a federal election here. The Free Press has also learned that county election board officials, in Blackwell's employ, have stripped nearly a half-million voters from the registration rolls in the key Democratic urban areas of Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati.

None of this has been seriously challenged by Ohio or national Democrats. And with Blackwell in the governor's mansion, in control of the state's vote counting apparatus, the Democrats will have virtually no chance of ever retaking control of the Ohio legislature, Congressional delegation or, for that matter, the White House.

Small wonder the powerful right wing extremist Council on National Policy would overlook its racist history to embrace an African-American like J. Kenneth Blackwell. Small wonder, also, Blackwell might want to hide what will certainly be a powerful and profitable association for him in his rise to the Ohio governor's mansion … and beyond.

--Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Did 308,000 cancelled Ohio voter registrations put Bush back in the White House?

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
February 28, 2006

While life goes on during the Bush2 nightmare, so does the research on what really happened here in 2004 to give George W. Bush a second term.

Pundits throughout the state and nation---many of them alleged Democrats---continue to tell those of us who question Bush's second coming that we should "get over it," that the election is old news.

But things get curiouser and curiouser.

In our 2005 compendium HOW THE GOP STOLE OHIO'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (www.freepress.org), we list more than a hundred different ways the Republican Party denied the democratic process in the Buckeye State. For a book of documents to be published September 11 by the New Press entitled WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, we are continuing to dig.

It turns out, we missed more than a few of the dirty tricks Karl Rove, Ken Blackwell and their GOP used to get themselves four more years. In an election won with death by a thousand cuts, some that are still hidden go very deep. Over the next few weeks we will list them as they are verified.

One of them has just surfaced to the staggering tune of 175,000 purged voters in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), the traditional stronghold of the Ohio Democratic Party. An additional 10,000 that registered to vote there for the 2004 election were lost due to "clerical error."

As we reported more than a year ago, some 133,000 voters were purged from the registration rolls in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Lucas County (Toledo) between 2000 and 2004. The 105,000 from Cincinnati and 28,000 from Toledo exceeded Bush's official alleged margin of victory---just under 119,000 votes out of some 5.6 million the Republican Secretary of State. J. Kenneth Blackwell, deemed worth counting.

Exit polls flashed worldwide on CNN at 12:20 am Wednesday morning, November 3, showed John Kerry winning Ohio by 4.2% of the popular vote, probably about 250,000 votes. We believe this is an accurate reflection of what really happened here.

But by morning Bush was being handed the presidency, claiming a 2.5% Buckeye victory, as certified by Blackwell. In conjunction with other exit polling, the lead switch from Kerry to Bush is a virtual statistical impossibility. Yet John Kerry conceded with more than 250,000 ballots still uncounted, though Bush at the time was allegedly ahead only by 138,000, a margin that later slipped to less than 119,000 in the official vote count.

At the time, very few people knew about those first 133,000 voters that had been eliminated from the registration rolls in Cincinnati and Toledo. County election boards purged the voting registration lists. Though all Ohio election boards are allegedly bi-partisan, in fact they are all controlled by the Republican Party. Each has four seats, filled by law with two Democrats and two Republicans.

But all tie votes are decided by the Secretary of State, in this case Blackwell, the extreme right-wing Republican now running for Governor. Blackwell served in 2004 not only as the man in charge of the state's vote count, but also a co-chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign. Many independent observers have deemed this to be a conflict of interest. On election day, Blackwell met personally with Bush, Karl Rove and Matt Damschroder, chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, formerly the chair of the county's Republican Party.

The Board of Elections in Toledo was chaired by Bernadette Noe, wife of Tom Noe, northwestern Ohio's "Mr. Republican." A close personal confidante of the Bush family, Noe raised more than $100,000 for the GOP presidential campaign in 2004. He is currently under indictment for three felony violations of federal election law, and 53 counts of fraud, theft and other felonies in the "disappearance" of more than $13 million in state funds. Noe was entrusted with investing those funds by Republican Gov. Robert Taft, who recently pled guilty to four misdemeanor charges, making him the only convicted criminal ever to serve as governor of Ohio.

The rationale given by Noe and by the Republican-controlled BOE in Lucas and Hamilton Counties was that the voters should be eliminated from the rolls because they had allegedly not voted in the previous two federal elections.

There is no law that requires such voters be eliminated. And there is no public verification that has been offered to confirm that these people had not, in fact, voted in those elections.

Nonetheless, tens of thousands of voters turned up in mostly Democratic wards in Cincinnati and Toledo, only to find they had been mysteriously removed from the voter rolls. In many cases, sworn testimony and affidavits given at hearings after the election confirmed that many of these citizens had in fact voted in the previous two federal elections and had not moved from where they were registered. In some cases, their stability at those addresses stretched back for decades.

The problem was partially confirmed by a doubling of provisional ballots cast during the 2004 election, as opposed to the number cast in 2000. Provisional ballots have been traditionally used in Ohio as a stopgap for people whose voting procedures are somehow compromised at the polls, but who are nonetheless valid registrants.

Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell made a range of unilateral pronouncements that threw the provisional balloting process into chaos. Among other things, he demanded voters casting provisional ballots provide their birth dates, a requirement that was often not mentioned by poll workers. Eyewitnesses testify that many provisional ballots were merely tossed in the trash at Ohio polling stations.

To this day, more than 16,000 provisional ballots (along with more than 90,000 machine-spoiled ballots) cast in Ohio remain uncounted. The Secretary of State refuses to explain why. A third attempt by the Green and Libertarian Parties to obtain a meaningful recount of the Ohio presidential vote has again been denied by the courts, though the parties are appealing.

Soon after the 2004 election, Damschroder announced that Franklin County would eliminate another 170,000 citizens from the voter rolls in Columbus. Furthermore, House Bill 3, recently passed by the GOP-dominated legislature, has imposed a series of restrictions that will make it much harder for citizens to restore themselves to the voter rolls, or to register in the first place.

All this, however, pales before a new revelation just released by the Board of Elections in Cuyahoga County, the heavily Democratic county surrounding Cleveland.

Robert J. Bennett, the Republican chair of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections, and the Chair of the Ohio Republican Party, has confirmed that prior to the 2004 election, his BOE eliminated---with no public notice---a staggering 175,414 voters from the Cleveland-area registration rolls. He has not explained why the revelation of this massive registration purge has been kept secret for so long. Virtually no Ohio or national media has bothered to report on this story.

Many of the affected precincts in Cuyahoga County went 90% and more for John Kerry. The county overall went more than 60% for Kerry.

The eliminations have been given credence by repeated sworn testimony and affidavits from long-time Cleveland voters that they came to their usual polling stations only to be told that they were not registered. When they could get them, many were forced to cast provisional ballots which were highly likely to be pitched in the trash, or which remain uncounted.

Ohio election history would indicate that the elimination of 175,000 voters in heavily Democratic Cleveland must almost certainly spell doom for any state-wide Democratic campaign. These 175,000 pre-2004 election eliminations must now be added to the 105,000 from Cincinnati and the 28,000 from Toledo.

Therefore, to put it simply: at least 308,000 voters, most of them likely Democrats, were eliminated from the registration rolls prior to an election allegedly won by less than 119,000 votes, where more than 106,000 votes still remain uncounted, and where the GOP Secretary of State continues to successfully fight off a meaningful recount.

There are more than 80 other Ohio counties where additional pre-November, 2004 mass eliminations by GOP-controlled boards of elections may have occurred. Further "anomalies" in the Ohio 2004 vote count continue to surface.

In addition, it seems evident that the Democratic Party will now enter Ohio's 2006 gubernatorial and US Senate races, and its 2008 presidential contest, with close to a half-million voters having been eliminated from the registration rolls, the vast majority of them from traditional Democratic strongholds, and with serious legislative barriers having been erected against new voter registration drives.

Stay tuned.

--
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available via www.freepress.org. They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, coming in September from The New Press. Important research for this piece has been conducted by Dr. Richard Hayes Philips, Dr. Norm Robbins and Dr. Victoria Lovegren.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

As Alito takes Supreme Court seat, Ohio GOP guts election protection

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
February 1, 2006

Ohio's GOP-controlled legislature has passed a repressive new law that will gut free elections here and is already surfacing elsewhere around the US. The bill will continue the process of installing the GOP as America's permanent ruling party.

Coming with the swearing in of right-wing extremist Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, it marks another dark day for what remains of American democracy.

Called HB3, the law now demands discriminatory voter ID, severely cripples the possibility of statewide recounts and actually ends the process of state-based challenges to federal elections---most importantly for president---held within the state.

In other words, the type of legal challenge mounted to the theft of Ohio's electoral votes in the 2004 election will now be all but impossible in the future.

Section 35-05.18 of HB3 requires restrictive identification requirements for anyone trying to vote in an Ohio election. Photo ID, a utility bill, a bank statement, a government check or other government document showing the name and current address of the voter will be required.

This requirement is perfectly designed to slow down the voting process in inner city precincts. It allows Republican "challengers" to intimidate anyone who turns up to vote in heavily Democratic precincts. It virtually eliminates the homeless, elderly and impoverished from the voting rolls. Election protection advocates estimate this requirement will erase 100,000 to 200,000 voters in a typical statewide election. By way of reference, George W. Bush allegedly carried Ohio---and the presidency---by less than 119,000 votes in 2004.

The ID requirement is the direct result of intervention by two high-powered Republican attorneys with ties to the White House and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Congressman Bob Ney allowed the Bush-Cheney re-election national counsel Mark "Thor" Hearne to testify last March as a so-called "voting rights advocate." Hearne, whose resume shows no connection to voting rights organizations, was responsible for advising the Bush-Cheney campaign on national litigation and election law strategy during the 2004 election. See:

http://www.lathropgage.com/people/bio.aspx?bioid=8185 and http://www.lathropgage.com/ files/tbl_s47Details %5CFileUpload265%5C351 %5CTHOR_Insert.pdf.

Hearne, with the help of Republican attorney Alex Vogel, concocted a story that the problem with the 2004 elections in Ohio was the NAACP paying people with crack cocaine to register voters. Vogel's front group, the Free Enterprise Coalition, even indemnified a local Republican operative, Mark Rubrick, to file an Ohio corrupt practices act suit against the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, ACT-Ohio and ACORN, The suit was later quietly withdrawn after discovery showed that the operatives behind it were linked to the top levels of the Republican Party.

Ironically, the Republican Party engaged in racist and massive voter repression in Ohio and are now institutionalizing that very Jim Crow-style repression and selling it as an election reform bill.

HB3 also ends the ability of the public to conduct meaningful audits of voting machines. Election protection activists recently forced the adoption of an auditable paper trail into the Ohio election process. In a state where virtually all ballots are cast and/or counted on electronic equipment, this cuts to the core of the ability to monitor an election's outcome. The new provision in HB3 will make the paper trail virtually meaningless.

HB3 further imposes a huge jump in the cost of forcing a recount. In 2004, the charge was $10 per precinct, with some 11,366 precincts in the state. Thus the Green and Libertarian Parties, which paid for it, had to pay somewhat more than $113,660. Now the charge will be $50 per precinct, jumping the charge to some $568,300.

Finally, and perhaps most astonishingly, HB3 eliminates the state statutes that have allowed citizens to challenge the outcome of federal elections within the state. After the 2004 election, election protection advocates filed a challenge to Bush's victory. Their attorneys were attacked with an official attempt to levy sanctions, and then were thwarted from an effective suit when GOP Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell locked up the state's voter records.

But HB3 would now entirely eliminate any possibility of a state-based legal challenge. The only alleged recourse for those wishing to officially question the vote count in a presidential, US Senate or US Congressional race in Ohio would be at the United States Congress. There is now no recourse whatsoever on the state level.

Despite grassroots protests and bitter opposition from Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and other pro-democracy groups, HB3 passed with only one Republican vote against it (all Ohio Democratic Senators and Representatives voted against).

So the Ohio GOP has taken another giant step toward ending the possibility of any other party ever taking power in the Buckeye State. When combined with new campaign finance laws that allow huge chunks of private and corporate money to flow virtually unregulated into GOP coffers, HB3 may have all but ended free elections in Ohio---at least until election protection forces can somehow reverse the trend. .

Since the Civil War, only one presidential candidate---John F. Kennedy in 1960---has won the White House without carrying Ohio. This and the other repressive legislation passed by the Ohio GOP will make it virtually impossible for anyone but a Republican to carry the Buckeye State in future statewide and federal elections.

Bills like HB3 are also being lined up to flow through Republican-controlled legislatures throughout the US, including a very similar one in Georgia. "This comes straight from Karl Rove," says Cliff Arnebeck, one of Ohio's leading election protection attorneys. "This legislation originates with a demand that one-party rule by made permanent throughout the United States."

With today's passage of Ohio HB3, along with the seating of Justice Alito, the GOP grip on the American throat has very significantly tightened.

--Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at http://www.freepress.org/. They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO? forthcoming from the New Press.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Recipe for hacking ES&S and Sequoia, Hursti-style

by Black Box Voting
January 4, 2006

Hold on to your lugnuts, ES&S and Sequoia may risk Hursti-style hack

Dec. 13, 2005: Harri Hursti performs devastating hack in Leon County Florida with Diebold optical scan system, proving he could control votes by manipulating a credit-card-sized memory card..

Jan. 3, 2006: Information received pointing to similar vulnerabilities in the ES&S and Sequoia "Optech" optical scan machines.

In an exclusive interview by BBV investigator Jim March with Dr. Douglas Jones, University of Iowa associate professor and a former voting machine examiner for the state of Iowa, it was learned that one of the most widely-used voting machines over the last 15 years may suffer from design flaws broadly similar to Diebold's version 1.94 and 1.96 optical scan system.

The first problem is that memory chip contents can be modified with easy to obtain reprogramming devices, in ways that could enable Hursti-style hacking.

The second problem is that Sequoia and ES&S have been able to force their way into intimate access to the mechanics of democracy. The electronic ballot controls were maintained exclusively by the vendors at the vendor's headquarters rather than by county election staff.

Diebold took over total control of elections in counties that allowed it. ES&S and Sequoia didn't give them a choice because of the system's design. This effectively removed county officials from their proper oversight role.

ORIGINS OF THE OPTECH MACHINE

Two of the four major voting machine companies have been using an identical machine, the Optech, originally produced by Business Records Corp (BRC).

BRC was the largest voting machine company in America when ES&S purchased it in 1997. The SEC objected on anti-trust grounds, and in the resulting decision, allowed ES&S to purchase BRC, splitting the Optech scanners up between ES&S (service contracts for existing machines) and Sequoia Voting Systems (sales of new machines).

Although now being phased out, Optechs have been used for 15 years without a peep from the federal testing labs, and without the public ever being told of their vulnerabilities, nor of the vendor’s extraordinary level of control over local elections.

SYSTEM DESIGN

According to Dr. Jones, the Optech machines are precinct optical scanners originally developed in the late 1980s. They reflect the technology of that period. They are broadly similar to the Global/Diebold optical scanners designed around the same time: These voting machines store votes on removable electronic memory devices and print out an "end of day ticker tape" on paper similar to a cash register tape, providing a precinct total of votes for each candidate and issue.

The Optech machines don't use a credit card-sized memory card – rather, they use a memory pack about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

This cigarette pack-sized device plugs into the body of the scanner with a proprietary connection. The memory pack provides three things:

- A chip ("ROM" memory) which is difficult to modify outside of a factory and contains the programming for the machine ("firmware")
- An "EPROM" chip which is easier to modify (more on that to follow) containing the ballot layout and precinct information
- Battery-powered memory chips to hold the vote totals

THE GOOD NEWS

As Dr. Jones points out, there's one advantage to this pack design. Honest election officials can separate the scanner body from the pack and send the large bulky scanner out to the field (precinct) days or weeks ahead of the election. Tampering with scanners that are missing the pack isn't really possible (other than to simply vandalize it) because the "brains" aren't present to tamper with. It’s the "memory pack" that needs to be held in strict security. The memory pack can later be hand-carried to the precinct by a group of poll workers and plugged into the scanner on election morning.

THE BAD NEWS

One reason the Hursti hack in Leon County resulted in a failure is that Diebold's memory device holding the votes and critical programs is both read-write (tamperable) and reader/writer devices like the Crop Scanner are available commercially to alter the cards.

The ES&S/Sequoia memory pack has a funky connector. It should be even more secure, right?

Not exactly.

JIM'S RIG-A-VOTE RECIPE

1. Unscrew the top of the pack.

The most critical chip holding the ballot/candidate/precinct layouts is sitting right there in an easy-access socket.

2. Find a chip burner. Once the chip is out with a screwdriver, you can find alteration devices (chip burner) for that chip even more easily that you can find the Crop Scanner.

Tip for finding a read/write device: The chips is called an "EPROM" - Electrically Programmable Read Only Memory .

Here are some examples:

http://www.stag.co.uk/products/EEprom_programmer.htm
http://www.action2k.com/topmax.htm
http://www.elettronicaceleste.com/celeste/programmatore_eeprom/sp280_uk.htm


3. Put the chip in the chip burner device connected to a PC and read the contents. Edit at will using your PC.

4. Peel the sticker off the back of the EPROM, exposing a glass window. This makes the actual silicon surface visible through the glass. It's a neat looking critter, shiny and with lots of tiny circuits that geeks will love.

5. Put the chip in a tiny mouse-sized tanning booth. No, we’re not kidding – exposure to UV light for 25 minutes erases EPROMs. (Warning: We do not recommend putting in an actual mouse unless you can find very small sunglasses for him.)

PICTURE: http://testequip.com//sale/used/pictures/HES2152.jpg

6. Put the sticker back on the chip’s glass window and put it into the chip burner connected to the PC, and download your tampered code from your PC back to the chip.

7. Put the chip back into the "pack" and you’re done.

We have no reason to think that the security of the chip's contents is any better than in the Diebold environment. While this needs testing, it appears that hacking could cause all votes to be switched between any two candidates simply by altering the chip data.

Dr. Jones suggests the possibility of causing a minor party candidate's votes to go to a major party candidate, in addition to the major party candidate's proper votes. This would have the "benefit" of harming a small parties, possibly denying them ballot access. Each major party has at least one smaller party that tends to take a small chunk out of them – the Democrats always lose a few candidates to the Greens, the GOP loses a few to the Libertarians. Each major party would like to see their smaller more radical cousin go away, and that sort of hacking could do it.

THE WORSE NEWS

While moderately advanced hackers should be able to alter the contents of these packs fairly easily, county election officials can’t. Therefore, by design, the memory cards need to be programmed inside the vendor’s corporate headquarters.

WILL THEY DO IT CORRECTLY?

Well let’s see: ES&S was partially owned by now-Senator Chuck Hagel at the time Hagel won his first major political victory to get into congress. Hagel’s victory in the primary was so stunning that it made national news. According to CNN’s "All Politics," Hagel hoped he could make lightening strike twice by winning the big prize – and he did. He defeated popular Democratic Governor Ben Nelson who led in the polls since the opening gun in what the Washington Post called "The major Republican upset in the November [1996] election." (more: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBV_chapter-3.pdf)

Louisiana state elections chief Jerry Fowler was convicted on felony charges of taking bribes from Sequoia officials for system purchase decisions – one of Sequoia’s key people, Phil Foster, was indicted but the charges were dropped after a judge concluded that his immunized grand jury testimony couldn’t be used against him. (more: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBV_chapter-8.pdf)

So, is turning over the very foundation of Democracy to ES&S and Sequoia a good idea? We think not.

CONCLUSION

Nobody at the Federal or state testing labs seems to think like a hacker and tries to find ways to defeat these things. For that matter, nobody is paying attention to the basic ethics of the situation. No one ever asked the American citizens whether we choose to remain a Constitutional Republic versus a Corporate Republic.

Black Box Voting would like to do a "test hack" on the Optech with the blessing of public officials in any jurisdiction. Because these machines are not HAVA compliant, they are being phased out. We ask your help in facilitating this opportunity.

"There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and of restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government." -- Thomas Jefferson