The Myth of Fair Elections in America

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The debacle surrounding the Republican victory in 2000 demonstrated to the world that America's electoral process is wide open to abuse. But as Paul Harris discovers, the system has actually worsened since then.

By Paul Harris / Guardian Observer / Sept. 8, 2006
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You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to be seriously worried about this state of affairs. In many ways, it is more worrying that the system is not being deliberately stolen from on high. It is actually broken from the ground up.

Saving the Ballot Evidence from Ohio 2004

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"Saving the ballot evidence from Ohio 2004
[The Free Press]
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
September 2, 2006

This weekend was to be "D-Day" in Ohio. It marked the September 2 deadline after which federal law allows the destruction of ballots from the 2004 election.

It didn't happen, at least on a statewide basis. But the fight to preserve that vital evidence is far from over.

Republican election officials here have been chomping at the bit to shred, burn or otherwise destroy the ballots and other related materials from the dubious vote count that gave George W. Bush a second term. Yet, in several rural southwest Republican-dominated counties, you have to trip over boxes of ballots and election material from earlier elections dating back as far as 1977 in order to see the stickers "Destroy on 9/3/06" on the 2004 ballot boxes.

Find the Pattern: Court Dismisses Election Case on Jurisdictional Grounds in Nevada

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Citing Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, the 30-year-old Laxalt v. Cannon opinion from the Nevada Supreme Court and NRS 293.407, Maddox said, "This court does not have jurisdiction to hear this case." All three of those state that only the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives can decide contested elections involving their membership. Maddox heard testimony in the case primarily to put all Angle's claims in the record but said even if he had jurisdiction over the issue, they failed to prove those allegations. Malfeasance, he said "is a wrongful or unlawful act according to Black's Law Dictionary. It is not an omission of an act. It is the commission of an act." [ED. Note: As in Busby/Bilbray, neither candidate was a member of Congress.]

Angle loses appeal for new election
Judge says law bars him from ruling on congressional races
and that a case for malfeasance was not made

By Geoff Dornan / Nevada Appeal / September 2, 2006
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Sharron Angle and her attorney Joel Hansen talk during a lunch break in Carson District Judge Bill Maddox's courtroom on Friday morning. Angle lost her call for a new election after losing the GOP nomination for Nevada's second congressional district by 422 votes to Dean Heller.

Sharron Angle on Friday lost her call for a new election. Immediately after the ruling, she said there will be no appeal and she will endorse and work for Dean Heller in his race for Nevada's second congressional district.

After a day-long hearing into allegations of malfeasance by Washoe Voter Registrar Dan Burk and his staff, Carson District Judge Bill Maddox ruled not only do the U.S. Constitution and Nevada law bar him from deciding a challenge of any race for the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives but that Angle's lawyer Joel Hansen failed to prove the errors in Washoe County were numerous and serious enough to warrant nullifying the vote.

He also ordered Angle's side to pay Heller's legal costs in defending the case.

Citing Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, the 30-year-old Laxalt v. Cannon opinion from the Nevada Supreme Court and NRS 293.407, Maddox said, "This court does not have jurisdiction to hear this case."

All three of those state that only the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives can decide contested elections involving their membership.

Maddox heard testimony in the case primarily to put all Angle's claims in the record but said even if he had jurisdiction over the issue, they failed to prove those allegations.

Malfeasance, he said "is a wrongful or unlawful act according to Black's Law Dictionary. It is not an omission of an act. It is the commission of an act."

The errors in Washoe County's Aug. 15 primary, he said, clearly fail to meet that standard. Hansen's witnesses testified some polling places opened late, that there were delays in voting and problems with some of the machines. But only one person said she was unable to vote because of the problems. And Heller's lawyer, Jason Woodbury, said that was her decision not to wait 20 minutes until the voting machine was ready and not to return to the polling place later in the day, which is provided for by Nevada law.

Woodbury also argued Nevada law doesn't give Maddox the option of ordering a new election - only of naming some one else the victor or vacating the election and allowing the GOP central committee to select the nominee.

Maddox said for him to do that, he believes Hansen would also have to prove some one other than Heller would have won because of the errors. He said they failed to do that and dismissed the election challenge.

Angle congratulated Heller on his primary victory and said she will "do everything to defeat the Democratic nominee."

Angle also thanked Maddox for hearing the case and allowing her to bring evidence of problems with the Washoe primary vote. She said shining a light on those problems should help make sure they don't recur in the November election.

Fear and Loathing: The nu-GOP Campaign Trail

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THEBHC / Anything They Say / Sept. 1, 2006
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With the November elections fast approaching, the Republican Party have opened up a number of fronts in their campaign assault to maintain control of Capitol Hill. For the last few months, a number of states have enacted new laws that are seen as leading efforts to disenfranchise typically Democratic voting blocks. Six Republican-controlled states, Indiana, Arizona, California, Missouri, and of course, our old friends in Ohio and Florida, have already passed various voter ID laws that will doubtless disenfranchise Democratic voters far more than others. Recently, a federal judge struck down a 2004 Florida law that restricted and punished activities of third party voter registration groups, a result that will be too little too late with respect to elections in November; appeals are guaranteed to hold this in court for sometime.

Furthermore, the Republican House showed little regard for election law when Speaker Dennis Hastert swore in Brian Bilbray as the newest Republican member of Congress, despite the fact that the election had not even been certified at that point, given the ongoing dispute surrounding that contentious California election and its employment of uncertified Diebold voting machines. Fueling outrage, a judge has pronounced that Congress has jurisdictional priority rather than the State of California now that the swearing-in has taken place; no recourse in the election dispute can be provided by California courts. In other words, regardless of the outcome of an election, a swearing-in cermony effectively nullifies an election result and makes Congress's pronouncement of House membership the final say in the matter. What have we learned from this exercise?

There is yet another way to steal an election and who knows how many more are heretofore unknown.

Democracy Denied - Meet The New Boss

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By Nicole Belle / September 1, 2006 / Scoop Independent News
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"Yesterday, attorney Lehto took an optimistic stance when he commented on the role of the public in taking back control of their elections. The shutdown of any possibility of a court based investigation of the CA50 race could not be in more stark contrast to the 92% support for election transparency in the Zogby poll. The contrast between the two sides now could not be clearer. The question of the moment is whether and to what extent the 92% can discover its own supermajority status, or to what extent they continue to be deceived, deluded and distracted by illusions of their own powerlessness."


Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America's worst places to cast a ballot (or try)

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Machines that count backward, slice-and-dice districts, felon baiting, phone jamming, and plenty of dirty tricks.
By Sasha Abramsky / Mother Jones / September 1, 2006
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We used to think the voting system was something like the traffic laws -- a set of rules clear to everyone, enforced everywhere, with penalties for transgressions; we used to think, in other words, that we had a national election system. How wrong a notion this was has become painfully apparent since 2000: As it turns out, except for a rudimentary federal framework (which determines the voting age, channels money to states and counties, and enforces protections for minorities and the disabled), U.S. elections are shaped by a dizzying mélange of inconsistently enforced laws, conflicting court rulings, local traditions, various technology choices, and partisan trickery. In some places voters still fill in paper ballots or pull the levers of vintage machines; elsewhere, they touch screens or tap keys, with or without paper trails. Some states encourage voter registration; others go out of their way to limit it. Some allow prisoners to vote; others permanently bar ex-felons, no matter how long they've stayed clean. Who can vote, where people cast ballots, and how and whether their votes are counted all depends, to a large extent, on policies set in place by secretaries of state and county elections supervisors -- officials who can be as partisan, as dubiously qualified, and as nakedly ambitious as people anywhere else in politics. Here is a list -- partial, but emblematic -- of American democracy's more glaring weak spots. (Illustration By: Harry Campbell)

Why we keep getting close elections

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This interesting post came through another list. What do you think? Another result of manipulated close elections is that it makes the losers ( who have been mostly Dems lately ) want to keep supporting the system because they'll "win next time"!

[One man's observations about vote-fraud strategy. Forwarded from a
peace listserve in Chicago]

From: neighborsforpeace [at] yahoogroups.com
Subject: Close elections world-wide: a preliminary, semi-mathematical theory

It hasn't been remarked, but it is remarkable. World-wide, and most recently in Mexico, elections have been improbably close, and this phenomenon began with the 2000 US election.

McPherson Forces Use of Hackable, Expensive, Poor Performing DRE's: Denies Certification for Low-Tech, Versatile, Secure VotePAD

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During the test, participants were not allowed to vote independently on the Vote-PAD, but were instead subjected to an artificial voting environment where they were frequently interrupted by staff during the voting process. From this critically flawed testing, the Secretary concluded that they would not be able to vote independently.


"Off with Their Heads!" cried the Queen of Hearts

"How am I to get in?" asked Alice again, in a louder tone.
"Are you to get in at all?" said the Footman. "That's the first question, you know."

It was a Queen of Hearts sort of a day in California on August 9, 2006. The Secretary of State's advisory panel was hearing public comments regarding the pending certification of the Vote-PAD, a non-electronic assistive device designed to help voters with disabilities mark and verify a paper ballot independently.

Voting integrity advocates held signs supporting the certification of Vote-PAD. They told of countless failures of computerized voting systems. They spoke about recent discoveries of easily hackable "back doors" into the vote totals on those systems, which have been certified. By contrast, "Vote-PAD is no more hackable than a #2 pencil," said one.

Notwithstanding this and the letters praising the Vote-PAD from dozens of people with visual and motor disabilities, the Secretary of State's staff was recommending against certifying the Vote-PAD for use in California.

The Queen started by describing the testing process, "We asked them to vote independently on the Vote-PAD, and we told them exactly what to do the entire time."

"Excuse me," said Alice, "but how is that independent?"

"That's not the point," said the Queen. "The point is that they weren't able to vote independently."

"But you didn't let them," objected Alice.

"Don't be impertinent," said the King.

"Yes!" murmured the jury.

"Let's be clear on one thing," spoke the Queen. "When disabled people tried to vote on the Vote-PAD, their error rate was unacceptably high and they took an excessively long time."

"Compared to what?" asked one of the jurors.

"Nothing," said the Queen. "Nothing at all. We have no standards."

We Need an Exit Strategy

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An Exit Strategy for Electronic Voting
by Bruce O'Dell / August 24, 2006
Go to original. http://www.opednews.com

Even though there are fundamental technical considerations which should rule out use of electronic vote tallying technology, some of my Information Technology colleagues are still trying hard to salvage it (see, for example, the web site of the research group called ACCURATE).

When it comes to electronic voting technology, we do not need a better mousetrap – we need an exit strategy. I've done my best to explain why, in detail, elsewhere – but the main points bear repeating.

Voting systems are national defense systems (!) deserving the highest level of protection. Undetected compromise of our nation's voting systems is equivalent to our being invaded and occupied by a foreign power, since the American people lose control of their lives and destinies in either case - except that "coup by covert election manipulation" occurs under the reassuring guise of business as usual. I am ashamed that my profession has enabled voting systems to be deployed with mechanisms inadequate to protect mere financial transactions - much less, to safeguard the foundation of our national sovereignty.

Voting is inherently hard to protect. All the conventional techniques for electronic auditing of transactions rely on strong proofs of identity and complete transparency. We can conduct electronic financial transactions well enough that embezzlement is the exception and not the rule because all counterparties to a financial transaction are required to provide strong, legal proof of identity to the others, all parties to electronic financial transactions are strongly motivated to verify accuracy of results, and the laws regulating resolution of financial disputes are mature. None of these conditions apply to voting. Voting is private and anonymous. You cannot provide a voter with a record of her transaction sufficient to prove how she voted after the fact (or you enable sale of votes, coercion and a host of other problems...). But if you do not provide such an unambiguous receipt, all that electronic vote-auditing protocols can do is simply enshrine a computer's assertion that it recorded your touch on a screen or your mark on an optical scan ballot as you intended. Any program that generates an electronic audit trail - no mater how complex - can easily be programmed to consistently lie about what truly happened when your choice was presented to the machine for tallying. Electronic auditing of electronic vote tallying simply shifts the issue of trust from one suspect set of software to another.

Can we ensure that machines count our votes as cast?
Our only recourse to ensure correct electronic tallying is to generate an anonymous non-volatile receipt of the voter's choices, verified by the voter, retained by electoral authorities, and always audited - by hand - after the fact. And even this approach has limitations; for VVPATs (Voter-verified paper audit trails) there is ample evidence that many people do not actually "verify" their "PAT". Optical scan ballots are a much more desirable paper record.

OK - if we always have to audit the electronic tally, how should we do it? The conventional approach is to have election insiders audit 100% of the vote in a few percent of the precincts, days or weeks after the election, in private beyond public view. If, of course, there are any paper ballot records to audit. But as reported irregularities in Ohio in 2004 reveal, this approach is both inaccurate and highly vulnerable to gaming. In response, Jonathan Simon, Steven Freeman, Josh Mitteldorf and I have just published a paper that recommends nothing less than a 10% in-precinct hand count of all paper ballot records to be done by the public and on election night, everywhere we allow electronic tallying. This will provide 99% certainty of detecting errors or deliberate manipulation, regardless of their source, that affect 1% or more of the official electronic tally. Nothing less will provide the indisputable statistical rationale to enable candidates to actually dispute a tainted election in a toxic political environment like the one we find ourselves mired in at the moment.

Speaker of the House Nullified San Diego Congressional Race

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Democracy Nullified:
Bilbray Attorneys Claim Election Law and Votes Mean Nothing if Congress "Says So"

Original SCOOP article This article may be used in whole or in part with attribution to the author and a link to "Scoop" Independent Media. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/)
PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY

Paul Lehto: "Defendants are in effect arguing for the remarkable proposition that unilateral self-serving actions by a majority party in the House of Representatives to shuttle in a member of the same party can be effective, even if those actions do violence to and amount to circumvention of other sections of the US Constitution as well as the California constitution. See Court Pleading here.
Mark Crispin Miller: So now we have Dennis Hastert nullifying the election in San Diego by swearing in Republican Brian Bilbray 17 DAYS BEFORE the San Diego election was certified. The San Diego Registrar uses that as his defense against a lousy election with voting machines going home with poll workers and thousands of ballots assigned to random precincts. To top it off, a lawyer on Bob Ney's Committee (the Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio 2004 fame) writes the Judge in San Diego deciding the case directly. Not good form, especially when he delayed delivery of the letter to plaintiff's attorneys (the citizens suing for the rotten election). Please get this out as soon as you can. It's a "rigged game."

Speaker of the House Nullified San Diego Congressional Race
By Michael Collins / August 25, 2006
"Scoop" Independent Media / Washington, DC

It appears the US media overlooked one of the great political stories of the year. In what is becoming something of a pattern, here's a brief chronology:

On June 6, 2006 Republican Brian Bilbray allegedly slightly outpolled Democrat Francine Busby in the special election for California's 50th Congressional District, despite Busby's lead in the polls going into the election. There were immediate cries of foul following the election due to major irregularities, including electronic voting machines sent out to the homes and cars of volunteers for up to 12 days prior to the election, and irregular election results like huge mega-precincts of absentee ballots where turnout was thousands of percent more than registered voters.

On June 13, 2006, Bilbray flew to Washington, DC and was sworn in as a member of the United States House of Representatives by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

On or about June 30, 2006, 17 days after Bilbray was sworn in as a member of the House, Mikel Haas, Registrar of San Diego County, officially completed the audit of election results required for certification, and officially certified the election of Bilbray over Busby based on 163,931 votes cast, of which 2,053 votes were said to be cast on Diebold TSX touchscreens, and the remainder scanned via Diebold Accuvote OS computers.

On July 31, 2006, the Contestants filed an election contest, seeking a hand recount and to invalidate the election on several grounds, not only including the affirmative evidence of irregular results, but also including the stonewalling of citizen information requests and the pricing of recounts at an estimated $150,000 that made it difficult or impossible for any citizen to tell who won the election.

On August 22, 2006 the defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the swearing in of Bilbray deprives everyone else of jurisdiction including specifically the San Diego Superior Court because Art. I, sec. 5 of the US Constitution has been held to mean that the House and Senate are the judges of the Qualifications of their Members, one of those qualifications is supposed to be "election."

There is some thing very wrong with this sequence. Elections are not complete, anywhere, until they are officially certified by local authorities. How can a citizen get sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives before his or her election is certified? Only Speaker Dennis Hastert, his team, and Bilbray have the answer.

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