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National Summit to Save Our (US) Elections – Day 1

The National Summit to Save Our Elections Convenes in Portland, Oregon


Report By DU & PI Poster autorank
On special assignment for
"Scoop" at the conference

Day 1: A Clear Outline and Rationale for the Ongoing Voting Rights Movement
CLICK HERE FOR Days 2 & 3:
- The Ghost You’ll Never See in the Machine (“electronic voting”);
- Outsourcing Elections to Corporate America;
- Methods of Monitoring Elections;
- plus State and Community Level Action.

In this report:
Activist Attorney Paul Lehto Makes a Strong Case
VotersUnite.Org's Theisen Explains How Citizens have "Outsourced" the Voting and Tabulation Process to Corporations
A Huge Opportunity in New Mexico and Three Weeks to Raise the Money
Green Presidential Candidate and Litigant in Ohio 2004 Suit Presents
Media Participation
Other Presentations (Marybeth Kuznik, Rady Ananda, Blair Bobier, Penny Little, Kat L'Estrange, Warren Linney & Steve Chessin)

Portland, OR. 9/30/05: The National Summit to Save our Elections is the logical follow up in a process begun at the Nashville Conference on Election Reform in April of this year. Organized by activist Bernie Sanders, that meeting featured Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, among others. The emphasis was on blatant fraud discovered in the 2004 Presidential Election. Journalist Bob Koehler said, "I had a rebirth in outrage" as a result of attending that event.

Largely a reaction to the irregularities in 2004 Presidential elections, the voting rights movement has matured significantly in the five months since Nashville. The current meeting agenda looks more like a professional or trade association meeting than a political function. The messages are offered with conviction and passion yet the approach seems to be addressing consistent themes based on extensive research. These themes appeared in every presentation on the first day of the conference. The Summit is sponsored/ organized by the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition (www.oregonvrc.org ), the Alliance for Democracy-Portland (www.afd-pdx.org ). Democracy of Oregon provided additional support. The Summit web site can be found at. www.summit.oregonvrc.org .

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Activist Attorney Paul Lehto Makes a Strong Case

The initial day's activities centered three key themes: the political rationale behind the voting rights-election-fraud movement; the technical rationale; and getting the message out through available media. Activist and attorney Paul Lehto of Snohomish County Washington framed the core rationale for those challenging the legitimacy of the 2004 election and seeking solutions to prevent future electoral travesties.

Lehto is currently suing Sequoia voting systems as a result of clear failures to produce an accurate vote count during the 2004 presidential election. He outlined a simple syllogism: the software used by voting machine companies to capture votes on electronic voting machines is "proprietary" software developed and owned by the companies; these companies keep the software and methods a trade secret; therefore, the results of our elections can no longer be trusted or accepted as legitimate since we have no way to review software, performance, and security guarantees.

"Whenever there is electronic vote counting, there is no basis for confidence in the results of elections. You have no right to believe in those elections." - Paul Lehto, Attorney.

The presentation was powerful and well received by the audience.

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VotersUnite.Org's Theisen Explains How Citizens have "Outsourced" the Voting and Tabulation Process to Corporations

Ellen Theisen, Executive Director of www.VotersUnited.Org provided the second half of the rationale for the voting rights movement. A technical writer in the software industry for 20years, Theisen now devotes her full time efforts to the cause of free and fair elections. She noted that in most districts using electronic voting, vendors install, maintain, and repair voting machines and software. The vendors also reconcile errors.

In one instance cited, a district in New Mexico's 2004 Presidential Election had inconsistent data on votes. The vendor for that district removed the memory card, took it to company headquarters outside the state, and the elections results were essentially recreated. All of these technical functions were and continue to be handled, for the most part, by private vendors, usually from one of three major firms: Diebold, ESS, and Sequoia.

County election officials employed by the board lack the sophistication to handle any of the technical aspects of the vote process, and have ceded effective control of the voting, reporting, and tabulation process to private vendors. None of the major vendors allow any inspection of software or hardware using the argument that the equipment and software are "proprietary" to the company and not for outside review.

Theisen reviewed the problems arising out of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA was quickly moved through both houses of Congress and signed into law in 2002.

The law has been interpreted by some - either through intent or lack of understanding - to favor a rapid conversion from paper ballots, punch cards, and lever voting machines to electronic optical scanning machines and DRE's [Direct Recording Electronic], sophisticated voting machines that provide touch screen voting, vote totaling, and reporting through self contained hardware-software system.

Theisen pointed out factual misstatement by vendors and county Boards of Elections (boards) used to justify conversion from paper to electronic voting.

Boards and vendors argue that HAVA requires dropping punch cards. Theisen argued the opposite, that punch cards are acceptable under HAVA given certain safeguards.

Boards and vendors argue that HAVA requires electronic tabulation of votes cast. Theisen countered that hand counts can be justified under HAVA.

A glaring contradiction arose with regard to cost. Some boards and the parent county governments seem to think that HAVA funds, generous at the equipment purchasing phase of electronic conversion, are a source of permanent support. This is not the case. Maintenance, upgrades, supplies, and other support costs are all carried by the county as time goes on. The costs can be considerable and have gone unnoticed.

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A Huge Opportunity in New Mexico and Three Weeks to Raise the Money

Voter Action Co Director Holy Jacobson brought the summit up to date on a critical legal action in New Mexico. The scene of clear wide spread election problems, Jacobson discussed the suit brought in behalf of eight citizens of New Mexico, each of whom "wishes to have their vote properly counted and weighted in any forth coming elections" (from plaintiffs filing).

Initial research and depositions have revealed significant and wide spread problems with "under votes" for president. There were 24,000 of these, predominantly from Hispanic and Native American voters, more than enough to change the result of the presidential election.

Jacobson described this case as the very best opportunity the voting rights movement has to expose problems with equipment, the conduct of elections by states and counties, and other barriers to free and fair elections.

So far, lead attorney Lowell Finley of Berkley, CA (one of the few attorneys to litigate successfully against a voting machine manufacturer) and his legal team have uncovered significant findings in depositions. A voting machine vendor admitted under oath that machines used throughout the state erased presidential votes unintentionally. The state of New Mexico seems incapable of conducting a reliable post-election canvass failing to detect clear errors found by Voter Action attorneys and consultants.

Voter Action (www.voteraction.org) has only three weeks to raise approximately $250 thousand to complete depositions. Sworn depositions could include demands to review vendor hardware and software, examination of the state-county-vendor relationships and any problems created, and significant statistical inconsistencies that make "under votes" many more times likely in predominantly minority precincts.


Protester in DC, 1/6/05

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Green Presidential Candidate and Litigant in Ohio 2004 Suit Presents

Presidential Candidate David Cobb offered guide lines to thinking nationally and acting locally. Cobb remains as committed as ever to the challenge of the Ohio 2004 Presidential Election (http://www.gp.org).

A key figure in that challenge, Cobb and Libertarian candidate Bednarik stood up and cried foul as a result of the numerous acts of what Rep. John Conyers, D, MI called blatant procedures designed to suppress minority voting in Ohio and numerous irregularities all over the state including the exclusion of vote tabulation witnesses due to a non existent "terrorist" alert in Warren County (denied categorically by the FBI) and various registration and vote total irregularities at the precinct and county level criticized by eminent statisticians.


Cobb interviewed at 1/6/05 Rally and March in DC

Cobb has focused recent attention on a local model for voting rights and election integrity in Eureka, California; a mid sized moderate to conservative Northern California coastal community.

His goal is to pass an ordinance that would bar local candidate contributions from corporations from outside the area. He cited two local elections where candidates opposed by major national corporations, a huge retailer in one instance, were forced to compete against opponents benefiting from contributions in the $300-$400 thousand range.

The goal for Eureka and, with this serving as a model, all communities, is to take corporations out of local elections through the elimination of non local political contributions. Cobb says the effort is well received and gaining support from all factions in the community.

Cobb noted that in 1996 the Green party existed in 10 states with 5 state "ballot lines" (candidates qualified for ballot listings). Today, that has grown to representation in 44 states with 23 ballot lines. As a result of this growth, the Green Party strongly favors "instant runoffs" allowing voters to make a first and second choice. Oregon legal advocate for campaign finance reform says the current system "forces most voters to vote against the candidates they hate the most rather than for the candidates they like," an unacceptable state of affairs.

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Media Participation

Brad Friedman (www.BradBlog.com) chaired the two major panels on day one. Friedman, through his BradBlog media organization, also broadcast his show live from the event in between speaking duties. Friedman interviewed Clinton Curtis about his role in exposing election fraud in Florida.

The normally restrained Curtis, a senior software developer, and Friedman provided an engaging question & answer session during which Curtis described his solicitation to develop "vote flipping" software by major political and corporate figures for use in South Florida and elsewhere.

Curtis pointed out that despite his political stance as an unapologetic Republican, he was highly offended when he realized that his software would be used to commit, rather than catch election fraud.

Friedman also interviewed Tribune Media Services syndicated columnist Bob Koehler (www.bobkoehleronline.com). Koehler opened by saying "I feel like I'm in a room full of heroes." He talked his reaction to the lines and other highly irregular events in Ohio, including thousands citizens standing for hours in the rain waiting patiently to vote.

His, "despair and denial about the 2004 election, 2000 as well" was turned to action by Rep. John Conyers, D, MI: "I read the Conyers Report and that's what got me going," in his case to the first national voting rights and elections conference in Nashville, TN.

From that point on Koehler has addressed voting rights and election fraud in a number of highly acclaimed columns. Friedman noted that "Citizens in the Rain," widely circulated on the internet, was actually withheld from publication. Despite this, Koehler had high praise for Tribune Media Services and they support that they have provided him.

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Other Presentations

Marybeth Kuznik is a poll worker from the Pittsburgh, PA metropolitan area and proud of it. Kuznik told the conference that there are 1.4 million poll workers in the 2004 election. This is about .5 million poll workers short of what the country needs to conduct effective elections. Poll workers are the people who greet you, record your presence in the ballot book of qualified registrants, and help you vote.

She argued that those with a sense of outrage resulting from questionable elections can do something to change things by volunteering as poll workers. Volusia County Florida, the scene of several major election fiascos, is actively advertising for poll workers.

She's also part of the "election integrity" movement and active nationally through www.votePA.us, a resource for election activists across the country. The twin goals of professional poll worker standards and election integrity are highly compatible since her allegiance is to the integrity of the vote rather than one candidate.

She noted that poll workers play a central role in the election process as the first and last person the voter sees on Election Day. Poll workers can also contribute to election integrity by reporting results to independent watch dog groups like the ElectionArchive.Org, a non partisan organization operated by USCountsVotes.Org, a non partisan scientific organization structured to capture, validate, and help election officials and candidates.

Ohio election activist Rady Ananda discussed what it means to work for voting rights and clean elections. She noted that voting rights activists need to find the right message and medium, and carefully select and aggressively spread the truth about election problems and necessary reform. In doing so they need to bring a sense of "marketing" to the exercise of public persuasion.

Green Party Media Director, Blair Bobier, a key player in the Green's challenge in Ohio presented with film maker Penny Little, producer and director of "Electile Dysfunction," a seminal media piece on the 2004 election. Bobier described how the 2004 Ohio election and challenge helped create "an unprecedented grassroots effort" which has become highly inventive in using internet forums and blogs, email distribution lists, and alternative media to "get the message out." Little discussed her own work and the growing cooperation between various media artists and producers working in the voting rights movements. She said that this trend of cross reference and promotion would spread the word much quicker than a narrowly focused auteur approach.

Kat L'Estrange and Warren Linney provided a narrative of their entry into the voting rights movement. L'Estrange described her self as "first waver." She was stunned and then highly motivated by the events surrounding the events which denied popular vote winner Al Gore the presidency.

The process of growing a tiny movement into one that is now viable and ready to take off has been both rewarding and difficult. She said that she and other "first wavers" welcomed the new members of the voting rights effort. Co-presenter Linney is part of the much larger "second wave" which has provided both numbers and increased energy to the growing movement to ensure voting rights and fight election fraud.

Steve Chessin, President of Californians for Electoral Reform, offered a sophisticated presentation on alternatives to the two party "winner-take-all" systems presently in place. There was a thorough discussion of instant run off voting (IRV), proportional representation (PR) and "first past the post (FPTP) were all discussed and analyzed. Chessin argued that instant runoff voting (IRV), allowing a first and second choice, would, he argued, remove the word "spoiler" from the vocabulary of American politics.

Day one of the Summit to Save Our Elections offered a substantial array of information, strategies, and action opportunities to the several hundred motivated attendees.

(coverage continuing…)

ENDS

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