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National Summit to Save US Elections – Days 2-3

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


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

See also earlier reports from autorank…
National Summit to Save Our (US) Elections – Day 1 & Cobb Will Not Run for 2008 Presidential Nomination

Topics Covered:
Corporate Ownership of Our Elections: New Dimensions in Outsourcing Elections.
Real Concerns about Outsourced Elections: The Vanishing (from public view) Votes.
“Think Patriotically, Act Locally”
Corporate Control of the Final Vote Count: Centralized Voter Registration Databases
David Cobb, Green Candidate for President Gives Keynote Speech.
Verifying Election Results Panel
The “Baker-Carter” Commission
The Voter Confidence Resolution

Portland, Oregon, USA. 10/3/05. The National Summit to Save Our Elections continued today with an array of presenters who addressed concerns vital to voting rights and election integrity. The themes of day two and the final half day session focused on the potential and likelihood of election fraud, new methods of monitoring for fraud, effective techniques to insure election integrity. The event is sponsored and organized by the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition (www.oregonvrc.org ) and the Alliance for Democracy-Portland (www.afd-pdx.org ). Democracy of Oregon is a supporting organization The Summit website is located at www.summit.oregonvrc.org .

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“Corporate Ownership of Our Elections:” New Dimensions in Outsourcing Elections.

Author and Air America Radio host Thom Hartmann chaired a panel on corporate ownership of our elections. http://www.thomhartmann.com .He noted that 30% of the vote in 2004 was cast on voting machines operated by private sector vendors (with much higher percentage tabulated with private sector vendor software). Hartmann pointed out that the highly partisan political agenda of the major vendors is clearly right of center and tied to Republican issues and interests. Complete vendor control of the electronic voting process begins once the scantron is marked, the touch screen touched, or the button pressed. They deny any access to software and hardware by elections officials and others outside the employ of the vendors. Hartmann concludes that this is a threat to our democracy. Under these circumstances, with elections outsourced, it is impossible to do a meaningful recount, let alone understand the integrity of the process.

Hartmann has lectured and written extensively on the dominance of corporations in our political process and society. He was also one of the first major media figures to take up the issues of potential abuse of voting machines and election fraud in 2002. Hartmann also wrote an historic column on November 4, 2004, “The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy.” The opening line defined the central concern of since the 2004 Presidential Election: “The hot story in the Blogsphere is that the erroneous exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among other states) weren't erroneous at all - it was the numbers produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and Kerry actually won.” This article was one of the earliest and boldest steps in the effort to understand if and how Election 2004 was stolen.

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Corporate Control of the Final Vote Count: Centralized Voter Registration Databases

Matthew Pascarella offered a clear reason for concern about the imminent privatization of state-wide centralized voter registration databases. Section 303 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA),, requires that states complete this process within the next three months. These databases will be the gateway to voting and the fences that keep people from the polls. Given the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida where (there were 2 lists in FL 2000 purge the first one was of 57,000(TK) and the other, more complete one that came up from the court case had over 90,000 individuals listed) 50,000 voters were disenfranchised due to state computerization activities; there is real cause for concern. Pascarella is a researcher, writer, and producer for Greg Palast. Greg Palast broke the major story on the Florida “felon purge” which removed over 57,000 Floridians from the voting rolls before the 2000 elections.

State governments are seeking private vendors to design, manage, network, and maintain these centralized voter registration databases. Companies including Diebold, Quest, Unisys and Accenture are gaining major contracts and competing for more by promising individual states that their company will bring them into federal compliance. Pascarella’s research has shown states are entering into contracts that shed corporate liability. Often, companies cannot be held responsible for delays, cost overruns, and failing to meet federal requirements.

Accenture currently has four contracts for centralized registration databases. This is of real concern based on their performance for the state of Florida in 2004. Accenture received a $2 million contract to create a state-wide voter registration list that was to serve as the basis for a new purge of felons from Florida’s voting rolls. Pascarella and his team of researchers obtained the Accenture list from a source and began examining it. They quickly noticed that less than ½ of one percent of the names were of Hispanic origin. Given the substantial Hispanic population in Florida, this seemed both odd and perhaps intentional. After all, Hispanics represent about 20% of Florida’s population and they are very active in local, state and national politics. They also vote in large numbers. Despite this huge mistake managing the 2004 purge list in Florida, Accenture continues to consult the state of Florida on the development of its centralized voter registration database.

Of greater concern is the fact that four additional states have contracts with Accenture. These include Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Four of the five (including Florida) Accenture states have Republican governors responsible for the buy decision for centralized voter registration database services. According to Pascarella, there have been “glitches” and other problems every state but Wyoming where Accenture has yet to begin work.


Matthew Pascarella of GregPalast.com and activist
Kat L’Estrange discuss the extended day at the conference.

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Real Concerns about Outsourced Elections: The Vanishing (from public view) Votes.

Kip Humphrey’s presentation, “Digital Voting Systems” looked very much like a polished performance before a demanding Fortune 500 Chief Information Officer. Humphrey, with the help of whistle blower Clint Curtis, had comprehensive overheads, charts and diagrams, and provided demonstrations in the fashion of a skilled IT consultant. The subject matter and the audience reaction was another thing entirely. Humphrey is an IT consultant with a passion for election reform. This led him to organize the Election Assessment Hearing, an event that ran parallel to the Carter-Baker Commission meeting in Houston, TX. The EAH collected and presented evidence of major irregularities in the 2004 election. It continues to gather evidence and educate the public and government officials on the needs for free and fair elections. The report can be found at www.ElectionAssessment.org

Humphrey described the new world of electronic voting where ballots are passed directly from the voter to software and hardware systems that are entirely in control of the voting system’s vendors (e.g., Diebold). Once ballots are cast by voters, they are truly hidden ballots; they disappear into “proprietary” voting systems under the total control of the vendors. As such, their integrity is lost and the integrity of our elections, when conducted electronically, is compromised. Humphrey pointed out some of the shortfalls of current electronic voting systems and software. These systems lack the following: antivirus software; antispyware software; data encryption; secure log ins; and trained personnel in the public sector to operate them. As if that were not sufficient to cause major concerns, he went on to point out that these systems are subject to malicious code, software used to change votes (“vote flipping”) or cause other disruptions. This presents fairly obvious but ignored security problems. Many electronic voting machines and vote tabulators (PC’s that count votes and provide election results) will be equipped with “wifi” (wide area wireless) access on their motherboards, a huge security risk under any circumstances.

Humphrey concluded by remarking, “If the general public comes to trust these systems, which are entirely corruptible, where are we then?”


Two generations of this new movement. Kip Humphrey (left), of the Election Assessment Hearing, attended the first national conference on election fraud and voting rights originated and organized by Bernie Ellis (right) of Tennessee.

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“Think Patriotically, Act Locally”

Bernie Ellis offered an excellent example of local action based on national concerns about the sanctity of the election process. Ellis played a key role in the new voting rights-election integrity movement by organizing the April, 2005 “Gathering to Save Our Democracy” in Nashville, TN. His presentation discussed the processes and benefits of taking bold stands on critical issues, regardless of public opinion. The April 2005 “Gathering” included the leaders in the resistance to election fraud: David Cobb, Green Vice Presidential candidate who initiated the challenge of the Ohio Presidential Election; Cliff Arnebeck, attorney for the Ohio court case; Bob Fitrakis, professor, author, and activist; Andy Stephenson, voting rights researcher and activist; Paul Lehto, attorney challenging the legitimacy of elections conducted without public oversight; Brad Friedman of BradBlog; Susan Truitt of CASE Ohio and America; and many others who remain active in the movement today.

Ellis recounted the process of organizing this event and also showed the results in Tennessee politics. Local participants in the conference and the awareness it raised have been instrumental in working with Ellis to successfully advance a voter verified paper ballot initiative in Tennessee, the subject of two bills introduced to the legislature.

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David Cobb, Green Candidate for President and Litigant in the Lawsuit Challenging the Ohio Election Gives Keynote Speech.

David Cobb likes to remind people that much of our progressive legislation originated with third parties/alternative parties. This list includes: the abolition of slavery; the right of women to vote; Social Security; laws against child labor; the direct election of U.S. Senators; and unemployment and workers compensation insurance. Due to Cobb’s challenge to the Ohio 2004 election results, a new item may be added to the list: laws against election fraud and affirming election integrity. Cobb faced a critical juncture after the Ohio election. Evidence of massive irregularities and probable fraud was abundant. Cobb could have gone home and concentrated on Green Party issues, his career, and personal interests. Instead he chose to form an alliance with the Libertarian Party and initiate a challenge of the Ohio results. This has not been an easy process, although you would never guess that from the energy and commitment Cobb displays in speeches and personal interactions. Yet, he is one of a very few who have opened the most recent historical chapter in voting rights. Absent the ability to vote without barriers and the ability to be assured that your vote will be counted fairly, citizen confidence in elections and elected officials and their policies may very well collapse. The low voter turnout in American elections may be explained, in part, by a substantial lack of confidence generated over time. Now, the other half of the electorate is in the balance.

In his keynote address, Cobb outlined a number of proposals to reform American politics. His main theme was access to the political debate. The two party system, never outlined in any laws, is a de facto club that seems to exclude all others. The main means of exclusion is the winner-take-all process of American elections. If you have a particular issue or strong viewpoint, voting for a third party is often seen as futile in advancing your needs. Cobb’s solution is instant runoff voting. Voters would be able to select two or more preferences for a position. For example, in 2000, Florida voters could have picked Ralph Nader as their first choice and Gore as the second. This would have allowed an expression of their first choice in political ideology, while preserving their pragmatic desire to advance the better of the two likely candidates to office. History would be much different today with instant runoff voting (IRV). By implementing this, voters would have the added benefit of a more robust political debate. Cobb then argued that the Greens and Libertarians should be in the political debates, another arbitrary exclusion without legal requirement. One could only wonder how Cobb and Libertarian Bednarik would have changed the debate in 2004.

Cobb had announced previously that he will not seek the Green candidacy in 2008 but would be willing to run with the right Green woman. He said this would demonstrate the Green Party commitment to gender equity.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0510/S00004.htm

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Verifying Election Results Panel

Thom Hartmann presented a brief but persuasive review of the use of exit polls in election monitoring. He reviewed the process begun in Serbia and successfully carried forward to the nations of Georgia, and the Ukraine. Voting rights activists formed a core group of election specialists who publicized the effort and tracked exit polls carefully. At the exact point of the final exit poll, a decision was made to immediately challenge the election if the poll indicated election fraud or stand down if the election seemed free and fair. Hartmann transitioned to the conduct of exit polls in the U.S. These had become increasingly more accurate until the 2004 election. The national exit polls showed a Kerry victory (until the very last national poll was adjusted and coincided with the actual results). The state exit polls, conducted by the same poll takers, were not adjusted and also showed a clear Kerry victory. Why didn’t Americans react the same way the Ukrainians did, Hartmann asked? His point was particularly telling since the margin of difference between Ukraine exit polls and US exits was only about 1%. The reaction by the voters was entirely different. The Ukraine had a revote and selected a different candidate for President.

Dr. Nancy Matella and Jerry Adams of the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition presented the results of a project to develop a quick, inexpensive, and reliable audit process for Oregon elections. http://oregonvrc.org They described the process of getting to know county and state elections officials and leaning the Oregon system from the ground up. The collaborative process paid off. Their three tiered proposal has been well received and is under consideration by state authorities. The audit begins 10 days after Election Day to allow provisional ballots to enter the count. Tiers 1 through 3 are designed with increasing statistical demands. The process can stop at Tier 1, if audit requirements are met or can go all the way to Tier 3, which if not satisfied would generate a 100% recount of all ballots cast in Oregon. The three tiered audit process would take place with each state wide election.

Judy Alter offered a description of her work with parallel elections. The novel concept, originated in Florida, involves local citizens setting up parallel voting outside selected local precincts. As voters leave the polling place, they are approached by a volunteer who asks them to participate in the parallel process. The voters mark a ballot, usually taking less than a minute, place it in the voting box, and then sign a list indicating that they voted. Aleter’s organization www.StudyCaliforniaBallots.org attracted national attention recently when they ran a parallel election for the San Diego mayoral contest. She plans to continue the parallel election process and provides a comprehensive outline of the monitoring model at her web site.


Brad Friedman gets the word out on the Carter-Baker Commission (or as he calls it, the “Baker-Carter” Commission).

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The “Baker-Carter” Commission

Friedman provided some interesting history about the origins of the commission. He discovered that an organization used to counter the Conyers investigation of Ohio voter suppression was created just three days before that group testified before a Republican controlled House committee. Headed by two Republican operatives, Mark F. Thorburn and Jim Dyke, the group called itself the American Center for Voting Rights. Shortly after the “Baker-Carter” Commission was announced, Friedman’s investigative work revealed that Mark F. Thorburn was on the commission’s advisory panel, a key policy making part of that effort. At that point, Friedman said he knew that “the fix was in from the get go.” Friedman went on to provide a critique of the recommendations and the lack of urgency the commission had for a severely compromised system. He reminded the gathering, “We are David. They are Goliath. But let me remind you that in the end, David won.”

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The Voter Confidence Resolution

GuvWurld (as David Berman is known) told one of the true success stories of the conference. He realized back in 2000 that “it really did not matter how the election played out, it wasn’t going reflect the will of the people.” His predictive skills proved correct. The 2000 election saw the loser of the popular vote elevated to the Presidency by the U.S. Supreme Court, stopping the recount in Florida. Proof of the value for his prediction was offered recently when the media group conducting a recount, as it would have occurred, showed that Gore would have been named the clear winner.

GuvWurld began a process in Arcata, CA that evolved over time. He developed an initial draft of the Voters Confidence Resolution (VCR) and began holding meetings at community centers. He then advanced the resolution to the Arcata city council, which passed it on July 21, 2005. http://www.guvwurld.org/ GuvWurld is working to see the VCR considered all across the country as an alternative to our outsourced elections.

The key action points of the resolution are as follows:

-- ***** --

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

Because inconclusive results, by definition, mean that the true outcome of an election cannot be known, there is no basis for confidence in the results reported from U.S. federal elections; and

Be it also resolved:

The following is a comprehensive election reform platform likely to ensure conclusive election results and create a basis for confidence in U.S. federal elections:
1) Voting processes owned and operated entirely in the public domain, and
2) Clean money laws to keep all corporate funds out of campaign financing, and
3) A voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast and additional uniform standards determined by a non-partisan nationally recognized commission, and
4) Declaring Election Day a national holiday, and
5) Counting all votes publicly and locally in the presence of citizen witnesses and credentialed members of the media, and
6) Equal time provisions to be restored by the media along with a measurable increase in local, public control of the airwaves, and
7) Presidential debates containing a minimum of three candidates, run by a non-partisan commission comprised of representatives of publicly owned media outlets, and
8) Preferential voting and proportional representation to replace the winner-take-all system for federal elections;

Be it further resolved:

When elections are conducted under conditions that prevent conclusive outcomes, the Consent of the Governed is not being sought. Absent this self-evident source of legitimacy, such Consent is not to be assumed or taken for granted.”

This resolution is basically a declaration of citizen rights through election integrity. The VCR will not merely satisfy citizens that any particular election was probably fair. It creates the conditions necessary for an electoral process that has the offers citizens the access and transparency they deserve..


-- ***** --

These and other presentations on the final two days of the conference represent a major step forward in the voting rights and election integrity movement for free and fair elections.

END


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