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Manual Hand Count Requested in Busby/Bilbray Race!

Manual Hand Count Requested in Busby/Bilbray Race!
Registrar Quotes Fees for Count as High as $130,000!

BradBlog.com via Truthout.org
Friday 07 July 2006

A 'Buck a Vote' for hand count of paper ballots, trails in US house election which used uncertified voting machines ... fees far exceed those charged by other counties.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a "Manual Hand Count Request under the Election Recount Provision" was filed at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office by by CA-50 voter Barbara Gail Jacobson. The request is for a full manual hand count of all paper ballots and paper trails in the recent June 6th Busby/Bilbray special U.S. House election in which programmed, election-ready Diebold voting machines were sent home with poll workers for days prior to the election in apparent violation of new laws and provisions by both state and federal authorities.

As California state election code requires that a candidate be named on whose behalf such hand count requests are filed, Jacobson named Republican Brian Bilbray in her filing. Bilbray is the candidate who was announced as the winner in the race by SD County Registrar Mikel Haas.

Jacobson's manual hand count request, as filed, is posted in full here.

The breaches in security for the exceedingly hackable Diebold voting machines and the subsequent decertified use of such systems in the important "bellwether" election have prompted a number of Election Integrity organizations to declare "No Confidence" in the results of the election as reported by Registrar Haas. Haas himself has even admitted that storage of such machines in poll workers' cars cannot be considered secure as required by state and federal law.

The fees estimated for the count, to be paid by the requester, have currently been set at an estimated $110,000 to $130,000 by the Registrars office. That amount, nearly a dollar per vote, is far in excess of similar counting fees charged by other County Registrars in California.

Jacobson states in her hand count filing that she "submit[s] this request in the hope that ALL candidates and ALL voters in the United States of America, in the State of California, in the County of San Diego, and in the state's 50th U.S. Congressional District, may have confidence in the accuracy of the election returns as announced by the San Diego Country Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas."

Nonetheless, Jacobson stated the request was "being filed on behalf of candidate Brian Bilbray," in accordance with state election law:

"The rule of law is important," wrote Jacobson, "I'm happy to follow that rule of law and hope that the San Diego County Registrar will now show an interest in same ... for the good of our nation."

The filing includes a request for number of detailed items - including chain of custody logs for voting machines and the ballots themselves - said to be needed before such a count can begin in order to ensure the integrity of that count.

In the meantime, the registrar's office has answered an inquiry into fees that may be charged for such a manual hand count of all paper ballots and paper trails to be as high as $130,000 or the equivalent of $6000 per day.

"Based on previous experience," wrote Tim McNamara, SD County's Assistant Registrar of Voters in reply to a recent emailed request for the costs of such a count, "the estimated cost of recounting ballots cast in this election using, for example, four counting boards would be in the range of $110,000 to $130,000 and would take approximately 24 to 30 working days. It assumes that the four boards in the example, working six hours a day, could hand tally 1,500 ballots each."

Election integrity advocate Linda Bagneschi Dorrance explained to The BRAD BLOG that estimates for a manual hand count in San Diego are nearly twice the cost for similar requests elsewhere in the state. Apparently California law allows elections officials to set just about any price they wish.

"The estimates ... equate to about $1,083 per day per recount board," Dorrance explained to us. "We just succeeded in reducing Marin County's cost to I believe $500 per recount board per day. Still expensive, but about half the San Diego cost."

While Haas seems prepared to charge nearly $1 per vote to manually hand count them, The BRAD BLOG has learned that other counties around California have charged as little as $0.14 per vote for a similar hand count.

Election protection organization VelvetRevolution.us has begun to collect donations for the legal fees associated with fighting for accountability in the Busby/Bilbray election until such time as advocates on the ground in San Diego have created a legal fund for this purpose. (DISCLOSURE: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR.)

Recent reports from various organizations and media sources have lauded the state of California for requiring paper ballots and paper trails by law for all votes cast. As well, California's mandated 1% manual random audit law has similarly been recognized as an important safeguard for elections held in this state along with a liberal "recount" provision allowing any affected voter to file for such a hand count when needed.

However, what isn't as well reported is the fact that there is no actual legal remedy if a variance from the official results are found during 1% hand audits. The audit may reveal the official count to be off by any percentage and there are no legal requirements or clear rules concerning what happens in such an event. So far, The BRAD BLOG has been unable to obtain information on the 1% manual audit in the Busby/Bilbray election.

As to the costs for hand counts requested under the recount provisions in state law, it seems that election registrars are free to charge virtually anything they like for such counts. No uniform state standards for such fees seem to exist, which means the prices set for such counts may be set near-randomly - and even prohibitively - by elections officials. Such oversights in the law, of course, make accountability in such cases as this, where both state and federal election laws were clearly violated, very difficult to achieve.

A few of the opening paragraphs of the manual hand count request as filed Wednesday by Barbara Gail Jacobson follow below. The entire three page request can be read in full here...

Honorable Mikel Haas
SD County Registrar of Voters
5201 Ruffin Road, Suite I
San Diego, CA 92123Via Facsimile Transmittal
(858) 694-2955
and Hand Delivery July 5, 2006

Re: Manual Hand Count Request under the Election Recount Provision,
Run-Off Election for US Representative, 50th District of California

Dear Mr. Haas:

I am a registered voter in San Diego County, residing in the 50th Congressional District of the State of California. Pursuant to Elections Code section 15620, I hereby request a manual hand count of all of the votes cast in the June 6, 2006, special U.S. House Election in California's 50th Congressional District.

I submit this request in the hope that ALL candidates and ALL voters in the United States of America, in the State of California, in the County of San Diego, and in the state's 50th U.S. Congressional District, may have confidence in the accuracy of the election returns as announced by the San Diego Country Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas.

This was the first federal race to be run on the very electronic voting machines found in the last twelve months to demonstrate unprecedented security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities have forced both state and federal authorities to impose unprecedented security mitigation requirements.

There were widespread and profound breaches of security allowed in the administration of this election. Mr. Haas permitted the systems to be sent home unsecured with poll workers for days and weeks prior to the election. Because of the multiplicity of ways to tamper with votes, and Mr. Haas's consequent ignoring of the vulnerabilities and security mitigation requirements, both state and federal certification of the machines were invalidated and rendered null.

Given the importance of both confidence in, and the integrity of, our American electoral system, I am taking these actions for the good of our nation.

As the California Election Code requires that I name a specific candidate in the race on whose behalf this request is filed, I designate this request as being filed on behalf of candidate Brian Bilbray. The rule of law is important. I'm happy to follow that rule of law and hope that the San Diego County Registrar will now show an interest in same ... for the good of our nation.

ENDS

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