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Qui-Tam Lawsuit Filed Against Diebold For Fraud

BLACK BOX VOTING LAUNCHES FIRST PUBLICLY FUNDED CONSUMER PROTECTION ORGANIZATION FOR ELECTIONS


California lawsuit unsealed seeking restitution from Diebold for fraud - may fund Black Box Voting organization - There are no other groups fulfilling the role of consumer investigation in elections.
By Bev Harrisblackboxvoting.org


http://www.blackboxvoting.org
Read The Book…Support The Cause - Order Your Copy Today

Trust in our voting system is the element that keeps us from taking to the streets every time we disagree with something our government does. Perceived lack of integrity in the voting system can cause a whole country to quit cooperating, or lose interest in voting. It is only because our representatives were chosen by our own voice that we agree to abide by the laws they vote upon, on our behalf.

Black Box Voting, a new, nonpartisan, publically funded organization, was founded by investigative writer Bev Harris, who began investigations into election procedures in 2002, uncovering story after story with journalistic integrity by providing solid documentation for her discoveries. (14 stories broken by Harris: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/bev-harris.htm) Private donations provided start-up funds for Black Box Voting. Potential funding may come from a lawsuit filed against Diebold Election Systems in California. Unsealed on July 9, 2004, it will, if successful, provide additional funding for the organization.

"Qui Tam" is a term for a whistleblower suit seeking to recover government funds spent based on fraudulent claims. The Qui Tam suit filed by Bev Harris and Jim March seeks to recover funds for the state of California from Diebold Election Systems. As part of the Qui Tam action, a bounty for the whistleblowers is paid, and Diebold will be asked to pay this to Harris and March as part of additional damages, which in turn will help fund Black Box Voting.

This case was originally filed back in November of 2003, and the existence of the case was held under seal by the courts while various government attorneys decided whether or not to "join in the case". When it became clear that the seal would still be intact through the California primaries (March 2nd), Harris, March and attorney Finley "split out" elements of the case that could be made public immediately in an attempt to improve the security of the primaries. That attempt via preliminary injunction failed, although those weaker case elements are still in play, but now the other shoe has dropped: the much stronger "financial fraud-based" elements of the case are now public.

The state and county attorneys are still officially undecided as to whether to join in or not. Should they do so, the plaintiffs and their attorney will split a 15% "bounty" on all funds recovered -- should Harris and March have to prosecute the entire matter without government legal assistance, the state and county will still get their money back but the "bounty" jumps to 30%.

Note that when fraud can be proven in a Qui Tam action under California state law, damages are subject to triple damage penalties. In Alameda County alone, this would cost Deibold $42 million, which would go towards restitution to the taxpayer.

As a result of this Qui Tam action, ALL California counties attempting to use Diebold's equipment now have the option of joining in the Qui Tam action and recieving up to triple their costs for the fraud committed against them. Taxpayers in any county trying to remain with Diebold while this option is now publicly on the table should be asking harsh questions of their local officials.

Harris opposed using Qui Tam suits in most cases for fraudulent claims against voting machines because Qui Tam generally requires keeping evidence secret from the public, under seal. The case against voting machines is time sensitive and evidence is critical to the public interest Harris and March attorney, Lowell Finley, found legal precedent in California showing that in cases of overriding public interst, Qui Tam succeeds without withholding information from the public. Both Harris and March insisted on and have continued activism for clean voting during the sealed phase of this particular case, bringing to light critically important information including locating and taking delcarations from Diebold technician James Dun, who was instructed by Diebold to install uncertified patches on machines for California and Kansas before the March 2 primary election, and locating criminal documents of convicted felons who had access to the Diebold system.

Harris and March were not inhibited one iota in continuing activism for clean voting or in continuing research on Diebold Harris and March's attorney, Lowell Finley, believes case law supports their position. In cases where a compelling public interest is served, precendence exists for allowing plaintiffs to recover Qui Tam claims without keeping evidence secret. Whether or not Harris and March prevail, the State of California is likely to recover funds spent on Diebold equipment as a result of fraudulent claims, claims in large part investigated and proven by Harris and March. If Harris and March prevail, they will apply a significant portion of the settlement to fund the Black Box Voting consumer protection group for elections Black Box Voting is the only organization focused on investigating local election procedure to find out what"™s going on and make the public aware of specific problems to improve electoral integrity.

All elections, even national elections, take place at the local level. The Federal Elections Commission consists of six people who set broad national policy guidelines but generally do not investigate specific, local complaints. The newly formed Election Assistance Commission (EAC) publishes policy guidelines and may help set standards but is not staffed or funded for investigation of local problems. The Carter Center monitors elections only in foreign countries.

Black Box Voting investigates elections in the real world, in the field. It has attracted thousands of citizen volunteers who will assist in monitoring elections and catching problems. Two full time staff investigators (Bev Harris and Associate Director Andy Stephenson) visit and interview local election officials, candidates, poll workers, national ITA certifiers, and the programmers who design the software used in today's election systems. Why do elections need an independent consumer organization?

Election procedures have changed.

- Modern-day voting systems have largely been privatized. Key functions are run by private for-profit corporations. These corporations have a habit of hiring their own regulators.

- "To err is machine" Voting machines have been found to miscount. Some miscounts are ridiculous (i.e. Allamakee County Iowa, 2000 national election, counted 4 million votes though just 300 voters showed up to vote). Many miscounts, if they are less obvious, are never flagged at all.

- The certification system for voting machines is so fundamentally flawed that it allows machines to miscount and lose votes. Four studies in a row spotted serious errors that passed through certification without a hitch.

- Voting software has been found to contain hidden "back doors"� that allow end runs around the voting system.

- Recent changes in voter registration systems may bring new problems with voter roll accuracy. Outsourced voter roll verification has resulted in wrongfully purged voters

- Ballot production, performed by private companies, can cause certain kinds of votes to be omitted from the count. This applies to optical scan ballots (fill in the dot) and punch card ballots.

- New systems are designed to replace the poll book sign in with a computerized, digital system made by private companies, using proprietary software that the public is not allowed to examine. Such a system, improperly used, would enable whole cemeteries to sign in and vote.

- Certified and sworn election officials now outsource " even during live elections " to technicians employed by private manufacturers. Private vendors, in turn, outsource election support to temporary employees hired by third parties.

- Redistricting software, also produced by private companies who hold it proprietary, now allows instant and precise data designed to manipulate districts for political gain.

- Election officials are often appointed, not elected. In many states there is no requirement for election officials to disclose personal financial information, inviting conflict of interest.

- Election checks and balances have eroded: Voter Verified Paper ballots have been removed in as many as 20 percent of all voters in the U.S. Paperless touch screen machines do not permit recounts. Even when paper ballots exist, in many states it is now illegal to compare them to computer counts, even in a recount.

- Absentee voting: In most locations, there is no way to know whether all the ballots mailed in were counted. At no point is there a comparison of the count received by the Post Office with the count received by the elections division.

- Polling place results used to be compared with the overall totals, to make sure each polling place result was correctly reported when all votes are added up. This key audit has been eliminated in most locations, opening the door for tampering by replacing memory cards and/or tampering with the central server at the county level.

We have independent consumer protection organizations for toasters. You can read about problems with baby car seats in consumer publications. But until now, no independent, publicly funded consumer protection organization has existed for the most fundamental piece of democracy we have: Elections.

Who runs Black Box Voting?

Board of directors:

- Linda Franz (Washington state), with knowledge of HAVA and pending voting machine legislation;

- Jim March (California), with expertise in lobbying and computer programming. March has been heavily involved in analysis of the Diebold software, and testifies regularly at California Voting Systems Panel hearings;

- Joseph M. Bailey III (Washington state), founder of an electrical workers union for people of color

- Thalia Dudley (Washington state), a member of the Dudley family, an African-American family who has fought for the right to vote every generation for five generations;

- Vickie Karp (Texas), who is also chairperson for the Coalition for Visible Ballots, and recently made the news with a billboard campaign about the need for paper ballots

- Agrippa Williams (Washington state), renowned for his work keeping black history alive, and the recipient of many awards for outstanding citizenship (he once gave a kidney to a complete stranger in order to save his life.)

Staff:

- Bev Harris - executive director. An investigative journalist who has been profiled in Vanity Fair, Time Magazine, and has provided stories to most major news outlets in the U.S.

- Andy Stephenson - associate director. Stephenson was one of the original and most productive of the researchers who have worked with Bev Harris. He recently resigned his candidacy for Washington secretary of state and will work on the national level with consumer research and education with Black Box Voting.

Funding

Black Box Voting is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501 C-3 organization. Funding comes from private donation, public citizens, nonpartisan house parties, town meetings, and other venues.

Public funding for Black Box Voting is raised through private donors, and public citizens through nonpartisan house parties and town meetings. Harris donated her rights to the "Black Box Voting"� book, and its proceeds, to the nonprofit group. All proceeds for the Talion Publishing version of the book were gifted to Black Box Voting, the nonprofit. Caution: The blackboxvoting.com site is NOT affiliated with Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris nor the Black Box Voting organization.

* 501(c)3 Tax deductible status applied for

- Bev Harris

NOTE: You can donate towards Bev Harris's costs via Paypal at http://www.blackboxvoting.org/

# # ENDS # #

Bev Harris is author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering In The 21st Century … See http://www.blackboxvoting.org/


http://www.blackboxvoting.org
Read The Book…Support The Cause - Order Your Copy Today

For more background and live news links on this news subject see also Scoop's Special Feature – A Very American Coup…

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