lundi 22 septembre 2008

Do we grow bananas in the USA?: Caging and other vote sabotage

Your easy to use 2004 absentee ballot

This one is missing the arrow next to Bush-Cheney.

In God and bananas we trust

It's becoming very uncomfortable to talk about US democracy in Europe. There's a large dose of skepticism over here for just how comitted Americans are to rule of democracy. I find my belief in America's ideals, everything I was taught about my country of origin in social studies class (why don't we call it history, like they do here in France? That might already be more straightforward, after all history and historiography are actual academic fields with methods, social studies means whatever you want it to mean) called into question.

Even if they don't claim to speak English particularly well, or at all, they know the word "chads". They even know the whole phrase "hanging chads". They'd even be able to pronouce it perfectly even if it contained a "th" instead of the easier "ch", as in "hanging thads", because they can't stop talking about it.

They know all about how Gore won the popular election but lost the electoral (this concept and why we do it, and have states in the first place, requires lot of repeat explanations that don't sit that well with them) because of problems with the vote count in Florida, and they aren't really interested in an explanation from me of how this happened. They already know. They'd like to be sure that I do.

And, here we go again.

A friend on one of the Obama groups wrote 9 days ago, on September 14:

Anyone - and I mean anyone - who does not think more stuff will hit more fans over the next seven weeks is living beyond a delusional state and should not be consulted on the weather, much less the election. I expect to witness no less than the most amazing, death-defying, dazzling display of election theft and vote-rigging ever attempted by man, woman or child.

Obama's Rapid Reponse team has put out a lengthy compilation of all the McCain campaign caging attempts to date. I will copy it all in dutifully just below, for those of you who care to go do the reading.

There are two sites for lawyers, law students and paralegals to go to to volunteer to:

You can still sign up to volunteer even if you don't have a legal background!

A history of the McCain caging attempts

What follows is a round-up of the McCain Campaign caging attempts, from Obama Rapid Reponse, a group on to follow attacks and smears in the campaign and counter them immediately. It is in reverse chronologic order, with the most recent developments appearing first, and the history of the strories following.

From Rapid Response:

Remember when Obama won his seat in the Illinois legislature? He had each signature checked for authenticity and voter registration. HOWEVER, I think we need to pound this into the press daily until they wake up the citizens to check thhie stuff. Really, the only absentee ballot or voter registration form people should be filling out are those provided by the county where you live.

When you pound the media outlets with this send it to newspaper early on a Saturday morning for the Sunday distribution. Or early on Tuesday for the Wednesday coupon day. Newspaper distribution is the highest on those days.

If you send it to the broadcast media, send it early in the morning Monday through Thursday. Viewership is in the commode Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Although viewership is higher on Sundays than Friday-Saturday, you have football now and news runs whenever the games are over. People don't know when to catch it. And, the cable news outlets run their specials and very little original newscasts.

But, please send it on to the media. The following is lengthy but outlines all of McCain's caging attempts.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Federal Agency (EAC) failed to warn swing states about voting machine defects.

CNN reports a study by Common Cause and the Century Foundation indicates that ten vital swing states have significant voting glitches that have not been addressed.

It also shows that the Election Assistance Commission has failed to inform election officials around the country about electronic voting machine shortcomings...
The ten states listed as having problems are Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Confusing mailers in Florida

From Rapid Response:

Sasha of the "Sound Off with Sasha" radio show interviewed journalist David Rosenfeld, of Miller-McCune about mass mailers the McCain campaign was sending to Florida Democrats. On top of being from the wrong party, the voters also happen to be "snow birds". The concerns were that this was a caging effort, something Floridians are quite familiar with. If it wasn't a caging effort, then the worry was that the mailers would disenfranchise voters some other way.

Update: September 16, The St. Petersburg Times reports that the McCain campaign has sent mailers targeting elderly democrats, and the mailers create confusion about the voter's registration status, "We have you registered as a Republican..."


Unsolicited Absentee Ballot Requests Surface in Virginia, Ohio, and Florida

So far I've seen official reports of unsolicited absentee ballots from Florida (see Florida Voter Caging Warning: McCain mailer w/absentee ballot requests ) Ohio and Virginia. If you get one of these "request for absentee ballots", save it and do not do anything else with it until you speak with election officials and report it to the local media.
Ohio: Ballot snafu endangers votes Sept 9, 2008.
About one-third of the absentee ballot applications received at the Hamilton
County Board of Elections have been ruled invalid because Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign printed a version of the form with an extra, unneeded box on it...

Even though the box is unneeded, by not checking it voters are essentially admitting they’re not eligible, Brunner said.

“I have not seen a ruling that indirectly impacts voters to the enormity of this since I’ve been here,’’ Hamilton County Board of Elections Deputy Director John Williams said of his nearly five-year tenure at the board.

More than 750 absentee ballot requests in Hamilton County have been invalidated because of Brunner’s ruling, Williams said.

September 10, 2008 Be careful if you receive unrequested absentee ballot application With less than two months to go to the general election, you may be inundated with political flyers in the mail. But be careful where you put your signature.

Lynn Murdock recently received a mailer from John McCain's campaign in Arlington. It's an application for an absentee ballot; something for which she says she never asked.

...the application does raise a red flag for both officials because it doesn't include instructions.


From Rapid Response:

Here's what we know: The Florida mailer that David Rosenfeld shared with me is not an absentee ballot application, but a mailer asking voters to change their registration to the GOP party. Its not clear if there are absentee ballot cards being mailed out in Florida by the McCain Campaign.

The mailer that David Rosenfeld reprted was a form to Florida voters to "verify" your "party affiliation" and to encourage you to re-register as republican if you weren't already.

This mailer can't be used for caging purposes because "non profit" postage is used. Non profit postage won't cover the costs of returning the mailer to the sender, which is the GOP. (It takes first class postage to get mailers returned.)

If the voter is out of townm or if the voter has moved, it still won't matter because the mailer won't be returned to the sender. The Florida activists checked with the USPS and were told that this type of mail, if not deliverable, is trashed.

Pam Haengle, Vice President of the Florida Voters Coalition advises that the Advancement Project has an ongoing investigation into these mailings in Florida, and cannot report on it yet. If anyone is in possession of one of these mailings, please scan them and send them to so that they can be examined and included in their investigation.

McCain's Absentee Ballot Mailer Fiasco Spreads - Could Disqualify Some Voters

If only things were so good in some of the other states.

We did hear good news today that the ballot request mailer in North Carolina would be accepted in most cases by Boards of Elections.

Pam advises that, "In the meantime, we need to tell voters -- especially those registered 9/8 or later -- to check their voter's registrations with their county elections office to be sure they are good to go for November."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain-Palin 2008 Launches "Honest and Open Election Committee"

From the piece:

McCain-Palin 2008 Launches "Honest and Open Election Committee"

Sept 15. 2008 ARLINGTON, VA -- The McCain-Palin 2008 campaign today announced the formation of the Honest and Open Election Committee, with a mission to ensure that every qualified citizen has the opportunity to vote in a fair and transparent manner. The committee will work with state and local election officials to anticipate, and where possible resolve in advance, problems likely to arise on Election Day.

The advisory committee will be co-chaired by former United States Senators John C. Danforth and Warren B. Rudman. The committee also includes current and former members of Congress and former state secretaries of state, election officials, and state attorneys general, along with prominent academic experts in election law. The diverse composition of the committee reflects the McCain-Palin campaign's desire to put partisan politics aside in the hope of seeing a fair and transparent election in November.

Lawyering up is part of the plan

The committee will advise the campaign with respect to policy and actual or potential legal proceedings involving the campaign laws and practices in various states working towards avoiding litigation when possible.

Rich Hassen over at Election Law Blog says that the effort is a step in the right direction, but he wonders Will It Make A Difference in the Election Administration Wars?

...Note that the first goal of the group is one Democrats would endorse; the second goal, "No qualified voter should have his or her vote canceled or diluted by illegal votes," echoes Republican (but not Democratic) calls for voter identification laws and a concern (in my view, mostly unfounded) about voter fraud.)

My initial reaction to this is that in spirit this is a step in the right direction, but I don't expect it to stop one bit aggressive efforts to challenge election administration laws in the battleground states.

To explain, while I don't know everyone on the impressive list of members of the committee, those I know personally (along with Trevor Potter, Sen. McCain's general counsel), are people of the highest integrity.

Monday, September 15, 2008

McCain's Absentee Ballot Mailer Fiasco Spreads - Could Disqualify Some Voters

Reports from around the country advise that John McCain's campaign has sent confusing or incorrect absentee ballot request forms to voters in ten states at least. Affected so far are Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon (reported by blogger, not confirmed) Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin so far. In each state, the mailers have a different error, in any of these cases, the voter could be disenfranchised by the error. In at least one state a voter could disqualify themselves or be vulnerable to election challenges if they mailed these forms in. Mailers sent to Wisconsin voters are encouraging voters to send their applications to clerks in communities where they do not live. If you receive an absentee ballot request form from the McCain campaign ( or any private entity) and you do want to vote absentee, then instead check with your County Board of Elections to get the correct information.

See the post for the round-up of the states.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

McCain Confusing NC Republican Voters

The McCain campaign is flooding voters in many states with absentee ballot requests, in hopes of increasing his turnout. North Carolina is one. Blogger Greg Flynn has the flyers on his "spot" and a great write up.

Pushing absentee voting this way has been successful for other politicians including George Bush in 2000. The problem is, that the request forms in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina have either incorrect, incomplete or confusing information on them. This hurts... the GOP vote. Greg Flynn points out that the forms he saw in Wake County NC are missing critical fields and also have an incorrect address to mail them too. Here's an excerpt, please visit his blog to read and see it all:

McCain Confusing NC Republican Voters by gregflynn, Thu Sep 11, 2008

Pierce County Instant Runoff Voting System has new bug, says WA SOS - may affect San Francisco

This email from the Secretary of State of Washington outlines another bug in the new IRV voting system for Pierce County. It affects "rank choice voting" (IRV/Instant Runoff) only. Pierce County Washington adopted "instant runoff voting" in November 2006. In May 2008, officials were backed into a corner and ended up getting permission to use uncertified IRV software, violating their own state's laws.

Pierce county has Sequoia "Insight" optical scanners and DREs. The tabulating software, WinEDS 4.0.34 is still under test by iBeta. There is not even a test plan presented to the EAC for this system at this time. Washington State provisionally certified this software for use even after finding that there were problems with the use of the Insight machines when used in the RCV process. San Francisco is also using this system, and currently it is not certified in California to count IRV. San Francisco officials still don't know how they will count their "ranked choice" voting in November 2008.

Here's the email (Thanks to John Gideon of for sharing)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The "Palm Beach Mess"

Palm Beach Elections Goes from Missing Ballots to Having too Many

This could all change, but here's the latest update on the Palm Beach Mess:

In Palm Beach County it goes from missing ballots to too many ballots | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

It's no longer a missing ballots problem in Palm Beach County. Now there are too many ballots.

After a cumbersome resorting and recounting of ballots from the Aug. 26 election, investigators produced two new troubling findings Friday.

First, auditors have discovered electronic evidence that 110 ballots from voters at a Delray Beach precinct weren't included in election night results. Those votes also weren't included in totals from a recount.

Second, auditors verified that there are 139 more paper ballots on hand at elections offices than the number of ballots reported cast on election night. The combination of the findings means there could be 249 more ballots than were counted on election night - though that estimate could change before an audit is finalized this weekend...

more at the link

Unsolicited Absentee Ballot Requests Surface in Virginia, Ohio, and Florida

The original Palm Beacn "problem" -- 3,400 missing Palm Beach ballots:

Palm Beach Fiasco: Officials Say Ballots Not Trashed

[I'll put the whole thing in here... oy vey]

Palm Beach County Florida still can't account for 3,400 missing ballot. So on September 10, the Florida Voters Coalition Called on State to Secure Palm Beach Elections. The very next day, an explanation was floated - a sort of "Dog ate my homework" theory: the ballot were accidentally thrown away. Today, officials dispute the claim and say ballots were not thrown away, and the theory is an "urban legend".

Missing ballots mistaken for trash? Reported by: Tim Malloy Sept 11, 2008

..."Were they inadvertently thrown out by elections officials who thought they
were trash? NewsChannel 5 has exclusively learned that is the leading theory on officials' minds...We've learned that the ballots in question, likely came from a precinct in Boynton Beach."

3,400 ballots is alot to be missing from a single polling place, unless that place was an early voting site, which serves more voters for more days. Boynton Beach did host an early voting site at West Boynton Branch Library, 9451 Jog Road, Boynton Beach.

Then today, Sept 12, Election Officials say that the ballots were NOT thrown out! Ccommissioner McCarty called this theory an "Urban Legend."

Election workers: Ballots not trashed Reported by: Eric Glasser Sept 12, 2008

..."It did not happen," insisted Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty. "I can't say that a garbage bag didn't come here. Nobody knows what it had in it."

"All I can tell you," added Brad Merriman, heading up the ballot recount, "is that ballots left the precincts in ballot boxes. That's how they were transported."

For a third time county workers found themselves recounting nearly 100,000 votes by hand, trying to figure out why their first recount, stemming from a disputed judge's race, showed a disparity of nearly 3,500 votes from the original tally on election night.

"We have identified that we have found some ballots that were not counted during the recount," said Merriman, although not being specific.

So we have the sherriffs department (who transports the ballots) saying one thing, and election officials (who account for the ballots) saying another. It still isn't clear if the chain of custody procedures were violated. Did the Sheriffs dept transport a trashbag from any of the polling places? Lets hope that procedures are put into place to prevent the missing of ballots in the November 04, 2008 election.

***UPDATE*** Ballots found say election officials.

Palm Beach County's missing ballots appear to be found | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

...Investigators searching for nearly 3,500 missing ballots from the Aug. 26 election say they have located a "substantial number"— and perhaps nearly all — of the unaccounted-for ballots.

Despite rumors, the ballots hadn't been mistakenly dumped in a landfill or left behind at voting precincts. Rather, they were found in the county's vote-tabulating center near West Palm Beach. ...more at the link

And Stanford University says...

Computer Scientists Issue Warning about Internet Voting

Thursday, September 11. 2008

21st Century Jim Crow in Michigan - Lose Your Home, Lose Your Vote

1st only certain people could vote, then, some people only had 3/5 of a vote, next, came poll taxes, then, came literacy tests. Folks in Michigan who lost their homes haven't suffered enough, figured the Michigan GOP party. They lose their vote, too! This will affect more than 62,000 households in the state. Here comes Jim Crow to Michigan!

"Lose Your House, Lose Your Vote", ByEartha Jane Melzer, 9/10/08 Michigan Republicans plan to foreclose African American voters

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

...One expert questioned the legality of the tactic.

“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

Guess who was the biggest victim of the sub prime loans?

The Macomb County party’s plans to challenge voters who have defaulted on their house payments is likely to disproportionately affect African-Americans who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. More than 60 percent of all sub-prime loans — the most likely kind of loan to go into default — were made to African-Americans in Michigan, according to a report issued last year by the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth....

Florida makes last ditch effort to block the vote - No Match No Vote

You would think that after 2000, Florida would want to do everything it can to enfranchise voters. But no. Florida has decided to start enforcing the draconian "No Match No Vote" law that requires voters' personal information to match up with two different government databases. Given that Government databases contain errors, and often do not match each other, many voters will not match! Through no fault of their own. Florida is only one of four states doing this. North Carolina eliminated this rule in 2007. The "No Match No Vote" law will be enforced just weeks before the deadline to register to vote in Florida, right when about 20% of new voters are registered.

Florida's 'no match, no vote' enforcement could be too much, too late September 11, 2008

[it's longish... go to the link for the whole thing]


A plea

for paper ballots and urns

What goes on in the USA is entirely absurd and undefendable to intelligent members of democratic countries outside the US. They laugh sardonically and say that we need Jimmy Carter and the UN to oversee our elections.

There should be no sophisticated machinery or computers involved.

France, a country of some 60 million people, manages to vote by casting paper ballots into specially designed, sealed boxes called urns. The procedure is simple.

On a Sunday -- yes, Sunday, many fewer people work on Sundays, meaning it is he easiest day to vote -- you go to your local mairie to vote. You are given a packet of slips of paper. Each piece of paper has the preprinted name of one of the candidates presenting in the election. You choose the piece of paper with the name of the individual for whom you wish to vote, and slide it into the opening in the urn. You sign a paper, I believe, attesting that you have voted.

You do this in the presence of a representative from each of the political parties, who are there to insure that the voting is conducted properly.

Then, you stand around and chat with your neighbors.

When the polls close, the party representatives and those who have volunteered to count the vote, in the presence of town elected officials, proceed to the count. This generally takes no longer than a few hours. It is done by hand.

There are no voting machines. There are no computers. There are no holes to punch. There are no chads to be left hanging with democracy.

Need to be away on business or planning to be at your country home or with family outside of where you live on that Sunday? No problem, you can request an absentee ballot and mail it in. They only come from your town hall.

Let's get real for a change. It's not because it's made in the USA or American that it's the best.


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