Saturday, November 20, 2004

CBS Could Help... 

Andrew Heyward, President of CBS News said on today's CSPAN "American Perspectives" that he thinks it would be great if candidates would demand some kind of uniformity of voting methods and rules.

Despite this, there's been no story since the election (that I can find) on CBS News pointing out the wide differences in voting rules, administration, and systems from state to state or the differing results emanating from the choices individual states have made.

Wouldn't it be interesting to see a major CBS story on the greater degree of participation in states having same-day registration and early voting or a comparison of participation in the US vs. in countries abroad that have their elections over a weekend or on an election holiday?

Paper Trail 

The Stanford Report has an article worth reading about voter-verified election systems. The danger of systems like Diebold and other proprietary (read secret computer code)and paperless systems is explained well there by Stephanie Chasteen.

"Electronic voting has its perils. Imagine this odd scenario on election day. You step inside the voting booth at the local Y and are faced with a red curtain. Behind the curtain is a man who fills out your ballot for you as you tell him whom you want for president, for city council, for mayor. But what if the man writes it down wrong, or switches your vote to a different candidate? Or what if his pen breaks, or he loses your ballot? You would never know, as you don't get to see your ballot and there's no proof of your original vote..."

Kerry on bin Laden Video 

Geraldo Rivera reports that John Kerry told him at the Clinton Library dedication that he lost the election because the bin Laden video had a chilling effect on voters.

This is what the CNN exit polling indicates as well. At no time during the last month of the campaign did Bush do as well as Kerry at converting undecided voters-- until the three day period following the bin Laden video. See "More Polling Thoughts" post for details...

... if so it wasn't about "values," it was about fear.

Ohio Recount Info 

A good source of current information on the Ohio recount is the Cobb/LaMarche campaign website.

Kerry Statement 

For anyone who thinks it’s a fringe element that is interested in seeing the 2004 election fully audited and counted, see John Kerry’s statement at Truthout.org yesterday:

“...Regardless of the outcome of this election, once all the votes are counted - and they will be counted - we will continue to challenge this administration. This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles - it is a time to stand firm.

I will fight for a national standard for federal elections that has both transparency and accountability in our voting system. It's unacceptable in the United States that people still don't have full confidence in the integrity of the voting process.

I ask you to join me in this cause."

-John Kerry, Nov.18, 2004

Available at Truthout.org in Links at right...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Volusia County- Some Florida Sunshine Required 

Remember the 2000 election...how in the midst of all the chaos in Florida a computer glitch subtracted 16,000 votes in Volusia County from Al Gore's total's?

Well, let's see what happened there this year. Ballot tapes in Volusia are being re-examined and there may be some more issues there. That-- and a Berkeley "smoke alarm" report on Florida electronic ballot systems will be interesting to follow as they develop.

Another argument for national election reform in the making? Dunno. We'll stay tuned.

Devolving into the Abyss in Iraq 

Let's declare victory in Falluja, 'cause it sure looks like defeat in the rest of Iraq. The long-awaited attack found only a fraction of the insurgency there, insuring not just an easy battle, but a hard fall afterwards and accelerated killing throughout the country.

Beheaded soldiers in Mosul. Mosques full of jihadis in Baghdad. Shiites bailing out of the coalition. Mighty Poland, Singapore, and Thailand cutting back on their troops, pulling away even the fig leaf of international support. And the blood keeps flowing.

Bob Herbert's column today states as clearly as it can be put how disastrous the total lack of cautionary voices in this second Bush Administration is becoming. It's sickening to see the carnage grow worse each day and to hear the total lack of recognition from the Americans steering the course there.

The circling wagons at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue bode ill for the future both in Iraq and at home. Every reasonable doubt expressed during Bush I's reign seems to be reason for someone's replacement by a loyal toady in Bush II's cabinet. Meanwhile people are dying as Iraq devolves further.

Herbert puts it well. "The amount of blood being shed is sickening, and there is no end to the grief in sight," he writes.

Field Trip! 

This article found on the website of the International Foundation for Election Systems:

"IFES Helps Moldovan Group Understand U.S. Election Process"

"On October 20, IFES welcomed a group of Moldovan journalists and media monitors who intend to observe this year’s U.S. presidential election to its D.C. headquarters. Scott Lansell, IFES Director of Programs, provided the Moldovans with historical background on U.S. elections. The group’s greatest concern was ensuring the validity of elections in Moldova and limiting the amount of ballot fraud that takes place during an election in their country. They were also interested in learning more about the methods the U.S. has employed to ensure the integrity of its elections process."

We're interested too. A mission to observe the Moldovan elections is now scheduled to learn more from them. We're sending Ken Blackwell and the staff of the Ohio Secretary of State's office there.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Open Voting Consortium 

On the subject of voting technology, here's an interesting link: The Open Voting Consortium (OVC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development, maintenance, and delivery of open voting systems for use in public elections. See their site to learn more about the development and economical use of open source code, voter verifiable, checkable balloting.

It makes you wonder why we don't have such a system, or the confidence it would inspire in the results.

Preliminary Report- US Count Votes.org 

I had a telephone conversation today with Kathy Dopp, whose nonpartisan organization, US Count Votes, is embarked on an epic project to analyze and pinpoint administration issues with the 2004 election.

You may have heard some mention in the news about Kathy’s raw data comparing touch screen and optical scan vote counts in the Florida results this November. While that Florida data is still being reviewed and crunched further, Kathy is thinking bigger about working with mathematicians and academics to insure the validity of elections going forward.

US Count Votes is planning a comprehensive mathematical analysis of 2004 election results. They’re setting up a database for the raw data to count the votes on the precinct level nationwide for President, US Senator, and US House. It’s going to be a huge amount of data and there will be a dozen methods used to analyze the polling results against demographic data, registration data, and any other pertinent data available. When complete, the tables generated will be provided to the public on their website, USCountVotes.org.

In addition to the analysis of the 2004 data, US Count Votes will be attempting to develop, design, and test methods in time for future elections that will be able to pinpoint precincts which look like they have counting errors with their vote counts. Their goal is to be able to provide this data immediately, so that candidates can use the data to decide whether to request immediate recounts or to concede.

Kathy doesn’t want to discuss in detail the data they’ve already developed, or the Florida data her group has already raised questions about until they are able to break down their results by precinct.

I’ll be reporting later (after lots more reading) on the Utah paper Kathy Dopp wrote about an open source code, multiple count, paper trail voting method and how it can insure secure and verifiable results in elections. Here in New York (where a new voting system will be chosen soon), Kathy believes this method could hurtle us to the front of the nation in election systems, if adopted.

People interested in learning more about US Count Votes should look at their website.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Voting Rights and Wrongs Continued 

In a continuing series of posts to keep you up on efforts to create and improve true democracy here in the US, I will bring in voices from people who are diligently working to inspect and reform our voting process.

Today, Demos, the voter advocacy organization, President Miles Rappaport, discussed some of the remaining questions about the 2004 election on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio. Rappaport is not a crazy blogger, but the former Secretary of State of Connecticut.

Rappaport is joining in the call for a recount in Ohio. He criticizes Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for many problems in the conduct of his state’s election. These criticisms include the following:

1- Shortages of poll workers in key Democratic voting districts.

2- Unequal allocation of voting machines in urban districts vs. rural districts.

3- Voter lists being massively incorrect, with many voters’ names left off the updated lists.

4- Long lines resulting from the above, up to 8-10 hours long. Long lines were concentrated in urban strongholds of Democratic Party and college campuses known to be strongholds of Kerry support.

Demos is calling for a recount AND a full audit of voting in Ohio. An audit, as opposed to a recount will check on machine allocation, worker allocation, voter list management, and other issues regarding the conduct of the election, as opposed to a recount, which only re-counts the ballots.

Nationally, Rappaport calls for the following reforms.

1- All machines should have a voter-verified paper trail.

2- An end to proprietary source codes for voting machines. Code for machines should be open source code.

3- Nonpartisan administration of voting over uniform standards that don’t vary in a patchwork quilt from state to state.

4- Much more accessible registration and voting nationwide. Two states now have same-day registration and voting on election day. All states should follow suit.

5- A national early voting period.

6- A National Holiday on Election Day.

I’m adding Demos to the Links list today.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ohio Recount to Proceed 

While unlikely to change the outcome of the 2004 result, the recount and hearings on the conduct of the election in Ohio will prove instructive to those of us who'd like to better understand the impact of poll challengers, election procedure decisions, staffing, and voting machine allocations in the state's conduct of the polling. See links.

Gym in the Lobby, Skyboxes for Billionaires 

Of special interest to those of us who live in New York, but perhaps more broadly to anyone who cares about the gross inequities in funding for our children's schools is a column in todays Times by Bob Herbert, who notices in the paper the other day how sad the juxtaposition is between two stories about sport. Check it out.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Vietnam Blues 

I've spent a good part of the day thinking about the Vietnam War era and about how we seem to still be caught in the schism engendered by that war. I believe there is a desire still extant in corners of American political life to justify the excesses of Vietnam and to keep alive the jingoism and hubris that made it possible. Watching pictures of young Americans fighting for their survival in Iraq today and realizing that our government knows they cannot really ‘win’ the war they’ve sent these men and women to sacrifice their lives for makes me feel as if I’m caught in a devilish time warp.

Clearly, the fight in Iraq now is about finding a way to extricate our forces from the front lines as soon as possible and to first declare some sort of victory by holding elections, however flawed, in January. Meanwhile, soldiers are asked to clear Falluja of Iraqi resistance, which is presumably regrouping elsewhere. Iraqis are being trained to be their own army under a puppet regime, without much success, to help complete a pacification mission that is not widely supported throughout their own country.

An American Administration, discredited in the eyes of most of the world but now re-elected at home, pushes ahead without a real prayer of international support to prove it has had the right idea all along. The Bush Administration continues to maintain the fiction that things are going as well as could be expected in Iraq. Through this, we citizens who hoped for some sanity in a new government at home are looking for a way to move forward to work for an end to the conflict and occupation, to support our troops, to keep Iraq from becoming a failed state in total chaos, and to do this all with little faith in the current US government.

I guess I understand too well why I’m thinking about Vietnam today.

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