Scoop Blogwatch Peace Patriot – Post on Democratic Underground Election Reform Forum – - Mon Feb-04-08 (Note: Original post includes discussion thread.) CALIFORNIA ELECTION INTEGRITY ASSESSMENT 2008 Prognosis on the reliability of CA’s primary election results …
Peace Patriot – Post on Democratic Underground Election Reform Forum – - Mon Feb-04-08
(Note: Original post includes discussion thread.)
CALIFORNIA ELECTION INTEGRITY ASSESSMENT 2008
Prognosis on the reliability of CA’s primary election results Feb 5
–On an election integrity scale of -5 to +5, California gets a +1–
–The state is improving, but has a long way to go–
CALIFORNIA: purpose of the assessment
This assessment is part of a DU Election Reform project to provide summaries of the election systems in states with upcoming primary elections, and a prognosis about election integrity (can we trust the vote count?). This summary provides many tools and pointers on where to look for problems (which counties? which election systems?) as the returns come in Feb 5-6, in this vast and complex state.
CALIFORNIA: presidential primary election Feb 5
California will hold a presidential primary election on Tuesday, February 5, 2008, along with many other states in the nation–the “SuperDuper Tuesday” Primary (15 primaries, 10 caucuses). The CA Democratic, Republican and smaller parties will nominate presidential candidates. The Democratic primary is proportional. (If a candidate gets 15% or more of the statewide votes, he/she gets some delegates for the party nominating convention.) The Republican primary is “winner-take-all.” 370 delegates are at issue in the CA Democratic primary (440 including superdelegates); 159 in the Republican (173 all told).
In CA, voters must vote in their own party’s primary election. They cannot cross over. However, independent (“decline-to-state”) voters can request a Democratic Party primary ballot (–or an American Indep. Party ballot.) The Republican Party and other CA parties do not permit independents to vote in their primary. Independents comprise almost 20% of California voters.
The remaining two major Democratic contenders–Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–are on the CA ballot. John Edwards remains on the ballot, although he suspended his campaign on Jan. 30. Mail-In (Absentee Ballot) voting–which has been on the increase in California (50% statewide)–has been in progress for some weeks. For a full list of Dem and Rep candidates on the CA ballots, see footnote (1). Also on the CA ballots will be several state propositions. See my footnote (2) (a personal view). The propositions will not likely affect turnout or votes for candidates.
For official CA Primary 07 info: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections /
For a good quicky primer on national delegate counting for the Democratic Party nomination (what’s at stake?), see
Other delegate counting sites:
The deadline for CA voter registration was Jan. 22. No election day registration is permitted.
CALIFORNIA: where to look for election integrity problems Feb 5
As explained below, California’s voting system is vulnerable to hacking–especially insider (vendor) hacking by the partisan Republican corporations that run CA’s (and the nation’s) election system–despite Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s strong reform efforts.
Some of the places to look for problems in CA are: 1) counties that use central (rather than precinct-based) tabulation (identified below); 2) counties that have voter registrars with bad attitudes (anti-voter, anti-transparency–some identified below); 3) Republican counties (sadly, election integrity is partisan in CA); 5) counties that have pre-election or election day machine breakdowns, and/or where “chain of custody” and other security rules, or voters’ rights rules, are not being followed; and 6) counties where election integrity groups are shining a spotlight on the process (in the absence of such groups, a county can be very bad, but nobody knows it). (Notable: Los Angeles and Riverside Counties have active election integrity groups–see below. Both counties have notoriously troubled election systems. See “CA: election integrity groups,” below, for more county/election group info.)
I will try to identify as many of the county trouble spots as possible. However, the chief problem is system-wide: Although California has a new reforming Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, and although all Californians now have a ballot of some kind, 99% of the ballots are never counted–it is highly manipulable “electrons” that are counted–and most of the voting machines, and all of the tabulators, are run on “trade secret,” proprietary programming code, owned and controlled by corporations with very close ties to the Republican Party.
“Bad attitude” by county registrars who owe their allegiance to corporate vendors, not to the voters, is also an endemic problem, and could affect the Feb 5 Primary, both as to the accuracy of its results, and as to deliberate sabotage of the election process, as a political/corporate tactic against SoS reformer Bowen, for instance, by exaggerated delays of the vote tabulation (to be blamed on her reforms). Ground work for the latter tactic in the media has already been laid: See http://www.bradblog.com/?p=5631 .
The head of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officers (CACEO), Steve Weir, could be playing this game. See also
One way to detect a general pattern of fraud is to look for unusual totals for minor candidates–which could mean that malicious code is distributing votes from a main candidate to minor candidates, to favor another main candidate. Another thing to look for are pre-election polls and undoctored exit polls that differ from reported results. (See below for web sites that report on current polls.)
Finally, it is ESSENTIAL to understand that, if there is no obvious fraud in the Feb 5 California Primary, this DOES NOT MEAN that California’s election system is reliable. It may merely mean that there is insufficient motive in potential hackers to interfere in these contests, or that fraud occurred but went undetected. Anti-reformers–and this includes some Democrats and even leftists–are touting the lack of obvious fraud in New Hampshire’s inadequate recount totals as evidence that election reformers are whacko, while ignoring the EGREGIOUS flaws in the system that make undetected fraud easily possible, in NH, in CA and throughout the nation.
CALIFORNIA: basic facts of the election system
California has nearly 23 million eligible voters, nearly 15.5 million of whom (67%) are registered voters. Nearly 43% are registered Democratic, 34% Republican, 23% Other–as of Dec 07–in a total of 58 counties–some of them the size of small countries, and bigger than many states. As an example of size, Los Angeles County has nearly 4 million voters and 5,000 precincts.
All but 3 of California’s 58 counties now use optiscan or optiscan-type voting machines. (The voter votes on a ballot, which is scanned into an electronic tabulation system.) SoS Bowen is enforcing the state requirement that all voting machines must have a paper ballot or “voter verified paper audit trail” (VVPAT). The notorious touchscreen electronic voting machines (DREs)–used in 3 counties (San Mateo, Orange and Nevada)–now have limited use elsewhere (for instance, for early voting). SoS Bowen is requiring a 100% audit of some touchscreens. In order to avoid this audit, some counties (notably Los Angeles) have reduced early voting.
The most accurate and updated list of CA voting systems, by county, is:
A nice map of it all: http://www.calvoter.org/issues/votingtech/currentmap.ht…
The standard audit (check of actual ballots against electronic totals) is 1%. This means that 99% of the ballots (optiscan or touchscreen) are never counted, except in rare circumstances. SoS Bowen has established some new audit rules: 10% audit for close counts–0.5% margin or less–and escalated auditing where anomalies arise in the 1% audit. A lawsuit by San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, against SoS Bowen, to prevent these improved auditing rules–an example of the “bad attitude” of some CA county registrars– just lost on appeal (1/29/08). Bowen’s new rules will stand.
About half of California’s counties have “precinct-based” vote tabulation (machine tally at the precinct level, and required posting of the results). The other half use much less secure “central tabulation” (all ballots, memory cards, etc., go to a central county location before vote tabulation occurs–no local posting). Los Angeles (centrally tabulated) has “snap tallies” in some precincts, but these are not official results. Virtually all CA votes are tabulated electronically by machines run on “trade secret,” proprietary programming code.
Absentee Ballot voting (now called “Mail-In” voting) has greatly increased in California (50% statewide; 20% in L.A.). Absentee Ballots are generally scanned into the electronic system, like optiscan votes. (See below for other AB voting perils). The rules for AB voting are easy in California. Any registered voter can vote by mail. Some rural counties have instituted forced Mail-In voting. They are shutting down traditional local precincts (not good). An AB vote is about as secure as an optiscan vote (not very).
The three main vendors are Diebold (now “Premier”), ES&S and Sequoia–all with very troublesome histories in the election “industry.” California has been the scene of bloody battles over election integrity–and currently has a reforming Sec of State, Debra Bowen, who has taken a strong stance against vendor lying and fraud, and has taken many steps to improve accountability and accuracy, within the given “trade secret” code system.
Bowen’s “top to bottom” review of the entire CA election system, in 2007, revealed serious vulnerabilities in three of the top election systems: Diebold, Hart Intercivic, and Sequoia. The other top vendor, ES&S, failed to meet SoS deadlines for review, and was later found to have sold nearly 1,000 uncertified voting machines to five counties.
See this excellent, highly readable report on Bowen’s “top to bottom” review:
CALIFORNIA: an assessment of election integrity
California’s election system is difficult to assess, to say the least. It is a huge state, with many counties, each with a different character and culture, and each with a different election system, and a bewildering thicket of acronyms to penetrate–different corporate vendor names and voting machine models, for different purposes–as well as widely varying county election official attitudes toward the public. The stakes are big, and the political landscape is vast, and includes leftist cities like San Francisco, and rightwing bastions like Orange County, and everything in between. CA has a generally rightwing Republican Governor, with a reform-minded, “open” government Democrat as Secretary of State (Bowen), now in charge of elections.
When Bowen was elected in 2006, she replaced her opposite –a Schwarzenegger appointee as Sec of State, Bruce McPherson, who couldn’t do enough for Diebold & co. McPherson, in turn, had replaced his opposite, Democrat Kevin Shelley, a reformer who ran into a Diebold buzz-saw (driven from office on bogus corruption charges) after he sued Diebold for fraud in 2004 –and Shelley, in turn, had replaced his opposite, Republican SoS Bill Jones, who now works for one of the big vendors (Sequoia), in a prime example of election system corruption (“revolving door” employment).
This is the see-saw battle that has been taking place over the transparency and accountability of California’s election system. And, lest we feel smug, as Democrats, the state Democratic party leadership had to be greatly pressured by the grass roots to support reformer Bowen as the party SoS nominee in 2006, and was less than supportive of Shelley when the bad guys went after him.
How reliable will California’s vote counts be? I give it a 1 (on a scale of -5 to +5). It’s now going in a positive direction–as opposed to what would have been a negative rating last year. That is a big generalization for such a complex state. It is based on the common characteristics of the voting system across the board–corporate-run, non-transparent, inadequate ballot counting audits (described in more detail below), the “bad attitude” of some county election officials, evidences of citizen activism and monitoring, the policies and actions of the new Sec of State, past history, prospects for continued reform, and other general factors.
What this rating means is that widespread, undetectable election fraud can still easily occur, despite the efforts of Sec of State Bowen, citizen activists, and some county election officials, to prevent it.
Below, I will explain what some of the vulnerabilities are, and where to look for problems in the Feb 5 voting and electronic tallying.
CALIFORNIA: more detail on the voting system
California – mostly Optiscan
In broad terms, across the nation, there are now two voting systems–both of them run on “trade secret,” proprietary programming code, owned and controlled largely by three private corporations with close ties to the Republican Party (Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia), and with minimal or non-existent audit/recount controls.
The two systems are: 1) Optiscan, in which the voter votes on a ballot that is scanned into an electronic system. The ballots are available for audits and recounts, with the best of states doing a very inadequate 1% audit (California), and some states doing ZERO auditing (even if they do have a ballot–example, New Hampshire)–and with recounts difficult, expensive and rare. 2) The other system is direct electronic voting (on DREs, touchscreens)–where the voter punches a button on a screen, and the machine supposedly records the vote. The notoriously unreliable touchscreens were designed not to have any kind of paper record (nothing TO recount or audit). (Examples: South Carolina, Georgia.) Printers have been added in some cases (where citizens have raised hell).
In both systems, the votes are tabulated electronically, with “trade secret,’ proprietary programming code. And both systems can be undetectably hacked, and are most vulnerable to insider hacking by corporate personnel, with optiscans being only slightly less vulnerable, given current audit and other policies.
In addition to SoS Bowen’s guarantee that all California voters will have a ballot or a “voter verified paper audit trail” (VVPAT), Bowen has taken strong actions to insure that all voting machines are “certified” (pass logic and accuracy tests). In November, 2007, in her “top to bottom” review of the entire system, Bowen de-certified most CA voting systems and re-certified most of them with conditions (mostly having to do with security, certification and “chain of custody”).
Recently, Bowen sued ES&S (which did not, at first, cooperate with the review) for $15 million, for selling about a thousand uncertified AutoMark voting machines (for the disabled) to five counties, including San Francisco. San Francisco County has switched to general use of Sequoia voting machines as a result. See
In Sacramento County, last week, ES&S precinct-based tabulators suddenly and mysteriously failed. Sacramento is hastily improvising a centralized tabulation system (less secure–see below).
This kind of crisis and disruption, caused by vendor fraud, lying and shoddy machines and practices–not to mention the cost–plague California’s and the U.S. election system, and is why all of these private corporations ought to be jettisoned, in favor of traditional hand-counting of paper ballots, or an “open source” code system with, at the least, a 5% to 10% standard audit. (Venezuela hand-counts a whopping 55% of the votes, as a check on machine fraud, in an “open source” code system!)
CALIFORNIA: the problem of central tabulators
Another important issue is “precinct-based” vote tabulation vs. “centrally tabulated” systems. In “precinct-based” systems in CA, the machine tally must be posted at the precinct on election night and for a period afterward. Thus–although “precinct-based’” vote tabulation is a machine total (not counting of actual ballots)–it provides local people with information that could prevent error/fraud at (or in route to) big, centralized counting locations. In “central tabulator” systems, ballots-VVPATs, electronic data, voting machines and poll logs, etc., are conveyed to a central location before any vote tally occurs, thus creating more acute “chain of custody” problems, and removing the tabulation process further from voters and citizen observers.
About half of California counties (26) use “precinct-based” vote tabulation, and 28 are “centralized.” (I’m uncertain of an additional 4-5 of them–see below.) Some of the most troubled county election systems use “centralized tabulation” (Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside Counties, for instance).
The counties with “centralized” vote tabulation are one place to look for anomalous totals and problems. (See below, for a list of centrally tabulated counties.)
Another problem with “central tabulation” is that some counties use Diebold GEMS tabulators, unreliable machines also run on “trade secret” code. I don’t have a list of counties/vendor tabulators, but I’ve been apprised of one problem: Los Angeles may be using a Diebold GEMS tabulator by another name (MTS-Micro Tally System). The county has been secretive about the vendor.
CALIFORNIA: the vendors
The three major election system vendors are Diebold (Premier), ES&S and Sequoia–all bad actors in the election ‘industry,’ with histories of heavy lobbying, lying about the security of their machines (caught at it, and sued: Diebold and ES&S), advocating for secrecy and against transparency (pushing paperless voting, for instance), refusing review of their “trade secret” code even in highly questionable vote counts (ES&S-in FL-13, in ’06), machine breakdowns and failed tests, peddling easily hackable machines, manufacturing their machines in sweatshops in foreign countries (ES&S) and providing inferior paper for the FL-’00 punchcard debacle (Sequoia) (–see Dan Rather’s “The Trouble with Touchscreens), profiteering from our election system (billions of taxpayer dollars spent on unnecessary, overly complicated, high tech systems–for the simple act of voting), partisan political activity, and “revolving door” employment (for instance, Sequoia hiring former CA Sec of State, Republican Bill Jones, to sell their machines–a highly corrupt practice).
See below, for which counties use which vendors.
Los Angeles has its own InkaVote system (made by a small vendor of that name). It is similar to “optiscan-centrally tabulated,” but resembles the old punchcard system. The voting card is marked by the voter, and all of the cards–up to 4 million–are shipped to one location, county election headquarters in Norwalk, for central electronic tabulation. The InkaVote-PLUS scanner–manufactured by ES&S, at a cost of $25 million–provides a check on over-votes in all precincts, and “snap tallies” (not official results) in 20 precincts (for the convenience of exit pollsters and others).
Diebold also has a piece of the action in L.A. County. At a cost of $4 million, Diebold has the entire concession for Absentee Ballot (Mail-In) printing, etc. Diebold’s touchscreen system for early voting was all but suspended by the L.A. Supervisors, recently (only available at the county election main office in Norwalk, and the Braille Institute), due to concerns about touchscreen accuracy.
A handful of California’s 58 counties use the Hart-Intercivic voting system, either optiscan, or electronic (Orange and San Mateo Counties are electronic), or the DFM system (grandfathered in). SEE THE LIST OF COUNTIES AND SYSTEMS, BELOW. All are required to have a ballot backup or a “voter verified paper audit trail” (VVPAT).
CALIFORNIA: election vendors by county
The CalVoter list identifies specific corporations and their election machine models, and provides a column that says “PAPER” (for paper-based, optiscan systems) or “ELECTRONIC” (for DRE’s, direct recording electronic” machines, i.e, touchscreens). (Note: The CalVoter list mostly uses the name “Premier” for Diebold. Diebold recently changed the name of its election division, due to its disrepute.)
All but three CA counties (San Mateo, Orange and Nevada) have a paper-based optiscan or optiscan-type system (sometimes supplemented by limited touchscreens use). All are required to have a ballot or VVPAT.
Judy Alter, of Protect California Ballots in Los Angeles, informs me that the early voting touchscreens in Los Angeles have ludicrously small print (9 pt. type) for the little VVPAT paper roll. Although their use is now limited in L.A., and elsewhere in the state, every vote needs to be verified and all votes matter.
To repeat–because it often gets lost in the details, and cannot be repeated enough–with so-called “paper-based optiscan” systems, as with others, 99% of the ballots are never counted. The ballot is scanned and the ballot itself goes into a box, and is almost never seen again. It is the electrons that are “counted.”
Vendors by county:
3 counties use electronic touchscreen systems, Hart InterCivic electronic (e-Slate), (with Hart I/C optiscan for Absentee Ballot tallying): San Mateo, Orange, Nevada.
21 counties use Sequoia optiscans: Alameda, Del Norte, Glenn, Imperial, Inyo, Kings, Mariposa, Mono (Sequoia electronic-Optech Insight), Monterey, Napa, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, Santa Clara (Sequoia electronic-Optech), Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Ventura, Yuba.
19 counties use Diebold (now called “Premier”) optiscans (AccuVote-OS) : Alpine, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Kern, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Placer, Plumas, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sierra, Siskiyou, Trinity.
9 counties use ES&S optiscans: Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced, Sacramento, Solano, Stanislaus, Tuolumne.
3 counties use DFM optiscan (Mark-a-Vote) : Lake, Madera. Sonoma.
1 county uses Hart InterCivic optiscan: Yolo.
1 county uses InkaVote , an optiscan-type system, with InkaVote Plus scanners (made by ES&S) for checking overvotes and for “snap tallies” (unofficial totals) in 20 (of 4,000) precincts, and with Diebold touchscreens (AccuVote TSX) for limited early voting): Los Angeles.
1 county has switched from ES&S optiscan to Sequoia optiscan, due to ES&S’s fraudulent sale of uncertified AutoMark machines (for the disabled): San Francisco .
This information comes from the California Voter Foundation web site (see CVF’s footnote on San Francisco): http://www.calvoter.org/issues/votingtech/currentdirect…
Note: San Francisco Supervisors letter to ES&S of 10/30/07
CALIFORNIA: the “central tabulator” counties
About half of California’s counties use precinct-based electronic tabulation, and the results are required by law to be posted at the precinct on election night and for a period afterward. Precinct-based tallying is safer, since anomalous totals will be more noticeable by local people.
Centralized county tabulation is much less safe, for “chain of custody” and other reasons. With centralized tabulation, there is generally no posting of the results at the precinct level. (Los Angeles, which is centrally tabulated, does informal “snap tallies” in 20 precincts.) Half of California’s counties use centralized county tabulation. (Get in your car, and go watch! You are entitled to!)
Sacramento County will be centrally tabulated, on Feb 5, due to a mysterious failure in ES&S precinct-based optiscan counters.
The CalVoter list has a column that says “P” (precinct-based) or “C” (centrally tabulated), for WHERE the electrons (i.e., ‘votes’) are tabulated.
The “C” counties (centrally tabulated)–whether optiscan (paper-based) or electronic –are the ones most vulnerable to fraud and most likely to show voting anomalies.
The following 28 California counties use central tabulation systems: Alpine, Butte, , Inyo, Kern (listed as having both), Lake, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba–and, for Feb 5, Sacramento.
The following 5 counties are un-rated, as to central- or precinct-based tabulation on CalVoter’s chart: Del Norte (?), Glenn (?), Kings (?), San Francisco (?), Sierra (?).
All others –about half the counties–have precinct-based electronic tabulation, with local posting of the results required.
CALIFORNIA: county registrar “bad attitudes” and other problems
Despite the new SoS’s diligence, CA’s voting system remains vulnerable not only to undetectable electronic tampering, but also to other kinds of disenfranchisement, such as machine breakdowns, poor training of poll workers, and an attitude of hostility toward the public by some county election officials, which makes it difficult for the public to monitor elections and help insure accurate totals.
A case in point re “bad attitude”: The lawsuit against Sec of State Bowen, to prevent her implementation of better auditing rules, was filed by San Diego‘s county registrar, Deborah Seiler, who used to be Diebold‘s chief salesperson in California–a scandalous circumstance in and of itself. (San Diego has a Diebold system.) Riverside and San Bernardino Counties joined this lawsuit. Although San Diego lost the lawsuit, this official county attitude favoring non-transparency means that the public faces significant problems in efforts to get information and monitor elections, in these and similar counties.
San Diego County was also the scene of the highly controversial Busby/Bilbray CA-50 congressional election in June 2006, where there was widespread distrust of Diebold‘s results (favoring the Republican Bilbray), and election activists discovered serious security flaws, including election workers storing voting machines overnight in their car trunks or houses.
Humboldt County‘s failure to respond to citizen information requests is chronicled by Dave Berman (GuvWurld) as well as the Voter Confidence Committee’s plans to monitor the Feb 5 election (the second and third articles) at http://wedonotconsent.blogspot.com /
Potential county trouble spots include (but are not limited to): Los Angeles (see below), San Diego (obviously), counties that have joined lawsuits against Sec of State reforms (past or current): Riverside, San Bernardino, San Mateo, Kern, Solano, Santa Barbara, and the three electronic voting counties: San Mateo, Orange, Nevada. In general, counties with entrenched Republican establishments need to be watched carefully (see below). San Joaquin County hired Deborah Seiler, from Diebold, as assistant registrar, in an action that helped to “launder” her credentials for the bigger Diebold venue of San Diego.
Los Angeles County‘s notorious head of elections, Connie McCormack (–did a sales brochure for Diebold, best friends with Deborah Seiler, led the campaign to oust reformer SoS Kevin Shelley) resigned as L.A. elections chief in Dec 07, amidst a storm of controversy. Her replacement as L.A. registrar–Dean Logan–was handpicked by McCormack, passing over more qualified people in the L.A. registrar’s lower echelons. Logan has a problematic history in Washington State elections.
Voters Unite lists several incident reports of past and recent serious voting machine failures/miscounts in CA and the following CA counties: Kern (recent-3/07), and in 2003-2006-Alamedia, Napa, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara.
Serious “bad attitude” problems have also been reported in Alameda County (which includes Berkeley, and a large black voting population in Oakland):
An example of problems with machine breakdown just occurred this week in Sacramento County. ES&S optiscan (“precinct-based”) counters suddenly and mysteriously failed logic and accuracy tests. Sacramento will therefore use a “central tabulation” system for the Feb 5 primary, and the voters will not have that little bit of local info (a precinct machine tally) to help monitor the counting process, which will take place far away from most voters.
See Jan. 13 at http://calvoter.org/news/blog/index.html
(Note: I disagree with CalVoter about this, and consider the sudden failure of precinct-based vote tabulators to be highly suspicious. The solution should have been: hand-count 100% of the ballots at the precinct level and post the results there!)
Machine breakdowns on election day can also cause long lines and disenfranchised voters (as well as insecure “crisis” repairs). Californians are supposed to receive a real paper ballot (not a “provisional” ballot, which can easily be tossed) if that happens. But bad county registrar attitudes and bad planning (for instance, not enough real ballots) have been known to disenfranchise voters in that circumstance.
CALIFORNIA: Republican counties
Following is a list of CA counties with majority Republican registration, which are likely to have entrenched, “culture of secrecy” election officials, and need to be watched carefully for anomalous totals and voter disenfranchisement in the Feb 5 Primary (and in November): Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yuba. Some of these are sparsely populated rural counties. Some have large populations: Fresno-520,000 voters; Kern-467,000; Orange-1.8 million; Riverside-1.2 million; San Bernardino-1.2 million. The underlined counties have known “bad attitude” problems.
Although election integrity is a grave issue throughout California–and very serious problems have been found in Democratic countries such as Los Angeles, San Mateo, Alameda and Humboldt–there is reason to suspect Republican-controlled counties in particular of inattention to strange vote totals (in both the 2003 Recall and the 2004 Presidential elections) and of shady practices.
CALIFORNA: absentee ballot (mail-in) voting
Absentee Ballot (Mail-In) voting has risen dramatically in California– 50% overall in recent elections– no doubt due in part to voter suspicion of the riggable machines. AB votes, however, are mostly scanned into the electronic system–just like an optiscan ballot (99% of which are not actually counted). AB voters may not realize this.
Further, Los Angeles and other counties use uncertified Diebold signature verification systems (“uncertified” = tested only by Diebold) for qualifying AB votes. Signature disqualification may get AB votes shunted aside, for checking “later.” Judy Alter wants a law change on this. All components of the system must be certified, not just vote counting components.
Until recently, Absentee Ballot votes in Los Angeles County and other counties were not counted in the 1% required audit. Due to citizen activism in Los Angeles, AB votes are now required to be included in the 1% audit starting early on election day, in all CA counties. However, since up to 50% of California voters are using Absentee (Mail-In) Ballots–and since there is evidence of law-breaking and “bad attitude” by county election officials–all stages of AB vote handling need to be closely monitored. (Call your county registrar. Go watch! You’re entitled to.)
SaveRVote election monitors in Riverside County observed election officials TYPING the votes from an Absentee Ballot into a the DRE (touchscreen)! (Monitor your election officials!)
AB votes also face the peril of being lost in the mail (50,000 of them were “lost” in Florida), to or from the voter. The best practice is to hand-deliver your AB (Mail-In) vote to your county registrar’s office, or to ANY voting precinct in your county on election day–which is permitted in California.
Many CA counties are failing to include a name-protective sleeve in AB vote envelopes. Your name, address and signature–and, in primaries, your party registration–are visible to anyone with access to your AB ballot, in the postal system and at the registrar’s office. Again, best practice: hand-deliver your Absentee (Mail-In) vote.
CALIFORNIA: election integrity groups
There are many election reform activists in Los Angeles. For this CA assessment, I’m particularly grateful to Judy Alter, Director of Protect California Ballots, who gave me hours of time on the phone on the details of L.A.’s system and on CA’s system.
Riverside County is also blest with a wonderful citizen election integrity group, SaveRVote, led by Tom Courbat. SaveRVote spearheaded the change in Riverside from touchscreens to optiscans–against great odds–and has called for a thorough and independent audit of the Registrar’s office. SaveRVote was also very helpful in this assessment.
(Los Angeles & CA) http://www.protectcaliforniaballots.org/Pages/Main.htm
Other great resources on CA election integrity issues and activism:
The California Election Protection Network (CEPN) https://www.caprotect.org /
The Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)-California chapters by county:
Election Defense Alliance (EDA)
Humboldt County has the “Voter Confidence Resolution” activist, Dave Berman(GuvWurld). Orange County has PDA chair, Dr. Bill Honigman. (See below for contact info.) There are many others. The umbrella groups listed above are a good place to start, looking for county or statewide election integrity activists and groups, many of whom will be closely monitoring this election. Join them! These are the folks who are saving American democracy!
Here’s a very useful site for potential poll observers:
The see-saw that California has been on, regarding election reform–with Republican Secretaries of State obstructing it, alternating with Democratic Secretaries of State who advocate it–and with county policy often lining up the same way–is a dreadful circumstance. It is an affront to Republican voters, who can also be disenfranchised (and there is evidence that they have been), and it tends to destabilize our entire democratic system, when Democratic voters cannot trust Republican Secretaries of State or county officials who owe their allegiance to big corporate vendors.
Election integrity should not be subject to the political winds–or influenced by big money contracts. The security of our elections should be a matter of objective, disinterested public service–with impenetrable firewalls against both corporate profiteering and partisan or intra-party politics.
The lack of a culture of disinterested public service in the administration of California elections, over the last decade, by several Secretaries of State and county officials, will mean considerable uncertainty in the Feb 5 results, as well as uneven adherence to laws and rules, and difficulties in monitoring/verifying the vote. That’s the bad news. The good news is that California citizens are up-in-arms about it, and the new Secretary of State is doing something about it. The Feb 5 Primary will be a “shake-down” for the November General Election. Let’s hope that that election is more verifiable than this one will be. 1, on a scale of -5 to +5, is not good enough. California and the U.S. should be a 5–fully transparent, verified vote counting, and full enfranchisement. To accomplish this, our traditional culture of public service and public participation in running elections needs to replace the “culture of secrecy” that has clouded our elections for too long.
Footnote 1: The main Democratic presidential candidates on the CA ballot: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. Others that remain on the ballot but have withdrawn from the race: John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson. Not sure of Mike Gravel.
The Republican candidates on the CA ballot: John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, Tom Tancredo, John H. Cox, Sam Brownback, Ron Paul and Alan Keyes. (Giuliani withdrew–I don’t know about others.)
The Green Party ballot lists seven candidates for president. Some of their candidate statements are quite interesting, and make you wish that they were main Democratic candidates.
The American Independence Party has the biggest registration of the small parties in California (2.07%), and has three names on the ballot as presidential candidates. Some voters may mistake the AIP for “independent” as in “decline to state” (no party affiliation) when they register to vote. Thus some of AIP’s 2% may actually belong to the “decline to state” ‘party’ (unaffiliated voters), a group that currently comprises nearly 20% of CA registered voters.
CA voter registration stats 07:
Footnote 2: California ballot propositions (a personal view):
They are: Prop 91-highway funds hijacking (from the General Fund to benefit freeway builders). Prop 92-limits community college fees (but does something weird, separating K-12 and community college funding). Prop 93-limits state legislators to 12 years total in either house (Thomas Jefferson opposed term limits as undemocratic). And four Props, 94, 95, 96 and 97-Indian Gaming (increases state revenues–and where’s the next Enron who will then loot them?). (Some progressive groups say the Gaming is non-union–oppose it. Others feel we shouldn’t dictate to Indians–more my feeling.)
CA COUNTY REGISTRARS –contact info/web sites
CA VOTER REGISTRATION STATS
CA ELECTION SYSTEMS BY COUNTY
U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
“Daily Voting News” by people like Greg Palast, John Gideon and Michael Collins at:
Comment on optiscans
Democratic Underground Election Forum:
Brad Friedman (latest news): www.bradblog.com
FreePress.org: Election Issues Department
ELECTION INTEGRITY RESOURCES (in addition to those listed above)
Orange County info, and Calif PDA chair: Dr. Bill Honigman – DrBill@pdamerica.org
All PDA-CALIF contacts:
(consult the folks on this list for county election integrity contacts)
Humboldt County (Dave Berman/GuvWurld):
See above for Los Angeles County, Riverside County and CEPN and EDA election integrity group contact info.
www.verifiedvoting.org (fab info & tools; great activist site)
www.UScountvotes.org (statistical analysis, recommendations and activism re audits of e-voting–inclu Calif)
www.votetrustusa.org (national & state election integrity news)
www.votersunite.org (lots of info on voting machine weirdness, by state; must-get free book on e-voting “MythBreakers”)
www.solarbus.org/election/index.shtml (fab election integrity news compendium)
www.TruthIsAll.net (the first & the best – election 2004 analysis and tools; also 2006)
Read this and get on it, citizens! Hand-counted paper ballots!:
“Poll Shock,” by Bob Koehler (11/24/05)
List of states, with their current election systems: 2007
List of states, with their current election systems: 2006
maps – has County Registrar contact info
Also see – 2006 map
Great info on California
Fab list of articles and links on election integrity
Reports on the San Diego CA-50 Busby/Bilbray election
Reports on for L.A. County Registrar Connie McCormack
As I tell my citizens in Leon County (FL), `Don’t trust me, require that I verify to you that the results are accurate’. Demand accountability all across the political spectrum, because if you do not require accountability, you are only going to get an oligarchy or authoritarianism. - Ion Sancho, Elections Supervisor, Leon County, FL.
Election officials suffer from one particularly acute disease. I would call it the arrogance of authority.”- Ion Sancho, Elections Supervisor, Leon County, FL.