Disenfranchisement: It Happened
December 07, 2004
SEE THE REPORT
Ralph Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation, said that the idea that the 2004 elections ran smoothly was "a crock." His organization, along with the NAACP and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, have released a preliminary review of a report that shows just how much of a crock that idea is.
The report, titled "Shattering the Myth: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections," describes incidents of massive voter registration problems, voter suppression and intimidation, voting system errors, a dearth of provisional ballots and more. The report targeted 17 states that were either known for election problems in the past or potential swing states this time around.
When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding. Proverbs 28:12
Will Kerry fund real probe if House member seeks Ohio elector challenge?
by Tom Flocco
Go to Original
Ohio Electors Pick Bush, Despite Challenge The Associated Press
Tuesday 14 December 2004
Columbus, Ohio - The Ohio delegation to the electoral college cast its votes for President Bush on Monday, hours after dissident groups asked the state Supreme Court to review the outcome of the state's presidential balloting.
As members of the electoral college met across the nation to affirm the results of last month's election, Ohio's 20 GOP electors voted unanimously for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"The vast majority of people understand this election is over," said Republican Gov. Robert A. Taft, who was at the electors' voting session in the state Senate chamber.
The challengers who went to the Supreme Court question whether Bush won the swing state by 119,000 votes, guaranteeing his victory over Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry.
The court did not act on the request before the electors cast their ballots.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and attorney Clifford Arnebeck of the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy accused Bush's campaign of "high-tech vote stealing." Jackson said the challengers noticed Bush generally received more votes in counties that used optical-scan voting machines and questioned whether the machines were calibrated to record votes for Bush.
Critics of the election charge that there were disparities in vote totals for Democrats, too few voting machines in Democrat-leaning precincts, organized campaigns directing voters to the wrong polling place and confusion over the counting of provisional ballots by voters whose names did not appear in the records at polling places.
The challengers allege unlawful ballots were added to the total and that legally cast ballots were altered. Without listing specific evidence, the complaint alleges 130,656 votes for Kerry and Sen. John Edwards in 36 counties were switched to count for the Bush-Cheney ticket.
The complaint also cites several reports of election day problems, including people who allegedly saw their votes "hop" to Bush on touch-screen machines after they voted for Kerry.
If the court decides to hear the challenge, it can declare a new winner or throw out the results.
"While the existence of anomalies could possibly be explained by human error or technical malfunctions, the fact that, in every case in Ohio known to the contesters, the error favored the Bush-Cheney ticket, strongly indicates manipulation or fraud," the challengers said in a court filing.
Congressional Democrats sent a letter to the governor on Monday, asking him to delay the electoral vote or at least consider the results unofficial until the disputes were resolved.
Go to Original
More Questions for Florida By Kim Zetter Wired.com
Monday 13 December 2004
A government watchdog group is investigating allegations made by a Florida programmer that are whipping up a frenzy among bloggers and people who believe Republicans stole the recent election.
Programmer Clint Curtis claims that four years ago Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida) asked his then-employer to write software to alter votes on electronic voting machines in Florida.
He said his employer told him the code would be used "to control the vote" in West Palm Beach County, Florida. But a fellow employee disputed the programmer's claims and said the meetings he described never took place.
Many questions have been raised about Curtis, the 46-year-old programmer, who said he doesn't know if anyone ever placed the prototype code on voting machines. But this hasn't stopped frustrated voters and bloggers from seizing his story. Daily Kos mentioned the allegations, and Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog has written extensively about them.
Staff members for Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) met with Curtis last week to discuss the election allegations. Representatives for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) inquired about other allegations from Curtis that his former company spied on NASA.
The FBI in Tallahassee, Florida, has set up a meeting with Curtis, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said it was trying to corroborate his claims about possible election fraud and NASA spying.
The group hopes that even if the election allegations aren't proven, they will inspire legislators to pass a law requiring voting software to be open to public inspection to help deter fraud and restore public confidence in the election process. The software code used in voting machines is considered proprietary and it is protected from public examination - an issue voting activists have been trying to address.
"I think Mr. Curtis helps make that issue a little more difficult to shunt aside," said CREW Executive Director Melani Sloan. "You don't even have to believe what he says (in order to be concerned about voting machines), just that he created a program. If he can do it, anyone can."
In September 2000, Curtis was working for Yang Enterprises in Oviedo, Florida, a software design firm that contracts with NASA, ExxonMobil and the Florida Department of Transportation, among other clients. According to Curtis, Feeney met with him and Lee Yang, the company's president, to request the voting software.
At the time, Feeney was Yang's corporate attorney and a registered lobbyist for the company as well as a member of Florida's legislature. A month later, he would become speaker of Florida's House of Representatives. In 2002 he was elected to Congress.
Curtis said Feeney asked for code that could go undetected on a voting machine and be easily triggered without any devices by anyone using the machine. Curtis had never seen source code for a voting machine, but in five hours, he said he designed code in Visual Basic that would launch if someone touched specific spots on the voting screen after selecting a candidate.
Once the code was activated, it would search the machine to see if the selected candidate's total was behind. If it was, the machine would award that candidate 51 percent of the total votes recorded on the machine and redistribute the remaining votes among the other candidates in the race.
Curtis said he initially believed Feeney wanted the code to see if such fraud were possible and to know how to detect it. The programmer told Feeney that such code could never be undetectable in source code, and he wrote a paper describing how to look for it. But when he gave the paper and code to his employer, Yang told him he was looking at it all wrong. They weren't looking at how to find code, Curtis said she told him. They needed code that couldn't be found.
"Her words were that it was needed to control the vote in West Palm Beach, Florida," Curtis said. "Once she said, 'We need to steal an election,' that put me back. I made it clear that I could not produce code that could do that and no one else should."
Curtis says he left the company in February 2001 because he found its ethics questionable. He doesn't know if his code was ever used.
Neither Feeney's spokeswoman nor election officials in Palm Beach County returned calls for comment. But a man who identified himself as Mike Cohen, Yang's executive assistant at the time whom Curtis said was in the meeting, told Wired News the meeting never occurred. Cohen said Curtis was "100 percent" wrong and that Cohen didn't attend such a meeting. He added he knew nothing of any meeting on the topic that occurred without him.
Yang attorney Michael O'Quinn called Curtis' assertions "absurd and categorically untrue." He said Curtis is an opportunist and a disgruntled former employee furthering an agenda by telling lies. According to O'Quinn, Curtis tried the same tactic in 2002 when he leveled other charges against Yang and Feeney.
Some details of Curtis' statements don't check out. West Palm Beach city didn't use touch-screen machines in 2000, something Curtis didn't know when Wired News spoke to him. It was the pregnant chad controversy in that year's presidential election that led Palm Beach county, where West Palm Beach resides, to replace its much-maligned punch-card system with touch-screen machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems in December 2001.
But Curtis said the program could have been adapted for use in the counting software used with punch-card machines and optical scan machines, or it could have been used on the new touch-screen machines in 2002, the year Feeney was elected to Congress.
Adam Stubblefield, a graduate student in computer science at Johns Hopkins University who co-authored a now-famous report about Diebold's voting machine code last year, thinks the chances that Curtis' code was used in a voting machine are nil.
"(Curtis) clearly didn't have the source code to any voting machine, and his program is so trivial that it would be much easier to rewrite it than to rework it," said Stubblefield.
Stubblefield also found fault in Curtis' statement that any malicious code would be detected in a source code review. This would be true only for unsophisticated malicious code, like Curtis' prototype.
Despite Curtis' concerns about statements Yang and Feeney supposedly made regarding election fraud, Curtis didn't tell the FBI or election officials in West Palm Beach about them, even after the 2000 election thrust Florida into the international spotlight.
He said he didn't worry about the code or Yang's statements because he believed if anyone installed malicious code on a voting machine authorities would find it when they examined the code. It wasn't until he read a news story last spring indicating that voting software is proprietary and is not open for inspection once it's certified that the earlier conversations began to concern him.
He claims he did later tell the CIA, the FBI, an investigator for Florida's Department of Transportation and a reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal about the voting issues when he gave them other information about Yang and Feeney. But so far this has not been corroborated. The FBI did not return calls for comment. The Department of Transportation investigator is dead.
And writer Laura Zuckerman who worked closely with Curtis on several stories for the Daytona paper, told Wired News he never mentioned the voting software code.
In 2002, Zuckerman wrote about allegations Curtis made that Yang Enterprises overcharged the Department of Transportation for work it never performed. In addition, Curtis told Zuckerman that Yang employed an illegal Chinese national while working on government contracts for NASA, and that the company was possibly spying on NASA by downloading documents from the NASA computer system.
"I didn't get a hint of anything like that at the time that I was writing any of these stories," Zuckerman (who no longer works for the newspaper) said.
However, other information provided by Curtis has been somewhat corroborated. The overbilling charge was confirmed by a Department of Transportation employee, although an official state investigation found no wrongdoing. Curtis thinks pressure from Feeney and others helped squelch the investigation, charges that Zuckerman did not find implausible from her own research.
And Last March, the Chinese national that Curtis discussed, Hai Lin Nee, was arrested in a 4-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting operation for trying to mail sensitive computer chips to Beijing in 1999 in violation of export rules.
But no one at Yang has been arrested for spying on NASA or stealing documents, despite a letter Curtis sent to a NASA investigator in February 2002 suggesting the company might be doing so. Curtis believes Feeney squelched that investigation as well to protect Yang. Both CREW and staff for Sen. Nelson's office are looking into those charges.
Curtis recently signed an affidavit and says he's willing to take a polygraph test. In the affidavit, Curtis stated that Feeney once "bragged that he had already implemented 'exclusion lists' to reduce the 'black vote'" and discussed ways of further impeding the black vote through strategic use of police patrols on Election Day.
His willingness to go on record with his vote fraud allegations is what makes some believe him.
Jon Kaney, a prominent Florida attorney who represents the Daytona Beach News-Journal and sparred with Feeney over articles the paper wrote about the lawmaker in 2002, said the affidavit does take things up a notch.
"You don't casually go around swearing under penalties of perjury unless you think you're right," Kaney said. "The affidavit struck me as something somebody ought to be looking at." But he said his first reaction to the affidavit was: "Gag. This can't be believed."
It remains to be seen if any new investigations can uncover the truth.
A Watchdog Muted
The judgement is now in from the advocacy groups who monitored the 2004 election.
A new report released last week substantiates many of the concerns raised on TomPaine.com and elsewhere. To see the report, click here. Today, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., D-IL, argues that the lesson of 2004 is that our right to vote is not secureâ€”â€”we need a federal right to vote with standards and the enforcement of those standards by the attorney general of the United States, rather than the patchwork, chaotic and unequal administration by states that we now have.
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., is a Democratic congressman from Illinois.
It was a heated campaign and George W. Bush handily defeated John Kerry. America demonstrated that its democracy is still the best in the world. And it was a relief 2004 wasn't a repeat of 2000.
The 2004 election ran smoothlyâ€”â€”didn't it?
Well not quite. A preliminary review issued by a coalition of groupsâ€”â€”including People for the American Way, the NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Lawâ€”â€”concluded, "the myth that the 2004 elections ran smoothly has become conventional wisdom for pundits and politicians, but nothing could be further from the truth.
"Shattering the Myth: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections argues that "In addition to the long lines and unreasonable waiting times that kept many peopleâ€”â€”disproportionately urban minority votersvfrom being able to vote, the top five problems overall were registration processing, absentee ballots, machine errors, voter intimidation and suppression and problems with the use and counting of the new provisional ballots mandated under new federal law."
Many problems surfaced before Election Day. Just as Katherine Harrisâ€”â€”Florida's Secretary of State and a co-chair of the Bush-Cheney Campaign in 2000 used various means of suppressing the minority voteâ€”â€”so did Ken Blackwell, Ohio's Secretary of State and co-chair of the Bush-Cheney Campaign. Blackwell absurdly proposed accepting only completed voter registration forms printed on 80-pound card stock instead of regular printing paper. Katherine Harris' replacement in Florida, Glenda Hood, attempted to implement another "felon purge" based on a faulty database until exposed by the press. Voter suppression in minority communities was again evident: flyers and phone calls advertising Election Day as November 3 instead of November 2; threats that if you illegally vote you could be imprisoned and your children taken away; and if you voted in other elections during 2004 you couldn't vote for President.
Why can we land people on the Moon, machines on Mars and transfer trillions internationally, but can't figure out how to run efficient, accurate and fair elections?
Just below the dysfunctional U.S. election system there's a very basic democratic question being discussed or fiercely debated among academics, civil rights leaders and politicians from both political parties. The question? Is the individual right to vote even guaranteed in our Constitution?
Bush v. Gore (2000) said, "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States." Thus, the simple answer appears to be "no."
Others, Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe among them, argue that the "equal protection" and "non-discrimination in voting" clauses of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments respectively and Supreme Court precedents since Brown (1954) can be construed to grant the individual citizen the fundamental right to vote in the Constitution.
The current Constitution allows state legislaturesâ€”â€”not individual votersâ€”â€”to select electors to elect the President through the Electoral College. This is what Florida's legislature threatened to do in 2000 if Gore had won the most popular votes. It would be especially wise for Democrats but, indeed, anyone who believes in democracy, to see the value of adding an individual voting rights amendment to the Constitution and no longer allow "states' rights" almost absolute control over our election process.
Last Julyâ€”â€”during a Q & A session at the RainbowPUSH Coalition Convention in Chicagoâ€”â€”former President Bill Clinton, after careful questioning, acknowledged, constitutionally, we have a voting system largely based on "states' rights" and he supported adding an individual voting rights amendment to the Constitution.
On August 6, at the UNITY: Journalists of Color Convention, Roland Martin asked President George W. Bush: "In your remarks you said that 8 million people in Afghanistan registered to vote, and as you said, exercised their God-given right to vote...That may be a right from God, but it's not guaranteed in the U.S.
Constitution...And in this age of new constitutional amendments, will you endorse a constitutional amendment guaranteeing every American the right to vote in federal elections?" President Bush responded: "I'll consider it."
I'm convinced that if Congress had the will, under our current Constitution, it could do much more to strengthen the administration of a unitary voting system, and protect and fully count all votes. Most Americans are unaware, however, that, nationally, according to a joint study by Cal-Tech and MIT, somewhere between four and six million votes were not counted in 2000 because many states had similar problems to what occurred in Florida. My state of Illinois was the worst. Ohio is the Florida of 2004 but nationwide massive voting problems were again very evident.
But I'm unconvinced, absent a voting rights amendment, that any solutions to our most pressing voting rights problems will be universal or sustainable. How can we achieve equal protection in 13,000 separate and unequally administered voting jurisdictions? We can't!
For example, I was born in South Carolina, raised in Illinois and went to college in North Carolina. While a resident in each of those states, the simple fact that I'm an American entitled me to representation by two Senators and a Representative.
However, while working in Congress I live in DC where American citizensâ€”â€”with the same obligation to pay taxes and willingness to fight and die in defense of our nationâ€”â€”experience taxation without voting representation in Congress. They are equal American citizens in obligation but treated unequally politically. They've tried political enfranchisement through a constitutional amendment, an "equal protection" and "non-discrimination in voting" lawsuit, and statehood through the Congress, only to be rejected. An individual voting rights amendment would give them equal citizenship status and entitle them to equal representation in Congress.
Most Americans are aware that in 2000 Florida removed over 50,000 voters claiming, erroneously, they were ex-felons. Nationally, nearly five million ex-felons, who have fully paid their debt to society, are permanently barred from voting. As a legacy of slavery, such laws are disproportionately in the South where 53 percent of African Americans live. Only a voting rights amendment can overcome many states determination to exclude them.
Without an individual voting rights amendment, any law Congress passed would only apply to federal elections, not state and local elections.
And if the individual right to vote is already in the Constitution, why didn't it take precedent over Florida's arbitrary December 12 deadline to count all the votes? In my view, constitutionally, states' rights overruled the individual's right to have their vote counted.
Finally, wouldn't individual voting rights be stronger and more secure if the right to vote was explicitly in the Constitution rather than implicitly construed to be there?
Very important and related issue
The United States Commission on Civil Rights cannot legislate or regulate. What it can do is hold hearings and make a terrible racket if the government is not enforcing the laws of the land forbidding discrimination in voting, employment and housing.
The panel helped created momentum for the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 and for the creation of civilian review boards to ease tensions between the police and minorities in the 1970's.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR Los Angeles Times
Appeared: December 14, 2004
Re "Some Find Strong Pulse in Social Security," Dec.12:
Those seeking radical restructuring of Social Security use the word "bankruptcy" to mean that the day will come when the program's trust fund will be exhausted and its earmarked tax revenue will be insufficient to pay all entitlements. By that definition, the military is bankrupt today. We spend about $500 billion per year on the military, including veterans' payments. Yet the Pentagon has no earmarked tax revenue and no trust fund. If our indefinite entitlement to national defense were treated analogously to Social Security, the Pentagon's "unfunded liability" would be on the order of $15 trillion to $20 trillion that's trillion! Yet no calls for radical restructuring of the "bankrupt" military are heard. Daniel J.B. Mitchell Professor of Management and Public Policy, UCLA
Important information as to who it is that is driving the issues that have fooled the nation into false talking points, false paths of action, and will cause everyone to rethink the logic behind privatization of Social Security.
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