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Emergency paper ballots to be used in Bexar County

Some more grist for the electronic voting machine mill: Bexar County will be forced to use emergency paper ballots for early voting in the May 13 municipal and school board elections, because their voting machine vendor cannot deliver a promised software upgrade in a timely manner.

County officials say they have no guarantee from Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software that it’ll have the touch-screen voting machines ready by [election day, May 13].

And the hassles don’t stop there: The company also hasn’t delivered programming for the county’s hand-held optical scanners, which could mean counting votes by hand.

“It sure is exasperating,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “We are looking at avenues to hold them responsible for this.”

Bexar County isn’t alone; the company left many other Texas counties in a similar predicament.

Scott Haywood, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state’s office, said ES&S has contracts with more than 140 counties, and most will be affected by the company’s apparent breakdown.

“They made their priorities, and I think Texas certainly wasn’t one of them,” Wolff said.

[…]

ES&S spokeswoman Amanda Brown said the company is working to deliver the software in time for election day.

“We’re doing everything we can to meet that goal,” Brown said.

But county officials say they haven’t heard anything definitive from the company about its ability to deliver.

“We have commitments from them for this election that they failed to live up to,” said Ed Schweninger, chief of the Bexar County district attorney’s civil division. “We hear that ES&S is going to try (to deliver software for election day), but I’m not hearing any more than that.”

Brown blamed the company’s delivery troubles on this year’s implementation of the Help America Vote Act, which became law in 2002 and requires every polling site to have at least one electronic voting machine available to voters.

“It’s been a challenging year with the implementation of HAVA,” she said. “It’s been challenging for everyone – for all the vendors” and elections officials.

Jacque Callanen, the county’s elections administrator, said it’s too soon to estimate how much the 11th-hour switch to paper ballots will cost. Nevertheless, Schweninger said the county would look to recover any extra expense from ES&S, either through a voluntary settlement or in court.

The E-N article says this is ES&S’s first major hiccup in Bexar County since their machines were implemented in 2003, but according to this op-ed piece, other counties suffered from glitches earlier this year.

Jefferson county purchased iVotronic machines in order to comply with federal law by the first primary election of the year. On March 7, the iVotronics were in place, but the system was not. Database components were missing. The programming was flawed. There were equipment failures. County Clerk Carolyn Guidry stated tabulation errors led to votes being counted twice. She added that the ES&S personnel were ill-informed. The Jefferson County Commissioner’s Court reviewed what happened on March 7 and concluded that ES&S was not fulfilling its contractual obligations. They decided to withhold payment until ES&S held up their end of the bargain. This is a standard practice; when homeowners or businesses hire a contractor, they do not pay the entire sum in advance but pay a portion when work begins. The remainder is paid when work is satisfactorily completed. Even though the March 7th election was problematic and far from satisfactory, ES&S demanded payment. The company stated that they would not provide programming and technical support for the run-off election until they were paid $1.95 million.

County officials knew they could not conduct the run-off election on iVotronics unless they had ES&S support. Assistant District Attorney Tom Rugg told the Beaumont Enterprise, “They are refusing to do things only they can do. Without ES&S programming, “the system they say they’ve sold to us is essentially worthless.”

JeffCo wound up paying for it anyway, since the alternative was violating HAVA and facing federal sanctions. Looking back at Steven Smith’s statement about double-counted ballots in the Republican primary, he did include a complaint about Jefferson County and ES&S machines elsewhere in the state.

As you know, I’m not an advocate of the notion that paper ballots are a panacea for voting woes on their own. I believe they’re required for system redundancy and sanity checking, but I believe they belong with the electronic machines, not as a replacement for them. I have to say, though, if the vendors can’t guarantee that their products will be ready to go for every election, then there’s not much to recommend them. ES&S needs to be held accountable for this mess. Thanks to Dan Wallach for the tip.

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2 Comments

  1. Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible says:

    ………………………..

    More and More Emergency Paper Ballots Count–Real Evidence–Past, Present and Future.

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    one more time

    From Altercation by Eric Alterman http://msnbc.msn.com/

    The Dog Whisperer — The New York Times Book Review offered a capsule review of a new book by TV dog trainer Cesar Millan (host of the show Dog Whisperer):

    Millan likes to talk about the importance of being a pack leader and projecting what he calls “calm-assertive” energy around your dog. The thing to avoid, he writes, is being “angry-aggressive,” a trait he identifies in Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. This type of person “would not make a good pack leader,” Millan writes, “because the other dogs would perceive him as unstable.” (Our presidents are often unable to control their dogs, Millan said in a recent lecture. He added, “We are the only species that follows unstable pack leaders.”)

    “Calm-assertive” sounds like :

    Al Gore and John Kerry

    “Angry-aggressive” sounds like :

    Thelma Bush and the Louise GOP
    and their apocalyptic fundamentalists
    MAD
    (Mutually Assured Destruction)
    dragging us all down with them
    with Global Warming.

    ………………………

    On How We Pick Our Leaders

    On purpose, secrecy is built into these non-evidentiary machines to hide or remove the truth of ballots for as long as possible.

    We need to hand count Paper Ballots on election night to have a provable Democracy. Where evidence is removed, we need to restore it. A Parallel election, or Signed Ballots would put evidence, Paper Ballots, back into the election.

    Odd isn’t it…Republicans must create Non-Evidentiary systems to win elections with no proof. Democrats are stuck with trying to figure out ways to restore evidence to prove a win…in enough time to actually take office. Years later does no good. Or, does it? Count the Ohio Ballots now, before Hurricane season to save our lives. And, didn’t Gore actually win, under all conditions? The remorseful Sandra Day O’Conner should back Gore up on this.

    We live in a post Katrina world now. So, Bush Step Down.

    I want Gore and Kerry as leaders to save more lives during the dangerous, worsening climate for which Republicans shills are so responsible–deniers while exacerbaters. Republicans talk of Armaggeddon to push blame onto GOD for Bush’s GOP’s stupid, tragic delay at problem solving (we are at 425 ppm CO2 and Methane–past the Tipping Point). Times Up.

    ………….

    Before Hurricane Season

    Ballots Count for Gore and Kerry. Bush Step Down.

    ……………………..

    Before 2006 Elections

    Just in case we are stuck with Republican Ney’s HAVA written for Republican Abramoff’s Corporate Client Diebold, favoring Republicans, paid by U.S. taxpayers to put their non-evidentiary machines in our voting booths. We have to overcome them with real evidence.

    See:

    Plan B: Parallel Elections & Signed Ballots
    By Lynn Landes 1/18/05

    Something’s got to give. Another election is just around the corner. What’s it going to be? Another opportunity to document election “irregularities” and computer “glitches”? Another chance to analyze mysterious exit polls? Another exercise in frustration? Another charade.

    Democrats will need a mighty good reason to go back to the polls. Many believe that our elections are rigged. And they have good reason. Republicans own the voting machine companies that count 80% of the votes. Congress and the courts are unlikely to change that. And the Democratic leadership has hardly made it an issue.

    So, let’s do something different. We’ll go to Plan B. We’ll organize our own “Parallel Elections”.
    A Parallel Election would be held in tandem with the official election. It could be organized on a precinct, county, or statewide basis. And anyone could do it. It’s simple. On Election Day, “parallel election pollworkers” (PEPs) would position themselves outside the polls. They would provide voters with “parallel ballots” to mark and a ballot box in which to cast them. At the end of the day, PEPs would compare their tallies with the official election returns. If the tallies don’t match, the election can be challenged.

    But, the really big deal is this… voters would be asked to print their names and addresses and sign their ballots. What’s the point? To provide proof. Candidates need hard evidence in order to challenge election results. A signed ballot would act as a voter’s affidavit – as direct evidence of the voter’s intent.

    Exit polls and audits provide circumstantial evidence, at best. We need much more.
    During the 2004 election, tens of thousands of voting rights activists worked the polls. They documented tens of thousands of election irregularities. But, all that documentation didn’t provide any direct evidence of how people actually voted. Even when recounts were conducted, as in Ohio, election officials managed to sabotage the process.

    The original goal of the secret ballot was to minimize vote selling and voter intimidation. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But, that time has passed. The secret ballot has become the refuge of scoundrels and unscrupulous election officials. It provides perfect cover for vote fraud and system failure.

    A signed ballot is not such a farfetched idea. In the 1700’s and 1800’s, “There was no right to a secret ballot; having sworn in as a voter, the voter may have simply called out his choices to the election clerks who sit… behind the judge tallying the vote,” writes University of Iowa professor Douglas W. Jones.

    In some parts of Switzerland, citizens still follow the ancient custom of electing their government by an open show of hands on the last Sunday morning of every April.

    Think about it. The U.S. Congress, state assemblies, and even town councils, all vote in public. Why should our votes be kept secret? What are we afraid of? Are we afraid we’d lose our jobs if our employers knew how we voted? That ship has sailed – quite literally. Millions of jobs in America have already been outsourced to foreign countries. It’s only going to get worse if we can’t boot these lunatics out of office. Are we afraid that some voters will sell their votes? Oh, you mean like our legislators already do? Listen. I wouldn’t make vote selling legal, but I wouldn’t get my shorts in a twist over it, either. Or, are we afraid to disappoint our friends and family? It’s more important not to disappoint yourself.

    A Parallel Election serves three purposes. First, it introduces authentic voting to American citizens. Second, it asserts local control over the voting process. And third, it provides a platform from which to seriously challenge election results.
    So, what do you think? Does a Parallel Election make sense? Does it stand a chance? Will people respond? I certainly hope so, because otherwise we’re left with some pretty dismal choices, all framed in a negative context. I think this is a positive project that’s worth a try. I’m game. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at [email protected].

    Let’s show our machine-made politicians that we will stand up and be counted.

    ………………..
    CHECKLIST FOR ORGANIZERS:

    THE DRILL — ‘PE’ Pollworkers are to hand informational PE pamphlets to voters as they go into the polls, and then offer a PE ballot as the voters exit the polls. At the end of the day, count the votes and compare it to the official count. If the count is off, report it to the Board of Elections and issue a press release.

    * Pick a precinct – it could be your own or a precinct that has experienced voting “irregularities” in past elections
    * Determine the precinct boundaries if you’re going to do a pre-Election Day pamphlet drop.
    * Determine the number of registered voters (so you know how many copies of the ballot you need to make). Call your Board of Elections for this information. It may also be online.
    * Design the ballot. Please label the ballot “PARALLEL ELECTION BALLOT”. Do not copy the official ballot. Leave a place for people to print their name, address, signature, and date. To provide the voter some secrecy, fold the ballot over that info and use a glue stick to seal it shut. It would only be unsealed in the event of a challenge. Allow the voter to participate without signing the ballot, if that is their desire.
    * Create or buy a tally sheet
    * Make ballot box – a cardboard office storage box could work.
    * After the election, retain ballots and tally sheet until next election.

    ______

    START ASAP WITH OUTREACH:

    * Call a meeting to organize public support – see SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE, below Keep the press and public informed. Do regular press releases to local news media – print, radio, TV (announce the effort, meetings, etc.)
    * Contact area civil rights groups and religious organizations for support, including local colleges, etc.
    * You can do pamphlet drops (SAMPLE PAMPHLET) or mail-outs before the election, but at the very least, be at your local poll on election day – that includes primaries. It’s a great time to introduce voters to the concept. Although one person could handle the job, two or more is definitely better.
    * Write letters to the editor / do talk radio & community TV / post info on internet (such as: http://www.indymedia.org/
    * Order bumper stickers and decals (although I have some that say http://www.BanVotingMachines.org that you can use, I’m probably going to order others that announce this project. You can also order your own. The following webpage has my supplier’s contact information – http://www.ecotalk.org/
    * Talk to people in your precinct as much as possible. One-on-one encounters are the most effective. Have voter registration forms available, as well. But, don’t fill it out registration cards for voters. Advise voters to fill it out and mail it themselves.

    ______

    (SAMPLE PRESS RELEASE)
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    The Parallel Election Project (PEP) is hosting an open meeting on (day), (date), (time) at the (place), (address). Citizens concerned about security risks posed by voting on machines, early, or absentee are invited to attend. For more information, contact: (name – optional / phone / e-mail – optional / website – if available)

    ……………………….

  2. Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible says:

    ………………………
    http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042806G.shtml

    “Nothing Prepared Me for Bush”

    By Onnesha Roychoudhuri
    AlterNet
    http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/35568/
    Friday 28 April 2006

    Robert Scheer has reported on every administration since Richard Nixon. But as he says in this interview, he never expected the lies and cynicism of Bush II.

    With over 65 percent of Americans disapproving of our current president, why can’t we get some credible opposition in Washington? As we head towards midterm elections, and look ahead to those of 2008, it’s a question that is weighing heavily on millions of American minds.

    Two longtime observers of our increasingly corrupt political system, Robert Scheer and Joe Klein have written books documenting the causes and the consequences. After 30 years covering politics, Scheer and Klein have some startling insights.

    In conversation with AlterNet, Scheer explains why he thinks Nixon was one of the great policymakers of our time. Come back Monday to see Klein discuss how we can tell when politicians mean what they say. While Klein and Scheer have a distinctly different set of politics, you’ll be surprised at their unified call for reform – and a cause that progressives can rally behind.

    Robert Scheer spent over 30 years interviewing American presidents and candidates since Nixon, but it was only in retrospect that he discovered a disturbing pattern. Scheer’s new book Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton – and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush explores the crippling effects the campaign process had on every candidate he interviewed – and how our presidents have become increasingly out of touch with American voters.

    As one of the last print journalists to spend extended periods of time with candidates, Scheer’s close examination of our political process, and how the media covers it, points to the flaws that led to the election of George W. Bush. AlterNet spoke with Scheer about what we got right, what we got wrong, and why in the face of such an unpopular president, we still find ourselves “drowning in lesser evildom.”

    Onnesha Roychoudhuri: How did the idea for this book come about?

    Robert Scheer: I teach at USC, and it’s obvious to anyone who teaches college students that they don’t cover much modern history and certainly not the modern presidency. I start every term in my Media and Society class by showing Oliver Stone’s “Nixon,” and then I bring in John Dean.

    They’ve never heard of John Dean, they barely know what Watergate was about, and by the end of three hours, they seem quite excited and recognize its importance. This book is in a way an attempt to collect some of the interviews and profiles with a new analysis at the beginning of each – a primer on the American presidency from Nixon to the present.

    The big idea that came out of rereading all the stuff that I had done over the years was the process of running for president – that’s where the “Playing President” title comes in. The process itself is so debilitating, so controlling, that it really doesn’t matter who these guys are or what they start out with.

    Even with the best of intentions, even when they’re very smart and knowledgeable – as opposed to George W., who is neither – it doesn’t seem to matter. All they are proving is their ability to manipulate, to think superficially, and to exploit national security issues rather than deal with them.

    OR: Can you explain the title of the book?

    RS: “Playing President” is an attempt to capture what it’s really all about. Trying out for the role becomes the dominant experience, and by the time you get into office, you’ve been shaped by it and keep playing out the part. What you’ve learned to do in the process is to be superficial, to suspend more profound thoughts, to silence your own doubts and your own serious thinking.

    OR: Why does that happen?

    RS: It’s built into our political process, particularly in a mass society with a mass media with a large owning bloc of almost 300 million citizens. What I was able to observe in these campaigns is it really didn’t matter that Nixon had a lot of experience and a lot of ideas.

    The reason he got to be president is that he was good at presenting himself in certain ways, manipulating information and covering up inadequacies. That’s pretty much true of all of them, and that was something that hadn’t jumped out at me before I put it all together in this book.

    OR: Looking back on these different presidencies, do you think that this concept of “playing president,” this artifice, has intensified?

    RS: There’s no question about that. I was able to do something that people can’t do these days, which is to have quality time with the guys who were trying to be president and a number of them who got the job.

    For example, I spent a lot of time with Reagan, both before he ran for governor and when he was running for president. As a print reporter without the cameras, I was able to really test the quality of their minds and their knowledge base. I don’t think you can do that anymore.

    These guys get booked into television. I guess in a sense this is the last broad view from a pre-electronic journalist. Whether I was writing for Playboy or for the L.A. Times, it was still basically one journalist with a tape recorder. There was no crew traveling with me. Also, the candidates were willing – either for nostalgic reasons because [they] still thought print was important, or because their campaign managers thought it was important – to give me a lot of time.

    OR: Do you think there are any other components aside from this shift in medium that are contributing to how wooing voters and electioneering has changed over time?

    RS: The role of money and the role of manipulation with campaign professionals. Much of what candidates have to do is raise money and appeal to constituencies or interest groups that can provide that money. That means presenting the issues in certain ways that will appeal to those people and then becoming a prisoner of your own language and thought process. That has always happened – it’s just been intensified.

    (much more)

    ……………

    Then wouldn’t this mean that since Al Gore and John Kerry were delayed and are being delayed from proving a win by counting Paper Ballot evidence, that they have escaped the above behavior shaping process observed by Robert Scheer?

    Both Al Gore and John Kerry have had a lot of time—years—to think of what is happening and what is important. Could it be that this amount of time would make them even better leaders, as their more thoughtful selves would surely be?

    Is that why Al Gore and John Kerry are so calm and assertive?

    Before an increasingly dangerous Hurricane season is upon us (what was the final information from the new review of bigger Hurricane surges, higher at the center of the storm–dome shaped, not wall shaped… any new updated Maps for Storm Surges for realistic evacuation efforts?), let’s count all the paper ballot evidence. Who really won? I want to know before Hurricane season…which is very soon.

    Or, Bush Step Down.

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