The vote count that only the gullible will believe
U.S. election November, 2004
“He said those optical scans seem pretty good, and reasonably priced,” recalls Pritchett, executive vice president of the nonprofit Collins Center for Public Policy.
But a power greater than the governor's own would soon prevail: the power of the marketplace.
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VANITY FAIR      October   2004 — Even if no voters are turned away at the polls in November, will everyone's votes actually be counted?
Floridians who use the new, electronic touch-screen voting machines will have good reason to wonder.
How Florida's largest counties have lurched from hanging chads to paperless voting machines after the 2000 election, and what consequences this change will bring, is an extraordinary story of well-meaning government officials — from state legislators to county commissioners — courted by local lobbyists and out-of-state salesmen.
It's a story of machines too complex for poll workers to operate reliably, resulting in unrecorded ballots, of touch-screens with no paper trail that stir fears of vote manipulation, of systems far more expensive to purchase and maintain than previous ones.
It 's a story, most disturbingly, of machines billed as infallible that turned out to be flawed.
The irony is that after the 2000-election mess, Jeb Bush himself had expressed confidence in optiscans as a worthy system to replace punch-card machines.
On a plane from Atlanta to Tallahassee, Bush ran into Mark Pritchett, who was about to oversee a blue-ribbon panel for the governor on electoral reforms.
"He said those optical scans seem pretty good, and reasonably priced," recalls Pritchett, executive vice president of the nonprofit Collins Center for Public Policy.
But a power greater than the governor's own would soon prevail: the power of the marketplace.
On March 1, 2001, Jeb's bipartisan blue-ribbon panel submitted a report with recommendations.
Many were adopted in the state's sweeping Election Reform Act that spring.
But not all.
The reform act, which sailed through Florida's House and Senate, did set clear new rules for recounts.
If a margin was one-half of l percent or less, an automatic recount would be done; if the resulting margin was one-quarter of l percent or less, then a manual recount would be done of the undervotes and overvotes.
Other changes were just as specific.
For a would-be voter who could not be found in the register or, say, who was deemed an ex-felon when he said he wasn't, provisional ballots would be provided.
If the board found the voter was eligible, that ballot would be counted — assuming the Election Day margin was close enough to make the exercise worthwhile.
Absentee voting would be easier: Florida would embrace convenience voting, by which anyone could vote by absentee ballot.
For overseas ballots, postmarks would no longer be an issue: any ballots received within 10 days of a general election would be accepted.
Most dramatically, the act prohibited punch-card voting machines.
No more hanging chads!
Out, too, were "central "optiscans: the ones hooked up to a central county server.
So many of the overvotes in 2000 had gone unnoticed because the optiscans in those mostly poor, black precincts failed to spit back an overvote ballot for a voter to revise; instead, the overvotes were silently rejected on the central server.
Now the 24 punch-card counties and 15 central-optiscan counties would have a choice: join the bunch that had precinct-based optiscans, or try touch-screens, which had just been certified in the state as an alternative, thanks in part to a huge lobbying push by vendors, and because the large counties never wanted to deal with paper ballots again.
The blue-ribbon panel made clear its own preference.
Though touch-screens were said to be reliable, it observed, they had a higher error rate than optiscans.
With a nod to the U.S. Supreme Court's equal-protection logic in Bush v. Gore, the panel suggested Florida voters would not be treated equally if some used a system that had a higher error rate than one used by the rest.
Perhaps because touch-screen technology was evolving so quickly, the panel overlooked a more glaring inequity.
The fine new standard for manual recounts could be applied to optiscans, because they produced paper ballots that could be inspected for over — and undervotes.
But how would it work with touch-screens, which produced o paper receipts?
All of the big counties up for grabs, however, would soon go with touch-screens, and most of those would go with a machine made by an Omaha-based company called Election Systems & Software, or E.S.&S., which had the good political sense to hire Sandra Mortham, former Florida secretary of state and implementer of the ex-felon purge campaign by DBT, as its chief lobbyist in the state.
Big money was at stake — tens of millions of dollars — and so, tragically, the push for clean elections with new voting machines became a classic exercise in murky politics.
Shortly before signing on with E.S.&S., Mortham signed on as a lobbyist for the Florida Association of Counties (FAC).
O June 21, 2 0 01, the association formally endorsed E.S.& S.'s iVotronic and began urging the state's undecided counties to buy it.
In return, E.S.& S. promised the association a commission on sales.
By year's end, E.S.&S. would win 12 counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward, for overall sales of about $70.6 million.
According to the agreement, FAC would earn about $300,000 in commissions.
If the association looked bad, Mortham looked worse.
She was taking commissions from E.S.&S. while on contract with the association that endorsed E.S.&S.I at least one county — Broward — Mortham received a 1 percent "success fee " of $172,000 for the county 's $17.2 million purchase of E.S.&S. touch-screens.
If that rate applied across the state, noted the Sun-Sentinel, then Mortham would have earned $706,000 in all from E.S.& S.'s total sale of $70.6 million.
That summer of 2001, Mortham set up a network of lobbyists for each county in contention.
If she did anything else, the county commissioners of Miami-Dade and Broward, her two biggest prospective customers, are unable to recall what that was.
They never saw her.
(Mortham declined to elaborate to Vanity Fair on her arrangement with E.S.&S.)
Miami-Dade was a key county for E.S.&S. to win: more populous than several states, it had about 912,000 registered voters.
Also, a bit disconcertingly, it was a county with 64 languages, 3 of which — Spanish and Creole, in addition to English — are spoke widely enough to require representation on all precinct ballots.
The company advised elections commissioners that it was applying for certification of a "minor enhancement" to meet the requirement.
"There was no mention by E.S.& S. [in their presentation] of any delays in boot-up time to accommodate multiple languages," recalls Theodore Lucas, the county's procurement-management director.
Or, he might have added, any intimation that disaster lay ahead.
VANITY FAIR      October   2004 On January 29,2002, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted to spend $24.5 million on 7,200 E.S.& S. iVotronic touch-screens.
A new era had begun.
For E.S.&S., Miami-Dade was a cakewalk.
But in neighboring Broward, nearly as large and important a prize, it had a problem: the county 's first-ever black elections supervisor, Miriam Oliphant, had come out early on for Sequoia, one of only two other touch-screen vendors certified to sell in Florida at that time.
She'd gone to Riverside, California, to see how Sequoia machines worked in a big metropolitan area, and liked what she saw.
So E.S.& S. did what it felt it had to do.
It hired lobbyists who were very, very close to Broward's commissioners.
The head lobbyist had served on the finance committee of one commissioner's last campaign and had held fund-raisers for a number of the other commissioners.
Another lobbyist had been finance chairman for another commissioner's campaign.
Not surprisingly, Broward 's commissioners went with E.S.& S.
Forty-eight hours before doing so, E.S.&S. fulfilled a county goal to steer l0 percent of the $17.2 million contract to minority businesses by bringing in Dorsey Miller, an African-American former school-board administrator who'd started a company, D.C. Miller &Associates, to win minority contracts for distributing custodial supplies — to his own school district.
First, as The New Times Broward-Palm Beach reported, Miller tried to steer $908,000 of the $l.7 million earmarked for minority contractors to D.C. Miller &Associates by arranging for it to supply voting booths and voter education.
Unfortunately, Miller had no means of manufacturing the booths and no warehouse space to store them.
This, as county staffers could see, would make Miller, in the argot of municipal contracts, a "pass-through" for the white business that did the real work.
(Miller declined to comment to Vanity Fair .)
Instead, Miller steered the business to an Asian-owned company called America Medical Depot, from which he received a monthly stipend, and bonus checks, to help it drum up business.
Usually with E.S.&S., the booths were assembled in Kansas and sent directly to E.S.&S., which combined them with its voting machines before sending them on to its clients.
This time, the booths would be sent to A.M.D., which would earn its $878,000 by buying, storing, and testing them.
A.M.D. won approval for the minority contract, in part by claiming to be an independent entity, not a pass-through, but, as Broward's assistant state attorney John Hanlon later determined, E.S.&S. sent checks regularly to A.M.D.
A day or two later, A.M.D. would send a check for exactly the same amount to the Kansas manufacturer of the booths.
The maneuver was slippery but not illegal.
"We have the money movement," says one person involved with the investigation, "but we didn't have a crime."
If Miller had lost the big prize, his company still managed to receive a reported $175,000 to $225,000 of the E.S.& S. minority-contract money for "voter outreach," which meant staging 93 demonstrations of E.S.& S.'s iVotronic, for, he estimated, 4,000 to 5,000 people in all — which comes to about $35 to $45 per person.
So E.S.& S. had the business, but could it deliver on its promises?
Going from two to three languages on its machines, E.S.&S. soon discovered, demanded the addition of a memory chip, which led to a longer boot-up time, about six minutes for each machine.
Unfortunately, multiple machines at one polling place couldn't be started at the same time.
A special supervisor cartridge had to be placed in each machine for six minutes, then transferred to the next machine.
Some polling places had as many as 28 machines.
The disastrous implications of that became all too clear on September 10, 2002.
This was the primary in which former attorney general Janet Reno was pitted against fellow Democrat Bill McBride for the privilege of taking on Jeb Bush in his bid for re-election that November.
In Miami-Dade that morning, many polling places opened late.
Workers were flummoxed by the machines.
Some never did get them operating correctly: after a whole day of voters' going in and out, the touch-screens at Precinct 519 recorded no votes cast.
Some polling places had no electrical outlets, so workers had to run the machines on their backup batteries, which soon died.
At the end of the day, some of the county's iVotronics were shut down incorrectly, leaving their votes uncounted.
"It was a perfect storm," rued Miami-Dade's elections supervisor, David Leahy, who had pushed hard for E.S.&S.
In Broward the night before, dozens of poll workers had quit, overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with the new machines, so Oliphant herself had raced around the county distributing the bags of tools that polling supervisors needed in each precinct.
Yet two dozen polling places opened late, one after noon.
At least 34 of Broward's polling places turned away voters before the polls were due to close.
Results, as in Miami-Dade, were scrambled or lost.
Early results showed that McBride had won by a margin of about 8,000 votes out of more than l.3 million cast.
As reports of irregularities began coming in, Janet Reno called for a statewide recount.
Tallahassee told her she was too late.
Though final tallies in Miami-Dade and Broward shaved the margin by early half, Reno grudgingly conceded.
For that November's election, Miami-Dade and Broward pledged to spend whatever it took to thwart another crisis.
This time, the machines were booted up the night before — and guarded all night by police on overtime.
More than a thousand county employees were commandeered to help, too, and so in both Miami-Dade and Broward the election came off with hardly a hitch — at a cost, in the two big southern counties, of well over $l0 million.
Jeb Bush won re-election by far too large a margin for any talk of voting-machine irregularities.
Another winner that day was Katherine Harris, who ran for U.S. Congress in her home district in central-west Florida.
From her first day in office as secretary of state, in 1999, Harris had known she would have just one term.
A state rule change enacted by the preceding Democratic administration had decreed that Harris would be the last elected secretary of state.
Thereafter, the position would be an appointed one.
So Jeb Bush now had the luxury of appointing a secretary of state to oversee the challenge of getting Florida's new touch-screens to work as promised.
The governor formed a transition team, which included Miguel De Grandy as chief counsel.
De Grandy, a Republican lawyer who had done all he could to block Miami-Dade's recount in 2000, had been recommended by Sandra Mortham to be hired as E.S.& S.'s lawyer-lobbyist in his county.
Now this same E.S.& S. lobbyist was chief counsel of the governor's transition team.
The next secretary of state and her director of elections would oversee the certification process for all upgrades to E.S.&S. machines.
De Grandy sees nothing untoward about the arrangement because, he says, he did not advise the governor personally on whom to choose for secretary of state.
Bush's choice was Glenda Hood, a centrist Republican and the mayor of Orlando.
Hood vowed that there would be smooth and fair elections in Florida, and felt fully confident in E.S.& S.'s iVotronic machines to help make that happen.
She would find the electoral waters a bit choppier than expected.
E. S. & S. had promised to shorten the long boot-up time for Miami-Dade's iVotronics created by the trilingual ballot.
But when the company submitted a new and improved Version 7.5, the state informed E.S.& S. on May 7,2003, that it would not be certified, because of numerous "anomalies and deficiencies"
E.S.& S. says these were minor, and that the following month, when Version 7.5.1 was certified, it included a fix for the trilingual ballot.
No longer would the machines have to be booted up serially.
Yet even now, as one Miami-Dade County insider observes, each machine "takes just as long to boot up.
As E.S.& S. was struggling to resolve those "anomalies and deficiencies," Miami- Dade's inspector general issued a blistering report.
After listening to tapes of E.S.& S.'s presentation to the county the previous year, he wrote that E.S.& S. had deceived the commissioners outright.
The company had said nothing about the longer boot-up time.
The I.G. cautioned the county not to believe E.S.& S.'s promises, and wrote that "if this situation does not improve, the County should consider scrapping the current system."
(An E.S.& S. spokesperson says the company did not mislead the county about its products or services.)
At 54, Florida secretary of state Glenda Hood has the handsome, weathered look of a woman who has spent a lot of time in the Florida sun and doesn't mind that at all.
In person, she projects an odd mix of authority and detachment, perhaps fitting in a job that puts her in charge of Florida's elections but gives her limited power to affect them.
Hood's message to the out-of-state reporters tramping through her Tallahassee office in ever growing numbers is how much has changed.
"Everything has changed," she says.
"And everything needed to change"
Since the primary calamity of 2002, Hood stresses, scores of local elections have gone off without a hitch.
"I think it does a huge disservice to live in the past, to say 'what if ?' You could go through these 'what if ?' conspiracy theories from now until the end of time."
Much has been done, and so Hood's frustration with skeptics is understandable.
Still, a series of problems through the spring and early summer have been troubling.
In a January runoff among Republicans in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, touch-screens produced 137 blank ballots while recording a 12-vote margin of victory for the winner.
As a result, U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler, a Democrat, stepped up his call for the state to require printers for touch-screen voting machines.
The printers could generate paper "receipts," much as A.T.M.'s do.
When a voter confirmed that the touch-screen had registered his vote as he cast it, he could put the paper receipt in a box; in a close race, the voter-verified paper ballots could be used for manual recounts.
In his home county of Palm Beach, Wexler filed two lawsuits — one in state court, one in federal court — declaring, among other things, that touch-screens violated the state's own election laws because they don't allow for manual recounts.
The state suit was dismissed on appeal in August.
The federal case was due to be heard late that month.
Such lawsuits, Hood says, are so much fearmongering.
"I think there are a lot of individuals who are trying to erode voter confidence," she declares. "The fact is that we haven't had malfunctions with any of our equipment."
The blank ballots in Broward and Palm Beach's run off, election officials said, were easily explained.
Voters had simply gone into the voting booth and chose not to vote.
As for Wexler's call for a paper trail, Hood says, "not one of [the vendors] have fully developed any type of paper printer.
And the reason they haven't ...is because there are no standards."
To further discourage the paper-ballot movement, Hood turned to Republican senator Anna Cowin, the legislator who had blocked attempts to have ex-felons ' rights automatically restored.
Hood gave Cowin a bill to file, which would render Wexler 's lawsuits moot.
"A manual recount may not be conducted of undervotes on touch-screen machines," the bill declared.
The point, Hood explains, was that no recount is needed, because touch-screens don't allow overvotes: if a voter tries to select a second candidate, the second choice replaces the first.
Nor do they allow under-votes: if a ballot is left blank, the machines notify a voter two or three times that he has not made a selection.
Yet, as activist Sandy Wayland of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition points out, "If you say recounts are illegal with touch-screens, that would make it difficult for any future generation of machine that did have a paper trail to get certified."
When a young, first-time Democratic state senator named Dave Aronberg succeeded in thwarting the bill last Easter, Hood quietly enacted the ban as a new state rule.
By the time most legislators learned of this stealth move, a 20-day public comment period had ended, and the rule acquired the force of law.
Late last spring, Hood was still grumbling over the calls for a voter-verified paper ballot to accompany touch-screens: "Some of the advocates ...I'm not sure that they 're aware that there actually is a paper audit record that is one of the backup systems."
The audit record is intended to be used only after votes are tallied, as a kind of backup check to see that the machines have worked as intended.
But it could be used for manual recounts, Hood suggested, on a statewide basis, if needed.
Ed Kast, the then director of Florida's Elections Division, had said more specifically in state hearings of May 2003 that the audit record generated "actual paper records as well as ballot images," thus rendering any other paper trail superfluous.
Unfortunately, as Constance Kaplan was about to learn, the audit-record system was flawed.
Kaplan, 55, the new Miami-Dade elections supervisor, has big blond hair and likes to drape herself in lots of south-western turquoise jewelry.
A 33-year veteran of Chicago's elections system, she came to Miami in July 2003 because she thought the job would be fun.
Shortly before her arrival, Orlando Suarez, a Miami-Dade technology specialist, reported in a memo that when the audit report was downloaded from the various voting machines of a polling place, the serial numbers of the respective machines could be garbled or lost.
As a result, the votes taken from machines A, B, and C might all appear on the audit record to have come from an unknown machine D.
No votes were lost, Suarez observed, but, as an auditing device, he said, this was unacceptable.
"Initially, E.S.& S. denied that a problem existed," Kaplan wrote to Aldo Tesi, the president and C.E.O. of E.S.& S.
Then, as Kaplan explained, the E.S.& S. project manager for Miami-Dade suggested a temporary solution, which proved to be time-consuming and expensive.
E.S.& S. assured Kaplan that the company's upcoming, new and improved version would soon be finished and certified, solving that problem and others.
But months passed, and no solution appeared.
An E.S.& S. spokesperson says the company did come up with a fix by mid-2003, but Florida declined to certify it.
A county insider has a different view: "Basically they ...didn't do a thing about it until their feet were held to the fire and they were being trashed by the media." In mid-July, at last, E.S.& S. won state certification for a fix of the audit glitch.
The company would pay all costs associated with the fix.
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Vanity Fair       October 2004
By DAVID MARGOLICK, EVGENIA PERETZ and MICHAEL SHNAYERSON
The Path to Florida
So the problem, as Hood declared, was solved.
The company's new Version 8.0 was still nowhere in sight, but an E.S.& S. spokesperson says its timing "is not relevant " because the fix was done.
Yet the fact remained that E.S.& S. had been promising for nearly two years that a cure-all version would be arriving soon.
No sooner had the fix been announced than another embarrassment emerged.
Twice in 2003,Miami-Dade's computer system had crashed, apparently destroying the county 's electronic records of a number of 2002 and 2003 elections.
The loss of some of these voting-machine records was actually a violation of Florida law, which requires counties to keep race returns for set periods of time.
The crash had occurred on county computers, not on iVotronic voting machines.
But the county could not find backup records.
A frantic search ensued for random copies of the results that might exist on one hard drive or another.
Finally, copies were found.
Governor Bush himself professed to be "pleased "at the retrieval.
But again the state's Division of Elections was left seeming ham-handed.
Even if no further flaw emerges before November, Florida voters will be left to wonder just how accurate their touch-screens are, thanks to a jarring report in early July from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Reporters sifted the results from last March's Democratic presidential primary in Florida.
They looked only at precincts where the primary was the sole race on the ballot.
Here was as pure a sample group as one could hope to find: only Democrats could vote in that primary, and they knew before they walked into the voting booth who the choices were.
How ma y such voters would go in to the voting booth and the fail to vote?
Yet the Sun-Sentinel found that of the 200,836 votes cast on touch-screens in those precincts, 1,648 — or about 0.8 percent — were recorded as undervotes.
That was about six times as many undervotes as recorded on optiscans in other one-race precincts for that same primary.
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"That one line has been repeated, but it's not true," says Hood's press secretary, Jenny Nash, of the six-times-greater rate of undervotes on touch-screens.
"On touch-screens, the undervote rate is a slight bit higher because if you don't make a decision in a specific race the touch-screen prompts you two or three times, but eventually you can cast your ballot that way.
On an optiscan, if a voter decides to do that, a blank ballot, when it's fed into the tabulator, is spit back out.
Because the poll worker can't look at how the voter voted, he would say,' Go fix it.' That can be intimidating."
Unpersuaded, one of Miami-Dade's commissioners has begun to ask if the county should just admit it erred and get rid of its touch-screens altogether.
"The issue is not the paper trail," says Jimmy Morales, a Cuban-American who is running for mayor of Miami-Dade County this fall.
"The issue is these machines don't work."
Yes, Morales says, a paper trail would be reassuring.
But at what cost, added to all these other costs? "For the cost of re-doing the software, adding the printers, not to mention the ongoing supplies — paper, ink, all that stuff — it 's more expensive to do that than to scrap them and buy the optiscan system."
Governor Bush, asked recently what's changed from 2000 about his state's demographics, said," Everything."
Overall, the state 's population has grow by more than 1 million — to 17 million — since the last presidential election.
"We have the largest number of people moving in, the third-highest number of people moving out," said Bush of how his state compares with the other 49. "We have a pretty high birthrate. We have a lot of young people who are becoming first-time voters. And we have a lot of people going on to see their Creator."
Yet, of the state's 9.4 million voters registered in 2003, the party-line split is still right up the middle: 42 percent Democrats, 39 percent Republicans, with17 percent claiming no party affiliation and 3 percent members of minor parties.
Nick Baldick, who was John Edwards's presidential-campaign manager, says even that small majority of Democrats is deceptive.
"Florida has a registration majority of Democrats, but not a presidential voting majority of Democrats.
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A lot of registered Democrats in the South may vote Democratic for state representative or governor, but may not vote Democratic for Senate or president."
In the crazy quilt of Florida demographic groups, Cuban-Americans have been staunchly — passionately — Republican since John F. Kenedy's bungled Bay of Pigs.
This time, believes Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox, the bloc may not be so monolithic.
"George Bush has broken promises," he says.
"He promised to end the wet-foot, dry-foot immigration rule — that if you're a Cuban and you're caught in the water, on a raft, they send you back to Cuba, whereas if you get a foot on land, then you stay in America. He has not fulfilled that promise."
And Cuban-Americans are dubious, he suggests, about all the American lives spent to remove Saddam Hussein from power when "we have a dictator that has just as bad human-rights violations within 90 miles off our coast."
Ultimately, says Baldick, Kerry will need to win by the same formula Clinton won by in 1996.
In the big southern counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach — he'll have to win big.
Then, Baldick explains, he'll have to break even, or come close, in the I-4 corridor: the now fabled mid-state region, the spine of which is Interstate 4, between St. Petersburg and Daytona, whose voters are the state's major swing factor.
Clinton did carry the I-4 corridor — just barely, but that was enough.
"Then, in North Florida," Baldick observes of the state's most conservative counties, especially in the Panhandle," a Democrat has to not get blown out of the water."
That's the theory.
But more than one new variable this year may yet confound it.
Convenience voting, suggests former Gore lawyer Kendall Coffey, could be a killer for Democrats.
"Just as Democrats have historically done better with recounts, Republicans have always been favored by absentees," he says, and convenience voting is simply absentee voting made easy.
"The funny thing is that it was packaged in with all the touch-screen voting reforms in 2001, and the Democrats never saw it coming."
But Scott Maddox sees an upside there. Convenience voting, he says," is going to be a major push of the Florida Democratic Party because that is the one place now [where] we can have a paper trail."
Earlier this year, minority voters in Orlando's mayoral election showed strong interest in absentee ballots — apparently enough for Democrat Buddy Dyer to avoid a run off.
Now the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which ultimately reports to Jeb Bush, has begun an investigation into those ballots that has, as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert put it, "the vile smell of voter suppression."
Dressed in plain clothes, gun-toting investigators showed up at the homes of elderly black citizens in Orlando and told them that they're part of an investigation into Mayor Dyer's campaign workers, including Ezzie Thomas, 73,president of the Orange County Voters League.
Many of those confronted were members of the mostly volunteer organization which encourages minority voting.
Thomas sees the investigation as nothing less than an attempt to intimidate Florida's black voters.
"It 's because of the presidential election coming down the pike," he told the Orlando Sentinel.
Military absentee ballots will be even more of a factor this year than in 2000 because of the obvious: 135,000 American troops in Iraq, not to mention those in Afghanistan.
And now that any overseas ballots can be received without a postmark up until 10 days after the election, who can say what schemes might be hatched in that grace period after a close election?
Mark Herron, the Gore lawyer whose memo about absentee ballots backfired so badly in 2000, adds that "there 's also a provision in here that's probably going to come in to play that says that the Elections Canvassing Commission can extend overseas absentee ballot receipts if the armed forces of the United States are engaged.
So the 10-day thing may not be 10 days." It may be more than 10 days.
The greatest new variable this year, to be sure, is the voting machines themselves.
Will they perform without mishap after all?
Will the presidential election in Florida be the anticlimax that members of both parties should fervently hope it will be: a clean election with a winner undisputed by all?
In dozens of local elections across the state, there is indeed cause for that hope.
In poor, black Gadsden, the county with the highest spoilage of votes (12 percent) in 2000, the error rate in 2002 dropped to less than 1 percent.
Shirley Knight, the elections supervisor since 2001, credits new, precinct-based optiscans for that success — along with her own emphasis on stringent, relentless voter education.
Yet even if the machines appear to work, who's to say they won't have been hacked?
While elections officials in Florida seem to take on faith the security of their E.S.& S. machines, the state of Ohio isn't so sanguine.
In 2003, Ohio secretary of state J. Kenneth Blackwell commissioned a Detroit-based computer company to test his state's voting machines.
The results were not encouraging.
In the E.S.& S. machines, the review discovered one potential high-risk area, three medium-risk, and 13 low-risk areas.
Instead of multiple passwords that could be set at each polling place to enhance security, E.S.& S. had made two of its three passwords for each machine "hard-coded," or immutable, so that the same two passwords were used for every machine manufactured.
The review also concluded:" There is no use of encryption on the iVotronic or on the data transferred to and from the iVotronic.
There is a risk that an unauthorized person could gain access to the data."
An E.S.& S. spokesperson says the iVotronic does have its own form of encryption, and adds that the study's programmers were assigned to hack into each system, and proved unable to breach the iVotronic, proof the iVotronic is secure.
But Blackwell was unpersuaded.
Speaking about all the touch-screen systems tested, he said," I will not place these voting devices before Ohio's voters until identified risks are corrected and system security is bolstered."
(E.S.& S. says it 's in the process of enacting design or programmatic changes to comply with Ohio 's requests.)
Heeding critics' concern over touch-screens 'lack of a paper trail, the G.O.P. issued a glossy flyer in July urging Republicans to shun them in favor of absentee ballots.
An embarrassed Governor Bush quickly disavowed the flyer, but the point was made: for all his own secretary of state had done to talk up touch-screens, the problems of the last months had stirred doubts in both parties that Florida's election of 2004 would be any cleaner, or clearer, or more conclusive than the nightmare of 2000.
"Having spent lots of money, passed lots of laws, made lots of speeches, held commission hearings and the like, if anything, we're worse off than we were four years ago," says Gore lawyer Kendall Coffey, "in that [in] some of the key counties that could hold not only the key to Florida but the key to the nation's future you do not have a legitimate recount vehicle.
Because they have touch-screens without a paper trail.
It 's hard to imagine a scenario that makes hanging chads the good old days, but that's the reality of the 2004 elections in Florida."
                          To rebel is right, to disobey is a duty, to act is necessary !
twenty
twenty
         Bush v Gore — an orphan of history              
August 15th 2006
New York Times

Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named?
By Adam Cohen
At a law school Supreme Court conference that I attended last fall, there was a panel on “The Rehnquist Court.”
No one mentioned Bush v. Gore, the most historic case of William Rehnquist’s time as chief justice, and during the Q. and A. no one asked about it.  
When I asked a prominent law professor about this strange omission, he told me he had been invited to participate in another Rehnquist retrospective, and was told in advance that Bush v. Gore would not be discussed.
New Orleans
The ruling that stopped the Florida recount and handed the presidency to George W. Bush is disappearing down the legal world’s version of the memory hole, the slot where, in George Orwell’s “1984,” government workers disposed of politically inconvenient records.
The Supreme Court has not cited it once since it was decided, and when Justice Antonin Scalia, who loves to hold forth on court precedents, was asked about it at a forum earlier this year, he snapped, “Come on, get over it.”
Dictum
There is a legal argument for pushing Bush v. Gore aside.
The majority opinion announced that the ruling was “limited to the present circumstances” and could not be cited as precedent.
But many legal scholars insisted at the time that this assertion was itself dictum — the part of a legal opinion that is nonbinding — and illegitimate, because under the doctrine of stare decisis, courts cannot make rulings whose reasoning applies only to a single case.
Bush v. Gore’s lasting significance is being fought over right now by the Ohio-based United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, whose judges disagree not only on what it stands for, but on whether it stands for anything at all.
This debate, which has been quietly under way in the courts and academia since 2000, is important both because of what it says about the legitimacy of the courts and because of what Bush v. Gore could represent today.
The majority reached its antidemocratic result by reading the equal protection clause in a very pro-democratic way.
If Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis is integrated into constitutional law, it could make future elections considerably more fair.
Value one person’s vote over another
The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county.
Katrina still here
“Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms,” the court declared, “the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.”
If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.
The first major judicial test of Bush v. Gore’s legacy came in California in 2003.
The N.A.A.C.P., among others, argued that it violated equal protection to make nearly half the state’s voters use old punch-card machines, which, because of problems like dimpled chads, had a significantly higher error rate than more modern machines.
A liberal three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed.
But that decision was quickly reconsidered en banc — that is, reheard by a larger group of judges on the same court — and reversed.
The new panel dispensed with Bush v. Gore in three unilluminating sentences of analysis, clearly finding the whole subject distasteful.
Applying Bush v. Gore to elections
The dispute in the Sixth Circuit is even sharper.
Ohio voters are also challenging a disparity in voting machines, arguing that it violates what the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor, calls Bush v. Gore’s “broad principle of equal dignity for each voter.”
Two of the three judges who heard the case ruled that Ohio’s election system was unconstitutional.
But the dissenting judge protested that “we should heed the Supreme Court’s own warning and limit the reach of Bush v. Gore to the peculiar and extraordinary facts of that case.”
The state of Ohio asked for a rehearing en banc, arguing that Bush v. Gore cannot be used as precedent, and the full Sixth Circuit granted the rehearing.
Hattiesburg
Mississippi
It is likely that the panel decision applying Bush v. Gore to elections will, like the first California decision, soon be undone.
Raw assertion of power
There are several problems with trying to airbrush Bush v. Gore from the law.
It undermines the courts’ legitimacy when they depart sharply from the rules of precedent, and it gives support to those who have said that Bush v. Gore was not a legal decision but a raw assertion of power.
The courts should also stand by Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis for the simple reason that it was right (even if the remedy of stopping the recount was not).
Elections that systematically make it less likely that some voters will get to cast a vote that is counted are a denial of equal protection of the law.
The conservative justices may have been able to see this unfairness only when they looked at the problem from Mr. Bush’s perspective, but it is just as true when the N.A.A.C.P. and groups like it raise the objection.
There is a final reason Bush v. Gore should survive.
In deciding cases, courts should be attentive not only to the Constitution and other laws, but to whether they are acting in ways that promote an overall sense of justice.
The Supreme Court’s highly partisan resolution of the 2000 election was a severe blow to American democracy, and to the court’s own standing.
The courts could start to undo the damage by deciding that, rather than disappearing down the memory hole, Bush v. Gore will stand for the principle that elections need to be as fair as we can possibly make them.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to appoint a President.
Published on Monday, July 4, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by Sheldon Drobny
Justice O'Connor's decision in Bush v. Gore led to the current Bush administration's execution of war crimes and atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places in the Middle East that are as egregious as those committed by the Third Reich and other evil governments in human history.
US destroyed Fallujah as it tries to destroy the rest of Iraq
The lesson is clear.
Those people who may be honorable and distinguished in their chosen profession should always make decisions based upon good rather than evil no matter where their nominal allegiances may rest.
Justice O'Connor was quoted to have said something to the affect that she abhorred the thought of Bush losing the 2000 election to Gore.
She was known to have wanted to retire after the 2000 election for same reason she is now retiring.
She wanted to spend more time with her sick husband.
Unfortunately, she tarnished her distinguished career with the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore by going along with the partisan majority of the Court to interfere with a democratic election that she and the majority feared would be lost in an honest recount.
She dishonored herself and the Supreme Court by succumbing to party allegiances and not The Constitution to which she swore to uphold.
And the constitutional argument she and the majority used to justify their decision was the Equal Protection Clause.
The Equal Protection Clause was the ultimate basis for the decision, but the majority essentially admitted (what was obvious in any event) that it was not basing its conclusion on any general view of what equal protection requires.
The decision in Bush v Gore was not dictated by the law in any sense—either the law found through research, or the law as reflected in the kind of intuitive sense that comes from immersion in the legal culture.
The Equal Protection clause is generally used in matters concerning civil rights.
The majority ignored their basic conservative views supporting federalism and states' rights in order to justify their decision.
History will haunt these justices down for their utter lack of justice and the hypocrisy associated with this decision.
Sheldon Drobny is Co-founder of Air America Radio.
United States voting procedures — how U.S. votes are stolen (continuing) — click here
Pelosi
The United States will stand with Israel now and forever.
Now and forever.
29 July 2007
Israel hails US military aid rise
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has confirmed that the United States is planning a significant increase in military and government aid to Israel.
The package would amount to more than US $30bn increase.
Unspeakable grief and horror
                        ...and the circus of deception continues...
Most recent Kewe blog   click here
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Circus of Torture   2003 — now
He says, "You are quite mad, Kewe"
And of course I am.
Why, I don't believe any of it — not the bloody body, not the bloody mind, not even the bloody Universe, or is it bloody multiverse.
"It's all illusion," I say.   "Don't you know, my lad, my lassie.   The game!   The game, me girl, me boy!   Takes on interest, don't you know.   T'is me sport, till doest find a better!"
Pssssst — but all this stuff is happening down here
Let's change it!
       Afghanistan — Western Terror States: Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, Italy       
       Photos of Afghanistan people being killed and injured by NATO     
U.S. Bombing of Fallujah
— the Third World War continued: Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia
More atrocities - Ahmed and Asma, story of two children dying
al-Sadr City
Iraq's real WMD crime - the effects of depleted uranium
World War Two soldiers did not kill Kill ratio Korea, Vietnam. Iraq.
Afghanistan - Terror?
Photos over past three months.
Aid agencies compromised by US actions
US soldiers committing suicide Afghanistan Iraq — Most Recent
Psychologist Pete Linnerooth was one of three who were part of a mental health crew in charge of the US 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in the Baghdad area of Iraq.   Pete Linnerooth committed suicide by turning a gun upon himself in January of 2013
Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes.   More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.
Mary Coghill Kirkland said she asked her son, 21-year-old Army Spc. Derrick Kirkland, what was wrong as soon as he came back from his first deployment to Iraq in 2008.   He had a ready answer: "Mom, I'm a murderer."
A military base on the brink
As police agents watched he shot himself in the head
Murders, fights, robberies, domestic violence, drunk driving, drug overdoses
US soldiers committing suicide Afghanistan Iraq II
U.S. Soldier Killed Herself After Objecting to Interrogation Techniques
Private Gary Boswell, 20, from Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, was found hanging in a playground in July
She is Jeanne "Linda" Michel, a Navy medic.   She came home last month to her husband and three kids ages 11, 5, and 4, delighted to be back in her suburban home of Clifton Park in upstate New York.   Two weeks after she got home, she shot and killed herself.
Peterson refused to participate in the torture after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage
     United States Numb to Iraq Troop Deaths       
     All papers relating to the interrogations have been destroyed     
      We stripped them and were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood     
US soldiers committing suicide Iraq Vietnam
The Iraq War - complete listing of articles, includes images
The House of Saud and Bush
       All with U.S. Money:       
       US and Israel War Crimes       
All with U.S. Money:
Israel agents stole identity of New Zealand cerebral palsy victim.
(IsraelNN.com July 15, 2004) The Foreign Ministry will take steps towards restoring relations with New Zealand. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced she was implementing diplomatic sanctions after two Israelis were sentenced on charges of attempting to obtain illegal passports. Despite Israeli refusal to respond to the accusations, the two are labeled in the New Zealand media as Mossad agents acting on behalf of the Israeli intelligence community.

Foreign Ministry officials stated they will do everything possible to renew diplomatic ties, expressing sorrow over the "unfortunate incident".
Projected mortality rate of Sudan refugee starvation deaths — Darfur pictures
Suicide now top killer of Israeli soldiers
Atrocities files - graphic images
'Suicide bombings,' the angel said, 'and beheadings.'
'And the others that have all the power - they fly missiles in the sky.
They don't even look at the people they kill.'
       The real Ronald Reagan       
       — Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, South Africa        
Follow the torture trail...
       Cowardly attacks by air killing men women and children in their homes, often never seeing those they kill as the drones or aircraft fly back to the cowardly bases       
       If they kill only the husband, see how they care for the family they have destroyed       
       Afghanistan — Western Terror States: Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, Italy       
       Photos of Afghanistan people being killed and injured by NATO     
        When you talk with God        
         were you also spending your time, money and energy, killing people?         
       Are they now alive or dead?       
Photos July 2004
US Debt
Photos June 2004
Lest we forget - Ahmed and Asma, story of two children dying
Photos May 2004
American military: Abu Gharib (Ghraib) prison photos, humiliation and torture
- London Daily Mirror article: non-sexually explicit pictures
Photos April 2004
The celebration of Jerusalem day, the US missiles that rained onto children in Gaza,
and, a gathering of top articles over the past nine months
Photos March 2004
The Iraq War - complete listing of articles, includes images
Photos February 2004
US missiles - US money - and Palestine
Photos January 2004
Ethnic cleansing in the Beduin desert
Photos December 2003
Shirin Ebadi Nobel Peace Prize winner 2003
Photos November 2003
Atrocities - graphic images...
Photos October 2003
Aljazeerah.info
Photos September 2003
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