For Updates - Post-2017 also see It's NOT good....

Monday, June 9, 2008

Way beyond "Dogs & Ponies" - whom I really like & respect. THIS show is getting sickening.

Merry-go-rounds are great too, unless you've been knowingly stuck on one for 6+ years and see few signs of it stopping.

On 5/23/08 the Cuyahoga BOE entertained ANOTHER round of "vendor sales presentations." Read this as the same people came, hawking basically the same equipment, from the same untrustworthy companies, which the December '07 OH SoS, $1.9M EVEREST report declared ALL "too critically flawed to produce a trustworthy election, " (page 3 the Academic Report;) and
unmitigatable, and unfixable unless they start all over from the ground up.
ES&S, HartIntercivic, and believe it or not, Diebold/Premier were all there, telling the same old "less than half-truths" and expecting multi-millions (some of those high costs again hidden from already way too high costs) for their same old (no longer hidden) incompetence, sheer greed, and lack of integrity.

Before getting to the 13-part film of that 5/23 day, let's catch up to what's going on with Cuyahoga, and a November '08 voting system:
  • In December '07 SoS Brunner, supposedly post-EVEREST and post the Cuyahoga tabulator crashes of Nov. '07, described last year in this blog - decided that Cuyahoga should no longer use its Diebold DRE's (first used in debacle election May, '06) - though other OH counties were still permitted to use them.
  • She wanted Cuyahoga to switch to all-central-count for March Primary '08, (in less than two months!) using high speed optical scanners. The only high speed central count scanners certified in OH at that time, and still to date, are the ES&S (very old ) M650's.
  • This forced a board vote on the issue. They tied along party lines, though many Dems from the public and election integrity groups stood with the reasoning of the 2 Republican board members who voted against the switch - too-fast, no-alternatives, too expensive and just as dangerous to elections as DRE's.
  • By law, SoS Brunner broke the board's 2/2 tie, and within days, and before the contracts were thoroughly thought-through and drawn up, in January, Cuyahoga was becoming the "proud renter" of almost $2M of 15 M650 scanners, the Unity tabulator, assundry supplies, millions of ballots - and some cadre of $1500/day ES&S technicians, (ES&S protectors) to in essence, run the election for Cuyahoga - from ballot definitions to tabulating final results.
  • Also in early '08, OH legislators - a basically partisan deciding, beholdin' to the people who got them into those positions (and i don't mean "we the people") and an R-majority- actually went along with this plan and quickly and very quietly passed emergency legislation (SB286) to allow central-count-only, and a few other ugly things like midday pickup of and scanning of ballots - until May 31.
    Three OH counties made the switch - 2 verry small ones (VanWert and Mercer, who may have gotten state funds to do so;) and Cuyahoga, the largest voting district with 1436 precincts, in OH.
  • The March 4 Primary was held. I could write book about that which I won't here. There is also about 60 hours of film to follow just on that subject.
    For now, we shall say Cuyahoga pulled off an amazing feat of the less than 2 month machine switch, and more amazingly, along with SoS Brunner, allowed it to APPEAR to be a "successful election" - with "down home," somehow supposedly inherently "honest" paper ballots (falsely represented as a non-electronic election; and without pointing out that paper ballots can be just manipulated as DRE's.)
  • With the March 4th election certified, the central-count legislation sunsetting and the M650s lease also sunsetting at May's end, - and with the almost 600 Diebold DRE's used for ADA access in March, joining the rest of the 6,300 Tsx's Cuyahoga owns - in mothballs; and seemingly with some board members becoming just as astonished or angry at Diebold as most election integrity activists - Cuyahoga began to again weigh it's very unpretty vendor options.

So in that regard, mostly with some PD articles by Joe Guillen, - who I actually find to be a good writer and journalist; who seems to "get it," and works to briefly represent a fairly balanced large picture of what is occuring - will get us to today:

Cuyahoga vote board hires lab to examine scrapped vote machines
Posted by Joe Guillen
May 01, 2008 18:22PM

Cuyahoga County hired a nationally-renowned lab on Thursday to prepare for a possible lawsuit against the maker of the $21 million touch-screen voting system scrapped in December.

The county -- currently shopping for voting equipment for the November presidential election -- wants to recoup its $7 million investment in the old system, which is only two years old. The rest of the purchase price was supplied by the federal government.

To prove the machines made by Diebold, Inc. were defective, the county has brought in SysTest Labs, of Denver, to study the touch-screen machines and vote-counting computer software.

SysTest is one of four labs accredited by the federal government to test voting systems for certification. The company has worked for a variety of governments and machine makers, including Diebold.

"Because of the sophisticated technology we're dealing with, we're going to need an expert to show a breach of the warranty," said Board of Elections Chairman Jeff Hastings.

The county wants to negotiate a settlement with Diebold. If the two sides reach a settlement, the contract with SysTest, for up to $325,000, can be ended. The agreement can run through 2009.

Hastings said hiring SysTest is a clear sign Cuyahoga is ready to take its grievance to court.
Diebold renamed its elections division Premier Election Solutions. A spokesman for Premier, based in Allen, Texas, said the company fulfilled its contract with the county. "We believe we provided a high quality voting system," Chris Riggall said.

Cuyahoga County's recent election troubles began with the arrival of the Diebold touch-screen machines. Mismanagement at the Board of Elections contributed to long-delayed election results in May 2006, but the Diebold equipment has been consistently unreliable, the board officials said.

The latest meltdown was in November 2007, when vote-counting software crashed twice. After that election, two of the four board members and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner decided to get new equipment for the March 4 primary.

The board rented a "central-count" optical-scan voting system for $1.5 million. Further use of that system has been prohibited by the state because the equipment does not notify voters of balloting errors.

The board wants to buy or rent a "precinct-based" optical-scan system for November. On Friday, May 23, voting machine manufacturers will make their sales pitches to the board. A new system is expected to cost between $10 million and $15 million.

2. A 5/15 CCBOE special meeting was called by Dem member, Sandy McNair, apparently to write a letter of support for SoS Brunner, apparently at her request, for her to take to the legislature, to urge them to once again pass central counting for November, for the three OH counties that used it in March. Who knows all the reasons for this?
The most blatant and known one is that this changing is getting ridiculous - and costing Cuyahoga county taxpayers more and more wasted millions on more and more insecure junk.

I will post more on that meeting, the public pleas against another dangerous (for many reasons) central count election, and the support letter keeping open the option of another central count election, ultimately signed by 3 of the 4 board members and was sent.

Cuyahoga vote board mulls new equipment
Posted by Joe Guillen May 23, 2008 18:15PM

Voting-machine companies displayed their latest technology on Friday for Ohio's largest voting jurisdiction. Now the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has less than three weeks to make a choice.

Three firms are competing to sell or lease what could be millions of dollars in equipment to the state's biggest county. Elections Director Jane Platten wants the board to pick a vendor by June 10 to avoid a rushed transition to the November presidential election.

The winner will supply the county its third voting system to be used in the last three major elections. More than $22 million in county and federal tax dollars have been spent on machines since 2005.

The board might lease equipment this time because many newer voting machines presented on Friday won't be certified for use in Ohio before the election.

The companies -- Premier Election Solutions, Election Systems & Software and Hart InterCivic -- provided a range of options to consider, including lease, purchase and lease-with-intent-to-buy plans. Costs ranged from $1.7 million to $15.7 million.

Board member Inajo Davis Chappell said she would be uncomfortable buying machines not yet certified. She said it was obvious to her that the board should lease for now.

Others did not tip their hands. After the presentations, member Sandy McNair made a motion for the board to go into executive session, which is not public, to discuss the proposals.

The board is allowed to discuss the purchase of personal property, such as voting equipment, in private.

The county needs new equipment because state lawmakers banned the "central-count" voting method used here in the March 4 primary.

Scanners leased for that balloting -- for $1.5 million from ES&S -- replaced $21 million touch-screen voting machines, made by Premier, that were scrapped in December.

For fall, the board is shopping for "precinct-based" scanners that notify voters at the polls if their ballots contain errors. The central-count method was banned because it doesn't give that alert.

There is a slight chance the county still can use the central-count method. Three of the four board members -- excluding Rob Frost -- sent a letter to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, urging her to ask lawmakers to permit central-count voting in November. Permission would give the board more choices, and members could retain equipment used in March at a discount.

A spokesman for Brunner said the secretary of state received the request, but time is running out. State legislators are slated to break for the summer next week.

Voting machine company sues county first
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Joe Guillen
Plain Dealer Reporter

Premier Election Solutions, the voting machine company Cuyahoga County might sue for selling equipment that has been discarded, has struck first, filing its own lawsuit.

Premier, part of Diebold Inc., is asking Franklin County Common Pleas Court to rule that the company fulfilled its contracts with Cuyahoga and the state.

A decision in Premier's favor would prevent the county from suing for breach of contract, according to the complaint.

The county quit using Diebold's voting machines, which cost $22 million, after they had problems during the November election. The touch-screen machines also had problems in previous elections.

Premier and county officials discussed a settlement recently, but no agreement was reached. Talks are continuing. County officials have said the equipment was defective.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner also is named as a defendant in Premier's suit.

"This is fairly common of someone who knows they're going to be sued," said Dan Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University and associate director at Election Law @ Moritz. "Rather than waiting, they go into court pre-emptively."

The company could be trying to pick its court of choice, Tokaji speculated. "I imagine Diebold suspected that a Cuyahoga court might not be the friendliest forum for its claims," he said.

5. On 5/27 the OH legislature seemed to send a message that they would have no more of Brunner's direction. The OH Senate took a 6-page bill from the House regarding allowing high school and college poll workers, and with no forewarning turned it into a 31 page bill, SustituteHB350, which among other things sends a clear message that they will have nothing to do with Brunner's pleas.
That bill has not been passed; the OH legislature left to go on break; and just today 6/9/08, when they regathered for a special session to consider such things as how to corporatize the waters of Lake Erie, the Republican members again decided to table yet another Dem attempt at breathing life back into OH central count.

Cuyahoga hopes for reprieve
Voting gear would cost county millions
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Joe Guillen
Plain Dealer Reporter

Cuyahoga County is facing at least a $7 million bill to rent new voting equipment for the November election, unless it gets a last-minute reprieve from the state legislature.

The county commissioners are leading a late push to lift a statewide ban on the old system used by the county. If the move works, it would save about $5.5 million. The reprieve would come in the form of an amendment to the state capital bill added during conference committee work on Monday.

But the effort, which enjoys the support of Gov. Ted Strickland, is a long shot at best.

"It's really too late in the process," said State Sen. John Carey, a Republican from southeastern Ohio who was a member of the conference committee. "At this point we're not willing to do it."

State Rep. Mike Skindell, a Lakewood Democrat, has pre pared an amendment to allow Cuyahoga and two other counties to use a central-ballot count if the state won't pony up the $10 million to $15 million needed by the counties to acquire machines that would scan ballots at the polls.

Skindell is one of a half-dozen lawmakers who sit on the conference committee, made up of members from both the House and Senate. He said the three counties will be hurting if the law is not changed.

But majority-party Republican lawmakers must agree to the addition.

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan said resistance only serves to embarrass Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat whose plan to overhaul voting in the state has largely been shot down.

"Put aside the partisanship and the posturing," Hagan said. "It costs the taxpayers millions."

Brunner ordered Cuyahoga to scrap its touch-screen machines and adopt "central-count" voting for March. Soon after, lawmakers instituted a ban on central-count to take effect after the primary. If the ban is removed, the county could keep central-count voting for November and rent machines for $1.5 million.

Brunner last week wondered why the legislature wouldn't accommodate the three boards. She said concerns about central- count voting, in which ballots are counted at the board after voting ends, have been erased.

Central-count opponents contend, however, that ballots with errors go unchecked at the polls, where voters might have a chance to correct them.

At least one member of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections, Rob Frost, doesn't want to keep central-count. "It is no more secure than punch cards," said Frost, who is chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party.

If the county can't keep the equipment used in March, its options for November are limited and pricey.

Ohio boards must use federally certified voting equipment, according to state law. The latest technology won't be certified by November.

In fact, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which certifies the machines, hasn't approved any equipment since its program was launched in January 2007.

Voting-machine companies are encouraging Cuyahoga to buy uncertified new equipment now by slashing the rental price of older-model, approved equipment.

It would be a package deal, with the county having to bank on the new equipment getting certification.

If the state law is unchanged, though, Cuyahoga is likely to rent for November.

"It's very frustrating that we continue to buy equipment," said Board of Elections member Inajo Davis Chappell. "We are not able to come up with an effective long-term strategy to buy secure, faster equipment because of the delayed federal certification process."

The election board meets Tuesday as well. If it does not make a decision for November that day, it probably will by the end of the week, said Chairman Jeff Hastings.
The following 13 parts of film is from #3 above - the 5/23/08 Cuyahoga "mulling," vendor presentation meeting. The openness of the meeting was excellent. And as you'll see the board is apparently not thoughtlessly swallowing this stuff. (But how much will they ultimately thoughtfully swallow?)
An entire election culture/consciousness change is still necessary at the CCBOE and in the community - to begin to open to the most logical solution of all, when faced with such bad yet exorbitant choices.

The only current, and the best election solution - hand counted paper ballots at the precinct level.

Will keep you apprised of what the next steps are. But for the momentous, historic upcoming November election, no matter what happens with vendor choices, let's write and call and come and stand for at least hand counting the presidential race at the precincts.

Let's get back to where we are supposed to be headed - to the sacredness of the citizens' elections, instead of diddling around the millions of dollar merry-go-round of vendors and their preposterous "offerings."

5/23/08 film:
1. Local board business and informal ES&S questioning:

2. ES&S informal & and local board business:

3. ES&S Presentation - (with Todd Urosevich) Part 1

4. ES&S - Part 2

5. ES&S - Part 3

6. Hart - Part 1

7. Hart - Part 2

8. Hart - Part 3

9. Premier Part 1

10. Premier - Part 2

11. Premier- Part 3

12. Local Board Business & about Diebold Registration System

13. Comments & Next Steps

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