Saturday, May 12, 2007

Back to Vu & San Diego, CA's Whole Barrel-ful of Rotten Apples

In IM talk, this post can only begin OMG! How blatantly ridiculous can it become?
From today's San Diego's North County Times:
San Diego County hires ex-sales rep for Diebold as registrar

NORTH COUNTY -- A former sales representative for the company that made the county's electronic voting machines has been hired as the county's registrar of voters, county officials announced Friday.

In 2003, the county bought 10,000 electronic voting machines from Diebold Election Systems. The county's new registrar, Deborah Seiler, said Friday that she worked as sales representative for the company and was directly involved in the successful effort to sell the company's equipment to the county in 2003.

In addition to her stint at Diebold, the 57-year-old woman's resume reflects a broad background in elections, dating to the late 1970s, when she served as assistant chief of elections with the California secretary of state's office. In 1982, she became assistant to the secretary of state for elections and political reform and held that position until 1989. Between 1991 and 1999, Seiler worked as director of customer relations for the electronic voting machine company, Sequoia Pacific Systems. She also served as a commissioner with the California Fair Political Practices Commission between 1993 and 1997.

In San Diego County, many of the questions surrounding recent elections -- and the hiring of Seiler -- involve electronic voting machines made by Diebold.

Diebold sold more than 10,000 of the machines to the county at a total cost of $31 million.

"Our job was simply to point out the merits of the hardware and the software," Seiler said.

At least one election watchdog says he is not happy with the hire.

"There is always going to be that question, 'Is there a conflict of interest?' " said Carlsbad attorney Ken Simpkins, who unsuccessfully sued San Diego County last year to force it to put enough paper ballots at the polls to cover the county's 1.3 million voters.

"When Diebold's contract comes up for renewal or there are disagreements, is she going to represent her former company or the citizens of San Diego County?" Simpkins asked when contacted by the North County Times on Friday.

Seiler has served for the last three years as the assistant registrar of voters in Solano County. She will start as the new local elections chief next month and earn an annual salary of $150,000, she said.

Seiler said that running the county's elections will not be easy, especially because three major elections are scheduled in 2008 -- the presidential primaries in February, primary elections for state and local offices in June and the general presidential election in November.

With the first of those elections about nine months out, Secretary of State Debra Bowen recently called for a "top-to-bottom" review of the state's electronic voting systems to assure voters that their elections systems were "secure, accurate and reliable." The call for a review added to the growing controversy over the voting machines, which opponents say are rife with vulnerability to vote manipulation.

Seiler said Friday that her biggest challenge is "the uncertainty about the voting system because of the secretary of state's review."

"Uncertainty is always a challenge when you are walking into a major election cycle," she said.

Bowen has said that the review of the voting machines could produce three possible findings: that the machines have no problems, that they do have problems that could be fixed, or that the machines can't be fixed and should be decertified.

It's the potential for decertification that has Seiler concerned, especially in light of the fact that the February presidential primaries are only about nine months away, she said.

"There would be a wholesale change to the system that would require re-education of poll workers and voters and would require a restructuring of our procedures," Seiler said.

Recent years have seen a number of people serve as registrar for the county. Mikel Haas held the job between 1995 and 2001, before stepping down. Sally McPherson took over the job, but retired in 2005 and Haas became registrar again.

In April, Haas was promoted to the job of director of the county's Community Services Group, a job in which he oversees six county departments, including the registrar of voters office. Retired Riverside County Registrar of Voters Mischelle Townsend took over as interim chief elections officer while the county searched for a replacement for Haas.

Seiler's hiring was the second decision by the county in the last month or so to raise questions from election watchdogs. In April, county officials announced that they were giving the job of assistant registrar of voters to former Cuyahoga County Ohio elections chief Michael Vu, who served in that position for three and a half years.

During his tenure, the county gained national notoriety when a federal judge in Cleveland ordered 16 Cuyahoga County polling stations to stay open 90 minutes after the 7:30 closing time in November's elections because of voting machine problems and long waiting lines for voters.

In January, a court convicted two elections workers in that county of illegally rigging the 2004 presidential election recount so they could avoid a more complete review of votes. Vu defended the workers, saying they had followed long-standing procedures and done nothing wrong.

Haas said Friday that he was instrumental in hiring Seiler and he believes that the county has found a "gem."

"Her depth and breadth of knowledge of elections in California for over 27 years was the absolute driving point in hiring her," Haas said.

Asked if Seiler's association with Diebold played a role in the decision to hire her, Haas said: "We use that system, so it's kind of a plus."

-- Contact staff writer William Finn Bennett at (760) 740-5426, or
1. Interesting in this article, besides the open "chutzpah"-abuse going on in San Diego, are the same mantra, foolish excuses used nationally by those who "protect" their ability to continue to, with the least amount of questions, hand over millions of taxpayer dollars to Diebold for their insecure junk (...and for what back???) and that allow insider, undetectable changes to election results. These all include some form of:
  • we can't change horses midstream;
  • we're (always) too close to an election to think and change make changes provide accuracy, security and verifiability;
  • we can't check facts, or we may come up with "unknowns," which would be "bad" for a too-close election; or
  • we have a great "solution" for the Diebold "glitches" - which always involves buying MORE Diebold junk and lousy, incomplete services.
2. Interesting also is this article written by a Bennett (of the same spelling,) includes comment by Sally McPherson, another of the former San Diego Registrars. (Haas '95-2001; McPherson,'01-'05; Haas again, '05 - and then I lose count - for Mischelle Townsend's (also with legal complaints still against her) is also in there somewhere - twice.)
But Sally McPherson retired in March, '05, earlier in the same month that Bruce McPherson was appointed Secretary of State for California when Kevin Shelley resigned. Maybe unrelated to anything. Just interesting.

3. Interesting also is that rumor had it back in November, '06 that after the two failed attempts by CCBOE Dem members to immediately oust Vu in July and August '06, that Michael Vu in his borrowed time until after the November election, was trying to get a job at Diebold, after his final axe would come down.

Given the caliber of Cuyahoga's Diebold "Project Manager," Jessica Hiner, who only rarely could answer questions posed to her - unless she was selling something and quoting prices - and who from her "managing" Diebold's "take" from Cuyahoga to well over $15 million, has since gotten a promotion - it seems Vu there might have been the perfect fit.

He, however stayed to follow Bennett's lead in handing over more millions to Diebold,
(and sometimes making large amounts hard to find, under lists of "vouchers", not under contracts) - until Bennett could hold Vu's cover no more - after the conviction of the two board employees for the recount rigging.

Though the Bennett/Vu relationship was always "B:'jump'-and-V:'how high?'", obvious to anyone who watched just one meeting, Bennett liked to point out their "separation" stating that Vu was registered as a Dem, and Bennett was registered, obviously as a Republican.
As if that mattered.
Not only can "politics make strange bedfellows" but self-interest and greed trumps all.

4. Also regarding Vu's Cuyahoga registration,
In the case of Vu, and his arrival to the CCBOE/Bennett, at the end of July '03, as I understand it, Vu arrived from Utah as an Independent.
(Salt Lake is where he had worked with Mischelle Townsend, his "mentor", who this year, having been in San Diego, and a few months ago having returned to her old Registrar position as Interim Registrar there, hired him.)

When Vu arrived in Cuyahoga in '03, Democrat Tom Coyne was board chair, and Roger Synenberg,
Republican (the one and same!) were on the board, (before Soggs and Florkiwiecz respectively,) and were planning to leave the following January.

When Coyne and Synenberg did leave at the beginning of '04, again, as I remember it, Vu then declared himself a Democrat, so he could be "a major party" Director and Bennett could become the board chair of the opposite party. (Vu's changing parties twice, once as Republican to get the job, then again, so Bennett could be chair, certainly would have attracted too much attention.)

But not only was Vu willing to hold and change parties for the job, (- and again, I need to find and again go through through those '03-'04 very sketchy agendae, minutes and documents to check, since I wasn't there until the '04 election and recount that finally caught my attention) not too long after Vu's arrival came a "Realignment."(One word, no explanation on the agenda)

In February, '04 a few board top staffers with satisfactory work records, and with no warnings, got fired. (During that period, the clerk had unknowingly left the tape recorder going during an executive session, where the old board was casually, deciding on employee moves and salaries according to how it would look, not on merit. A request of the tape of the regular meeting revealed their amazing casual-game mode for moving people around.)

In "board-speak" that "realignment" was to achieve a "leaner, 'less-political' team".(A 2/04 PD article) Bruce Trakas, the business manager and Nancy Minco, the human resources manager, were replaced by now Interim Director Platten, who had been an aid for Tim McCormack and a project manager for the Commissioners.

While that appointment has turned out to be a wonderful gift to this county, the general understanding then, however, was that the board both liked Platten's stellar work, and her easy connection to the Commissioners - the keepers of the funds, especially for their planned and decided purchase of lots of Diebold machines. (That Diebold decision was voted on, and refused to be moved from, since Feb.'04 - before the public had any chance to know - while Bennett's pal O'Dell had recently purchased Global Election Systems for Diebold, "insiderly" knowing lots of national sales were coming down the pike, (before HAVA was passed.))

Trakas sued. The case was either dismissed or settled (which I will find when I locate that file.)

However, as I remember from the Trakas documents, one of the claims was that not only did Vu sell out on his party alliance, but that he was hired, and possibly sworn in by the board in '03, when he wasn't yet even legally allowed to vote in Cuyahoga - which would have been against the law. Ohio law requires a BOE director to be a "qualified elector" in Ohio, which requires a 30 day residency.
As I remember, there was also an allegation in that Trakas suit, that Vu therefore, had his Cuyahoga registration fudged - which is a federal offense.

A thorough investigation of that, as well as his possible other offenses in Cuyahoga, including
his prior knowledge of the '04 recount rigging seems certainly in order. His original registration card should be able to be found - again by federal law, as supposedly administered by him while he was here.
(See Do We Still Have Original Registration Cards? - from the 11/27/06 Board meeting at

5. Also interesting, is the fact that California Secretary of State Bowen, like Ohio Secretary of State Brunner, is planning a"top-to-bottom" review of that state's e-voting devices over this summer. Both women campaigned on a platform of election reform, before winning and taking office in January.

Since no state did any thorough review with consideration of the costs and dangers to fair, accurate, verifiable, transparent elections, before purchasing these e-voting systems, this does need to get done certainly before another major election.

With the amount of work that needs to get done, the number of factors that need to be checked, the level of computer and election expertise necessary to conduct a really thorough review , it seems it might benefit the people of both states for them to share some of the work and information while they are doing it, certainly taking into account, each one's state laws.

Just like audits done after the fact, what we don't need are simply more reports of massive machine problems, or lists of policies that cannot, and we know, will not be adhered to by massive numbers of poll workers, in some rose-colored-glasses attempt to put yet another band-aid on the primitive, insecure and often non-operational computer systems that have cost this nation billions; have added more work not less; provide interactive database beginnings for eventually invading even that privacy - easily tracking each person's choices; and worse, in the end, providing no way to verify to voters that the vote results announced were actually the voters' majority choices.

More facts about Deborah, the Diebold Rep's, San Diego appointment as Registrar can be found in an excellent article posted today on BradBlog written by John Gideon.
His facts and additional links there, even show that it was Seiler who sold 1,200 touch-screen voting machines to the fine folks in Solano County, which were later proved uncertified.

Before or after you check out BradBlog, also look at the post directly below for MORE on Vu in what one San Diego activist calls the "toxic waste dump"; and California Secretary of State SoS Debra Bowen's response to my letter dated April 15 about Vu, San Diego, and the message this sends throughout the elections industry.

1 comment:

Duncan said...

Todays edition of the North County Times added an even greater helping of disdain on the residents. Buried in a budget review, it was revealed that the County will be purchasing 200 more of the Diebold machines. This when the budget shortfalls will force the county to cut back services. Fifty positions at the Child Protection Office will be left vacant, yet the Registrars Office budget will increase by ten million dollars in order to purchase more Diebolds. One can only hope that Seiler and Hass split the sales commision equitably.