Monday, June 18, 2007

And Vu AGAIN- A Must Read - San Diego Activists for Democracy Remain Outraged

Fox 6 News in San Diego has been following the voter outrage in San Diego caused by the hiring of Michael Vu.
In my own just getting back to blogging after some time off here, I must begin by catching up on the late May activist activities there, and the (unprecedented - for Cleveland) wonderful media coverage Vu's questionable background is duly receiving.

Paul Lehto, nationally well known elections integrity lawyer and activist there , along with attorney Ken Simpkins sent me these links.
They are truly worth a good look.
Start here: ( Just goes to show you how a little documenting and a lot of working together nationwide can can help us help our country's democracy.) This, "Questionable Background" went up on May 21, 2007:

Then still listed as a "hot topic"on May 23, the "Voter Outrage" video went up:

Then more printed content went up on their site:

Lehto and Simpkins, so-founders of an organization named Psephos, also held a news conference.
Lehto wrote in an email:
A gift from Psephos to Interim Registrar Michelle Townsend, Registrar-Appoint Deborah Seiler, Asst. Registrar-Appoint Michael Vu, and, most importantly, a gift to Diebold:
We Present to you, this 10 minute feature expose' on FOX TV in San Diego, to honor your corruption of the recounts in the 2004 presidential election, to give tribute to your secret vote counting software, to indict the entire electoral process in Ohio, to indict the entire electoral process in San Diego, to remember that thousands did not receive their ballots in Ohio, to condemn the loss of voter registrations, and to make damn sure that Judge Corrigan's comments (the trial judge in the felony convictions in the Ohio recount rigging in the 2004 presidential elections) are remembered and available on video:
On video, Judge Corrigan says to the convicted Ohio election officials: "Protecting other people, I don't know, it seems unlikely that your superiors didn't know." ---Judge Peter Corrigan
Then there is (not yet available on webstream) a five minute discussion interview that aired live in which Psephos pointed out that Vu was the superior, where Psephos attorney and co-founder Ken Simpkins pointed to the lack of accountability of these appointed election vendor apologists, and denounced the lack of checks and balances and lack of citizen control over elections. Consistent with earlier coverage of the San Diego Union Tribune quoting Psephos' Paul Lehto, Deborah Seiler's 12 years with Diebold and Sequoia were acknowledged for her skills as "one of the nation's foremost apologists for electronic secret vote counting." Ken rocked!
We also had a packed Supervisors in a mid-morning meeting with numerous public comments taking on the supervisors for approving secret vote counting, buying millions more in machines the day before this public comment, and being unresponsive to polls stating that over 80% of San Diegans want a transparent voting system. Some citizens were getting so upset two got ejected from the room, but each public comment in favor of democracy was greeted with enthusiastic applause, and even a comment by a Supervisor about the patriotic war in Iraq got greeted by widespread boos and hisses. Many local citizens and activists attended and a half dozen or more made comments.
Our press conference at 1030 was also well attended by TV and print media. Here's the Fox News link for the San Diego story (first half of it)
or go to and choose the link to today's feature story QUESTIONABLE BACKGROUND.
A special salute to Ohio activists like Adele Eisner, and Kathleen Wynne who got critical video for the Cuyahoga case, and others who played key roles in developing the Ohio evidence against Vu.
Vu's record is now following him wherever he goes, as it should. Off the record, media is calling the whole thing "sordid."
You could say that the weather is San Diego is HOT. When the election PR department and officials refuse to respond to repeated calls for comment, they are IN HIDING.
But politicians should know that when it comes to elections, they can Run for office, but they can't Hide. They can't hide the vote counting -- nor can they hide from the cameras in San Diego either.
Paul Lehto, Co-founder, Psephos (SEA-foss)
Ken Simpkins, Co-founder, Psephos
Linda Poniktera, Co-founder, Psephos

Then there are the stories in the San Diego North County Times like this:
Protesters criticize county elections hirings
By: GIG CONAUGHTON - Staff Writer
May 23, 2007
SAN DIEGO -- Tuesday's county Board of Supervisors meeting drew a restive crowd, with two people ejected, while dozens of other electronic voting opponents protested recent hirings for the county's elections department.

Between 40 and 50 people showed up at the board meeting to protest the county's recent decisions to hire Deborah Seiler and Michael Vu as the county's top two elections officials, registrar and assistant registrar of voters.

The protests also included sharp criticisms of electronic voting in general, and devolved into shouts from audience members, rebukes from supervisors, and a declaration from county Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard that Seiler, Vu and electronic voting were here to stay.

Seiler, who most recently served as the assistant registrar of voters in Solano County, also worked as a sales representative with Ohio-based Diebold Elections Systems, and was directly involved in the company's sale of 10,200 "touch screen" election machines to San Diego County.

Protesters said Seiler had a conflict of interest because as a Diebold employee, she benefited financially from the sale of the machines to the county, and because she, as a former Diebold employee, supported a system that could rig elections.

Vu, meanwhile, resigned in February as executive director of Ohio's Cuyahoga County election board, where two elections workers were convicted of rigging a 2004 presidential election recount.

Protesters said Vu's resignation and the problems in Cuyahoga showed he was incompetent.

Vu could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Seiler, who will take over as county registrar June 4, said in a phone interview after Tuesday's protest that she hoped people would consider her entire elections career when judging her.

The 57-year-old Seiler's elections experience started in the 1970s, and she said it demonstrated a "clear dedication to voters and the process of elections administration."

Among other jobs, she spent seven years with the California secretary of state's office, eventually becoming assistant to the secretary of state for elections and political reform. She also served as a commissioner for California's Fair Political Practices Commission, worked in the private sector with Diebold and a rival, Sequoia Pacific Systems, and as an elections officer in Solano County.

Seiler said she believed that the fact she was familiar with three different types of electronic voting systems added to her elections experience.

"I'm not beholden to any of those companies," Seiler said.

Ken Simpkins, leader of a recently created local elections watchdog group, opened Tuesday's comments, telling supervisors that San Diego County had become the "laughingstock for the country for election integrity" by hiring Seiler and Vu.

Chief Administrative Officer Ekard -- who has publicly defended his hirings of Seiler and Vu, and who previously characterized many anti-electronic voting critics as "conspiracy theorists" intent on undermining public confidence in elections -- immediately responded to the criticisms.

Ekard said election integrity was "paramount" to him, county workers and supervisors, called electronic voting criticism "tired arguments," and defended Seiler and Vu, calling them honorable people with decades of elections experience who would ensure the integrity of the county's elections.

At a break in the meeting, Simpkins said that he and other electronic-voting opponents believe that the machines can be rigged to register "secret votes" -- electronically tabulating a vote for a candidate the voter did not select while printing out the name of the voter's chosen candidate on the printed vote copy that was designed to prevent fraud.

"Mr. Ekard and his board are overseeing the implementation of a system of secret vote counting in San Diego," Simpkins alleged. "It cannot be an accident that the most controversial elections officials in the country... are here in San Diego."

Members of the audience broke into applause at the end of Simpkins' and subsequent protesters' comments, a demonstration that county officials routinely ask audience members not to do. However, board Chairman Ron Roberts chose not to admonish the audience until it was the county's turn to speak in response.

Ekard told the audience he supported the two new election officials.

"I understand that there are those of you who disagree with my hires," Ekard said. "I have heard you. I have listened to you. I disagree with you, and that's it. They will be on staff to ensure ..."

At that moment, a woman in the audience shouted out, challenging Ekard.

Roberts stopped the proceedings, and asked the woman to leave, saying that county officials had politely listened to the protesters.

But then, another woman, Becky Hostetter, angrily shouted back at Roberts that county officials had indeed interrupted the public speakers, a charge that seemed not to be true unless she referred to Roberts' telling speakers when their two-minute time limits were up.

Roberts then told Hostetter to leave, which prompted her to yell even louder as she retreated.

"What you're doing is wrong," Hostetter shouted, her voice increasing in volume as she continued. "You're subverting democracy -- and we won't have it!"

Ekard again tried to finish. Crowd members once again jeered, and Supervisor Pam Slater-Price lashed out.

"Excuse me please," Slater-Price said. "During the time you were speaking, we did not boo, hiss, catcall or laugh. That is very rude and totally unacceptable behavior."

Board members, meanwhile, listened only to five of the public speakers at the beginning of the meeting, choosing to trail the remainder until the end of the meeting, which concluded without incident.

Meanwhile, at the break, the audience members held a planned demonstration outside, holding up placards such as "Stop ignoring the voters of San Diego County," and "Seiler and Vu = sleaze X 2." One woman, wearing a pink "Impeach Bush and Cheney" T-shirt and a wolf mask, carried a poster-sized sign emblazoned with a quote attributed to deceased journalism icon Edward R. Murrow, "A nation of sheep soon begets a government of wolves."

Although the county of San Diego ran a relatively problem-free set of elections in November 2006 with its electronic voting machines, and most voters seemed to like the machines, electronic voting has not outgrown controversy that suggests that they could be rigged to throw elections.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, herself an electronic voting critic, has ordered a "top to bottom" $1.8 million retesting of all California electronic voting systems.

Bowen said she hoped the review could be finished by August, and that electronic systems could be decertified if they prove vulnerable to tampering.

Meanwhile, Simpkins' watchdog group has filed a complaint with Bowen's office alleging that county officials committed several crimes and wrongdoing during last November's elections.

County officials have responded to queries from Bowen's office, but no determinations have been made.

-- Contact staff writer Gig Conaughton at (760) 739-6696 or
Or this:
County's registrar Deborah Seiler says she hopes to win over critics
By: GIG CONAUGHTON - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- New Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler said Wednesday that she wants people to know she's committed to serving voters, and that she hopes to win over critics who say she never should have been hired by the county.

Sitting in her unadorned office, Seiler, 57, said that she and county officials knew her appointment would be controversial -- because she had spent two years working for Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems and was part of a marketing team that helped sell 10,200 electronic voting machines to San Diego County.

Those critics have said Seiler's background represents a conflict of interest.

But Seiler rejected that allegation Wednesday -- as well as suggestions that electronic voting machines are inherently dangerous because they can be rigged -- in her first official batch of interviews as registrar. She said she worked for two years with Diebold in a 30-year elections career that included 11 years with the secretary of state's office in Sacramento, and, most recently, three years as registrar in Solano County.

"There is no conflict of interest -- legal or ethical; I have no financial ties to any company," she said.

Elections officials have used computers to help count votes for 40 years, Seiler said, long before recent moves to "touch screen" and other electronic machines created controversy.

For example, she said, the old punch cards that people used for decades were actually counted by computers that "read" the holes.

Seiler said she was not saying that electronic machines could "never" be rigged, or that elections officials shouldn't be careful with their use. But people have been sounding alarms that computers were not safe to count votes for decades, she said, and those alarms have not become reality.

"I think that's good context for voters," she said.

Meanwhile, Seiler said she plans to try to talk to a few local groups who have loudly criticized electronic voting -- at protests such as a recent county supervisors meeting that saw two people ejected.

"As registrar, if there's even a small contingent of people who are concerned, then I'm concerned," she said. "I want people to trust the system. Or I want people to at least understand the system."

Seiler said the county's own touch screens performed without a hitch Tuesday in a special election in Vista for residents to decide whether to allow the city to adopt a charter.

However, Seiler -- and counties across California -- still do not know if they'll be able to use their electronic systems in the state's February presidential primary elections.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced last month that she plans to review all the existing systems in an investigation that will include computer hacking "penetration teams," and that the machines could be decertified.

Seiler said Wednesday that she and county officials are worried because Bowen's review has created uncertainty that could make pulling off three big elections in 2008 -- February's presidential primary, a local June primary, and November's presidential election -- more difficult to pull off.

Elections officials say that primary elections are often the most difficult to coordinate because ballots -- which must be printed in four languages -- must also be printed in several different types because voters in primaries can only vote only for their respective party's races.

Seiler said she doubts that Bowen can actually conduct a "top to bottom" review in the next two months, which could leave county rushing to find backup options by February's primary.

Seiler said that Bowen has stated that the review would be done using 2002 federal guidelines that were 6 inches thick.

"It takes the (federal elections agencies) eight to nine months to go through hundreds of thousands of lines of source code; these people (Bowen) are going to do it in three weeks?" Seiler said.

Seiler also questioned Bowen's use of computer hackers to test the safety of electronic machines. A number of government, academic and private computer groups have hacked into existing systems in laboratory settings, showing vulnerability and arguing the machines could possibly "throw" elections.

But Seiler, as other elections officials have said in the past, said the laboratory tests lack real-world safeguards. For one thing, she said, the laboratory hackers would be given the "secret" source code for the machines.

"If you give a burglar the keys to your house and the floor plan, they're probably going to get in," she said.

However, Seiler and other county officials said their biggest worry is that Bowen's review could throw electronic machines into a sort of limbo that could leave counties struggling to figure out how to run the impending elections. For example, she said, the Bowen review could leave electronic voting machines certified -- legal for use -- but attach security conditions that would make them too expensive for counties to use.

In that case, counties could go back to using paper ballots. But, Seiler said, federal laws that took effect in 2006 say elections officials can't make disabled persons -- such as the blind -- use paper ballots. She said that's because someone would have to help them fill them out, and they would not be secret ballots.

If that happened, Seiler said, counties could be scrambling to find some alternative -- not electronic and not paper -- to use.

Seiler also said she was comfortable with the county's decision to hire another controversial elections official, Michael Vu, as assistant registrar.

Vu resigned in February as executive director of Ohio's Cuyahoga County election board, where two elections workers were convicted of rigging a 2004 presidential election recount. Cuyahoga county also made news in November 2006 when electronic voting problems prompted a federal court to order 16 polling stations to stay open more than 90 minutes after the 7:30 p.m. closing time. Despite the problems, Vu was praised by other elections officials for his work, and he said he decided to resign because he felt the Cuyahoga elections board wanted new leadership.

Seiler said she saw no problems with the county hiring Vu -- who was hired before Seiler.

"He went to court, there was all this media attention, and he was under intense scrutiny," Seiler said of Vu's relation to the convicted workers. "If there had been something there, I think they would have found it -- or indicted him."

-- Contact staff writer Gig Conaughton at (760) 739-6696 or
There they all are now sounding somewhat like an uninformed or defensive replay of the crazy-making days of Cuyahoga. Even the North County Times editors have not put in the time to see that going back to paper ballots for elections would be the most courageous, futuristic jump for democracy made in years. Instead in their non-researched, non-understanding fog of blindly accepting electronics as some magical, wiz-bang answers to all, they call activists "regressive.
And there are all the players - still trying to perjoratively sling the term “conspiracy theorist” against those who’ve actually not rested until the real conspiracies have been exposed over the past few years, and against those who just want proven facts brought to light.
Still trying to scare people from having real elections with verifiable election results by trying to make the majority assume that current DRE’s, especially Diebold’s, are the only solution for handicapped access, when they are definitely not.
Still trying to convince people that because the vendor robber-barons and the politicians who loved them ( and their ability to undetectably manipulate elections) have gotten away with shoving this equipment down the throats of the electorate nationwide– on our multi-billions – and with not even enough time or information for the right questions to be thought to be asked by legislators approving HAVA , let alone the right answers being demanded – that now, it would somehow be foolish or wasteful to not only cut our continuing huge financial outlays to these same companies, but to take back our elections from the few profit guzzling, private companies who now control everything about them – including the results, through their secret software.

And how nice of Seiler to want Diebold critics to at least “understand” the equipment. Seiler’s problem is, however, that we are not without the facts any longer - as many election officials were when she was first passing this junk off to them. We DO UNDERSTAND, and that’s why we know the machines are unacceptable, as is her being in that conflict of interest position, and Vu’s being an election official anywhere after his demonstrated lack of competence and integrity here in Cuyahoga.

Funny how Mr’s. Eckard, Haas et al. want us to believe that Vu took criticism here ( and I really DO wonder which Cuyahoga election officials praised him, besides his order giver, Mr. Bennett) because of Cuyahoga’s size in Ohio.

But funny how the Cuyahoga elections board - without Vu (and the previous board)- is turning into a model of respect, efficiency, working together and human care – no protesting need be thought about, let alone needed.

Funny how more and more information is coming out here about just how incompetent and without integrity Mr. Vu was when he was here in Cuyahoga.

So the two big questions regarding Vu remain:
Will he be called back to finally face the charges that are due to him?
And will San Diego ever let him talk to the media ever again?
(They haven't so far....)

No comments: