Monday, December 10, 2007

Has Cuyahoga been set up for failure?

Giving the CCBOE anything less than a minimum of 6-9 months to analyze, select, contract with, install, test, setup, and train staff and few thousand poll workers on a new voting system is nothing more than a recipe for total failure, and the Secretary of State's office knows this. So, why is she telling Cuyahoga that they should migrate to a new system by the March 4 presidential primary, actually only 2-months from now?
Is the SoS playing politics?

Then let's add a few other facts she definitely knows, as she "administrative oversights" the CCBOE (instituted
when she swore in the new board early this year, interestingly projected until after the '08 primary)
The CCBOE still today, 12/10, is finishing the last of daily work and certification of 11/6 recounts; and setting up ballots, polls and otherwise conducting a special election in Cleveland Ward 14 next Tuesday, Dec. 18; and beginning the Diebold on-site analysis of the their failures from the 11/6 election. Also requiring the current, interdependent Diebold system are - they're in the middle of receiving candidate filings for the primary, due Jan. 4, when they'll know who all is on each of the 1436 precincts' D and R, March partisan primary ballots, They also have to in early January, get those many, complicated, but all important ballot definition files ready and proofed - the same files that must later tell whatever scanners and tabulator is used, what the marks and codes mean/ what vote goes to whom. This is because ballot printer, who by the way, has taken months, to calibrate all of his ballot-printing equipment to the less than hair width tolerance needed by the current Diebold scanners - can have all the ballots tested and ready for the primary's absentee balloting, which begins on Feb. 8 - and it would be nice, statutorily, to have ballots. And I forgot the Diebold voter registration system that's finally almost integrated into the whole current system, with registrations for the presidential primary statutorily closing Feb. 4; ...and there's Christmas and New Year.
So what's really motivating the SoS's "sudden 12/7 worry" about Cuyahoga's years' long Diebold problems and push to change?

As Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones stated to the PD: "To me, all the options are remote - none of them desirable. It's a difference between the bad, the ugly and the ugliest."

For citizens concerned about true election reform in Cuyahoga, Ohio and the nation, it seems that instead of right now further pressuring Cuyahoga, or getting too immediately absorbed in analyzing and discussing all the details of Brunner's report due to come out Friday, but which can be dealt with a bit later, we need to first put priority focus on Brunner herself - asking her some tough questions and not just accepting normal sound bites, in too easily megaphoned "official statements."

Some possible questions to ask:
1. Why did she delay even going to the Ohio Controlling Board for the funds for her $1.8 million testing, (though it was SoS spoken about in March, June, and SoS-reported as pretty much selected, timelined, and solidified the third week in August) until after the California results came out in early September, and upon which California's SoS Bowen then immediately decertified all of California's DRE's?

2. Why did she proceed with her own tests, when the California report already had affirmed and expanded upon previous years of similar scientific studies; and while there are plenty of reports of operational problems from the field - from across the country - and in Cuyahoga? (VotersUnite! is but one of many good places to start.)

3. Why she did she only involve in her hush-hush developed, and murkily-goaled testing:

* See the confirming document about Ockerman here, provided by the OEJC.

4. Why did she put off and string-along for months, then finally refuse on the end date of testing, multiple requests from knowlegeable, highly respected citizen election integrity advocates - with no partisan or vested interests, only the eye and voice of the taxpayers and citizen voters - to be equally represented in testing oversight and recommendations to the legislature, thus, for recommending the next best steps from our current corporate- and insider-controlled vote "counting"?

She even did such "running out the clock" with her own selected Voting Rights Institute, said in "official statements" to be an "Advisory Council," but which in the main, has been permitted to accomplish little toward the citizen advocates' agreed-upon priorties toward actual election reform. That's been done with such concepts as I've experienced, months-delayed necessary answers from her office, and circling, late restarts and redirections of months-long already done work, with still no goaled conclusions.

Her VRI technology focussed, "VoteTech" sub-group, was offered a late (November 14,) pre-planned, seeming "class field trip" to the testing facility, in the face of our months-long requests for citizen inclusion into proposed EVEREST testing, since April. However, even then we were given no worthwhile reason to sign the prerequisite Non-Disclosure Agreement *- presented to us in November - daunting in its technical lack of clarity about our clear ability to state even our own opinions about publicly-held knowledge about vendors, which they may still consider proprietary; and with a termination date of "rights and responsibilities" on October 16, 2017.

*This NDA as clearly explained to us, was the one prepared for Election Officials, thus their mention throughout. It was presented for example after asking for such, for consideration of our own signing. The VRI VoteTech group's we were told would have our group's name, where ever "election official" presently occurs. I did send an email asking questions about specifics of the NDA, and did get answers from the SoS attorney handling it. Those answers, though they addressed my questions, still left questions about legal liability, if signed.

Upon questioning, we were told that by signing, we could attend the interesting 3-hour facility visit, and we could "submit our concerns to the SoS office in writing" - not get the weekly update reports, nor the unredacted final versions, nor the oversight and recommending abilities of the "insiders" (my word, their concept.) Upon the question of, "would we get answers to our submitted questions and concerns," (unlike the too frequent experience of the year's VRI) we were given some version of "we may be too busy....with our tasks."

5. Why should we so blindly trust her office or anyone with our vote counts, when out of her office this year we've also heard and seen such things as:
  • pushes toward beginning (with issues-only races) all "mail-in voting"/sending ballots out to every registered voter, which while easily "sold" on ease and cost savings, also presents one of the easiest ways for election fraud and vote buying/selling to occur, and makes election auditing virtually impossible.
  • a recount directive that says it reinstates a valid "random" selection of the sample of ballots to be scrutinized, but then on page six of same, also demands a blatantly non-random procedure that assures anyone so inclined to manipulate an election before it begins, to know not to do that in precincts with lowest number/letter designations, only with the remaining approximate 80%.
  • a heard-about in August, upcoming SoS directive that was to declare as NON-public information, the names of those who had to vote provisionally, and whether their votes were rejected, and for what reason. A deserved VRI brouhaha ensued against any proposal that would remove this main check and balance to help BOE's and the state update their present, non-thoroughly corrected voter registration bases; and to assure that provisional voting is used to widen enfranchisement, not to suppress or diminish equal voting rights. We "submitted our concerns in writing," had a teleconference meeting in, if I remember, late August, heard very briefly Brunner's concerns that made no logical sense to me - that she did not want provisional voters "harassed," (though their choices still would be unknown, and they could not go back and change their ballots/only update their registrations.) No resolution of this matter has been published - rather like the testing report to date, upon which she supposedly presents her non-tenable, invalid, either-or decision for Cuyahoga for the '08 March presidential primary.
Mistakes? Too busy? Maybe. But maybe not.

With all that, and much more not listed here, once again, we must look at Cuyahoga's presented choice, with a priority question about Brunner.

After "sleeping on" what I observed from the short board comments after the CCBOE executive session on December 7, before which they announced that they were to engage in a conference call with the SoS office; and feeling their suddenly pressured, vastly-abbreviated timeline for decision-making in a sudden no-win choice after the call, here's one "gut-level take" I had.

No matter if Cuyahoga changes or does not, and without proper questioning of Brunner on the subject of just what her reasoning and motivations are for putting Cuyahoga in this lose-lose, impossible bind, Brunner can still come out appearing to be a "knightess" of election reform - when maybe she's not.

If her testing again affirms just how bad the Diebold DRE's are, especially with Cuyahoga's unique additional capacity challenges, she's made "the proper" move; and she has done that in a way
, while the nation's eyes are all on Ohio, that she can not only still be made to look like a powerful election reformer, she can also do so without too badly shaking up the current vendors, or the politicians who love them.

In fact, this way actually promotes the nationwide re-institutionalization of our paying a second round of taxpayer billions, without thought and serious consideration of better alternatives, to the same untenable, too-closed circle of current irresponsible, power and money-wielding vendors of both DRE's and OptiScans; while allowing citizens' elections to remain to be easily and undetectably manipulated from the inside - where no citizens are to tread, let alone understand or see.

Any crash and burn resulting from either way Cuyahoga moves from this SoS imposed, impossible choice - one which may even need unknown technicians inside our machines for the presidential primary - could easily be made to come out in the press as no one's fault but "good old, bad Cuyahoga - again!" - "the Cuyahoga reputation" - absolutely no longer deserved.

Or one could always again easily blame the several thousand poll workers - an also misrepresented group, without a self-defending voice - most of whom are dedicated, but may probably be asked (by the SoS) to learn far too much in 4 low-paid hours, and to perform perfectly in a one-long-day, mission-critical stint on election day - in order to either "defend against" her "new found" security flaws in Diebold DRE's, or to switch their learning again to a new system.

Nor would any Cuyahoga failure look like a particular party's recommendation, nor the OH legislature's, which currently, (and I'm still guessing, as is the entire public, about Brunner's plan) is seemingly to come after the holidays. Nor does it even have to be made to look like the fault of the vendors themselves.

If Cuyahoga jumps to her change, though who will pay for it is still up for grabs, most would think the new ones must be good! "The decision" was made, after "the tests" and the millions were even spent again!
Or if Cuyahoga stays with the so-far "known evil" of the Diebold DRE's the public can be made to think that Cuyahoga had their chance, but they refused, so in essence, they get what they deserve. And that can also be made to mean that Diebold DRE machines are really not so bad after all; they just need some (of course, expensive and impossible to thoroughly execute) "mitigations."

I think that even while various bills are still rolling around in Congress, demanding everything from hand counted paper ballots to mandatory audits, it's important to find out why the SoS would get so suddenly "worried," on Dec. 7 to put Cuyahoga, the largest voting district in Ohio, and one of the largest in the U.S. so clearly between a rock and hard place, while in essence promoting no sufficient thought or citizen input, but the same insider-hackable machines from private, proprietary, power and money wielding vendors, for our March 4 presidential primary, and very possibly then, long into the future.

Until I see whatever possibly equally untenable "mitigations" Brunner might also suddenly in mid-December, demand for our Diebold DRE's, and for other DRE counties, it seems wisest for Cuyahoga to hold tight, take their same wise, citizen-included decision-making path, and to clearly state:
• their being in favor of a new system, while also stating that it will take almost a year to do that properly, so that should be done in a reasonable time-frame, and then launched in small election first; AND clearly re-state, their constantly-demonstrated position,
• that they welcome citizen input and help, and are agreeable to the maximum oversight possible, to create as much transparency to US
as possible in whatever system they use.

At least we know that Brunner will probably be having a Merry Christmas....

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