Archive for August, 2011

Important news from Black Box Voting

Posted on August 30th, 2011

Important news from Black Box Voting

I’ve been absent from the public eye for nearly four months, involved one of the most comprehensive examinations of voting information since 2005. I analyzed a sequential set of 80 voter history lists, 1,000 electronic poll book reports, a dozen master electronic poll book records, 50 participating voter lists, internal worksheets on purges, transaction logs for updates and changes in voter lists, user guides, correspondence and staff training materials. The findings will help citizens oversee the 2012 election. My five-part report for citizen oversight of WHO CAN VOTE / WHO DID VOTE will be released at http://www.blackboxvoting.org, one major report per week, throughout the month of September 2011.

Four things the public must be able to see and authenticate:
1. Who can vote (the voter list)
2. Who did vote (participating voter list)
3. Chain of custody
4. The count

In what I believe is a truly pioneering evaluation, I’m going to take the public inside crucial parts of the voter list system — the lists that dictate who can vote, and the lists that report who did vote (the crucial check and balance which MUST MATCH the number of votes cast.)

In 2008, actor Tim Robbins went to vote in the presidential election and was told he was not registered. Only after repeated and firm assertion that he had registered to vote, and a considerable delay, was he allowed to vote. What happened? I have uncovered data that shows exactly how this situation can happen, and why it is likely to happen again in the 2012 presidential election unless simple steps are taken to resolve a widespread issue.

In Wisconsin, citizens who checked their voter records found them to be inaccurate. The histories reported that they had not voted in elections when they had; that they had voted absentee when they had not. (But who cares?) Your voter history is used to determine whether to keep or purge you from the rolls. Your vote method history (absentee, early, at polls) needs to MATCH the election results record. In other words, the number of absentee votes must MATCH the number of people in the voter history who voted absentee. Inaccurate voter histories will produce wrongful purging. Participating voter lists that don’t match number of votes violate one of the most crucial safeguards against vote count tampering.

Voter lists have to be updated, with changed addresses and so forth; how do such actions put you at risk for wrongful purging? I have located specific areas where procedural protections need to be added in order to prevent voter updates from producing wrongful purges. And what about “rightful purging”? The Help America Vote Act required cleansing of voter lists, which became a controversial political talking point. I’ll show you just how cluttered with duplicates the voter lists had become, and the immense job it was to clean them up.

Demographics are often cited to support or negate election results. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 contains provisions for tracking racial demographics in locations with a history of problems. These “Voting Rights” locations, by federal law, track the number of Black voters (and sometimes Hispanic, Asian or other minority groups). But are the reported demographics accurate? I found that these demographics are becoming increasingly inaccurate in at least one racially polarized county. Yet the demographics are frequently cited to tell the public the electronic count must be accurate because it “matches the demographics.” (What does that statement mean if the demographics are inaccurate?)

When then-US Representative Cynthia McKinney (later 2008 Green Party candidate for president) requested to examine the list of who voted in her 2006 congressional election, she was never given a thing. They used electronic poll books and no one seemed to know exactly what the poll list would look like. I have obtained approximately one thousand electronic poll logs, along with their accompanying master files. I will show you exactly what they look like, what to ask for, how to examine them, what safeguards are crucial to reduce risk with electronic poll books, now widely used in the USA.

Are there any problems with the software design in the ES&S/Diebold ExpressPoll system? (You betcha.) As they say, humans err but a computer can REALLY mess things up.

How does the voter list interact with the vote counting process, and could it be used to tamper? It’s not surprising that the voter list would supply a number of voters per precinct to be used with election results, to track turnout percentage. I WAS surprised, however, to see a more intimate relationship; one that could be used like a middleman, using the voter list software to actually tamper with the vote count itself.

In absentee voting locations — and over 25 states now have no-fault absentee voting — inaccurate “who voted” lists offer a direct connection to vote stuffing for insiders willing to exploit the lists.

I will also be posting some surveillance tapes from an election operation, with specific suggestions for procedural protections to preserve and protect surveillance tape data.

* * * * *

I have been frustrated over the past few months because the unexpected and massive “data dump” I obtained delayed the production date for three public education videos. They will still be delivered, before the end of this year. I think you will agree that the September reports are of sufficient importance that the delay on public education videos will turn out to be worth the wait. (And this information will be incorporated into them.)

I found it impossible to keep up with Web site postings and emails during the data examination, which maxed out my mental bandwidth. Now, however, I think citizens will be able to tackle issues with stuffing, purging, double voting, and ghost voting with a much better understanding of how the system works and what to do.

My usual process is to examine information, then publish a report. For the first time, I decided to meet with an election commission to provide a preview of findings BEFORE publishing the report, to see if this will produce more constructive action. I traveled to Memphis to meet with all five members of the Shelby County Election Commission last week.

I’ll admit, I worry whether this approach will help or hurt. We will find out over the next two months whether a less adversarial approach can work in 2012. Will we see truly public, truly transparent, specific solutions which hold people accountable and get at underlying causes to correct them, along with full compliance with open records to let the public see and authenticate? Or will we see circling of the wagons, a focus on discrediting the messenger, partisan politics and generic reassurances?

Let’s watch this unfold. It will tell us a lot about what to expect and how we can all approach things in 2012.

More in a few days; it’s good to be writing again!

* * * * *

The upcoming reports would not have been possible without the help of Susan Pynchon, of Florida Fair Elections Coalition; Kathleen Wynne, who played a behind the scenes but crucial role; a group of special technical friends, and the inspiration and example set by Shelby County Election Commissioner George Monger. Black Box Voting was kept alive during this quiet period by our loyal donors, and particularly by one donor (you know who you are), who knew of this project and helped us survive.

To support Black Box Voting:

http://www.blackboxvoting.org/donate.html

or mail to:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA9 8057

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State liquor stores’ profit misses state budget target

Posted on August 30th, 2011

State liquor stores’ profit misses state budget target

From the MORNING CALL:

State wine and liquor store profits jumped $30.2 million in the last year, but fell short of a targeted contribution to the state’s budget for a third year in a row.

As lawmakers prepare the latest push for legislation to auction off the state’s booze business, the Liquor Control Board released newly audited figures that show an $83.7 million operating profit on a record $1.6 billion in sales for its July 2010 through June 2011 fiscal year.

The operating profit figure is the closest thing to a bottom line for the state stores, and gives privatization supporters an idea of how much annual revenue they would need to replace with license fees or other income to avoid hurting state coffers…

Click here to read the full article.

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NEW ERA

Posted on August 30th, 2011

NEW ERA

EditorialSDL holds back on taxpayers” opines: “School board members say results of a consulting firm’s study of the School District of Lancaster eventually will be released to the public.School board members are scheduled to meet privately with the consultant on Wednesday to discuss the district’s goals and the report’s recommendations. It’s as good a time as any to reconsider their decision to delay the release of the report.”

“What are they waiting for? To hear school board president Richard Caplan, immediate release of the study will invite ‘potential chaos’ from the people whose tax dollars paid for it…

WATCHDOG:

Is it possible that the Board wants to verify that the report has the facts straight?  Do they need a couple of weeks to come up with plans to correct short comings and to carry out recommendations?  It seems fair to allow the SD of L to have an opportunity to responsibly comment at the time it releases the report.

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Youth Unemployment Crisis Has Longterm Implications For Teens, The Economy

Posted on August 30th, 2011

Youth Unemployment Crisis Has Longterm Implications For Teens, The Economy

From the HUFF POST:

As we look forward to this Friday’s August unemployment snapshot from the Department of Labor, one part of the picture is already in focus: this was the worst summer on record for teens and young adults looking for work.

This July, the typical summertime peak of youth employment, the share of young people with a job was just 48.8 percent, according to fresh data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents the lowest July rate since the Bureau began collecting such data, in 1948. Perhaps this grim statistic explains in part why the labor force participation rate — those working or looking for work — for Americans aged 16 to 24 also fell a percentage point from the previous summer to a record low of 59.5, as more kids simply gave up looking.

“There are numbers of unpleasant consequences of this,” said Carl E. Van Horn, a labor economist at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the recent report “Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy.” “Increased poverty, increased reliance on social safety net programs, potential increases in illegal or off the books work, perhaps illegal actives like crime, idleness, lack of skills, atrophy of skills, inability to get a job later when the labor market gets better — the list goes on and on.”

Click here to read the full article.

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Steve Jobs’ biological father speaks of yearning to meet his son

Posted on August 30th, 2011

Steve Jobs’ biological father speaks of yearning to meet his son

From the DAILY MAIL:

…Mr Jandali said: ‘I was very much in love with Joanne. But sadly, her father was a tyrant, and forbade her to marry me, as I was from Syria.

‘And so she told me she wanted to give the baby up for adoption.’

When Miss Simpson’s father died a few months after Jobs was born, the pair reconciled and ended up marrying and having more children…

Click here to read the full article.

EDITOR: We don’t normally run human interest stories, but this is so about life, gives pause for thought, and is touching that we are including it.

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Survey: Muslim Americans have moderate views

Posted on August 30th, 2011

Survey: Muslim Americans have moderate views

From USA TODAY:

Almost half the nation’s estimated 2.8 million Muslims fault their leadersfor not speaking out against Islamic extremists but a vast majority are far more satisfied with the way things are going in the USA than the overall population, according to the first comprehensive survey of U.S. Muslims in four years.

The Pew Research Center report out today shows no evidence of rising support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans despite controversies about the building of mosques and a majority opinion (52%) that government anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims for increased surveillance…

“They (U.S. Muslims) are mainstream and moderate in attitude,” says Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. “Most Muslims want to adopt American customs, many of their close friends are not Muslims and they rate their economic situation pretty positively. They think like Americans.”

Click here to read the full article.

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Bank of America to sell part of CCB stake for $8.3bn

Posted on August 29th, 2011

Bank of America to sell part of CCB stake for $8.3bn

From the FINANCIAL TIMES:

Bank of America has struck a deal to sell about half of its stake in China Construction Bank to a group of investors for $8.3bn, marking another step in efforts by the beleaguered financial group to raise additional capital…

BofA’s shares have tumbled more than 40 per cent this year amid concerns the US bank’s troubled mortgage business could overwhelm its balance sheet, forcing the lender’s executives to reverse course and raise additional equity…

The bank last week turned to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which invested $5bn in BofA preferred stock, in an attempt to reassure investors that further capital raising was unnecessary…

Click here to read the full article.

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Hershey giving foreign student a taste of capitalism

Posted on August 29th, 2011

Hershey giving foreign student a taste of capitalism

The foreign exchange students should thank Hershey’s for a great lesson on capitalism! They probably get the best 8 weeks education of their lives.

I had lots of jobs worse than packing cartons when I was a college student and I am a better person for it. Too many people today haven’t got a clue what adversity is (including half my own family) and I hate to imagine what will happen to them if they ever encounter it.

I’d like to think these kids are taking jobs away from our own college students, but sadly, I know our own students wouldn’t do such boring, exhausting work. Someday though, they may wish they had.

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Not-so-sweet conditions greet Hershey workers

Posted on August 29th, 2011

Not-so-sweet conditions greet Hershey workers

From DELAWARE COUNTY TIMES:

…News recently filtered out that the company that makes some of the world’s tastiest treats exploited about 400 foreign students who came to work at the company’s Palmyra, Pa., packaging plant…

The students work for a warehouse run by Exel, a logistics company hired by Hershey Co. Some 120,000 foreign students come to the U.S. on J-1 visas every year. The students, who come from places like Turkey, China, Ukraine and Nigeria, work for several months and then can travel in the United States for a month as tourists.

What Hershey Co. didn’t tell the foreign youngsters was that they would work on fast-moving assembly lines, packing and lifting 50-pound boxes of sweets, many times on the overnight shift. Worst of all, the wages these youngsters received were so low they weren’t earning enough to pay back their expenses…

Click here to read the full article.

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Gas lease, royalty income taxes top $100 million

Posted on August 29th, 2011

Gas lease, royalty income taxes top $100 million

From the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW:

Pennsylvania landowners are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in income taxes on money earned from Marcellus shale gas activity, and the tax revenue, like the drilling, is growing fast…

Since the shale gas rush started in Pennsylvania in 2005, drillers have bored more than 3,700 wells into the gas-rich Marcellus rock layer, a mile or deeper underground, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. They have sought nearly 8,600 well permits through Aug. 12, the most recent statistics available…

The state could have collected another $220 million if it had passed a tax similar to West Virginia’s when then-Gov. Ed Rendell proposed it in 2009, according to the center’s calculations. Gov. Tom Corbett has said he opposes an extraction tax…

Click here to read the full article.

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Credo

"....I have never made it a consideration whether the subject was popular or unpopular, but whether it was right or wrong; for that which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong, though by mistake it may obtain the cry or fashion of the day, will soon lose the power of delusion, and sink into disesteem." Thomas Paine, Common Sense, on "Financing the War", March 5, 1782

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