Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When Democrats are Liberals' (and Democracy's) Worst Enemy

This is a regional story that MSM hasn't been interested in, but it's about to explode on the national scene.

First, some background:

The 4th congressional district in Maryland. Prince George's county and some of Montgomery county. It's beenu represented for 7 terms by a `Joe Lieberman'-type of Democrat, Albert R. Wynn:

Wynn supported Bush and Republicans on several key bills, the Bankruptcy Reform Act and the Iraq War among them. His only serious opposition in last week's primary was Donna Edwards ("a woman's right to choose is a fundamental human right") whom the MSM declared not to be any serious challenge. They were wrong.

Seriously outfunded by Wynn, Donna Edwards and her volunteers knocked on something like 21,000 doors - the voters in the 4th are hungry for new representation, it seems.

Matt Stoller did an outstanding job investigating where Al Wynn's money comes from.
Stoller has been following this campaign and has an account of members of Wynn's staff (one of whom is allegedly Bill Boston, Wynn's Community Relations' Coordinator) beating up an Edwards' volunteer - the video shows the victim and the police making arrests:

The primary on Tuesday, September 13, 2006, decided nothing. Without counting provisional and absentee ballots, Wynn is leading Edwards by about 3000 votes. The provisional and absentee ballots were to be counted yesterday, September 19, 2006, but there's been a delay.

The election itself was the glitch festival of all time for electronic voting machines. No sooner had the polls opened in Montgomery county did the machines start breaking down. That meant that voters were being turned away. If that wasn't enough, the Maryland Elections' Board proved to be less than worthless in running a fair and professional election, as reported by both Matt Stoller and Evan Derkacz at Alternet:

The Maryland Board of Elections irresponsibly released the early numbers before the unusually high number of provisional ballots (due to the malfunctioning of the Diebold touchscreen machines) had been counted.

Fortunately, Johns Hopkins professor Avi Rubin was a volunteer election judge. Rubin's 2003 report noted that the Diebold Accuvote TS was less than sound:
"[t]he system, as implemented in policy, procedure, and technology, is at high risk of compromise."
Maryland ignored the report and went ahead with the machines. Rubin took careful notes of all malfunctions and incompetence, including the fact that...

... the Diebold rep at Rubin's district had no idea what was going on with the machines as he'd been hired the day before.
Rubin continues:
The first problem we encountered was that two of the voting machine's security tag numbers did not match our records. After a call to the board of elections, we were told to set those aside and not use them.
Had I not checked [the outlet] twice, those machines would have died in the middle of the election, most likely in the middle of people voting. I hate to think about how we would have handled that. A couple of hours later, the board of elections informed us that we should use the two voting machines with the mismatched tags, so we added them and used them the rest of the day (!).
[A]s time went by, this poll book [the mechanism by which all computers are synched up so voters can't vote twice] was going to fall further and further behind the others, and that if someone signed in on the others, they would be able sign in again on this one and vote again. After a call to the board of elections, we decided to take this one out of commission. This was very unfortunate, because our waiting lines were starting to get very long, and the check-in was the bottleneck. The last few hours of the day, we had a 45 minute to an hour wait, and we had enough machines in service to handle the load, but it was taking people too long to sign in.

So today's the day to find out who won, right?


Officials cracked open 26 machines yesterday and retrieved the ballots, but they're not counted. Wait, it gets better:

Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote: State Election Chief Says Staff Toiling to Fix Electronic Glitches:
A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper ballot system for the November election.

"When in doubt, go paper, go low-tech," he said.

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, quickly denounced the plan to swap voting systems just seven weeks before the general election as "crazy." And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen. It will not happen."

Ehrlich said that, if necessary, he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to allow paper ballots. But Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the idea of a special session, saying elections officials should focus instead on fixing the current system.

"We paid millions. These are state-of-the-art machines," said Miller, who called Ehrlich's announcement a political ploy to energize his Republican supporters.

In Montgomery and Prince George's counties yesterday, election officials continued to count the thousands of paper provisional ballots that could determine the outcome of the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn and challenger Donna Edwards. Prince George's officials cracked opened 26 machines yesterday and retrieved votes that had not been counted.

The problems playing out in Maryland have created unease elsewhere in the nation, where more than 80 percent of voters will use electronic voting machines in the Nov. 7 election and a third of all precincts are using them for the first time.

Ehrlich's statement came after a State Board of Public Works hearing at which Lamone said her staff would "work around the clock" to correct the problems that plagued the primary. She vowed that her office would help local election boards retrain judges, recruit new ones and force Diebold Election Systems to fix the problems that caused some of its machines to malfunction.

The idea of switching systems now worried local election officials who said testing new equipment and educating election judges and voters about a new system would be a daunting -- if not impossible -- task.

"There isn't a lot of time," said Marjorie Roher, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery Board of Elections.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, said the governor's top priority is to replace the electronic poll books, used to check in voters. But he said Ehrlich "is also interested in moving voters to a paper ballot for this year's general election."

"He realizes it's a tall order," Fawell said. But moving to paper ballots would "eliminate the chronic problems that electronic voting machines demonstrated [Sept. 12] with respect to crashing and susceptibility to tampering."

In the spring, Ehrlich advocated leasing optical scan machines that use paper ballots, a proposal that won unanimous support in the House of Delegates but was rejected by the Senate.

Many of the problems that marred this month's primary resulted from human error. Election judges in Baltimore failed to show up, meaning the polls opened late. In Montgomery, voting at nearly all 238 precincts was delayed because officials forgot to distribute plastic cards needed to operate voting machines.

In Prince George's, election officials struggled to transmit data electronically from polling places to a central office on election night, delaying the counting process for hours. In the days since, they have also discovered that dozens of memory cards were not counted after the election; some remained locked in voting machines for days.

Yesterday, county election officials began opening selected machines to locate the missing cards and capture the voting information contained on them.

Also yesterday, Gene Raynor, the Baltimore election director, resigned, saying Lamone and the General Assembly "have set dangerous precedents that, in my opinion, threaten the integrity of November's elections." Raynor previously sat on the State Board of Elections, where he had joined members in trying to oust Lamone two years ago.

There were also technical problems during the primary, mainly with the electronic poll books that were used in the state for the first time. They replaced the paper printouts of the voter registration rolls, allowing election judges to check in voters electronically.

Some crashed and needed to be rebooted, election judges reported. Others failed to transmit the name of a checked-in voter to the other machines in the same polling place. That meant, theoretically, that a voter could cast more than one ballot. Officials said they had no evidence of any voter fraud.

Lamone said the electronic poll books, purchased from Diebold in June and July, were tested in the days before the election. But those tests did not reveal any problems.

Mark Radke, a Diebold spokesman, said many of the poll books crashed because software created exclusively for Maryland caused the machines' memories to fill up after about 40 people had checked in to vote.

He said the company was investigating the synchronization problems.

But Ehrlich said he wasn't willing to risk the possibility that such glitches would remain for the November election, in which he is seeking a second term.

"I'm not sure we can afford another experiment," Ehrlich said after the Board of Public Works hearing. "I want to play it safe."

His position was supported in the hearing by Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who worked as an elections judge during the primary and has long been critical of the touch-screen voting machines.

Gilles W. Burger, chairman of the State Board of Elections, said his panel has requested that Diebold officials appear at its meeting Tuesday.

"Their feet are going to be held to the fire," Burger said.

Maryland's election law leaves it to the State Elections Board to pick a voting system and certify its reliability and security. Mark Davis, the assistant attorney general who represents the board, said it has already performed required tests on the touch-screen machines.

"The board feels it would be catastrophic to try to do that for another system between now and the general election," he said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Democratic politicians in our government are blocking our getting legitimate elections.

I'm trying to be generous and explain the resistance of Democrats on Maryland's State Elections' Board as stubbornness, like it's a riddle that they're struggling to solve. But it doesn't matter why they're resisting - they aren't suggesting that they will suspend the result of glitchy elections, and keep holding them until they get it right. They just want not to be bothered, to get the election overwith and behind them. Leave the fix for the next election, which is what they said the last election, and the election before that one, and the one before that. In the meanwhile, the people are left with representation that they didn't vote for and didn't want. For at least three election cycles now.

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