Your home for updated information on the fight for democracy in America
National Election Reform Conference Inspires Attendees
by Vickie Karp, Coalition for Visible Ballots
The National Election Reform Conference to Save our Democracy was held in Nashville Tennessee on April 8th to 10th, 2005. Vickie Karp, National Chairperson of the Coalition for Visible Ballots attended the conference and provies this informative report.
I was fortunate enough to attend the first ever National Election Reform Conference in Nashville last week, hosted by Bernie Ellis and his organization, the "Gathering to Save Our Democracy". This group is to be commended for their initiative in taking on such a formidable task as organizing this major event. They only came together as a group last December 12th after the Capital 51 March spurred protesters of our November election to hold rallies in approximately 30 states across the country-a very successful national effort initiated and coordinated by Kip Humphrey of Houston, Texas (who was also in attendance at the conference.) I was in Nashville to represent both Black Box Voting and the Coalition for Visible Ballots, and to learn everything I could from the preeminent experts presenting there.
The event was compared to the first Continental Congress; this notable Nashville conference brought election reform activists and political figures from 30 states together to cover a number of important issues surrounding the critical election crisis in our country.
An overview of some of the topics covered: detailed re-examination of the evidence of fraud in November's election, especially in swing states; a close focus on what happened in Ohio during the election AND during the equally fraudulent recount; the statistical analysis of the data, including exit polls, by some of the top experts in the country whose work many of us have seen over the internet (such as Jonathan Simon, Josh Mitteldorf, R.H. Phillips, Bernard Windham, and Kathy Dopp); commentary by top internet journalists such as Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com and Velvet Revolution) and Bob Fitrakis (Free Press); and an analysis of post-media coverage (or lack of it) by Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Robert Koehler.
The topic of legal remedies that are in progress now or could be in the future was addressed by Cliff Arnebeck, one of the attorneys for the Moss vs. Bush and Moss vs. Moyer lawsuits in Ohio and representing "Alliance for Democracy", and Lowell Finley, election law attorney working for the Green and Libertarian party recount effort in New Mexico; and addresses by many national activists and political figures, with highlighted speakers such as whistleblower Clinton Curtis (whose story first appeared on BradBlog.com); Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb; and special guest speaker Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
The conference officially gathered in the church sanctuary at 4pm that day with welcoming remarks from the Reverend Tex Thomas, Bernie Ellis, and other dignitaries. Dr. Sonnye Dixon and Dr. Charles Kimbrough recalled events which transpired in the '60s during the struggle for civil rights, including voting rights for minorities, and the challenges faced at that time.
SOME SPEAKER HIGHLIGHTS:
CLIFF ARNEBECK, attorney, began with some "front line" reports from Ohio. The two lawsuits challenging election results in Ohio claim that George W. Bush was wrongly declared the winner on November 2nd, and seek a court-ordered reversal of that victory. Arnebeck detailed evidence of the fraudulent election in that state, including the shocking lack of media coverage of citizen challenges to the election by mainstream media. He differentiated between the "rule of law" versus "the rule of spin", and speculated about how our citizenry will be judged by other nations and by history after this election disaster. He called the fraudulent election in Ohio the "biggest political crime in American history", and named voter suppression, the violation of civil rights, and vote fraud as common themes in the election.
The "reward" for the efforts of Arnebeck and the other attorneys (Bob Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, and Peter Peckarsky) and citizens who have filed a lawsuit to challenge the vote in Ohio due to vote fraud? The Ohio Attorney General James Petro filed a motion for sanctions against them, a move that is widely viewed as an attempt at revenge and intimidation. Nonetheless, Arnebeck recommended a consortium of lawsuits nationally, to broaden the "Ohio Honest Election Campaign" to a "National Honest Election Campaign". He added, "We're not supposed to have a one-party system envisioned by Karl Rove!", and added, "We are at the point in history of the Declaration of Independence!"
RICHARD REINOEHL, a political activist who helped direct the Northeast Ohio Green/Libertarian Vote Recount Observation Teams, detailed some of the specific voter suppression that was referenced continuously by this group all weekend, much of which has been reported (on the internet), but some tactics even I had not heard of before:
Reinoehl's synopsis was, "When you crunch the numbers, Kerry took Ohio. It wasn't even close! We were robbed!"
Dr. R. H. PHILLIPS, a statistician and resident of New York, detailed how an election reform activist friend had sent him statistics from Ohio and asked him to "take a look". He was fascinated at how, by using "the very sophisticated processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division", a clear pattern of vote fraud emerged. Laughter erupted when this serious, professorish-looking gentlemen with a conservative demeanor then said, "I sent back my analysis. The next thing I knew, I was in a hotel room in Ohio helping Jesse Jackson write a speech!"
Dr. Phillips submitted 21 scholarly statistical reports on his findings to the Ohio Supreme Court. Yet, he noted that there are still 92,000 regular paper ballots from November's election in Ohio that have NEVER been counted! In addressing the numerous cases of "vote flipping" or "vote switching"-when a voter casts a vote for one candidate, and it registers for the other (notably for Bush in most cases)-Phillips said, "This is no coincidence. This is vote fraud!" He asked, "Why is it that with less evidence of vote fraud than we have in this country, the Ukraine got to have a second election-and we don't?"
Dr. BERNARD WINDHAM, a national election data stats analyst, is a statistician, mathematician, and demographer. "I've been following this one for a long time-this one was a mess!" he said of November's election. He noted that the "election hotlines" set up by both Election Protection and Common Cause brought in approximately 5000 calls in Florida, and about 4000 in Ohio. (Common Cause's election reform leader Barbara Burt later said that their hotline received 200,000 calls total!) He analyzed in detail the problems reported in these calls, as well as all hotline calls around the country. Most of the previously listed examples of voter suppression were reported in each state, but he noted that Florida had more examples of "vote flipping" or "vote switching" than any other state. Through his analysis, he estimates the number of likely "flipped votes" in this election was 229,600! Other anomalies: In Palm Beach County, where the ratio of Democrats to Republicans was 62% to 35%, Bush won. Windham estimated 55,000 "flipped" votes in that county alone. This was one of several known Democratic counties and/or precincts that ended up going for Bush. His website, http://www.flcv.com/summary.html, includes his detailed findings.
BRAD FRIEDMAN detailed how he was producing plays in California, and by virtue of disgust with mainstream media, eventually was compelled to start his blogsite. The Clint Curtis story was his case in point: Clint Curtis, a software designer-turned-whistleblower, tried to get mainstream media to cover his story-that future Florida Speaker of the House Tom Feeney (presently a U.S. Republican Congressman) had approached the software company where Curtis worked, Yang Enterprises, in the fall of 2000 and asked them to create a software program that could "alter the vote tabulation in an election and be undetectable". Feeney also specified that the program needed to be touch-screen capable; that the user should be able to trigger the program without any additional equipment, and that the programming to accomplish this remain hidden even if the source code was inspected. Curtis was looking for a reporter to run the story. No one would. So he took it to Brad Friedman, who, after checking out the facts, posted it on his blog and has been adding updates ever since.
Brad's big news on Saturday the 9th was that Clint (who was in attendance and spoke briefly that day) had passed a lie detector test regarding the sworn affidavit he had given on December 6th, 2004, on this topic.
Brad also plugged his organization, Velvet Revolution's "Divestiture for Democracy" campaign. Through this effort, letters were sent on February 21st to nine electronic voting machine companies demanding auditable paper ballots, open their hardware and software for public inspection, disallow networking of voting machines, independent monitors of the vote tabulation process, and the institution of corporate policy prohibiting the company and all of their executives from supporting candidates for public office or political action groups. If the companies fail to comply, VR will encourage all Americans to divest from these companies in a massive national boycott campaign to target them, their affiliates and their clients. (see www.BradBlog.com)
When CLINT CURTIS spoke, he addressed the crucial need for election reform activists to organize into mass action. He said, "You know what the difference between Republicans and Democrats is? Democrats CARE…Republicans just want to WIN!" , and he aptly pointed out how well organized they are.
BOB FITRAKIS is a political science professor, an award-winning investigative journalist, author, editor of the Free Press, and one of the four attorneys challenging the election results in Ohio. He gave a rousing talk both Friday and Saturday. He began by quoting the statistical analysis issued March 31st by "US Counts Votes" (Kathy Dopp's organization) that there is one-in-959,000 chance that exit polls could have been so wrong in predicting the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. ("US Counts Votes" is comprised of about two dozen statisticians, twelve of which signed this report.) Addressing the naiivete of most Americans who think our elections here could never be rigged, Fitrakis quipped, "We've only rigged 500 or 600 elections around the world-but we'd NEVER do it in-FLORIDA,--or OHIO!!! That would be WRONG!"
He also commented on the "Orwellian doublespeak" in the use of the name "American Center for Voting Rights" for an organization formed just weeks ago, comprised of Republican operatives who claim to be working for fair elections. Of the dozens of REAL voting activist groups that have been working throughout the country for the last several years, this is the ONLY one which was invited to address a Congressional hearing on Election Issues in Ohio March 21st-then issued a whitewashed report which ignored thousands of verified reports of real voter disenfranchisement and mistabulated votes. (This story was broken on BradBlog on March 22nd.)
ROBERT KOEHLER, syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune Media Services, and a journalist and editor for over 25 years, addressed the group, stating that after the election, most of the media responded "like a pre-programmed Diebold machine". He commented on the "power of mockery" used by the media, selecting one or two reported incidents of voter repression or vote fraud and trying to make concerned citizens appear hysterical or conspiratorial for trying to uncover what we know to be the truth. He quoted one mainstream media article as saying about the election, "There were a few 'kerfuffles' ". Koehler himself has been courageous enough to report the truth on the vote fraud issue, and wrote another great column after this event titled, "The Silent Scream of Numbers, which begins, "As they slowly hack democracy to death, we're a alone - we citizens - as we've ever been, protected only by the dust-covered clichés of the nation's founding: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". (Published 4/15)
DAVID COBB, Presidential candidate for the Green Party, gave a passionate talk, beginning with the statement that the corporate media is manufacturing consent on a daily basis. Through the power of repetition, it's message that "we had a fair and clean election in November" has been ingrained in most Americans. "Unelected and unaccountable CEOs of international corporation are ruling us, just as slavemasters ruled their slaves! We need to get corporate money our of politics", he stated.
Solutions he offered were: voter verifiable paper ballots; non-partisan election boards, random recounts before election certification, and Instant Runoff Voting, which gives the voter the opportunity to vote for their first, second and third choice for each slated position.
CONGRESSWOMAN CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D-Georgia) closed the conference with an inspired talk which included the story of how, by simply having the nerve to question the events of 9/11, she apparently goaded Republicans into mounting a relentless campaign against her re-election bid in 2002. Though she was defeated, she nonetheless was compelled to try again to win back her seat in Congress in November, and this time prevailed.
She referred to the alternative media as being like "Todo the dog, pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz". She commended all the activists present for their efforts in the fight for honest elections, and remarked that she had had the good fortune and privilege to work with Bev Harris of Black Box Voting back in September, when she (McKinney) was asked to be a "guest hacker" at a Washington D.C. press conference staged by BBV. There, McKinney was shown how, in a matter of a minute or so, to execute a hack on a Diebold election software mock election, and flip election results, then exited the system without a trace. The actual hack took less than 30 seconds. This definitely convinced her of the severity of the election fraud problem.
McKinney spoke with conviction, passion, and inspiration, and ended her talk by posing in a group photo with everyone in attendance.
Many speakers put forth ideas of how to solve the crisis in our elections. If there was one shortfall to the event, it was that there didn't seem to be one single idea proposed that galvanized the entire group into aligned action. What seemed likely, however, was that everyone was inspired to take home one or more of these ideas and begin working on them.
Kathy Dopp of "US Counts Votes" is working toward creating a nationwide database of election results, with the plan to examine them in detail, right down to the precinct level, in order to detect problems with official reported election results. Her 501-c-3 is set up to receive contributions to organize this effort.
Lowell Finley, the attorney who worked on the recount effort in New Mexico, said that legal challenges could include three components:
Larry Quick, co-founder of the National Ballot Integrity Project, sought three points of agreement:
Theresa Hommel, a New Yorker and creator of www.wheresthepaper.org, has a voting machine simulation program, called the "Fraudulent Voting Machine" which has been used internationally to help people understand the risks associated with computerized elections. Educating the citizenry to understand the crucial nature of the problem is critical.
David Lytel, from Washington D.C., who operated "ReDefeatBush.com in the 2004 election cycle, also proposed three action steps for educating the public:
Warren Stewart, a Californian election reform advocate working with the National Ballot Integrity Project and Vote Trust USA, reviewed legislation that is up for consideration now in Congress and pointed out flaws in Clinton, Dodd, and even Conyer's bills. He believes that Congressman Rush Holt's bill, HR550, was the most comprehensive out there and also has more co-sponsorship of any other bill.
There were other great speakers and great networking that occurred in Nashville, and I wish I could include everyone's contribution in this article. I personally came away from the event inspired to pick an action and take it. I am more than ever committed to returning to paper ballots, hand counted. My friend and fellow Austinite Karen Renick and I decided on the trip home to developing a "Parallel Election on Paper" to coincide with the 2006 mid-term elections. With this process, we hope to give people an opportunity to vote on a regular old paper ballot, and to return after 7pm and watch the hand-counting-to demonstrate to the public how transparent that system is, especially compared to what we've been forced into using for our elections.
Vickie Karp is National Chairperson for the Coalition for Visible Ballots. For more information see the Coalition for Visible Ballots website.
##For more information on election justice, see the Solar Bus Election Justice Center