Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hanging Chads 2000 Revisited by Dan Rather Report

Dan Rather did an hour long report, The Trouble With Touch Screens, for HDnet last week.

The first part exposed shoddy touch screen machines built in the Phillipines by ES&S. Thousands of these machines were produced using cheap parts in sweatshop conditions by workers who were paid $2.50 per day. Quality control consisted of shaking some (not all) machines to see if anything rattled.

Watch the video, or read the transcript for full details.

The last part put the spotlight on Sequoia Pacific, the company that produced the punch cards used in the 2000 presidential election. We all remember the hanging chads, and thousands of ballots in Palm Beach County alone that registered overvotes or no vote at all for the presidential candidate. Palm Beach County traditionally is a Democratic stronghold.

...some of the best engineering minds in the country, at IBM, ...perfected the old Votomatic punch card system decades ago. Those punch cards, when they had been used by IBM for data processing, had been precise enough to help land a man on the moon. That's how reliable they were.

But by 2000, in an avalanche of hanging and falling chads, the punch card voting system was proclaimed to be "unreliable", old hat, out with the old and in with the new. Yet seven years and billions of dollars later, the public, especially in Florida, the public is clamoring for paper ballots again.

Rather interviews seven former employees of Sequoia Pacific with 171 years combined experience working for the company. They spoke with pride about the quality of punch card ballots their plant had produced over the years, and the company's about face in 1999 when producing punch cards for the 2000 election.

The company abandoned former suppliers of archival quality paper for a new supplier, and sub-standard rolls of paper, rejected by the plants quality control, were somehow ok'ed by upper management and used for those ballots.

To add to the insult of the inferior quality paper, E. Washington, a pressman at Sequoia for 26 years, relates that he was ordered to change the specifications for the cards bound for Palm Beach County, because they would "grow" in the Florida humidity...

E. Washington: We were told to run those cards short because they would grow by the time they got to Florida in the humidity.

Dan Rather: Running short didn't mean the cards were actually shorter. It simply means lowering, on the face of the ballot, the position of the chads. So the orders were for the ballots going to Palm Beach, don't make them meet the normal specifications?

E. Washington: Right. Because they would grow and if we met the normal specifications they would grow outside the specifications because of the humidity.

Dan Rather: Was this unusual?

E. Washington: Yep

Dan Rather: Were you surprised by it?

E. Washington: Oh yeah, I questioned it, and I even had the plant manager sign it. Because I was having arguments with quality control about the size. And so I said, 'The only way I am going to run it is if Brian comes out here and signs it.' He came out, he signed the 'okay' card to run 'em.

Dan Rather: Let me get this straight. You said, 'You are asking me to turn out a product that doesn't mean our usual specifications. To be sent specifically to Palm Beach, Florida'

E. Washington: Right

One employee speculates that Sequoia purposely produced faulty punch cards to give a jump start to sales of the touch screen machines, which so far had received a lukewarm reception.

Greg Smith: My own personal opinion was the touch screen voting system wasn't getting off the ground like that they, like they would hope. And because they weren't having any problems with paper ballots. So, I feel like they, deliberately did all this to have problems with the paper ballots so the electronically voting systems would get off the ground, and which it did in a big way.

Perhaps the company's greed was a factor in the failure of punch cards in Florida 2000. But given that the final "count" had Bush winning Florida by around 600 votes, it seems that something other motive is lurking in the shadows.

Management and employees involved in the production of these faulty ballots should be questioned under oath to determine exactly what happened. Our right to vote, and to have that vote counted is the foundation of this democracy. I, for one, would like to be reassured that when I step into the ballot box, my vote is counted. I'm sure millions of other voters feel the same.

Source: The Brad Blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Planned Parenthood Supporters VS The Blunt Mini-White House

Over the years, many low-income women I know have used the services of the local Planned Parenthood facility for pap tests, gyn wellness exams and contraception. When Blunt took funding away from this program, I decided to make donations to our local Planned Parenthood as often as I can. Contraception is the key to preventing unwanted pregnancy. This is just a no-brainer for me.

The KY3 news last night had a story about Planned Parenthood supporters who live in the Springfield neighborhood where Blunt resides. They have posted pink signs signifying their support for Planned Parenthood. The KY3 Political Notebook blog has photos of the signs and a link to the news segment.

Governor and Mrs. Blunt refuse to live in the governor's mansion. It just doesn't suit them, they have grander visions. Instead, they have taken up residence in a mini version of the White House here in Springfield. The governor spends around four hours of each working day communting to Jeff City, in a caravan of gas guzzling SUVs. No wonder the state is in such a mess.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

RNC Letter to MO Democrat Raises Questions

Since Missouri voters do not register by party affiliation, there is confusion about the purpose of this RNC generated form letter, received by an elderly resident of Queen City, MO.

From Talking Points Memo:

RNC Voter "Audit" Letter Raises Questions
By Paul Kiel - August 10, 2007, 12:20 PM

What 83 year-old William Sidwell of Queen City, Missouri found in his mailbox last week scared him. It was a letter from the Republican National Committee, but it seemed to bear grave news: "Our records show that you registered as a member of our Party in Schuyler County, MO," the letter said. "But a recent audit of your Party affiliation turned up some irregularities."

Audit? Irregularities? Was he in trouble? Were they threatening him? Sidwell went immediately to his ask his son, Dennis, a licensed public accountant, for advice. You can see the letter, and the accompanying "Voter Registration Verification and Audit Form," right here. Particularly puzzling to the both of them, Dennis told me, is that his father is a life-long Democrat...

...The letter "appears to be in a gray area," David Becker, Director of People for the American Way's Democracy Campaign and a former voting rights attorney at the Justice Department, told me. "It could potentially run afoul of the law if it led an eligible voter to believe they're no longer eligible to vote." The letter, Becker said, "appears designed to give that mistaken impression..."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pearl Jam's Anti-Bush Lyrics Censored

Someone pointed out that the only ones who have "freedom of the press" are the ones who control the press. Hopefully, indidents such as this will help to Rock the Vote in 2008.

From Timothy Karr at the Huffington Post:

AT&T: Your World Censored

Over the weekend AT&T gave us a glimpse of their plans for the Web when they censored a Pearl Jam performance that didn't meet their standard of "Internet freedom."

Pearl Jam: Seen But Not Heard During the live Lollapalooza Webcast of a concert by the Seattle-based super-group, the telco giant
muted lead singer Eddie Vedder just as he launched into a lyric against President George Bush. The lines -- "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush find yourself another home" were somehow lost in the mix.

"What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it's about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band," Pearl Jam band members stated in
a release following the incident.

Indeed. AT&T routinely rails against Net Neutrality as a "solution without a problem." They say Net Neutrality regulations aren't necessary because they wouldn't dare interfere with online content. At the same time they tout plans to become gatekeepers to the Web with public relations bromides about "
shaping" Web traffic to better serve the needs of an evolving Internet.

Such spin needs to be held up to the light of experience. AT&T's history of breaking trust with their customers includes
handing over private phone records to the government, promising to deliver services to underserved communities and then skipping town, pledging never to interfere with the free flow of information online while hatching plans with the likes of Cisco, Viacom, RIAA and MPA to build and deploy technology that will spy on user traffic.

The moral of this story is never trust AT&T at their word. The company acts in bad faith toward the public interest and will do whatever it can get away with to pad its bottom line -- including sacrificing the freedoms its users have to choose where they go, what they watch and whom they listen to online.

The Future of Music Coalition have done
great work to mobilize hundreds of rock bands against such censorship but it's a threat that concerns everyone.

AT&T's vision of a better Internet -- "Your World Delivered" -- is not one that is shared by the more than
1.5 million people who have spoken out in favor of a neutral, affordable and accessible Internet for everyone. For us, the Internet isn't about one company delivering our world. It's about simply offering a real high-speed connection at reasonable rates -- and then getting out of our way.