Wednesday, June 27, 2007

'Vote caging' allegations arise in probe of U.S. attorney firings

Critics say top Justice official's '04 letter to Ohio judge was a partisan maneuver.
By Greg Gordon - McClatchy Washington Bureau
Last Updated 12:32 am PDT Monday, June 25, 2007
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A7 The Sacramento Bee

Four days before the 2004 election, the Justice Department's civil rights chief sent an unusual letter to a federal judge in Ohio who was weighing whether to let Republicans challenge the credentials of 23,000 mostly African American voters.
The case was triggered by allegations that Republicans had sent a mass mailing to mostly Democratic-leaning minorities and used undeliverable letters to compile a list of voters potentially vulnerable to eligibility challenges.
In his letter to U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott of Cincinnati, Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta argued that it would undermine the enforcement of state and federal election laws if citizens could not challenge voters' credentials.

Former Justice Department civil rights officials and election watchdog groups charge that his letter sided with Republicans engaging in an illegal, racially motivated tactic known as "vote-caging" in a state that would be pivotal in delivering President Bush a second term in the White House.
Acosta's letter is among a host of allegedly partisan Justice Department voting rights positions that could draw scrutiny on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks as congressional Democrats expand investigations sparked by the firing of at least nine U.S. attorneys.
Acosta, now the U.S. attorney in Miami, said in a statement that his letter was aimed at advising the court that a new Ohio law allowing challenges was permissible, so long as no challenge was based on race. He said it also was intended to make clear that anyone whose eligibility was questioned had a right to file a provisional ballot.
Justice Department spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson said that the Civil Rights Division "does not coordinate actions with any political party" and that any such suggestion would be "entirely unfounded."
But Robert Kengle, former deputy chief of the department's Voting Rights Section who served under Acosta, said the letter amounted to "cheerleading for the Republican defendants."
Joseph Rich, a former chief of the department's Voting Rights Section, called the Ohio scheme "vote caging." Acosta declined during the weekend to say whether Hans von Spakovsky, the division's voting counsel at the time, had any role in writing the letter. Von Spakovsky has been besieged with allegations of partisanship as he tries to win Senate confirmation to a full term on the Federal Election Commission.
Federal courts and Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell ultimately barred Republicans from posing the challenges in a frenzied legal battle that ran up to election eve.
The House Judiciary Committee plans soon to begin examining whether the Civil Rights Division took positions in support of a Republican agenda to suppress the votes of poor and elderly minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, said an aide to the panel who requested anonymity because the new line of inquiry has yet to be announced officially. It's not yet clear whether the examination will include vote caging.
The tactic entails sending mail stamped "do not forward" to voters' homes and requiring a return receipt. Voters who do not sign for the letters or postcards can then be challenged at the polls or in pre-election hearings on grounds such as whether they meet legal residency or age requirements.
J. Gerald Hebert, a head of the Voting Rights Section in the early 1990s and now executive director of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, says the tactic is unfair for multiple reasons: It is often racially motivated; voters may be out of town or refuse to sign return receipts on letters from the GOP; and addresses may be inaccurate.
Ohio law permitted challenges in 2004 but required political parties to list targeted voters in advance of the election.
The Ohio Republican Party notified election authorities in the fall of 2004 that it planned to challenge more than 35,000 voters at the polls, a figure it later trimmed to 23,000.
Democrats sued in Cincinnati to block the challenges and before U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise in Newark, N.J., who had issued a consent decree barring the tactic in 1982 after finding the GOP illegally targeted minority voters in the state's gubernatorial race the previous year.
The Justice Department was not a party to either case. Nor did Judge Dlott solicit the federal government's views. But Acosta weighed in anyway. Challenges, he wrote, "help strike a balance between ballot access and ballot integrity."
Republicans' use of caging has been a contentious issue ever since Debevoise's ruling 26 years ago. In 1986, the judge found that Louisiana Republicans had violated the consent decree. In 1990, another consent decree was issued after the Republican Party of North Carolina and the re-election campaign of GOP Sen. Jesse Helms sent 125,000 postcards to mostly African American voters to compile a list of voters to challenge.
Last week, Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sought an internal Justice Department investigation into whether department officials knew about Tim Griffin's alleged caging before he was named interim U.S. attorney for Arkansas. Griffin, a former Republican National Committee and White House operative, had been dogged by allegations that he tried to cage mostly African American voters three years ago in Jacksonsville, Fla. He has denied any impropriety, and resigned the interim post earlier this month.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau's Greg Gordon can be reached at (202) 383-0005 or .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Thom Hartmann On Stealing Elections

The hot story in the Blogosphere is that the "erroneous" exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among other states) weren't erroneous at all - it was the numbers produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and Kerry actually won. As more and more analysis is done of what may (or may not) be the most massive election fraud in the history of the world, however, it's critical that we keep the largest issue at the forefront at all time: Why are We The People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only to agendas and politicians that will enhance their profitability, to handle our votes?

Maybe Florida went for Kerry, maybe for Bush. Over time - and through the efforts of some very motivated investigative reporters - we may well find out. Bev Harris of just filed what may be the largest Freedom of Information Act [FOIA} filing in history), and bloggers and investigative reporters are discovering an odd discrepancy in exit polls being largely accurate in paper-ballot states and oddly inaccurate in touch-screen electronic voting states Even raw voter analyses are showing extreme oddities in touch-screen-run Florida, and eagle-eyed bloggers are finding that news organizations are retroactively altering their exit polls to coincide with what the machines ultimately said.

But in all the discussion about voting machines, let's never forget the concept of the commons, because this usurpation is the ultimate felony committed by conservatives this year.

At the founding of this nation, we decided that there were important places to invest our tax (then tariff) dollars, and those were the things that had to do with the overall "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" of all of us. Over time, these commons - in which we all make tax investments and for which we all hold ultimate responsibility - have come to include our police and fire services; our military and defense; our roads and skyways; our air, waters and national parks; and the safety of our food and drugs.

But the most important of all the commons in which we've invested our hard-earned tax dollars is our government itself. It's owned by us, run by us (through our elected representatives), answerable to us, and most directly responsible for stewardship of our commons.

And the commons through which we regulate the commons of our government is our vote.

About two years ago, I wrote a story for these pages, "If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines," that exposed how Senator Chuck Hagel had, before stepping down and running for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska, been the head of the voting machine company (now ES&S) that had just computerized Nebraska's vote. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, nearly all on unauditable machines he had just sold the state. And in all probability, Hagel run for President in 2008.

In another, later I also wrote an article at the request of and which they mailed to their millions of members, I noted that in Georgia - another state that went all-electronic. "USA Today reported on Nov. 3, 2002, 'In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49%-to-44% lead over Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss. 'Cox News Service, based in Atlanta, reported just after the election (Nov. 7) that, "Pollsters may have goofed" because 'Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. The Hotline, a political news service, recalled a series of polls Wednesday showing that Chambliss had been ahead in none of them.'" Nearly every vote in the state was on an electronic machine with no audit trail.

In the years since those first articles appeared, Bev Harris has published her book on the subject ("Black Box Voting"), including the revelation of her finding the notorious "Rob Georgia" folder on Diebold's FTP site just after Cleland's loss there; Lynn Landes has done some groundbreaking research, particularly her new investigation of the Associated Press, as have Rebecca Mercuri and David Dill. There's a new video out on the topic, Votergate, available at

Congressman Rush Holt introduced a bill into Congress requiring a voter-verified paper ballot be produced by all electronic voting machines, and it's been co-sponsored by a majority of the Democratic members of the House of Representatives. The two-year battle fought by Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay to keep it from coming to a vote, thus insuring that there will be no possible audit of the votes of about a third of the 2004 electorate, has fueled the flames of conspiracy theorists convinced Republican ideologues - now known to be willing to lie in television advertising - would extend their "ends justifies the means" morality to stealing the vote "for the better good of the country" they think single-party Republican rule will bring.

Most important, though, the rallying cry of the emerging "honest vote" movement must become: Get Corporations Out Of Our Vote!

Why have we let corporations into our polling places, locations so sacred to democracy that in many states even international election monitors and reporters are banned? Why are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote, in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes the Bible should replace the Constitution; in another case run by one of Ohio's top Republicans; and in another case partly owned by Saudi investors?

Of all the violations of the commons - all of the crimes against We The People and against democracy in our great and historic republic - this is the greatest. Our vote is too important to outsource to private corporations.

It's time that the USA - like most of the rest of the world - returns to paper ballots, counted by hand by civil servants (our employees) under the watchful eye of the party faithful. Even if it takes two weeks to count the vote, and we have to just go, until then, with the exit polls of the news agencies. It worked just fine for nearly 200 years in the USA, and it can work again.

When I lived in Germany, they took the vote the same way most of the world does - people fill in hand-marked ballots, which are hand-counted by civil servants taking a week off from their regular jobs, watched over by volunteer representatives of the political parties. It's totally clean, and easily audited. And even though it takes a week or more to count the vote (and costs nothing more than a bit of overtime pay for civil servants), the German people know the election results the night the polls close because the news media's exit polls, for two generations, have never been more than a tenth of a percent off.

We could have saved billions that have instead been handed over to ES&S, Diebold, and other private corporations.

Or, if we must have machines, let's have them owned by local governments, maintained and programmed by civil servants answerable to We The People, using open-source code and disconnected from modems, that produce a voter-verified printed ballot, with all results published on a precinct-by-precinct basis.

As Thomas Paine wrote at this nation's founding, "The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."

Only when We The People reclaim the commons of our vote can we again be confident in the integrity of our electoral process in the world's oldest and most powerful democratic republic.

Thom Hartmann ( is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. www.thomhartmann .com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy."

This article is copyright by Thom Hartmann, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached and the title is unchanged. Published on Thursday, November 4, 2004 by

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Martians Actually Landed

Nice perspective Paul!
From Paul Lehto, Lawyer In the Bilbray Busby debacle in San Diego.

In 1938 when Orson Welles' War of the Worlds scared the bejesus out of the United States, the Martians actually landed, as reported on the radio, (according to the blog below) right near Congressman Rush Holt's Princeton, New Jersey district office. Give or take a mile, it seems to me. But that's close enough for government work.

The Martian landing is commemorated by a plaque in Van Ness Park, and you can see the plaque in a picture on this blog.

It is not known if the invasion directly or indirectly caused any of the provisions in HR 811. In any case, HR 811 sounds so much like reform, it fools a lot of people!

Also within a mile or so of the Martian landing and Congressman Holt's district office are the offices of the vendor Avante.,+NJ&cid=0,0,2084074158486265394&ll=40.346984,-74.654380&spn=0,.02&sa=X&oi=local&ct=image Avante calls itself "the world's first" maker of voter-verified paper records for DREs -- and is clearly an employer in Rush Holt's congressional district. It's doubtful that any Avante executives contribute to Holt's campaigns in any way, no sense in looking into such things.

Avante also has a bunch of interesting Homeland Security products, like the "Baggage Handling And Air Transport Security Solution" Plus an ID tag that allows folks to be tracked. It looks like they've got TRAKKER trademarked several times. ACCESS-TRAKKER, LIVESTOCK-TRAKKER and (yes, indeed) Vote-TRAKKER (world's first voter verified paper record!!). Of course, the Vote-TRAKKER won't track who you are or HOW you voted, or anything else. That's why it's called TRAKKER, silly!!

Daniel Hopsicker suggests that war of the worlds was actually a psych warfare experiment. See, e.g. and ) OThers say that's bull.

I only wish this would have been disclosed so that we would know that HR 811 was an important Homeland Security TRAKKER project, I would have realized more readily the need.

Paul R Lehto, Juris Doctor

Thursday, June 14, 2007


See the methods and the means via the RNC server originating the results November 3rd, 2004.

We do not concede.

Once again we ask for your input dignifying our existence in this country as a
citizen and a responsible voter. Please ask for the rejection of the Holt bill HR811!
Send a letter to your congress people! Here!

by Paul R Lehto
June 14, 2007

I don't know anybody who thinks a post-HR 811 (Holt bill) world is secure against insider fraud. That alone is a fatal flaw for both freedom and democracy, as explained more below.

In fact, it's absurd to think that an election insider could not find 59 seconds to swap out the chips in an e-voting machine, as demonstrated in this 59 second demonstration video.

I'm not really all that concerned about "voter fraud" (by citizens) because that is far more difficult. Yet that is what HR 811 concentrates its efforts against by shutting down Internet connectivity, etc.

HR 811 (the Holt bill) does essentially nothing against insider fraud, because it CAN'T: Voting machines can't be made secure against insiders any more than your own personal computer can be made secure against YOU .

Elections uniquely require a kind of 2-way security that doesn't exist: Computer security inherently gives some insider trusted Admin-level access to everything, while keeping out those nasty outsiders. But with elections, it is the insider government officials who have the most to gain or lose: Every ounce of their power and money comes directly or indirectly from elections.

In the end, one can only raise the cost of penetrating a computer system, one can't make it "secure." Once we've raise the cost sufficiently high, only large corporations, governments, and CIA/KGB type organizations can manipulate elections: but those are precisely the ones we are concerned about the most from the beginning.

Thus, as long as there is admin level access to computerized voting systems with trade secret counts, we've got no security at all. We are powerless to kick out criminal cheating insiders, yet that is exactly when we need our voting rights most of all !

And if we the people can't be guaranteed that we can kick out a criminal cheating insider, we are not a free people.

This is not really anything to "compromise" on. At least not if you believe in our country's founding principles, and believe that some vigilance, even eternal vigilance, is the price of maintaining Liberty.

Nothing less than Freedom, Democracy is at risk, and Half Freedom, and Half Democracy is not freedom or democracy at all. And even Peace is at risk (because if we can't change governments peacefully, then there's only the method of 1776). Because these are inalienable rights, they are to be defended, not compromised. A compromise of a right is simply a violation of that right.

The government has no excuse for lecturing us that HR 811 is the only "realistic" option, the government in the USA was "instituted to secure these Rights" per the Declaration of Independence. Moreover, under HR 811, not only is the government failing to secure our rights, it is going so far as to vote itself secret vote counting in THEIR OWN ELECTIONS, in effect claiming the absurdity that We the People want to keep vote counting secrets FROM OURSELVES. In fact, an August 2006 Zogby poll suggests precisely the opposite: Up to 92% of the American public prefers observable vote counting and the public's right to obtain information about vote counting.

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them . . ." --Patrick Henry

"Give me Liberty, or Give me Death." ---Patrick Henry

In a nutshell, HR 811 is totally out of touch with the American public today (the Zogby poll) as well as the principles this country was founded upon. Who in their right mind wants to compromise Democracy, compromise Freedom? Why would ANY government fail to secure this basic right for us? Inquiring American minds want to know.

I mean millions, literally, of Americans have worked their lives and died for democracy. And we should accept the word of some unnamed people in Congress that anything less than corrupt secret vote counting is "unrealistic" for the greatest democracy in the world? Before we give up this experiment in freedom called the USA, they ought to at least tell us to our faces that the government is more trustworthy than We the People. This is much worse than a bad joke on the American people. This is basically treason against democracy, because the indispensable characteristic of democracy is not elections, but the reality that all power comes from the people, and that the people are sovereign and in control when they select THEIR governmental servants/representatives.

In light of the above, here is HR 811 defined: Dialing 911 for Democracy and really screwing it up. And I don't think it's very funny.

(Permission granted to forward freely in whole (and post, blog, etc.), and with attribution preserved)
Paul R Lehto, Juris Doctor

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Palast: US Attorney Resigns Following Conyers’ Request for BBC Documents

US Attorney Resigns
Following Conyers’ Request for BBC Documents
Published June 1st, 2007 in Articles
by Greg Palast
June 1, 2007

Tim Griffin, formerly right hand man to Karl Rove, resigned Thursday as US Attorney for Arkansas hours after BBC Television ‘Newsnight’ reported that Congressman John Conyers requested the network’s evidence on Griffin’s involvement in ‘caging voters.’ Greg Palast, reporting for BBC Newsnight, obtained a series of confidential emails from the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. In these emails, Griffin, then the GOP Deputy Communications Director, transmitted so-called ‘caging lists’ of voters to state party leaders.

Experts have concluded the caging lists were designed for a mass challenge of voters’ right to cast ballots. The caging lists were heavily weighted with minority voters including homeless individuals, students and soldiers sent overseas.

Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee investigating the firing of US Attorneys, met Thursday evening in New York with Palast. After reviewing key documents, Conyers stated that, despite Griffin’s resignation, “We’re not through with him by any means.”

Conyers indicated to the BBC that he thought it unlikely that Griffin could carry out this massive ‘caging’ operation without the knowledge of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rove.

Griffin has not responded to requests by BBC to explain this ‘caging’ operation. However, in emails subpoenaed by Conyers’ committee, Griffin complains to Monica Goodling, an assistant to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, about the BBC reporter’s reproduction of caging lists in Palast’s book, “Armed Madhouse.”

In the email dated February 5 of this year, Griffin stated that the purpose of ‘caging’ was to identify “fraudulent” voters. This contradicts one explanation of the Bush campaign to BBC that the lists were of potential donors and not in any way created to challenge voters.

Griffin confidentially wrote: “The real story is this: There were thousands of reported illegal/fake voter registrations around the country, so some of the Republican State Parties mailed letters welcoming new voters to the newly registered voters. … The Republican State Parties ultimately wanted to show that thousands of fraudulent registrations had been completed.”

Last Wednesday, Goodling testified under a grant of immunity before the House Judiciary Committee that Gonzales’ Deputy Paul McNulty, “failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote ‘caging’ during his work on the President’s 2004 campaign.”

Goodling’s testimony prompted Conyers’ request to the BBC for the Griffin emails.

Last night Palast showed Conyers a Griffin email from August 2004 indicating that Griffin not only knew of ‘caging,’ but directed the operation.


And check out this story from Slate: Raging Caging - What the heck is vote caging, and why should we care?

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE: From Baghdad to New Orleans — Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild. For information, go to

R.D. Laing

R.D. Laing
Speaking on Autonomy