Category Archives: Vote Suppression

Make America Good Again

MAGA blue good again

I have to admit to being a bit tired from the firehosed gaslighting news of the week.  I am tired of explications of how Republicans in Georgia and North Dakota, being unwilling to submit their ideas to the voters of their respective states have decided instead to play untoward games with the electoral process.  Too many Black and other people of color voting? — just put their registration applications on hold, close their polling places, limit their voting hours…. Too many Native Americans voting?  Simple — require physical addresses for places that don’t have home mail delivery. Bonus: Rural voters may also be excluded from voting if they, too, “live” in their P.O. Boxes.

Here’s a clue. If it is necessary to play these kinds of games in order to win elections then it is quite possible the party doesn’t have a strong and appealing message for voters.

I am also tired of media whining about Democrats without messages.  I’ve no apologies on offer if the Democrats aren’t saying what the punditry want them to say, however I’m willing to guess that they must be saying something effectively or the GOP wouldn’t be fear mongering and vote suppressing to beat the band.

Democrats are talking about Health Care.  They are speaking about Republican plans to demolish the Affordable Care Act if they retain control of Congress.  They are speaking about Republican announced plans to shave Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (in order to pay for their tax cuts.)  They are speaking about comprehensive immigration policy reform.  If they are not speaking is easily digestible sound bites and bumper sticker slogans, then why can’t the media spend the required one or two minutes to explain that there are some issues that don’t lend themselves to bumper sticker solutions?

What the media appear to bemoan is that Democrats aren’t “marketing” their ideas, not that they don’t have any.  Consider for a moment what happens when one side is all marketing and the other side wants to talk about governing.  Media loves media.  Marketing recognizes good marketing.  Few want to address the issues of governing, and thus we get Republicans who simply can’t govern.  They don’t like policy arguments, they don’t like nuanced discussions; they don’t like governing. They don’t like government.   They are rather like cooks, who once placed in a chef’s kitchen, want to do nothing more than make hamburgers.  They haven’t had many original ideas in decades.

Entitlement Reform?” That’s merely the latest marketing slogan/dog whistle for dismantling Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Once more with feeling: We are entitled to these programs because we’ve been paying into them all our working lives.

“Eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse?”  This is more “Starve the Beast.”  We’ve been listening to the Starve the Beast rhetoric for decades.  The GOP idea is to spend  the money on the military-industrial complex, shut down revenue by cutting corporate taxation, and then announce we “have to” cut social safety net programs because we can no longer afford them.  Heaven forefend they’d discuss raising corporate taxes or closing loopholes to secure additional revenue!  These hoary ideas are as old as Donkey Kong.

Instead of listening to the old, stale, ideas rehashed and re-marketed for the electorate, how about we keep repeating:

  1. Health care is essential.  No one “decides” to get sick or get hit by a car.  Everyone should be able to afford health care insurance which actually covers health care expenses.
  2. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are social safety net programs which have proven successful.  They are expensive, but they are also essential if we want to avoid our elders in dire poverty, our elders dying without health care because they are priced out of the private market, and our fellow citizens without health care services such that they do become a burden on their families and their communities.
  3. Immigration policy reform is possible if we take the fearmongering racism out of the discussion.  We actually had a proposal enacted by the Senate. However, after the radicals began bellowing “amnesty” every time someone mentioned the notion that people who’ve made their lives here, and became productive members of the community should have a path to citizenship, the plan failed.  If the racists and xenophobes would pipe down we could probably get to a workable solution.
  4. The economy could be better.  It would be a lot better if we would stop rewarding the top 0.1% for investing in whatever happens to be the Stock of the Quarter and start rewarding people who actually spend their money buying things and services … homes, vehicles, clothing, food, movie tickets, electronics, etc.  We know who these people are, they are working, they are middle class, they are everyday Americans, and for the most part they are good people.
  5. We can get back to being Good People.  No, we don’t separate children from their parents at our southern border!  No, we don’t countenance the harassment and abuse of women.  No, we don’t condone the murder of our journalists in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul — or anywhere else.  No, we don’t declare Canadian dairy farmers a “threat to our national security.”  No, we don’t think all the citizens of Mexico are drug dealers and rapists.  No, we don’t think neo-nazis are “very fine people.”

So, let’s Make America Good Again.  Vote.

 

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, Vote Suppression

The GOP went down to Georgia: A Cautionary Tale

Randolph County, Georgia is working hard to become the poster child for the cynicism of the Republican partisans who will stoop to seemingly ever lower machinations to depress voter turnout.

The county describes itself:

“Created in 1828, Randolph County encompasses 429 square miles in Southwest Georgia and is home to 7,719 residents. Randolph is an agricultural county and ranks as the top wheat and sorghum grower in the state. Peanuts, cotton, soybeans, and corn are also important crops for Randolph.”

This isn’t quite all the story.  The Census Bureau tells us that, yes, as of 2010 there were 7,719 residents, of whom 61.4% are African American, 37.1% of whom are white.  54% of the county’s residents are female.  11.2% of the residents under the age of 65 are classified as disabled.  These numbers are important.  Why?

The board of elections for a rural, southwest county in Georgia that consists of mostly black voters wants to eliminate all but two of the county’s polling locations just months before the midterm elections because they’re not in compliance with disabilities laws.

During a “courtesy” meeting Thursday night, the Randolph County Board of Elections, a county located near the Georgia-Alabama border, informed residents of the possibility that seven of the nine voting locations would be eliminated since the county did not have time to make them wheelchair accessible before the midterms, according to local media reports.

The seven locations they want to close are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires wheelchair accessibility to all public buildings. As a solution, one board member suggested voters could still apply for an absentee ballot by mail.  [Newsweek]

How interesting!  Just at the point at which an African American woman is running for the governorship of Georgia against a white male … the county decides (between the primary and mid-term general election) that it’s time to enforce the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The ACLU response is informative:

“If a government building is not ADA compliant, the solution is to make them ADA compliant. If you cut your hand, you don’t chop off your arm, you heal the wound,” he said. “They have had decades to fix these issues and have had elections in these polling places. The better question is why haven’t these issues been fixed? And why, instead of fixing them, are you shutting them down?” (emphasis added)

Why should we not consider the perfectly obvious: It’s a blatant attempt to suppress African American voting

“The closing of three-quarters of the polling places in the county would have a staggering effect on access to vote, according to the ACLU, as it would mean an additional 10-mile journey to the two remaining polling places. “If you don’t have a car and you want to vote in-person, you have to walk three-and-a-half hours,” Young said. One of the polls up for closure is Cuthbert Middle School, where nearly 97 percent of voters are black.” [Slate] (emphasis added)

So, if those non-ADA compliant polling stations were acceptable in previous elections, then why are they now to be closed for the general election in November?  I think we have the explanation right here:

Because of its history of racist voting laws, Randolph County was once required to seek federal permission before altering its election procedures. But after the Supreme Court gutted this oversight in 2013, the county was freed to crack down on the franchise. It is no coincidence that its election board chose this moment to shutter most of its polls: In November, the popular Democrat Stacey Abrams will compete for the governorship against Republican Brian Kemp, the current Georgia secretary of state. Kemp, who has devoted his time in office to a ruthless campaign of voter suppression, called upon Randolph County to abandon the plan when it spurred widespread outrage. That being said, the key figure in the Randolph County controversy is a Kemp ally who was handpicked by the secretary of state to close polls throughout Georgia. [Slate]

Kemp needs to suppress African American and female voting.  What Kemp doesn’t need is more publicity about this outrageous vote suppression initiative. However, he’s getting it.  From Slate, from Newsweek, from the Washington Post, from the Huffington Post,  from the New York Daily News.   Four days ago the county was trying to explain its rationale, yesterday there were soft signals of a possible walk-back.  However, the decision won’t be made until August 24th.   Four days more until we see if the “handpicked” Kemp ally is successful in fulfilling his role as facilitator for his white male gubernatorial candidate.

This is why we: (1) Pay attention to what has happened to the Voting Rights Act; (2) Pay attention to the candidates to be Secretary of State; (3) Pay attention to what is happening in small places with small populations, because once these vote suppression precedents are established the GOP will come back for second helpings. (4) Pay attention to local elections and local boards and commissions.  This is why we stay vigilant. Why we use social media and all the communication resources at hand. Why we remember that if vote suppression strategies and tactics will depress African American turnout, they will suppress turnout for women, for young voters, for elderly voters, for voters of Hispanic heritage, for any voter unlikely to support the Trumpian tendency toward autocracy.

These upcoming mid-term elections aren’t important — they are ESSENTIAL.  Register, check your registration, help other people register, help other people check their registration, then VOTE LIKE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE DEPENDS ON IT.  The devil isn’t on the loose just down in Georgia.

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Filed under Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Losing Sins, Sacramental Cheating: Vote Suppression Issues in 2017

“A faith that makes losing a sin will make cheating a sacrament.” — Michael Gergen

Case in point: The incredibly petty assault on the election of state Senator Joyce Woodhouse by sore losers among the Clark County Republicans who think a ‘recall’ election on a trumped up issue will allow them to overturn election results.  And, this single sentence is about all the publicity the recall effort deserves.

Case in point:  The trumped up (literally) claims of vote fraud in the 2016 election, for which there is NO evidence whatsoever.  The vote suppression efforts rely on conflation and obfuscation.  First and foremost, it requires that we conflate issues of voter registration with actual incidents of voter impersonation fraud.  No one is arguing that periodically cleaning up voter registration lists to remove names of those deceased or moved from the precinct is necessarily a bad thing.  If done in a rational and professional manner such removal makes the lives of poll workers on election day a bit easier, and I, for one, am all for making their lives as easy as possible.  However, there are voices asserting that because there remain names un-removed, there is therefore the potential for fraud, therefore there must be evidence of fraudulent voting.  This is fear-mongering of the first water.  Please review the 3 instances of voting fraud in Nevada since 2012.  (More discussion here) An additional objection to this assertion is that the vote suppression advocates are personalizing the issue — “If there is One instance of fraudulent voting, then the vote thus cancelled out must be ‘yours.'”  Please.  “But! What happens in close elections?”  One instance repeatedly hauled out by the vote suppressors as an example of  a close loss blamed on illegal voting, the Rizzo case, has been thoroughly debunked.  It’s become an article of faith among the right wing that because Democrats might cheat, then “election integrity” requires that they be closely monitored to prevent “those people” from winning elections.  Election integrity should mean that every eligible voter in this country is treated equally as the ballots are cast.  However, this brings us to yet another sacrament of the vote suppressors.

Case in point:  The following report comes from the Indianapolis Star: (August 10, 2017)

“State and local Republicans have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas, an IndyStar investigation has found, prompting a significant change in Central Indiana voting patterns. From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County, IndyStar’s analysis found, and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.   That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people with transportation issues or busy schedules. And the results were immediate.”

Yes, how convenient, for Republican voters only.  This becomes yet another example of those for whom winning is an article of faith, and one’s sacramental duty is to cheat to gain an advantage.

Case in point:  North Carolina Republicans became the poster children for vote suppression tactics,  such as curtailing early voting, strict ID requirements, reduced polling hours, to such as extent that they’ve not managed to pass muster in the courts.   In short, the battle’s not over by a long shot.  States that manage to restrict voting hours, reduce voting sites, curtail early voting, and otherwise strive to make voting as difficult as possible are engaged in nothing less that organized disenfranchisement.  Nothing could argue more forcefully for the importance of state elections than these kinds of patently suppressive legislation.

Case in point:  We should focus for a moment on the closing of polling stations as an example of vote suppression. Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and (you guessed it) North Carolina all closed polling places in 2016 that were in predominantly Democratic areas. [Reuters]

Unreasonably strict voter ID laws, the closing of polling stations, the restrictions on early voting, the selective purging of voter rolls (Remember Florida in 2000?), the arbitrary lengthening or contracting voting precinct schedules, and the other schemes to restrict voting fly in the face of Madison’s observation in his Federalist 52:

“The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government. “

This, not the modern Republican version of disenfranchisement, ought to be the statement of faith that makes cheating so egregious.

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Filed under civil liberties, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

A Little Help For The Fraudulent Election Commission: Nevada Edition

I’m not sure why an investigation of election irregularities is necessary, at least as far as Nevada is concerned, when the information a person would want is easily located in the Reports from the Secretary of State (pdf)  However, there’s some information contained therein which needs a bit of explication and expansion.  Details below, first the Secretary of State’s description of the 3 (that would be only three) incidents of prosecutable election related crimes, then the follow up.

Roxanne Rubin

“In 2012, EITF agents arrested a southern Nevada woman charged with
attempting to vote twice in the same election. Roxanne Rubin early voted in
the 2012 general election at a polling location in Clark County. Later the same
day she appeared at a different Clark County early voting polling location and
attempted to vote a second time. The poll worker conducted a routine
computer database search which indicated that Rubin had already voted and
informed her of this. Rubin responded that she had not already voted, but a
search of the computer database reconfirmed that she had already voted at a
different polling place. Poll workers did not allow Rubin to vote and reported
the incident to the Clark County Registrar of Voters’ office, which notified the
Secretary of State’s office. Rubin was taken to the Clark County Detention
Center, and charged with one count of voting more than once in the same
election, a Category “D” felony.”

The outcome of this case was a plea deal for Rubin, who offered an interesting defense of her actions.

“A Nevada Republican arrested for voter fraud in the 2012 election, after claiming she was trying to test the system’s integrity, pled guilty and accepted a plea deal Thursday, forcing her to pay almost $2,500 and promise to stay out of trouble.

Roxanne Rubin, 56, a casino worker on the Las Vegas Strip, was arrested on Nov. 3, 2012 after trying to vote twice, once at her poling site in Henderson and then at a second site in Las Vegas. The poll workers at the second site said that she had already voted, but Rubin said that she hadn’t and insisted on casting a ballot, which the poll workers refused to allow her to do.

Rubin said that she was trying to show how easy it would be to commit voter fraud with just a signature. “This has always been an issue with me. I just feel the system is flawed,” she told the AP Thursday. “If we’re showing ID for everything else, why wouldn’t we show our ID in order to vote?”

Rubin, like many Republicans, claim that the threat from voter fraud — which is close to non-existent — is why voter ID laws need to be in place. But Nevada has no voter ID law — other than for first-time voters who didn’t show ID when they registered to vote — and she was caught anyway.”  [HPost]

There’s more than a handful of irony in this case.  A Republican, filled with the thoughts of all those “illegals” voting, decided to “test” the system — and got a conviction for a class D felony.  In short, the system worked.  And now, the second case:

Ortencia Segura 

The EITF also worked on a case in 2014 involving an undocumented
immigrant who registered to vote under a false name and cast ballots in the
2008 and 2010 federal elections in Nevada. Ortencia Segura was charged with
one count of an act concerning registration of voters and one count of
possession of personal identifying information for the purpose of establishing
false status and/or identity. She pleaded guilty to willfully and unlawfully
giving a false answer to the Washoe County Registrar of Voters and falsifying
her application to register to vote.
An immigrant living in the country illegally has pleaded guilty in Reno to violating election laws after she registered to vote in Washoe County under a false name and cast ballots in the 2008 and 2010 Nevada elections.

This is one of those cases that gets cited as “proof” there could be massive fraud perpetrated by those “illegals.”  However, as in the previous case, there’s a kicker.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Hortencia Segura-Munoz was sentenced Wednesday to 103 days in jail. But she was given credit for 103 days already served on the single gross misdemeanor count of “conspiracy to commit violations concerning registration of voters.”

Segura-Munoz also was ordered to pay $1,000 in costs and fees. She originally was arrested on two felony charges of voter fraud.

Prosecutors say she registered as a Republican, but it’s not known which candidates she voted for or if her voting affected any close elections.  [KOLO]

We might reasonably surmise she voted the way she registered?  And now we come to the third and last prosecutable case in the state of Nevada:

Tina Marie Parks

“Most recently, in July 2016 EITF agents arrested a Pahrump, Nevada, woman
accused of falsifying voter registration applications. Tina Marie Parks, an
employee of the community organization group Engage Nevada, is charged
with 11 felonies related to fraudulently marking the party affiliation of three
people while assisting them to register to vote and attempting to register to
vote herself while being a convicted felon without her voting rights restored.
Parks is currently awaiting trial.”

This third case really isn’t about fraudulent voting at all, it’s about fraud committed on registration forms, and yet again — we have a fly in the ointment.

A Pahrump woman was arrested Wednesday on 11 felony charges involving allegations she falsified party affiliations while registering voters before the June 14 Nevada primary, the secretary of state’s office said.
An arrest warrant issued for Tina Marie Parks listed bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.
The arrest follows an investigation conducted by the state’s Election Integrity Task Force after it received complaints from voters who said Parks, while working for the conservative outreach group Engage Nevada, filled out their applications and listed the wrong party affiliation.
In two instances, voters said Parks marked their party as Republican. Another was marked as nonpartisan. All three told investigators they wanted to register as Democrats.  [LVRJ]

It’s hard to draw any major conclusions from a data set of three, only two of which involve actual voting, but all three are related to voting related frauds by those identified as Republicans.  Only one involves voting by a person not a citizen of the United States, one was a deliberate attempt (unsuccessful) to game the system, and one was in violation of voter registration statutes.

However, much like the motive in the unfortunate Rubin case, the mythology lingers on in conservative Republican circles that there must be massive voting fraud in this country —  Why else would Democrats win elections in urban areas? Why else would Republican candidates of ideological purity and righteousness lose at the polls?  For those who cannot admit that the GOP didn’t run a very good candidate, or that the candidate didn’t have an appealing message, the answer must lie in the mists of Machine Politics of Yesteryear.   The hard fact my well be that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the old machinery redundant.

After the New Deal provided jobs, the precinct captains and ward bosses were no longer the place to find employment.  After Social Security was enacted, the donations from the wards and precincts weren’t necessary to put food on the tables of elders in the neighborhood.  True, there are still some effective political organizations in the US, but in the wake of Medicare, Medicaid, and employment training programs their activities are now more overtly political and far less covertly economic.

Anchors Away

There are some emotional anchors for the mythology, which underpin the conservative fears in the face of overwhelming evidence that voting fraud is definitely not a significant problem in the US, and that states are perfectly capable of handling what few instances there are.

Frankly, one of the anchors is embedded in racism and racial stereotypes.  “They” must be voting against us, if we (read: white) aren’t winning.  “They” aren’t “real Americans.”  The roots go back to Black Codes, Jim Crow, and the segregated South of the Lost Cause.  They also catch on to elements of anti-Semitic, anti-Irish and anti-Italian sentiment of this earlier era.  The latest targets of these attacks are those people of Mexican or Central American heritage.  The target may change but the anchor doesn’t.  Commission member Chris Kobach is still on national television peddling the debunked North Kansas City case of Somalis illegally voting in the Rizzo-Royster Case. As long as these contentions go unchallenged the argument will live on.

Another anchor, related to the one described above, is the the Tip of the Iceberg argument.  If there is one instance of voting fraud then there must be much more hidden from our view.  It’s hard to present a rational argument to counter this irrational perspective.   Present the fearful with:

“And yet the numbers indicate that voter fraud is incredibly rare. According to NBC, a News21 analysis of 2,068 instances of alleged fraud nationwide during the elections between 2000 and 2012 pinpointed just 10 cases of voter impersonation in a pool of about 146 million total voters.” [aol]

The rejoinder nearly always resembles something like, “Well, prove that there aren’t millions of illegal voters who get away with it.”

A third anchor relies on another a fear of the potential.  If an enhanced fear of actual voting fraud is statistically irrational, then the fear that there is an immense potential for ever more fraud is based on little more than an unadulterated sense of peril.  The dead-voter-fraud argument is illustrative of this kind of anchor.  If the rolls of Precinct 10 in West Elk Hair contain the names of two individuals who are now deceased, then there is the Potential for two acts of voting fraud.  This argument only works IF ballots are cast in those two names.  It’s an uncontroversial fact that the dead don’t vote. However, if one amasses a long list of names which have not yet been removed from voter rolls then the argument contends that this represents a distressing potential for voting fraud — and again those of good faith in the system are called upon to defend a negative:  Prove that none of these people voted.

The infamous Cross Check voter suppression project is also related to this Potential Argument.  If James Smith is registered to vote in Ottumwa, IA and James Smith is registered to vote in Sarasota, FL then there is Potential double voting.  Probably not. Especially not if one is James L. Smith and the other James R. Smith, or if one is 22 and the other is 37, or if any other test is applied, which in some Cross Check cases seems to have been missing.

When we whittle away the “anchors” and examine the background of voting “fraud” fears in this country we are left back at the starting gate — there are simply some people who do not want other individuals who are unlike themselves voting in local, state, and national elections.  This is NO way to run a republic.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It, Instant Summer Reading Recommendations

The Nevada Independent has several excellent articles about the health insurance ‘reform’ battle in the state,  I’d recommend starting with ‘Senator Cortez-Masto’s denunciation of the Senate health bill,” and move on to ‘Dispatches from Washington.’

The Reno Gazette Journal reports (video) on Rep. Jacky Rosen’s (D-NV3) decision to run for Senator Dean Heller’s seat.

Please note TPM’s report from the conference of Secretaries of State concerning election data security.  If this conclusion doesn’t disturb us, it should:

“But both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, who are responsible for carrying out elections in many states, said they have been frustrated in recent months by a lack of information from federal intelligence officials on allegations of Russian meddling with the vote. They say that despite the best efforts by federal officials, it may be too late in to make substantive changes.”

Interestingly enough, vote suppression advocate Chris Kobach was a no-show at the meeting.  Perhaps this is because some election experts have identified major flaws in Kobach’s “election integrity” plans.

And, now we get to “muddle time” during which the current administration tries to muddy the waters about the  other election problem — Russian interference.  Spokespersons and advocates are on the air-waves saying that “Gee, it’s not 17 intelligence agencies, it’s actually just a handful of people who reached the conclusion that the Russians meddled,”  which is one tactic to discredit the reports that are unequivocal in their assessment that, yes, the Russians interfered.   Following this comes the Gee Whiz moment in which the apologist who says that “we’ve not actually seen the evidence of this.”  A statement such as this is simply a variation on the previous talking point:  We’ve investigated this enough, there’s nothing there, move along please.

Speaking of elections, please take a look at the bill introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2) HR 2101, the Prior Approval Reform Act:  To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to expand the ability of trade associations to solicit contributions from the stockholders and executive or administrative personnel of their member corporations, and for other purposes.  The effective date, January 1, 2018, would allow more “corporate” money in politics just in time for 2018 campaign season.   The Associated General Contractors would be pleased to see this enacted. [pdf]  Those disturbed by the dark, and darker money, flowing into our campaigns should track this bill.

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Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, Where 3 Is Greater than 520

There are a couple of news items which should cause us some concern, other than the inability of the current President to speak the words, “The Russians hacked into our elections.”

First, there are the efforts by the Russians to continue their intrusions into our elections:

“Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.”  [CNNI]

Secondly, there’s James Clapper’s assessment that the Russians are prepping the battlefield for 2018. (video)  This should raise some concerns from Nevada’s election officials.

Thus far Nevada’s chief election official, the Secretary of State, has agreed to hand over such Nevada voter registration data as is a matter of public record to the Pence/Kobach Commission, and not the full list of information Kobach’s Commission has requested…without any reference as to whether his Commission will pay for the data as any other political institution or agency would be asked to do.  The security of the information, given the increased Russian interest in our elections, is highly questionable.  Nor is the question answered about the rationale for the Commission in the first place.  However, it does sound a bit like Nevada’s Election Integrity Task Force which receives plaudits and plenty of attention in the Secretary of State’s Biennial Report for 2015-2016. (pdf)

The EITF ferreted out some cases of voting irregularities rising to the level of prosecutable offenses: One case of double voting in Clark County in 2012; one case of an undocumented immigrant voting in Washoe County in 2014; and one case in Nye County of improperly completed voter registration forms in 2016.  That’s IT.  Three cases.  Adding a soupçon of context:  In 2012 there were 1,016,664 votes cast.  In 2014 there were 552,326 votes cast, and in 2016 there were 1,125,429 votes cast in Nevada.  In 2012 there were a total  of 1,082,705 active voters on Nevada rolls; there were 1,193,194 active voters on Nevada rolls in 2014; and, in 2016 there were 1,334,959 active voters on the rolls.  [NVSoS]  Somehow, this context wouldn’t seem to justify a “Task Force” on any subject.

There are some other numbers which seem to call for greater attention and concern, and these are located in the Nevada Executive Budget for FY 2016-2017 (pdf).  One of the performance measures included in the Secretary of State’s budget concerns the number of electronic viruses neutralized by its IT personnel.  The actual numbers are available for 2011 (300), 2012 (375), 2013 (391), and 2014 (407), with projected numbers for 2015 (442), 2016 (480), and 2017 (520).  See a trend? The budget descriptors don’t indicate if these were malware, spyware, or someone trying to hack into corporate records, but the steadily increasing number from 2011 onward isn’t comforting…and now we have more Russians running loose in the country, “setting up the battlefield for 2018.”

However, our Secretary of State seems to have her own battlefield, as of last April, when she alleged there was voting by non-citizens in the 2016 election as a result of Department of Motor Vehicles practices (based on a March memo of understanding about the practices which bears her signature.)  It’s July, and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has yet to make public any information confirming or substantiating her allegations.   We might be excused for believing, on the basis of this information that in her office 3 is of greater concern than 520.

 

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

The Happy Hackers Bill approved by House Republicans

One of the major ironies of the past few days is that the administration’s fraudulent anti-voting fraud commission is asking for bundles of private voter information from the 50 states, all the while dismissing Russian interference in the 2016 election as a hoax, AND submitting a budget which we’ve known for some time would eliminate the ONE federal agency tasked with assisting state and local governments with election security.

“House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary.

A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks.” [GovExec]

The bill, introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), would hand the powers and duties of the Election Assistance Commission to the Federal Election Commission, and the little agency responsible for “developing specifications for testing and certifying voting systems” would fold up and go away under the terms of HR 634.

The tribulations and gridlock in the Federal Election Commission are well known and documented: Investigations stalled, dark money flowing freely, enforcement delayed and denied. In short a scene of “dysfunction and deadlock.”  [NYT]  Failures to investigate, and 3-3 vote ties stifling further investigations. [NBC] Thus, the Harper bill would deliver election security responsibilities to a commission already in the throes of partisan gridlock and as they say so politely, “dysfunction.”

Republicans on the Administration Committee [Harper (R-MS), Davis (R-IL), Comstock (R-VA), Smith (R-NE),  Walker (R-NC), and Loudermilk (R-GA)] voted to send the bill forward;  Democratic Representatives Brady (D-PA), Lofgren (D-CA) and Raskin (D-MD) voted “no.”  So, what do these lawmakers want to hand over the the stalemated FEC?  The part which should interest us the most at the moment is this segment from the EAC:

“EAC Certification Program is to provide clear procedures to Manufacturers for the testing and certification of voting systems to specified Federal standards consistent with the requirements of HAVA Section 231(a)(1).

Under this program, the testing and review process requires the completion of an application, employment of an EAC-accredited laboratory for system testing, and technical analysis of the laboratory test report by the EAC. The result of this process is an Initial Decision on Certification.”

It doesn’t take much effort to interpret this task as the foundation of standards for the certifying and testing of election systems.   Republicans may argue that this could be done under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, but this seems hollow since the bill doesn’t transfer the duties to DHS, it just wipes the EAC off the map.  The EAC already maintains a list of certified election systems,  and those which have been terminated.   The Republicans appear quite pleased to take the constable off the beat, and hope that someone, somewhere, will prevent the development and certification of voting systems from becoming the Wild West of slackers, partisan backers, and hackers.

If eliminating the EAC isn’t the answer, what might be?   The Brennan Center issued a report on “Security Election Systems from Foreign Interference,”  in a forward by former CIA Director James Woolsey,” he observes:

“In the last few months, we have learned extraordinary details about a Russian assault on our election infrastructure. While there is no evidence that this assault altered the vote count, that fact should be cold comfort as we look to protect ourselves against future attacks.”

One doesn’t have to be an expert on cybersecurity or election technology to understand how dangerous this is. Based on my experience, as a former Director of Central Intelligence, and in service to this country under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, I am confident the Russians will be back, and that they will take what they have learned last year to attempt to inflict even more damage in future elections. In particular, their history of interfering in other nations’ politics, their antipathy to the United States and Western democracies generally, and their proven ability to multiply the impact of their actions through cyberattacks should put us on the highest alert, and spur us to take all necessary actions to protect ourselves from further attack.”

In summary form, Ambassador Woolsey is convinced the Russians will be back, they will apply “lessons learned” evaluations, and they will attempt to cause even more damage in the future.  If the former CIA Director is correct, and there’s no logical reason to believe otherwise, this is hardly the time to terminate any programs to help state and local election officials secure their systems.  In fact, it’s time to do more, as outlined by the Report:

“What more must be done? The key security measures detailed in this report are the right place to start: replace paperless electronic machines, upgrade the hardware and software that supports voter registration, and conduct post-election audits to confirm the results.

These are common-sense solutions that will increase security and public confidence in the integrity of our system. Importantly, they will do so without interfering with the right of any eligible citizen to participate in the choice of who will govern the nation.”

Some of these recommendations are squarely in the EAC wheelhouse, others will require additional support for local and state election officials.

The good news is that the decentralization of American voting systems makes a concerted attack extremely difficult, there are 8,000 voting jurisdictions, and about 100,000 polling places.  However, this doesn’t mean that we should be taking much comfort from our fragmented system, because the bad news is that some jurisdictions are using antiquated equipment with operating systems no longer supported by vendors (and thus are easier to attack.)  States and localities have made progress toward greater technical voting system security since 2004, but now is no time to rest upon laurels and declare “we’re Safe!” merely because vote totals are difficult to alter.

There’s also the matter of voter registration data security.  Again, the Brennan Center recommends:

“State and local governments must fully identify potential avenues for attacking voter registration systems, mapping out all of the entities that interact with that system, and implementing mitigation strategies where weaknesses are identified. The consensus among experts interviewed by the Brennan Center is that this should be done on a regular basis, but that many states are unlikely to have completed this kind of comprehensive risk assessment in the last few years, despite the fact that both registration systems and cyber threats have evolved enormously over that time.”

Putting a more blunt perspective on it:  The risk assessment tools used to evaluate the security of voter registration data which were judged “state of the art” just a couple of years ago may now be as outdated as that Motorola StarTAC clam shell mobile phone  sitting in the bottom of someone’s junk drawer.   Add to this the notion that the Administration’s fraudulent Fraud Commission wants to centralize voter registration data from 50 states all in one convenient place — thus making it a handier target for our adversaries — and we lose the advantages of decentralization while making life easier for those wishing to practice their “foreign interference.”

There is a bill in the Congress well worth supporting, introduced by Derek Kilmer (D-WA), HR 1344, under its terms the Department of Homeland Security would assist local and state government officials as follows:

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may award states with planning and biennial implementation grants under the program to:

adopt cybersecurity best practices;
mitigate talent gaps in government workforces;
protect public safety answering points, emergency communications, and continuity of communications during catastrophic disruption;
mitigate threats to critical infrastructure or key resources;
coordinate with neighboring states or countries, National Guard units, or information sharing and analysis organizations; and
establish scholarships or apprenticeships to provide financial assistance to state residents pursuing cybersecurity education who commit to working for state government.
The bill sets forth requirements for distribution of awarded amounts to local and tribal governments within states and for consultation with local and regional officials.

The Committee for Cyber Resiliency Grants is established to: (1) promulgate guidance for states to develop applications for such cyber resiliency grants; (2) provide DHS and states with recommendations regarding the approval of state plans or applications; and (3) evaluate, and report to Congress regarding, the progress of states in implementing plans.”

We’d be well advised to contact our Representatives and recommend they oppose HR 634 (perhaps on the theory that the fact we have a Navy doesn’t obviate the need to also have a Coast Guard) and to support HR 1344.

This is hardly the time to make the hackers any happier.

Local Contact Information: 

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) Phone: (775) 686-5760

Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) Phone: (702) 220-9823

Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV4)  (702) 963-9360

Representative Jacky Rosen (D-NV3)  (702) 963-9500

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Filed under Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting