"Trust me" elections in Kentucky (and elsewhere)

Announcement – Those in New York, New Jersey: Bev Harris will be in
NY, CT, NJ from Sept 22-27 for work on the “Godfather Elections”
investigative series, so if you have questions or closeup info on
election problems, now is the time to email Bev: — AND — On Thurs. Sept. 27 Harris will be
speaking, it’s a public event, please come if you can! 7:30 pm Temple
New Tamid, 936 Broad St, Bloomfield NJ 07003

The film “Hacking Democracy” featuring the work of Black Box Voting
has been nominated for an Emmy; the awards are in NYC Sept. 21. Wish
us all luck. A donation of $45 and we send you a gift DVD;


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SHORT VERSION – An original Black Box Voting investigative report
By Bev Harris

This report is dedicated to Dave Greenwell of Bullitt County,
Kentucky, who ran for sheriff in 2006 with a pledge to clean up
nepotism in Bullitt County government. He lost. Last time I met him,
his thank-you-for-trying message consisted of three broken ribs. A
powerful family now dominates Bullitt County, but if what we have
learned will help to achieve reforms (see end of article), Dave’s
loss can result in a win for Kentucky and many other states.


West Virginia, Mingo County: The Hatfields
Kentucky, Pike County: The McCoys

By my count, at least 14 people were murdered during the
Hatfield-McCoy feud, not including the hangings of the criminally
convicted. Despite their anger management problems, the Hatfields
have managed to hold several public offices in West Virginia, and at
least one direct descendant of both a Hatfield and McCoy hold office
right now.

Let’s go back in time, for illustrative purposes. Suppose you are a
McCoy. Suppose you want to run for office. Would you like the
Hatfields to count your vote in secret? Would it bother you to see
various Hatfields wandering in and out of the back room while McCoy
votes are being counted?

“Trust Me” elections are a bad idea whether or not the people who
control the counting happen to be related to each other.

*Moonshine Election Territories: 4 or more of the following characteristics
1. Rural location
2. Family members hold multiple positions in the local government
3. Problems are noted in financial audits
4. Felony convictions of local officials
5. Questionable election situations
6. Obstructs or ignores Freedom of Information (public records) requests
7. Uses computerized voting systems serviced by small subcontractors

16 states, 210 electoral votes – Black Box Voting has identified of
these kinds of election jurisdictions in Kentucky, West Virginia,
Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana and parts of southern Illinois, Ohio and
Indiana, as well as some of western Pennsylvania, eastern Missouri,
and scattered locations in Texas.


Two local public officials in each county have especially close
proximity to elections and ballot chain of custody: the county
elections director and the county sheriff.

In the 2006 election that installed Donnie Tinnell as the new
sheriff, outgoing Bullitt County Sheriff Paul Parsley was in there
helping with the Election Night e-vote tallying, and Parsley’s
granddaughter, whom nobody can recall being on the payroll or
appointed to any official position, was seen handling the poll tapes
– results from each individual voting machine – which by the way
didn’t match up to the official results, but nobody did anything
about that. Paul Parsley had already announced that the new sheriff
in town was going to be Donnie Tinnell – in fact, he announced that
Tinnell would be chosen by the voters some months before the election.

Another person getting up close and personal to the e-vote counting
was Linda Tinnell, the sister-in-law of Donnie Tinnell. No one could
actually view the counting of the e-votes of course, other than
noting that someone was doing something to computers. So here we have
Donnie Tinnell running for sheriff, and we also had Donnie’s cousin,
Sherman Tinnell, running for mayor. Here a Tinnell, there a Tinnell,
helping with the votes a Tinnell, and all the Tinnell people won,
including relatives like Donnie’s niece, a schoolteacher named
Melanie Roberts who happened to land the most powerful position in
the county.

The mantle was duly passed from Sheriff Parsley to new Sheriff Donnie
Tinnell, who now also sits on the Bullitt County Board of Elections.


Not exactly.

Some states have anti-nepotism laws, but most places rely on murky
toothless “ethics” recommendations. Others provide exclusions as big
as the Hatfield family — for example, in Texas first cousins don’t
count as nepotism.

The Missouri Constitution requires public officials to forfeit their
office if they employ anyone up through a fourth degree relationship
by blood or marriage (more in full report). But in Kentucky, county
elections boards can include family members and convicted felons as
well. I guess you can bring in the James Gang to run your local
elections board, if you’re in Kentucky. It’s legal.

No state has nepotism laws that contemplate the unique risks of
computerized voting systems. Nepotism laws generally only deal with
hiring your family in your own department. If you are a Sheriff
running for reelection, and your son is the elections division IT
computer guy, that’s not prohibited unless you can contort an ethics
rule to fit and find someone willing to enforce it.

Nepotism laws don’t affect dynasties. One family member can succeed
another, and indeed this is often used to keep control within one
family in situations where there are term limits. In 1966 Governor
George Wallace dealt with his own term limit by helping his wife
Lurleen succeed him, frankly admitting that he planned to make the
decisions. Family dynasties can help protect corrupt locations from
having the next guy find their dirty laundry, keep the kickbacks in
the family, pass secret recipes for fraud from generation to

Nepotism laws generally don’t put any restrictions on family members
who volunteer to help around the office — or help with
vote-counting, as the case may be.


Clearly I’m a Yankee, or a left-coasty, or something, because when I
went looking for who has the same last name in the moonshine
territories the nicknames on the ballots stopped me before I could
even get to the last names.

Three candidates who go by the names Bugs, Hossfly and Chigger ran
for magistrate in the 2007 Kentucky primary election. That election
also provided candidate comfort food: challengers named Buttermilk,
Puddin, Apple, Peanuts, Hot Dog, Big M

ac and Bun, along with Chubby
Ray, Heavy Duty, Chunk, Tank and Slim.


Two industries have a real stake in moonshine elections counties:
Drug-running and coal mining. The next article in the moonshine
series will go into the drug-running side of things. Here, let’s take
a look at how the coal industry — and the family stakeholders in
coal — have a powerful interest in elections.

The vast majority of America’s 3,142 counties are rural, and in most
states, elections are administered by counties. In rural areas, a
limited number of industries control the economy, provide the jobs,
and consider themselves stakeholders in election outcomes. Many
Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming counties are heavily vested in mining.


Sometimes it’s all about who’ll let you dump the most in the creek.

You may think that coal was just something your grandparents needed,
but in fact, coal-fired power plants supply roughly 50 percent of the
America’s electricity and more than 40 percent of the nation’s
emissions of the leading greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

Owners of Big Coal nowadays live in places like Florida (TECO
Energy), St. Louis (Peabody Energy), and Virginia (Massey Energy),
but many powerful local families still draw their personal power from
coal. Wealthy local families have sold, leased, and still manage
large coal operations.

Whereas the Kennedy family bought West Virginia votes the old
fashioned way, one by one with envelopes full of cash, George W. Bush
was assisted into office by mining industry moguls and a disgruntled
union boss who convinced people that an environmentally friendly
president would cost them their jobs. (citations in the main article)

Bush flipped West Virginia voters from Democrat to Republican with
the help of coal barons like William Raney, director of the West
Virginia Coal Association, and James H. “Buck” Harless, another
patriarch of the coal industry, along with Charles “Dick” Kimbler, a
former miner’s union official who helped break the Democrats hold on
Appalachian counties.

“We were looking for friends,” Harless told a Wall Street Journal
reporter, “and we found one in George W. Bush.”

After taking the 2000 presidential election, Bush set up his
transition advisory team for energy policies. He named three Peabody
Energy executives to assist him. When he installed Kentucky Senator
Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chau, to her cabinet post, both Bush
and McConnell* gained a friendly foe for those pesky mining industry

* McConnell co-sponsored the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the first
bill to muscle voting machines into American politics by force.

Resource exploitation produces such a sobering string of deaths every
year that the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) keeps a
running “Fatalgram” tally on its web site. In charge of investigating
these fatal accidents is Mitch McConnell’s wife, U.S. Secretary of
Labor Elaine Chau.

On Oct. 11 2000, about 250 million gallons of black coal sludge
gushed into a Martin County Kentucky mine and then flowed into two
creeks. Black gunk swallowed backyards, gardens and driveways,
annihilating life in the waterways. The spill was 23 times as large
as the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, but it got less media coverage.
Erik Reece, a lecturer at the University of Kentucky who teaches
environmental journalism, chronicles the kinds of concerns that arise
when death and disaster intersect with married Washington D.C.

Just like New Orleans, investigators found out they failed to follow
safeguards and knew it was at high risk, but when MSHA investigators
recommended a criminal investigation, Bush-appointed McConnell spouse
Elaine Chau did not comply; one of the main investigators found
himself locked out of his office.

It’s only toxic sludge and global warming at stake. But — whether it
be through financing elections, intimidation tactics, or working with
powerful families inside county governments to rig elections —
mining industry “persuasion” shoots its bullets both upward and
Take local citizens’ property rights and personal safety, for
example. In his book Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing
Wilderness, Reece describes the personal toll exacted from a resident
of moonshine government territory:

On the third of July, I drove across 10,000 acres of boulder-strewn
wasteland that used to be Kayford Mountain, W.Va. — one of the most
hideous mountaintop-removal sites I’ve seen. But right in the middle
of the destruction, rising like a last gasp, is a small knoll of
untouched forest. Larry Gibson’s family has lived on Kayford Mountain
for 200 years. … Forty seams of coal lie beneath his 50 acres.
Gibson could be a millionaire many times over, but because he refuses
to sell, he has been shot at and run off his own road. One of his
dogs was shot and another hanged. . . In 2000, Gibson walked out onto
his porch one day to find two men dressed in camouflage, approaching
with gas cans. They backed away and drove off, but not before they
set fire to an empty cabin that belongs to one of Gibson’s cousins.
This much at least can be said for the West Virginia coal industry:
it has perfected the art of intimidation.


In the last article, “The Hunt for Joe Bolton,”, we showed you
pictures of the Salyer family influence in Magoffin County. Salyer
Coal Company. Salyer for Judge. Salyer Elementary School. Paul Hudson
Salyer, a second cousin of former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton,
served three terms in Magoffin county’s most powerful position, that
of Judge Executive, and the 2005 Magoffin County audit mentions that
the County Clerk and his wife were running the office.Elections in
Magoffin County were therefore being administered by a husband and
(printer-friendly copy of article click here, allow a couple minutes
to load:

Bullitt County is not dominated by the coal industry, but it seems to
have issues with both drug trafficking and conflict of interest.
Bullitt County just built the new Nina Mooney Courthouse Annex,
elections headquarters. Nina Mooney was Queen of Elections for a few
decades and now her son, Kevin Mooney, runs elections.

During Nina’s reign, the Mooney family kept the voting machines in a
warehouse they owned, rent paid by Bullitt County taxpayers. Bullitt
County no longer houses its voting machines in the Mooney family’s
warehouse, but 2007 Bullitt County financial documents show thousands
of dollars in taxpayer money going to “Mooney’s Auto Supply.” In Feb.
2007 alone, while Kevin Mooney owned it and while he worked for the
county, over $2600 was disbursed by Bullitt County to Mooney Auto
Supplies. A new owner took over in May 2007, but documents show that
Bullitt County was equipping its road services division from Mooney’s
auto supply shop while he was running the elections division for the

Bullitt County’s voting machine technician is a woman named Tina
Drury. She ran away from me when I asked her who pays her. We found
her all by herself in a room full of voting machines and upo

n seeing
us videotaping, she literally ran out of the room and bolted down the
stairs, and refused to answer who pays her. We have been unable to
learn much about Tina Drury’s qualifications, except that her
grandfather was the voting machine technician before her.


Here is a short online video I ran across pertaining to Loving County
Texas, where a leading public official is explaining all the family
relationships in Loving County government.

Several citizens in Knox County, Tennessee have been grousing online
that the county commission features the son of an ex-commissioner,
the father of a current commissioner, and the wife of another
ex-commissioner. They say a former commissioner is now the Knox
County Clerk (read: runs elections now). Before you say “that’s just
an online forum,” well you’re right, but I’m finding time after time
that the locals know best, and for this reason, there is no
substitute for field work if you want to know what’s really going on.


And then there’s Clay County, Kentucky. You won’t get far researching
Clay County before you bump into a half-dozen Sizemores, who exist in
abundance on both sides of the law. I just can’t top this article,
written by Bryan Burrough. It illustrates the pitfalls of family-run
government so eloquently you simply must read these excerpts — and
bear in mind that ol’ Crawdad Sizemore won his latest election in May
this year:

In Clay County, Ky., It Takes Some Doing To Avoid a Sizemore
The Wall Street Journal(24)

. . . Meet the powerful Sizemore clan, whose grip on this isolated
mountain county is surpassed only by the violence that clings to its
name. Bombings, murders, alleged jury tampering, bootlegging — the
saga of the Sizemores weaves together all the strange and troublesome
themes of politics in Appalachia’s hamlets.

There is Sheriff Harold Sizemore, whose father and predecessor as
sheriff was killed in a backwoods hollow by a sniper’s bullets in
1969. There is County Judge Carl “Crawdad” Sizemore. There is
Constable “Black Jack” Sizemore, whose father was shot in the back by
a county sheriff in 1922. And the tax assessor is James Sizemore,
called a “double Sizemore” because his parents were both Sizemores.

. . . Indeed, with control over the two largest sources of jobs —
the schools and the county payroll — the Sizemores hold sway over
much of Clay County’s populace. Few folks hereabouts, including the
Sizemores’ political opponents, will criticize them

. . . To understand Clay County’s contradictions, one must first
understand the Sizemores — which isn’t easy since many Sizemores
can’t untangle their own family tree.

“There are about four or five sets of us, but as long as you’re a
Sizemore, you’re a Sizemore, no matter what,” says Black Jack
Sizemore, the constable. “Above all, we stick together.”

. . . They first came into prominence hereabouts because of what is
now known as the great Sizemore feud of 1931. . . And before the
killing stopped, family members recall, nine Sizemores were dead,
including a deputy sheriff ambushed by his two first cousins in an
argument over election results.



When you introduce computers into the voting process this forces the
citizens – who own the government – to trust government insiders to
tell the truth about election results. That’s intolerable. But
family-run government manages to turn even our rudimentary
dog-and-pony-show checks and balances into a farce.

Citizens can see paper ballots counted in public at the polling
place, but we can’t see what goes on inside a computer. Government
insiders control those computers, and in too many counties, these
insiders are related to each other. Intolerable. Farce.

That is not democracy.


The so-called “audits” in state and federal legislation are actually
spot-checks, not audits. Unfortunately, it is difficult to do an
actual audit of any kind in the short time between Election Night and
the mandatory election certification deadlines. Real audits take
months, and they don’t just check whether numbers add up — they
examine whether procedures were followed and look at chain of
custody, called “segregation of duties.”

Random spot checks like those done in Minnesota, Arizona, and North
Carolina are better than nothing but they won’t really stop insider
fraud. Government insiders control chain of custody for the very
election items that are spot-checked. There are no outside sources
for documents, like banks or merchants, just the one source: the
government insiders who hold all the keys. Spot checks use records
handed over by county insiders, the same people who control access to
ballot warehouses and custody of all the logs.


Citizen control is the inalienable birthright that the “Trust Me”
model tramples. The Declaration of Independence states that The
People have the right to “alter or abolish” our government. A milder
form of this is to alter our governors. There are really only two
ways to do this: through elections or using the method of 1776.

Try this: Ask the king of elections in the land where you live if he
can secure his laptop from himself. The answer is always the same:
“You have to trust us.”

Next time you hear the words “You Have To Trust,” please bust out laughing.


It’s unfair to ask citizens to become clairvoyants, trying to guess
whether they should or should not “trust” a bunch of insiders,
especially when they happen to be related to each other. It is the
duty of the government to “protect and secure” the rights of The
People. Forcing us to trust insiders does not secure and protect our

We need to look at these things as structural issues, and put
structures in place to protect the rights of The People.


At least, get the farce out of the way. It may take longer to correct
the intolerable.

Cleaning up nepotism is one area where reforms may be achieved
quickly. By itself, this won’t give you elections you can trust, but
it will reclaim meaningful territory.

Short term:
1) Demand local policies for the following matters pertaining to elections:

a) Require all election workers and poll workers to sign an
affidavit: “I am not related to anyone on the ballot”

b) Do not permit family members of election staff or candidates to
volunteer in any capacity that provides access to election records or

These are decisions that can be implemented locally regardless of
whether the state requires such measures.

2) Short term: Identify the family relationships in your local
elections jurisdiction. Anyone can do this, with a little legwork.
Long term: Push for Personal Relationships Disclosure Requirements.
Disclosing family ties should be simple. We know who our family is.
If it takes too long to fill out the form listing family members
employed by local and state government, you’ve got too many relatives

n the payroll.

3) Work to secure state legislation or a constitutional amendment
similar to the Missouri Constitution anti-nepotism clause. (It is
ironic that a current candidate for Kentucky governor thinks it’s
more important to change the constitution to allow gambling than to
eliminate Kentucky’s nepotism problem).

Exterminating nepotism will help deal with farcical elections. The
next article in the Moonshine series will address the intolerable:
felonious conduct by public officials.

The Complete Moonshine Elections Series:
1 — The Hunt for Joe Bolton:
2 — Family-Run Government:
Still to come
3 — Felonious conduct by public officials
4 — The Bullitt County Experience
5 — Moonshine Solutions


Extraordinary work by Bullitt County citizen Kathy Greenwell
triggered this investigative report.

It’s not often you read in the newspaper that a candidate for sheriff
— in this case, Kathy’s husband, Dave Greenwell — is running a
campaign with an explicit promise to clean up nepotism in county
hiring practices. That flagged the issue for us, and a closer look
reveals that this problem is significant, jeopardizes computerized
elections, and is not limited to Bullitt County.

When Dave announced his intent to run for Bullitt County sheriff, he
was fired. He is now a police officer in nearby Pioneer Village.

Election rights attorney Paul Lehto has done a masterful job of
framing the issues of counting votes in secret, and provided several
of the frames used in this article.

Black Box Voting administrative assistant Natalie D’Arielli has
contributed astute insights and suggested some of the practical
solutions. She trekked around Kentucky with me capturing video and
asking questions.

And thanks also to the mighty Nancy Tobi, from whom I purloined the
“gone wild” concept for the “Nepotism Gone Wild” subhead. Her
“Citizens Gone Wild” concept in New Hampshire is an empowering way to
take action.

Citizens who wish to become more involved: Black Box Voting has
prepared an easy to follow “Citizens Tool Kit” for you, available for
free online:

The work Black Box Voting is doing is supported solely by citizen
donations. We are gearing up for 2008, and your tax-deductible
donation is always very much needed and appreciated! To support our


Or, mail to:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98055

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