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As Ohio goes, so goes the nation

With New Legislation, Ohio Republicans Plan Holiday Burial for American Democracy
By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
The Free Press
Tuesday 06 December 2005

A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal US Senate seat in 2006, are about to end.

House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.

HB3’s most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.

The GOP is ramming similar bills through state legislatures around the US, starting with Georgia and Indiana. The ID requirements in particular have provoked widespread opposition from newspapers such as the New York Times. The Times, among others, argues that the ID requirements and the costs associated with them, constitute an unconstitutional discriminatory poll tax.

But despite significant court challenges, the Republicans are forcing changes in long-standing election laws that have allowed citizens to vote based on their signature alone. Across the US, GOP Jim Crow laws will eliminate millions of Democratic voters from the registration rolls. In swing states like Ohio, such ballots are almost certain to be crucial.

Read more.

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UPDATE: 20,000 troops hospitalized after anthrax vaccinations

Why is this not a national story??

Response from Ken:

Hi Mark,

I did a bit about this on dKos and The UnCap Journal.

Check it out at: Anthrax, BioPort and the Pentagon. UnHoly Alliance

ken

*** *** ***

First of four parts
An Incomplete Picture
Despite promises that hospitalizations after anthrax vaccinations would be reported, the Pentagon withheld data on more than 20,000 cases.
BY BOB EVANS
December 4 2005

The Pentagon never told Congress about more than 20,000 hospitalizations involving troops who’d taken the anthrax vaccine, despite repeated promises that such cases would be publicly disclosed.

Instead, a parade of generals and Defense Department officials told Congress and the public that fewer than 100 people were hospitalized or became seriously ill after receiving the shot from 1998 through 2000.

They also showed Congress written policies that required public reports to be filed for hospitalizations, serious illnesses and cases where someone missed 24 hours or more of duty.

But only a sliver of those cases were reported, while the rest were withheld from Congress and the public, records obtained by the Daily Press show.

Critics of the vaccine, veterans’ advocates and congressional staffers say the Pentagon’s deliberate low-balling of hospitalizations helped persuade Congress and the public that the vaccine was safe.

Read more.

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Boston Tea Party, anyone?

From evilGOPbastards:

Hi Mark,

I was at a meeting with the chairman of the Harris County (Houston) Dems and three Congressional candidates. I raised the issue of electronic voting and the recent GAO report. None of the candidates had even heard of the GAO report, and the chairman insisted on changing the subject, saying that if voters thought their votes wouldn’t count we’d never get them to the polls — as if the casting of votes was the “end” instead of the “means” to an end.

I was flabbergasted. The Democratic Party can only be described as willfully ignoring this crucial issue. Their acquiescence in spite of their upset defeats (2000, 2002, 2004) combined with the sudden failure of previously reliable polling methodologies since the introduction of e-voting is inexplicable for a political party that really wants to win. Do they really want to win or do they just like doing a pantomime of democracy? What the hell is going on here?

I’m coming to the conclusion that, lacking a successful legal challenge or a legislative fix (neither appears likely), a coordinated nation-wide “Boston Tea Party” campaign of citizen action to smash the e-voting machines at the polls or where they are warehoused is the only thing that will save our democracy.

Regards,

J’ac

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"Christian" goons assault KU professor

KU Prof. Treated At Hospital After Beating
Mirecki: Attackers Mentioned Creationism Class

POSTED: 8:40 am CST December 6, 2005
UPDATED: 4:54 pm CST December 6, 2005

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday was investigating a case in which a professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he derided Christian conservatives said he was the victim of a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki was treated at a hospital and released Monday.

Tuesday, Mirecki told KMBC by phone that he’s finished talking to reporters. He said, “It’s gotten out of hand with the media. Sorry, gotta go,” and then hung up, KMBC’s Micheal Mahoney reported.

He did tell the Lawrence Journal-World for a story Tuesday that two men who beat him were making references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring. Originally called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies,” the course was canceled last week at Mirecki’s request.

The class was added after the Kansas Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

Read more.

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Those machines were nixed in Ireland!

The Liberty DRE, now considered for adoption in New York, does not have a good record.

From reader:

You have to wonder what maschinations are going on that politicians would even consider such a flawed voting system.

Here is the truth about the Liberty DRE:

“Liberty implies that the NEDAP PowerVote has had only smooth sailing in Europe. This is decidedly not the case in the Republic of Ireland (see attached). The government spent nearly $60 million on PowerVote equipment and it was intended that they be used for the June, 2004 local and European Parliament elections. An Independent Commission on Electronic Voting investigated this system and said it could not recommend its use because of security and accuracy concerns, whereupon it was not used for that election. Presently, the Irish government says it is ‘most unlikely’ that these systems will be used for the 2007 general election. In fact, they may not be used for several years. The machines are now being stored at an annual expense of over
$800,000.”

http://www.votetrustusa.org/pdfs/LibertyVoteCritique.pdf

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STOP touch-screen voting in New York!

NEW VOTING MACHINE REGULATIONS PUBLISHED- HEARINGS SCHEDULED

ALBANY, NY-(11/30/05)- Today, draft voting machine regulations reflecting changes in State law to comply with the Help America Vote Act(HAVA), have been posted on the Board’s web site(www.elections.state.ny.us) and will be published in the State Register for a period of forty-five days commencing on December 7, 2005. These regulations were written to make sure that the changes in Election Law mandated by HAVA are implemented properly to ensure that new voting machines certified for sale in New York meet Federal and State standards for security, reliability and accessibility. Copies of the draft regulations may also be obtained by calling the Board at 518-474-1953 or by contacting any county board of elections.

Interested citizens are encouraged to comment on the draft regulations by sending their concerns or recommendations to the Board by mail to the address below or by e-mail to ldaghlian@elections.state.ny.us. The Board will also hold public hearings during the month of December in three different locations to accept comments from those who wish to give testimony at a public forum. All comments, however submitted, will be carefully considered before the regulations become final. Public hearings will commence at 10:30 am at the locations listed below.

December 13, 2005 – Rochester. Monroe County Board of Elections, Voting Machine Service Center, 2595 Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road (across from Monroe Community College).

December 16, 2005 – Albany. Legislative Office Building, Hearing Room B, Empire State Plaza.

December 20, 2005 – New York City. 250 Broadway (across from City Hall), Senate Hearing Room, Room 1920, 19th Floor.

Persons wishing to present testimony at any of the above hearings should contact the State Board. Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes duration and 10 copies of the prepared testimony should be submitted on the day of the hearing. Those who do not have prepared testimony or who did not contact the Board prior to the hearing date and wish to speak, will be allotted up to 5 minutes to do so at the end of the session.

Each hearing facility meets federal and state accessibility standards for persons with disabilities, but those persons with special needs are encouraged to contact the Board at the above number prior to the hearing date.

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The plague spreads to New Mexico

Santa Fe County chooses new voting machines
By JULIE ANN GRIMM | The New Mexican
December 6, 2005

Despite an 11th-hour protest from people who question the security and effectiveness of new electronic voting machines, Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza has ordered touch-screen voting machines to comply with a federal mandate.

New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron gave the state’s 33 county clerks until today to decide which of three state-approved machines they prefer. Espinoza said Monday that she told the secretary’s office last week to order touch-screen machines called Sequoia Edge.

Espinoza requested 56 of the machines, one for each county polling place, as required by the federal Help America Vote Act, she said.

The machines — aimed at creating equal voting rights for disabled voters and those who do not speak English — are at the center of controversy still swirling from the 2004 general election.

Lowell Finley, a California lawyer who successfully sued voting-machine manufacturer Diebold, has teamed up with Albuquerque attorney John Boyd in a lawsuit against the secretary of state on behalf of eight New Mexico voters who say the Sequoia Edge touch-screen machines malfunctioned in Bernalillo County and other counties in New Mexico.

The lawsuit, currently in discovery in the state’s 2nd Judicial District Court, also seeks to prohibit the state from using Sequoia’s touch-screen machines again.

Read more.

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Touch-screen voting headed for NY!

New Yorkers for Verified Voting
NYS League of Women Voters
NYPIRG
Common Cause / NY
NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Monday, December 5, 2005

Civic Groups Outraged at NYS Board of Elections Action
Certification Testing of Incomplete Voting Systems
a Betrayal of the Public Trust
Groups call for the Legislature to convene oversight hearings on Board actions

A coalition of civic groups today condemned the State Board of Election’s decision to begin preliminary certification testing of the Liberty DRE computerized voting machine this week, even though the prototype still has no voter verified paper ballot or full accessibility features as required by law. The groups found out about the move through a letter received on Friday by members of the HAVA Citizens Advisory Committee.

“The Board has consistently misrepresented the machine selection process to the public, and continues to operate in near secrecy despite a need for full visibility and transparency in the machine selection and certification process” said Aimee Allaud, Elections/Government Specialist of the League of Women Voters of New York State. “The pre-emption of the public review process of the proposed Draft Voting System Standards is a slap in the public’s face. It is a subversion of the process which the public comment period is designed to accomplish.”

“Computer engineers know that it is technically naïve to believe that a partial system can be adequately tested.” said Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting. “Testing a voting system when some of its parts do not yet exist is fundamentally an exercise in futility. A voting system includes hardware and software with many interdependent parts. In particular, a voter verified paper ballot printer and accessibility interfaces are not simple add-ons.”

“In their decision to start the certification process for a voting machine that isn’t fully built yet, the Board of Elections is acting like nincompoops. They’re not only putting the cart before the horse, they’re putting political expediency before a public and thorough testing of one of the foundations of our electoral system.” said Neal Rosenstein, Government Reform Coordinator of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“This adds insult to injury to New York voters. Revamping our voting systems has to happen, but the process has been mishandled since day one by our leaders and the NYS Board of Elections. Now as we run out of time, the real threat is we will approve systems that are not completed and have voters serving as guinea pigs in the next election. Voters deserve a thorough and deliberative process as we decide how New Yorkers will vote for years to come. It is indefensible to cut corners and be secretive and unaccountable when our democracy is at stake,” stated Rachel Leon, Executive Director, Common Cause/NY.

The groups called on the Board of Elections to stop the certification process of any incomplete machines and for the New York State Legislature to swiftly convene oversight hearings on the Board’s actions to date.

For more information contact:
Bo Lipari, NYVV:
607-387-9308 phone
607-351-2314 cell

Neal Rosenstein, NYPIRG:
212-349-6460 phone
917 -575-4317 cell

Rachel Leon, Common Cause:
917-847-3625

Aimee Allaud, LWV:
518-482-2617

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Bush & Co unconcerned by toxic dust in Brooklyn

New furor over 9/11 EPA blasted for nixing cleanup
By HUGH SON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Despite the smoke and debris that blanketed Brooklyn after the Sept. 11 attacks, a high-ranking federal official said “it wasn’t apparent” Kings County got enough toxic dust to warrant a cleanup.

The Environmental Protection Agency ditched plans last week to include Brooklyn in a test-and-cleanup program for contaminants from the smoldering World Trade Center site.

“We’re going to go back to only those areas with clear visual or probable evidence that there was dust,” said EPA official Timothy Oppelt, interim chairman of an expert panel charged with overseeing the cleanup.

After elected officials protested, a 30-building Brooklyn survey had been included in May as part of the plan – but the EPA withdrew after it couldn’t agree with experts on a way to distinguish World Trade Center toxins from regular pollution.

“It’s not saying there couldn’t have been light amounts of dust in other areas,” Oppelt told the Daily News, “but our view is we need to focus on areas where there is a lot of dust.”

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The Ohio mystery

From Ilene P.:

Look at yesterday’s NYT: Big article on how critical Ohio is to Dems regaining power, not a whiff about the voting problems there.

Question for the pros:

Do big D.C. Dems not address the machines problem because they are the party beholden to voter turnout, and they think openly talking about the machines will hurt turnout? It’s an Escher sketch indeed, if true.

“Democrats Sense Chances in Ohio for 2006 Vote” (NYT, 12/3/05)
:

“All political roads lead to Ohio in 2006,” said Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. “First, there is almost no way Democrats can get control of the Senate back without beating DeWine. Second, it’s going to be one of the best chances Democrats have to pick up a governorship, and a big governorship, not just any old governorship. And third, it’s the state with the most vulnerable Republican House seats in the country.”