Senator Ketron On a Hot Tin Roof

Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) spoke on the floor of the Senate floor on Tuesday in support of SB0872 (HB0614), the bill he sponsored to delay the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act. Based on a press release sent out today by the very Election Assistance Commission (EAC) he spoke of, he was fed some very incorrect information.



1) “Currently, no optical scan machine has been certified to the 2005 Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines.”

According to a press release sent out today by the EAC, there are now three optical-scan voting systems that are certified to 2005 standards.

2) “Which the bill we passed in ‘02 [It was actually passed in '08 - ed.] requires.”

A Davidson County Chancellor ruled without exception that the TVCA does NOT require voting machines federally certified to 2005 standards. Machines certified to 2002 not only meet the requirements of the TVCA but are available in abundance. Also available in abundance, federal dollars that can be used by the state ONLY to pay for for these machines and other election-related materials.

3) “Unfortunately, they [EAC] inform us, only one machine may be certified in time for this election cycle coming up in November 2010.”

Hello, today’s press release from the EAC.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today certified the OpenElect 1.0 voting system by Unisyn Voting Solutions, an optical-scan device with central count and precinct-level count equipment, to the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. It is the fourth voting system to achieve federal certification under the EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program.

EAC certified its first voting system, a direct recording electronic (DRE) device called the MicroVote EMS 4.0, early last year. Last summer it certified the ES&S Unity 3.2.0.0 optical-scan system and the Premier Assure 1.2 with optical-scan and DRE technology.

If I were one of the 60 county election administrators that were in the Senate chamber yesterday to support Senator Ketron’s delay bill, I would feel cheated. Ditto for the other Senators who voted for his bill, many of whom told their constituents that they would vote for the delay bill precisely because there were no certified machines available.

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Roll Call Senate TVCAConsidering what we heard Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) say on the floor of the Senate yesterday and what was written in the many examples of emails that I received that were written by Senators to their constituents – that there are NO machines available for purchase to the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines* and that’s why we have to delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act – this is very interesting and enlightening news coming straight outta the Election Assistance Commission today:

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today certified the OpenElect 1.0 voting system by Unisyn Voting Solutions, an optical-scan device with central count and precinct-level count equipment, to the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. It is the fourth voting system to achieve federal certification under the EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program.

An EAC certification means that a voting system has met the requirements of the federal guidelines by passing a series of comprehensive tests conducted by a federally-accredited test laboratory. Manufacturers of certified systems must also meet technical and ethical standards that ensure the integrity of the process and the system as it goes from the test lab to production and into the marketplace.

EAC certified its first voting system, a direct recording electronic (DRE) device called the MicroVote EMS 4.0, early last year. Last summer it certified the ES&S Unity 3.2.0.0 optical-scan system and the Premier Assure 1.2 with optical-scan and DRE technology.

So the question now becomes, who was releasing misinformation to our State Representatives and today’s latest certification the reason why the delay bill was rammed through so quickly?

*Not that the machines we purchased had to be certified to the 2005 standards. A Davidson County Chancellor ruled without exception that, contrary to what Secretary of State Tre Hargett had been saying for well over a year, the TVCA does NOT require voting machines federally certified to 2005 standards. Machines certified to 2002 not only meet the requirements of the TVCA but are available in abundance. Also available in abundance, federal dollars that can be used by the state ONLY to pay for for these machines and other election-related materials. Just sayin’.

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The bill to delay the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act passes (mostly along party lines) in the Senate, 22-10. It now goes to the Governor for his signature. Here’s the roll call:

TVCA Roll Call

All Republican Senators, except Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville), voted to delay implementation of the TVCA along with three four Democratic Senators, Sens. Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey)Thelma Harper (D-Nashville), Doug Jackson (D-Dickson), and Reginald Tate (D-Memphis).

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Tennessee is Poised to Move Backwards Again

Governor Signs TN Voter Confidence ActWhile the rest of the country is moving away from the kind of voting machines we use in 93 out of 95 counties in Tennessee – 100% unverifiable and unauditable touch screen electronic voting machines – after tomorrow our state may be stuck with them for good.

Tomorrow, a regular Senate Session will be wedged into the day in which the Special Session on education will start. Wedged. Between Noon and 2pm. The regular session will have a sparse calendar [pdf] of only 5 bills.

The last item on tomorrow’s regular calendar is SB0872, a bill that would delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (TVCA) until 2012.

Please take the time today to contact your State Senator and ask them to vote “no” against SB0872.

The TVCA – which would give Tennesseans fair and accurate elections in the form of verifiable and auditable paper ballots by the November 2010 election – was passed almost unanimously in the State House and State Senate in 2008. It was a bi-partisan effort and ceremoniously signed into law by a supportive Governor Bredesen.

If the delay bill is passed tomorrow, come November 2010 Tennessee voters will still be voting on machines that break easily, don’t tally votes correctly, vote for you, and count votes and issue vote totals using software we can’t see.

If the delay bill is passed tomorrow, come November 2010 Tennessee voters will have no way to do a meaningful recount.

If the delay bill is passed tomorrow, come November 2010 Tennessee voters will have no way to audit their voter to make sure they were counted correctly.

Again, please take the time today to contact your State Senator and ask them to vote “no” against SB0872.

When you call or email, please:

  • Ask your Senator to vote against SB0872 – the bill that would delay implementation of the TVCA until 2012.
  • Tell your Senator that fair and accurate elections are fundamental to our democracy and that all Tennesseans deserve fair and accurate elections.
  • Remind your Senator that by replacing the 100% unverifiable paperless electronic touch-screen voting machines we use now with paper ballots, you would be giving us elections that could be monitored, recounted, and audited – in other words, fair and accurate.
  • Tell your Senator that the new paper ballot system is cheaper, faster, and more secure than what we are using now and if their concern is saving money, the best thing we can do is implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

More info is also available if you’d like to be prepared to argue against reasons for the delay.

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Governor Bredesen signing the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act into law.

Governor Bredesen signing the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act into law.

Why? Because the touch-screen electronic voting machines we use now are broken. And how can Tennesseans get the secure and accurate elections they deserve while voting on broken voting machines?

In a more in depth response to an Memphi Flyer editorial written last week by Rich Holden, the chief administrator for the Shelby County Election Commission, Gerard Stranch, one of the lawyers set to present the case today to compel Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett to implement the law, and John Bonifaz, founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, further explain why the law must – and can- be implemented:

Flyer readers saw this last week in the guest Viewpoint of Shelby County election administrator Rich Holden….

Holden uses inflated figures — estimating Shelby County’s paper ballot costs at $400,000 per election. But Hamilton County has been using paper ballots for years at a cost of less than 25 cents a ballot and uses estimates of likely voter turnout to determine the number of ballots to print. Using those parameters, the highest-turnout race in Shelby County’s election cycle would cost less than $100,000 and most elections far less. The estimate provided is inflated by well over a factor of four.

Holden also argues that federal dollars will only pay for one machine per precinct, so Shelby County will have to pony up for extra machines. But in counties where optiscan is used, you don’t need more than one machine per precinct.

Critics further complain of costs for storage and handling of the paper ballots. But the reality is that where counties switched from touch-screen to optiscan they’ve saved money, because there are far fewer machines to store and maintain, the machines themselves are cheaper and easier to maintain, and the machines need to be replaced less frequently.

Most incredibly, Holden complains that optiscan will be a slower process because of the need for “ballot on demand” machines to print out ballots. In fact, though, optiscan dramatically reduces wait time for voters.

Right now, a touchscreen voter toggling through screen after screen of a lengthy Shelby County ballot can take as long as 15 minutes to vote, while long lines of waiting voters stream out the door. You can only let from one to three voters vote at a time, depending on how many expensive touch-screen machines you can afford at a given polling location.

With optiscan, 15 voters at 15 privacy carrels can pencil in their choices at their leisure, causing no delay. When they’re done, they feed their ballots into the optical reader in literally less than a second. No wait.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter what election officials think: The law says they have to implement optiscan by November 2010.

But election officials have gotten clever, arguing that the law’s text allows only machines federally certified to 2005 standards, and no such machines exist.

This would be an effective argument if that’s what the law really said, but it’s not. Nowhere in the TVCA’s text does it say “2005 standards.” It uses the phrase “applicable voluntary voting system guidelines,” a technical term that both the federal certifying agency and the federal statute which created it make clear can refer either to the 2005 standards or to 2002 standards, for which plenty of certified machines exist.

State election officials have gone out of their way to interpret the TVCA to make it impossible to implement. This flies in the face of the basic principle of statutory construction that a law should be interpreted to resolve internal contradictions and make it enforceable.

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With paper ballots you can have as much confidence in our elections as this man has in his ship.

With paper ballots you can have as much confidence in our elections as this man has in his ship.

Davidson County Chancellor Russell Perkins will conduct a temporary injunction hearing today, Thursday, Nov. 5, in the lawsuit filed by Common Cause of Tennessee to compel state officials to implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act requires the statewide installation of a paper ballot voting system and audit trail for the 2010 elections. Common Cause is represented by the Nashville law firm of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings; University of Memphis Law Professor Steven J. Mulroy; and Voter Action, a national legal advocacy organization working to protect the integrity of U.S. elections.

The hearing will take place at 1:30 pm in Division IV of the Davidson County Chancery Court, Courtroom 411, 4th Floor of the Metro Courthouse, 200 James Robertson Parkway in Nashville.

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An article about the broken voting machines we use in Tennessee - from almost 2 years ago.

An article about the broken voting machines we use in Tennessee - from almost 2 years ago.

Last week, the Memphis Flyer ran an editorial about the impact of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act on touch-screen electronic voting machines by Rich Holden, the chief administrator for the Shelby County Election Commission.

Mr. Holden’s assertion that “the General Assembly should revise the act’s deadline provisions or, better, rethink it altogether” is being eviscerated in the comments section of the piece (“Holden’s initial premise – ‘if it ain’t broke’ – has been demonstrated to be way off the mark by all credible studies of DREs [electronic voting machines],…” etc..), with the only agreement coming from someone who can’t be bothered to give his real name.

There’s really nothing new in Holden’s editorial that we haven’t already heard from people who for whatever reason refuse to accept that the election machine system in Tennessee is already broken. What really stands out is what he didn’t say.

Nowhere in his editorial does he mention that the touch screen machines we use now simply do not work. They are broken and as such they cannot be trusted to record the votes of Tennesseans accurately. Recently we’ve seen an example how these machines malfunction (vote flipping) during the special election last month in Williamson County. And we’ve seen countless other instances of these machines malfunctioning since 2006.

The broken machines even made Newsweek (“Short-circuiting the vote”) and the NY Times (“Can you count on voting machines?”) and in October 2008, the Brennan Center for Justice, the non-partisan public research and law institute, sent a letter telling the Secretaries of State in 16 states that the machines didn’t work.

Nor does Mr. Holden address the importance of giving Tennesseans secure and accurate elections or how continuing to use these broken touch-screen electronic voting machines inherently diminishes that importance.

The people of Tennessee deserve secure and accurate elections, not broken machines, and any election administrator who refuses to replace these broken machines is failing in his trusted pursuit to give the people of Tennessee true access to the democratic process.

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Who did your ES&S touch screen electronic voting machine vote for?

Who did your ES&S touch screen electronic voting machine vote for?

Secretary of State Tre Hargett is the person in charge of elections in Tennessee. His job is to:

1) Guarantee that our election process is secure
2) Give us working systems that accurately record each vote
3) Ensure that the right candidate wins

In other words, Mr. Hargett is entrusted with the most fundamental tool of our democracy.

So, why does he want a machine to pick your candidate for you?

Earlier this month during a special election in Williamson County, Karen Carter attempted to vote for one candidate and the ES&S iVotronic touch screen electronic voting machine flipped the vote to his opponent.

Karen didn’t vote. The machine voted for Karen.

Tennessee uses the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen electronic voting machine in 17 counties.

So is this incident of a machine instead of a voter choosing an elected representative isolated to Williamson County?

No.

During the 2008 presidential election, a voter in Davidson County touched the screen for one candidate only to have the box next to another candidate light up. (Ironically, it was the wife of Uncounted filmmaker, David Earnhardt).

So are both of these incidences of a machine instead of a voter choosing elected representatives isolated to Tennessee?

No.

In 2008 there were also incidences of machines choosing our elected representatives on the same iVotronic touch screen electronic machines recorded in Jackson, Putnam, Berkeley, Ohio, Monongalia and Greenbrier counties in West Virginia.

And in Saline County, Kansas, the rise of the iVotronic touch screen electronic voting machines also occurred in three precincts. The local paper described the problem:

“When a voter pressed a certain candidate’s bar on the voting machine’s screen, the candidate above the selected candidate instead received the checkmark.”

Machines choosing our elected officials is a well-documented problem (also in Texas!) that affects 22,619 ES&S iVotronic voting machines.

In October 2008, the Brennan Center warned the Secretaries of State in 16 states of this problem.

Tennessee was one of those states.

Even though the ES&S machines have well-documented problems and there is a Tennessee law in place that, if implemented, would disenfranchised machines and enfranchise, you know, the citizens of the state, Mr. Hargett refuses to give Tennesseans back their precious right to vote by throwing these machines on the trash heap where they belong.

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The war on fair elections comes earlier and earlier every year.

The war on fair elections comes earlier and earlier every year.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett got a shiny new present for Christmas and the voters of Bedford, Lincoln, and Rutherford counties got lumps of coal.

Seriously, who cares about a fancy new website and “election night results program!” if we can’t be sure that even one vote cast on the touch screen electronic voting machines used in yesterday’s House District 62 special election was counted accurately?

The most important feature of a free and fair election system is transparency – being able to verify that what goes in is what comes out. The touch-screen electronic voting machines used yesterday provide zero transparency. The votes cast on them are 100% unverifiable.

Secretary of State Hargett knows that 93 out of 95 counties cast votes on these machines and yet he continues to want us to use them in election after election. Why, as the guardian of our democratic process, doesn’t he want to fix our broken election system?

Why is Tre Hargett more concerned with shiny new toys instead of accurate elections?

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Summary: Featuring guests Ben Tribbett, Executive Director of Accountability Now! PAC, Dr. Reginald Coopwood, CEO of the Nashville Hospital Authority, and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

Part 1 Mary prepares to unleash (ha!) the congressman Barney Frank on Halloween households all across America and if you think that’s scary, what until you hear what Republican State Senator Ron Ramsey wants to do to fair elections in Tennessee. Plus, Mary and Freddie try to understand just what, exactly, Ben Trippett and Accountability Now PAC have uncovered about Coop. [22.62MB download mp3]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Part 2 Reginald Coopwood, M.D., CEO of the Nashville Hospital Authority tells us about their health facilities, the best-kept secret in Nashville, and Karl Frisch does his best Elbert Ventura impression in the next generation of the Media Matters for America Smackdown. Plus, President Obama’s foreign policy has all but isolated Iran from the world community. So why is the right-wing still calling him a surrender monkey? [22.62MB download mp3]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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