Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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May 10, 2009

The Illusion of Voting Integrity

In the Cowboy trick, an individual from the crowd is given a video camera; Penn says he's going to make a tiny plastic cow disappear from his hand, and he asks the audience member to film the vanish as the feed is projected onto a large screen for the rest of the room. While the mark focuses on Penn's flamboyant hand gestures--and the impertinently nonvanishing cow--Teller rearranges the entire stage in plain view. The audience cracks up; even when the poor sap looks up from the viewfinder, he fails to notice that anything is different.

"The idea for this trick came straight from science," Teller says. "We thought it would be fun to show people how bad they are at noticing stuff." Called change blindness, the phenomenon is illustrated in a video (on YouTube) that inspired the duo. Shot in 2007 by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, it ostensibly documents a simple card trick--the backs of the cards in a deck are magically transformed from blue to red. But during the course of the video, Wiseman's shirt, his assistant's shirt, the tablecloth, and the backdrop all change color, too. Most viewers watch the card trick unspool and miss the other alterations. Attention, it turns out, is like a spotlight. When it's focused on something, we become oblivious to even obvious changes outside its narrow beam. What magicians do, essentially, is misdirect--pivot that spotlight toward the wrong place at the right time.

-- Wired Magazine

Penn and Teller are latecomers to this game.  In the case of preserving the integrity of the voting system, the Democrats got there long before them.  While they keep you focused on all-paper voting, the butterfly ballot, or whether or not this or that Diebold! Diebold! Diebold! system has a paper receipt, they're busily changing the rest of the set.

Merely in terms of basic voting integrity, the Democrats in this legislative session killed bills that would have assured that voters were Colorado residents, that they were citizens, and that they actually were who they claimed to be. 

In the meantime, there was also a bill introduced that would have doled out driver's licenses to non-citizens.

The two big parts to voter security are making sure that 1) the voter has the right to vote in that jurisdiction, and 2) the voter is who he says he is.  The Democrats continue to make it virtually impossible to validate either parts of that equation.

When Secretary of State (Democrat) Bernie Buescher threatened to take people whose latest voting precinct was the cemetery off the rolls, the ACLU, Common Cause, and every other lefty group screamed loud enough to wake those voters.  And there's now a move at the federal to prevent independent organizations from comparing voting records to other public records for validation - the very records that are supposedly good enough for an individual to use as identification at the polls.

Democrats will respond that there's never been a large-scale prosecution of voter fraud.  Well, if you treated accounting the way they treat voter records, there'd never be any prosecutions for money-laundering, either.

The next step is to allow voters to register online.  Of course, every other week we read about Chinese hackers breaking into the electrical grid or stealing the plans for our new fighter jets before they've been finished.  And then, there's the fact that government files are the single biggest source for identity fraud.

So see?  While you're focused on whether or not the ATM you trust your savings with is good enough to count your votes, they're re-doing the entire set.  You don't want to know what it's going to look like when they're done.

April 13, 2009

Forest, Meet Trees

The state legislature, having voted down measures that would make sure that voters are 1) eligible to vote, 2) eligible to vote in Colorado, 3) citizens, 4) who they say they are, and 5) not voting someplace else, is proudly preparing to take us back to the days of pencil lead under the finger tips and submerged ballot boxes:

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would push Colorado toward an all-paper election system, but the measure doesn't contain a hard deadline for achieving such a system.

Instead, if the bill passes, the legislature would merely declare its intent that every voter in Colorado cast their vote on paper. It would be up to the secretary of state to actually effect that change through a provision in the bill requiring that office to approve counties' purchases of new voting machines.

This is a bipartisan mess, but given that the other measures were all opposed on a party-line vote, it's fair to say where the Democrats would rather have our attention distracted focused.

Apparently, it's more important to be deciphering, inferring, or imputing "voter intent," than to be assured that it's a voter whose intent we should care about in the first place.

January 29, 2009

Blog Talk Radio

Tuesday night we chatted with Jan Tyler, who blogs on election integrity at her own site, and at Jan had something to say not only about her own work, but also about the trend towards paper ballots and the risks inherent therein. We also touched on the Democrats' blocking of registration and voter reform here in Colorado.

Our second guest was State Senator Greg Brophy, Assistant Minority Leader and scourge of coyotes everywhere. We talked about his efforts to forestall the hammer coming down on Colorado's energy industries, and proposed protections against eminent domain abuse. We also asked him, as we ask all Republicans who come on the show, what three core principles should the Republican party place front-and -center?

Listen here, or subscribe on iTunes.

Join us next week as we talk to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies about the upcoming elections in Iraq, and where we stand in the fight against Islamist Supremacy.

In the second half, we talk with reporter Mike Saccone of the Grand Junction Sentinel about the Western Slope, the state legislature, and the state of newspapers not named "Rocky."

Listen live at Blog Talk Radio

January 22, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!

On a straight party-line vote, the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, just voted down a bill that would have required a photo ID for voting in Colorado.

The arguments opposed were presented by the usual suspects, arguing an undue burden on those who might not be able to obtain a photo id. The fact is, this problem affects a vanishingly small portion of the population, in large part because of the wide variety of supplemental documents that can be used to obtain a driver's license or a state ID.

In part because of the forgone nature of the vote, the Republicans on the committee did a fairly poor job of going after the opponents of the bill, with the exception of Kent Lambert, who had the legal arguments well in hand. He forced the ACLU into the ridiculous position that Crawford - which permitted photo IDs for voting in Indiana - was a "completely different circumstance" because that was a law being challenged, while this was a similar law being proposed. They would claim that we need to wait until elections are actually stolen - preferably electing legislators ill-disposed to voter ID - before we enact legislation to prevent it. In fact, as Lambert pointed out, the Court made it quite clear that there was no undue burden, and the ACLU in Indiana had used similar "solution in search of a problem" arguments.

A pro-immigrants group made the claim that rural immigrants would have to travel long distances to get their IDs. Nobody asked how many immigrants would be in this position.

Lois Court asked why, if the documents being excised were good enough to get a photo ID, they weren't good enough to vote with. Rep. Summers, the bill's sponsor, essentially conceded the point, arguing for "simplification." Fine enough, but the fact is that utility bills aren't IDs at all, while others would be well beyond the ability of an election judge, with a line out the door, to judge the authenticity of.

The arguments in favor were presented by several county Clerks and Recorders, focusing on their responsibility to ensure clean elections and the validity of the franchise. Court, again, made the point that these Clerks were representing themselves, not the Clerks' association, which has not taken a position on the bill. Using that logic, it should have been fairly easy to dig up a few to oppose the bill, something the Democrats couldn't be bothered with.

In fact, requiring a photo ID would be the first step towards dealing with emergency registration abuse, and would make a powerful argument against the growing vote-by-mail movement, literally a written invitation to vote fraud.

To paraphrase Mark Steyn on another subject, with them, it's always the wrong ID in the wrong state for the wrong election.

November 10, 2008


Mysterious votes for Al Franken - with little to no adjustment in other races - continue to appear in the Minnesota Senate race. Whomever Gov. Ritter selects to be our new Secretary of State, the press (uh-huh) and the pubic should closely question him about what he'd do to prevent this sort of thing happening in a close election here in Colorado.

Ken Gordon, Our Next Secretary of State?

Back in 2006, John Andrews and I interviewed State Sen. Ken Gordon, who was then running for Secretary of State, and I blogged about the interview at the time. With the election of Mike Coffman to Congress from the other District 6, his views on the proper role of the office are worth reviisitng, since he's liable to be appointed to the position by Gov. Ritter.

October 17, 2008

Let's Pretend

That seems to be the Democrats' favorite game this year. In Ohio, the Democratic Secretary of State has persuaded the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court requirement that registrations actually be validated by election day. While the Supreme Court - possibly correctly - argued jurisdictional issues, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was claiming that it wasn't necessary to validate up to 200,000 registrations with irregularities. I say, "possibly," because I'm pretty sure that a Colorado state court ruled on certain aspects of HAVA four years ago, but it's possible that the issues at stake here are different, and non-justiciable by a state court.

Secretary of State Brunner has already allowed up to 3000 questionable registrants to vote electronically early, making it impossible to retrieve their votes should there turn out to be fraud. But Let's Pretend all those votes should count.

ACORN's been very active in Ohio, registering individuals, both existent and non-, multiple times. But since it'll be hard to make sure all these voters are entitled to the franchise, Let's Pretend there's no problem here, nothing to see here, move along, move along. By dodging the problem now, the Court has set itself up for a much bigger headache later on.

Likewise, my Democratic opponent, Lois Court, on Tuesday, defended the notion of Single-Payer Mandatory Universal Health Care (abbreviated backwards, that's "CHUMPS") by claiming that "I define 'public good' to mean something that's good for the public."

Never mind that that's not what it means, either word-by-word or as a phrase. Let's Pretend that it is. Let's pretend that the only cost is the cost of delivery, not the cost of the product itself.

The problem with Let's Pretend is that sooner or later Mom, or as she's known in this case, The Real World, calls you in to get cleaned up for dinner.

The other side likes to style itself as, "Progressives." They are. They're Progressively More Expensive, Progressively More Intrusive, and Progressively More Restrictive.

November 3, 2006

Pump Up The Margin Of Litigation

The Washington Post today joins in the Democratic fear-mongering about voter ID laws:

On Indiana's primary day, Rep. Julia Carson shoved her congressional identification card in a pocket, ran out of her house and raced down the street to be at her polling site when it opened at 6 a.m. The Democrat, seeking to represent Indianapolis for a sixth term, showed the card to a poll worker, who told her it was unacceptable under a new state law that requires every voter to show proof of identity.

The law compels voters to show an ID, issued by Indiana or the federal government, with a photograph and an expiration date. Carson's card was for the 109th Congress, but did not say when the session ends. "I just thought I was carrying the right thing -- if you have a card that has a picture and shows it is current," she said.

In the end, the poll worker telephoned a boss, and Carson was allowed to vote for herself in the five-way primary.

My guess is that this specific problem - trying to use a Congressional ID to vote - won't happen more than once in any given Congressional district. It rather smacks of trying to create a scene; I'm sure that Rep. Carson has a driver's license.

It's been a commonplace for Democrats to oppose ballot integrity measures. One can speculate on why this might be - perhaps their recent history of losing elections has something to do with it. But it remains true that the party has opposed efforts to require IDs to register or to vote, and the current Democratic candidate for Colorado Secretary of State is running on opposing special interest money - although whether or not he considers unions to be special interests is unclear. He has stated his opposition to registration and voter ID laws.

This sort of article is intended to prepare public opinion for the inevitable lawsuits charging voter intimidation and vote suppression. The Post makes no mention of

  • ACORN's numerous convictions in multiple states for registration fraud (including Colorado)
  • Steven Sharkansky's research into the miraculous nature of deceased voting (and the less-than miraculous nature of homeless voting in Washiington State
  • The clear intent of the May Day protest organizers to register illegal aliens to vote
  • The ACLU's stated desire to count every provisional ballot, regardless of validity

As a result, readers are left with the impression that nothing other than the fear of election fraud, rather than its documented occurrence, is motivating these laws, and that tens of thousands of voters - all of whom happen to conveniently live in closely-contested districts - will pay the price for this paranoia.

November 1, 2006

Little ACORNs

ACORN has had four voter registration-gatherers in Missouri indicted for fraud. 'Bout time. ACORN's got a history of trying to jimmy elections, a real record that makes even the NAACP's worst nightmares about Die-Die-Diebold look like Matthew Broderick in Election. The group ought to just be taken out under RICO and be done with it.

Here's the irony: I noticed some ACORN flyers downtown the other day, advertising for workers to help them push the minimum wage indexing measure here in Colorado. The flyer stated that any applicant must have a photo ID and a Social Security card. I'm not even gonna try on this one.

October 27, 2006

The Last Four Digits

Mike Coffman has been airing radio ads discussing how easy it is to register to vote, noting that you only need to provide the last four digits of a Social Security number, any Social Security number. There's a certain risk in broadcasting how easy registration fraud is to commit, especially for a Republican. You wouldn't necessarily want to run those ads on stations with lots of unregistered, left-leaning listeners. They might decide to exercise that ability in order to protect it.

Ken Gordon apparently has been running whimsical ads obliquely promoting campaign finance reform. It looks as though the choice will be between restricting free speech and protecting ballot integrity.

June 1, 2006

The Loyal Opposition Replies

In response to my posting below, Jeffrey Sherman, a plaintiff in the case, has sent the following reply:

I am a longtime reader and admirer of your blog, but I think you are incorrect in your post on the DRE lawsuit. I am one of the plaintiffs. I am a registered Republican. I consider myself a hard-core conservative (I can't call myself a Christian conservative because I am Jewish). I voted for and contributed money to President Bush (though not enough money to be disclosed). I became aware of this suit because a friend, whom I would describe as a very serious conservative, is the lead associate at Wheeler Trigg working on this matter.

There is no question that there are liberal-left participants in this suit, too. Perhaps they think there is some short-term advantage to having accurate elections. I can't say I know with certainty what motivates them. I do know that I joined as a plaintiff because I think the accuracy of elections is of critical importance (hopefully this is why my liberal-left co-plaintiffs joined this suit, too). Because I believe conservative ideas are ultimately more persuasive, I want to make sure that the votes of those people who vote for conservative candidates will be counted. Conservatives have been victims of election fraud for too long--dating back to the days of machine politics up through John Thune's (probably fraudulent) loss in 2000 against Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Further, the bogus nonsense about the "stolen" 2000 presidential election does no one any good. It is clear from the media recounts that President Bush would have won whether the Supreme Court stepped in or not. Having new DRE election systems that are subject to tampering and not easily subject to audit will only increase the incentive to cheat or to claim that elections were "stolen."

I was initially skeptical of participating due to the nature of some of the other participants. But, after some research, I think the proposed systems are too badly flawed and fail to meet statutory standards. Further, based on the information I have been given, the Secretary of State's office has patently failed to take the steps required under the Colorado statutes to validate the machines. I am not naïve enough to think that a lawsuit (or even legislation) can eliminate voter fraud, which has probably existed since elections have existed, nor do I favor an active judiciary that legislates voting methods. I simply want the state to abide by its own statutory mandate.

Those of us who are plaintiffs in the suit entered into a joint representation agreement that contains a Statement of Principles Regarding DRE Voting System Litigation. The principles state, inter alia, that "The fundamental right to vote means that each Colorado voter has the right to cast his or her vote in private and to have his or her vote fairly and accurately recorded and counted in a free and open election...The fundamental right to vote means that the methods, machines or systems used to record, compile, count, audit or recount votes shall be secure, accurate, verifiable and accessible to all Colorado voters." This seems to me to be not particularly controversial or partisan in nature.

Finally, I agree with you regarding requiring voters to present identification.

I sympathize with Jeffrey's position, and believe that his desire for an accurate count is clearly, indisputably correct, as far as it goes. My contention is that it doesn't go nearly far enough in order to avoid the impression that there's more at work here on the part of Mr. Finley and his attorneys.

I believe that this lawsuit is an attempt to discredit voting systems in an attempt to preserve a "margin of litigation," within which Democrats can file lawsuits challenging the results of close elections which they lose. Given the role that Democrats have played in opposing ID requirements, for instance, my faith in their desire for accurate elections is, shall we say, faint.

I would point out that it is not merely "some participants," but the organization sponsoring the various state lawsuits, and the firm leading the charge are well to the left of liberal. I don't have time to discuss all the points of the lawsuit right here, but will try to do so on Sunday, after Shavuot.

It's significant that the Florida 2000 case is best dealt with not by joining lawsuts such as this, but rather by arguing the facts of the case, which clearly support Bush. If the basis of this suit is the Myth Of Florida 2000, joining such a suit perpetuates, rather than refutes, that myth. It's also significant that it was a paper-ballot, punch card system, a "old-style" system with a theoretically verifiable paper trail, that led to election officials searching the surface of ballots with laser beams for dimples in order to determine "voter intent."

It's also true that the statement regarding the "fundamental right to vote" omits any mention of the equally fundamental right not to have my vote diluted by illegal voting. It's an open secret in Colorado that nursing home employees "help" their charges fill out their absentee ballots without the required dual-party supervision of the process. That this is the time-honored method by which the Democrats have stolen elections in the past (See Washington State Governor 2004, South Dakota Senate 2000, New York City Mayor 1989, Chicago any year) would suggest that a conservative should insist on equal billing. If that's not the basis of the suit, conservatives should be willing to file their own lawsuits demanding suitable precautions.

I understand why the need for an accurate count is a bipartisan issue. I just don't think this is the suit that will ensure fair elections.

May 31, 2006

Pre-Emptive Election Strike

What is it with Democrats and voting equipment? They seem reflexively opposed to any technology where they can't stick a pencil lead under the clerk's fingernails to, ah, prevent undercounts. Or where the dials can't be, you know, nudged up a little bit before opening.

Now, a Denver law firm is suing nine county clerks over the choice of voting machines for this fall's elections. Because of HAVA and ADA, the number of voting machines out there to choose from is severely limited. (ADA, for instance, requires that the voter can't be given any assistance in voting whatsoever, aside from maybe tilting the machine for him. This in a state where party operatives take bulk delivery of absentee ballots for their Alzheimer's-afflicted nursing home residents.)

The lawyers say they represent a "diverse nonpartisan group of Colorado voters seeking to protect the integrity and purity of elections." The legal action seeks to block the purchase or use of Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, and Hart InterCivic touch-screen computerized voting systems. The lawyers say the systems have a well-documented history of problems with security, reliability, verifiability, and disability access.

Named defendants in the complaint include Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis and the boards of county commissioners of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer and Weld counties.

The Colorado suit is being supported by Voter Action, a nonprofit that provides legal, research, and logistical support for grassroots efforts surrounding elections. Voter Action is supporting similar efforts in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states.

Sure, they're non-partisan. Voter Action is non-partisan like Jim Jeffords is non-partisan. Here's the bio for Lowell Finley:

Lowell Finley, Esq., Berkeley, California. Mr. Finley has practiced election law for over 20 years. He is one of the few attorneys in the nation with experience litigating electronic voting issues, having successfully sued Diebold Election Systems, Inc. in a California False Claims Act case that resulted in a $2.6 million settlement. Past cases include blocking newly-elected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from soliciting or using special interest campaign contributions to repay an illegal $4 million personal loan; representation of the California Assembly in redistricting cases before the California and United States Supreme Courts; winning ballot access for Chinese-American candidates in San Francisco and successfully suing an Orange County, California candidate for hiring uniformed security guards to intimidate Hispanic voters at the polls. Mr. Finley is a founding member and past president (1992) of the California Political Attorneys Association.

And for John Boyd, their legal advisor:

John Boyd, Esq., Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Hollander, Goldberg & Cline, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Boyd has been practicing civil rights litigation, first amendment litigation, constitutional law and election law in Albuquerque for over 25 years. Mr. Boyd represented the Democratic Party of New Mexico in the “voter i.d.” litigation that preceded the 2004 election and has participated on behalf of Democrats in redistricting litigation. He has handled a number of cases as a cooperating attorney with the ACLU. He and his partner, Nancy Hollander, are currently representing the Santa Fe-based Uniao Do Vegetal in its free exercise of religion law suit which is now pending before the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Finley contributed - albeit not very heavily - during the 2004 election cycle to both John Kerry and Mr. Boyd contributed to the Senate Campaign of Jeff Bingaman, one of the more liberal Senators going, and $2000 indirectly to the Kerry campaign. (It's unclear as to whether this is the same John Boyd who contributed to Republican Nancy Wilson's campaign in 1998, but six years is enough time to change your mind.) His partner Nancy Hollander also contributed to Bingaman's campaign. Altogether, employyees of Freedman, et. al. contributed almost $17000 since 2002 to various Democratic PACs, candidates, and party organizations, $0 to Republicans.

Likewise, employees of Wheeler Trigg Kennedy, who specialize in corporate shakedowns, have collectively contributed $5200 to Democrats, $1000 to Republicans, all in the 2004 election cycle. This include $3000 from the case's lead attorney, Paul Hultin, $500 of which went to the Kerry 2004 "If It's Close In Ohio, We Can Cheat," fund.

I'm all in favor of double-entry bookkeeping when it comes to electronic voting machines, too, but remember that these are the same people who think that asking for ID amounts to voter intimidation. I suspect this is an ongoing effort to deligitimize elections in general, throwing more and more of them into the courts on a very selective basis.

CORRECTION: I have been reliably informed that the firm does not specialize in suing firms, but rather in defending them. I clearly jumped the gun in misinterpreting the information on their website.

May 17, 2006

If You Don't Elect Them, They Can't Cheat

On Sunday, I had the chance to interview Democratic State Senator Ken Gordon, who's running for Secretary of State - chief elections officer - this fall. A couple of things stood out.

First, on the subject of illegals registering to vote, Gordon didn't seem particularly concerned about being pro-active, and stated that only once a threat was seen, should we bother to do anything about it. Secondly, on the subject of vote fraud, he seemed willing to support the notion of ID - contrary to what was implied in this article.

(Gordon's article also pooh-poohs concerns about people voting in more than one place, even though this was a concern at a the time in at least one (or two) specific races. Colorado also has a substantial number of people with second homes in New Mexico or Arizona, potentially replicating the problem of Florida acting as New York's sixth borough in more ways than one. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask him about this problem.)

Fortunately, Gordon's tacit support of Common Cause came to naught fairly decisively.

What really struck me was a seeming lack of familiarity with the issues. On illegals voting, he stated that requiring proof of citizenship would have a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics. Possibly on Hispanics, but only on those who aren't citizens. In fact, a driver's license would work well in this state. Colorado requires not only another state's driver's license when moving here, but also a full social security number or proof of rejection when applying for a social security number. That's not foolproof, but it's a system that would require the cooperation of a large number of people for an extended period of time to game.

More importantly, despite his support for IDs to vote, he seemed unaware that merely providing that last four digits of a social security number was enough to constitute ID. With no current statewide vote database, there's almost no way for the clerks to effectively check them. Moreover, someone could show up at the county clerk's office, on Election Day, and with emergency registration, provide their locker combination, be registered, and then turn around and vote on a machine. Not provisionally. On a machine. Because the county clerk's office in Denver will be a vote center.

I managed to find out the current holes in the system through a 30-minute conversation with Denver election officials, and a little digging on the web. You'd think that someone who wanted to be responsble for the integrity of elections could be bothered to know at least as much.

You can listen to the interview through the links below. The first segment is basically John quizzing Gordon about the just-finished legislative session. The second segment we get started on vote fraud. The third segment continues on vote fraud, but also has Gordon getting a little testy over his attempts to circumvent the Constitution.

Segment 1
Segment 2
Segment 3


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud