Washburn's World

My take on the world. My wife often refers to this as the WWW (Weird World of Washburn)

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Location: Germantown, Wisconsin, United States

I am a simple country boy transplanted from the Piehl Township in northern Wisconsin to the Milwaukee metropolitan area who came down "sout" in 1980 for college and have stayed in the area since.
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Monday, April 17, 2006

All Election Integrity is Local

It has been pointed out on my blog, my focus on the election irregularities in my home voting district of Gemantown district #1 is petty and I should move down the road to the big fish, the City of Milwaukee.  I agree 10% of the entire ballots cast in the state of Wisconsin are cast in the 314 wards of the City of Milwaukee.  So by the simple application of the Willy Sutton Maxim, the bulk of state fraud is committed there because that is where the votes are. And, I have spent time examining the election irregularities there.

I disagree though that I should ignore the election irregularities perpetrated by my neighbors and my village clerk.  The Swedes have a delightful proverb, "Sweep your own stoop before you offer to sweep you neighbor’s stoop" .  The same holds for election integrity; more so actually.

For more than 25 years we (yes, I am included in this group)have allowed our election process to devolve from an active, vital part of our Republic to a spectator sport where the only participation expected is for 8%to 40% of the citizens to show up, cast a vote and go home to watch a set of results come in.  We have systematically accepted the notion that expediency in administering an election is the paramount (or only) criterion to judge election success.  We all demanded in our own way that we preferred quick results for elections over accurate results or verifiable results.  Just the press of the immediate: "Who won?"  We don’t even ask any more if the results which come in are correct or not.  Which ever candidate the machine software says won the race we accept as true without evidence.

Except for a literal handful of Cassandras (theCollier brothers, RebeccaMercuri, and some uber-geeks on the ACM risk forum), no one, not election administrators, not elected officials, not the press, and most importantly not citizen electors asked the hard question:

"Is using secret, unexamined and untested software to tally votes in an election an improvement in election administration?" 

It was not until the election meltdowns in 2000, 2002, 2004,2005 and the continuing meltdowns in 2006, that the general voting public has begun to awake to this hard question.  Unfortunately, this question has for 20 years been answered in affirmative as a fiat accompli.  Since election administrators buy the election equipment, ease of administration is the sole criterion for purchase.  I certainly did not question the election director of the City of Milwaukee if the BRC optical scanners and IBM-like punch cards were accurate when I voted in the city during the 1980’s.  Did you ever at any time between 1980 and 2000 ask, "So how are the votes tallied in this machine?  Can I examine the software used for such an important public task?"  I certainly did not.  And this was even when in 1991 I observed the testing of the BRC optical (infra-red actually) scanners in Hales Corners.  The test was so pathetically weak it would not have caught even simple mistakes let alone any programming malfeasance or malice.  It was then the first doubt about the accuracy and reliability of election administration began for me.  Even so, I had difficulty facing the hard truth that election administration was fundamentally unverifiable and thus closed to public inspection.  It was the tainted installation of Angel Sanchez as a City of Milwaukee alderman in the spring of 2000 which sealed any doubts regarding the election integrity of City of Milwaukee elections.  I was glad to be out of the city that August.  I moved to upscale, rural-like Germantown and focused on recovering financially from having 2 employers go bankrupt on me in the span of 2 years.

But, such idyllic charm could not last. I just hadto peek under the rock which is election administration after the November 2, 2004 debacle in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Madison.  I was genuinely shocked at the violation of 7.51 especially 7.52(2)(h) which occurred in Germantown,District #1.  But, I was glad I did not neglect my own home stoop in my election integrity activities.  I was doubly shocked, when in my presence on April 5, 2005, the optical scanner failed in the exact same manner as it had the previous November and the village clerk again ignored the failure in the name of expediency.  I was told it was too much trouble to follow the law and the village clerk would not do so unless directed to do so by the Wisconsin State Elections Board.  My complaint before the Wisconsin State Elections Board is still pending and unlikely to be taken up soon.  The lesson learned has been, in Wisconsin at least, expediency trumps all in election administration.

I have enjoyed providing some small help the historic audit in Pinellas County, Florida.  I was honored to be asked to explain how the optical scanners used in both Germantown District #1 and Leon County, Florida can be rigged to say anything regardless of the marks on the paper ballots scanned and all with no evidence except by a tedious hand count of the paper ballots themselves.  I was privileged to present my objections and documentation of how Diebold, ES&S, AccuPoll, Populex and Sequoia failed to qualify under specific sections of WI 5.91 statutes and failed provision of the administrative rules codified in ElBd7. I am also grateful have had a fair and lengthy hearing before my State Elections Board on these grievances and objections.

But what good does that do me if the elections held in Gemantown District #1 are without integrity?  Elections are nothing without procedural integrity.  Elections are nothing butprocedure.  Without procedures you have soviet-style or banana republic-style elections not the vox populi required of the American Republic.

There are many who are outraged at the fraud committed in the City of Milwaukee who have yet to show up to the canvassing the votes in their home voting location.  Each of the 202 voting locations in the City of Milwaukee represents about 2% of the statewide total.  How many residents of the perennial problem wards (e.g. 258, 259, 260, 188, 189, 39, and 14) in the City of Milwaukee bother to show up and stem the tide of fraud committed in these wards?  How many people in Illinois are outraged at the election irregularities of Ohio 2004 and 2005, but have yet to examine the election meltdowns in Cook County this year? 

It is an easy and soothing lie to believe election fraud is committed somewhere "over there" (Milwaukee, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, etc.) than to face the hard truth election fraud may be going on in your own back yard and thrives there because we lack the strength of will to examine and oversee the election process we as sovereign citizens must.

I think the activists who showed up on Capital Hill to lobby for HR 550 the first week in April did good work.  As good as that work was, I would rather see 10 times that number do one of a set of far simpler tasks:

  • Show up at the offices of the county commissioner for the L&A testing of the software.  No need to help just show up and record the proceedings.
  • Examine the purchase documents to confirm the system your election administrator is buying or has taken delivery on is actually state-approved.
  • If the state-approved system has conditional use requirements e.g. security protocols), ask your election administrator for documentation the conditions of use are being met.
  • Show up at the precinct canvassing of votes and or the county-wide tabulation. Again, no need to help just show up and record the proceedings. 

It is only when election administrators know citizens are watching the process will values such as correctness and transparency supplant expediency as the primary criterion for election "success".  All through this year primaries are being held prior to the general election on November 7,2006.  Plan to observe in your home voting district every aspect of that primary election your schedule permits.  The American system of government is public officials are not to be trusted,but watched; eternally and continually.

All election integrity begins at home.  For this reason I will dog Germantown District #1 until elections done there are correctly administered and conducted in according to state law.  Which election officials on your own election stoop have you not been watching?  You have the broom now go sweep the steps of your own home election district.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've taken a few moments to review your blog and posts and must say you must be unhappy man in life.
I see a lot of chest thumping and complaining about the system and look what "I" found. You fit the mold ... all complaints but no suggestions on how to help. But you sure can quote all the state statues available. I must agree with one of the previous posts ... you obviosly are missing the larger picture. This States election system and SEB is seriously flawed and without strong leadership at the top it does not have a chance of getting fixed anytime soon.
Each county has to deal with the SEB ... they can only do thier best with what they have to work with. Did you know they (SEB) just recently reversed a decision about the need to provide your Drivers Lic Number if you have one. If you don't ... no big deal. It will possibly disenfranchise some voters ...how obsurd!!!! I'm sure you agree and perhaps you could share with all your position on the need to have state issued ID to vote. Your little war at the local level is just fly $%#$ on pepper as they say and make a tough job even harder as I have some backround in this field.
So in closing ... I think you would gain a little more respect if the solutions and ideas were more forth coming ... but you keep up the watch dog work at your local polling place if they don't purposely lock you out.
Hope it makes you feel like da big man in Germantown of all places. Hey ... why don't you really mess with those volunteer poll workers heads. While your dogging the process offer to help with anything they might need. A cup of coffee, a soft drink here or there even. You might even make a few friends once they get past the shock.
Thanks and GOD bless that we live in a county where we can have these discussions :-)

Tue May 23, 01:43:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous John Doe said...


You claim the SEB "reversed" a decision about the need to provide a Driver License number. The decision was made prior to the spring elections, to allow those who have been isued but do not currently carry with them at the polls for registration a drivers license, to input the last 4 digits of their Social Security number. In the most recent meeting, understanding the people's right to vote compared against the vagueness of HAVA; to prevent disenfranchisement among the people, the SEB said it would allow people who show up on the day of voting for registration without carrying or knowing their Drivers License number which they have been issued, they can provide the last 4 digits of their Social Security number.

Further you state, "I'm sure you agree and perhaps you could share with all your position on the need to have state issued ID to vote." When in fact, no one is required to have a drivers license, state I.D. or even Social Security number. If you really wanted to solve the solution of voter fraud, why not do it the simple way the Iraqis did?

Continuing later, you harrass the publisher of this blog saying, "Your little war at the local level is just fly $%#$ on pepper as they say and make a tough job even harder as I have some backround in this field." I would disagree and thank John Washburn for doing what an near infinite number of the rest of the population does not do; be active.

You claim to have background, what did you do for the qualification of background? Taking into your rant in the last part of your comments, my conclusion is that you were a poll worker, or worked some job in the clerks office. Which is substancial knowledge in the law, and the process im sure.

Thank you John Washburn; remain vigilant in your fight for transparancy and integrity.

Another active citizen

Wed May 24, 03:17:00 PM CDT  
Blogger John Washburn said...

I am sorry if I made is sound as if all election integrity work in Wisconsin had something to do with my efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have been of little if any help to Paul Malischke on the legislative front in Madison. Partly from distance and partly from my libertarina leanings on the general value of running to the capitol in order to fix thinsgs. Given Paul's success and the advancement of HR 550, I am begin to revise that mistaken belief.

Because of my confilict of interest (I work for a competitor of Accenture) I have studious avoided any involvement in the folly which is the state wide vorter registration list. No central data source woth 1800+ data sources is going become a coherent set of data easily or without a lot of "Data Scrubbing".

As for the unhappy charge. I like to think I am a pretty happy camper. Given my choice I would drop election integrity like a hot rock and continue my studies in number theory and developing card games for the masses.

But, I also know myself well enough that should I turn my hand from this plow handle, I may have trouble facing the man in the mirror in ten years.

I am just trying to do my little part in this corner of Wisconsin to see election are adminstered according to law on reliable, transparent and well-tested machinery.

You are correct with one thing though my relationship with the village clerk of Germantown and county clerk of Washington county is prickly at times.

Sun May 28, 09:42:00 PM CDT  
Blogger John Washburn said...

Actually, I offered to help in April 5, 2005. But, food was already on the way and state law (rightly) prohibited the Village Clerk from my offer to help with the counting.

I will be doing more on the help front come September. But, you have shown me this is more urgent a need than I realized.

I have suggested and the SEB and Milwuakee Election commission are pursuing the production of Public Service Announcments. The purpose of the PSA's are to remind citizens and employers alike that Wisconsin state law treats working at an election in a manner similar to jury duty.

If you give your employer at least seven days notice and get a note from the election officials vouching for the fact you worked the polls, you must be given the day off. Whether the day off is with pay or not is dependant on the particular employer. Both the SEB and Milwaukee Election commission are approaching the Wisconsin Manufactures Association to produce PSA's to usrge employers to make this contribution (paid day off) to the cultural infrasturcture of election in America.

Sun May 28, 09:54:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever you are, I hope your having a good time, because you pissed off all the Wisconsin Clerks you emailed today! Please stop sending us things unless someone specifically asks you to.

Fri Oct 13, 03:01:00 PM CDT  

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