WISCONSIN: DEMOCRACY IN OUR HANDS
Sheila Parks, Ed.D.
I cannot watch enough videos of the people in Wisconsin as you bold, brave, most decent Wisconsonites are out in the streets - resisting, doing non-violent civil disobedience/direct action, dissenting, protesting, rising up, standing up to and speaking and singing truth to power in the face of Walker and his cronies.
What is happening in Wisconsin now is a model for the whole country. Not only your honorable actions, but also what Walker and the thugs behind him are trying to do in Wisconsin.
I am writing to tell you not only how much I respect and admire you, but also how very concerned I am about the recalls, scheduled as of this writing to start on July 12. They are to be done on the same electronic voting machines that could have rigged the elections in the first place as well as the Supreme Court recount. See here for information on hacking of all electronic voting machines by geeks, professors and students - both optical scammers (not a typo) and DRE’s/touchscreens - to say nothing of all the fraud and error of the electronic voting machines in real time – some lowlights: FL 2000, GA 2002, OH 2004, the list goes on and on.
Taking some liberty with the words of the late Bishop Helder Camara of Brazil: I beg you, I beseech you, I implore you to do everything you possibly can and then some to have all these recalls hand-counted, in secure hand-counted paper ballots election. That is the only way to be sure that each one of our votes is counted as cast.
Lawyers right now are exploring the possibility of emergency measures to hand-count all the recalls - but more assistance is needed. Are there any lawyers out there who could help?
An injunction to preserve the evidence is what Corwin did in New York (NY-26) to bar certification of any results and impound all voting equipment and ballots immediately after the election. The Impound Order is part of the link. It is legal to do this in Wisconsin. Given the fact that Wisconsin statutes (See especially Sections 5.05, 5.06 (1), 5.06 (2), 5.06 (8),5.08) clearly allow challenges to elections, voter registration and candidate qualifications, then clearly there needs to be preservation of records in the recalls - ballots, records and other evidence, including the electronic voting machines. The same reasoning that applied in NY-26 governs Wisconsin. I am looking at this from the prospective of a reasonable judge. Any voter can seek an injunction preserving evidence that might substantiate the claim of election fraud. These are highly contested elections. There could be misconduct on the part of election officials. There is potential for some kind of fraud that election officials can’t detect. It would be very powerful for a candidate to seek an injunction. Democratic candidates running against the six Republicans who have been recalled are: SD 02 Nancy Nusbaum; SD 08 Sandra Pasch; SD 10 Shelly Moore; SD 14 Fred Clark; SD 18 Jessica King; SD 32 Jennifer Schilling. Democratic candidates who have been recalled by the Republicans are: SD 12 Jim Holperin; SD 22 Bob Wirch; SD 30 Dave Hansen. Ask the candidate where you live to seek an injunction, as Corwin (R) did in NY.
At the Public Hearing at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, at the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform on June 10, 2011 this most extraordinary comment by Representative John Pridemore (R- Hartford), transcription by Jim Mueller of Wisconsin:
PRIDEMORE: I will say that I agree with your [Barbara With] position in terms of knowing what I do about voting machine technology and the age of the technology that is in some of our machines. It can some machines can be programmed to count inaccurately …and they can be programmed to, uh, for instance, uh, two candidates in order to maintain a zero count can be programmed by adding votes to one candidate and subtracting votes. In other words, starting out at a positive and negative number even before the first ballot goes in the machine. And then you can zero out the count and then it will look like zero and looks like everything’s correct; but embedded in the programming are numbers that, uh, would offset each other’s total as the ballots come in. So it is possible on old technology, and that’s why when I mention hard-wired electronics voting machines, that would prevent that from happening. So I want to assure you that, uh, new technology, uh, has taken in those possibilities. In factored in those possibilities - In the specification that this task force hopefully will write and eliminate that potential for voter fraud.”
If this is what Pridemore knows, why would any Wisconsin voter want their vote counted now by these electronic voting machines? How can the Government Accountability Board (GAB) allow the use of these electronic voting machines? How can any of the elected officials in any municipality allow these electronic voting machines to be used? How can Pridemore want these electronic voting machines? For clarity: the GAB is the body that decides on election matters in Wisconsin; most other states, if not all others, use the Secretary of State (SOS) as the official election office.
In one of several telephone conversations with Steve Pickett, an Election Specialist at the GAB, Pickett told me that Wisconsin municipalities (there are 1851 municipalities and 3600 polling places) can choose their way of voting. When I questioned him further on this, his answer was much less clear. At one point he said that if a voter wanted to get her municipality to go to hand-counted paper ballots, all she had to do was have all the voters request that their ballots be counted by hand. When I pressed him to be clearer on this, I felt his response was not clear at all. When I asked whether this paper ballot would be different from the ballot used on the op scan machines, his answer was not clear. The best I could fathom was: sometimes yes, sometimes no. And that each voter would have to specify their paper ballot be hand-counted. Where this ballot would be placed so that it would be hand-counted remains a mystery to me. This is worth exploring right now for the recalls.
Pickett also added that in municipalities with 7500 people - counted by the census so this includes people who cannot even vote! - voting must be done by electronic voting machines. One would think that means that any municipality with a 7499 count by the census could have hand-counted paper ballots elections, if they choose to do so. Yet, he also commented that if municipalities have the machines, they must use them! Does that mean they cannot change their minds and get rid of all electronic voting machines like Ireland, Holland, Germany have already done - and they are not municipalities, they are countries. Is Pickett correct about this? Further, this contradicts what Picket said earlier about people being able to change from machines to hand-counts, just by asking.
Let’s Take a Look at the Laws:
Recalls happening in municipalities that have more than 7500 people need to be counted by electronic voting machines, according to Wisconsin Statute 5.40 (1). Here is a direct quote from the Statute: “….every municipality with a population of 10,000 or more before July 1, 1995, or of 7,500 or more thereafter shall require the use of voting machines or electronic voting systems in every ward in the municipality at every election…..”
How could such a law - denying people the right to have their ballots hand-counted - be legal? Who made this law - maneuvered and manipulated it - when and why? Moreover, since it is not even based on the population of registered voters, but on the number of people living there, it seems to me to be very off. Does anyone know if other states have such laws, based on total population and not registered voters?
According to Wisconsin Statute 5.40 (5m) “…. the governing body of a municipality may petition the board for permission to use paper ballots and voting booths for a specific election, and the board may grant such a request.”
This is muddy in several ways. Is the law talking about paperless DRE’s/touchscreens that the GAB may give permission to change to optical scan machines, if requested? Or, is the law saying that whether the municipality uses either kind of electronic voting machine, they can petition the GAB for a secure hand-counted paper ballots election? Further, is it true that all Wisconsin electronic voting machines have a paper trail?
Let me warn you now, any form of a secure hand-count of paper ballots will be hard to get but we must try. Whether it was the legislature and/or the GAB that enacted Wisconsin Statute 5.40 (1), asking them for permission to rescind it for an election is asking those who put the law in place to get rid of it, which they are very unlikely to do without a strong grassroots movement pressuring them to do so. However, this avenue must be tried. The GAB has already granted such permission to several municipalities. Public pressure has always been what moves the government to do the right thing for we the people.
Is it possible that it could be up to the election officials in each Wisconsin municipality and not the GAB whether a 100% hand-counted voter oversight-checks and balances- audit could be done?
Let me be clear - the absolute best choice for Wisconsin is that each municipality hand-counts the votes as the only count of the recalls. But, if that is not allowed - and because time is of the essence - the next best choice for Wisconsin is a 100% hand-counted voter oversight-check and balances-audit done at each polling place, immediately after the machine count. This is not a recount.
Why Is This Distinction Important?
Pickett said that asking for the ballots to be hand-counted after the machine count would be considered a recount and that would not be possible without going through all the required channels in the statutes, found in Chapter 9. The 2005 Wisconsin Act 451 explains more. As I write, I am wondering who enacted Chapter 9, and the 451 Act, when and why?
It appears that the GAB could obstruct justice and not allow hand-counts.
But I cannot help but wonder if the municipalities can trump the GAB, and have the final say about what voting and counting method are used?
Pickett said there would be about 50 polling places in the recalls and that each polling place would have about 1000 registered voters. Let’s say we have ten teams of two people, one counter and one observer, and they change roles on the second hand-count. That would be 500 people. Furthermore, Picket added that I could start now looking for 500 people to be on these teams! However, he ominously stated, “It is not going to happen.” He meant, I think, not only that we would not find 500 volunteers but also that the law would not let it happen. Let’s see about that.
Please, step forward now to be a volunteer hand-counter to do a 100% hand-counted paper ballots count for the recalls or a 100% hand-counted voter oversight-checks and balances-audit of the recalls immediately after the electronic voting machine counting is done in the muncipality where you live.
Two Wisconsin groups on the ground in Wisconsin, specifically dedicated to voting rights are: electinteg[at]groups.facebook.com and WI Citizens for Election Protection. My contact email is sheilaruthparks[at]comcast.net.
Because there is only one race on each ballot, it is a very easy and fast hand-count. (Not that a more complicated ballot is hard.) Some municipalities in Wisconsin already hand-count paper ballots. They are listed here. Approach them and see how they can help.
Here are some examples of hand-counted paper ballots elections that I observed in real time. This method of hand-counting is called read and tally or read and mark. Scroll down to the section on Acton, ME. They counted almost 1000 ballots twice in four hours and they had seven races and two initiatives to count. In Wisconsin, you have only one race. This article describes another method to hand-count paper ballots, called sort and stack. I asked Picket if there were rules in Wisconsin which stated which method had to be used. There are not. Interestingly enough, as in New Hampshire when I did research there, Pickett did not know what hand-counting protocol the Wisconsin municipalities use.
My quick instructions for conducting secure hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) elections now are:
- hand-counting is done at the polling place, right after the election
- is done by teams of opposing parties on the ballot, chosen by the parties themselves
- is publicly observed
- by teams who come in only to hand-count the ballots and have not been at the polls all day
- is livestreamed
- is videographed by an official videographer from each opposing party and any other people who want to do so
- is done twice and results must match
- poll books of voters checking in and poll books of voters checking out must exactly match
- the number of ballots counted must exactly match the number of ballots distributed
- the number of ballots printed must match the number of ballots distributed, voted, and not voted
- this, via Jim Mueller: the first thing to do after the polls are closed is to secure all unused ballots, count them and run a 1/4 inch or larger drill bit through them several times in the area for initials
- make sure that people from both parties observe with eagle eyes the taking of the voted and counted ballots out of the op scan machines and putting them out on tables to be hand-counted
- for people with disablities Pickett also brought up the issue of using the AutoMARK electronic voting machine for people with disabilities, stating that anyone who wants to use this machine must be allowed to. This is not acceptable. The AutoMARK must be used only by people with disabilities to keep out any possible rigging this way
- Wisconsin has 22 municipalities who have purchased Vote-PAD, which is an instrument that provides a means for people with disabilities to mark a ballot without requiring the use of electronic voting machines. These municipalities are in four counties: Adams, Price, Buffalo, Iron. Here are the 22 municipalities in WI that have a Vote-PAD. Contact them to borrow their Vote-PADs for the recalls if they are not using them
A very comprehensive list of elements necessary for secure hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) elections can be read here. Scroll down to third urgent plea.
Preparing for a Recall
Before the recalls, here are some must do’s.
- go door-to-door or call in every municipality where there are recalls
- give out information about candidate you want people to vote for
- in Wisconsin people do not register as Democrats or Republicans or any party; observers lists will, therefore, contain all the people registered to vote in each municipality
- ask people to speak their name very loudly when they are at the polling place checking in
- ask them to look at the observers when they say their name
- it is legal for each party on the ballot to have a minimum of one observer in each polling place, more if space allows
- these observers check off voters who come to vote as the poll workers check them in
- this checking off allows the parties to call voters who don’t come to vote to see if they need a ride or babysitter or something to help them get to the polls
- this list of people that the observers have, checking off who comes to vote, gives the parties an easy check to see if those who responded door-to-door or by telephone of who they would vote for matches the list of voters at the polling place at all
- for example, if responses door-to-door or by calling resulted in 300 people saying they were going to vote for Jane Doe and these names are noted on your sheet and these 300 people show up to vote again noted on your sheet -, and 100 ballots were counted for Jane Doe, something is probably very fishy
- of course, not all people will tell you at their door or on the phone who they are going to vote for, but many will, and a large discrepancy between that telling and your checking is a huge red flag
My Urgent Plea To You
Over and over again in my head I am hearing, thinking and saying with you: “This is what democracy looks like” and “the whole world is watching.” Both are true, you bold, brave, most decent, honorable people of Wisconsin. Keep on keeping on and resisting, doing non-violent civil disobedience/direct action, dissenting, protesting, rising up, speaking and singing truth to power, standing up to Walker and his cronies.
The Human Touch
Use your hands
Hoe the garden row
Awake the wooden rake
Use your hands
Hold the child close
Write letters with pens
Travel by foot
Count votes by hand
Copyright by Dorothy Shubow Nelson March 2011
Please read here, “Wisconsin, Don’t Let Them Rig the Recall!”, an important open letter to the activists of Wisconsin, by my friend and colleague Victoria Collier.
Take a stand and count by hand.
In solidarity and with great respect and admiration,
Sheila Parks, Ed.D.
Thanks to Carol Goldman, Deirdre Doran, Dorothy Shubow Nelson, Hannah Miyamoto (retired Wisconsin attorney), Jen Miller, Kevin R. Kratsch, Lucius Chiaraviglio, Marguerite Rosenthal, Priscilla Gebre-Medhin, Steve Pickett, Victoria Collier, Virginia Martin
The author is totally responsible for the text as well as any errors in it.
This article may be reproduced in whole or part with attribution of authorship and a link to this article. Copyright June, 2011, Sheila Parks.