Voter-Owned Elections Townhall 5/19

King County Council will hold a special Town Hall Meeting on Monday, May 19, at the Shoreline Conference Center, 18560 1st Avenue Northeast, in Shoreline, for a panel discussion and public comments on this subject. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., with a reception beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Washington Public Campaigns has more info.

We need to pack the halls. Please show up. And bring a friend.

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Why Initiative 26 is Bad News

I utterly oppose Initiative 26. From its website:
King County Initiative 26 would make the offices of King County Executive, King County Assessor, and King County Council Non-partisan. This allows voters to choose between all candidates in the primary without having to "pick-a-party," while making county government accountable to the people, not political parties.

Nice spin. With non-partisan races, meaning candidates won't have party support, only well-funded candidates win be able to win local office. And that means Republican candidates, in fact, if not in name.


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46 LD Dems Caucus 4/5/08

Wow. This is about the coolest thing I've ever seen.

There were ~250 candidates to represent Barack Obama at the 7th CD caucus. (Sat May 17, 2008 @ 10:00am. More info on the King Co Democrats website. [Corrected the date. -- zappini])


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Reckless Plan: There is No Plan 'B'

We attended the Citizen Election Oversight Committee (web site) meeting Wed 1/9. We learned that King County Elections (KCE) is pushing forward with Executive Ron "Hack Proof" Sims' reckless plan to overhaul our elections this year. The first 20 DRS PS900 iM2 ballot image scanners should arrive Monday 1/14.

Federal certification of the DRS unit continues to be delayed.

The Executive's 12/31 certification status report to the Council skillfully uses obfuscation, omission, and deliberate miscomprehension to again rationalize buying all new gear.

Follow me below the fold for details, including the new timeline and debunking.

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Ron Sims: Diebold Voting Machines "Hacker Proof"

Ron Sims stated that our Premier Election Systems (nee Diebold) ballot counting machines will be "hacker proof". Sims made this statement during his regular segment on KUOW's "Weekday" program Thursday 12/20/07. KUOW's online archive is here (skip to 16m30s).

No computer professional thinks that computers can be hack proof. But Ron Sims, a politician, thinks otherwise. This is a serious problem. Like denying evolution or insisting Iraq had WMDs.

Anyone who thinks computers can be hacker proof is not qualified to defend and safeguard the integrity of our elections.

Below is my transcript of the relevant exchange. Followed by some quick fact checking.

[Update: Reworked the "Three Types of Machines" section for clarity, plus added some links. -zappini]

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How KC Does Mail Ballot Processing

The following is a fair approximation of how mail ballot processing occurs in King County Washington in 2007. (Your county's mileage may vary, but not by much.) This information lays the groundwork for understanding how use of Election Trust's (nee VoteHere's) Mail-in Ballot Tracker threatens the integrity of our elections.

This description will be expanded, updated, and corrected as able.

Mail Ballot Processing

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Should the Election of Dan Satterberg be Voided?

RCW on voiding elections affected by illegal campaign donations: "It is intended that this remedy be imposed freely in all appropriate cases to protect the right of the electorate to an informed and knowledgeable vote."

RCW 42.17.390: Civil remedies and sanctions, which is in the RCW section dealing with Public Disclosure in campaigns, says:

If the court finds that the violation of any provision of this chapter by any candidate or political committee probably affected the outcome of any election, the result of said election may be held void and a special election held within sixty days of such finding. Any action to void an election shall be commenced within one year of the date of the election in question. It is intended that this remedy be imposed freely in all appropriate cases to protect the right of the electorate to an informed and knowledgeable vote.

Hat tip to election integrity attorney Paul Lehto, who mentioned the existence of this law when I told him about the Sherman - Satterberg race in a conversation earlier today.

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PDC Complaint on Republican Cash Transfers to Satterberg

I mailed this complaint to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission earlier today:

November 5, 2007

To the Public Disclosure Commission,

I am writing to request a formal investigation into late campaign contributions totaling more than $126,600 from the Washington State Republican Party to Dan Satterberg, GOP candidate for King County Prosecutor.

Continued below

Related story: Breathing Rights, Voting Rights & the King Co. Prosecuting Attorney Race

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King Co. Attorney Race: Satterberg Accepts Huge Sums of Dirty GOP Money

[Note: Also see later stories: Should the election of Dan Satterberg be Voided? and PDC Complaint on Republican Cash Transfers to Satterberg]

Dan Satterberg, the Republican candidate for King County Prosecuting Attorney is a deep disappointment.  

Big, last-minute sums of cash -- in apparent violation of state law -- have flowed through the state Republican Party and into his campaign.  Some of these donations, for example, one for $10,000 from a county deputy prosecuting attorney, are from people Satterberg pledged he would not accept funds from: employees of the office that he seeks election to.  One of them, for $5,000, is from the CEO of a construction company that Satterberg "helped" back in the 1990s by dismissing criminal charges against that company -- over the protests of the prosecutor in his office who believed she could get convictions. The alleged crimes? Intentionally allowing asbestos dust to blow through the vents of a hospital maternity ward.  I wrote about that sorry episode here: Breathing Rights, Voting Rights and the King Co Prosecuting Attorney Race.  See over the fold for Democratic candidate Bill Sherman's response.

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I-25: Elected Director of Elections? Yes!

From the King County Voter's Phamplet:

Initiative 25 is a proposed ordinance. If approved by voters, it would place a charter amendment on the November 2008 general election ballot that would ask: "Shall King County Charter be amended to provide that the position of county director of elections be created as a nonpartisan elected office?" Should Initiative 25 be adopted so that this charter amendment will be placed before voters in November 2008?

I vote YES! Because of the reckless plan to overhaul our elections just in time for 2008.

Rationale below the fold...

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Big Legal Judgment Not the First for Valley Medical's Roodman: Challengers Offer Improved Oversight

After Anthony Hemstad was elected, he was quoted in the Seattle Times as stating that he may not see a need for the public hospital district to exist. I see it as a betrayal of the voters' trust that he did not divulge this during his campaign. Followup story: here

I filled out my absentee ballot today to vote for Anthony Hemstad and Sue Bowman for Commissioners in Public Hospital District #1. It took me a while to get to that decision so I'll share the story.

Hemstad and Bowman are reform candidates challenging long-term incumbent Commissioners Carole A. Anderson and Gary Kohlwes. This week, Washington's Public Disclosure Commission levied an historically high fine on Valley Medical Center (VMC) for electioneering misbehavior in 2005 and 2006. VMC is within Hospital District #1 and the current commissioners bear some responsibility for the lack of oversight that led to the violation of public trust.  As I discuss below, this is not the first time that a legal judgment concluding serious misconduct by VMC's administrator Rich Roodman has resulted in considerable financial costs for the hospital.   In the previous instance Hospital Board Chairman Carole Anderson, whom Hemstad is challenging, publicly defended Roodman for this misconduct.  She was Chair of the Board at that time, too.  Hemstad and Bowman propose to provide better oversight of hospital processes and to increase public accountability.  I believe they will.

I started out inclined to vote for the incumbents. I live in Hospital District #1 and, back in 2006, the continual coverage of VMC issues by my neighborhood paper, the now-defunct King County Journal, had left me feeling protective toward the hospital.  I suspected at the time that KCJ was trying to build up its failing circulation by grandstanding on an anti-tax issue. As I looked at the smiling faces of Hemstad and Bowman on a campaign flyer I'd recently received, I wondered who these candidates really were.  Why did they decide to run? Who funds them?

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Interview with Richard Pope, Candidate for King County Council

I met with Richard Pope at the Eastgate Tully's in Bellevue for an interview last week.  We sat at a cafe-style table overlooking the parking lot of Michael's Toyota and the entrances to I-90.  Pope, who has recently run for public office as a Republican, is on the Democrat ticket this time.   He's challenging Jane Hague in the King County Council's 6th district.  

Hague's credibility has collapsed since she filed for re-election early in the summer.  In rapid succession, she's been revealed as falsely claiming a college degree for the past two decades of her public life; commiting numerous violations of campaign disclosure laws; driving drunk; and responding to the DUI arrest by taunting and cursing the police, using technical strategems to avoid responsibility, and concealing the matter from the public until after the filing deadline for her campaign.

Pope is known for his oppositional research. But he may have just wrapped up his greatest research tour de force production to date, uncovering not only Hague's campaign finance violations - but also the suspicious circumstances surrounding the removal of the judge assigned to her DUI case.  The replacement, a hand-picked pro-tempore judge who also happens to be a Republican activist and a twice convicted criminal, promptly delayed Hague's trial until after the election.  Pope's research resulted in the removal of the pro-tem judge from her case.

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Seattle PI Endorses Bill Sherman: An Appeal for "Time and Treasure"

When poor and homeless citizens are illegally knocked off voter registration lists by a political organization do we get an investigation?   When a salmon-bearing stream and wetland is illegally filled in King County for a $2 million profit, adding to the flooding of surrounding homes and farms - do any of the witnesses consider asking for an investigation?   If a contractor pumps asbestos-laden air into a hospital maternity ward for 5 days - after first firing the employee who tries to stop the crime - will the wrong-doers be held accountable?  When powerful and wealthy people put together a campaign to intimidate a county prosecutor out of seeking justice, will the prosecutor overlook the protest of the attorney who thinks she can win the case - and quickly drop it?
Breathing Rights, Voting Rights & the King Co. Prosecuting Attorney

The Seattle PI endorsed Bill Sherman yesterday, noting that he is "well qualified, with diverse experience and possessed of a healthy interest in exploring new directions."   In its somewhat abstract way the PI is telling us that this race makes a difference for us in our everyday lives.

But the stakes are not abstract.  The stakes for all of us in King County are real - and we live and feel them every day in practical ways.   This race is the first opportunity in more than 60 years to help move past a method of prosecuting justice in King County that is so narrowly aimed at the punishment and protection of the individual - that we have institutionalized the neglect of the larger context and the accountability of the powerful.  I am appealing to readers here to consider giving what I once heard Washington State Representative Mark Miloscia refer to as "time and treasure" - to the candidacy of Bill Sherman.  Specifically, please consider telling friends, family, and others why you think it's important for Bill Sherman to win this race.  And please consider clicking on this link - or the link on the sidebar here - to make a donation of $10 or $500.  Thank you for considering!

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Breathing Rights, Voting Rights & the King Co. Prosecuting Attorney Race

A poll of 1,000 likely voters in King County was conducted between Sept. 17 and 23, 2007 on voters' preferences in the race for King County Prosecuting Attorney. With an estimated margin of error of 3% voters preferred Bill Sherman, the Democratic candidate by 47% to 35% over Satterberg, the Republican.  18% were undecided. Sherman led 55% to 24% with 22% undecided in Seattle and the north part of the county.  The two candidates were tied in the east and south. (Email correspondence from the Bill Sherman for King County Prosecutor campaign, 10/8/07.)

The Republican candidate for King County Prosecuting Attorney portrays himself as untouched by politics while the Chair of the county GOP declares that the highly-qualified Democrat in the race is so partisan that he's incapable of administering justice. It's a game of partisan hot potato.

This is an understandable PR approach for a party on the decline in Washington state and declared just last week to be in a state of collapse by one of its most prominent national defenders.  The partisan liability is hot.  So throw it at "the other guy" and hope you're not holding it again when the music stops.  (1)  While Dan Satterberg, the Republican candidate, is probably not participating in this game in a calculating way, Bill Sherman, the Democratic candidate, is not participating at all.   He appears comfortable with his political background.  He's right to be.   Party affiliation in a partisan race doesn't diminish a candidate's professionalism.  But it does matter.  Voters deserve the straight story.

A Republican Tradition: Tough on Individual Crime, Friendly to the Powerful
Explore the King County Prosecuting Attorney's (KCPA) and you see ample information on individual crimes and victim assistance.  But you have to open up the annual reports in PDF to learn that the office also deals with corporate crime, abuse of office, and environmental crime.  My search of Seattle Times and Seattle PI articles on KCPA revealed very few reported actions holding corporations or agencies accountable. (2)    Search Dan Satterburg's campaign page, and you find the same focus on individual crime.  Maleng and Satterberg are from a law-and-order culture that emphasizes individual culpability.   Their version is kinder and gentler than some -- including active support for drug court and easier restoration of driver's licenses for the poor, for example.  But it is a less comprehensive approach than what we see proposed by Bill Sherman, whose campaign site proposes addressing a broad range of crime.  And it is less comprehensive than what we see in the district attorney sites for other major counties -- such as the Los Angeles County, CA, which has separate pages for public corruption, including campaign and election violations, and environmental crimes. KCPA's priority of punishing individuals while requiring less accountability for the powerful has has real-life impact on the people who live in this county. Read on for discussion on specific examples,

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Message on Election System Purchase From Reverend DeForest Soaries Jr. to King County Council

In a 9/28/07 email, Reverend DeForest Soaries Jr. approved for publication on Washblog the statement that appears below.
A Message to the King County Council from Reverend DeForest Soaries, Jr.

Dear King County Council Members:

"I was pleased to convene a group of election officials to evaluate the proposition that vote-by-mail required an upgrade to the election technology used in King County. The assembled team includes people with the right background to evaluate the need for an upgrade.  To be very clear, our team was unanimous: There is no need to upgrade.

"When election officials were interviewed about the risks associated with combination of moving to vote-by-mail, moving to a new, untried, tabulation system, no one thought it was a wise choice to do all of these in the run up to a presidential election. Not one election official was comfortable with this direction.

"I urge you to heed the warning from these election officials: There is no upside, no advantage, to moving ahead with acquisition a new tabulation system and the risks are considerable."

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