Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Volusia County election records just got put on lockdown

(here's a post from Bev Harris of Black Box Voting -- shits hitting the fan in Florida. go to blackboxvoting.org for more into-- brook)

Dueling lawyers, election officials gnashing teeth, Votergate.tv film crew catching it all.

Here's what happened so far:

Friday Black Box Voting investigators Andy Stephenson and Kathleen Wynne popped in to ask for some records. They were rebuffed by an elections official named Denise. Bev Harris called on the cell phone from investigations in downstate Florida, and told Volusia County Elections Supervisor Deanie Lowe that Black Box Voting would be in to pick up our Nov. 2 Freedom of Information request, or would file for a hand recount. "No, Bev, please don't do that!" she exclaimed. But this is the way it has to be, folks. We didn't back down.

Monday Bev, Andy and Kathleen came in with a film crew and asked for the FOIA request. Deanie Lowe gave it to us with a smile, but I noticed that one item, the polling place tapes, were not copies of the real ones, but instead were new printouts, done on Nov. 15, and not signed by anyone.

I asked to see the real ones, and they told us for "privacy" reasons we can't have copies of the signed ones. I insisted on at least viewing them (although refusing to give us copies of the signatures is not legally defensible, according to our attorney). They said the real ones were in the County Elections warehouse. It was quittin' time and we arranged to come back this morning to review them.

Lana Hires, an employee who gained some notoriety in a Diebold memo, where she asked for an explanation of minus 16,022 votes for Gore, so she wouldn't have to stand there "looking dumb" when the auditor came in, was particularly unhappy about seeing us in the office. She vigorously shook her head when Deanie Lowe suggested we go to the warehouse.

Kathleen Wynne and I showed up at the warehouse at 8:15 this morning. There was Lana Hires looking especially gruff, yet surprised. She ordered us out. Well, we couldn't see why because there she was, with a couple other people, handling the original poll tapes. You know, the ones with the signatures on them. We stepped out and they promptly shut the door behind us.

There was a trash bag on the porch outside the door. I looked into it and what do you know, but there were poll tapes in there. They came out and glared at us. We drove away a small bit, and then videotaped the license plates of the two vehicles marked 'City Council' member. Others came out to glare and soon all doors were slammed.

So, we went and parked behind a bus to see what they would do next. They pulled out some large pylons, which blocked the door. I decided to go look at the garbage some more. Kathleen videotaped this. A man came out and I immediately wrote a public records request for the contents of the garbage bag, which also contained ballots -- real ones, but not filled out.

A brief tug of war occurred, tearing the garbage bag open. We then looked through it, as Pete looked on. He was quite friendly.

We collected various poll tapes and other information and asked if they could copy it for us, for our public records request. "You won't be going anywhere," said Pete. "The deputy is on his way."

Yes, not one but two police cars came up and then two county elections officials, and we all stood around discussing the merits of my public records request.

They finally let us go, about the time our film crew arrived, and we all trooped off to the elections office. There, the plot thickened.

We began to compare the special printouts given to us with the signed polling tapes from election night. Lo and behold, some were missing. We also found some that didn't match. In fact, in one location, precinct 215, an African-American precinct, the votes were off by hundreds, in favor of George W. Bush and other Republicans.

Hmm. Which was right? Our polling tape, specially printed on Nov. 15, without signatures, or theirs, printed on Nov. 2, with up to 8 signatures per tape?

Well, then it became even more interesting. Lana Hires took it upon herself to box up some items from an office, which appeared to contain -- you guessed it -- polling place tapes. She took them to the back of the building and disappeared.

Then, voting integrity advocates from Volusia and Broward, decided now would be a good time to go through the trash at the elections office. Lo and behold, they found all kinds of memos and some polling place tapes, fresh from Volusia elections office.

So, we compared these with the Nov. 2 signed ones and the "special' ones from Nov. 15 given to us, unsigned, and we found several of the MISSING poll tapes. There they were: In the garbage.

So, Kathleen went to the car and got the polling place tapes we had pulled from the warehouse garbage. My my my. There were not only discrepancies, but a polling place tape that was signed by six officials.

This was a bit disturbing, since the employees there told us that bag was destined for the shredder.

By now, a county lawyer had appeared on the scene, suddenly threatening to charge us extra for the time we took looking at the real stuff they had withheld from us in our FOIA. Other lawyers appeared, phoned, people had meetings, Lana glowered at everyone, and someone shut the door in the office holding the GEMS server.

Andy then went to get the GEMS server locked down. He also got the memory cards locked down and secured, much to the dismay of Lana. They were scattered around unsecured in any way before that.

We then all agreed to convene tomorrow morning, to further audit, discuss the hand count that Black Box Voting will require of Volusia County, and of course, it is time to talk about contesting the election in Volusia.

Bev Harris
Executive Director
Black Box Voting

Together with Andy, and Kathleen.

 

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home