Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's Wrong with Wisconsin's Electronic Voting Machines?

Tuesday, I wrote a blog post, "Voting Machine Verifications Show Walker Lost Recall Election," with a plausible story of how the recall election was stolen for Scott Walker by a malicious hacker. I wrote it in an effort to try to show how easily one or a few people can change hundreds of thousands of votes. The goal was to make you feel and then learn and take action to fix this incredibly scary problem.

The truth is that we have no way of knowing whether or not such election fraud occurred, because we don't use open source election equipment and don't have sufficient auditing and verification processes. We don't know for a fact that Walker won, as well as many Democrats, or any elected official for that mattter. The truth hurts, as can be seen from the comments at the end of that post.

All of the peer-reviewed computer security research agrees, no machine will ever be perfectly secure, and so we need to account for that. It's common knowledge to them and anyone with the equivalent knowledge of a bachelor's in computer science. It's time for it to become common knowledge in the general public.

The scarier thing, for all of us who currently have the knowledge to independently arrive at the same conclusions, we also have the knowledge and understanding to circumvent electronic voting equipment. That's thousands of Wisconsinites, including one Kathy Nickolaus. The likelihood that an election machine in Wisconsin has been compromised at some point is undeniably high.

A highly regarded computer security expert, Bruce Schneier, wrote an article about the problems with our electronic voting machines after the 2004 presidential election, but with the continued problems and lack of public awareness, the article deserves repeating. Schneier's article entitled "What's wrong with electronic voting machines?" is an overview with only a few technical details. It's written for broad consumption and reads well. If you want further information, follow his links embedded in the article, or visit his website or search Google for peer-reviewed computer security research.

Schneier's article follows as it appears here.

In the aftermath of the American presidential election on 2 November 2004, electronic voting machines are again in the news. Computerised machines lost votes, subtracted votes, and doubled some votes too.

And because many of these machines have no paper audit trails, a large number of votes will never be counted.

While it is unlikely that deliberate voting-machine fraud changed the result of this presidential election, the internet is buzzing with rumours and allegations in a number of different jurisdictions and races.

It is still too early to tell if any of these problems affected any individual state’s election, but the next few weeks will reveal whether any of the information crystallises into something significant.

The US has been here before. After the 2000 election, voting-machine problems made international headlines. The government appropriated money to fix the problems nationwide. Unfortunately, electronic voting machines – although presented as the solution – have largely made the problem worse.

This doesn’t mean that these machines should be abandoned, but they need to be designed to increase both their accuracy, and peoples’ trust in their accuracy.

This is difficult, but not impossible.

Before I discuss electronic voting machines, I need to explain why voting is so difficult. In my view, a voting system has four required characteristics:
  1. Accuracy. The goal of any voting system is to establish the intent of each individual voter, and translate those intents into a final tally. To the extent that a voting system fails to do this, it is undesirable. This characteristic also includes security: It should be impossible to change someone else’s vote, stuff ballots, destroy votes, or otherwise affect the accuracy of the final tally.

  2. Anonymity. Secret ballots are fundamental to democracy, and voting systems must be designed to facilitate voter anonymity.

  3. Scalability. Voting systems need to be able to handle very large elections. Nearly 120 million people voted in the US presidential election. About 372 million people voted in India’s May 2004 national elections, and over 115 million in Brazil’s October 2004 local elections. The complexity of an election is another issue. Unlike in many countries where the national election is a single vote for a person or a party, a United States voter is faced with dozens of individual election decisions: national, local, and everything in between.
  4. Speed. Voting systems should produce results quickly. This is particularly important in the United States, where people expect to learn the results of the day’s election before bedtime.
Through the centuries, different technologies have done their best. Stones and potshards dropped in Greek vases gave way to paper ballots dropped in sealed boxes. Mechanical voting booths, punch-cards, and then optical scan machines replaced hand-counted ballots. New computerised voting machines promise even more efficiency, and internet voting even more convenience.

But in the rush to improve speed and scalability, accuracy has been sacrificed. And to reiterate: accuracy is not how well the ballots are counted by, say, a punch-card reader. It’s not how the tabulating machine deals with hanging chads , pregnant chads, or anything like that. Accuracy is how well the process translates voter intent into appropriately counted votes.

Trust a computer to be inaccurate

Technology gets in the way of accuracy by adding steps. Each additional step means more potential errors, simply because no technology is perfect. Consider an optical-scan voting system. The voter fills in ovals on a piece of paper, which is fed into an optical-scan reader. The reader senses the filled-in ovals and tabulates the votes. This system has several steps: voter to ballot, to ovals, to optical reader, to vote tabulator, to centralised total.

At each step, errors can occur. If the ballot is confusing, some voters will fill in the wrong ovals. If a voter doesn’t fill them in properly, or if the reader is malfunctioning, then the sensor won’t sense the ovals properly. Mistakes in tabulation – either in the machine or when machine totals get aggregated into larger totals – also cause errors.

A manual system of tallying the ballots by hand, and then doing it again to double-check, is more accurate simply because there are fewer steps.

The error rates in modern systems can be significant. Some voting technologies have a 5% error rate, which means one in twenty people who vote using the system don’t have their votes counted. A system like this operates under the assumption that most of the time the errors don’t matter. If you consider that the errors are uniformly distributed – in other words, that they affect each candidate with equal probability – then they won’t affect the final outcome except in very close races.

So we’re willing to sacrifice accuracy to get a voting system that will handle large and complicated elections more quickly.

In close races, errors can affect the outcome, and that’s the point of a recount. A recount is an alternate system of tabulating votes: one that is slower (because it’s manual), simpler (because it just focuses on one race), and therefore more accurate.

Note that this is only true if everyone votes using the same machines. If parts of a town that tend to support candidate A use a voting system with a higher error rate than the voting system used in parts of town that tend to support candidate B, then the results will be skewed against candidate A.

With this background, the problem with computerised voting machines becomes clear. Actually, “computerised voting machines” is a bad choice of words. Many of today’s mechanical voting technologies involve computers too. Computers tabulate both punch-card and optical-scan machines.

The current debate centres on all-computer voting systems, primarily touch-screen systems, called Direct Record Electronic (DRE) machines (the voting system used in India’s May 2004 election – a computer with a series of buttons – is subject to the same issues).

In these systems the voter is presented with a list of choices on a screen, perhaps multiple screens if there are multiple elections, and he indicates his choice by touching the screen. As Daniel Tokaji points out, these machines are easy to use, produce final tallies immediately after the polls close, and can handle very complicated elections. They can also display instructions in different languages and allow for the blind or otherwise handicapped to vote without assistance.

They’re also more error-prone. The very same software that makes touch-screen voting systems so friendly also makes them inaccurate in the worst possible way.

‘Bugs’ or errors in software are commonplace, as any computer user knows. Computer programs regularly malfunction, sometimes in surprising and subtle ways. This is true for all software, including the software in computerised voting machines.

For example:

In Fairfax County, Virginia in 2003, a programming error in the electronic-voting machines caused them to mysteriously subtract 100 votes from one candidate’s totals.

In a 2003 election in Boone County, Iowa the electronic vote-counting equipment showed that more than 140,000 votes had been cast in the municipal elections, even though only half of the county’s 50,000 residents were eligible to vote.

In San Bernardino County, California in 2001, a programming error caused the computer to look for votes in the wrong portion of the ballot in 33 local elections, which meant that no votes registered on those ballots for that election. A recount was done by hand.

In Volusia County, Florida in 2000, an electronic voting machine gave Al Gore a final vote count of negative 16,022 votes.

There are literally hundreds of similar stories.

What’s important about these problems is not that they resulted in a less accurate tally, but that the errors were not uniformly distributed; they affected one candidate more than the other. This is evidence that you can’t assume errors will cancel each other out; you have to assume that any error will skew the results significantly and affect the result of the election.

And then there’s security

Another issue is that software can be ‘hacked’. That is, someone can deliberately introduce an error that modifies the result in favour of his preferred candidate.

This has nothing to do with whether the voting machines are hooked up to the internet on election day, as Daniel Tokaji seems to believe. The threat is that the computer code could be modified while it is being developed and tested, either by one of the programmers or a hacker who gains access to the voting-machine company’s network. It’s much easier to surreptitiously modify a software system than a hardware system, and it’s much easier to make these modifications undetectable.

Malicious changes or errors in the software can have far-reaching effects. A problem with a manual machine just affects that machine. A software problem, whether accidental or intentional, can affect many thousands of machines and skew the results of an entire election.

Some have argued in favour of touch-screen voting systems, citing the millions of dollars that are handled every day by ATMs and other computerised financial systems. That argument ignores another vital characteristic of voting systems: anonymity.

Computerised financial systems get most of their security from audit. If a problem is suspected, auditors can go back through the records of the system and figure out what happened. And if the problem turns out to be real, the transaction can be unwound and fixed. Because elections are anonymous, that kind of security just isn’t possible.

None of this means that we should abandon touch-screen voting; the benefits of DRE machines are too great to throw away. But it does mean that we need to recognise the limitations, and design systems that can be accurate despite them.

Computer security experts are unanimous on what to do (some voting experts disagree, but it is the computer security experts who need to be listened to; the problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application). They have two recommendations, echoed by Siva Vaidhyanathan:

  1. DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails (sometimes called a voter-verified paper ballot). This is a paper ballot printed out by the voting machine, which the voter is allowed to look at and verify. He doesn’t take it home with him. Either he looks at it on the machine behind a glass screen, or he takes the paper and puts it into a ballot box. The point of this is twofold: it allows the voter to confirm that his vote was recorded in the manner he intended, and it provides the mechanism for a recount if there are problems with the machine.
  2. Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny. This also has two functions: it allows any interested party to examine the software and find bugs, which can then be corrected, a public analysis that improves security; and it increases public confidence in the voting process - if the software is public, no one can insinuate that the voting system has unfairness built into the code (companies that make these machines regularly argue that they need to keep their software secret for security reasons. Don’t believe them. In this instance, secrecy has nothing to do with security).
Computerised systems with these characteristics won’t be perfect – no piece of software is – but they’ll be much better than what we have now. We need to treat voting software like we treat any other high-reliability system.
The auditing that is conducted on slot machine software in the US is significantly more meticulous than that applied to voting software. The development process for mission-critical airplane software makes voting software look like a slapdash affair. If we care about the integrity of our elections, this has to change.

Proponents of DREs often point to successful elections as “proof” that the systems work. That completely misses the point. The fear is that errors in the software – either accidental or deliberately introduced – can undetectably alter the final tallies. An election without any detected problems is no more a proof that the system is reliable and secure, than a night that no one broke into your house is proof that your locks work. Maybe no one tried to break in, or maybe someone tried and succeeded – and you don’t know it.

Even if we get the technology right, we still won’t be finished. If the goal of a voting system is to accurately translate voter intent into a final tally, the voting machine itself is only one part of the overall system. In the 2004 US election, problems with voter registration, untrained poll workers, ballot design, and procedures for handling problems, resulted in far more votes being left uncounted than problems with technology.

If we’re going to spend money on new voting technology, it makes sense to spend it on technology that makes the problem easier instead of harder.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Voting Machine Verifications Show Walker Lost Recall Election

The required verification of Wisconsin's electronic voting equipment after elections has shown that election fraud occurred in several counties during Scott Walker's recall election. The corrected election results show that Barrett won with 51% of the vote, matching the percentage of voters that voted for Democratic Senator John Lehman and favoring President Obama in the exit polls as well as more closely matching the 50/50 split exit polls for Walker and Barrett. It turns out that it wasn't the exit polls that needed to be adjusted, it was the election results.

As one of the first steps in the canvassing process after an election, each electronic voting machine and ballot counting machine is verified for its integrity. The post-election verification process is the same as the pre-election verification process. First, the integrity of the software on each machine is verified, and if the verification fails, it's assumed the machine was tampered with. If the machine passes, the function of the machine is tested. For optical scanners, election officials run a number of randomly selected completed paper ballots through the scanner and match the totals against a hand-count. For touchscreen voting machines, election officials repeat a number of votes from a random position in the paper log and match the totals against a hand-count. The machine has been compromised if the totals don't match.

The verification of the open software installed on the equipment uncovered nearly 100 machines across Wisconsin that had been compromised. It's believed that at least one person, most likely two or three, compromised the optical scanners after the pre-election verification by connecting a small device to the diagnostic port on the machine which automatically downloaded the modified software. The software only affected the gubernatorial election, which explains Lehman's win.

All of the votes counted with the compromised machines were recounted by verified machines or hand count, and the recounts show that 110,805 Barrett votes had been wrongfully switched to Walker by the compromised machines. It appears as though the modified software flipped Barrett votes at random short durations of time, so the modified software changed vote totals differently across machines. Outagamie County had the largest percentage of switched votes with 7,741 votes, 10% of the total votes in the county, but Walker still won the county nearly as much as he did in 2010. Milwaukee County had the largest number of flipped votes with 31,154, followed by Dane County with 10,682 flipped votes. The other counties with modified software were Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Kewaunee, Kenosha, Marathon, Manitowac, Oconto, Racine, Shawano, and Winnebago. Interestingly, nearly every county is along Highway 41 or very close.

Since we control the open software on the machines, we can quickly plug the security hole at no cost to taxpayers for both detection and the fix. Several Wisconsin software engineers wrote a fix for the problem within a few hours of the announcement by the Government Accountability Board, and the new software will go through a number of tests before it's certified. Rest assured, our voting machines will be fixed and certified long before the next election thanks to it being open source software.

As a truly bipartisan measure, Scott Walker reportedly asked Tom Barrett to attend the brats and beers today. Walker conceded, "We have yet to determine who tampered with the equipment, but I'll relinquish my command to the rightful Governor of Wisconsin, Tom Barrett." The person(s) responsible for tampering with election equipment and swinging the election are still being investigated.

Unfortunately, someone may have tampered with voting equipment during the recall election, but we'll never be able to find out. Nearly everything above is just a dream. Voting machines are not open and are not verified after elections, and so there is no way to detect such election fraud. None of the precautions listed above are actually done in Wisconsin, but the possibility of someone swinging an election by tampering with voting machines so easily is real. Barrett could really have won with 51%, but we'll never know.

I'm very sorry if that was painful, but I hope it was effective in convincing you how important this issue is. It's a far more critical issue than voter fraud. We have no proof whether or not Walker really survived his recall, but we could. The next time a Democrat wins a big election, you can bet the Republicans will be shouting election fraud, knowing the problem exists but refusing to do anything about it. Lets get this fixed now.

I wrote a blog post following the Prosser/Kloppenburg election detailing the issues with our elections and the solutions available. By fixing these issues, we could detect and compensate for election fraud, and the story above could be a reality. The following is a minor update to the post, putting it into the context of this election.

Our most pressing issues with elections in Wisconsin continue to be:
  1. Ballot security and integrity
  2. Antiquated unsupported voting equipment
  3. Insecure and inaccurate voting equipment
  4. Voting equipment hardware design and software not open, owned and controlled by the people of Wisconsin
  5. The integrity of every voting machine isn't verified before and after every election
  6. Various vote-tallying processes are not open
  7. Ease and likelihood of errors in reporting
    • Voting equipment and software is not uniform across the state
    (1) Ballot security and integrity. There were many unsealed and ripped ballot bags during the Prosser/Kloppenburg election. Nothing was done to prevent this from occurring in future elections. The only reason we knew about these issues was because of the recount and the ability to watch some online. There could be far more issues than we are aware of from other elections.

    (2) Antiquated unsupported voting equipment. The Prosser/Kloppenburg recount showed us that at least one approved model of our voting equipment, the Optech Eagle, is antiquated and must be removed from service. The original vote tallies from that election had to be deleted, against the law, in order to carry out the recount with the machines, because there were not enough memory packs and those memory packs are no longer manufactured. Although, I will say that I believe it's good that the issue forced a hand recount in parts of the state instead of simply re-feeding the ballots back through the same machines for a recount. This model should be replaced quickly, though the following issues may warrant some delay. A full review of all our voting equipment should occur first.

    (3) Insecure and inaccurate voting equipment. Our electronic voting equipment is insecure and inaccurate, but you're not supposed to know that. The very equipment we use to cast and count votes can be manipulated without detection in seconds, swinging the results by any number of votes. There's not a single computer or security expert that would argue with that. However, even if tampering doesn't occur, our vote-tallying machines rarely count the exact number of votes. These are inevitable consequences of using electronics to cast and count our votes. Unfortunately, the design of our electronic voting machines and their margins of error are secrets kept tightly by their manufacturers. So we have no way of knowing just how insecure and inaccurate our machines are (more on this in (4)).

    Quite near anyone with the knowledge to write moderately sophisticated computer programs can manipulate a voting machine and its vote tally in literally seconds. That's well into the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin with that ability. Not at any other point in our country's history do so many people have such an ability to swing elections so dramatically. It really does take some time to stop and consider.

    No one has any "bullet-proof" solutions to this problem, and it's likely we never will. If we want to count votes using electronic equipment, and I for one think it's a "good thing," we must have verifiable guarantees of voting machine security and accuracy. We don't have that now, and we almost certainly won't have that until we solve (4).

    There are other issues regarding accuracy specific to the voting machines we use. A GAB memo from December 2009 shows that there were several issues with voting machines that we currently use in many parts of Wisconsin. An error message "error while printing" occurred 15% of the time during a test of the AutoMARK VAT. This was due to a malfunction in the system which required replacement, and the replacement had similar non-tallying related issues about 5% of the time. Such errors can cause inaccuracies, and they can also cause voter disenfranchisement as voters may be told to come back later or may have to wait for an excessive period of time.

    The AutoMARK VAT is used as an option for voters with disabilities in many municipalities across Wisconsin. However, the GAB memo says that the testing by the GAB and testing by the Wisconsin Election Administration Council shows that
    "The AutoMARK VAT does not provide full privacy and independence for voters with disabilities, especially voters with dexterity or motor disabilities, as voters may need assistance inserting the ballot, removing the ballot and placing the ballot in the ballot box or tabulator."
    The Wisconsin Election Administration Council had even more to say. The memo notes several issues including vision-impaired voters won't be able to verify their vote, inadvertent steps that cause a cancellation of votes, the device doesn't meet 2005 US-EAC guidelines, "it takes longer to cast a ballot with the AutoMARK than manually marking the ballot with a marking device," and screen reading difficulties. Yet the AutoMARK VAT was approved by the GAB for Wisconsin voters with disabilities. The GAB said, "The ES&S voting system technically meets" the requirement of a voter to privately verify their votes. The GAB later notes in a bordered paragraph,
    "The AutoMARK voting systems for which approval is being sought, do not change the degree of accessibility currently provided by previously approved AutoMARK systems."
    I'm appalled that so many of our voting machines do "not provide full privacy and independence for voters with disabilities," and that the GAB would approve such a machine. Are we that desperate for voting equipment?

    Another machine mentioned in the memo with issues regarding its ease of use is the intElect DS200. It may not be immediately clear that these issues are issues with accuracy. Any time a voter's intention doesn't get correctly included in the official results, the system is inaccurate. The more difficult a machine is to use, the less accurate it will be.

    Similar touch-screen machines continue to have worrisome issues in other states as well. In the 2010 election, a touch-screen voting machine in Pennsylvania began casting votes for the opposite candidate from the one selected by the voter, and the machine required "recalibration" to resolve. We don't use the same machine here, but the same manufacturer, ES&S. So there's good reason to suspect the same issues can and may have happened here. Luckily for us, all of our touch-screens mark or print a paper ballot, but most people expect the machines won't make a mistake. So they may not properly inspect the results before casting their vote and walking away.

    The GAB incorrectly states on their website "Adminstrative(sp) Code Chapter 5 Ballot and Electronic Voting Equipment Security insures all electronic voting systems used in Wisconsin are accurate and reliable." This is plain false, and it provides a false sense of security to those voters who aren't aware of the issues. I don't believe we will ever fully be able to insure electronic voting systems are accurate and reliable, but I believe we could publicly guarantee much higher security, accuracy and reliability if we solved issue (4).

    Wisconsin does have some of the best electronic voting machine laws in the country, but they're far from perfect. What's worse is that at any time the GAB can exempt a machine from complying with Wisconsin law. The GAB can exempt a voting machine from Wisconsin law if they choose, or as they say, "for good cause" GAB 7.03(5). I don't see how exempting a voting machine from Wisconsin law is a good idea at any time for any reason.

    (4) Voting equipment design not owned by the people of Wisconsin. When I say that the people of Wisconsin should own the designs for our voting equipment I mean that the hardware designs and the software source code should be open, i.e., in the public domain. I'll elaborate more on this in the solutions section later, but I'll briefly cover some highlights and comparisons now.

    The manufacturers of our voting machines will never provide us with the information and control we need to conduct our elections in the most fair, open and transparent way. The people who run our elections, like your county clerk, have no control or idea of what's going on inside our voting machines. (They can, but I'm not sure who's gone through the trouble s.5.905(5).) It doesn't appear as though anyone from the state government or the Wisconsin public has inspected the code or designs of these machines. We're just expected to have blind faith in these systems, but we know the manufacturers can't and/or won't solve all of their problems.

    Currently, certain portions of the software for every electronic voting machine model approved for use in Wisconsin is stored in an escrow s.5.905(2). It's unclear if every software version in use is stored in the escrow, and we have no way of knowing how much of any particular software is stored. The GAB most likely knows the exact components, but they don't make the information available on their website as they should. This escrow provision is meant to make us feel better about the insecure proprietary software, but it does little or nothing to increase the security of our voting equipment. We need all of the software components at the very least, and even that won't provide us with the security, accuracy and reliability that we could achieve with open voting equipment.

    Even if the manufacturers gave public access to the design and software of their voting machines, we won't get the full value of an open system if the hardware designs and software source code aren't in the public domain. We wouldn't necessarily be able to ensure the integrity of a voting machine simply because we have that information, because the machine itself may have certain vulnerabilities we would have very little ability to control. If all we can do is look at the designs and code, and we're not be given the ability to implement modifications, what happens if we want to make a change but the manufacturer wouldn't agree to it? That's unacceptable and completely avoidable.

    There are many advantages to creating an open election system, and I'll defer talking in detail about those for the solutions section. One of the most beneficial advantages of using an open election system is the amount of people who can inspect the design and code to ensure the utmost security and accuracy, anyone who would want to could. This doesn't make the machine less secure, because there will always be ways to "hack" a machine. Instead, vulnerabilities and issues can be spotted and resolved more quickly, including right on the spot by county clerks or other officials (through appropriate processes of course). This openness has been shown to produce highly successful software many times, e.g. LinuxFirefox and WordPress to name just a few.

    We can do better than these voting machine companies, and we must, because there's no better solution to many of our issues than using an open election system.

    (5) Integrity of voting machines not verified before and after every election. The Government Accountability board conducts periodic audits of a random selection of machines, but that won't detect a singular instance of an issue. Nor will the audits detect widespread issues that were created and manifested between audits. Even still, the GAB doesn't post the results of the audits, just the municipalities in which the audits took place. The GAB should be required to post the results of their audits. These audits are helpful, but they aren't sufficient for detecting all likely issues with our voting machines.

    The integrity of a machine can only be inspected during a recount if a candidate requests permission from the GAB, and as long as they sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement s.5.905(4). This process should be automatic for every machine for every election, regardless of the closeness, because that's the only way we can have any hope to guarantee any amount of security, accuracy and reliability. Simply "matching numbers" during canvassing will not uncover many possible issues with our voting machines. So we need a process to ensure every machine is counting votes as accurately as possible during an election.

    Verifying the integrity of a voting machine after an election includes making sure that the software currently on the machine is the software that actually counted the votes. Wisconsin Statue 5.905(3) states that "the verification procedure shall include a determination that the software components correspond to the instructions actually used by the system to count votes." However, the GAB may not have enough information or there just may not be any possible way to determine if the software instructions in a particular machine were the actual instructions used to count the votes in an election. I can't find any details as to how the GAB would make such a determination. If we solve (4) this issue becomes much easier to solve.

    There are several ways to determine the accuracy of a voting machine without verifying its integrity, although the integrity is the ultimate test. Municipalities employ a simple pre-election test of running a predetermined set of votes through a machine and verifying that the counts match. It wouldn't be difficult to write software to pass the pre-election test but still manipulate the vote counts later. At the very least, this same test must be run on every machine after an election as well as before. However, without verifying the integrity of a machine or running a hand recount, there's no way to guarantee that the results from a machine match the actual votes.

    As for recounts, there's really no point to a recount if each machine isn't inspected for its integrity, because the device should give back very near the same results a second time whether the device was manipulated or not. Fortunately, there are some hand recounts occurring throughout the state, but not nearly enough to provide information beyond most glaring types of discrepancies. Since recounts are meant to try to determine the actual vote count, why don't we at least inspect every machine automatically before proceeding with a recount? Otherwise, we're just another example of the classic definition of insanity, continuing to do the same thing but expecting different results.

    (6) Various vote-tallying processes are not open. I already mentioned the issues with the closed vote-tallying processes within our voting equipment in (4). Here, I'm referring to vote-tallying process outside of our voting equipment. This GAB manual for county clerks says, "The counting of votes is always done publicly after the polls close at 8:00 p.m." (their emphasis) If the counting of votes is always done publicly, we would have found out about the Waukesha County error much sooner. So, this law is clearly not being enforced properly, and the GAB felt it necessary to emphasize "publicly" to officials who presumably should know that very well.

    As evidenced by my reporting on the ballot bag issues, the availability of information during the Prosser/Kloppenburg recount was scarce. Yes, there was a live stream of the Waukesha County recount, but they're not the only county in Wisconsin. And even with the live stream we couldn't figure out exactly how many ballot bags had discrepancies and where they're from. There was no mention of the issues with the ballot bags on the GAB website, even though at the very least the Journal SentinelThe CapTimes and WisPolitics had reported the issues.

    Every county in Wisconsin should have a live stream of vote-tallying and machine verification. Though, even then, few of us have time to intently watch a single county. So, there should be a live stream of each county with the ability to look back at previously streamed events. There would be very little cost but a huge increase in election transparency. The cost could be further reduced by using third-party sites such as YouTube.

    Any disputed ballots during a recount should be scanned and posted online for everyone in Wisconsin to see as they were in 2008 during the Minnesota recount for the U.S. Senate election between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. We should see what causes errors, so that we can learn from those ballots. Also, it makes the process much more transparent with very little extra effort. In fact, some voting machines take "photos" of ballots, and those photos could be quickly cropped appropriately and posted for all to see. We have online banking, why not "online" recounts?

    (7) Ease and likelihood of errors in reporting. This was thought to only pertain to Waukesha County, but it also happened (on a slightly smaller scale) in Winnebago County during the Prosser/Kloppenburg recount. Therefore, it's probably just as likely in the rest of Wisconsin. This issue is not as serious if the previous six issues are resolved. However, until then, errors in reporting will continue to exacerbate the concerns we have.

    (8) Voting equipment and software is not uniform across Wisconsin. We should have a standard set of strict vote-tallying processes and one standard set of voting machines, i.e., at most a few touch-screen machines and one paper ballot-tallying machine. Variation creates unnecessary complexity and cost, and complexity increases the chances of an error. We could reduce a lot of the learning curve involved in voting as well as the cost to train staff, volunteers and maintain the equipment. Obviously, I believe that we should standardize around a set of open voting machines.

    We must seek real solutions to relevant issues by determining the best way to solve these issues. I for one won't be able to trust an election in Wisconsin until issues 1-6 are fixed, and I hope you feel just as worried.

    Are There Real Solutions?

    So what are some possible solutions? There's at least one very beneficial and realistic solution to many of these issues. Voting equipment whose hardware design and software is owned and controlled by the people of Wisconsin, i.e., open source, would be much more secure and instill much more voter confidence than any proprietary equipment ever could. We asked for nearly this back in 2005 via AB 627, but the bill was amended to remove the half-hearted provision before the bill was passed. Those who control our elections want desperately for it to stay that way, but it's not what's good for us. We will end up choosing this option at some point. So why not now?

    Standardizing open voting equipment across the entire state of Wisconsin would provide greater benefits over those from standardizing over proprietary equipment. The learning curve for voters would be reduced, because everyone would use the same user-friendly and accessible system. Reporting of votes would be faster and less prone to error. The cost of maintaining and approving voting equipment would be drastically reduced. Many other costs at both the state and municipality level would be reduced. We would know exactly how secure and accurate our voting equipment is. There would be no doubt, because anyone could inspect the code. That also means that more people can help improve the system. There are valid reasons against complete homogeneous standardization, but that debate is for a later time.

    I realize that I'm glossing over quite a few major details here. It's not guaranteed that the first, or even tenth..., version will be user-friendly and accessible. Over time it will no doubt improve, but by beginning with effective guidelines and true experts, the first version could easily be much more user-friendly and accessible than we've come to expect from our voting machines. This also applies to the costs of developing such a set of systems. Successful open source projects gain momentum quickly when they're driven by knowledgeable and thoughtful leaders. The more knowledgeable people who contribute to the project the less taxpayers will end up having to pay. I have no doubt that such a project would create more than enough enthusiasm from capable people in Wisconsin. We can do it, other less wealthy countries have successfully done this.

    I also realize that converting to an open system can't happen overnight, but a deadline should have been set a long time ago and needs to be set now. I don't know how much it would cost the state to implement and convert to such a system, but it's clear we need to replace at the very least the unmaintainable equipment, and it's quite possible the conversion would cost less than the full cost of implementing and enforcing voter suppression with photo ID.

    There's a very good chance we could partner with other states to share the burden of development. There would be no reason not to. These tough economic times add to the value of governments working together and sharing the software code they run on. Also, various other municipalities, states, organizations and countries have either begun or completed open source election systems that we could implement as is or modify to our desires. So, I believe converting to an open election system should be one of the top priorities in fixing our elections (if not the top priority).

    I'd like to have a discussion about the relevant issues with our elections and possible real solutions. Any other suggestions for solving some of these issues? Any other issues I'm not listing? Is there anything I could clarify? Did I increase your concern?

    Please, contact your state representatives and tell them why you're concerned with the security and accuracy of our voting equipment, not voter fraud. They won't do anything unless we demand it.

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Right-to-Work May Really Be Coming to Wisconsin

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's outright refusal to deny Tom Barrett's accusation that Walker would sign Right-to-Work legislation in the debates has made many people believe that Walker plans to make Wisconsin a Right-to-Work state, even though he says he has no "interest." Last year, Walker was asked point blank how he would make Wisconsin a Right-to-Work state by Diane Hendricks, Walker's biggest donor and who also pays $0 state taxes. Walker replied that he would "divide and conquer" starting with the public workers. Then, less than a month later, he "dropped the bomb," stripping public workers of their right to collectively bargain. There's only one thing left to do in Walker's plan to strip the rights of everyone through Right-to-Work.

    Now, the Journal Sentinel has already begun priming the public by doing a PolitiFact on what should be an irrelevant statement about Right-to-Work, and they put it on their front page. Jeff Fitzgerald, a rights stripper, said that Minnesota was a Right-to-Work state, but PolitiFact corrected him. Honestly, if Right-to-Work isn't coming to Wisconsin, why should we be concerned with such a tangential lie, especially one so little publicized and so easily looked up? The Republicans lie all of the time, and that's the lie PolitiFact decided to cover?

    There are far more critical and convoluted lies that PolitiFact should be addressing. Instead, by addressing the Right-to-Work lie about Minnesota, the Journal Sentinel was able to begin framing the debate on Right-to-Work. The real lie in the interview that PolitiFact should be correcting is that stripping public workers of collective bargaining rights was "a middle ground," which they repeat with no statements addressing the truthfulness. Through the PolitiFact, the Journal Sentinel is promoting the idea that stripping the rights of public workers was "middle ground," and therefore prepping the public for Right-to-Work, which is just to the right of that "middle ground," not far-right hillbilly feed where it really is.

    Republicans, Right-to-Work is regulation! Not only that it regulates individual rights.

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    Madison is Fourth Smartest City in America

    A recent study by Lumos Labs used computer games and puzzles instead of education level to find the smartest cities in America, and Madison, WI is the fourth smartest!
    "In a knowledge economy, we are often told the smartest cities and nations do the best. But economists typically measure smart cities by education level, calculating the cities or metros with the largest percentage of college grads or the largest shares of adults with advanced degrees. Others (like me) do it by charting the kinds of work people do and the occupations they hold, differentiating between knowledge or creative workers and others who do more routine manufacturing and service jobs. 
    To measure the smartest cities, Lumosity scientists tracked the cognitive performance of more than one million users in the United States on their games, mapping them across U.S. metros using IP geolocation software. Individual scores were recorded in five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The data was normalized into a basic brain performance index controlling for age and gender. Only metros with more than 500 observations were included. The data cover 169 metros."
    You can see from this map that Milwaukee and Northeast Wisconsin are fairly "brainy," too.

    Maybe the rest of Wisconsin should listen to Madison once in a while instead of decrying it so much. They do tend to know what they're talking about. If we let Walker enact laws like those in the South, we'll end up like them. In a knowledge economy, Wisconsin needs to be more like Madison to thrive.

    Saturday, June 9, 2012

    1,275% Return on Investment for Rich Scott Walker Donors

    Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign told Wisconsin Public Radio that they tracked campaign donations from the 2010 elections, tax breaks and spending from last year and found out how much Scott Walker's biggest donors in 2010 got back for their investment.

    From WPR,
    He cites a recent report on the last legislative session that tracked $330 million in tax write-offs and government spending that flowed to donors who contributed a combined $24 million, “$24 million dollars went in and $330 million went back to those donors. You can't get that return on investment in the best bull market on Wall Street."
    That's a 1,275% gain! And that's just in one year! With this high of return on investment, large out-of-state businesses will continue to pollute our elections. If you didn't like the attack ads of the recall election, you should have gotten rid of the one running them, because he's only going to make it worse now.

    Wake up Wisconsin! We're controlled by a few rich out-of-state corporations and individuals, and they're the ones who want unions gone. Duh, because then they can get away with paying all of us less.

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    No More Mr. Nice Liberal

    Bill Maher made a great point on his show Friday that liberals need Occupy Wall Street/99% Movement to be the Tea Party for liberals, an uncompromising far-left block of noisy voters. It's time Occupy Wall Street get out of the parks and into the streets. The Tea Party went from a small group to a controlling block of the U.S. Congress in just a few short years because they actually got involved in politics. There's a lot more effective uses of our time than singing songs and camping.

    The far-right are also superb at messaging, even if what they say isn't true, they get the majority of the public to believe them. We have to start actually talking to people who don't share our views. We need to canvass and make phone calls like crazy. Even though many of us did this the past year, more of us need to get involved.

    If conservatives think we've been giving them hell so far, they have no frickin idea. Their heads would explode if we acted like them. Yet, it seems to work. So, lets start giving the far-right what they've been dishing out to us. We don't have to lie like them, but we can do everything else. Come up with some short, memorable and emotional talking points, and repeat them over and over. Explain little, just repeat talking points. Hammer away. Admit no fault. Hammer again. We've got the facts behind us if anyone decides to actually look them up.

    This will be hard for liberals to digest. I understand, this goes against our grain, but it's time for us to stop being so passive. It's time to be aggressive. It's time to aggressively spread our ideas and attack the lies.

    We need to get a lot louder and our message much simpler, even if it leaves out details. It's clear the majority of the voting public can't take, nor really cares for, lengthy explanations. Don't try to convince voters, just repeat until they believe. If we would have hammered home the importance of the recall this past year, Wisconsin would probably have a Governor Barrett today.

    I'll start by calling Scott Walker a dictator, though I'm sure I'm not the first, because that's exactly what Walker is. Instead of doing the difficult and democratic job of negotiating with Wisconsin's workers (teachers, janitors, garbage collectors, etc.), Walker stripped their rights and dictated their working conditions and benefits in order to give tax breaks to corporations instead of taxing them appropriately. Wisconsin's workers improve all of our lives, and by screwing them, we screw ourselves.

    Here's some suggestions for talking points:
    • Scott Walker is a dictator over Wisconsin's workers (teachers, janitors, garbage collectors, etc.)
    • Unions are essential for the economy: The smaller unions are, the less money you make
    • Collective bargaining rights are rights: the right to assemble and freedom of speech
    • We must invest in our children not big corporations. Teachers must get paid more and schools need more money.
    • Lower our taxes, not corporations and the rich who already pay less taxes and are doing very well
    • Taxing the rich more improves the economy: See the last 80 years, there's no evidence for the Tea Party's old Herbert Hoover idea that put us in the Great Depression
    • Corporations and the super rich control Republicans, and their only concern is their prosperity
    • All men and women are created equal, including minorities and LGBT. Only tired old bigots refuse to support equal pay for equal work legislation or gay marriage. Archaic religious views have no weight in American law.
    • There is no voter fraud, but Walker or anyone else can add thousands of votes in seconds (election fraud)

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Wisconsin: Scott Walker's "Laboratory for Conservative Ideas"

    What's next for Wisconsin now that Scott Walker survived his recall election?

    Out-of-state corporate and rich donors own Scott Walker now that they gave him ~66% of his $30.5 million to hoodwink the state, not to mention the more than $16 million spent by outside pro-Walker groups. And these numbers are likely to increase as the final tallies are made. Even though Walker lost his party's control of the State Senate and didn't gain many votes for his rights stripping and unlimited campaign financing, receiving nearly the same percentage of votes as he did in 2010, we know Walker will act like he got a mandate.

    We should be proud of what we were able to accomplish against such odds. Walker didn't receive the mandate that he wanted with all of his money, and by losing a majority in the State Senate with recalls this past year, we were able to slow Walker's reddening of Wisconsin. However, Walker won't stop now.

    Dan Bice from the Journal Sentinel told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC after the election that Walker will make "Wisconsin, as he has already, a laboratory for conservative ideas." This is what Walker wants to do, and what his corporate and super rich donors like Diane Hendricks (who pays $0 state taxes) want him to do. And now, Walker is owned by these few and has little to fear from Wisconsin.

    Now that Walker has significantly reduced the unions, there'll be far less funding for any progressive candidates. This was the far-right's goal, as explained by Scott Fitzgerald last year. Unions are the only special interests that share the same interests as large swaths of people, because they're democratic organizations. Unions are just groups of people working together for their collective interest. Businesses are controlled by an individual or very small group of people but with the finances of far more. The interests of business often don't align with the overall interest of a community, but unions, being part of the community, often have interests aligned with the community.

    The unions have far less funding just a year after Walker stripped their rights, and they'll have even less now that their rights won't be restored any time soon. They couldn't come close to competing with Walker's corporate money in the recall election, even though their existence depended upon it. This means unions, the only significant source of money for Democrats, won't be able to provide funding for Democrats to compete with Republicans in Wisconsin. Republicans will forever have the money advantage as long as the Democrats support union rights and the Republicans don't.

    The only other large source of funding for politicians besides unions are businesses and the rich. Democrats will have to choose one of two things: small people-funded campaigns or get funding from businesses and the rich as well. We saw from the recall election that small people-funded campaigns aren't easy. So, many Democrats will begin seeking more support from corporations or perpetually lose. We've basically ensured the corporate control of our government.

    So, what might our new out-of-state-controlled laboratory of far-right ideas cook up?

    Walker refused to say if he would sign Right-to-Work legislation in the final debate when Tom Barrett guaranteed that he would. Diane Hendricks, Walker's biggest donor, asked for it last year on video, and Walker replied with his plan to divide-and-conquer beginning with the rights of public workers. Therefore, we can only conclude that this Tea Party wish is high on his list, even though he didn't campaign on it. Wisconsin can say good-bye to good paying jobs, and say hello to your new corporate dictators.

    Right-to-Work would nearly ensure Walker's reelection in 2014 by gutting all significant funding for a Democratic challenger. It would almost certainly give Walker control of the entire legislature as well.

    Wisconsin is still suffering from a budget deficit. Just like Right-to-Work, Walker has refused to deny that he would sign legislation like Michigan's financial martial law. It wouldn't be beyond Walker to spin another crisis requiring "bold" action like that law.

    Walker hired a deer czar who's primary accomplishments involve privatizing deer hunting. A new private deer hunting industry would be a great way for Walker to push his far-right ideals and repay his rich donors. Get ready to pay hundreds if not thousands to hunt. It's what you voted for, even if Walker didn't say he would do it. That's the way Walker operates. While not nearly as likely as Right-to-Work, it's far from an impossibility.

    Walker will surely continue to reduce funding to public education in pursuit of privatization. Expect up to a 30% slash in teacher base pay, something Walker can do without any new legislation. Walker has shown he takes the easy way out, and he won't seek legislation through the now Democratically-controlled State Senate to fix the budget this year.

    With the continued bleeding of jobs, Walker may try to "stimulate" the economy again by giving more tax breaks to corporations and increasing our taxes by reducing tax cuts/credits or increasing government fees.

    The only thing standing in Walker's way is the Democratic majority in the State Senate, and that may not be easy to hold without any significant source of money. The middle class doesn't stand a chance against the rich in a war with money.

    Unfortunately, it seems our only way to stop the corporate takeover of our government is to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that negates the Citizens United ruling. People clearly don't realize when they are voting for politicians primarily supported by out-of-state interests, probably because those interests are able to frame the debate. We *could* get behind a few nationwide PACs setup to compete with corporate donations, especially if people donate what they were paying in union dues to the PACs. It's simply very difficult for candidates primarily supported by middle class grassroots to compete with candidates primarily supported by big business and the rich.

    Wisconsin Was Hoodwinked by Out-of-State Money

    This is a really sad graph.

    Walker with his unlimited campaign fundraising and outside groups spent more than $36 million of out-of-state money defending him in the recall election, while Barrett and unions spent about $10 million in total. Nearly all of Tom Barrett's money came from Wisconsin donors, but Barrett didn't win. Walker's cash advantage is clearly what gave him the win, and the Senate recalls are evidence. Before Barrett announced his candidacy, Walker and pro-Walker groups were running anti-Barrett attack ads. And before that, they were running pro-Walker ads with lies such as positive job creation before Walker ever cooked up his numbers. Walker was able to frame the debate before it even began, and there are so many lies covering up what's been done, it's nearly impossible for voters to keep up.

    Voters are confused. Just listen to Wisconsin right-wing talk radio or talk to your friend who voted for Walker. They rarely have their facts straight and often contradict themselves when they're simply explaining their view to a sympathetic host. Even Barrett supporters believe some of these lies, because many are complicated and convoluted, making it difficult for anyone to discern fact from fiction.

    We're all used to spin and the occasional lie, but the far-right has redefined lies as spin. There's simply no comparison between Democratic spin and Republican spin, and the media often doesn't clarify the facts, instead simply regurgitating each side's talking points. So, most of Wisconsin still thinks the Republican party is a fairly reputable group of people, and voters aren't expecting everything (or almost everything) from one party to be a lie.

    First, the far-right got people to believe that a recall is only meant for when a politician commits a crime. The exit polls showed over 60% of voters believed no one should be recalled unless they commit a crime. However, recalls were created in order to hold politicians accountable to the public, no matter what that reason may be. There is no stipulation in the Wisconsin Constitution regarding the motivation behind a recall. The number of required signatures to get a recall and the subsequent recall election ensure there are no frivolous recalls and politicians aren't removed from office unless the majority believes he should.

    That was the fundamental right that we never fully explained to the voters of Wisconsin. The constitutional right to recall a Wisconsin politician for whatever reason we deem necessary, if we get enough other concerned citizens to agree. A recall has nothing to do with criminal acts. If our governor commits a criminal act, it shouldn't take a recall to remove him from office. The exit polls also showed that many who voted for Walker plan to vote for Obama in November. If we had fully explained the recall to Wisconsin voters, many of those voters may not have voted for Walker in protest of the recall, and Tom Barrett would very likely have won.

    Instead of fully explaining the significance of this recall and the right of a recall and hammering it home, we had to focus on the many lies that we thought were far more important. Lies like unverified jobs, balanced budget, decreased spending, stripping rights saves money, etc. were the focus of our efforts, not the recall itself. The right of a recall and the significance of this one seemed so clear (tens of thousands of protesters don't assemble around the Capitol everyday), that I didn't realize it was that misunderstood. Putting more effort into explaining a recall instead of repeated busting of the same myths may have provided more return on investment.

    However, the money for immersing Wisconsinites in ads was given mostly to Scott Walker, and the Republican Senators up for recall over the past year received far less. Where there wasn't a significant imbalance of money or an over abundance of conservatives, the recalled Republican senator was removed from office. Three Republican senators were removed, and the Democrats gained a majority in the State Senate. The Senate recalls showed that money really matters in a tight race, and that's what saved Walker.

    Walker gained about 1% more than he had in the 2010 election, but he spent more than double Barrett. How do you think the election would have turned out if Barrett had the same amount of money as Walker?

    Over time, more of Wisconsin will learn of Walker's lies. We'll learn that Walker's jobs numbers contain errors. Walker had nothing to fear, the error will be called a bureaucratic mistake, and he can't be recalled again. Walker will also confirm that he is under investigation by the FBI as now widely reported. The budget deficit will rear its ugly head sooner than later, and more poor and middle class people will realize they are paying more in taxes. It's just very unfortunate that out-of-state money prevented more from learning these things before the recall election.

    Democrats Gain Majority in Wisconsin Senate

    While Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker survived his recall, the Democrats gained a majority in the Wisconsin Senate with John Lehman defeating incumbent Republican Van Wangaard. So, though the recall effort didn't achieve its goal of removing Walker, it did achieve its goal of removing the Republican majority in the State Senate. One out of two is pretty good considering the recall effort was outspent 7-to-1.

    In fact, it's pretty darn good, because Walker doesn't write legislation, he just signs it. With control of the Senate, we may actually be able to do more than we could with the governorship but not control of the Senate. Walker may not have lost his job, but he lost his party's control of the State Senate.

    Hopefully, now we can get some compromise out of the far-right out-of-state controlled Republicans.

    Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller said,
    “Tonight, Wisconsinites across the 21st Senate District elected a new State Senator," Miller said in a statement. "By electing a Democratic Senate, the people of Wisconsin have opened the door to responsible dialogue and if needed provide a bulwark against continued political extremism, and restored checks and balances to the Wisconsin Legislature. I look forward to working again with Senator-elect Lehman in the State Senate in the coming months.”

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Milwaukee Runs Out of Ballots and Forms With Voters Waiting In Line

    The polls closed over an hour ago in the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Twitter is a frenzy with people still waiting to vote in Milwaukee and Madison. The Journal Sentinel is reporting that some polling precincts have run out and are running out of ballots and forms while people are still waiting in line to vote.

    Reporters called the race with about 20% reporting, and some in line left without voting. The Government Accountability Board has confirmed it, "We hear some news media in the Milwaukee area have been interviewing voters who are still waiting in line to vote at some polling places." This could amount to election tampering, and we all know about the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin. GAB director Kevin Kennedy called it "illegal and totally inappropriate."

    If you're waiting in line to vote, DON'T LEAVE. This election could turn!

    Barrett is not conceding while people are still voting.

    A Special Thank You From Tom Barrett

    From @Barrett4WI Here is a special graphic we made as a thank you to all of our supporters who got out the vote today:

    Wisconsin Recall Election Exit Polls Show a 50/50 Split

    According to Craig Gilbert at the Journal Sentinel, exit polls show the race is much closer than pre-election polls, a 50/50 even split.
    "Tuesday’s exit polls depict a much closer recall race – 50% to 50% -- between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett than pre-election polls did."
    This will be a very close election that may come down to a few hundred votes. It looks like we'll be in for a long night or more.

    Live Wisconsin Governor Recall Election Results

    Many organizations have live recall election results between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett as well as the other recall elections.

    The Journal Sentinel has a nice page with county map for the governor race here and for the rest of the races here.

    The Huffington Post has an awesome interactive map here.

    The results with 1% in are way too close to call with Mahlon Mitchell leading with 62% and Walker leading with 54%.

    Update: 9:36pm Twitter is a frenzy with people who are still in line to vote in Milwaukee and Madison. Milwaukee has run out of ballots and forms in some places. There's also accounts of reporters telling some people waiting in line that Walker had won and those voters left without voting, and the Government Accountability Board has confirmed it, "We hear some news media in the Milwaukee area have been interviewing voters who are still waiting in line to vote at some polling places." GAB director Kevin Kennedy called it "illegal and totally inappropriate."

    If you're waiting in line to vote, DON'T LEAVE. This election could turn!

    Barrett is not conceding while people are still voting.

    Conservatives Flooding Polls in Milwaukee Suburbs for Walker

    WTMJ 620 has been reporting radically high turnout throughout the conservative Milwaukee suburbs, including the stronghold Waukesha County. Many conservative callers tell how they brought a new voter. It was the lack of turnout within Milwaukee and the very high turnout in the suburbs that won the Wisconsin governorship for Scott Walker in 2010.

    Please make sure you get everyone you can to the polls. We can't let the rich in the Milwaukee suburbs take this historic day away from us!

    WHBY 1150 is reporting very high turnout, "75 percent-ish," in the Fox Valley, another heavily conservative area.

    Don't get down by long lines, and most of all DON'T leave without voting! The lines are moving much more quickly than usual because most areas in Wisconsin only have 2 races and the rest have 3, much less than normal elections. You only need a bill with your name and current address to register to vote. If you're registered, you just need yourself. Polling place lookup and other information can be found on

    We could easily end up with a Governor Kleefisch if we don't recall Walker.

    From @unitedwisconsin: If you were turned away in Deerfield, GO BACK. The Government Accountability Board has intervened.

    From @leftpalm: Turned away from COA GoldenCenter @ 2320 W Burleigh, #Milwaukee 4no ID? Goback. #ACLU helping.

    If you have any problems at the polls, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    With Scott Walker Target in John Doe, a Governor Kleefisch Becomes Much More Likely

    With Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker a target of the FBI John Doe investigation, it's becoming more and more likely that Walker will be charged with campaign finance or election fraud. If Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch survive the recall and Walker resigns over Walkergate, we'll have a Governor Rebecca Kleefisch on our hands and Wisconsin will really be in trouble.

    We knew that Walker was either breaking the law, or he's been lying to us and he's under investigation. It's much more likely that he's under investigation by the FBI in their John Doe probe, and the reporting by David Shuster confirmed it. Scott Walker is John Doe.
    "According to government lawyers familiar with a Milwaukee criminal corruption probe, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now a 'target' of the investigation."
    With so many close associates charged, a secret email network operating feet from his office, Walker's secrecy and refusal to release any information that could exonerate him, there's a good chance Walker was aware of the corruption, if not involved. And Walker doesn't seem very confident in the evidence in his favor. Since Walker is under investigation, it's very likely he'll be indicted and resign, especially in an investigation that has already resulted in more than a handful of closely-associated suspected felons, two convictions, and thirteen grants of immunity. The FBI doesn't investigate just anyone, which is why Walker hasn't been truthful about his involvement in the investigation and his criminal defense fund.

    Rebecca Kleefisch will be far worse for Wisconsin than Scott Walker. She's in bed with ALEC, just as ideologically stubborn and even further to the right. Kleefisch would eliminate embryonic stem cell research in Wisconsin, a huge financial driver and achievement of this state. Kleefisch is anti-abortion in all cases, even rape and incest, and she pushed heavily for the abstinence-only bill. She also believes Rick Santorum's "man-on-dog" theory that gay marriage is equivalent to people marrying animals.

    Kleefisch's lack of professionalism and intellect is appalling. Her YouTube channel is so hilarious and unbelievable that she named it RebeccaForReal, and her husband is "the man who votes three times."

    If we don't remove Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin could likely and very easily end up with a Governor Kleefisch and some really idiotic and damaging laws. If Walker survives the recall, no matter by how many votes, you know he'll be championing his "mandate." Kleefisch will feel empowered by the same "mandate" if Walker resigns his office to her.

    But there's just no way, unless everything really comes down to a few votes, that we elect Mahlon Mitchell but not Tom Barrett. So, we must ensure anyone who stands with Wisconsin or who doesn't want the possibility of a Governor Kleefisch gets out to vote. We'll likely end up with a Governor Kleefisch if we don't remove Walker.

    The far-right will win whether Walker is indicted or not, as long as Walker survives the recall, and life under a Governor Kleefisch will be far worse.

    What Has Tom Barrett Done for Milwaukee?

    Most of us know what Walker has done for Wisconsin, but what has Tom Barrett done for Milwaukee?

    Scott Walker wants to blame the bad economy on the previous governor, but Tom Barrett had to deal with the same recession and Walker wants you to forget that when he trots out the change in jobs since Barrett became Mayor of Milwaukee following the 2004 election. The recession caused by the mortgage crisis began just before his second term. Comparing the change in jobs during Barrett's term to the change in jobs during Walker's term is disingenuous.

    Barrett couldn't control the stock market or the mortgage industry that caused the significant job loss in Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin, but he could do things to mitigate the crisis in Milwaukee. Using Walker's unverified numbers in which he says Wisconsin created 23,000 jobs, Milwaukee created 4,400 jobs in the same time period. Of course, using the verified numbers, nearly all of Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, lost jobs.

    Barrett has been sharply focused on jobs and the economy. Barrett co-founded and co-chairs the Milwaukee 7 Regional Economic Development Group which has brought new factories to Milwaukee that create green energy products from windmills to solar panels. Working with Republicans and Democrats in the M7, Barrett has created nearly 4,000 new jobs in Menomonee Valley, revitalizing the area.

    Intertwining his other focus, education, Barrett put high school students into the workforce to prepare them for jobs right out of high school through his Earn & Learn initiative. The innovative program, if implemented across the country, could fill the void in skilled labor and is the primary way (education) to decrease the unemployment rate given the millions of unfilled skilled jobs.

    Barrett also dealt with the biggest budget cuts to the city in history, from Walker. But instead of dividing and conquering various factions within the city, Barrett dealt with the significant loss of money with shared sacrifice, shared responsibility, and without taking away anyone's rights.

    Barrett strongly decried Walker when he stole money from mortgage fraud victims, most of which reside in Milwaukee, to help offset Walker's budget deficit.

    Another focus for Barrett is crime, particularly violent crime of which Barrett has been a victim of. Barrett started an initiative in Milwaukee to try to reduce the significant amount of violent crime that Milwaukee has suffered long before Barrett became mayor. Milwaukee has seen a sharp decline in homicide rates with Barrett's initiative.

    Tom Barrett was also a lead proponent of Bill Clinton's crime bill which reduced crime for 8 consecutive years, the first in U. S. history of that length.

    Tom Barrett solves problems through cooperation to find the best solutions, not by trying to divide and conquer people.

    Scott Walker Recall Down to One Vote

    A Democratic consultant told Ed Schultz, who is live from the Capitol, tonight on MSNBC that Tom Barrett's polls show the recall election will come down to "one vote, not one percent."

    This is amazing given the fact that Barrett and Wisconsin-valued groups have been outspent 7½ to 1 by Walker and his out-of-state supporters.

    Get everyone you can out to vote tomorrow and help convince those on the fence (or close to it) to vote for Tom Barrett.

    Wisconsin needs you now more than it has ever needed you before.

    Tom Barrett, the Selfless Politician

    You're walking home from an event with your family, and suddenly you hear a woman yelling, and you see the woman and a young man arguing fiercely. Instead of ignoring the woman's cries for help, you tell your family to stay back and you approach the man.

    How many people do you know that would stop to confront the man?

    You try to calm the man down, but his anger intensifies, and now he's directing it at you in the form of a gun. At this point, you realize the most prudent course of action is to call the police. But as soon as you reach for your cell phone, the man punches you in the stomach and begins beating you with a pipe.

    This is quite a selfless act to help a stranger under physical threat. Of course, you're sacrificing your time. You have to stop your conversation with your family and delay your arrival home. For some people, that isn't an option they'd entertain, considering it a waste of time.

    You're also sacrificing your security by intervening in the situation. The man is clearly enraged, and you know nothing about him or what he might be carrying. Your family, though at a distance, is also under more risk. You don't find out until it's too late that the man is carrying a gun and a pipe.

    Now, how many politicians do you know that would stop to confront the man?

    Tom Barrett did just that outside of the State Fair in 2009. Barrett ended up lying in a pool of his own blood. He suffered several lacerations on his head requiring reconstructive surgery, broken teeth, and a broken hand with permanent damage. The gruesome photos are easily found through the Google. Tom Barrett sacrificed himself to help a woman he didn't know, and he saved her.

    There are several politicians who I highly regard, but who I don't believe are selfless enough to confront the man.

    Why does this matter? Because it tells you something about a person that is very difficult if not impossible to get from words. Tom Barrett cares about other people. Really cares about other people. He is willing to sacrifice himself and things he cares about in order to help a stranger in trouble. Though this doesn't translate directly into policy, it shows what Barrett cares about at his core and that he truly believes one life isn't more important than another. When Barrett makes critical decisions, we know he isn't considering just his interests. Few times is such clear evidence about a person available.

    Would Scott Walker, who ran through underground tunnels during the nonviolent protests last year, sacrifice himself and potentially his family to save a woman? Non-hypothetically, do we know that Walker considers interests besides his own when he makes critical decisions?

    Wisconsin is in better hands with Tom Barrett than Scott Walker.

    Vote for your economic interests and your neighbors'. Vote for Tom Barrett tomorrow June 5th.

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Scott Walker Wants You to Forget, We Must Never Forget

    You must see these two wonderful motivating videos by We Are Wisconsin.

    Scott Walker divided us like never before, and he wants us to forget what he did to end up in this recall.

    All our work.
    All our effort.
    It comes down to one day.

    Tom Barrett will unite Wisconsin again.

    But Scott Walker says you won't vote. He thinks you'll stay home.

    Wisconsin needs you like it's never needed you before.

    Vote for your economic interests and your neighbors'. Vote for Tom Barrett on June 5th.

    Analysis of Walker's Obfuscation and Barrett's Success in Final Recall Debate

    The short election campaign for Tom Barrett is nearing its end now that the second of two debates are complete. I would first like to say that the right-leaning Mike Gousha did a fantastic job of moderating the debate last night. Gousha sure didn't forget about the follow-up question, and he elegantly danced from left to right in a nonpartisan fashion. It was a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Mike Gousha!

    It's really too bad there were only two debates. Barrett has far exceeded my expectations, knocking down nearly every one of Walker's dubious claims with passionate but calm and simple reasoning. Thank you, Tom Barrett, for being the candidate this time that we knew you could be in 2010.

    You can watch the full video online at WISN.

    Clearing the Air

    Nearly all of the questions that I felt were critical were asked either by Mike Gousha or Tom Barrett, but Scott Walker, the "Rock Star of the Tea Party," continued to obfuscate everything with his thoroughly rehearsed lines.

    Walker continued to say that stripping collective bargaining rights saved money, but this is simply not true. Walker even admitted it didn't save money under oath in front of Congress last year. The same savings would have been reached had Walker negotiated with the unions, because, as Barrett mentioned, the unions conceded to massive cuts to their pay and benefits Walker asked for as long as they could keep their rights. But since Walker wanted to strip their rights, he did it even though he didn't need to.

    Taxes did not go down for everyone, just the average, and that's only real estate taxes with an average decrease of only 0.4%. Taxes went down for the very rich, many of whom now don't pay any taxes. However, many poor and middle class are receiving less from the government, in effect increasing their taxes. In fact, the Homestead Credit was cut, which is a tax increase on the poor and middle class. And we can't forget about increased tuition costs for Wisconsin technical colleges and universities. It's simply disingenuous to say that Walker saved the average Wisconsin taxpayer money, because it's not true.

    Walker actually increased spending beyond the Doyle administration, though less services are now being provided.

    As Barrett pointed out, since 70% of Wisconsin schools had to fire teachers, the tools were clearly not enough to make up for Walker's historically massive cuts to education. Our class room sizes are now the largest they've been since 1995. Talk about moving backward. It simple doesn't add up when you cut funds by the most in Wisconsin history, schools will suffer. We need to pay teachers more, not less, and we need to equip our students with the tools and books necessary for a proper education. That simply can't be done with the funds Walker has appropriated to our public schools.

    Unions are not and can not be dictators of anything, contrary to Walker's claims. Unions bargain, as in collective bargaining. The definition of bargain excludes any ability to dictate anything. If Walker wanted to make real change the democratic way, he would have negotiated with the unions to achieve Wisconsin's goals. There was simply no need to strip their rights to accomplish Wisconsin's goals, in this case, balancing the budget. The power was already in the hands of the taxpayers to balance our budget before Walker took office, but by stripping their rights, Walker made himself a dictator.

    Barrett is not the "union's candidate." That was clearly Kathleen Falk. Barrett said he supports our citizen's right to collectively bargain, but he won't agree to their every whim. He'll do the tough job of actually negotiating to accomplish goals.

    The reason that collective bargaining isn't the only thing that pro-Wisconsin people decry Walker for is because Walker has done so much more damage since, not because the reforms are working. Official verified statistics have shown this consistently for over a year. If you want to use Walker's unverified numbers, we're still dead last in the nation and far from his promised 250,000 jobs.

    After the debate, Tom Barrett was finally able to fully clarify the issue with Walker's numbers to a WISN reporter. Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics told PolitiScoop that they have not verified Walker's numbers yet. The Bureau told Walker that they "confirmed the methods used" not verified the numbers saying, "...we would not have confirmed the numbers yet."

    Critical Obfuscation

    When asked about his "divide and conquer" plan, Walker blatantly lied. The "powerful special interests" Walker supposedly wanted to divide and conquer are not the real powerful special interests. All you have to do is look at the $25 million Walker has and who he got it from and compare that to Barrett's $1 million. The powerful special interests are clearly behind Walker, and most are from out-of-state.

    A further example of Walker's intent was his discussion with the faux-Koch in which he said he "dropped the bomb." A governor doesn't drop bombs to ethically balance budgets, especially budgets as close to black as it was. We weren't broke, which Walker's increase in spending is clear proof of.

    A third example of Walker's intent is his refusal to say whether he would veto a Right-to-Work bill. When Barrett said that Walker would sign a Right-to-Work bill, Walker made no attempt to deny it. That's a very clear answer. Walker wants to rid Wisconsin of unions.

    As Barrett said, not giving billions in tax breaks to corporations that aren't linked to job creation would have been a good start to solving the budget deficit without resorting to stripping citizen's rights. Those tax breaks were a complete waste of our tax money, which we must pay to make up for, particularly with Walker's increased spending. Big corporations and the very rich that pay little or no taxes love Scott Walker.

    Who's funding Walker's $160,000+ criminal defense fund? Walker refused to say. Instead, Walker continued spreading the lie that he started the investigation as if he's simply been cooperating. In fact, Walker "stone-walled" the investigation. Walker provided a flaky attempt to explain himself, but if Walker wasn't able to get the information, why would someone be left with the impression they were stone-walled?

    Walker won't release his emails, even though he's been told he can. He continued to hide behind the notion that he can't talk about the investigation. However, as Gousha stated, unless Walker is under investigation, there's nothing preventing him from talking about his own involvement. Walker refuses to clear the air with his emails, because he clearly can't. I don't know how one can come to any other conclusion at this point.

    We Can Remove Walker

    Just think of what we've been able to accomplish. Down financially $25 million to $1 million in any other election, we wouldn't stand a chance. Instead, the election has been a statistical tie from the beginning. It's clear that people in Wisconsin can see through Walker's lies.

    We can remove Scott Walker on June 5th. Lets make it happen.