Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rob Richie: electoral reform bully!

Rob Richie must be getting desperate - he's attacking NC Verified Voting's Joyce McCloy again, all but calling Joyce McCloy a liar in his latest IRV FactCheck blog. Why does he feel the need to create a whole new blog to misrepresent IRV as beneficial instead of using the FairVote blog of the group he founded and continues to be the paid Executive Director I don't know.

Some folks in the verified voting movement suggest that Rob and the rest of the FairyTaleVote crew had to set up IRV Factcheck as a astro-turf blog hiding the connection to FairVote means that Rob and the merry band at FairVote et alia are feeling a little defensive. Hey - you'd be feeling defensive after so many losses to real grassroots groups like RangeVoting, NC Verified and other groups that oppose IRV on verified voting grounds.

But I do know that this is a new low even for IRV advocates like ol' Rob Richie. Rob is starting to reminds me of bullies I faced up to on the playgrounds of my youth. The only thing you can do to a bully is face up to them and call them out when they say stuff like Rob is saying now.

Let's look at ol' Rob's BS paragraph by paragraph:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Joyce McCloy and McCarthyism: Her Latest Distortions

NC Voter's Joyce McCloy is at it again. It's fine to be against instant runoff voting, but Ms. McCloy unfortunately seems ready to oppose it in a matter I associate with Joseph McCarthy -- distortions, innuendo and even outright lies, as detailed earlier this week.

It's hard to pick a "lowlight" from her litany of attacks on us and other backers of instant runoff voting, but I suspect it was her effort in the wake of verified voting champion John Gideon's death last year to spread the allegation among his friends that I was seeking to use his death to promote instant runoff voting. I received tearful communications asking me how I could do this, given his neutrality on the subject when in fact my blog post featuring a tribute to him was entirely focused on a subject he and I regularly had discussed at our conferences he attended and by email: public ownership of voting equipment.

Rob - you posted a obit to John Gideon where you all but claimed he was was calling for IRV as a electoral reform, when you know perfectly well - because Joyce and others have provided proof - that John Gideon didn't want to push IRV until we had a way to count 100% of the first column votes accurately 100% of the time. John knew that IRV was much more complicated than single column voting, and that it would be a serious mistake to push for IRV at this time.

You mentioned IRV in the obit (which was later changed) so please do not claim that your obit was entirely focused on public ownership of voting equipment. If you had not manipulated John's opinion of IRV in your obit - why did you have to post an disclaimer at a later date?

From your first posting at

With such limited competition, it's easy for these companies to shake money out of state governments via unscrupulous means: They can stop producing, and stop servicing, certain models artificially early, compelling states to buy new ones. They have reason to meet just the bare-bones requirements of contracts and limit the plasticity of their hardware so that they can force upgrades on states that want to reform their voting systems — making it difficult to implement innovative voting methods like instant runoff voting (IRV). (The firms also may have reason to stymie IRV because more elections means more business.)
You later posted a note on April 29, 2009:

(Note added by author on April 29: Although FairVote promotes a range of electoral reforms, we are particularly well-known for our advocacy of ranked voting systems, particularly instant runoff voting. I've heard that some readers thought I was capitalizing on this tragedy to suggest that John Gideon was an ally on instant runoff voting

To be clear, John liked the idea of IRV, but believed that advocates should not push for implementation before certified equipment was ready to implement it. But this article is not about IRV. It's about another subject that John and I had several email exchanges about -- kicking private vendors out of our elections and having a publicly owned process. We both liked how Oklahoma did that years ago with its optical can equipment and New York with its equipment.

I apologize to anyone offended by this piece. I knew John a little from his coming to conferences we organized and from several email exchanges, but I did not know him in the way that so many leaders in the election integrity struggle did. I do think he might have liked the idea of a Gideon Initiative to pursue publicly owned election administration, but at this point I'm only raising the idea as part of my effort to salute his dedication.

The main problem people who knew John had with your obit was that you work IRV into every freaking thing you write about. You used your first article on John to push IRV, and then when his friends objected, you used your apology to push IRV some more. Do you include a plug for IRV when you write a note to your kid's teacher?

You are really turning into a "one-trick" pony Rob. If you fought for voter owned elections and paper ballots in your own home state of Maryland one tenth as hard as you do for IRV all over the country, Maryland would have accountable voting. But Maryland has barely made a dent in their election accountability. So why don't you get your own house in order Rob before you go sticking your nose elsewhere?
Now in a post at several of her blogs she is distorting a comment on a news article by FairVote's board chair Krist Novoselic where he was defending IRV against typical over-the-top attacks from Ms. McCloy. The context of Krist's comment was that reformers have a lot to do in different areas of the electoral process, but in no way was he suggesting that seeking secure elections wasn't important. But once again I've already heard from some of our reform allies concerned that we don't take issues like manual audits and transparent elections seriously.
Rob - you fail to understand that Joyce was responding to an assertion by Mr. Novoselic that there was some outright vote fraud in IRV elections, when Joyce made no such assertion. What Joyce and I and others have claimed is that IRV is so complex to count that most auditing procedures are useless - and that there is no way to audit only a percentage of the votes to see if they are counted correctly because, with the additional rankings, the whole thing becomes so complex that the only real meaningful audit would be a full recount. And how does that happen in one race when there might be other IRV races to count?

When you say that IRV elections are as easy to audit and count as single column races, you can't really expect to be taken seriously. I was one of several people who saw the Wake County BOE count an entire single column race in a precinct in 15 minutes. For IRV, it took an entire day to count 3000 votes across 8 precincts - and the procedures were so complicated that the Wake BOE couldn't follow them and screwed up the count. The Board conducted a secret non-public recount of all the ballots the next day which gave a different result - but there was no one present who could observe the secret recount and object and call for another count. Is that verifiable and transparent?

And when you claim that taking digital images of ballots to enable your software to count them somehow makes them easier to audit than a regular paper ballot, that's even more reason not to take you seriously. Come on Rob - which is easier for someone to hack - a digital file on a hard drive or a paper ballot under lock and key and physically sealed in a box? Right there you are condemning people who don't have or want computers from being able to independently verify an IRV election.

What you fail to understand is why verified voting activists feel that IRV undermines election integrity and transparency in election administration. Vote counting procedures should be simple enough that anyone eligible to vote should be able to count the votes on their own and not need to have a graduate degree in math or game theory or a hi-speed computer to know how to do it.

I've seen IRV do just that in my own county - Wake County, NC - where Dr. John Gilbert - the chair of the Wake Board of Elections (and the father-in-law of your paid FairVoteNC staffer Elena Everett) was IRV biggest pusher in my county. Gilbert and the BOE staff set up Elena Everett and DemocracyNC's Bob Hall to practically run IRV for Cary NC - which was not what the IRV pilot law required. So much of what was done with the 2007 IRV pilot in Cary and in Hendersonville was done under the table and off the books by folks either working or volunteering for FairVote and DemocracyNC that I wondered if they didn't have their own desks at the NC State and Wake County Boards of Elections.

After I single-handedly killed IRV in Raleigh in early 2007, your minions worked in secret with municipal leaders from Cary and Hendersonville NC so they would only see and hear from IRV advocates. That's the reason why verified voting advocates got a law passed requiring public hearings for IRV pilots - something that didn't exist before 2009, which IRV advocates fought hard against!

And you are following Elena's example of sinking very low and calling people liars. She called me a liar in the Democracy4NC yahoo newsgroup when I wrote about a PR firm doing pro-bono work on the IRV pilot. When I produced an e-mail from her own father-in-law where he referred to that pro-bono PR firm, she said it made perfect sense to accept that in-kind contribution, but she never apologized for calling me a liar. Was that something I should have brought to the attention of Torrey Dixon (the head of FairVoteNC) or to you as the head of FairVote?

That's of course not true. We were the first national group to propose establishing an affirmative right to vote in the Constitution, highlighting a full range of federal, state and local laws and practices undermining suffrage rights. For years, we have helped lead the call for public interest voting equipment, with open source software and removal of profiteering from elections -- for instance, see this excerpt from a commentary in 2004;
Rob - you are confusing verified voting with other types of electoral reform. Being able to vote isn't the same thing as making sure your vote is recorded and counted properly. And doesn't FairVote profit from election administration?

"Public Interest" voting equipment. Currently voting equipment is suspect, undermining confidence in our elections. The proprietary software and hardware are created by shadowy companies with partisan ties who sell equipment by wining and dining election administrators with little knowledge of voting technology. The government should oversee the development of publicly-owned software and hardware, contracting with the sharpest minds in the private sector. And then that open-source voting equipment should be deployed throughout the nation to ensure that every county -- and every voter -- is using the best equipment.
Define best equipment? Does that mean the most accurate equipment to count single column votes in a verifiable and transparent manner, or the equipment that can best be adapted to whatever form of Instant Runoff Voting/Ranked Choice Voting/Single Transferable Voting that you can sell to civic leaders through your slick snake-oil sales pitch?
We've proposed procedures for auditing ranked choice voting elections and periodically highlight our views in communications to our members, like this November 2009 Innovative Analysis. Here also is a link to our statement on election security and audits overall.
You/your friends/your organization/your friend's organization have proposed some rather Rube Goldberg-esque methods to count the votes using hybridized and largely untested procedures that have not yet been included in the certification procedures for the voting equipment in use in most jurisdictions.

In NC, your minions worked with the State Board of Elections to use a complicated set-up of 4 scanners to run paper ballots through, which each scanner required to be programmed based on the count of the previous scanner. In DRE counties, BOE staffers will have to port the data from the first column count over to an MS Excel spreadsheet where observers won't be able to verify the results.

NC's Public Confidence In Elections Act requires all voting to be subject to random audits and to be verified by hand to eye recounts, with the hand count taking primacy over the machine count in the event the results don't match. What is the process for doing a hand count of IRV on touchscreen voting machines with 300-foot thermal paper trails? Are you going to cut up the paper rolls to do a hand-counted tabulation? What happens if you need some of the records on the thermal paper roll to hand count other IRV elections? What if you need them to be in order of votes cast to detect and fix other problems at the polls?

So tell me Rob - how does it help verified voting if IRV elections are so complicated that you have to advocate the use of outside private companies like True Ballot to use proprietary software, use the wrong counting method (Cambridge instead of the method authorized by the Aspen Council), sort the test votes in the wrong order and then not correct the problem until an outside observer notices it, then have the private company certify the election then destroy the ballot images?
But Ms. McCloy charges that we don't care about secure elections and suggests that our "outside money" is why so many people in her state support instant runoff voting. The fact is that the two staffers we had in NC for parts of 2007-2009 were funded by an in-state foundation in the wake of a new state law establishing an IRV pilot program, and we were in a support role to such influential reform groups as the League of Women Voters NC, Common Cause NC and Democracy NC, all of which continue to support IRV. Other in-state backers include several of the state's leading newspapers, as reflected by recent editorials in the Rocky Mount Telegram, Charlotte Observer, and Southern Pines Pilot -- and so do most voters in the two communities in the state that have had a chance to use IRV.
OK Rob - what was the in-state foundation that funded your two staffers in NC for parts of 2007-2009? Where they your employees or did they work for this foundation? Where do you get ALL your funding from? Don't you make some money from selling IRV solutions to either governments, schools, or businesses?

You weren't just supporting those influential reform groups in NC - you were their partners, and you were getting to them first to use your leverage to get them to support IRV when some of them, like the NC League of Women Voters continued to support paperless DRE touchscreen voting machines even after those machines lost nearly 5,000 votes in Carteret County in the November 2004 general elections?

When I single-handedly took on 4 pro-IRV advocates in front of the Raleigh City Council to argue against using IRV, the Raleigh City Council didn't vote not to use IRV - they were so not interested in IRV that no one wanted to make a motion to consider using it.

So then the coalition of state and county election officials and non-profit IRV advocates decided to work on the Cary Town Council for 6 weeks in total secrecy - denying voters in Cary or Wake County the opportunity to get information on both sides of the IRV issue. It's hard to claim that IRV is a more democratic process when you resort to such anti-democratic means to sell IRV to civic leaders and use tricks to get voters to like IRV.

You join the LWV so that you can have access to their leadership. Isn't Terry B. an officer in the Vermont LWV?

Rob - you know that FairVote was recommending less secure voting methods for IRV in San Francisco back in 2003 and 2004 - it's in writing in your long-winded complaint against the San Francisco BOE because they were going too slow for you. You even had to sue them because they didn't want to listen to you or other IRV/RCV advocates.

And it really doesn't matter if a whole bunch of groups support IRV if it ends up being a turkey. Some of those organizations and media groups have a momentum to them that they can't admit to being wrong about something once they've taken a certain position. People are funny that way.

Before long we'll have more on North Carolina and Ms. McCloy's attacks on the procedures developed by the State Board of Elections for implementing it. For the moment, let me end with the famous quote from Joseph Welch, head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities in the 1950s:

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Rob - perhaps you should look in the mirror and ask yourself how decent of a person you and others in FairVote are. Many people in the voting movement have pointed out many many times how you have distorted or deliberately misrepresented things like how much money IRV saves and how it increases voter turnout, how it ensures a majority win in a single election, how simple it is for voters to understand and for election administrators to implement, how Roberts Rules of Order endorses IRV - the list goes on and on.

And I've seen how your employee Elena Everett called me a liar in public and then never apologized when I provided proof that I was right all along. Another one of your employees - Dianne Russell from Maine - came down to Cary in 2007 to work on the IRV pilot. She admitted in writing to deviating from her BOE-provided voter education instructions in order to provide a more positive outcome for the IRV exit polls which she also conducted - and she admitted to faking an southern accent when interviewing voters. Ms. Russell was working as the Director for IRV America - a part of FairVote - at the time, wasn't she?

So how dare you compare Joyce McCloy to Joe McCarthy when you have two FairVote employees in my state do some less than honorable things which neither they nor you have ever apologized for?

Why not come to NC sometime and make those accusations to our faces? Or are you only able to attack people's character in print - like your buddy Bob Hall from DemocracyNC did when he attacked Joyce McCloy in print in the Winston-Salem Journal article on Sunday, November 4, 2007?

Hey - even better - come down here and call me a liar to my face like Bob Hall did back in January 2007 at the NCDP State Executive Committee meeting in front of Perry Woods and State House member Grier Martin (who were witnesses).

Is name calling and being a bully part of the FairVote Standard Operating Procedures? I don't think Rob Richie would show his face in North Carolina and tell his tall tales about IRV in the same room with Joyce of myself. I doubt he has the guts to do it.

No comments: