Category Archives: California

BREAKING: Legal Action to Halt Diebold System Use in CA

(This is important. I worked for EFF in the 2004 Election, and honestly, there’s simply no way to know the outcome of an election when the vote is trapped in a machine with known security flaws and no paper trail. It’s beyond me why this is a partisan issue. – promoted by jsw)

Thanks to Brad Blog for the heads up:

We’ve hinted of late at upcoming legal actions, in several states, against the use of Diebold voting machines. The BRAD BLOG can now reveal that such a legal action will be filed tomorrow morning in San Francisco’s Superior State Court in response to Secretary of State Bruce McPherson’s recent re-certification of Diebold Electronic Voting Machines in the state. is announcing their intention to file suit, on behalf of several plaintiffs, “aimed at halting the use or purchase of Diebold electronic voting systems” in the state.

The same group recently carried out a similar action in the state of New Mexico, in regard to the use of Sequoia Touch-Screen voting machines there. That suit ultimately led to the ban of use of such machines, and a bill which was recently signed by Gov. Bill Richardson requiring a paper ballot with every vote cast in the state.

Diebold’s optical-scan and touch-screen systems were revealed last December to contain “interpreted code” which is banned by Federal Voting System Standards. It was that “interpreted code” which was exploited in the recent hack of a test election in Leon County, FL where the results of the election were completely flipped without a trace being left behind.

Despite that startling revelation, California’s Sec. of State Bruce McPherson certified the systems anyway in California, after they had previously been decertified in 2004 when Diebold admitted they had used untested and uncertified software patches on their machines in the state.

Diebold has now admitted [PDF] that their voting systems, both optical-scan and touch-screen, contain such “interpreted code.” That, despite the fact that its use is banned at the Federal level. California state law requires that voting systems certified in the state meet those Federal standards. McPherson, apparently, has chosen to blatantly ignore that state law. (We’ll have further details outlining the above allegations very specifically, and in no uncertain terms, in a future post here at BRAD BLOG.)

According to VoterAction’s press release (posted in full below), the legal action is being filed because “Diebold’s TSx touch screen voting system is a severe security risk, and does not accommodate all disabled voters as required by law.”

Sources have told The BRAD BLOG that the action is to encompass many, if not all, of California’s counties. Some 18 of them are currently doing business with Diebold.

The press release goes on to charge that, “The Diebold system is difficult if not impossible to audit or recount, and has been proven vulnerable to malicious tampering in tests and studies. Diebold technology contains ‘interpreted’ code, which is easily hacked, and illegal for voting systems in the State of California.”

Diebold is currently facing litigation in several investor class action lawsuits alleging Securities Fraud Violations such as insider trading and the false manipulation of stock prices by eight current and former company officials.

A press conference will be held to discuss the latest legal action involving Diebold tomorrow morning. The complete Press Release from follows…

March 17, 2006, San Francisco, CA
Martha DiSario, Pacific Communications: (415) 235-1230
Deborah Goodson of Howard Rice: (415) 399-7882

Dolores Huerta Joins California Voters Filing Suit to Halt Use or Purchase of Diebold Electronic Voting Systems in the State

Voter Action to Hold March 21st News Conference, 10:30 -11:30 AM, PST

Lowell Finley, Esq., Counsel for voter plaintiffs, Co-director of Voter Action, and expert on election law, election privatization, and electronic voting machine issues
John Eichhorst, Esq., Co-counsel, Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin
Holly Jacobson, Co-director, Voter Action
Dolores Huerta, Plaintiff, and social activist, co-founder, United Farm Workers
Bernice Kandarian, Plaintiff, and President of the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International

Voter Action,, is a not for profit organization dedicated to providing legal, research and logistical support for grassroots efforts to ensure the integrity of elections by guaranteeing that every citizens vote is recorded and counted as intended. Voter Action led successful litigation in New Mexico to block purchase and use of the types of voting machines that are most prone to error and most vulnerable to tampering, and is now supporting similar efforts in numerous states across the country.

Attorneys Lowell Finley and John Eichhorst, on behalf of more than 20 California voters including Dolores Huerta and Bernice Kandarian, will brief media on a legal action to be filed on Tuesday, March 21, in the Superior Court of the State of California, aimed at halting the use or purchase of Diebold electronic voting systems. Ms. Huerta and Ms. Kandarian will also speak and answer media questions.

Diebold’s TSx touch screen voting system is a severe security risk, and does not accommodate all disabled voters as required by law. The Diebold system is difficult if not impossible to audit or recount, and has been proven vulnerable to malicious tampering in tests and studies. Diebold technology contains “interpreted” code, which is easily hacked, and illegal for voting systems in the State of California.

Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin
Three Embarcadero Center, 10th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111

Dan Walters: Capitol is broken

Well, I find myself agreeing with Dan Walters (it happens occasionally):

If nothing else, the comic opera collapse of the two-month political quest for a plan to improve highways, levees and other strained and deteriorating public facilities should finally convince Californians that their Capitol is a broken institution, endemically incapable of dealing with major policy issues.
Simply put, California’s dizzyingly dense mélange of ideological, geographic, cultural and economic subgroups interacts with a political structure that, in effect, gives every “stakeholder” a virtual veto power over the product. Under those circumstances, there are only two possible outcomes, both of which are bad. Either the product is a monstrosity that accommodates all demands but collapses of its own weight, or there is stalemate and no product at all.(Sac Bee 3/17/06)

Agreed! The fact that every interest can hold up the governing in our state is ridiculous.  It has lead us to the terrible result that we govern by proposition.  It led Arnold Schwarzenegger to work for Prop 10 for after school programs, it led Rob Reiner to work for Prop 82 for universal preschool.  Where does my finger point? Squarely at Prop 13 and its ilk. 

Now, Dan has a different idea.  He’s not concerned with changing the system, he just thinks that everybody should be good and do what’s right.  Uh…yeah…that’s gonna happen:

If there’s any hope of reviving the Capitol’s relevance, its occupants must have enough guts to keep it simple and to heed Nancy Reagan’s advice on drugs to “just say no” to all ancillary demands, no matter what their source may be.

Well, Dan, I’m not sure if your tongue is planted firmly in cheek, but I think we both know that  legislators and interest groups are not going to stop being self-interested.  What we need is a return of the simple majority to budgetary politics.

A Tiny Bond deal perhaps?

The Legislature is back at it again:

Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said the Assembly was to consider placing two measures on the June ballot: a $10.4 billion bond to build schools and upgrade universities, and an undetermined amount to repair the state’s fragile levee system.(AP-Sac Bee)

Well, at least the levees get some attention.  It is a shame that the GOP couldn’t manage its caucus.  The state would have been better off with an investment in its infrastructure.  It is too bad that the GOP can’t put the people of California first.

Also, watch out for deadline hijinks.  It’s really not clear what the actual deadline is.

Chris Clarke on Global Warming

One of my favorite web stops is Chris Clarke’s Creek Running North.  Chris is a great writer, with a finely honed sense of style, beauty and outrage.  He also lives in Northern California, not far from San Francisco.

Yesterday he put up a great post about global warming.  I’ve excerpted some of the California bit here, but you should go read the whole thing.

My totem animal, the Joshua tree, grows iin thick groves at the current northern limit of its range, and if climate changes slowly enough to permit migration of both trees and the moths that pollinate them, we may see Joshua tree forests in Elko. And most people seeing them wouldn’t think them out of place.

But some species are already trapped.  I’d better get into the Yosemite backcountry to commune with Harley’s relatives, the pikas. Already restricted to the high alpine country, intolerant of higher temperatures at lower elevations, they have nowhere to go if their redoubts get too warm.

The thing that galls me most? We could lose them, and the Joshua trees, and the red spruce.

Read the rest of the post, and bookmark Creek Running North.

Will Lethal Injection Live or Die?

I wasn’t going to weigh in on this particular subject.  I figured that killing a person is killing a person.  It doesn’t make much difference how you do it.  Well, as long as we can rule out stoning, dragging behind a car, and some other nasty ways to go.

But, I think I’m beginning to come around on that. By striking down the three drug cocktail that California used, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel has drawn the nation’s attention to the death penalty issue.  That alone would be sufficient to make it noteworthy.  We are the lone Western industrial nation to still carry out executions, yet there is a suprisingly small amount of public debate about the issue.

And now this is getting bigger, far bigger than I expected after the withdrawal of the anesthesiologists:

Fogel appropriately wants assurances that the state’s method of execution — lethal injection — does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The question is whether the three-drug “protocol” used in California and other states sufficiently eliminates pain during an inmate’s execution.

A widely distributed article appearing in the April 2005 issue of the British medical journal Lancet reported on a study by University of Miami researchers that indicated lethal injection may be more painful than the electric chair or the gas chamber. The study, which said inmates in a majority of cases received a lower level of anesthesia than is commonly used in surgery, has sparked widespread debate among medical professionals.

Morales was scheduled to die Tuesday. Fogel had ruled that the state should modify its execution procedure or delay carrying out the death-penalty sentence. The state responded to Fogel’s concerns by choosing one of his approved options: promising to have an anesthesiologist present to make certain that Morales was unconscious while he was being executed. At the 11th hour, anesthesiologists reasonably balked at being involved, fearing they were violating their profession’s ethical standards against doing harm. Their decision has since been backed by the American Medical Association and the California Medical Association.(San Jose Mercury News 2/23/06)

And it looks set to become bigger (on the flip)

California “is legitimately criticized for not doing enough homework on the protocol,” which calls for a three-drug cocktail of a sedative, a paralytic agent and a heart-stopping chemical, said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.

The protocol was first adopted in Oklahoma in 1977, and “states just seem to copy [it] without much scientific backup for what they adopted,” he said.

Scheidegger, whose organization actively defends capital punishment in major court cases, said two events in the last year have given the issue momentum: an article in a medical journal and action by the Supreme Court.
Then, in recent months, the Supreme Court agreed to stay two executions in Florida until it resolved the question of whether death row inmates can bring last-minute civil rights challenges that execution by lethal injection is cruel and unusual.

Those cases are not a direct challenge to Florida’s execution procedure, but the Supreme Court’s action prompted immediate reaction from Gov. Jeb Bush.

Earlier this month, Bush said he would not sign any more execution warrants until the issue was resolved.

“We don’t know why the Supreme Court’s done what it’s done, so the uncertainty probably does create a need to wait,” he said.(LA TImes 2/23/06)

And if Jeb Bush thinks we need to wait, don’t we?  Can we really expect anybody to more gung ho on exections than a Bush?  But, we have him as our Governor.  Governor Schwarzenegger has so far refused to step in to stop the executions until we can determine if this is cruel.

While California’s case is really only symptomatic, it does turn the attention of the nation’s largest state to the issue.  And perhaps that’s one more step towards ending the death penalty.

More on Energy from the Hewlett Foundation

There was an interesting Op-Ed from Hal Harvey of the Hewlett Foundation in today’s Chronicle.  The Hewlett Foundation just released a study of the effect of California’s efforts to reduce energy usage.  The study itself is worth reading, but as a teaser, some grafs from the Op-Ed are on the flip.

Consider California, home to the world’s sixth largest economy. For 25 years, the Golden State has led the nation in programs to save energy; these, in turn, reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to global warming. According to the California Energy Commission, the state’s energy-efficient appliance standards, among the toughest in the country, have led to a 75 percent reduction in the energy required to power refrigerators, much to the delight of consumers. Similarly, new homes built in California use only a quarter of the energy of older homes, thanks to smarter building codes. Renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind have prospered in California, where state tax credits helped drive the price of wind energy down almost 90 percent, which now makes it cheaper, in windy areas, than any alternative. As a consequence, in Colorado, for example, customers who agreed to pay a bit extra for wind-only electricity are instead are now getting rebates.

The Hewlett Foundation recently sponsored a study of the economic consequences of these policies over the past three decades. It tells an amazing story. California now uses half as much energy per capita as the nation as a whole, saving the average household $1,000 each year, with total savings now more than $56 billion. New York households have similarly benefited. Whereas per-capita electricity use across the nation has increased 50 percent in the last 30 years, in New York it has risen only 15 percent, due to the state’s focus on energy conservation, saving billions of dollars. The bottom line here is that saving energy is not only good for the environment, it also saves people money.

Field Poll Megatrends and PPIC Statewide Survey

Field Poll just released a study of three “MegaTrends” in California electoral politics: Latinos, Coast/Inland Divide, and Voting by Mail.  It’s an interesting little study available here

Also, I forgot to send out a link to PPIC’s January 2006 Statewide Survey. It has a lot of good info about the Governor’s budget and other random tidbits about 2006 Election.  Check it out.

The Diebold Controversy

The Diebold machines are still around, languishing away in some basement, but Secretary of State Bruce McPherson is trying to bring them out of mothballs.  Sen. Debra Bowen wrote a diary on dkos about the Diebold controversey:

As many of you know and have already blogged about this weekend, last Friday afternoon, as millions of Californians were preparing for their Presidents’ Day holiday weekend, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson quietly re-certified Diebold electronic voting machines for the 2006 elections.

To rush through this re-certification, the Secretary of State had to go back on his word — twice — and violate federal and state law in the process.  Compounding this travesty is that the re-certification is based solely on the views and recommendations of people on the Secretary’s payroll. 

Quite frankly, there was no reason for the certification of these machines at this point.  For more facts, read Sen. Bowen’s full diary, or I’ve posted more of it on the flip.  At any rate, email SoS McPherson and tell him he’s wrong!

More on the flip (and at Huffington Post)

The Huffington Post story does a good job of getting to the importance of the main issue.  Mainly that California is not so Blue that an election can’t be stolen.  The Governator’s poll numbers are on the rise (up to 40%), so we can’t take the upcoming elections lightly.  We need to be sure of every vote.  Email the SoS.

Sen Bowen does a nice recap of the facts:

So, just to recap the facts here:

  * The Secretary of State’s own rushed secret study points out “serious vulnerabilities… that go beyond what was previously known,” yet the Secretary decided to re-certify the machines.

  * There has been absolutely no opportunity for public comment or review on these latest findings. 

  * The Secretary of State told us he would wait for test results from the federal “Independent Testing Authorities” before acting on Diebold’s request to re-certify its machines.  He didn’t do that.

  * The Secretary of State said any voting machine in California would have to meet all federal laws, rules, and regulations.  These Diebold machines fail that test — especially by using “interpreted code” that is banned by the Election Assistance Commission.

  * The Secretary of State said any voting machine in California would have to meet state law.  These Diebold machines violate state law because they don’t provide an audible “read-back” of the machines’ auditable paper trail for blind and visually-impaired voters.

Valentines Day is about hate

(I meant to post this a few days ago. I think it’s funny, in a sad way. – promoted by SFBrianCL)

Randy Thomason, of the anti-gay marriage proposition group (or as I like to call it:, thinks that Valentines Day has been hijacked by EqualityCalifornia:

From Sonoma to San Diego, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples applied for marriage licenses and were turned down as part of a statewide campaign to shine a spotlight on efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
“Valentine’s Day has been hijacked and that’s wrong,” said Randy Thomasson, who heads the initiative “This is a day about love between a man and a woman. Marriage and Valentine’s Day are both wonderful, good things but they need defense and protection.”(LA Times 2/15/06)

Yes, just like Christmas, Valentine’s Day has been  hijacked.  I always thought that what Valentine’s Day is about is love, pure and simple. I remember in school that we gave out little valentines to everybody.  We didn’t skip one group.  Perhaps Mr. Thmasson should look at our schools for a lesson in Valentines Day and love.

Sexual Predators and Some Other Crazies

( – promoted by SFBrianCL)

We can all agree that sexual predators are bad and that we need to protect children from them.  Assemblyman Mark Leno is working to do that.  His Democratic bill AB 50 has universal support from Democrats and passed the Assembly with 49 yes votes.  However, he had to strip funding provisions because he could not achieve the 2/3 majority required to pass funding measures.  He plans on restoring them after the trip to the Senate:

Leno said he intends to restore the $23 million appropriation once the bill reaches the Senate – $15 million to create local Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Teams and $8 million to add 500 Global Positioning System devices for tracking high-risk sex offenders.(Sac Bee 1/27/06)

The real craziness is on the flip…

The key provisions:

Key provisions in AB 50 include:

* Prohibiting registered sex offenders from school grounds.

* Adding continual sexual abuse of a child to a list of offenses eligible for a life sentence on a first offense.

* Requiring a sentence of life with the possibility of parole for kidnapping with intent to commit various sex offenses.

* Allowing a person who possesses more than 100 items of child pornography to be charged with a felony. Leno said he plans to lower the threshold to 25.(Sac Bee 1/27/06)

But the key part isn’t what’s in the bill, but rather what isn’t in the bill.  The Republicans dropped their support for the bill after deciding  that it wasn’t strong enough.  All but one Republican, Tim Leslie of Placer County, abstained from the vote.  Apparently, they want it their way, or no way.  They would rather leave the loopholes to the law gaping than repair them.  In other words, they would rather pay politics than actually protect our children.

But that’s not even the craziness that I referenced in the title.  That honor belongs to the Republicans who are spreading fear. The SF Bay Times has an article which highlights some of that craziness:

“This is bull—-,” shouted Assembly speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) as he approached Assemblyman Todd Spitzer last week, waving a copy of a commentary in which the Orange County Republican had characterized Leno as “anti-public safety” “pro-criminal” and accused Leno of protecting child molesters and abusers – the Sacramento Bee’s Jim Sanders reported on Monday.
Republican bloggers and radio pundits have, for months, been hammering away at Leno. “What I’m talking about is evil, pure evil,” opined Karen Hanretty communications director for the California Republican Party “Mr. Leno is a danger to society…”
Lesbian legislator Jackie Goldberg said she was targeted by Rep. Sharon  Runner, a Palmdale Republican, in one of many attacks. On a recent radio show she said that Goldberg, who raised her child from birth, “was not a real mother,” Goldberg said.

Vaguely anti-gay? “Not vaguely, honey,” Goldberg said. “It’s more than that. Of course I’m a parent. But I don’t count.”
At that point the Republican minority accused Leno and his committee of being “soft on crime” and “putting the rights of career criminals over those of law-abiding citizens, especially children,” Orange County Republican Assemblyman Spitzer wrote.

Pretty sickening all around.