Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Kentucky Retrograde Reader

Kentucky Strange
Suddenly everything's, well, "different."

The "Burning Question of the Day"
The "news narrative" concerning what happened in Kentucky
 has two fairly credible threads. Neither is particularly reassuring.

Progressives are no longer shocked by the dismally poor performance of the Democratic Party, but events in Kentucky are so wretched that an exception to even those dismal expectations might be made in this case. MeanMesa is a progressive and a registered Democrat -- a progressive first and a registered Democrat second. An overview of the current "state of the nation" would suggest that Democrats should be doing swell, but election results seem to indicate that the "state of the nation" and Democratic Party performance have become permanently detached -- at least symbolically, at the umbilical chord.

Even as conditions continue to deteriorate at a shocking rate, the perpetrators of the catastrophe seem to be gaining more and more political clout. A comforting concession might be found in doubting MeanMesa's fairly well informed expectations with respect to the political outcomes of elections, but the mere scope of readership on this blog offers stark evidence to the contrary. [BTW, thanks, visitors! MeanMesa appreciates every reader -- even the mean ones!

So, standing glumly amid the wreckage of Kentucky while surveying the "junk yard of democracy" which is the typical aftermath of such tea bag political "successes," MeanMesa could usually expect to very comfortably assign blame for the Kentucky catastrophe.

Still, there is a problem -- actually, in fact, probably two problems.

Choice 1: Blaming the Statistics

There is the traditionally accepted, "visible culprit" of dismally low voter turnout. This election was certainly no exception to this road weary explanation. 30.7% of Kentucky's registered voters bothered to show up at the polls [WKYT]. MeanMesa wonders how many of the Kentuckians who will now lose their health insurance were among those voters.

In fact, if this comes to pass -- and the new tea bag lunatic in the Kentucky Governor's mansion vowed to make precisely this legislative action "come to pass" during his campaign -- MeanMesa wonders how many of the newly uninsured Kentuckians will even comprehend why they are in that miserable state.

All of this is comfortably impersonal so long as we are simply discussing insurance policies, but the issue becomes far more sanguine as soon as a frightened parent realizes that taking her child to the doctor is merely the first step of ultimately dealing with a collection agency.

While this may not, at least as the disaster matures, result in a wholesale "de-insurization" of the half million Kentuckians which will lose their current State based Medicaid coverage, it will impose the necessity of returning to the federal "fall back" program after the Governor's strategy terminates what they have now. The fate of Kentuckians who have purchased subsidized private insurance plans may be slightly cloudier but hardly one heralding "anything shiny and bright."

Choice 2: Blaming an Election Conspiracy

Kentucky's post election social media problem.[source fB]
But there is another possibility -- one heralding even darker prospects for our democracy's future: election crimes. And, so far as election crimes go, these would necessarily be classed as very serious election crimes. If the speculation is true, these most recent election crimes in Kentucky would represent far bolder, more egregious criminal acts than similar cases committed elsewhere, all outrageous but with the others, by comparison, manifesting a "milder impulse to violence against the democracy."

Although there are usually a "few grumblings" about election rigging when such inconsistent outcomes surface, in the case of this most recent balloting in Kentucky those "grumblings" have grown much louder. Additionally, a few familiar, really stinky odors seem to be suspiciously drifting across the Commonwealth's lush green hills in the Bluegrass State.

Our nation has adopted a very unsettling complaisance for tolerating such crimes. MeanMesa is watching closely to see if an investigation will lead to any judicial remedy. [This blog has posted some possible solutions to such crimes such as this. MeanMesa - Election Courts and MeanMesa - The Plan To Stop Red State Election Crimes]

Catching Up With the Facts
What exactly happened in Kentucky?

The following is taken directly from DailyKOS reporting. [MeanMesa receives daily election updates from DailyKOS via email. You can enjoy this great, totally free, up to the minute stream of current election information yourselves! To sign up, visit this link: DailyKOS Elections]

Daily Kos Elections

Election Night 2015: Despite running the worst campaign imaginable, Republican businessman Matt Bevin has recaptured the Kentucky governor's mansion for the GOP, defeating Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway. With the entire state reporting, Bevin crushed Conway by a 53-44 margin, while independent Drew Curtis took less than 4 percent. Conway's performance was the worst by a Kentucky Democrat since 1863, and Bevin's victory will make him just the second Republican governor the state's had since 1971.

But given the sharp rightward trend in the Bluegrass State in recent years, Republicans always had an excellent chance to pick up this seat, particularly because popular Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was forced out by term limits. Bevin, however, did everything he could to piss away his chances. A lazy fundraiser with a thin skin, even the Republican Governors Association temporarily abandoned him an effort to whip him into shape with some "tough love." Perhaps it worked, or perhaps Kentucky's long march toward the GOP was just too much for Conway to overcome—and enough to help carry Bevin over the top.

Detractors also criticized Conway for running a weak campaign, and he's often been viewed as too-slick candidate who doesn't connect well with voters. But his failings were never as obvious as those of Bevin, who excelled at pissing off members of his own party in dramatic fashion. Still, the final results were nevertheless at least somewhat surprising, since not a single recent poll had found Bevin with the lead. Was this yet another polling fail, or did Bevin simply surge too late for surveys (the last of which was conducted a week ago) to detect? It's something we'll have to ponder.

Most distressingly, Bevin's win puts Kentucky's lauded Medicaid expansion program (known as Kynect) in grave jeopardy, since Beshear established it by executive order. If Bevin is truly willing to roll back the Medicaid coverage of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, the human cost will be exceptional, and we'll see a vision of the GOP's heartless dystopia more starkly than ever before.

In a small consolation for Kentucky Democrats, they appeared to narrowly hold on in a couple of other statewide offices: attorney general (won by Andy Beshear, son of the outgoing governor) and secretary of state (retained by Alison Lundergan Grimes, who lost last year's Senate race badly). However, Auditor Adam Edelen, who'd been talked up as a possible challenger to GOP Sen. Rand Paul next year, lost his bid for re-election. And whatever worries Republicans had about Paul jeopardizing his Senate seat with his desultory presidential campaign now seem pretty moot.

Billionaires make state elections into "easy pickin's" because even moderate amounts of their overly generous campaign money can overwhelm the local campaign budgets of candidates opposing them. As a result, today, we find oligarch class warlords now controlling an impressive majority of individual state governments. Within these unfortunate states, they basically do whatever they please, and no one can stop them.

Curiously, in these red states -- those suffering under such retrograde legislative environments  --these billionaires seem to be enjoying astonishing "free market" prosperity.

Is Kentucky's Election Commission Headed 
for a Show Down With the Law?
There are curiously few prosecutions for hacking voting machines.
Especially in states as red as the Bluegrass State...

This post would not be complete if we were to completely neglect indulging in the Kentucky "voter conspiracy" currently zinging around on social media. Unlike many of the conspiracies which inhabit FaceBook and the others, this one seems to be strangely substantive. Further, also unlike many of the others, the evidence suggesting its veracity seems to have surfaced more quickly -- and more visibly -- than is normally the case.

Short Current Essays usually avoids delving into the odorous, "prurient depths" of the billionaires' anti-democracy escapades as they conduct their election crimes, but in this case the apparent execution of the scheme was so insultingly amateurish that the results could only be "overlooked" locally in a place like Kentucky. [Remember -- the surreal, sold out "home world" nest of US Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul...]

There are a few really obvious reasons to rig a gubernatorial election. For one the office has the control of a well stuffed check book called the State's General Fund, and for a close second the telephone on that desk can order judicial authority for Christian revenge killings or Christian mercy at the State Penitentiary's death chamber. MeanMesa suspects that we can quite comfortably dismiss the likelihood that the raving tea bagger now sitting by that telephone will be troubled by pondering such decisions.

Of course the new tea bag Governor has "standing marching orders" to disable ObamaCare by any means possible because "industrial, corporate, health insurance" money is flowing into Republican campaign war chests in seven digit chunks, but MeanMesa suspects that there may be even more "incentives" floating around in the GOP's "money world."

Speaking more generally, there is always the constant undertone of Republican policy calling for the denigration of all poor and minority folks who might be getting even the most paltry assistance without owning a K Street lobbyist. It doesn't require too much "statistician imagination" to determine the "target demographic" of Kentucky's tea bagging regression. The "icing" on this "election crimes" cake would be the old stand by GOP policy: embarrass the black man in the Oval Office at every opportunity.

So, given all the "overly civil" caveats, let's have a look at some reporting about these conspiracy theories. You may find them fascinating.

Circuit court judge, county clerk, and election officials
 among eight indicted for gaming elections in 2002, 2004, 2006
KY Election Officials Arrested, Charged 
With 'Changing Votes at E-Voting Machines'
Brad Friedman
Posted: 04/23/2009
investigative journalist, blogger, broadcaster
[Read more at BradBlog here. Read the original article  HuffPost]]

County uses popular, unverifiable ESS touch-screen voting systems...

Those of us who have demanded transparent voting systems because we understand that only the ability for complete citizen oversight and transparency can effectively counter those who would game elections, have been disingenuously criticized over the years as somehow questioning the integrity of the hard-working, honest election officials out there.

The fact is, those who know anything about computer security understand that it is the insiders who are, by far, the greatest threat to security on such systems, as even the phony, GOP-operative-created Baker/Carter National Election Reform Commission determined in its final report: "There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries."

The best election officials in the country, however, will underscore that point, and agree that there is no reason any citizen should ever have to simply "trust" them.

Over the years, we've detailed the arrests and other unsavory behavior of many of the not-so-good election officials who, we were told, should simply have been trusted (our "favorite" has always been the case of Monterey CA's Tony Anchundo, who told us on air we should "trust" him, just a month or two before being arrested on 43 counts).

Well, now we've got a whole passel of still more crooked officials to add to the list. Moreover: The Kentucky officials arrested and indicted today, "including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers" of Clay County, have been charged with "chang[ing] votes at the voting machine" and showing others how to do it!

Five Clay County officials, including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers were arrested Thursday after they were indicted on federal charges accusing them of using corrupt tactics to obtain political power and personal gain.

The 10-count indictment, unsealed Thursday, accused the defendants of a conspiracy from March 2002 until November 2006 that violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO is a federal statute that prosecutors use to combat organized crime. The defendants were also indicted for extortion, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to injure voters' rights and conspiracy to commit voter fraud.

According to the indictment, these alleged criminal actions affected the outcome of federal, local, and state primary and general elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006.

The article goes on to list some of the criminal actions listed in the indictment. Among them [emphasis added]:

Clay County Clerk, Freddy Thompson, 45, allegedly provided money to election officers to be distributed by the officers to buy votes and he also instructed officers how to change votes at the voting machine. ...

Election officer William E. Stivers, 56, allegedly marked votes or issued tickets to voters who had sold their votes and changed votes at the voting machine. ...

Paul E. Bishop, 60, allegedly marked voters or issued tickets to voters who sold their votes and he also hosted alleged meetings at his home where money was pooled together by candidates and distributed to election officers, including himself. He was also accused of instructing the officers how to change votes at the voting machine.

In addition to the absurd charge that those of us who believe in transparency are unduly "attacking" election officials, the latest PR line from e-voting vendors, and election officials alike, is that there is no proof that any election has ever been manipulated electronically.

Setting aside that we disagree -- wholeheartedly -- with that oft-used bit of propaganda, the above indictments would seem to give us a very specific allegation of exactly that, manipulation of electronic votes.

Clay County uses the horrible ESS iVotronic system for all of its votes at the polling place. The iVotronic is a touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) device, offering no evidence, of any kind, that any vote has ever been recorded as per the voter's intent. If the allegations are correct here, there would likely have been no way to discover, via post-election examination of machines or election results, that votes had been manipulated on these machines.

ESS is the largest distributor of voting systems in America and its iVotronic system -- which is well-documented to have lost and flipped votes on many occasions -- is likely the most widely-used DRE system in the nation. It's currently in use in some 419 jurisdictions in 18 states including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

We will certainly continue to follow this story as it develops...

UPDATE: Complete indictment now posted here [PDF]...

* * *

FURTHER UPDATE: Having now reviewed the indictment, as linked above, here are some additional details on the alleged conspiracy which included election fraud though the buying and selling of votes to be cast in a certain way, with the aid of one of the defendants who served as a poll worker during the Early Voting period. Also, at the polling place on Election Day with aid of poll workers, drafted as both Democratic and Republican judges, to elect a slate of candidates -- some of them bribed -- the conspirators would manipulate the votes of "qualified voters" at the voting machines themselves.

Many of the voters, it seems, had no idea that their votes were manipulated after they'd left the touch-screen voting machine. While the Early Voting scheme involved finding voters who might wish to be paid to have their vote cast a certain way, the Election Day scheme, carried out in primary and general elections in at least 2004 and 2006, was accomplished by taking advantage of a "feature" on all DRE (usually touch-screen) voting systems and "voter unfamiliarity with new voting machines."

Essentially, they tricked voters into leaving the 'booth' after pressing the "Vote" button on the ES&S iVotronic. That button, does not actually cast the vote, as one might think (and as these voters were told), but instead, it brings up a review screen of the voter's "ballot."

Instructing the voters that they were done, the conspirators then, after the voter had left, would change the voters' votes as they saw fit, before finally pressing the "Cast Ballot" button.

Here's the explanation of how they did this on Election Day, according to the indictment:

3. It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants and their co-conspirators agreed to take advantage of voter unfamiliarity with new voting machines by misleading voters as to the mechanics of casting their votes once they were selected.

4. It was part of the conspiracy that WW serve as the Democrat election judge in the Manchester Precinct. It was further part of the conspiracy that CW serve as the Republican election judge in the Manchester Precinct. Both WW and CW were instructed by Defendants Freddy W. Thompson and Charles Wayne Jones to tell voters that when they had pushed a button labeled "Vote" that their votes had been cast, when, in fact, that function merely provided a review screen of the voter's selections in each race, and that the further step of pushing the "Cast Ballot" button was required. This review screen gave the voter the opportunity to change any candidate selections prior to casting the ballot.

5. It was part of the conspiracy that when the misled voters left the voting booth after pushing the "Vote" button, WW and/or CW entered the booth, changed their votes to candidates selected in part by Defendant Russell Cletus Maricle and cast the ballot by pushing the "Cast Ballot" button.


As mentioned, the voters in question were all "qualified voters". The fraud could not have been accomplished without the conspiracy carried out with the aid of the insiders at the polling place, who changed election results on the voting machines, as needed.

"Many of the qualified voters duly voted for one or more of the aforesaid candidates and their votes were counted and certified as part of the total number of votes cast for such candidates," the indictment reads. "Other voters had their votes destroyed by the Defendants and their co-conspirators."

The Early Voting scheme, which included vote buying and selling, also required the aid of insiders, stationed at the early voting location:

8. It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants discussed and agreed to buy votes also during the early voting of absentee voters in favor of "the slate." This plan involved having Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, and Debra L. Morris pay absentee voters for their vote and then sending them to Defendant Charles Wayne Jones who was acting as operator of the voting machine at the Clay County Clerk's Office. Voters who sold their votes were given a mark or otherwise told to signal to the Defendant Charles Wayne Jones by Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, or Debra L. Morris and, based upon the mark andior signal, Defendant Charles Wayne Jones would cast their vote for "the slate."

9. It was part of the conspiracy that the Defendants discussed and agreed that in order to implement the method of corrupting the voting process described above, it would be necessary to cause to be appointed as precinct workers for both major parties persons who were in the conspiracy. It was further necessary that their assignment to respective precincts be coordinated so that no one outside the conspiracy would be in place to observe their actions.


11. Over numerous days during on or about a date in January 2006 to on or about November 7,2006, a list of voters who agreed to sell their votes was compiled by Defendants Russell Cletus Maricle and William E. Stivers and other co-conspirators made

arrangements with these persons for voting and payment. On numerous occasions, voters were brought to the courthouse during normal voting and the early voting period for absentee voters and paid to vote for candidates on "the slate" by Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, and Debra L. Morris.

12. On or about May 16,2006, and November 7,2006, Defendants William E. Stivers, William B. Morris, and Debra L. Morris paid voters to vote for members of "the slate," as described above. They informed these voters to ask for assistance from selected precinct workers who then took them into the voting booth and selected the votes for them.

Of course, to accomplish all of this, the defendants had to be able to draft poll workers who would do what they needed. Three of the named defendants, circuit court judge Russell Cletus Maricle, Clay County Superintendent of Schools Douglas C. Adams, and election officer Charles Wayne Jones, all had among their powers on the election board the ability to "exert influence over the selection of precinct workers" for local elections.

Election officer Jones, it's alleged, is the one who "instructed other election to change votes at the voting machines."

"Part of the scheme to defraud," according to the indictment, also included that "defendants instructed election officers to assist the voters who sold their votes and to destroy voter assistance forms which may have resulted so as to not report the number of people they assisted at the voting polls as required by law."

So will the voting machine company representatives out there (and that includes many election officials who have forgotten for whom they work) continue to report that no election has ever been manipulated via an electronic voting system?... 

Next, please exit MeanMesa for a chance to follow this link and watch this short video. 

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