Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Texas Republicans Adopted An Arizona-Style Get-Tough Policy On Immigration

Texas Republicans adopted an Arizona-style get-tough policy on immigration and bilingual education during the party's state convention last Saturday. The Texas Republican Party platform encourages state lawmakers to create a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense “for an illegal alien to intentionally or knowingly be within the State of Texas,” and to “oppose amnesty in any form leading to citizenship for illegal immigrants.” Texas Republicans also want to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a U.S. citizen “with no exceptions,” eliminate day-labor work centers and emphasize border security by encouraging “all means … (to) immediately prevent illegal aliens.”

The Texas Republican Party platform also calls to make American English the official language of Texas and the United States and to all end bilingual education. But, even as Texas Republicans seek to eliminate the Spanish language from Texas and the United States the party produced a Spanish language campaign video telling Hispanics that the party wants to, "establish bonds and express our common ideals with Texans whose language might be Spanish, and whose hearts and minds align with Republican principles,” according to Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri.

Within a dozen years, Latinos could be electing Democrats “because Democrats have the right message and Republicans have the wrong message,” longtime Republican advertising executive and political consultant Lionel Sosa said of his party's future, according to a Houston Chronicle news story. If it happens, then Texas will turn into a Democratic state and once Texas turns Democratic ... We'll never elect a Republican president again ... The figures are irrefutable. I am extremely concerned.”

Latinos make up a very large percentage of the population growth in Texas, and in direct contrast to the Spanish language campaign video released by the Texas Republican Party, articles in TexasKaos and Waco Tribune-Herald point out that many conservatives, who now control the Republican party, do not welcome Latinos, or indeed any minority, into the party fold.
According to an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald - Conservative Hispanic activists created the Hispanic Republican Club of McLennan County to reach out to Latino, African-American, and young voters. Part of the clubs stated mission would be to fill the vacancies in the 40 out of 92 precincts in county that lack precinct chairs. Many of the precincts that have vacancies are in predominately minority areas. However, the McLennan County Republican Party chairman M.A. Taylor does not consider it important to fill those vacancies, and apparently does not think that minorities hold conservative views.
Latinos represent 51% of population growth in the United States as a whole since 2000 and Texas has seen the highest percentage of Latino population growth. Latinos comprise 63% of the population growth in Texas since 2000 and are the single largest reason that the state is projected to gain four seats in the U.S. House — the greatest change, positive or negative, among any state in the nation — once the 2010 census is complete.

In Texas, the Latino share of the voter population grew between 2000 and 2008 to encompass over one-fifth of the electorate. Although Texas has had a large Latino population throughout its history, Latino voting registration and turnout jumped by approximately 30% from 2000 to 2008, and the Latino share of the overall electorate increased to over 20%. [From NDN]

Hispanics will make up 78 percent of Texas' population growth over the next 30 years, compared with only 4 percent for whites, according to demographic projections. Minority children already make up 66 percent of the state's 4.8 million public school enrollment — and Hispanics could surpass whites in the state's overall population by 2015, estimates show. (see Changing Voter Demographics In Collin County and The U.S. Census in Texas and Collin Co.)

Here are just a few of the Republicans put into their platform:
  • Want deep-water drilling to continue in the Gulf of Mexico and other places.
  • Want to abolish the Energy Department.
  • Wants to abolish the Education Department.
  • Wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and institute a national sales tax.
  • Want to withdraw this country from the United Nations.
  • Opposes the establishment of time-frames for withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Supports the "democratically-elected" governments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Want to abolish Affirmative Action.
  • Wants to eliminate the Endangered Species Act.
  • Want to outlaw driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.
  • Want to let religious organizations engage in politics without fear of losing their tax-exempt status and want to eliminate the separation of church and state.
  • Want to eliminate the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
  • Want to abolish Supreme Court jurisdiction in abortion, religious issues and the Bill of Rights.
  • Want to require a presidential candidate to submit a birth certificate before they can be placed on the state's ballot.
  • Want English adopted as the official language.
  • Want to abolish "no-fault divorce" laws.
  • Want to ensure marriage can only be between a "natural man and a natural woman".
  • Wants to re-institute sodomy laws and deny the Supreme Court the right to review the law.
  • Want to make it a felony crime to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
  • Want all human life respected from fertilization to natural death.
  • Supports the death penalty and want to extend it to rape cases.
  • Want to outlaw the sale and use of RU-486 and any other "morning-after pills."
  • Want to eliminate social security and the social security tax and transition to "private pensions."
  • Want to "defund, repeal and reject" the health care act passed by U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama.
  • Oppose government mandating the vaccination of children.
  • Oppose pre-school, kindergarten and any government programs dealing with early childhood development.
  • Support "open carry" laws and oppose "Gun Free Zones."
  • Supports the formation of an armed state militia.
  • Want the Minimum Wage Law to be repealed.
  • Opposes the Fourteenth Amendment which gives citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.
  • Opposes a Palestinian state being carved out of "historical Israel."
  • Calls to cut off money to the RNC and any group or candidate that does not fully support every plank of the the Texas GOP platform.

Pres. Obama's Address to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill

President Barack Obama strongly criticized the federal government's oil industry oversight agency Tuesday night in an address to the nation on the Gulf oil spill. In his first speech from the Oval Office, Pres. Obama called on the United States to "embrace a clean energy future" in the wake of the country's worst environmental disaster to date, promised the potential of millions of jobs being created in new energy industries, and took the Minerals Management Service -- the oil regulator -- to task in a subtle jibe against the previous administration.

"Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility – a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves," the president said.

Obama continued, "At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations."
Editorial comment: For decades conservative Republicans have held that all government is always the problem, never the solution, and that it is impossible for government elected by "We the People" to protect the interests of "We the People"and the environment in which we live and earn a livelihood better than corporate business.

The Bush Administration eliminated government regulatory oversight and replaced it with industry self-regulation by staffing every government regulatory agency with industry insiders hostile to their respective agency's basic regulatory purpose.

After years of planned neglect, mismanagement and ideological attack, the American government, across the board, has gotten out of the way of corporate America – and the country is paying a heavy price.

And the lesson that a "hands off corporate business" approach to government is a failure is reinforced by the cries for help from the conservative political leadership of the Gulf Coast states – who in the past led the charge for smaller and less intrusive government.

Beyond all question the 70,000 barrels of oil gushing every day into the Gulf of Mexico that is devastating the shores of America and disrupting the livelihoods of coastal residents demonstrates the need for competent government regulation that is not controlled by the interests it is supposed to regulate. It destroys the simplistic notion that the interests of business coincide with those of the American public.
The president officially announced the appointment of Washington lawyer and Clinton administration veteran Michael Bromwich to head up the MMS. "His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog – not its partner," the president said.

The president spent considerable time in his speech Tuesday evening emphasizing the federal government's role in cleaning up the spill, evidently in response to critics' claims he waited too long to react to the environmental disaster.

Of the Gulf coast shrimpers and fishermen whose livelihoods are at risk, he said: "The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost. I refuse to let that happen."

Of BP, the president said: "Make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."

Address to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Oval Office

Text of Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:

Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.

On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about forty miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge – a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

As a result of these efforts, we have directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.

Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

But make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.

First, the cleanup. From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history – an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost forty years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and cleanup the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims – and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods. Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

As the clean up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need. Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.

But we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response becomes, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers – even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected. I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists will start to come back. The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.

I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.

Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short-term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

I make that commitment tonight. Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.

The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again. A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe – that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That was obviously not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion – these families deserve to know why. And so I have established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already, I have issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue. And while I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.

One place we have already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service. Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility – a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.

When Ken Salazar became my Secretary of the Interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency. But it’s now clear that the problems there ran much deeper, and the pace of reform was just too slow. And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency – Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and Inspector General. His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog – not its partner.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fear hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.

It is a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea – some for weeks at a time.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago – at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “…even in the midst of the storm.”

The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through – what has always seen us through – is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it. Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perry's Campaign Tries To Hold A Presser Outside The Travis County Democrats’ Coordinated Campaign Office

The Austin American-Statesman reports:
While Gov. Rick Perry was in China, his campaign spokesman called a curbside press event in front of the office of Travis County Democrats’ Coordinated Campaign office, which serves as the local campaign office for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White and all other Democrats running for office in Travis County.

Mark Miner, Perry’s mouthpiece, stood in the early afternoon’s sweltering heat - in a dark suit nonetheless - to try to talk to members of the Capitol press corps.

But unless you were standing inches from the sweaty Miner, you couldn’t hear anything but the chants of Democratic campaign workers, one of whom donned a chicken outfit.

“Rick Chicken Perry,” they squawked. “Debate Bill now.”

As Miner tried to address the handful of reporters in attendance, the Democratic campaign workers waved Bill White signs and tried to bait Perry into a debate.

Presumably Miner was speaking about the same topic that was on a press release handed out by his campaign companion. It said that White continues to refuse to release tax returns from his days as the deputy secretary of energy and chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

[In fact, Perry's campaign is behind the curve, again, because] Last week, White's campaign made public his tax returns from his time as Houston mayor.
On the issue of Rick Perry refusing to debate Bill White:
The Houston Chronicle - AUSTIN — GOP strategist Royal Masset thinks Republican Gov. Rick Perry is unlikely to debate Democratic challenger Bill White, and his reasoning has nothing to do with Perry’s call for White to release more tax returns first.

“There’s a real probability we won’t have a debate. I just don’t think Rick sees it in his interest to have one,” said Masset, former political director of the Republican Party of Texas. “All he’d be doing is giving name ID to an opponent.”

Masset — who disagrees with those in his party who offer angry rhetoric on issues like immigration — backed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the GOP primary but plans to vote for Perry in November. Masset noted that voters rarely see an unscripted answer in a debate, but White could bring something different — and that’s no advantage to Perry.

“He (White) is plain-spoken. He is very specific-oriented,” Masset said. “He’s kind of our nightmare ... Why give him a chance?”

Video report from
The Texas Tribune on Miner's
in front of the Travis County
Democratic Coordinated
Campaign office
Photo, from Elise Hu's twitter feed
Miner in the suit on the left.

Good pictures from the Burnt Orange Report Blog

GOP To Again Focus On Non-Existent Voter Impersonation Fraud In 2011

When the Texas legislature next convenes in January 2011 it should address the long list problems that Gov. Perry and the Conservative Republican legislative leadership has wrought for Texas. These problems include: But all these problems now plaguing Texas' families are NOT the priority for the Republican Party. No, passage of a government issued photo voter ID requirement will be the GOP's legislative priority for the 2011 Texas Legislative session, according to state Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, the chairman of the House Elections Committee, which met this week to hear invited testimony on what, if any, evidence has been found that would warrant Texas to require voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot.

There have been 267 requests referred to the Texas Attorney General’s office to investigate voter fraud in Texas since 2002, according Jay Dyer, special assistant to Attorney General Greg Abbott, in testimony before the committee. Of those 267 referrals, only 35 have were deemed to have merit to proceed to prosecution.

Over 50 percent of the referred complaints are related to mail-in ballots, yet all of the efforts of Republican legislators during the past three sessions have been focused on voter ID impersonation fraud, even though the Texas Attorney General’s office has never been able to identify a case of in person voting ID impersonation fraud.

Five years ago Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott tapped a $1.4 million federal crime-fighting grant to establish a special voter fraud investigation unit in his office as he pledged to root out what he called an epidemic of voter fraud in Texas. Mr. Abbott found and prosecuted only 26 cases of election fraud – all against Democrats, and almost all involving vote by mail (VBM) ballots, a review by The Dallas Morning News showed. The VBM cases that Mr. Abbott's office pursued were mail ballots that were properly cast and no vote was changed – but people who assisted and transported VBM ballot carrier envelops to the mailbox for other voters were prosecuted. Under a 2003 Texas law, anyone who possesses another person's ballot and does not sign their name on the back of the ballot envelop is guilty of a misdemeanor. Depending on the number of ballots involved, the charge rises to a felony.

According to Texas election code, anyone other than the voter who requested the mail-in ballot isn't allowed to mark or possess the mail-in ballot, in most situations. The law provides that voters, in most situations, will privately and personally mark the mail-in ballot without assistance or coercion, either in person or by phone, then affix their signature, seal the marked ballot in the provided mail-in carrier envelop and personally deposit the carrier envelop into a mailbox. [§86.005] The only situation where assistance may be rendered to a VBM voter in marking his/her mail ballot [§86.010] is when a voter can not read the ballot or is physically unable to mark the ballot and therefore would be eligible to receive assistance, if voting in person at a polling place. [§64.031 / §64.032(c)] It a crime to assist or transport a voter's ballot to the mailbox, unless the assisting person writes his or her own name and address on the ballot carrier envelope. [§86.006 / §86.005 / §86.0051]

Of the 26 cases Mr. Abbott found and prosecuted in his $1.4 million investigation, 18 of the cases involved situations where a person allegedly helped voters and or carried voters' mail ballot envelop to the mailbox, but did not write their name on the ballot carrier envelop. Among those prosecuted were Willie Ray, a member of the Texarkana City Council, and her granddaughter, Jamillah Johnson. They helped homebound senior citizens get absentee ballots in the 2004 general election and later, after they'd been privately filled out, carried them to a mailbox. Both women pleaded guilty to mishandling the mail-in ballots, and they were fined $200 and given probation. Of eight indicted in Hidalgo County, the cases were eventually dismissed for lack of evidence. Just last April an Hidalgo County court-at-law judge dismissed charges against its last remaining defendant — a 73-year-old McAllen woman accused of illegally possessing the mail-in ballots of three voters without signing their carrier envelopes to say she assisted them. All 18 cases were similarly dispatched.

The remaining eight of the 26 cases involved ineligible voters or manufactured votes, according to a Dallas Morning News report. They include a woman who voted for her dead mother, another in which a Starr County man voted twice, three South Texas women who used false addresses to get voter registration cards for people who did not exist and a Refugio County commissioner who distributed vote by mail ballots to residents in a senior's community to mark in his presence.

Former state Rep. Steve Wolens Wolens (D-Dallas) introduced House Bill 54 in 2003 during the 78th Legislature, setting out penalties for appropriating ballots and other abuses of the mail-in voter process. Wolen's bill, which became law in September 2003, was the last substantial action passed addressing the vote by mail process.

In preparation for the convening of the 80th Legislature in 2007, the House Committee on Elections prepared a report that asserted, "most allegations of election fraud that appear in the news or result in indictments relate to early voting by mail ballots.” The report referred to an investigation taking place at the time in the tiny South Texas enclave of Duval County concerning a 2006 primary election in which half the ballots cast were mail-in. The election saw a 57 percent voter turnout, as opposed to 8 percent statewide.
The report concluded that lawmakers in the upcoming 80th Legislative session should "review the need to add, enhance or reassess the effectiveness of criminal penalties provided by the Election Code. The Legislature should provide educational assistance for prosecutors and election officials to improve understanding on criminal violations of the Election Code.” In the 80th Legislative session, though, two bills were introduced with the term “voter fraud” as part of the text. Neither mentioned mail-in ballots. Both dealt with voters' rights.
In January 2009, before the session of the 81st Legislature, another report was issued by the House Committee on Elections. Now the report had grown in size, from 62 pages two years before, to 161 pages:
It included an account from Starr County election administrator Rafael Montalvo, who told of a batch of 30-40 absentee mail-in ballots requested from a single address, and another stack of 278 mail-in ballots for which signatures did not match the ballot applications. Montalvo also brought up the "large problem" of politiqueras in his testimony to the committee:
“Mr. Montalvo said sometimes politiqueras receive $10 per voter and can make good money during [an] election period. The elderly targeted are individuals who do not get out much.”
Among the committee recommendations for 81st Legislative session lawmakers to address:
“The committee would like the 81st Legislature to take in consideration the recommendations offered by the sub-committee on mail-in ballot integrity. As agreed by the whole committee, there is mail-in ballot fraud and those issues do need to be addressed during the upcoming session. ... The problem Texas faces with politiqueras, or 'vote brokers,' is an issue needing to be addressed during the 81st session. Currently in Texas statute there are laws prohibiting the practice of vote buying and the coercion of votes. However, these prohibitions only apply to offenses conducted in direct relations between campaign workers and the voter. The committee believes the 81st Legislature should look into ways to prevent vote brokering, including revisions to current law and more effective enforcement.”
Lawmakers in the 81st Legislative session proposed two bills that broached the subject of mail-in ballot fraud, but neither HB-452 nor HB-3444 advanced past the committee process to the full legislature. The latter measure, sponsored by state Rep. Rafael Anchía, would have required anyone who assists more than five voters in an election to register as an “early voting assistant" and provide a phone number in addition to other information already required. The mail-in ballot plans took a back seat to a hotly debated voter ID bill, which would have mandated ID requirements for in-person voters.

In the case of several election-related bills, Linda Rogers, chair of the Burnet County Republican Party, was called to testify to lawmakers in Austin. She was a dogged supporter of the voter ID bill and concedes that the bill "probably" obscured other voting issues, including mail-in ballot fraud.

Look in your purse or wallet - other than your Driver's License, what current (unexpired) government-issued photo ID do you find? Do you find a U.S. passport? Maybe; a few people have passports. Some seniors may find a Veterans Identification or Armed Forces Identification Photo ID Card, but they do not have 'issued' and 'expires' dates. In Indiana many older veterans, who had stopped driving and let their Driver's License expire, tried to use their Veterans and Armed Forces Id Cards to vote in 2008. Even those veterans who have served our county were turned away because every government photo ID card they possessed were either expired or not dated.
So, if you are a senior citizen who has given up driving, or if you are poor and don't own a car, and therefore never bothered to get a government-issued photo ID Driver's License, you likely do not have any current government-issued photo ID.

And, if you can't drive a car to the state driver's license bureau or county elections office, where you must submit your original (or notarized copy) birth certificate, you can't get a government-issued photo ID card and you will not be allowed to vote in any election under the Texas Photo Voter Id law proposed by Republican lawmakers.
A Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law study (and many other studies) finds that as many as 11 percent of citizens, mostly the elderly, poor and minority American citizens, do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. Another academic study of the 2004 presidential election conducted for the bipartisan Federal Election Assistance Commission found that states with Voter ID laws had an overall turnout reduction of 3%, a figure that reached 5.7% among African Americans and 10% among Hispanics. Former Texas Republican Party Political Director Royal Masset estimated that a photo ID requirement would reduce Democratic turnout in Texans by 3%. That is a lot Texans who would be denied the right to vote in Texas!

During the Texas House Elections Committee debate in the voter photo ID law in the last legislative session Republican proponents of the law admitted there is no evidence of voter impersonation "fraud" in Texas. "We can't prove there is voter ID fraud. . . We may have a big voter impersonation problem we don't know about. I think we do," said Skipper Wallace, the Republican Party chairman of Lampasas County. [So, the bottom line Republican argument is they just have faith that Democrats are perpetrating voter ID fraud in Texas]

"This is a racial issue, make no mistake about it," said Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in 2009. "This is about skimming enough minority votes so some people can't get elected." An estimated 25% of legal, registered voters in Texas are Hispanic and over the next 30 years 78% of Texas' population growth is projected to be Hispanic.

The success of Texas Democratic voter registration drives among minority, elderly and low income groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from Republican candidates, if such growth in Democratic voting ranks continues. As the tide of Democratic voters continues to grow across Texas, a government issue photo voter ID requirement for in-person voting would be an effective way for Republicans to hold back the tide.

Consequently, the use of baseless "voter id fraud" allegations to promote voter photo ID legislation is a more urgent 2011 legislative session priority for Republicans, than focusing the on the long list of real problems plaguing Texas families.

Boyd Richie: The Texas Tribune Interview

Boyd Richie: The Texas Tribune Interview
The Texas Tribune
by Reeve Hamilton
June 14, 2010

Boyd Richie was elected
Chairman of the Texas
Democratic Party in April 2006
It’s true that of the 29 statewide offices available, the Texas Democratic Party doesn’t hold a single one. The party's chairman, Boyd Richie, says it’s legitimate to criticize the Democrats for that — but not to blame him for it. “That’s been going on for 15 years,” he said in his Austin office on Friday. “I’ve been chairman for four.”

A lawyer by trade, Richie is — like his wife Betty — a Democratic stalwart. He was elected chairman of the party in 2006 and intends to stay for a while. But this year, he is fending off a challenge from Michael Barnes, a political novice and Edcouch schoolteacher who's looking to shake up the party.

“He seems to be a very energetic, intelligent young man,” Richie says. “He’s interested in the party, and I’m tickled to see that. Anytime we have young people engaged in the process, I’m happy to see it.”

Richie is less tickled by Barnes’ suggestion that he needs to get out and about in the state more. He points to a plaque in his office commemorating his 2007 Texas Town Hall Tour, which covered 18 cities and 9,762 miles. “We travel so much that Betty and I can’t have a dog,” he says, “and if we did, it wouldn’t recognize us when we came home."

Regarding the party’s statewide success — or lack thereof — Barnes recently posed the question, “Since when is zero-for-29 a winning record?"

To that, Richie responds, “For starters, zero for 29, in a political arena, is not like a baseball manager's record.” Additionally, Richie says, the first time he was able to weigh in on candidate recruitment was in the current 2010 cycle:

Statewide candidates aside, Richie maintains, the party has experienced “major electoral gains” under his leadership. In 2008, House Democrats came within two seats of regaining the majority, which they lost in 2003. “We were able to do work and put money and resources into 17 statehouse races and won 16 of them,” Richie says. “I think that’s a record of which I’m pretty proud.”

Does Richie think the Democrats' first statewide victory in 16 years will come from among this year’s crop of candidates? “Absolutely I do,” he says:

The 2010 November election is especially crucial to the future of Texas electoral politics because it will determine the political makeup of the Legislative Redistricting Board, which will tackle the upcoming redistricting process. This fact is not lost on the chairman of the minority party, which currently has no representation on the board:

One statewide office with a slot on the board that the Democrats certainly won’t win is comptroller. They didn't even run a candidate in the race. Richie says it wasn’t for lack of trying. “That was a seat that we took very seriously,” he says, “and I’m very disappointed that we weren’t able to recruit somebody.” He says there were people considering a run who decided they didn’t have the financial wherewithal — and that the party, with it’s limited resources, couldn’t provide the requested level of support.

In fact, much of the Democrats’ electoral effort in the last five years was bankrolled by the Texas Democratic Trust, which launched in 2005 with a five-year focus on “holding a majority in the statehouse and capturing one or more statewide offices during the 2010 elections.” Many have insinuated that Matt Angle, who leads the trust, has been acting as the man behind the party’s curtain:

With the Texas Democratic Trust's commitment to the party approaching its end, Richie says the party will be, and is preparing to be, funded by small donors — something he says his opponent might not be aware of:

Another source of pride for Richie is the self-described aggressiveness with which he has gone after the opposition. Currently, the party is engaged in a legal battle in an effort to stop what Richie believes is a GOP-fueled effort to drain “D” votes by getting the Green Party on the ballot:

“I wouldn’t have a problem with the Green Party being on the ballot if it was the Green Party,” Richie says. “If their activists had been the ones out voluntarily gathering these petitions, and they got enough to get on the ballot, then more power to ‘em. That’s what elections are about.”

Instead, Richie is echoing Matt Angle’s call for long-time Perry advisor Dave Carney, who they believe is tied to the Green Party petition drive, to resign. (On Saturday, Carney told the Tribune's Ross Ramsey that he had nothing to do with the Greens.) This comes shortly after Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign called for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White to drop out of the race, alleging unethical business practices — a charge Richie calls “absurd.”

“We ought to have choices in elections,” Richie says. “Rick Perry doesn’t want anyone to have a choice except him.”

Discussing the matter in his office, Richie's tone reaches levels White rarely even musters on the stump. Richie recognizes that some might desire more personality from their gubernatorial hopeful, but that’s just not White’s style — and he says that’s okay:

White isn't the only Democratic politician accused of playing it too cool under fire. President Obama has endured similar criticism since oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, which hasn't helped his polling in Texas. Despite winning in a landslide nationwide, Obama wasn’t very popular in Texas when he got elected, and has become even less so as time has worn on — even with some Democrats, as Richie is well aware:

In the next presidential election, Richie says, Texas has the potential to become “a battleground configuration.” Democrats, he says, have the opportunity to “turn this thing around.” The first step will be introducing the statewide candidates and getting everyone “fired up” at the upcoming state convention, where they will also decide if Richie will be steering the party on its future course — or if he'll have to hand the helm over to Barnes.

If 2010 doesn’t go as he plans, Richie only asks one thing:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

WEAK TEA: Tea Party Looses Steam

WaPo: Last Tuesday's primary results provided fresh evidence of the amorphous network's struggle to convert activist anger and energy into winning results.
Frustrated and lacking agreement on what to, self-identified tea party leaders say the movement may be in danger of breaking apart before it ever really comes together.

Disapproval of the tea party movement is at an all-time high, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Another nationwide Gallup Poll just 28 percent of Americans say they are a “supporter” of the tea party movement.

The Coffee Party, as just one example of support for the progressive movement, has gained 199,993 Facebook fans since 26 January 2010 (over 65,000 per month, counting all of January) while its alternative the Tea Party has 165,111 since March 2009 (about 12,000 per month). That suggests that the Coffee Party, as measured by real Facebook numbers rather than the impressions of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, is around 500 percent more popular than the Tea Party.

Ronald Reagan, in his first inaugural address, famously declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Echoing President Coolidge, Reagan believed that “the business of America is business,” and the government should get out of the way. Industry self-regulation and “free market” economics became the substitute for government regulation. Conservative Republicans argue that they have worked hard for 30 years to "free capitalism and individual liberty" by deregulating and dismantling government oversight of business.

Conservative political thinkers continue to argue that it is impossible for government to protect the the interests of the public and the nation. For decades they have held that all government is bad and less is always better. As a result we had decades of indifferent and incompetent leadership in the regulatory agencies. In recent years they have frequently been staffed with people hostile to their basic purpose. After decades of planned neglect, mismanagement and ideological attack, the American government, across the board, has gotten out of the way of corporate America – and the country is paying a heavy price.

Reagan's conservative "small government" argument, now carried by the Tea Party movement, is that government can not and must not play any roll to protect the general welfare of the American people by ensuring that business operate on a honest, fair and level field of play. And, that government can not and must not play any roll to protect the interests of American citizens and the environment in which we live and earn a livelihood.

"Deregulation" is wonderful until we discover what happens when government regulations aren't issued or enforced. The conservative philosophy of governance has disemboweled government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task.

Indeed if it does anything, the disaster in the Gulf demonstrates the folly of this conservative approach to government. Internal BP documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the explosion and its aftermath, show that "time after time, BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense." BP took measures to cut costs in the weeks before the catastrophic blowout in the Gulf of Mexico as warning signs mounted, prompting a BP engineer to describe the doomed rig as a "nightmare well," in an e-mail April 14, six days before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

And the lesson that conservative approach to government is a failure is reinforced by the cries for help from the conservative political leadership of the Gulf Coast states – who in the past led the charge for smaller and less intrusive government. Beyond all question it demonstrates the need for competent regulation that is not controlled by the interests it is supposed to regulate. It destroys the simplistic notion that the interests of business coincide with those of the broader community.

The modern conservative movement began at conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that Reagan brought together with the religious right and ultra-rich elites in an unholy alliance that after 30 years has culminated in disastrous energy policy, the Iraq war, skyrocketing health insurance costs, unprecedented levels of national debt, near economic collapse, record mortgage foreclosures, an exploding gap between the rich and poor, a military industrial complex spending tax payer money like drunken sailors, the freedom for multinational corporations to move American jobs off-shore and now a ruined coastal environment that will take decades to recover.

Conservative governance has given Americans the worst decade for the U.S. economy in modern times by a wide range of data, with zero net job growth and the slowest rise in economic output since the 1930s. On balance, American families are also worse off than any time since the 1930s

The Tea Party movement has generated a lot of media talk about “populism,” which gets defined by the media as the battle between Big Government and the Common Folk. What gets ignored is that the only feasible check on unlimited corporate power is a democratized and energized "we the people" federal government.

Corporate lobbyists — led by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips’ Americans for Prosperity organizations — have been organizing the phony astroturf activism of "tea parties" as a "coordinated campaign" marketing action for the Republican Party and the corporate interests that fund the Republican Party.

By agitating against government, not corporatism, the Tea Party promoters serve as “faux populist” front-men for corporate interests like British Petroleum who want to make sure government doesn't force them to "waste" money on equipment and procedures that safeguard their employees, the general public interest and the environment. "

Thirty years after Reagan's inaugural pronouncement that big business, not a government elected by the people, should be responsible for the public's interest, in the midst of the worst environmental crisis in the nation's history and as the nation struggles to recover from near financial collapse at the end of President Bush's 8 years in office in 2008, Reagan's conservative anti-government philosophy, now personified in the Tea Party movement, must be critically assessed an utter failure at securing the general welfare of American citizens and the environment in which Americans live and earn their livelihood.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. The Tea Party's 15 minutes of fame created by funding from corporate lobbyists and billionaire ultra-conservatives is about done!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill Could Devastate U.S. Eastern Seaboard

AP photographer Charles Riedel filed some of the most disturbing
images yet of the effect the oil spill is having on Gulf Coast birds.
Pictures now coming out of the gulf coast show the fate waiting estuaries, fisheries, wildlife, and the economy of the entire eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Scientists predict that the Gulf Loop Current will carry the slick around the tip of Florida, through the keys, up the Florida east coast, into the Gulf Stream and then up the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

The oil will first devastate the breaches, estuaries, fisheries, wildlife, harbors, coastal waterways and economies of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Next to be devastated are south Florida's beaches, coastal sea grass, mangroves of the everglades, estuaries, harbors and coastal waterways and coral reef habitats.

Then, the oil slick will be carried by the Gulf Stream up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to devastate beaches, fisheries, harbors and coastal waterways all the way to Cape Hatteras, NC and beyond.

Note: In little noticed comments to McClatchy Newspapers, Ira Leifer, University of California researcher and member of the Obama Administration's Flow Rate Technical Group, said on Monday June 7, 2010 that even BP itself estimated the worst-case flow of an oil leak in the Gulf could reach 100,000 barrels of oil a day. "In the data I've seen, there's nothing inconsistent with BP's worst case scenario," Leifer was quoted as saying.

Miami Herald — May 04, 2010

Computer model of oil spill
moving up the east coast

May 17, 2010 NASA satellite
image of oil slick

wwfus — The Exxon Valdez Disaster
20 Years Later
Huffington Post:
21 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster it is estimated that 21,000 gallons of oil still remain just below the surface of Alaska's Prince William Sound, and the long term environmental effects on the area have far exceeded scientists' original predictions. It can be hard to gauge the extent of the current disaster in the Gulf, as the oil continues to flow relentlessly into the water, and the sandy beaches and coastal marshes will certainly react differently to the pollution than Alaska's rocky terrain.

Regardless, it is clear that the damage will be dire. Many species are currently nesting and reproducing in the area, and an entire generation of hundreds of species could be lost as a result. Countless marine birds could also be affected, as the area is a primary flyway for many species, currently in its peak migratory period. Though the cause is still unknown, the numerous dead sea turtles and other creatures that have washed ashore is perhaps an early ominous sign of the marine crisis the oil is causing in the deeper waters offshore. New information also reveals that BP is using 100,000 gallons of dispersant (1/3 of the world's supply) on the oil, further contaminating the ocean with harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, the true environmental ramifications of this catastrophe won't be known for years to come.

The health of countless people are at risk as oil spreads further along the coast, affecting more communities. Oil can turn into a heavy vapor that can then be inhaled by humans in the surrounding areas. The volatile chemicals in oil can cause minor immediate health problems, but have been linked to cancer over longer periods of time. In addition, these chemicals have been associated with miscarriage and can damage airways, so pregnant women and people with respiratory diseases are especially at risk. Oil is also damaging to skin, and the chemicals can be absorbed from this contact, meaning that the numerous local fisherman BP has hired to aid in clean-up efforts are at risk on many levels. In addition, as tragically seen from the Exxon Valdez disaster, local people can suffer long term personal damage from the devastation of their communities, with the escalated stress on families leading to increases in alcoholism, suicide, violence, and divorce.

Federal officials have shut down all fishing between the Mississippi River and Florida Panhandle until early-mid next week at the soonest. Fisheries in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are threatened from the effects of this disaster. Louisiana's $2.4 billion sea food industry accounts for approximately 1/3 of the shrimp, oysters, crab and craw fish in America. While the temporary fishing ban only halts 1/4 of Louisiana's seafood production, this could easily change if the oil begins to spread west. But the real impact on the seafood industry will be the long term consequences. The unknown extent of this catastrophe could have an adverse impact on the reproduction of seafood species as well the microscopic creatures that they feed on, potentially devastating the seafood operations in the area for years to come. The spill may even affect bluefin tuna stocks off Atlantic Canada—a species already intensely in decline—as they travel to the Gulf to spawn.

The Gulf Coast has long been home to pristine beaches, admired for their purity and cleanliness. Countless resorts and thriving tourist economies flourish from this natural beauty, with tourism pulling in $100 billion a year in the region. Unfortunately, the oil spill perilously threatens this vital industry with the potential to paint stretches of unspoiled beach black.

Legislation attempting to address the effects of climate change has been a long time coming. The bill, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17% lower than 2005 by 2020, also includes provisions to expand domestic production of oil, natural gas, and nuclear power. Obama’s recent announcement to expand offshore drilling was primarily seen by many as a move to gain more support for the bill from those who had opposed it. A lot of environmentalists conceded the compromise as necessary, understanding the greater good it would have getting the legislation through. In the wake of this offshore oil disaster, hope for the bill is looking bleaker than ever, with numerous lawmakers refusing to lend any support if offshore drilling measures are incorporated. The environmental crisis currently on our hands only further emphasizes the need for legislation that will truly protect our environment and lead to a clean energy America.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Canadian Company Buys Allen-based Diebold/Premier Election Solutions

Updated June 2, 2010 @ 11:58 P.M.
The company that markets the old Diebold/Premier electronic voting machines, used by Collin County voters, finally found someone to buy its failed Allen, Tx based Diebold/Premier Election Solutions business unit. Canadian-based Dominion Voting Systems, Inc has acquired the primary assets of Premier Election Solutions, including all intellectual property, software, firmware and hardware for Premier’s current and legacy optical scan, central scan, and touch screen voting systems, and all versions of the GEMS election management system. Dominion also has the right to hire former Premier employees.

Diebold's failed election division (renamed Premier Election Solutions in 2007) was purchased from Diebold for a pittance by Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) in September 2009 following a long three search for a buyer.

The Department of Justice's Anti-trust division later determined that the purchase of Diebold's Allen, TX based "Premier Election Solutions," by ES&S, resulted in a voting systems monopoly.

Collin County voters have been voting on Diebold Election Solutions DRE AccuVote touch screen voting systems, like the machine pictured left, since the March 4, 2004 primary election.

In 2008 Collin County purchased 410 of a newer version of the AccuVote voting booth machines (pictured right) to use for early voting. The newer AccuVote machine was used for the first time in Collin Co. during early voting for the November 2008 general election. Collin County continues to use the now antiquated "2004" AccuVote voting machines for Election Day voting. Collin Co. currently has a total inventory of about 1400 AccuVote voting booth machines.

On March 8, 2010 the U. S. Department of Justice, along with nine state attorneys general, filed an antitrust lawsuit in U. S. District Court in Washington, D.C. alleging that ES&S’ 2009 acquisition of Premier harmed competition. In settlement of that lawsuit ES&S agreed to look for someone willing to buy the assets of Premier.

In May 2010 Canadian-based Dominion Voting Systems, Inc agreed to acquire the assets of Premier Election Solutions from ES&S. From the Press Release announcing the acquisition:

Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. Acquires Premier
Election Solutions Assets From ES&S

Transaction Approved by the U. S. Department of Justice, Will Significantly Increase Competition in the United States Voting Systems Industry

Dominion’s Engineering and Customer Service Expertise Will Support Premier’s
Voting Products Throughout the U.S.

JAMESTOWN, New York .... Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. today announced that it has acquired from Premier Election Solutions, Inc. (Premier) a wholly owned subsidiary of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the primary assets of Premier, including all intellectual property, software, firmware and hardware for Premier’s current and legacy optical scan, central scan, and touch screen voting systems, and all versions of the GEMS election management system.

As part of the transaction, Dominion also acquired an irrevocable, perpetual license for the AutoMark voting terminals used by voters with disabilities, a similar license for the VoteRemote absentee vote-by-mail processing solution, and rights to spare parts, supplies and other resources necessary to support and service these installed systems. In addition, Dominion will acquire a percentage of existing Premier inventory.

Under terms of the agreement, which was approved by the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and nine state attorneys general, Dominion has secured the right to hire current and former Premier employees and to enter into agreements with Premier dealers experienced in deploying and supporting these systems. In addition, the transaction requires that current Premier customers be provided with the opportunity to assign their existing contracts to Dominion without penalty. As part of the transaction, Dominion granted license rights back to Premier, subject to certain restrictions. The transaction also provides limitations on the ability of ES&S to continue to sell the Premier equipment going forward. Premier voting systems are currently in use in over 1,400 jurisdictions in 33 states and serve nearly 28 million American voters.

Included in the acquisition are Premier’s legacy products as well as Premier’s new ASSURE 1.2 solution suite which includes hardware, software and firmware with enhanced functionality and strengthened security and auditability features.

Updated March 8, 2010 @ 11:45 A.M.
The Department of Justice's Anti-trust division has determined that the purchase of Diebold's Allen, TX based "Premier Election Solutions", by Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S), has resulted in a voting machine monopoly.

A settlement has been struck, pending approval by a federal judge, between the DOJ, nine states, and ES&S requiring that the private company find a DoJ-approved purchaser of the Diebold/Premier assets. The proposed settlement, signed by the DoJ, ES&S, and representatives of state attorneys general in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington has been posted here [PDF]. Announcement of the DoJ-ordered unwinding of the merger and proposed settlement is also posted here.

Updated March 4, 2010 @ 4:49 A.M.
This story is again in the news with a just released AP news article. The AP story does not report much new news, but since it puts the story in circulation again, we'll pull our old post back up to the top of the list. The AP story includes this quote:
"If you end up with 70 percent of the voting machines and the people rely on them, and if entry into the market is difficult or impossible, it would certainly seem to be a legitimate target for antitrust enforcement," said Charles "Rick" Rule, a longtime Washington attorney who ran the Justice Department's antitrust division from 1986-89 during the merger-friendly Reagan administration.
Updated December 20, 2009 @ 10:22 A.M.
In September 2009 privately owned Omaha, Neb. based Election Systems & Software Inc., the largest voting machine company in the country, bought its biggest competitor, Diebold's Allen, TX based "Premier Election Solutions," without advance public notification.
The New York Post reports today that the U.S. Dept. of Justice and 14 states are actively investigating the already-completed merger of the two biggest makers of voting machines in advance of possible anti-trust legal action to unwind the merger as soon as next month.

The Miami Herald reports that Florida's AG office launched an investigation into the acquisition for possible violations of Florida's anti-trust statutes.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice joins Florida and 13 other states in similar investigations to investigate the merger that put privately held ES&S in control of the voting machines in nearly 70 percent of the nation's election precincts. (Separate from Justice's review, competing voting machine firm Hart InterCivic Inc. has sued ES&S, alleging that the company holds an unfair anti-competitive monopoly on the U.S. voting machine market.)

Given ES&S is a privately held company it issues no financial reports and it was not required by law to give advanced notice to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Dept. of Justice about its acquisition of the Premier Election Solutions unit of Diebold. However, the government does have jurisdiction to take action in such transactions, if they create unfair anti-competitive monopolistic markets.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder in September 2009, just after ES&S announced its acquisition of Premere, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), the Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed concerns over the deal and requested that the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division launch an investigation. In the September 2009 letter Schumer writes:
“If this acquisition proceeds, one company could control over three-quarters of the U.S. market for voting systems. Given other factors, including high barriers to entering the market, I am deeply concerned that local governments and taxpayers will not be getting a fair deal because too much market power will be held in too few hands.”

“It is in the public interest to maintain a range of choices in voting systems” -- noting that increased consolidation in the election-machine market could make elections more susceptible to fraud.
Originally Posted on September 3, 2009 @ 9:49 A.M.
After a three year search Diebold has at long last found a buyer for its Allen, TX based "Premier Election Solutions" business unit. The company announced Thursday that Premier Election Solutions, Diebold’s beleaguered voting machine division, had been acquired by Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

Collin County voters have been voting on Diebold Election Solutions DRE AccuVote touch screen voting systems, like the machine pictured left, since the March 4, 2004 primary election.

In 2008 Collin County purchased 410 of a newer version of the AccuVote voting booth machines (pictured right) to use for early voting. The newer AccuVote machine was used for the first time in Collin Co. during early voting for the November 2008 general election. Collin County continues to use the older "2004" AccuVote voting machines for Election Day voting. Collin Co. currently has a total inventory of about 1400 AccuVote voting booth machines.

In 2006, Diebold began attempts to distance itself from its election solutions division because controversies swirling around its computerized voting system line of business tarnished its mainline banking ATM business, plus, the added profits Diebold envisioned when it purchased the elections systems business never fully materialized. Diebold endured numerous lawsuits in addition to its PR problems over its Election Systems product.

Wired Magazine: Diebold, an Ohio-based maker of ATMs and security systems, purchased the elections business from Global Election Systems for $31 million in January 2002, just as Congress was passing the Help America Vote Act, which allocated billions to states to purchase new voting machines.
Instead of reaping the flow of federal HAVA funds the new Diebold Elections Systems division immediately ran headlong into controversy when Diebold Inc. CEO Walden O’Dell, a fundraiser for former President George Bush, wrote in a letter to Republican supporters in 2003 stating that the company was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president” in 2004.
[Diebold's AccuVote computers were widely used throughout Ohio and O’Dell's letter suggested to some that Diebold might install software on the AccuVote machines "rigged" to throw the Ohio vote to Bush.]
The company then became a target of additional bad "PR" after it inadvertently put its AccuVote computer source code on a public internet access FTP computer. This gave computer scientists an opportunity to examine the AccuVote software code. The computer scientists who studied the software code said they discovered numerous security problems with the voting system [that might allow someone to hack and change votes recorded on the voting machines].

Criticism of Diebold Elections Systems' voting equipment remained constant as the voting system experienced numerous problems in election districts around the country, and reports surfaced that company officials had applied untested and uncertified software updates to voting computers. [Did E-Vote Firm Patch Election?]
[Atlanta Progressive News' Matthew Cardinale filed a report reviewing the history and concerns about software patches illegally installed on Georgia's Diebold touch-screen voting systems.]
Wired Magazine: The most recent problem with the company’s system occurred in the 2008 presidential election in Humboldt County, California, when Diebold’s tabulation software randomly deleted nearly 200 votes. An examination of the system revealed that its audit logs failed to record significant events, such as someone deleting votes from the system; it also contained a delete button that allowed anyone with access to the system to erase the audit logs.

Diebold began looking for a buyer for the troubled touch-screen and optical scan voting, and electronic voter registration business in early 2006. Following a year-long failed attempt to find anyone willing to buy the e-voting business, Diebold spun it off as a wholly owned subsidiary business, renamed the subsidiary "Premier Election Solutions" and gave the business unit its own separate management team and board of directors in August 2007.

Diebold continued to actively search for someone to buy for its election system business unit until Election Systems & Software, another company in the election systems industry, finally aggre Diebold has at long last found a buyer and has sold its controversial U.S. election systems business to competitor Election Systems & Software, another company in the election systems industry. The sale closed Wednesday September 2, 2009 and consists primarily of Diebold’s Allen, Texas-based subsidiary, Premier Election Solutions.

Diebold reportedly agreed to sell the business for $5 million in cash, plus payments representing 70 percent of any cash collected on outstanding accounts that were receivable as of Aug. 31. Diebold expects to recognize a pre-tax loss in the range of $45 million to $55 million as a result of the transaction. The pre-tax loss includes the assets and liabilities of the business, certain retained legal liabilities, and other transaction costs.
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