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Los Angeles Electoral Crisis Looms

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What's the Matter with Los Angeles?

By volunteers at Stand Firm with Debra Bowen and The Voting Rights Task Force
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Recent events during and after the February 2008 California Primary indicate that Los Angeles is in the midst of an electoral crisis. And a crisis for Los Angeles -- the largest election district in America -- is a crisis for California. With the largest concentration of voters in the State, 18 Congressional Districts are partly or wholly contained in Los Angeles County, along with 14 State Senators and 26 Assembly Members. Therefore, the votes cast and counted there significantly affect the outcome of every election and initiative--statewide and even nation-wide.

The most obvious symptom is the now infamous "double bubble ballot" responsible for the initial disenfranchisement of over 60,000 "decline to state" (DTS) voters in February's primary. The ballot design was overseen by the previous Los Angeles County Registrar, Conny McCormack--a woman with close ties to Diebold and an overt hostility to the electoral reforms advocated by Secretary of State Debra Bowen (Bowen, by contrast is a recent recipient of the John F. Kennedy "Profile in Courage" award).

The "Double Bubble Ballot" and Conny McCormack

On Primary Election-Day 2008, McCormack's ballot design caused widespread confusion among poll workers and "(DTS)" voters who were unaware they needed to fill in a second "bubble" in order for their votes to be counted.

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If this all sounds confusing now, imagine how hard it was to figure out in the voting booth!

McCormack claims that it was all just "an unfortunate, unanticipated result," which "no one could have predicted." The facts however, contradict this explanation, as evidenced by the recent revelations that a staggering 44% of "DTS" voters who used this ballot in the 2004 primary did not have their vote counted; in the 2006 primary, 42% of DTS crossover voters were disenfranchised. Under Logan's administration of the 2008 primary, disenfranchisement was 27%.

How could such a catastrophe occur right under the noses of each of the last two Los Angeles Registrars? Why didn't McCormack rectify this "ballot problem" as Registrar? And why did she quit her job one month before the largest primary in recent memory, without sounding the alarm bells? If she couldn't predict the problems her ballot design would cause, she was grossly incompetent; if she knew about the problem and did nothing, then she may be criminally negligent. In either case, an official investigation is warranted.

McCormack's Hand Picked and Failed Successor, Dean Logan

This sordid tale of electoral malfeasance gets worse: McCormack recommended that none other than Dean Logan take her place as Acting Registrar. Logan was already infamous for his performance as Elections Director during King County, Washington's disastrous and controversial 2004 election, in which omissions and errors saw the vote flip from one gubernatorial candidate to another as votes kept being discovered. Two audits by the King County oversight committees revealed that illegal votes had been counted while some legal votes went uncounted. A bipartisan task force concluded that Logan had left the elections staff in a state of what the Seattle Times termed "perpetual crisis."

And County Councilman Reagan Dunn ultimately demanded Logan's resignation, noting, "The failure of your department in administering the most recent election is clear from the many errors in registering voters, inaccuracies in counting and recounting ballots, failure to ensure that only legal ballots were counted and inability to reconcile voters with ballots cast. Every time you report to the Council and the public, the numbers of errors reported have increased." Dunn also noted "evidence of what appears to be a cover-up."

Logan's resume--or lack thereof--is equally troubling: He has no college education and his CERA (Certified Elections/Registration Administrator) "degree" is the result of a 15-day course with the "Election Center"--a private non-profit organization with close ties with electronic voting machine vendors. Logan's resignation allowed him to escape mounting criticism and a lawsuit that charged he chose "expediency over accuracy and equality" in counting votes.

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To the dismay of election integrity groups and activists across the country, Logan was incomprehensibly hired to be Deputy Registrar, and then was as requested by McCormack--promoted over more experienced and qualified long-time County employees to become Los Angeles's Acting Registrar.

Logan's Complicity in LA's 2008 Double Bubble Ballot Fiasco

The key question Los Angeles voters should be asking is whether Logan, in the 2008 Primary, competently and honorably dealt with what we now know was the reoccurring disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of "DTS" voters due to a ballot designed by his mentor, Connie McCormack. Unfortunately, despite alerts to Logan's office that the extra 'bubble' on these ballots could cause Election Day chaos, he did next to nothing to prevent this impending crisis.

As the scope of voter disenfranchisement became increasingly apparent, rather than immediately and aggressively seeking to hand count every "DTS" ballot erroneously "rejected," Logan argued such a recount was only necessary if it would demonstrably change the official election tallies. He then concocted yet another rationale to prevent a recount by making the ludicrous and unsubstantiated claim that the intent of the 60,000 uncounted ballots would be "impossible" to interpret.

As public outrage mounted and the press began asking tougher questions, Logan claimed his office had educated poll workers and voters how to properly fill out McCormack's confusing ballot. Logan's "blame the voters and poll workers" canard was widely contradicted by incensed voters who called in to KPCC radio to explain their experiences with the "double bubble ballot". Further undermining the veracity of Logan's claims were poll workers and poll inspectors who said they had received no instructions or training from anyone regarding the ballot design flaw and the subsequent need for special instructions to voters.

As a result of the intense public pressure orchestrated by the Courage Campaign and local election integrity activists, in addition to the threat of a lawsuit, Logan finally agreed to count 48,525 of the "rejected" ballots. Nevertheless, an unacceptable 12,000 valid and legally cast votes remain uncounted to this day.

Mr. Logan's (and Ms. McCormack's) conduct before, during, and after the February primary has undermined the integrity of Los Angeles elections, badly damaged the public's trust in the office of Registrar, and subverted the democratic principles he was entrusted to protect and defend. Consider his record:

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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