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A vote to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act was cancelled yesterday after some Republicans argued about requirements for bilingual ballots and federal oversight of voting practices in some Southern states.  Some are of the opinion that the Voting Rights Actlaw served its purpose and claim it is "more nuisance than necessity."

This view is being supported by those Republicans who insist that immigrants must learn and use English.

Eighty Republicans signed a letter written by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) objecting to provisions of the Voting Rights Act's provisions requiring state and local governments to print ballots in foreign languages, or, to provide interpreters where there is a need for them, claiming that doing so is an unfunded mandate. The letter further stated

"The multilingual ballot mandate encourages the linguistic division of our nation and contradicts the 'Melting Pot' ideal that has made us the most successful multi-ethnic nation on earth."


Republicans in Georgia, Texas and some other other states now claim that efforts to disenfranchise minorities are a thing of the past and further coverage and federal oversight "is an unfair stigma."

According to Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, evidence of voting rights violations exists in Georgia, Texas and several other states.

"These are not states that can say their hands are clean."

Are there others who cannot say that their hands are clean?

In Emery County, Bruce Funk, a county clerk of 23 years, was condemned by county and state officials and Diebold representatives for his scrutiny of touch-screen machines.

During testing of 40 of the Diebold machines that were purchased by Emery county, Funk discovered the following problems, faulty printers, broken doors and low backup-memory storage.  Further, he suspected that some of the machines were not new, as they had the results of previous elections stored. Funk wondered,

"I'm supposed to rely on these for upcoming elections for how many years?  Something's not right here.'"

A security flaw, described by David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as agreeing with those who had the  "frequently expressed opinion that this is the worst vulnerability that we have ever seen."
In response to this, Diebold accused Funk of breach of contract by letting an unauthorized third party perform inspections on the machines.

In response to Diebold's accusation, Funk responded

"I felt that looking over the contract that I was totally within my right, because in elections, I'm the one ultimately responsible and I felt I needed to be assured myself that everything was okay."

He futher claims that commissioners accused him of causing an increased expense of $40-50 thousand in "recertification" costs and was pressured to resign. And, the locks on his office were changed. Funk also claims that his resignation was verbal, due to pressure, and, he later rescinded it.  

In resonse to Funk's concern's, Bryan Simpson from Diebold, claimed, "One of the big issues the former county clerk had was the amount of memory the machines have. We have been erasing the operating system software and reinstalling everything on these machines...When voting takes place a vote is stored in three different places. On two different memory cards and also on a paper printout."

A member of the retrofit team, John Tultz, stated,

"The[se] are good machines. Machines like these were used in the Ohio election last November and the machines were well received."

Despite the flaws that were discoverd, and Diebold's initial claim of brech of contract, Emory county contracted with Diebold for recertification work at a cost of $1,260 per day per technician. Ironically, Emory county is responsible for these recertification costs.  Additionally, Emory county may request that the state of Utah to assist with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds.

Funk has described his responsiblity  for elections as

"my primary concern and has always been - the integrity of them and making sure everything was accurate. It's not fun being a whistleblower."

Funk has retained an attorney, as is his right, and HAVA funds may be used for retrofitting Diebold machines. This results in  additional costs to the taxpayers, besides those mentioned previously that are being incurred, to justify the use of voting machines.  

Not included are the costs to this country of the hijacking of the extension of the Voting Rights Act. It is uncertain whether or not this legislation will be further discussed in Washington before recessing for Independence Day.

It has been reported in the Salt Lake Tribune that Bruce Funk was forced out of office for requesting that Black Box Voting examine the Diebold machines that are going to be used in the June 27 primary.

Michael Shamos, a Carnegie-Mellon computer science professor who certifies voting machines for the state of Pennsylvania, is quoted,

"He should not be punished for bringing this to light.  He made noises that brought pressure from Diebold."

David Dill a Stanford University computer professor, who has served on an electronic elections task force in the state of California and founded the Verified Voting Foundation agreed,

"Bruce Funk is the only person who has tried to protect the voters. No one else flagged this flaw that has resulted in alerts being issued in several states. He is being removed from office for embarrassing Diebold."

On a final note, I just checked my email and found this:

a small but vocal group in the House of Representatives managed to stage a revolt within the Republican Party and have the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization (H.R. 9) pulled from the House floor.

We cannot let this small band of ultra-conservative House Republicans succeed in holding up reauthorization of this landmark civil rights legislation. That's why we're launching an emergency petition to tell House Leadership to pass the bill immediately.

Emergency Online Petition

Update: [2006-6-25]: Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Yahoo News

... a year ago, the GOP-dominated Georgia Legislature reminded me why the VRA remains a necessary protection for voters of color. Georgia Republicans rammed through a divisive requirement for state-issued photo ID at the polls, the most restrictive voting law in the nation. While Republicans claimed they wanted only to protect against voter fraud, that contention wears not one stitch of credibility. There is much more fraud in the use of absentee ballots, but the Legislature loosened the laws governing those.

What Georgia Republicans really wanted to do was bar a small group of voters who tend to be rural, isolated, poor and predominantly black. According to many studies, those voters are less likely to own a car and, therefore, less likely to have a driver's license. They are also more likely to vote for Democrats. They may be a small group, but they'd make a difference in close races. For years, Republicans have used similar voter-suppression strategies around the country, trying to bar voting by small numbers of Latinos, blacks and native Americans, all of whom are more likely to support Democrats.

(Section 5 didn't protect Georgia's black voters from this bit of harassment; President Bush's highly partisan Justice Department approved the state's restrictive voter ID law. But Section 5 is still one necessary tool among many, including the federal courts. It might be more fairly used by a future Justice Department.)

Originally posted to Street Kid on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 01:15 PM PDT.

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