Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities
Dan Tokaji's Blog
- Election Law Blog (Rick Hasen)
- Election Updates (Michael Alvarez & Thad Hall)
- Votelaw Blog (Ed Still)
- Leave it to the Lower Courts: On Judicial Intervention in Election Administration, 68 Ohio State Law Journal 1065 (2007)
- The New Vote Denial: Where Election Reform Meets the Voting Rights Act, 57 South Carolina Law Review 689 (2006)
- Early Returns on Election Reform: Discretion, Disenfranchisement, and the Help America Vote Act, 73 George Washington Law Review 1206 (2005)
Friday, April 28
Walkin' to New Orleans
Not exactly, but I am in New Orleans this weekend. And not to do research on the election system, but rather for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a great annual event that any serious music fan should check out.
New Orleans elections have, for good reason, been the subject of considerable attention among the media and commentators, so it seems appropriate to comment on it while I'm here. One of the things that's become apparent to me during the day or so that I've been so is how focused public attention appear to be on local politics and the difficulty of conducting an election in a place when about two-third of the city's residents are elsewhere. Of particular note is the mayoral race, in which Mayor Ray Nagin and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu will face each other in a May 20 runoff. It's quite possible that a disproportionate number of New Orleans residents still absent are African American could affect the outcome of this election, in which Nagin will almost certainly be the preferred candidate of most blacks and Landrieu of most whites.
The Nagin-Landrieu race highlights the profound racial differences that exist in our society, not only with respect to individual votes' choices but also with the background inequalities that can affect democratic participation. Electionline.org has provided especially thorough and thoughtful coverage of election problems in New Orleans, including weekly newsletter reports last week (New Orleanians prepare to head to the polls) and this week ('So easy' in the Big Easy). According to this week's electionline.org report, turnout for the April 22 election was 36%, compared to 45% in 2002. That report notes that predominantly black precincts tended to have much lower turnout than predominantly white ones.
The author of this week's electionline.org report, Mindy Moretti, has a very interesting comment at the conclusion of her story:
I've told many of my friends that New Orleans is the saddest place right now. Words can't really begin to describe what I've seen and taking photos of the devastation seemed oddly inappropriate. But it doesn't have to be sad -- it can and will rise again with your help. Merchants and residents alike echoed the same refrain, "Please come back, we're open for business and we need you." So, as the saying goes, laissez les bontemps roulez ... again -- please consider visiting New Orleans perhaps to volunteer your time but definitely to show your support (and spend your money!).What I find particularly intriguing about this is that I've had a much different impression during the past day. I don't mean to suggest that Moretti is wrong that there's a great deal devastation and sadness here -- to the contrary, I think her observations are much more accurate than my own, relatively superficial impressions. What's interesting is that, to the casual visitor like myself, spending time the French Quarter where there seem to be as many tourists as ever, and having as good a time as ever, it's quite easy to overlook that devastation and sadness.
Ironically, this is one of the things that may bring people back to New Orleans to visit, as Moretti encourages. At the same time, the challenges that New Orleans is facing in conducting its elections should serve as a reminder of the profound divide in our society -- especially when it comes to race -- that continues to have an impact on democratic participation. New Orleans may be a particularly vivid example of that divide, but I don't think it's unique.
Tuesday, April 25
Georgia ID Fight Heads Back to Court
To no one's surprise the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a letter preclearing the new version of Georgia's photo ID requirement (Act No. 432/SB 84), passed earlier this year. The reason this isn't surprising is not because the ID law should be precleared, but rather because DOJ had previously precleared a predecessor ID law in Georgia -- against the recommendation of DOJ career staff. That statute was subsequently enjoined by the federal district court on the grounds that it violated equal protection and constituted a poll tax. My previous thoughts on this decision may be found here, and I've got a more elaborate explication on concerns of partisanship underlying DOJ's preclearance of the old Georgia ID law in this forthcoming article in the Howard Law Journal.
One interesting point in the new preclearance letter is that it says that the determination "does not extend to changes that have yet to be adopted pursuant to the enabling portions of this legislation." That includes the designation of specific locations where ID cards will be made available. Other rules governing the administration of ID cards, the letter states, will also be subject to review. Such language wasn't included in the letter preclearing the old ID law. This may have to do with the differences between the old law and the new one. In any event, this puts Georgia on notice that its future decisions regarding such matters as where to make photo ID available will also have to be precleared before they can take effect. If, for example, Georgia chose to make ID available mostly in white neighborhoods and not in black ones, that could be deemed "retrogressive" and on that basis denied preclearance.
The preclearance letter properly notes that DOJ's decision only concerns the new law's compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and doesn't foreclose challenges on other legal grounds. The constitutionality of Georgia's new ID law will now go before the federal district court. Defendants in Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups have already given the court notice of the DOJ's preclearance.
The new law is slightly different from the old one, mainly in that photo ID is now to be provided free of charge. But this difference is more of form than of substance, and does little to lessen the burdens imposed by Georgia's photo ID law. Voters will still have to pay for the underlying documents needed to obtain photo ID, not to mention the burdens on one's time that we know to be associated with a visit to the DMV office.
Moreover, Georgia has still failed to come up with evidence to show on that it has a serious problem with voters showing up at the polling place pretending to be someone they're not -- the sole issue that a photo ID law would effectively deal with. Absent such a record, Georgia's 2006 ID law isn't much different from the 2005 law: a transparent effort by the party in control of the legislature to suppress votes among groups likely to vote for the other major party's candidates.
Friday, April 21
Sixth Circuit Holds Ohio Voting Systems Unconstitutional
The Sixth Circuit today ruled on a challenge to the State of Ohio's use of punch-card and central-count optical scan voting systems, holding that the use of both systems violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision in Stewart v. Blackwell reverses the district court's contrary holding, which had rejected this claim after a bench trial. The Sixth Circuit also vacated and remanded on plaintiffs' claim that the challenged voting systems disproportionately deny the votes of African Americans, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The opinion may be found here. (Disclosure: I'm co-counsel on the case with the ACLU and argued it before the Sixth Circuit.)
This is the first decision to hold that the use of punch-card or central-count optical scan voting equipment violates the Constitution. Two prior district court cases (Black v. McGuffage in Illinois and Common Cause v. Jones in California) had allowed lawsuits making similiar claims to proceed, but those cases were subsequently resolved without a final judgment on the merits of the issue. The California recall litigation (Southwest Voter Registration Education Project v. Shelley) also raised like claims. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit originally ordered a preliminary injunction to be issued, but that order was vacated and the en banc court ended up affirming the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction.
The Sixth Circuit's opinion discusses these cases and, as one would expect, devotes considerable attention to the Supreme Court's opinion in Bush v. Gore. There's a lengthy exchange between Judge Boyce Martin's majority opinion and Judge Ronald Gilman's dissent on Bush v. Gore, which includes substantial discussion of Professor Rick Hasen's Florida State U. Law Review article on the subject.
The court's holding on Section 2 of Voting Rights Act issue, though likely to attract less notice, is also significant. This is one of a series of cases challenging election administration practices that result in the disproportionate denial of minority votes -- practices that I collectively refer to as "The New Vote Denial" in a forthcoming article. Other vote denying practices that have been subject to Section 2 challenges include voter identification and felon disenfranchisement laws. These cases, I argue, are qualitatively different from the more common form of Section 2 cases, vote dilution, in which the collective voting strength of racial minorities is weakened, even though they are allowed to vote and have their votes counted. The precise test applicable to practices that result in the disproportionate denial of minority votes has been less than perfectly clear in prior cases, but the Sixth Circuit decision is a step toward recognizing that such claims may proceed.
Thursday, April 20
Making Voting Accessible for All
One of the most important requirements of the Help America Vote Act ("HAVA") is that every polling place have at least one unit that's accessible to people with disabilities. Meeting this requirement, which takes effect this year, is turning out to be quite a challenge in some states.
More specifically, Section 301 of HAVA requires that voting systems:
be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters....This section goes on to say that the requirement may be met by having "at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities at each polling place."
Now, People for the American Way has filed a lawsuit alleging among other things that the machines to be used in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania don't comply with HAVA. The complaint may be found here. Allegheny County is planning to use the ES&S iVotronic system, which the complaint alleges to have been chosen after plans to obtain machines made by the two other big voting machine vendors (Diebold and Sequoia) were scrapped. One of the allegations in the complaint is that the ES&S system isn't accessible to all disabled voters, and thus doesn't comply with HAVA. Although the system accommodates people with visual impairments, plaintiffs allege that it doesn't accommodate people with manual dexterity impairments.
My initial take is that it's unlikely that the plaintiffs in this lawsuit will get the injunctive relief they're seeking -- namely, stopping the use of ES&S's iVotronic machine and allowing Allegheny to continue using its lever voting machines. That's mainly because Pennsylvania was among the states that accepted HAVA funds on condition that it get rid of lever machines by 2006 and because those lever machines don't meet HAVA's requirement that voting systems generate a paper audit trail that can be used for manual audits. Lever machines aren't accessible to people with disabilities either. Moreover, as this story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review points out, Allegheny is just one of several counties that's struggling to meet HAVA's requirements, and may not be in any worse shape than other counties in the state.
The case is nevertheless significant, in that it raises the issue of whether an electronic voting machine is accessible, if it doesn't allow private and independent voting by people with manual dexterity impairments. It also raises the factual issue of how well the electronic voting machines being used really do accommodate people with non-visual disabilities. State and local election offcials throughout the country are thus likely to be eyeing this litigation nervously in weeks and months to come. Could it be that there's no system out there that fully accommodates people with disabilities, in the manner that HAVA requires? If that's the case, then what are counties supposed to do? And what are courts supposed to do?
Tuesday, April 18
Three New Voting Rights Papers
I've posted three new working papers on SSRN, all of which deal with the Voting Rights Act:
The New Vote Denial: Where Election Reform Meets the Voting Rights Act will be published this spring in the South Carolina Law Review. It considers election practices challenged under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, on the ground that they result in the disproportionate denial of racial minorities' votes. Examples of practices challenged on this ground in recent years include felon disenfranchisement laws, unreliable voting equipment, and voter identification requirements. After discussing the Section 2 litigation over these practices, the paper proposes a disparate-impact test for evaluating such claims, drawing on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.I've created links to the papers on the right-hand side of the blog. Comments on any of these three papers would be welcome, but I'd be especially grateful for thoughts on the Shaw book chapter. While the first two papers are already well into the editing process at law reviews, the last one is at a stage where I can more easily incorporate suggestions.
If It's Broke, Fix It: Improving Voting Rights Act Preclearance will also be published this spring, in the Howard Law Journal. This paper examines claims of partisanship in the U.S. Department of Justice's administration of its preclearance power under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. These claims have recently come to the fore, in the wake of the Justice Department's controversial decisions to preclear Texas' 2003 re-redistricting plan and Georgia's 2005 voter ID law. The paper concludes that there is a serious risk of partisan manipulation in the current preclearance processes, and proposes a revised process that would diminish that risk.
The Story of Shaw v. Reno: Representation and Raceblindness is a chapter in the forthcoming Race Law Stories book to be published by Foundation Press, probably in 2007. The chapter puts the Shaw cases in the context of North Carolina's history of excluding African Americans from the political process, as well as the efforts of the Justice Department to increase minority representation through enforcement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the 1990s. Drawing on Justice Blackmun's papers, the chapter discusses the Supreme Court's internal deliberations over the first Shaw case. It then considers the still-unresolved tension between the raceblindness principle and goal of increasing minority representation, evident in Shaw and the racial gerrymandering decisions that have followed.
Monday, April 17
Indiana Voter ID Law Upheld
A federal judge in Indiana has ruled against the state Democratic Party and the ACLU, in their effort to have that state's photo ID requirement enjoined. The order may be found here, and the AP has this report.
I've only had the chance to take a quick look at the opinion, but that reading suggests that an appeal is likely. The strongly worded opinion from Judge Sarah Evans Barker accuses the plaintiffs of "fail[ing] to adapt their arguments to the legal arena" and of asking the court to adopt "their own personal and political preferences." These are curious accusations, to say the least, particularly given that a district court in Georgia enjoined a very similar photo ID law on grounds very similar to those offered by voters in Indiana's case.
Another curiosity is Judge Barker's aggressive derogation of the expert report offered by Kim Brace of Election Data Services. As those who follow election administration with care know, Brace is a highly respected figure in the field. Yet Judge Barker goes hard after Brace's expert report, finding his analysis and conclusions "utterly incredible and unreliable."
A much more tangential curiousity in the opinion is a reference to a dissenting opinion by "Chief Judge Kozinski" of the Ninth Circuit on using some constitutional provisions as "springboards for major social change." The reference to Judge Kozinski isn't that surprising. Last time I checked, however, Kozinski wasn't Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, nor was he at the time of the 2003 opinion she cites (although he was chief judge of the federal court of claims prior to his appointment in 1985).
At any rate, the opinion as a whole is very heavy on rhetoric -- in fact it reads more like a lawyer's brief than a judicial opinion -- but it's not at all clear that its reasoning will stand up on appeal. More on this to come . . . .
Update: Not suprisingly, the Indiana Democratic Party has announced that it will appeal the district court's ruling to the Seventh Circuit.
Tuesday, April 11
A Remarkable Turn in the Paper Trail Debate
Black Box Voting has long been one of the most vocal critics of electronic voting technology. Led by Bev Harris, the organization has been sharply critical of the lack of security and transparency that it believes to exist with the present generation of electronic voting equipment. It has also sought to expose and publicize problems with paper-based technology, most recently through the Harri Hursti study of Diebold's optical-scan system.
Now, in this opinion piece, Black Box Voting has announced its opposition to the latest version of the Holt Bill (HB 550), which would mandate a "voter verified paper audit trail" or VVPAT. This would essentially require that electronic voting machines produce a contemporaneous paper record ("CPR") that voters could view before casting their votes. The idea behind it is that, in theory, the paper record could be used in the event of an audit or manual recount. Here are some excerpts from Harris' piece:
Election reform groups are split on whether they support H.B. 550. Black Box Voting normally does not weigh in on legislation, this time we will. Citizens need to be informed of the dangers as well as the benefits when being urged to support legislation.Now, I've occasionally been critical of Black Box Voting's tactics, most recently here. But I think that Harris is right on target in referring to the VVPAT as a "placebo." In fact, I've been critical of laws to require a VVPAT, including past versions of the Holt Bill, for quite a long time. I've even used the word "placebo" to describe its defects. The VVPAT may make some voters feel more comfortable about using electronic equipment, at least in the short term. But will it really make our election system more secure and transparent? It's doubtful at best.
Like an antibiotic that's too weak, we believe that H.B. 550 will create a more resistant strain of election infection.
Like a placebo, people may think the election system is getting well when in fact, the medicine is only a sugar pill that makes everyone think it's better. For a minute.
.... Black Box Voting believes that H.B. 550 is unwise. It will not be effective to improve citizen oversight or election integrity. It is dangerous, because the weakness of the antibiotic will create a more resistant strain of election manipulation....
Because I've discussed the practical problems with VVPAT several times, most comprehensively in this law review article, I'll just briefly summarize here. Even putting aside the mechanical problems such as paper jams that have emerged in testing of current VVPAT systems, the scant available evidence that exists suggests that few voters actually check the paper record. To make matters worse, the Holt Bill doesn't provide for counting enough ballot copies to provide a statistically adequate level of confidence in election results, at least in smaller elections, a problem that I noted in testimony available here. This difficulty is compounded by the length of time that it would actually take to count the curled-up strips of paper tape that VVPAT models would generate. According to electionline.org's annual report, it took about four hours to count a single strip of paper trail records, containing just 64 votes.
What this means is that Harris is dead-on right to label the current VVPAT bill a "placebo." Yet amazingly, Representative Holt and his allies continue to advance the idea that the VVPAT is a cure-all, despite the complete absence of any research to support their position. There is of course research to suggest that electronic voting is vulnerable to fraud and error, at least without the proper procedural safeguards. But there's none -- and I don't think this is an overstatement -- to support the conclusion that the VVPAT provides a workable and effective solution ot these vulnerabilities. Is there any research, for example, to show that voters actually check these strips of paper? That the present VVPAT systems are user-friendly? How long will it take to count the strips of paper generated by current VVPAT models? And most important of all, where are the statistical analyses showing the percentage of ballots ought to be recounted to provide an acceptable level of confidence? As far as I can tell, they don't exist.
Harris is also right, I think, to suggest that greater transparency is a more promising way forward:
It's Not About a Paper Trail; it's About Banning SECRECYHere again, I think she's pointing in the right direction. The voting system vendors have maintained that their software is a trade secret. Others have criticized this "security through obscurity" approach, and I think that open source solutions ought to be considered.
If we want a trustworthy system, we need to be unafraid to entertain the idea that if you make any facet of elections secret (other than who a person votes for), it will attract criminals. Such a temptation may take place inside a voter registration database or voting machine vendor's operation. In the case of a rogue programmer, management need not even know (if the programmer is positioned correctly). It may exist inside an elections office, or with a poll worker, or through a political operative....
Save your lobbying for something that eliminates secrecy. And if only a computer scientist can understand it or only an elections official can monitor it, it's still secret. H.B. 550 doesn't do much of anything to get at the core problem, which is secrecy.
One of the things that's most remarkable to me about Black Box Voting piece is that it suggests some convergence of views among electronic voting skeptics and those of us who've been skeptical of the VVPAT. I've noticed that e-voting skeptics have become increasingly aware of the problems that exist with at least some of the VVPAT devices now being marketed -- and in fact being used in some jurisdictions in this year's election. On the other hand, at least some longtime VVPAT skeptics, myself included, have increasingly come to appreciate the security and transparency concerns that really do exist with the present generation of voting technology.
Although some continue desperately cling to the idea that the VVPAT is the answer, the debate appears to be moving beyond the simplistic "PAPER=SECURITY" slogans that have mostly dominated the public discourse. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I take this to be an encouraging sign.
Update: Bev Harris responds to my post here. We're not completely in agreement, and I've apparently misunderstood what she meant by banning secrecy, but I like her think it's best to work to find common ground and to avoid the ad hominem attacks that have sometimes hindered productive discourse (and I include myself in this). One point on which I think there ought to be agreement is this: Whether or not one believes that the VVPAT is necessary to ensure transparency and security, it's clearly not sufficient.
Monday, April 10
Breaking News: Commissioner Martinez Resigns from EAC
Commissioner Ray Martinez III of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has tendered his resignation, effective June 30, 2006. The letter of resignation to President Bush may be found here. Commissioner Martinez attributes his resignation to personal reasons, specifically a desire to be nearer to his family in Texas following the recent passing of his mother.
My take: Commissioner Martinez has served with great distinction as a member of the EAC, and he will be greatly missed. He's been a major leader in carving out a vital role for the EAC in American election administration. That includes distributing federal funds to the states, promulgating voluntary voting system guidelines, and commissioning desperately needed research on such topics as registration, provisional voting, and election fraud. (Disclosure: the Moritz College of Law is currently engaged in research regarding provisional voting and ID requirements with the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers, under contract with the EAC.)
What's been particularly impressive about Commissioner Martinez is his strenuous effort to prevent the bipartisan commission from being divided along party lines. The EAC has so far been incredibly successful in making decisions by consensus. All of its decisions last year, for example, were by unanimous vote. Such consensus has been instrumental in helping to establish the EAC as a respected agency dedicated to the mission of making our election system work better for all voters. I very much hope that the EAC will continue to follow the course that Commissioner Martinez and his colleagues have to this point charted.
The Ohio Recount Revisited
Blogs are buzzing after last week's report, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and elsewhere, on three Cuyahoga County election officials indicted for "fudging" the required random selection of precincts for that county's recount of the 2004 election. A special prosecutor, Kevin Baxter, says more indictments are possible.
A bit of background may be helpful as a recollection-refresher. Under Ohio law (ORC 3515.011), an automatic recount would have taken place if the margin of victory was less than 0.25%, which wasn't the case in the 2004 presidential election. However, any candidate could also obtain a recount, with a deposit of $10 per precinct (ORC 3515.03). That amount has since been increased to $50, by Ohio Sub HB 3, passed earlier this year, to be adjusted for inflation in future years.
The Green and Libertarian Parties' candidates followed this procedure to request a recount throughout the state. Although Ohio's statutes didn't specify precisely how the recount was to be conducted, and in particular the extent to which a manual recount was required, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell promulgated a directive before the election specifying the procedure. Under those procedures, counties required to randomly select 3% of precincts to recount manually. If the totals of the manual recount matched those of the prior machine count, then other precincts were to be recounted by machine. If they didn't match, then the other 97% would all have to be counted by hand.
The logic behind this procedure is that a match between the manual recount and machine count indicates that the machine count was accurate, while a discrepancy provides some reason for questioning whether the machine count was accurate. But the truth is that in any jurisdiction using punch-card ballots -- as all of Cuyahoga County's voters and about 70% of voters in the state did in 2004 -- there's a good chance that the manual recount won't match the initial machine count. That's because of the fragility of punch card ballots. Chad can easily become dislodged or pressed back into place, when handled or put through machines during the counting and recounting process.
According to the Plain Dealer, the indictment of the three Cuyahoga County officials alleges that the 3% of precincts selected for manual recounts weren't really selected at random. Instead, it's alleged, county election officials actually recounted ballots in some precincts before the official manual recount began. Those that didn't match the machine count were allegedly excluded and, at the time that precincts were being chosen, officials only pretended to choose the precincts to be recounted at random. This would defeat the purpose of the 3% random recount, by preventing discovery of those precincts in which the machine count and manual recount disagree.
Sure enough, when Cuyahoga County's manual recount was actually conducted, the machine count and manual recount matched. The remaining 97% of ballots were therefore recounted by machine rather than by hand. Kerry ended up gaining 17 votes, while Bush lost 6 votes.
I don't have any knowledge of the truth of these allegations. Michael Vu, the executive director of Cuyahoga County's election board -- and an election official of whom I think highly -- adamantly denies them. And it's important to keep in mind that all we've got at this point is an indictment and, in our system of justice, individuals are presumed innocent until provent guilty.
That said, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the allegations were true. Given the substantial margin by which President Bush won in Ohio (over 136,000 on election night, later reduced to around 119,000 after provisional ballots were counted), there was almost no chance that a recount would uncover enough votes for Senator Kerry to affect the outcome. Under these circumstances, it's plausible that local election officials cut corners to avoid what likely seemed to them a pointless recount.
That is not to say that the alleged conduct, if it in fact occurred, was justifiable or excusable. Election officials have an obligation to abide by election laws and administrative directives, whether or not they agree with them. The failure to follow prescribed procedures can only result in a loss of public confidence in the results. Whatever the result of this case, it should serve as a reminder to local election officials that failing to follow the rules -- however cumbersome or inefficient they may seem -- will ultimately cause more trouble than it solves.
Tuesday, April 4
Today's Columbus Dispatch has this story on Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's revelation that he owned almost $10,000 in Diebold stock, at the time that he negotiated a deal with the company that allowed Ohio counties to purchase its equipment. Even before this revelation, Blackwell had been criticized on the ground that his office negotiated a sweetheart deal with the company. Blackwell says that he had no knowledge that he owned the shares at the time, and sold them on Monday of this week. He further claims that prior managers of his account were under instructions not to buy Diebold stock, but that a new manager hadn't followed those instructions. In a statement issued yesterday, Blackwell wrote "While I was unaware of this stock in my portfolio, its mere presence may be viewed as a conflict and is therefore not acceptable."
My take: This has to rank as the understatement of the year. Not only may the holding of Diebold stock be "viewed as a conflict." It was a conflict of interest, and a textbook case at that. I take Blackwell at his word when he says that he just discovered his ownership of the Diebold stock. That's because it's impossible for me to believe that any state chief election official -- let alone one planning to run for Governor of Ohio -- could be so foolish as to knowingly purchase stock in a voting machine vendor, with respect to whose financial interests he was making decisions in his official capacity.
The carelessness that Blackwell has demonstrated is difficult to fathom, and its consequences will be most unfortunate. Critics of Diebold's voting equipment will understandably be upset by this revelation. Its supporters should be even more upset, since Blackwell's actions can only exacerbate the doubts about the integrity of the process that the state followed, and damage public confidence in the new machines. It will inevitably fuel the flames of the conspiracy theorists who believe that the transition to this voting technology is part of a grand plot to manipulate the results of future elections.