ALSO: Voting Machines Impounded in Perry County, KY
May 9, 2011- It is now officially impossible to know whether thousands of paper ballots being counted in the state of Wisconsin's Supreme Court election "recount" are the same ones actually cast on Election Day. It didn't have to be that way, unlike in Kentucky, where the voters never had a chance, and where high-ranking election officials have now been sentenced to more than 150 years in federal jail following "decades" of manipulated elections.
Thanks to serious chain of custody violations in Wisconsin — such as ballot bags discovered to have been left "wide open" and unsealed in Waukesha County, and ballots left completely unsecured for weeks in the office of the Verona City Clerk in Dane County — that now make it quite likely the real winner of the April 5th election for a 10-year term on the bench of that state's highest court will never be known for certain. That, even though thousands of votes have now been verified as having been miscounted during the state's partial hand-count, and even as the hotly-contested seat in question will determine the ideological balance of the court during one of the most contentious moments in Badger State history.
The majority of voters in Wisconsin cast their votes on hand-marked paper ballots. However, due to a failure to count those ballots publicly on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of the public (as per "Democracy's Gold Standard"), citizens are left guessing and forced to place misguided trust in partisan election officials like GOP activist and Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus and her unsecure chain of custody and election reporting procedures.
With results that will never be known for certain, the razor-thin contest has now become a fully "faith-based election", in contradiction to the checks and balances necessary for true self-governance.
But where Wisconsin could have had an overseeable and fully verifiable election in which voters might have had confidence, voters in Kentucky, for years, never even had a chance as they were forced to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting machines.
The good-ish news? That is changing, as much of the Bluegrass State is finally turning to the use of hand-marked paper ballots, though they plan on tallying them similarly to Wisconsin, via oft-failed, easily-manipulated optical-scan systems manufactured by private vendors, rather than counting them transparently in front of the public.
Given Kentucky's recent history, that's a particularly troubling prospect, as underscored by several developments in two different counties in the state of late.
In 2009, a spate of high-ranking election officials in Clay County, KY — including the County Clerk, a Circuit Court Judge, the School Superintendent, a former Magistrate, and several polling place officials — were arrested in a massive vote buying/selling and electronic vote-machine rigging conspiracy which netted the criminals millions of dollars over the past decade. The federal charges included the County Clerk and other members of the Board of Elections having intentionally falsified election reports to include inaccurate voting results when submitted to the state.
One Republican election official pleaded guilty after the arrest two years ago, and the other eight were found guilty and convicted last year in federal court. They were sentenced this past March to a total of more than 1,871 months in federal prison.
And last week, in a separate, newly developing case, state officials impounded electronic voting machines in Perry County, KY after Republican candidates in last November's election complained of "vote rigging" on the county's 100% unverifiable electronic voting machines…