Eroding The Cornerstone Of Democracy


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The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery.

Thomas Paine



Open and honest elections

Election watchdog could face charges

Free Al Kolwicz!

Want to know how I voted? Look it up by Jon Caldara

Election watchdog won't face charges

Report spreads blame for voting ills

We are appalled!


Open and honest elections


Since its inception the Equal Justice Foundation has labored to protect our most basic right:

Free, open, honest elections with a secret ballot.

Working with CAMBER, the EJF has time after time provided information, testimony as an expert witness in court and before the legislature, appeared on talk shows, and participated directly in establishing standards for voting equipment. We have helped stop Internet voting and mail in elections in efforts to reduce election fraud.

After the presidential election debacle in 2000, Congress stepped in to "fix" election problems by passing the Help America Vote Act (HAVA in PDF format) in 2002. They also provided $3.9 billion in funding so that counties could update their voting equipment.

Billions in federal funding set the voting equipment manufacturers to slobbering and began a feeding frenzy at the federal trough by local election officials. The fact that the manufacturers could sell their Toy Voting Machines, labeled as DRE's to confuse the public, for ten times the actual cost (would you pay $3,000 for a Game Boy?) set their greedy eyeballs to rolling like cherries in a slot machine.

Problems that cropped up were dismissed as "minor." Little things like counties with 19,000 registered voters having 147,000 recorded votes on the DRE voting machines, 15% of the votes being lost, equipment malfunctions wherein 40% of the machines wouldn't even start in a county with 3 million residents, and on ad infinitum and ad nauseam, were dismissed as "glitches" by manufacturers and election officials, and the response was spin doctoring rather than efforts to fix the problems. Of course, none of these multitudinous problems "affected the outcome of any race," (unless you live in Garfield County, Colorado).

There were also "minor" problems like the fact that these Game Boy machines have no way for election judges or poll watchers to verify that votes are accurately counted, and a recount is impossible. Either you trust the DRE and its programmers, or you' re an enemy agent (see below).

Security experts who found major problems with DRE's were told they simply didn't know how an election works, aside from the ad hominem attacks on them. Warnings of computer experts by the thousands were dismissed by election officials and voting equipment manufacturers as alarmists, conspiracy nuts, uninformed, or despised "academics."

None of these problems were helped by the fact that the manufacturers insist on keeping their software and hardware secret and the courts will not allow any independent inspection. Nor do any meaningful standards for such voting equipment exist. No method of verifying the count produced by DRE's exists either. Then Diebold's CEO (one of the largest manufacturers) wrote a letter promising to deliver Ohio's electoral votes to Bush in 2004 (that happened). However, citizen's are told to trust elections conducted with these dangerous toys without question!

DRE's are touted as being necessary to help the disabled vote unassisted. But when blind voters have tried them the machines malfunctioned.

DRE's are also supposed to make it easy to provide ballots in multiple languages but that hasn't worked well either. One isn't supposed to ask the more basic question of why, if only American citizens can vote, we have to have ballots in other languages at all?

Election officials and manufacturers continually claim: "Voters love the DRE machines!" My guess is they' re smoking something illegal as publications as diverse as the New York Times, Wired Magazine, Playboy (September 2004), Vanity Fair (April 2004), etc. have numerous articles detailing the problems with electronic voting machines. Certainly the citizens we talk to have a very healthy distrust of electronic vote counting.

So when Boulder County, Colorado, as a result of HAVA, purchased new Hart Intercivic voting machines it was natural for CAMBER to want to test them in a realistic fashion. Al Kolwicz then signed up as the Republican Party representative (the People's Republic of Boulder is largely Democratic) for the mandated logic and accuracy tests of the new voting machines.

The result was headlines:


Election watchdog could face charges


© 2004 Ryan Morgan, Boulder Daily Camera

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

Officials contend Al Kolwicz hindered election test

August 7, 2004 — An election watchdog could face criminal charges after a confrontation with Boulder County election officials this week.

Boulder County sheriff's deputies are investigating an incident that occurred when Al Kolwicz, a longtime critic of election practices across the state, showed up to observe a test at the county's election headquarters on Thursday.

Election officials have told police that Kolwicz's actions during that test could be construed as hindering an election, sheriff's Capt. Dennis Hopper said.

Hopper didn't specify which law Kolwicz might have broken, but a Colorado statute defines "interference with an election official" as a misdemeanor.

Kolwicz was upset when he learned he could be cited. "I think this is strictly harassment, and has nothing to do with the law," he said.

The dispute boils down to the nature of the test conducted Thursday.

State law requires counties to perform "logic and accuracy" tests on their voting equipment. This week was the first time such a test has been performed on the county's new electronic voting machines, which were purchased earlier this year.

Election officials say the scope of a logic and accuracy test is limited: It's meant to determine whether voting equipment accurately tallies votes and whether it can catch over-voting (when a voter votes for more than one candidate in the same race) and under-voting (when a voter doesn't clearly mark his or her choice).

The ballots Kolwicz filled in went beyond under-voting and over-voting. In what he said was an attempt to replicate real conditions, he circled his answers rather than filling them in. He attached kitchen-table waste to another ballot (to simulate a voter who fills in a mail-in ballot while eating), and he used a pen to cross out a bar code that the equipment uses to keep track of the ballots.

Kolwicz said the test that election officials requested is too limited, and too unlikely to catch the issues that arise when real voters mark their ballots.

"The voter is supposed to fill in a square next to the candidate of their choice. Voters don't always do that," Kolwicz said. "They'll put an 'X' through the square instead of filling it in, or they'll circle a square. The clerk wants us to produce tests that only fill in the square perfectly. The fact that we had done circles and 'X's' was very upsetting to the clerk."

Kolwicz was referring to Linda Salas, the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, who asked Kolwicz to leave the building Wednesday after seeing the ballots he brought in.

While election officials declined to comment directly, Captain Hopper said they thought that Kolwicz, by going so far outside the scope of the test, illegally hampered the election.

Lisa Doran, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, said her office adheres to the more limited definition of a logic and accuracy test but will not take a position on whether Kolwicz should be prosecuted.

Sheila Horton, another election watchdog who knows Kolwicz, said county officials will look like they have something to hide if they charge him.

"This is nothing more than an attempt to discredit the observers and keep people from asking the questions," she said.


Contact Staff Writer Ryan Morgan at (303) 473-1333 or

The article above was followed up a few days later by an editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera.


Free Al Kolwicz!


Editorial, Boulder Daily Camera

County looks silly hassling citizen watchdog

August 11, 2004 — Last we looked, being fastidious — "very attentive to and concerned about accuracy and detail," says the New Oxford American Dictionary — wasn't a crime. But the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder's Office evidently didn't get that memo.

Last Thursday, officials ordered Al Kolwicz, a Republican representative to the elections canvass board, off the premises, and reported him to police for allegedly "interfering" with an election.

Police are mulling charges, but if their obvious lack of enthusiasm is any indication, they' re embarrassed to have been dragged into this foolishness.

Kolwicz' alleged "crime"? Being too nitpicky during a "logic and accuracy test" required under state law prior to an election.

The test is supposed to determine whether equipment accurately tallies votes. Kolwicz submitted test ballots that were improperly marked, ballots stained with food, and other irregularities, to see how our as-yet-untested voting system would perform — a real, modern-day Jesse James.

Of course, Kolwicz' real offense is that he's been a burr under the saddle of convenience-obsessed election officials for months, asking hard questions about the new system. To hear state and local officials tell it, citizens should just buzz off and leave elections to the pros: "Just trust us."

But post-Florida, that's not good enough. Citizens should be grateful for people like Kolwicz who demand accountability while the rest of us are snoozing.

Hassling citizen watchdogs is a laughably bad idea. The clerk's office should stop pursuing silly charges against Kolwicz, or risk looking even sillier when the case comes before a judge.


That editorial was then followed by Jon Caldara of Independence Institute in his weekly column for the Boulder Daily Camera outlining not only the dangers in not testing, but pointing out the fact that Boulder County now makes it possible to see how a citizen votes in violation of the Colorado Constitution.


Want to know how I voted? Look it up by Jon Caldara


Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

August 15, 2004 — Government employees have better things to do than spend their valuable time trying to appease the occasional gadfly who starts circling around their offices.

Take for example Boulder busybody Al Kolwicz. For years he has been pestering election officials from Boulder County to the Colorado Secretary of State's office. He's constantly yapping that our voting systems are not secret, verifiable, or accurate.

This guy is so annoying that the folks at Boulder County Clerk's office ordered him off their premises during a mandated test of our new voting equipment and tried to have him arrested on August 5, 2004.

But you do have to give Kolwicz credit on just one tiny little point: He's absolutely right.

Our voting systems are not secret or verifiable, and who knows if they' re accurate. Kolwicz was tossed out during the accuracy test because he had the gall to fill out the test ballots with the kind of mistakes real voters make.

Boulder County had a relative good voting system for years, with the glaring exception of mail-in ballots, where hundreds went uncounted.

We had those great, old-fashioned punch cards that used that sliding hole puncher. If you read this column, chances are you vote and know exactly what I'm talking about — no hanging chads, easy for manual hand recounts, of which there have been a few.

But after "Florida," Congress ordered counties to get rid of punch-card systems. And, with our own ballot counting machines in need of repair, it was time for Boulder to buy a new, and of course, expensive, system.

I got a taste of that system when I voted in the August 10 th primary. Due to a new law I had to show identification before voting. Even though old movie stubs and laundry tickets can apparently pass for ID, this is a huge step forward for voting integrity. [Note however that proof of citizenship is not required.]

But was it a secret ballot? If you really want to know how I voted, you can check it out for yourself. For the first time in my life, I turned in a ballot with a serial number on it: 00733454. Anyone with access to the ballots can now go see how I voted.

While our old ballots also had serial numbers, that portion was torn off before the ballot went into the locked box. Not so with the new ballots. To my knowledge, Boulder is the only county in the state that individually marks ballots.

Secret and private ballots are a cornerstone of democracy. It is even spelled out in Article 7, Section 8 of the Colorado Constitution: "no ballots shall be marked in any way whereby the ballot can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it."

Did I mention my ballot was marked with number 00733454? I am now identified as the person who cast it.

The county clerk's response to this issue is, don't worry, the Secretary of State's office says what we' re doing is OK, and nobody at the polling place would ever write down your serial number. In other words, we don't need secret ballots in Boulder, you can trust us.

I prefer the old Reagan standard: Trust, but verify.

It is not just election workers that have access to ballot serial numbers; it can be the voters themselves. What better way to prove to your union boss or Halliburton connection that you voted the way they instructed than giving them your ballot number to have some insider check it?

The other big problem with the new system is accuracy. Like those old "Scantron" tests we took in high school, you now need to scribble in the little square with a pen without going outside the lines. (So much for that Boulder "color outside the lines" attitude.)

What if you do go outside the lines, or don't fill it in completely? Well, you just hope the machine guesses how you wanted to vote correctly. We don't know that it will. When Kolwicz tried to challenge the system that way during a test, he was kicked out. How dare he color outside the lines?

If the machine can't guess how you voted, then election officials get to "interpret" how you meant to vote.

Instead of getting hassled by election workers and belittled by officials, Al Kolwicz should be thanked by all voters for his determined, relentless and detailed work to demand that voting be truly secret, accurate and verifiable.

And the county needs to give us a new, Kolwicz-approved paper ballot system.


Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute in Golden. He lives in Boulder and may be reached at

Boulder County officials were not deterred by public ridicule.

A sheriff's office detective made an unannounced visit to Al Kolwicz's home and interviewed him from approximately 5:00 PM until 6:00 PM on Tuesday, August 17 th

Kolwicz initially thought that the visit was in response to a request sent to the Sheriff a few hours earlier. Kolwicz had asked the Sheriff to advise whether he will be permitted to enter the county clerk's building in order to fulfill his duty on the Canvass Board for the August 10 th primary election.

The detective said that the interview was not related to that request but that the interview was related to charges filed by the Boulder County Attorney.

By the end of August apparently Kolwicz had been intimidated enough and the Boulder Daily Camera then carried the following article:


Election watchdog won't face charges


© 2004 by Ryan Morgan, Boulder Daily Camera

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

Prosecutors say they don't have a good case against Kolwicz.
But the intimidation factor of such draconian actions by election "officials" is ignored.

September 8, 2004 — An election watchdog accused of obstructing election officials will not be charged with a crime, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office looked into allegations against longtime county critic Al Kolwicz, prosecutor Bryan Quiram said.

"We did not feel that his actions constituted a violation of the statute and could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," Quiram said.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Office started investigating Kolwicz last month at the behest of officials in the elections division of the Clerk and Recorder's Office, who said Kolwicz broke the law while participating in a "logic and accuracy" test on the county's new electronic voting machines.

That test is meant to determine if voting machines can do their math accurately as they tally votes. Kolwicz was instructed to mark sample ballots in a certain manner to see if the machines could catch over-voting (when a voter votes for more than one candidate in the same race) and under-voting (when a voter doesn't clearly mark his or her choice).

Kolwicz was more creative when he filled out his sample ballots.

Trying to replicate real-world conditions, he circled some answers rather than filling them in. He spilled kitchen detritus on another ballot to mimic an absentee voter who fills out a ballot while eating. And he crossed out a bar code that voting machines use to track ballots.

Election officials contended that by going so far outside the bounds of the logic and accuracy test and trying to fool the machines during a state-mandated test run, Kolwicz illegally interfered with government officials.

After reviewing state statutes, prosecutors disagreed Tuesday.

Tom Halicki, the county elections manager, couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Kolwicz said he was happy to hear he wouldn't be charged with a crime.

"I'm pleased that the district attorney has been able to see the iniquity of what was proposed," he said.


Contact Camera Staff Writer Ryan Morgan at (303) 473-1333 or

And when the Boulder election became a disaster, who should be blamed but the individual demanding adequate testing.


Report spreads blame for voting ills


© 2005 by George Merritt,

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

[EJF comments in Courier font.]

June 14, 2005, Boulder County — A committee investigating what went wrong in last November's elections laid blame on a "perfect storm" of problems — from a quagmire of federal and state regulations to voting-machine problems and activist interference. [Note how quickly they want to kill the messenger!]

In all, it took election officials nearly three days to tally votes.

"We wish we could point to one single thing and say that's it," Richard "Dick" Lyons, chair of the Election Review Committee, said in presenting its report to the Boulder County Commission Monday night. [How about starting with the selection of Hart Intercivic voting machines by induhviduals who had no idea what they were doing?]

Instead, the nine-member committee spread the blame, on issues ranging from the federal Help America Vote Act to lawsuits over Ralph Nader's place on ballots to a Republican Party representative who, Lyons said, delayed counting on Election Day for nearly eight hours because of questions about accuracy testing on the county's new machines. [But, of course, no one should challenge or test the accuracy of voting machines. How dare citizens demand such actions?]

"The representative of the Republican Party apparently misunderstood the purpose of the test and tried everything he could to cause the system to fail," Lyons said. [It seems obvious that Boulder County had no idea what testing is supposed to accomplish. If the system is going to fail, it is infinitely better that it fail during testing prior to an election. In this case, election officials killed the messenger, threatened him with arrest, and the election proved to be a disaster because the proposed testing was not done.]

Albin Kolwicz told commissioners that he was the representative in question and was concerned that the committee never contacted him before it issued its report. [Is it possible Mr. Kolwicz knew more about the problems with voting machines than the election officials?]

But even if everything had gone perfectly, the county's new ballot-counting machines still would have taken 22 hours to get the job done, the report said. [And what does that say about the competence of the election officials who purchased this junk?]

That was a figure that "dumbfounded" Commissioner Tom Mayer, who grilled a representative from the company that makes the machines.

"All I can infer is that Hart (Interactive) did not understand what kind of election we would be running here," he said. [No, apparently Boulder County election officials have no idea what equipment is needed for their elections. But far be it from any incompetent bureaucrat to accept responsibility for their own ignorance and stupidity.]

He recalled that before the election there was concern that the county's six new scanning machines would be able to count every vote by 5 or 6 AM — and that was a problem.

The county bought two more machines from Hart in hopes of finishing sometime around 3 AM. He worried that Hart had misrepresented themselves.

"We really take offense to that," said Michelle Shafer, a spokeswoman with Hart. The ballot machine "was never represented as something speedy." [Then why did Boulder County buy this equipment?]

But Mayer shot back, "It wasn't represented as being tortoise-like, as it turned out it was." [It seems to us that the adage is "buyer beware."]

Shafer said after Monday's meeting that the system was modified to meet a "political climate in Boulder" that demanded a paper trail. [Actually that is a national demand for all voting equipment. However, a paper trail does make it harder for incompetent or corrupt election officials to hide their actions.]

In the end, the committee recommended that the county hold a mail-ballot election this November since the Hart system is best designed for that. [Now we must modify the election to fit the faulty equipment! To what lengths of stupidity will election officials go to cover their incompetence?]


Staff writer George Merritt can be reached at 720-929-0893 or


We are appalled!


The Equal Justice Foundation is appalled that such intimidation would be used against a duly-delegated representative of a major political party simply for attempting to do his duty in the most thorough manner he knows how. These are Stalinist tactics and bring to mind that monster's famous dictum: "It's not who votes that counts. It's who counts the votes."

Clearly election and homeland security officials in Boulder County will not tolerate any inspection of their voting machines and methods, and they will know how citizens voted.

How soon will these tactics of intimidation spread to other election jurisdictions?

We can think of little that is more frightening for the future of our nation than the above actions and police-state intimidation.



| EJF Home | Where To Find Help | Join the EJF | Comments? | Get EJF newsletter |


| Vote Fraud and Election Issues Book | Table of Contents | Site Map | Index |


| Chapter 4 — Trust Our Election Officials? |

| Next — Votes At Risk In Some States by Thomas Hargrove and Michael Collins |

| Back — Madame Butterfly Flies Off With Ballots: Florida Fixed Again by Greg Palast |


Last modified 6/14/09