TUESDAY NOV 16 2004: Volusia County on lockdown
County election records just got put on lockdown
Dueling lawyers, election officials gnashing teeth, Votergate.tv film
crew catching it all.
Here's what happened so far:
Friday Black Box Voting investigators Andy Stephenson and Kathleen
Wynne popped in to ask for some records. They were rebuffed by an
elections official named Denise. Bev Harris called on the cell phone from
investigations in downstate Florida, and told Volusia County
Elections Supervisor Deanie Lowe that Black Box Voting would be in to
pick up the Nov. 2 Freedom of Information request, or would file for a
hand recount. "No, Bev, please don't do that!" Lowe exclaimed. But
this is the way it has to be, folks. Black Box Voting didn't back
Monday Bev, Andy and Kathleen came in with a film crew and asked for
the FOIA request. Deanie Lowe gave it over with a smile, but Harris
noticed that one item, the polling place tapes, were not copies of the
real ones, but instead were new printouts, done on Nov. 15, and not
signed by anyone.
Harris asked to see the real ones, and they said for "privacy" reasons
they can't make copies of the signed ones. She insisted on at least
viewing them (although refusing to give copies of the signatures is
not legally defensible, according to Berkeley elections attorney,
Lowell Finley). They said the real ones were in the County Elections
warehouse. It was quittin' time and an arrangment was made to come
back this morning to review them.
Lana Hires, a Volusia County employee who gained some notoriety in an
election 2000 Diebold memo, where she asked for an explanation of
minus 16,022 votes for Gore, so she wouldn't have to stand there
"looking dumb" when the auditor came in, was particularly unhappy
about seeing the Black Box Voting investigators in the office. She
vigorously shook her head when Deanie Lowe suggested going to the
Kathleen Wynne and Bev Harris showed up at the warehouse at 8:15
Tuesday morning, Nov. 16. There was Lana Hires looking especially
gruff, yet surprised. She ordered them out. Well, they couldn't see
why because there she was, with a couple other people, handling the
original poll tapes. You know, the ones with the signatures on
them. Harris and Wynne stepped out and Volusia County officials
promptly shut the door.
There was a trash bag on the porch outside the door. Harris looked
into it and what do you know, but there were poll tapes in there. They
came out and glared at Harris and Wynne, who drove away a small bit,
and then videotaped the license plates of the two vehicles marked
'City Council' member. Others came out to glare and soon all doors
So, Harris and Wynne went and parked behind a bus to see what they
would do next. They pulled out some large pylons, which blocked the
door. Harris decided to go look at the garbage some more while Wynne
videotaped. A man who identified himself as "Pete" came out and Harris
immediately wrote a public records request for the contents of the
garbage bag, which also contained ballots -- real ones, but not filled
A brief tug of war occurred, tearing the garbage bag open. Harris and
Wynne then looked through it, as Pete looked on. He was quite
Black Box Voting collected various poll tapes and other information
and asked if they could copy it, for the public records request. "You
won't be going anywhere," said Pete. "The deputy is on his way."
Yes, not one but two police cars came up and then two county elections
officials, and everyone stood around discussing the merits of the
"black bag" public records request.
The police finally let Harris and Wynne go, about the time the
Votergate.tv film crew arrived, and everyone trooped off to the
elections office. There, the plot thickened.
Black Box Voting began to compare the special printouts given in the
FOIA request with the signed polling tapes from election night. Lo and
behold, some were missing. By this time, Black Box Voting investigator
Andy Stephenson had joined the group at Volusia County. Some polling
place tapes didn't match. In fact, in one location, precinct 215, an
African-American precinct, the votes were off by hundreds, in favor of
George W. Bush and other Republicans.
Hmm. Which was right? The polling tape Volusia gave to Black Box
Voting, specially printed on Nov. 15, without signatures, or the ones
with signatures, printed on Nov. 2, with up to 8 signatures per tape?
Well, then it became even more interesting. A Volusia employee boxed
up some items from an office containing Lana Hires' desk, which
appeared to contain -- you guessed it -- polling place tapes. The
employee took them to the back of the building and disappeared.
Then, Ellen B., a voting integrity advocate from Broward County,
Florida, and Susan, from Volusia, decided now would be a good time to
go through the trash at the elections office. Lo and behold, they
found all kinds of memos and some polling place tapes, fresh from
Volusia elections office.
So, Black Box Voting compared these with the Nov. 2 signed ones and
the "special' ones from Nov. 15 given, unsigned, finding several of
the MISSING poll tapes. There they were: In the garbage.
So, Wynne went to the car and got the polling place tapes she had
pulled from the warehouse garbage. My my my. There were not only
discrepancies, but a polling place tape that was signed by six
This was a bit disturbing, since the employees there had said that bag
was destined for the shredder.
By now, a county lawyer had appeared on the scene, suddenly
threatening to charge Black Box Voting extra for the time spent
looking at the real stuff Volusia had withheld earlier. Other lawyers
appeared, phoned, people had meetings, Lana glowered at everyone, and
someone shut the door in the office holding the GEMS server.
Black Box Voting investigator Andy Stephenson then went to get the
Diebold "GEMS" central server locked down. He also got the memory
cards locked down and secured, much to the dismay of Lana. They were
scattered around unsecured in any way before that.
Everyone agreed to convene tomorrow morning, to further audit, discuss
the hand count that Black Box Voting will require of Volusia County,
and of course, it is time to talk about contesting the election in