By Dr. Laura Pressley, Ph.D.
We must really be over the target to incite so much attention. It is exciting that our election integrity legal case in Travis County is the subject of the Houston political blog, Texas Trash Talk by Mrs. Colleen Vera. She inadvertently reminds us that Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, Greens, Pinks, and even those who prefer mayonnaise over mustard, are all capable of agreeing on one thing—we all demand honest, true and legal elections.
Election Integrity is the most incredibly powerful issue in America because it brings together people from all walks of life that would normally never agree, let alone even consider eating lunch together. How many have stood up and protected our country for our right to vote and to have our votes counted accurately? I certainly don’t want to tell our Texas veterans that, in the name of mere convenience for voters and election judges, we have allowed a little fraud to waltz in.
Mrs. Vera makes the dangerous assumption that she can approach her criticisms of our election integrity case using the thesis that Republican voters do not want a paper ballot record of their vote. She politicizes it with the hopes of invoking tribalism and inciting fear in Republicans because “Democrats want paper ballots…” and Republicans must not want the same thing. Right? The truth is both major parties have been accused of stealing elections with electronic voting with Democrats being most recently documented. The real non-partisan story is that members of all political persuasions in Texas do not trust computerized voting.
Let’s bring this topic close to home and talk specifically about electronic voting machines in our Lone Star State. These were introduced in Texas around 2001 along with a slew of laws, promises of impeccable computer security, and paper back up records. “Trust us,” we were told. Well, what happened over the next 15 years was something
very different from what the voters in Texas were promised.
All counties across the state are subject to the same legal requirements and election laws—right? Fast forward to the end of the movie…in 2016 we are far away from the legislative intent of honest, verifiable and true elections in Texas.
Here are just a few of the electronic voting and election integrity safeguards that have been incrementally whittled away over the recent years:
- Paper back up records are being waived because they are simply not convenient. It takes too long to print those pesky paper Tally/Results and Zero Tapes required by law. Apparently, a bureaucrat in the Texas Secretary of State’s office is giving waivers telling counties to not print them.
- Computer corruption errors are occurring on main computers that tabulate votes. Reports of corruption errors have been reported in multiple counties across Texas,
- Precinct accountability is lost with countywide polling locations,
- Early Voting now occurs over weeks and results are entered into county data systems the weekend before the Tuesday election,
- Legal recounts of ballots cannot be done as required by law, and
- Texas Constitution requires all ballots to be uniquely numbered, for security tracking, and that is not
As a candidate for Austin City Council, I’ve experienced the issues above and because of irregularities and illegalities in my election, we brought the first election contest citing election laws were not being followed in Travis County.
Little did I know in 2015, when we filed our City Council election contest and lawsuit, similar election integrity issues were going on all over Texas. For the last year, we’ve been raising funds for our election case and in that process have brought together those individuals and political groups that might not consider eating lunch together. The good news is we all agree on the importance of election integrity. Along the way, we have also brought plenty of attention to lapses of accountability from our Texas election powers that be. Suffice it to say, no good deed goes unpunished.
It is not clear why our diligent efforts to bring honest and legal elections to Travis County are being challenged on a political basis by Mrs. Vera in her blog. Is it because we are over the target like a bird dog on a hunt? Have we successfully made a difference by herding some pretty wild cats and getting key counties and State Senators working together to change the 2016 Election Integrity Platform of the Texas GOP so we may begin closing loopholes that enable electronic voting fraud in Texas?
So why the political criticism and Chicken Little sky-is-falling fear of my friendships and political associations with Travis County Democrats? I live in Travis County, remember? In Austin, it’s been really a cake walk speaking out on gun rights, stopping corporate welfare, and reducing taxes. As one would expect, the status quo Democrats, have labeled me a sleeper Republican and sometimes a closet Libertarian. Now, in Harris County, the largest customer of Hart InterCivic electronic voting machines, I’ve been called a secret undercover Democrat with an agenda. All of this finger pointing is simply laughable and reminds me of the insightful Dr. Seuss children’s story of the Star Belly Sneetches.
For the record, I have historically voted for and donated to Democrats and Republicans which looks strikingly like a resume of an active and budding Independent. Over the years, like the poet William Blake so eloquently depicts in his writings, I’ve moved from innocence toward well earned political experience and wisdom and have kept my hard earned green backs out of the pockets of presidential candidates since 2012.
The bottom line is that Travis County Republican Party Executive Committee members, who know me best, twice unanimously elected me to serve (February and June 2016) as Republican Precinct Chair and subsequently elected me to be a SD 14 delegate to the State Convention. At the Convention, we worked with many counties to update the Election Integrity Plank of the Texas GOP Platform calling for improvements strengthening our Texas elections.
Not Republican enough? So where are all those lifelong Texas Republicans, within the status quo of elections powers that be, when it comes to addressing the election corruption of Travis County? I need both hands to count the big players in Harris County that admit Travis County elections are corrupted. Why did election lawyers, politicians, and election officers who claimed to have known electronic voting corruption was occurring in Travis County look the other way and do nothing for over a decade?
About a month ago, we were very fortunate to have Mrs. Vera in the audience of our recent election integrity presentation in Houston. I always start my presentations by asking for a show of hands of those that trust electronic voting machines. No one raised their hands. Over the last year I’ve been presenting our Travis County case all over Texas, we have discovered, thanks to the hackings of Target, T-Mobile and the State Department (just to name a few), Texas voters rightfully mistrust electronic computerized voting machines.
That evening, Mrs. Vera asked me what I want for Texas elections. As I will repeat in this article, we want adherence to all our election laws—provide a legal ballot image for recounts, and print the backup tapes per law, etc. Strategically going forward, we need an election system that has paper back up records to document our votes. I don’t know technically what that system would look like, but it sure isn’t what we have.
Many of us sit with our like minded friends complaining about this corruption, that corruption, Hillary is stealing elections, Obama is over-reaching his executive powers, the FBI and US Justice Department are not holding Hillary to the letter of the law with regard to security breaches and email servers, blah…blah…blah. Many of us are really good at barking, but not so good at exercising our power and judiciously biting.
Well, my Austin City Council runoff election was corrupted and I’m not the type to sit back and wonder when is someone else going to do something about it. We all have the power to step up. I refuse to be a victim and have made the personal commitment to stand up and hold Travis County accountable so that honest, true, and fair elections will happen in Austin.
Below, we’ve provide a response to each claim in Mrs. Vera’s blog. The details of our case are provided for those interested in the issues and research.
Claim #1—How can Laura Pressley be a Republican Precinct Chair and SD14 Delegate to the Texas GOP 2016 Convention and associate with those Democrats? Mrs. Vera may not be familiar with Travis County’s local political environment and how non-partisan issues generate powerful cross political support and alliances.
Many propositions in Austin related to transportation, municipal governance, and limiting tax increases, have been successful because Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents join together for a common cause. The Treasurers for my municipal race and our election integrity legal case were carefully chosen because of their integrity and because success comes from cross functional and cross political alliances.
Interestingly, Mrs. Vera did not do full justice when she omitted my 2010 Republican primary voting in her blog entries. Again, I’ve voted in both Democrat and Republican primaries, and I’ve not voted in primaries. And, for our pending election legal case, I’ve gratefully accepted all sizes of contributions from members of every political party under the sun and will continue to do so.
Claim #2 and #3—Why does Laura Pressley expect a Ballot Image meeting the requirements of a legal, statutorily sufficient, ballot to be stored and used for recounts for electronic voting in Texas? The short answer is because that is the law:
- a) Per Texas laws (Chapter 52.001), the “vote in an election is by official ballot.” Furthermore, recounts (Chapter 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216) are done with legal ballots, not legally insufficient documents coined as cast vote records. No where in the Texas Constitution or the Texas Election Codes are cast vote records referenced and allowed to be counted in recounts.
- b) The Texas State Constitution requires legally sufficient ballots to be numbered uniquely and sequentially to ensure security and the legally insufficient term, a cast vote record, does not meet the Constitutional standard. If the legislature ever passed a law in conflict with Article 4, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution, that legislative action would be unconstitutional.
- c) Mrs. Vera does not relay that the Texas Secretary of State’s own Glossary of Elections Terminology defines Ballot Image as “The ballot as it appears on a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system.” Those that vote on the Hart InterCivic and ES&S electronic voting system, know very well they see components of a legal ballot they when they vote (name of election, date of election, voting squares, all candidates names, instructions, etc.) All of these components are required by Chapter 52 of the Election Code (062, 52.063, 52.064, 52.070). Also, note in the Glossary of the Texas Secretary of State, the term cast vote record does not exist.
- c) The supplemental statutes for electronic voting found in Chapter 124 and 129 were not intended to replace the legal statutory ballot requirements so carefully detailed in Chapter 52, the “Ballot Form, Content and Preparation.” If Chapter 124 and 129 replaced the mandates of Chapter 52, the statutory construction language of “notwithstanding Chapter 52” would have to be included in those other chapters. The specific language of “notwithstanding” is not included; therefore the intent of the legislature is that Chapter 52 and the State Constitutional ballot requirements are in full force for electronic voting systems.
Voters across the state have personal experience that Hart InterCivic and ES&S Electronic Voting Systems can format and save a legal Texas ballot. These machines save and show Texas voters their respective ballot when each voter is deciding who to vote for. We see the legal components of a ballot when we vote. The machines clearly format a legally sufficient ballot meeting the requirements of Chapter 52.
Claim #4—Why does Laura Pressley claim she should have those pesky Zero Tapes printed for her Election? Our election legal case is extensive with over 12,000 pages of documents being entered into the court record. Mrs. Vera may have missed the specific court testimony regarding Zero Tapes.
When our lawyers pressed the Travis County Clerk under oath, she admitted they did not print Zero Tapes for my election precincts for our Austin City Council District 4 race (See page 224 line 3 – page 226 line 8).
The Travis County Clerk, stated she did not print them because, (page 226 line 2), she was given verbal permission from the Texas Secretary of State’s Election Division office to not print Zero Tapes directly before the polls opened as required by law (Texas Administrative Code Title 1, Part 4, Chapter 81, Subchapter C, Rule § 81.52, (H)1). Yet, there is a little problem with the purported “verbal” approval. Texas laws require if there is deviation from the Zero Tape printing procedures, waivers must be provided in writing (Texas Administrative Code Title 1, Part 4, Chapter 81, Subchapter C, Rule § 81.52, (H)12). The Travis County Clerk admitted they did not receive a written waiver (page 226, line 1).
Claim #5—Why does Laura Pressley’s statistical analysis show repetitive mathematical patterns and call her election results into question? Finding hidden mathematical patterns, that are not obvious to the public, is one of the best ways to identify sophisticated precinct election fraud. I used the 80/20 rule because it proves to be statistically significant.
Using detailed engineering methodologies, the Pareto Principle and the 80/20 rule, along with applying high school algebra, it was fairly easy to find the repetitive statistical mathematical patterns that brought the validity of our election results into question. Statistics cannot win a legal case, but where’s there’s smoke there’s fire. That statistical smoke signal pointed us to the election records and evidence to request in discovery. Those records subsequently documented security breaches and corruption errors that occurred with the main counting computer in our election.
For the math experts, our statistical analysis identified hidden mathematical patterns of our race by analyzing the top precincts (where 80% of the voters in those races cast votes) to compile our various District graphs. Note there are different numbers of precincts for the each candidate because each District race varies in geographical size. The 80% rule was used for all candidates to drive an apples-to-apples consistent analysis. As Mrs. Vera attempts to challenge our results with her graphs, she does not report the engineering methodology, slope, intercept and R2 values for the plots she shows.
Moving Texas forward, what we really need is Mrs. Vera’s help to make sure all our election laws are followed across the state. Thanks to the Harris County Republican Party, Houston is doing a good job at ensuring honest elections. As with situations, there is always room for continuous improvement.
Even with their extensive resources, Harris County has some blind spots with regard to computerized election integrity. The following concerns have been reported by election officers and judges:
- a) Computer corruption errors have occurred on main computers,
- b) During Early Voting, when the polls close, Results/Tally Tapes are not printed at the polling locations before the equipment leaves the building. Paper back up record printing and authentication procedures are inconsistent between Election Day and Early Voting,
- c) Election results are only publically reported cumulatively. Separate, precinct-by-precinct results by candidate for Absentee, Early Voting and Election Day is needed for all races to enable a statistical analysis for mathematical patterns by precinct,
- d) Security Seals for computer equipment are sometimes not affixed per written procedures, and
- e) No legally sufficient ballot images exist for recounts.
Each of these issues is an open door for an election hacker to introduce a program that could flip votes by the thousands and tens of thousands in Harris County.
What we need are our laws to be honored, adhered to, and not brushed off as inconvenient. Over the last 15 years, what we were promised with secure computerized voting has not come to fruition and the systems have challenged the public’s trust.