Three Voting Rights / tech conferences come to Twin Cities this weekend, Ohio election official caught taking $10,000 from Diebo

Via a good story in the Pulse this week by Burt Berlowe, I heard that there are three different gatherings about the state of Democracy in these United States over in Minneapolis this week. Maybe I should snoop around, see if I can get some of those sweet hackable voting machine memory cards. Pulse:

Forty years later, the right of people of color to cast their ballots freely and equally is still being questioned.

To find evidence of that, look no further back than the last two presidential elections, both of which were fraught with efforts to deny minorities their right to vote. Black names were purged from Florida voting lists; Ohio voters in minority precincts stood in line for up to 10 hours while their white counterparts had virtually no wait at all; and in our own Minnesota, Native-American ID cards were challenged.

In contrast to four decades ago, the culprits in this case have come not primarily from the White House but from the state houses—specifically the office of those in charge of running elections, the secretaries of state. In 2000, it was Florida Secretary of State Kathryn Harris who led efforts to keep blacks away from the polls. In 2004, Ohio’s Kenneth Blackwell drew fire for alleged discriminatory election practices. In Minnesota, secretary of state Mary Kiffmeyer has used various tactics to make voting more difficult for minority populations. All three of these secretaries were Republican Party activists—Harris and Blackwell both were state coordinators of George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.

This weekend the ongoing conflict between the secretaries of state and voters of color will be played out in the Twin Cities. While the two entities will not meet face to face, their agendas will collide in separate but intersecting events.

On Friday, Minneapolis will host one of a series of national public hearings sponsored by the Voting Rights Project, Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights (LCCR) and several other concerned organizations. It will be held all day at the Dorsey and Whitney Law Firm in downtown Minneapolis. 

The object of the event will be to assess the impact of the Voting Rights Act on individuals and communities as a proposed renewal of some its provisions draws near. The event will feature a series of panel discussions by experts in voting rights followed by open public testimony. Citizens are invited to attend and testify about their voting experiences.


Beginning that same Friday and continuing through the following Monday, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) will stage its annual summer convention at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel in downtown St. Paul. Some 300 to 400 secretaries and/or their representatives from 40 states are expected to attend the four-day conference. Voting rights and election reform issues of various kinds are among the items up for discussion. 

Minnesota will also host a third event with some relationship to the electoral process, immediately following those two mentioned here. There will be an international E-Democracy conference July 26 and 27 at the U of M Humphrey Center. Julian Bowery will be a featured speaker, and one session focuses on the use of computer technology in voting and data collection. Go to for more information.


Most of the relevant election-related issues, including HAVA, will be discussed during the last day of the conference. The public is invited to attend any of the open sessions for a fee of $250 a day or $475 for the entire event by registering at the NASS web site.

In addition to the conference business, delegates will be treated to cruises, tours and parties during the conference, most of which are paid for by conservative corporate sponsors, including voting machine manufacturers who sell their products to state election officials. Among them is Accenture, a company with a history of questionable electoral practices, including close ties to the Republican Party, a role in the purging of felons from the roles in Florida in 2000, and numerous breakdowns and failures. 

Ellen Theisen of Voters Unite, a national election reform advocacy organization, is critical of this practice. 

“Not only are the voting machine manufacturers directly sponsoring much of this conference, most of them are also corporate affiliates of the National Association of Secretaries of State, paying up to $20,000 a year for the privilege,” she said. “When the Secretaries of State are under this constant influence from the vendors, it’s difficult to see how they can make objective decisions about our voting systems.”

Take a look @ and Velvet Revolution for the latest on the fine field of shady county officials and the voting machine companies that love them.

It's not just secretaries of state getting seduced by the voting machine manufacturers. Brad Blog reports that Franklin County, Ohio Elections Director Matt Damschroder was punished for accepting a nice $10,000 check from a Diebold lobbyist. More about Damschroder in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and RAW STORY. (Damschroder was closely involved with the interesting pattern of keeping voting machines away from non-whites around Columbus last November, instrumental in tilting the outcome of 'democracy')

Commenting on this Story is closed.

Tags for Three Voting Rights / tech conferences come to Twin Cities this weekend, Ohio election official caught taking $10,000 from Diebo