Help us now to protect your vote in November!

SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey filed a complaint in federal court on June 17 to require the state to preserve voting records in federal elections. Since then, the Network has worked to arrange an audit of the entire June 8 South Carolina primary vote.

As you know, the results of two federal elections — US Senate and Congressional District 1 — were, in the words of numerous well-credentialed experts, “anomalous.”

The Verified Voting Foundation released a statement on the South Carolina primary results that concluded, “Whether specific reports of irregularities in this election are confirmed, the most important fact about South Carolina’s voting system is that most ballots cannot be effectively audited or recounted. Serious concerns about the integrity of the primary (and of other elections conducted using the same technology) are inevitable, and legitimate.” For the full statement go to Verified

Since a “recount” of the voting machine tallies we use in South Carolina can only produce the same number, over and over, an audit of the internal memories on the machines is the only way to discover anomalies — and even this won’t reveal the intent of the voter beyond what is recorded by the software.

South Carolina is one of only eight states that uses paper-less, touch-screen devices that are not routinely audited. Thirty-four states now require a “voter verified paper ballot” that can be referred to in the event of a recount or audit.

“We are not questioning the results of the June 8 primary,” said Bursey. “We are questioning whether the machines we use can be audited to insure that the results reflect the voters’ true choices, and if the preserved records satisfy federal requirements.”

Yesterday, we gave up on trying to get the SC Election Commission to agree to a third-party audit of the entire system. The executive director of the SCEC, as well as the board chair, both had roles in the purchase of these machines in 2004. They maintain that the system works fine and no audit is necessary.

We are now focusing on the federal complaint we have filed that questions whether the intent of the federal records preservation statute can be met using the counties’ current systems and software. Our lawsuit is the only thing standing between us and another election in November with unverifiable results.

We have filed a request for all the compact discs that each county was supposed to have used to record the flash memory of each voting machine.

The state Election Commission does not know if all counties followed this procedure, or whether this procedure adequately preserved the records, or whether what is preserved is sufficient to reliably determine the voters’ intent. The state Election Commission is arguing that it is not its job to keep these records, nor to gather them for us.

We need immediate financial help to make our case. We need to raise $3,000 to cover filing fees and expert assistance. If you can help, please do.

We hope that this case, and the growing public awareness of the inherent shortcomings of our voting system, will lead to a voter-verifiable, recountable, paper record of the most critical part of our democracy — our vote.

Please make a secure donation now and indicate in the gift information “verified voting.”

Thank you for your support.

America Speaks Back

By Becci Robbins
SC Alliance for Retired Americans organizer

Some 700 South Carolinians gathered last Saturday in the big hall of the convention center in Columbia to talk about the deficit. No kidding. They could have been grilling or napping or swimming on a lazy summer day, but instead they chose to spend six hours huddled around tables and grappling with this country’s fiscal crisis. The average age in the room was 58.

That sort of civic engagement speaks volumes about our community, and that is very good news.

Unfortunately, the folks who turned out for the Columbia event — and the thousands like them who participated in 60 other cities across the country — may simply be pawns in a larger game staged by powerful forces trying to shape the national discussion on our economic policy.

The much-hyped “town hall” meetings were the product of America Speaks, a group funded by Wall Street fat cat Peter G. Peterson, whose proclaimed mission is to privatize Social Security. It was Peterson who urged President Obama to create the Fiscal Reform Commission — the body that is to receive on June 30 a special report culled from the results of last weekend’s town halls. In December, the Commission will offer its recommendations to Congress, which will then vote — with no debate.

Participants at the America Speaks events were given hand-held devices to record votes on items outlined in our workbooks. We sat at tables made up of 8 to 12 people, and discussed our votes as a group before we cast our individual votes. While we could create our own options if we didn’t feel satisfied by what we had to choose from, these alternative options were not recorded in the electronic tally.

Our table, for instance, unanimously supported the idea of single-payer as the best fix for our health care system, but that was not an option on the table. We objected to a process that did not include the one option we thought most viable and responsible. But our electronic votes did not — and in fact could not — reflect our true wishes.

The discussion became, then, not whether to cut services, benefits and entitlements, but by how much, and to whom. The workbooks offered background information about the deficit and economic projections that were misleading.

Social Security, for instance, does not contribute a penny to the deficit yet was on the chopping block for cuts. Given the false parameters, participants at the America Speaks events voted to raise the retirement age for full benefits to 69, never mind the system is fully funded well beyond 2025.

And while the workbooks at the America Speaks events did say the rising costs of Medicare and Medicaid are fueled by a health care system that is unsustainable and costing twice as much per person than in any other country, reforming health care was not an option.

“We’re playing with a stacked deck,” said SC Alliance for Retired Americans Vice-President Brett Bursey, who attended the event in Columbia. “We’re going to end up with results that are manipulated by those that framed the question.”

He said, “There is no mention of the fact that the war budget is one of the reasons we have this tremendous deficit. There is nothing about the housing bubble causing a $4 trillion hole in the budget that was due to financial mismanagement. So the things that created the situation are not even on the table to be discussed.”

America Speaks challenged participants to find ways to cut the deficit by $1.25 trillion by 2025.

“Single payer and negotiations for prescription drug prices could reduce the budget by $1.25 trillion by 2025,” Bursey said, quoting figures from the Congressional Budget Office that weren’t in the workbook.

According to the Center for Responsible Economic Policy, an infinitesimal tax on all Wall Street transactions could yield $300 billion. America Speaks option was to raise $30 billion with a tax only on standard stock transactions, not the exotic derivatives or default swaps that helped bring on our current economic crisis.

We can only hope that the President’s Fiscal Reform Commission is as thoughtful as Saturday’s participants when they go looking for their $1.25 trillion to plug the hole.

Becci Robbins is the state organizer for the South Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans. For more about the Alliance, call 803-957-8740 or email

SC Progressive Network scrambles to preserve voting machine records

If the 46 county election offices are not stopped, within days they will erase the most critical data from the memories of all the voting machines, warns SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey. With controversy over the reliability of the touch-screen computers heating up, the Network is working to ensure that valuable information is not lost as counties prepare the machines for the upcoming run-off elections.

Bursey explained that the state Election Commission only keeps a summary of the information from the counties, and that only by preserving or copying the flash cards (memory chips) inside the computer will there be enough information to perform an audit.

“There is no way the machines you have in South Carolina can be audited without all the information on the computer flash card in each machine,” Dr. Douglas Jones said. Jones has taught at the University of Iowa Department of Computer Science since 1980, served on the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems from 1994 to 2004, and chaired the board for three terms.

Jones, who serves on the Federal Election Assistance Commission’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee, has performed numerous audits on voting machines like those used in South Carolina. He provided the Network with an affidavit outlining the necessary steps to preserve data for an audit.

“We have been in communication with the US Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section,” Bursey said. “We are arguing that erasing the data violates the federal statute (USC 42-1974) that requires all records in a federal election to be preserved for 22 months.”

Bursey said that if the Justice Department doesn’t intervene, they will try to get a federal judge to order a halt to erasing the records. “We are not questioning candidates, motives or conspiracy theories,” Bursey said. “We simply want a trustworthy audit to assure that all votes are counted accurately.”

“It’s not difficult or expensive to copy the flash card,” Dr. Jones said. “You can hook up a flash card reader that you use to download pictures on your computer from a digital camera and save the data to a CD.” Replacing the flash card would cost a few dollars for each machine.

The flash card records all actions taken on the machine, the time of the vote or any errors in an “events log.” The “ballot image log” records the actual ballot cast. The detailed information on the flash cards is not saved by the state or counties and is routinely erased to prepare the machines for the next election.

Even as the calls increase for investigations into several races, counties will erase the data and install the ballot program for the June 22 runoff. “In a matter of days, there won’t be any way to determine whether the machines played a role in the unusual vote counts,” Bursey said. “We simply want a trustworthy audit to assure that all votes are counted accurately.”

Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter) has sponsored legislation to require voting machines to produce a voter-verifiable paper record that can be used to recount or audit an election.

“With these machines not only is there no paper trail to examine, if the records are erased it’s like cremating the body before the autopsy is performed,” he said.

The Network presented expert testimony at a SC Election Commission Board meeting in  2004, urging the agency not to buy the iVotronic computers that do not have a voter verified paper record. SC is one of four states that has neither a paper record nor a regular audit of its machines.

Statement from Judge Vic Rawl regarding voting irregularities

Earlier today, our campaign filed a protest of last Tuesday’s election results with the South Carolina Democratic Party.

We have filed this protest not for my personal or political gain, but on behalf of the people of South Carolina.

There is a cloud over Tuesday’s election. There is a cloud over South Carolina, that affects all of our people, Democrats and Republicans, white and African-American alike.

At this point, the people of our state do not have the basic confidence that their vote will be counted.

The strange circumstances surrounding Tuesday’s vote require a thorough investigation. For better or worse, this protest process is the only platform currently available for that investigation.

And let me be clear: regardless of the outcome of this protest, a full and unblinking investigation of this election and the overall integrity of South Carolina’s election system must go forward. Whether our protest is upheld or not, I intend to bring my full energies to electoral reform well into the future.

I want to speak briefly about the bases for our protest.

First is ongoing analyses of the election returns themselves, which indicate irregularities.

Second are the many voters and poll workers who continue to contact us with their stories of extremely unusual incidents while trying to vote and administer this election.

These range from voters who repeatedly pressed the screen for me only to have the other candidate’s name appear, to poll workers who had to change program cards multiple times, to at least one voter in the Republican primary who had the Democratic U.S. Senate race appear on her ballot.

For those who experienced problems voting, I urge you to go to our website, and use the form there to report them. You can also call our Election Integrity Hotline at 843-278-0510.

Third is the well-documented unreliability and unverifiability of the voting machines used in South Carolina.

It is worth noting that these machines were purchased surplus from Louisiana after that state outlawed them.

The full details of our protest will be presented on Thursday.

For the people of South Carolina, getting to the bottom of Tuesday’s results will build confidence, either way.

I also hope that a full and frank discussion of our voting system will result in substantial reform.

At the risk of repetition, this protest is not about me, or my personal political fortunes. Indeed, if the protest is upheld and a new election ordered, I have not decided whether to run in it.

But, either way, I am not done with the issue of fixing our elections.

Lastly, let me make something clear. Like all of you, I am aware of the controversies surrounding Mr. Greene. This protest is not about him either.

I would like to speak directly to Mr. Greene and say: “Sir, this is not about you, and it’s not about me. I wish you and your family nothing but the best in the weeks and months ahead.”

Sex and Silliness in South Carolina

By Tom Turnipseed
Columbia, SC

In the most stunning upset in South Carolina’s sordid political history, Alvin Greene, unknown and  unemployed, defeated Vic Rawl, former judge, legislator, and county council member, by a 59 to 41 percent margin to win the Democratic nomination for US Senate. The mysterious Greene will face Republican incumbent Jim DeMint, an ultraconservative tea-bagger, in November.  The state Democratic Party has asked Greene to withdraw from the race because he faces a felony obscenity charge. Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity. Police say he showed obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student. He has been appointed a public defender which requires proof of being an indigent.  The 32-year-old unemployed veteran haltingly insisted he was a democrat and would not withdraw as he discussed his curious campaign with Keith Olbermann, but had “no comment” on the criminal charge.

The mysterious Mr. Greene told reporters he was the “real deal” and would “make a difference.”

Greene recently got out of the Army, and lives at his dad’s home in rural Clarendon County. He presented a $10,400 personal check to the Democratic Party headquarters for his filing fee but was told it had to come from a campaign account.  He left and came back soon with a check that was accepted. Greene said he got the money by saving it up in the service.

He had no campaign signs, website, or media ads and didn’t attend the South Carolina Democratic Party convention in April.

SC Congressman Jim Clyburn said it was “shenanigans” and that Greene must have been “planted” and financed by those who opposed Rawl and supported DeMint. Former Democratic Chairperson Dick Harpootlian told NPR that the alphabetical placement of Greene above Rawl on the ballot could be the reason for the unbelievable upset and also mentioned the extremely low quality of life of poor and working class people in South Carolina.

In the South Carolina Republican Gubernatorial primary contest a week before the June 8 vote,sState Sen. Jake Knotts of Lexington County called Representative. Nikki Haley, an Indian-American candidate, a “raghead”   Knotts said Haley was hiding her true religion from voters. “She’s a f…king raghead,” Knotts said. He later clarified his statement, saying he did not mean to use the F word. Haley led the ticket in the Republican Primary, 49% to 23% for Congressman Gresham Barrett the 2nd place finisher. Haley and Barrett are competing in a June 28 runoff.

Knotts is a likable former cop.  He’s a friendly caricature of a Southern Sheriff like Rod Steiger’s portrayal of Sheriff Gillespie in The Heat of the Night. Knotts told Corey Hutchins of Free Times of Columbia that Haley was set up to run for governor by a network of Sikhs and outside influences in foreign countries.  Knotts said Haley is ashamed of her religion and is hiding behind being a Methodist.  “South Carolina is a religious community.  We need a good Christian to be our governor,” he said. “She’s hiding her religion. She ought to be proud of it. I’m proud of my god.”

Knotts says he believes Haley’s father has sent letters to India saying that Haley is the first Sikh running for high office in America. He says her father walks around Lexington, SC wearing a turban. “We’re at war over there,” Knotts said.  He said he did not mean the United States was at war with India, but was at war with “foreign countries.  “We got a raghead in Washington; we don’t need one in South Carolina,” he said, referring to President Obama, whose father was a Muslim from Africa. Knotts has rejected the Republican Executive Committee of Lexington County’s request that he resign, saying that libertarians were taking over the party.

Recently, political blogger Will Folks said he’d had an intimate relationship with Haley in early 2007.  Folks is a former campaign staffer for Governor Mark Sanford, who is a Haley supporter.  On June 2, Larry Marchant, a prominent lobbyist said he had sex with Haley while they were both married.  Haley has denied any sexual infidelity, and volunteered to resign if the charges were proven to be true after she becomes Governor.

Political nuttiness is nothing new in South Carolina:  In 1858, US Congressman Preston Brooks  “caned” abolitionist US Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, crippling him for life; when South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, James L. Petigru famously remarked, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum”; Strom Thurmond impregnated his family’s 15 year old black maid and sent his daughter up north to hide her away;  in 2009, Congressman Joe Wilson shouted, “you lie” at President Obama who was addressing a joint session of the US Congress; and in 2009, Governor Mark Sanford told us he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while he was in Argentina shacking up with his “soul mate”.

Sex and silliness, mystery and meanness, South Carolina politics is a never-ending mess.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is at

Seniors first to benefit from new health law with $250 rebate checks

Last year, about 61,000 Medicare beneficiaries in South Carolina hit the “donut hole” — the gap in prescription drug coverage in Medicare Part D — and as a result received no help with the cost of their medications.

That’s what happened to 72-year-old Mary Edna Crider of St. Matthews, SC. And it wasn’t the first time.

Crider, who has diabetes and suffers from a heart condition, said last year she hit the donut hole in early summer. “This year we were into it by April,” she said.

“I take a good bit of medication,” she said, and estimates they cost between $700-$800 a month. “My husband gets a good retirement check, but we have other expenses and the money doesn’t go that far. We get by.”

Crider will be among Medicare beneficiaries who, beginning this week, will receive a $250 rebate check in the mail from the government as part of the new health care law. “I think it’s good,” she said. “I’ll put it up to buy medicine.”

Medicare enrollees pay 25 percent of their prescription drug costs until the total reaches $2,830 for the year. Then they fall into the coverage gap known as the “donut hole” and have to pay a total of $4,550 in out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses before the plan resumes paying nearly 100 percent of drug costs. Some 4 million seniors will be in the donut hole this year, and will become eligible to receive rebate checks.

The rebate checks are the first of several provisions of the new law that will affect seniors. Throughout the rest of the year, seniors across the country will receive checks as they enter the coverage gap.  The law will close the gap over the next 10 years, cutting the donut hole in half by 2011 and eliminating it entirely in 2020.

“The new health care law offers lots of benefits for seniors,” said Julie Harbin, President of the South Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans. “It stops overpayments to private Medicare Advantage insurance companies that have made huge profits while causing millions of Americans to pay higher monthly premiums for their Medicare coverage.”

The law also protects nursing home residents against elder abuse and neglect, and it prevents discrimination against early retirees by health insurance companies.

Crider hopes the health care reforms help the people she sees at the drug store. “Bless their hearts, some of them don’t have enough money to buy a full prescription, but the pharmacy won’t let them buy half. I’d go out of business working there. I’d be giving people what they need.”

While Crider has not had to go without her medications, she isn’t above asking her doctor for free samples. As she says, every little bit helps.

For more about the South Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans, call 803-957-8740 or email

President Obama to speak via televised town hall on how the new health care law affects seniors

On June 8, 11:15am – 12:45pm, the Alliance for Retired Americans will take part in a one-time, national “tele-town hall” broadcast on C-SPAN and on-line via web streaming at In South Carolina, Alliance members and allies are invited to watch the event together at the Modjeska Simkins House, 2025 Marion St., downtown Columbia. Free snacks and beverages provided, or bring your own bag lunch. There is a deli across the street.

President Obama will field questions regarding the new health care law and how it benefits seniors. Topics to be covered include the $250 checks for seniors caught in the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” coverage gap, and efforts to combat scams associated with those checks. The CSPAN and phone portion of the town hall will start at 11:15 with Sec. Sebelius.The President will come on at approximately 11:40, and will speak until about 12:45.

For details, call 803-808-3384 or email