December 14,2004 -Venice, FL.
by Daniel Hopsicker
A "mistake" made in the office of a
seriously-compromised Supervisor of Election in
Pinellas County whose husband is a top executive
of the country's largest election services
company has almost unnoticed spiked the best hope
for a election recount in Florida that might have
thrown a spotlight on the dark corners of the
Florida election process concealing widespread
systemic and system-wide vote fraud.
The office of Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas
County, Deborah Clark, provided inflated totals
on the YES side of the gambling initiative which
were then used by state officials in the official
state tally of the hotly-contested gambling
initiative known as Amendment 4.
The initiative would allow casino slot machine
gambling in South Florida, an outcome devoutly to
be wished by owners of the spanking new $700
million Hard Rock Café Casino in Hollywood,
Florida, a facility all dressed up but with
currently nowhere to go.
Pinellas County voters defeated the gambling
initiative by more than 17,000 votes. But the
official state record says the exact opposite,
the result of a "mistake" by the office of
Pinellas Elections Supervisor which would have
gone unnoticed, said local reports, had it not
been caught by outside observers.
Advantage Hard Rock
A recount of Florida's votes on the state
gambling initiative offered an opportunity to
correlate what was found with what are so far
just "theories" of how the Presidential election
in Florida might have been stolen.
Deborah Clark provided an extra 34,000 votes on
the YES side of the gambling initiative,
sufficient to legally preclude what would have
otherwise been a mandated recount.
Ms. Clark's performance had been questioned in
press accounts before, most recently after the
2002 primary contest, when newspaper headlines
read "Clark's election flubs draw fire."
Strangely, no one can said to have benefited
more from the inadvertent mistake than Clark's
own husband. As a longtime top executive with E
S & S, the company which counts more than half
the U.S. vote, Richard Clark probably had more to
lose from a recount than almost anyone alive.
Should rumored anomalies surface in the recount,
the fortunes of any elections firms involved
would no doubt suffer.
"Computer Glitches" Beat John Kerry"
A recount of the gambling initiative, known as
Amendment 4, election experts said, would have
offered clues as to how and why 90,000 extra YES
votes for gambling were recorded in Broward
County, for example.
This number is almost equal to the "extra" votes
for President Bush cast in Broward County which
researchers say were inexplicable except through
manipulated electronic vote tabulation-which were
counted in the same county's tally.
Recording phony vote totals seemed a system wide
and systemic problem, and only AFTER being
discovered by an outside observer were the wrong
totals corrected. For example, Vincent Profaci,
an attorney near Orlando went to bed with Kerry
way ahead in his home county of Orange.
When he woke up he discovered to his horror that
Kerry had fallen inexplicably behind.
Officials excused the 34,000-vote mistake as a computer glitch.
In fact, almost every time vote fraud was
discovered by election observers, it was blandly
explained away as nothing but a "computer or
Newsflash: "COMPUTER GLITCHES" beat John Kerrey in Florida.
Let's take a closer look at things like this can
happen. Lets take a look at what happened in
"How To Fix An Election for Dummies"
Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Deborah Clark election
supervisor in Pinellas County, Florida, in May of
Trouble began almost immediately. Some of it was even funny.
For example, in the Aug. 31 2002 primary, the
population of an entire small town- 12,498
voters- appeared at the polls in Hillsborough
County and apparently decided not to vote in the
race for state attorney.
The town cast votes in all the other contests,
but not in the race for state attorney. Had there
been a town-wide secret pact?
To this day no one is sure why those voters
didn't vote, or if they did, what might have
happened to their votes. They are "ghost votes,"
floating in the ether. The local papers labeled
it "A Voting Mystery."
More seriously, while Deborah Clark had worked
as a top official in the Pinellas Supervisor of
Elections Office, her husband Richard Clark's
employer Elections Systems & Software, was
awarded more than $400,000 in business with the
office, and was up for a lucrative contract worth
as much as $15-million to sell new voting
machines to Pinellas County.
Clark, who hadn't disclosed the connection,
hotly denied a conflict of interest. "Neither my
husband nor I would ever do anything that would
compromise the integrity of the elections office,
or our own personal integrity," she said.
Clark's failure to disclose that her husband was
working for a voting machine company bidding for
Pinellas' business, coupled with the last-minute
revelation that the executive who would have
managed Pinellas' elections for Sequoia Voting
Systems, the company the county chose, was under
indictment in Louisiana, left a bit of a sour
Elections in Pinellas County have been occasions
for holding your breath for several election
"A reputation for corruption to be proud of."
So when, on the day of the 2004 Presidential
election, numerous anecdotes from voters in
Pinellas County reported problems like voting for
Kerry and having the vote register for Bush, (see
"pressing Bernacker and getting Giambelluca"
described in a previous story) it did not come as
a tremendous shock.
Roberta Harvey, 57, of Clearwater, Fla., said
she had tried at least a half dozen times to
select Kerry-Edwards when she voted Tuesday at
Northwood Presbyterian Church, said an Associated
Press report .
"After 10 minutes trying to change her selection,
the Pinellas County resident said she called a
poll worker and got a wet-wipe napkin to clean
the touch screen as well as a pencil so she could
use its eraser-end instead of her finger. Harvey
said it took about 10 attempts to select Kerry
before and a summary screen confirmed her
intended selection," said the account.
"Election officials in several Florida counties
where voters complained about such problems did
not return calls Tuesday night," reported the
Associated Press on Nov. 4. And things haven't
A spokeswoman for the company that makes the
touch-screen machines used in Pinellas, Palm
Beach and two other Florida counties, Alfie
Charles of Sequoia Voting Systems, said the
machines' monitors may need to be recalibrated
Sequoia is the second-largest election services
company, with roughly one-third of the voting
machine market. In 1999, the Justice Department
filed federal charges against Sequoia alleging
that employees paid out more than $ 8 million in
Pinellas County purchased voting equipment from
Sequoia worth $14 million, even after discovering
that Phil Foster, a Sequoia executive, faced
indictment in Louisiana for money laundering and
The Tampa Tribune stated "Pinellas County
Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark's high
praise of Sequoia Voting Systems was instrumental
in the company's landing a $14 million contract
with the county in 2001."
"We're from the Government. We're here to help."
Fifteen Florida counties now use touch-screen
machines, including Palm Beach, Broward and
Miami-Dade. They had scurried to buy the voting
machines after the Legislature outlawed
punch-card balloting in the wake of the hanging
chad controversy of the 2000 presidential
In December 2001, Broward County chose a $17.2
million touch-screen system over a
pencil-and-paper system priced at no more than $5
million. Earlier that year, in May, Palm Beach
County agreed to pay $14 million for
touch-screens, compared with $3 million for the
Why use electronic machines at all? Blame the
Federal Government's Help America Vote Act, which
authorized $3.9 billion in federal spending to
help states replace punch-card and lever voting
With a war and a soaring deficit, why would they want to do that?
"I have always been concerned about the
undervote on electronic machines," said Rebecca
Mercuri, a computer expert at Harvard University
who has written extensively about voting issues.
"We don't know what happens with the votes
because there is no real audit of the machines."
Ah. There's the rub.
Not surprisingly, Supervisor of Elections Deborah
Clark wants to keep it that way.
Although she hadn't shown much concern over
spending $14 million on the machines, she said
that the $2 million expense of retrofitting
Pinellas County's new touch screen voting
machines to generate a receipt for voters which
would verify how their ballots were cast was
The county's touch screen system, built by
Sequoia Voting Systems, was safe from tampering,
"A Mechanic for Our Time"
Her assertions should be tempered by the
knowledge that while Clark worked as a top
official in the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections
Office, her husband's employer was awarded more
than $400,000 in business with the office.
Her husband, Richard Clark, isn't involved in
sales," reported a sympathetic article in the St.
Petersburg Times. "He installs and fixes
elections machines and says he has steered clear
of business in Florida."
But it is exactly these people, the ones who
install and fix election machines, the so-called
mechanics, who have the opportunity and expertise
to rig the vote. When an election gets fixed, its
almost always because mechanics got "to" the
Yet the development, coming after Clark's
controversial handling of the presidential
election in Pinellas, raised some eyebrows this
week. Some county commissioners say they weren't
told about her husband's connection to the
It wasn't like bribing election officials was
something that never happened in Tampa.
Officers of Shoup Voting Machine Co., a Sequoia
predecessor, were indicted for allegedly bribing
politicians in Tampa, Florida back in 1971,
according to the San Francisco Business Times.
It's a job with a little bit of history. Even
Clark's deputy administrator, Karen Butler, is a
sister of Sandra Mortham, Florida's former
secretary of state and a lobbyist for ES&S before
the state Legislature.
Butler told reporters that family ties won't matter.
Clark's husband, Richard Clark, 59, is a
nationally known expert in installing new voting
An Insider at the Feast
He worked as a project manager for ES&S for about
five years, having joined the firm when it
acquired the company that previously employed
him, Business Records Corp.
But Clark said he quit ES&S just before his wife
was named elections supervisor because he was
worried that his employment with the firm could
appear as a conflict. But so far, Clark's new
company, Richard A. Clark Enterprises, works for
just one company: ES&S.
The selection process in Pinellas County became
mired in ethical conflicts after county
commissioners learned in July 2001 that ES&S had
"very" close ties to Deborah Clark.
Clark had been working in Birmingham, Ala. as an
independent contractor, after resigning from the
company "I have nothing whatsoever to do with
that decision in Pinellas County. We don't talk
about anything like that," Clark told the St Pete
Times. "We've been married 17 years. I love her
too much to put her in any position like that."
The paper also quoted a sales executive from
Sequoia Pacific, John Krizka, who said he did not
think ES&S got any unfair advantage in Pinellas
Coming from a salesman for a competitor, this
seems convincing, except that the two companies
have a documented and tangled history of
collusion between the two supposedly competing
Then too, consider that Sequoia had paid
$441,000 in a single year to Krizka, just for
selling voting machines to four Florida counties.
Although this might be viewed as a bit excessive,
it wasn't enough for Krizka, who sued, claiming
Sequoia had stiffed him on another $1.8 million.
And here's where our story begins to come full circle.
Birmingham, City of 'Mechanics'
Apparently no one noticed that when Richard
Clark went to Birmingham, another Birmingham
election exec, Phil Foster, was being indicted on
felony bribery charges.
Phil Foster, a regional sales vice president,
was allegedly involved in a conspiracy and
money-laundering scheme that involved the sale of
machine parts at inflated prices and kickbacks of
Pinellas commissioners were surprised when the
St. Pete Times reported that Foster, a key
employee for front-runner Sequoia Voting Systems,
had been indicted for the elections kickback
scheme in Louisiana.
"Sequoia was not involved, nor was the company
charged," said the St Pete Times.
This isn't strictly true. In fact, it isn't true at all.
Testimony in Federal Court in Baton Rouge
revealed that, in fact, Sequoia had engineered
the complex scheme, an action which provides yet
another election irony.
Pinellas Commission Chairman Calvin Harris told
the Times he assumed the state had checked out
the competing companies while their machines were
Not so, said Clay Roberts, director of the
state's Division of Elections, who maintained
that background checks were a job for counties.
So while the state of Florida was death on voting
by convicted felons, there were no safeguards in
place to prevent the votes from being counted by
Invisible Hand Wearing a Velvet Glove
The last time a big gambling initiative was on
the ballot in a Southern state, the election, in
Louisiana, produced visible evidence of
state-wide vote fraud.
Gambling was the burning issue on the ballot.
Allegations of voting irregularity became
We saw the invisible hand of one of the second
largest elections services company, Sequoia
Pacific, in action. Commissioner of Elections and
former pro football player Jerry Fowler got
himself in big gambling trouble at Harrah's and
paid off like a jimmied slot machine for over a
When big money's at stake, we learned, people
looking to fix elections take off the velvet
So we paid close attention to Amendment 4, the
gambling initiative on the Florida ballot. And
what we found revealed that Pinellas County isn't
an isolated case..
Sequoia Voting Systems also sold neighboring
Hillsborough its $12-million package of touch
screen voting machines, had "a computer indexing
system malfunction" in the Aug. 31 primary.
That's a serious computer glitch, apparently.
Sequoia had never experienced this particular
glitch., which was a doozy. A total of 118,699
people turned out to vote countywide. But somehow
125,891 voted in the race for state attorney.
That's 7,192 more votes than voters.
"All Roads Lead to Vegas"
For why this happens there's no better example than- where else? Las Vegas.
Back in 1993-94, many observers wondered why new
Clark County elections chief Kathryn Ferguson
would commit to what turned out to be tens of
millions of dollars in expenditures to adopt
Sequoia Pacific's electronic voting machines.
So determined was Ms. Ferguson to buy the
Sequoia machines for Las Vegas that a former
member of her elections department team stated
Ferguson resorted to the simple exigency of
having Sequoia Pacific's representative send a
list of bid specifications designed so that
Sequoia's machines were the only ones that could
This hardly seems sporting. And its definitely
illegal. Asked at the time, Ferguson said she
had no concern that her acceptance of a job at
Sequoia Pacific might appear to be a payoff for
Today Kathryn Ferguson is E S & S's chief spokesman. She's good to go.
So the real question isn't "Did vote fraud affect the Presidential race?"
The real question is, "How could it not?"
Although many profess amazed and seem confused
about why Democrats have been such weenies about
vote fraud, this is a bipartisan scandal. And
both parties know it.
When several dozen voters in six states -
particularly Democrats in Florida - said the
wrong candidates appeared on their touch-screen
machine's checkout screen, the "Election
Protection Coalition" called the problem
"troubling but anecdotal."
Why are they excusing felony fraud?
State Election Commissioner Jerry Fowler,
sentenced to five years in prison for taking
hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks
from voting machine contractors, could tell you.
Revelations of his bribe-taking might never have
emerged except for complaints from, of all
things, a Republican candidate, Woody Jenkins,
narrowly beaten by Democratic Senate candidate
Mary Landrieu, in an especially bad-tempered
A year-long investigation into the voting
process ensued, which uncovered certain financial
Today Woody Jenkins is out of politics.
The system rolls on.