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Citizens Oversight Status Update 2018

Citizens Oversight (2019-02-09) Ray Lutz

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More Info: Ballot Access Lawsuit, California Public Utilities Commission, Coalition To Decommission San Onofre, COPs Program, Easy Voting, Earth Summit, Election Integrity, Election Team, Snapshot Protocol, Election Audit Lawsuit, Helms Proposal, Net Neutrality, Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Waste, Open Ballot Initiative, San Diego Primary Contest 2016, San Onofre Settlement Federal Case, Save ECPAC, Settlement To Move San Onofre Waste, Shutdown Diablo, Shut San Onofre, Snapshot Protocol, Stop Nuke Dump, Stop The Unfair Settlement

This has been a successful year for Citizens Oversight and for everyone who has helped in our projects. Since this was an election year, the most active projects were with regard to Election Integrity, but the Stop Nuke Dump project was active as well. We thank all our members, volunteers, and donors who have stepped forward to help our agenda items.

For anyone wishing to catch up on our activites, please see

Most important events:

Election Integrity

  • The Election Audit Lawsuit which we won against Michael Vu regarding not including all ballots in the 1% Manual Tally Audit went through the appeal process. You may recall that as the appeal was filed, AB-840 was amended late in the process to make Vu's acts suddenly legal. This action by scheming election officials of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO) led by Los Angeles County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Dean Logan, and endorsed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The Appeal court went overboard and ruled that not only was the appeal now moot, but also that the original win in Superior Court was reversed and no attorney fees were granted. Outrageous!
    • Our case was subsequently appealed to the CA Supreme Court and they did not choose to consider it. (boo hoo)
    • Now, Vu and his cohorts say that the case was "frivolous" even though they did break the law as written at the time, and it was clear that the legislature intended, and all statisticians agree, that all VBM ballots should be included in the audit. (This is why it is very difficult to sue govt officials, as their friends in govt will just change the law so their actions are ok, and the courts also go along.)

  • We also then attempted to access the ballots of the 2016 primary by several different approaches, largely in 2017:
    • The Ballot Access Lawsuit, based on Public Records law claims that ballots are public records, and are therefore accessible by the public (as in many other states such as NY and Fl)
      • was ruled against by the lower courts (which we expected, because statute does say that the ballots are "sealed")
      • We appealed so the law itself can be questioned. We believe the Public Records Act, passed in 1964, and the subsequent amendment to the State Constitution (2004, stating that any existing law should be interpreted narrowly, to provide maximum access the public) should override the idea that the ballots are "sealed" and therefore off limits. See the Opening Appellate Brief to read an excellent argument for the appellate court to rule in our favor.
      • The case as appealed in 2018, and as of this writing, it is still being processed by the court (keep fingers crossed).
    • The San Diego Primary Contest 2016 attempted to access the ballots through a judicial process they call a "contest."
      • This process, although unsuccessful, allowed us to discover the limits of our ability to get to ballots this way.
      • As the ballots are "sealed," the county and courts said we could not review them under a discovery request unless we could also show that Bernie Sanders would have prevailed in the state-wide race in California. Because our focus was in San Diego, that was not feasible. This was not appealed but the case allowed us to learn a great deal about the process, and that almost no attorneys are familiar with this niche of law.
      • Submitted to the CA state SOS but they really did not know what to do with it and so it did not progress further.

  • Citizens Oversight has supported an endeavor to understand Risk Limiting Audits and similar election audits which use a small sample of the ballots to determine that the reported results are correct, within a given risk limit.
    • Pilots of Risk Limiting audits were approved for CA in AB-2125, and signed into law, so this is very important for CA, and we need to understand these audits so we can effectively provide essential oversight.
    • Our reseach is being reviewed and discussed and will be revealed soon. Essentially, we created a Monte-Carlo simulation of the audits so we could understand how each approach would pan out, and developed an alternative method called "Balanced Risk Audits with Workload Limitation (BRAWL)." Read the whitepaper
    • Involved in a number of very active email lists and working groups associated with Verified Voting, Brennan Center, Democracy Works, and other organzations that are pushing very hard to get Risk Limiting Audits introduced. No one else in those groups is as focused on keeping these transparent and overseeable, so our involvement is very important, albeit somewhat out of view of the public.
    • Have proposed a standard format for Risk Limiting audit data to facilitiate oversight of election audits. Will be continuing to formulate this as a standard as we have more chance to bounce it off other RLA pilots. Rhode Island had several different flavors of audits in their recent pilot so it will go a long way toward solidifying it.

  • Snapshot Protocol -- Because this was an election year, we were very active in providing oversight over these critical elections. We are still having trouble getting sufficient volunteers to provide oversight.

To support this work, we have:

Shut San Onofre and Stop Nuke Dump projects

  • Mediation reopened in San Onofre Closure settlement January 5, 2018, resulting in an agreement among the parties for a $775 million adjustment in favor of ratepayers in the $3.3 billion settlement approved by the CPUC in 2014. We were one of only two parties that came out against the original settlement by petitioning for a rehearing, and prior to the revelation that CPUC Micheal Peevey had improperly orchestrated the original settlement deal to help him get a cushy "retirement" position at UC Berkeley. This mediation was hard-fought all throughout 2017 and our federal lawsuit drove this forward. The mediation was publicly discontinued at the end of August, 2017, but then at the beginning of 2018, the mediation continued and we reached settlement just before the federal court was prepared to start their hearings. The settlement was announced and put before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). It was then briefly challenged by a CPUC-complicit intervenor, but eventually it was approved unanimously by the CPUC. This is a record for the most significant success in COPS history, and resulted in reducing the time the ratepayers would have to pay for the shuttered plant by four years, and resulted in refunds for the period between Dec 2017 and the time when the settlement was implemented.

Legislative Agenda For Election Integrity

With AB-840 behind us, we have lost ground on our legislative agenda, however, in our work to block that, a number of papers were written as comments that can be used to push forward. Here is our list from last year, still largely unchanged, although with the new item at the end to respond to AB-840,

Another angle we are working on is to push for legislative changes, particularly in California to:
  • Clearly state that physical ballots are public records, and therefore accessible to the public for review.
  • Make sure ballot images are also available.
  • clean up audits
    • frozen (snapshot) results before random selection in a machine-processable format.
    • open random selection using random number generators (like dice) and a list (rather than the easier to hack raffle method).
    • No re-scanning ballots (to generate a new report) when variance are reported (as they do in LA and many other counties which does more to cover up fraud rather than expose it).
    • Improved audit reports, including disclosure of what ballots are covered by the audit.
  • Provide for better citizen involvement
    • Random selection meeting must be able to be video recorded by anyone.
    • Loosen rules on video recording/photographing ballots if the identity of the voter is impossible to determine.
  • Support Open Ballot Initiative
    • Future election management equipment must produce ballot images, and create standard Cast Vote Record.
    • Use cryptographic mechanisms to secure the ballots such as SHA digest of each image and Block-Chain digest of ballot set.
    • Ballot images data and CVR data shall be made available to the public prior to certification.
    • Since use of this approach supports 100% independent audits of the election, 1% manual tally is not necessary, but can be replaced by statistical checks that image data accurately represents the physical ballots.
  • Respond to AB-840 -- such late-stage amendments should be outlawed.
  • "Honestly in reporting" bill, to include
    • better reports by districts, so news media knows that 100% precincts reporting does not mean all the ballots have been reported.
    • Redefinition of the semi-final canvass so it does include Late VBM ballots. This can undo the damage done by AB-840.

Easy Voting

We started a new projected called "EasyVoting" to deal with voter suppression issues. Volunteer Susan Schneider did a great job researching the status of same-day registration, which is now finally going to be implemented in California. It will undo much of the rigging by groups with the agenda to suppress voting. This will be announced and will have a larger profile in the next year.

Earth Summit

Citizens Oversight is sponsoring a great new event called Earth Summit, to occur on May 25, 2019 at the Balboa Park Club Ballroom. This event is a morph of the March Against Monsanto, which we helped to produce for five years, but did not have one at all for 2017 or 2018. We felt that we needed an event that was more positive, broader in scope, and able to include the San Onofre waste issue as well as most other issues. The primary theme of the event will be the GREEN NEW DEAL. Please mark your calendars for this important event!

Other projects

Citizens Oversight has been involved in a number of additional projects, such as:
  • Save ECPAC - Big news, the City of El Cajon has inked an agreement with Live Nation, the largest corporate live performance management company. This will revitalize the East County area. They are to have at least 50 live shows each year. The remodeling of the theater is being monitored and it should reopen in 2019.
  • Grossmont Healthcare District -- COPs member Allan Goetz, and now Ed Martinez has been doing a great job providing citizens oversight of this local governmental organization. They have sort of come around a lot from the early days. Many of my proposals are now being embraced and we have a good reputation with them whereas in the past, I was a pariah.
  • Organized Protest against governmental shutdown -- had every media in town at our event and it was the first such protest in town, and forced the hand of the unions and other people to create their own, which happened later at the airport. Their event was actually a little bit late as the shutdown was already announced to be ended at that point.
  • A protest against child imprisonment was intially planned and then scuttled due to objections from the local border activist community.
  • Wrote a letter to the City of El Cajon regarding the food sharing ban.

Fundraising, etc.

Our work on Election Integrity, our Election Audit Lawsuit and the Snapshot Protocol have been supported by our fundraising efforts which have done reasonably well this year. As we have been keeping our costs to a minimum, our fundraising thus far has been used only for out-of-pocket costs for the lawsuits, travel, and events. We have been fortunate to have some very generous donors this year which should enable us to continue the pursuit of our agenda.


Please consider donating to Citizens Oversight! Please visit this page: Donate To Citizens Oversight

Thank you! --Ray Lutz

Topic revision: r6 - 11 Mar 2019, RaymondLutz
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