When Suspicions First Arose
The Las Vegas mayoral election of 1987 pitted flamboyant casino developer Bob
Stupak against three-term councilman Ron Lurie. The race was raucous and
entertaining, so much so that it inspired the largest voter turnout in the
history of our city -- 71%.
After a grueling primary and general election, Lurie was declared the victor
by the narrowest of margins.
In 1987 Clark County voters cast their vote on paper ballots. Because of the
closeness of the outcome, Stupak paid $17,000 to the Election Department for
a recount of the paper ballots. The circumstances leading up to this recount
have reverberated though our town ever since.
At a post election meeting the day after the election, then-City Manager
Ashley Hall asked his staff if anyone who was present at the previous night's
ballot count had observed anything that was out of the ordinary. 17-year
veteran City Clerk Carol Ann Hawley stated that she had observed several
unusual occurrences during the count. When asked to describe the occurrences,
Hawley stated that she would do so only with her attorney present. Hall
demanded that she reveal her information immediately, Hawley refused.
The meeting ended. Carol Hawley was terminated that afternoon.
I became involved when, as a rookie councilman, I was asked to confirm the
firing of Hawley. I abstained on the vote because there was no written
information made available to me to substantiate her firing. Out of curiosity
I requested a meeting with Carol Hawley.
She told me that she felt that the Stupak/Lurie election had been tampered
with. She also said that she and her deputies were ordered out of the ballot
counting room for more than an hour during the main part of the count. She
stated that during her absence the mayoral votes reversed in their order and
Stupak, who was leading in the count, lost his lead by several thousand votes
during her absence. Since the City Clerk is the chief election officer during
city elections, it was very unusual - possibly illegal - that the Clerk and
her staff would be removed from the ballot counting area during election
Several days after the election and her termination, Carol Hawley filed a
federal lawsuit against the City of Las Vegas. Included in over 9000 pages of
depositions were statements of her staff members substantiating suspicions
that the election was rigged.
Carol Hawley settled her lawsuit against the city, and little has been said
of this story since - until the advent of the Sequoia Pacific paperless
The next recount took place in 1993. Just prior to the recount, a tremendous
amount of unusual activity was observed and photographed taking place at the
election department warehouse then located on East Flamingo Rd.
During the nights preceding the recount of the paper ballots, Election
Department staff members were seen entering the building at 7 PM, food was
delivered shortly thereafter, and the staff members were later seen leaving
the warehouse after sunrise the following morning. Also observed was the
arrival and departure of then-Registrar of Voters George Ullum in his county
vehicle loaded with sealed boxes affixed with the markings of the supplier of
It has been speculated that the actual paper ballots used in previous,
possibly rigged, Las Vegas elections would have to be destroyed prior to a
recount. Then it is speculated that following their destruction a clandestine
punching of thousands of unused paper ballots would have to take place to
coincide with the hacked computer results that declared the winners and
losers on the day of the election. If this actually did occur, the clumsiness
of such an operation could be detected as was possibly the case in 1987.
Many persons would have to be involved and physical evidence might be left
for detection. It is a violation of federal law to tamper with the election
process. If elections were to continue to be rigged in Clark County, as has
been alleged, it was obvious that the previous paper ballot system would have
to be replaced. Enter the Sequoia Pacific paperless voting system and new
Registrar Katherine Ferguson.
In 1994, I was asked to participate in an evaluation of voting systems being
considered to replace the antiquated system then in use in Washoe County,
Nevada. The second largest metropolitan area in our state was evaluating the
products from four venders. Three of the venders offered systems that
included paper ballot back up, and one did not. Our committee tested all the
systems and concluded that the Sequoia Pacific should be disqualified because
it did not have the necessary redundancy required to maintain voter
confidence. In other words, Sequoia Pacific's equipment did not allow there
to be a paper ballot recount in the event of a contested election.
Washoe County went on to purchase an optical scan system that utilized a
paper ballot and a computer. It was chosen because if the computer failed, or
if a recount was ordered, there were paper ballots available to verify the
results of the election.
Following my participation in the evaluation process, I telephoned Clark
County Commission Chairman Bruce Woodbury and Commissioner Don Schlesinger. I
told them of the committee's findings and requested that Clark County
carefully evaluate the purchase of an optical scan voting system and
disqualify the paperless Sequoia Pacific system from contention.
In a letter written to the Washoe County Commission by Registrar of Voters
Marlene Henderson, she stated "There is no way to conduct a 'recount' on the
Sequoia AVC because there simply are no physical ballots to recount!"
She went on to say "The Sequoia costs 1000% more than the optical scan system
and is incapable of processing absentee mail in ballots or challenged ballots
forcing the purchase of a second system."
This letter convinced the Washoe County Commission to purchase an optical
scan system with a paper ballot backup that is currently in use.
In the meantime, Clark County officials were making their own determination
as to what kind of new system they wanted and who they wanted to run it. In a
letter to the Clark County Commission from State Senator Ann O'Connell dated
June 6, 1995, the Senator stated, "The major concern involves the lack of an
individual paper ballot. It is our understanding that it should be possible
to attach a printer to the voting machine, which would print out a paper copy
after each person votes. A voter could review that copy for accuracy then
deposit it in the ballot box as is currently done with a punch card."
On May 10, 1995, State Senator William R. O'Donnell made the following
statement, "I would like to encourage the Sequoia Pacific Company to come up
with a printed type ballot that can be dropped in a box, individually, by a
voter at a very reasonable price. If not, then I would hope that the county
would look into and consider very carefully the aspects of getting out of
that contract and going to a machine that is more appropriate to do the
things that this body would request."
The concerns of Senators O'Connel and O'Donnell fell on deaf ears as did my
request to Commission Chairman Woodbury that the paperless Sequoia Pacific
machine be disqualified. When the Clark County Commission voted to purchase
the paperless system, only one Commissioner voted against the purchase. That
Commissioner was Don Schlesinger. Schlesinger was defeated in the next
election (counted by Sequoia Pacific equipment). The Commission also voted to
hire a new Registrar, Katherine Ferguson.
Now a computer counts our votes and there are no paper ballots available to
examine in the event of a recount. If a recount is requested, the computer is
again fired up and a download is made of the contested election's results.
Therefore there is no way of physically verifying the accuracy of the
election. How did this happen and who was responsible?
When questions arose in 1995 as to whether it was legal in Nevada to vote
electronically in the absence of a paper ballot backup, our state's Attorney
General Frankie Sue Del Pappa responded that the Sequoia Pacific computer
produced what she called a "Functional Equivalent" of a paper ballot! She
went on to say that such an equivalent was "exactly the same" as a paper
ballot and that she therefore fully approved the paperless system.
Since Clark County has been using the Sequoia Pacific machines, several
unusual things have occurred. The day before the election in 1998 when the
ballot question regarding the quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for a
second water line to serve the needs of the casinos and developers was to be
voted upon, the Las Vegas Review Journal and KTNV Channel 13 News conducted a
poll. The results showed that 80% of those surveyed did not approve of the
tax increase and it would go down to defeat by an 80/20 margin. The following
day the vote took place and the quarter-cent sales tax increase passed by an
80/20 margin - the opposite result from the previous day's survey!
In 1999, the Las Vegas primary election had another anomaly. In the Ward One
race, the early votes started 17 days prior to the day of the election. These
early votes were reported on Cox Cable News beginning election night at 7:05
PM and indicated that the incumbent had 63%, his closest challenger had 23%,
followed by three other candidates with 10%, 2%, and 2% each. At 10 PM all
votes had been counted and the final percentages in Ward One again were 63%,
23%, 10%, 2%, and 2%. Unexplainably, no changes had occurred since 7:05 PM.
I have studied the Sequoia Pacific voting system for many years and I am
convinced that its' paperless status is perfectly suited for mass vote
manipulation. To quickly and inexpensively remedy the situation, the county
should heed Sen. Bill O'Donnell's suggestion and install a printer on each
voting machine. That way the voter could review the printout of his or her
ballot and deposit it in a locked box next to the voting machine in the event
it was needed for a physical recount to verify the results of the electronic
In the meantime, County Registrar Ferguson has resigned and gone to work for
the paper ballotless voting machine manufacturer. Her assistant Larry Lomax
was hired to replace her and additional ballotless voting machines have since
been purchased from Ferguson's company.
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com