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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, East County Transitional Living Center, Easy Voting, Election Integrity, Election Team, Snapshot Protocol, Election Audit Lawsuit, Helms Proposal, March Against Monsanto, Net Neutrality, Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Waste, Open Ballot Initiative, Rock Church Ecpac Takeover, San Onofre Settlement Federal Case, Save ECPAC, 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 (and allowed in many other states) was ruled against by the lower courts (which we expected) but then we were able to appeal this 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.
      • The case as appealed inn 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.

  • 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 understand them.
    • 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.
    • 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.

  • 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, and even if we suggesting providing a $100 per county stipend, it is hard to get enough people to actually take part in the oversight.
    • Confronted San Luis Obispo county in their policy that no cameras are allowed in the random draw meeting. Ultimately, I removed the camera after they promised to provide a letter stating that it was their policy and why. Then, in their random draw, they neglected to include three precincts in the slips of paper being drawn. Many months later, I eventally got the letter from them after twisting their arm by contacting the Sheriff who witnessed the promise. Still need to respond to that letter and argue that cameras are still required and we will see if this can be progressed at all without taking it into court.
    • Discovered that Los Angeles County does just started using batch mode processing in the early VBM ballots, and they could not provide a batch-by-batch report prior to the random draw. Will be sending them a letter advising them of our difficultly to see if this can bear fruit without going to court.
    • Researched Same-Day-Registration to see how widespread it was used. Apparently, the election officials are not trying very hard to inform people about this new right. Still working on updating this for the November elections as of this writing.

To support this work, we created:

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 settlemeny 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. This was later put before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), was briefly challenged by a CPUC-complicit intervenor, but eventually approved unanimously by the CPUC. This is a record for the most significant success in COPS history.

  • Settlement agreement to Move the Waste to a Safer Place -- Stop Nuke Dump project.
    • Throughout 2018, a secondary squabble occurred regarding the weak attempt to get approval from the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona, combined with an attempt to institute a gag-order on the statements of Ray Lutz and Citizens Oversight.
    • Four-member expert team was enlarged to six members. That expert team has not provided any status report in 2018.
  • Helms Proposal was released publicly and notice published in the Federal Register.
    • There was no hearing on this, and it apparently just gets lost in a black hole at the NRC, but we will continue to monitor it.


The Open Ballot Initiative

This year, Ray has been working on the Ballot Security Standard. This is largely complete but there are still some loose ends to clean up, and hopefully will be able to release it in 2018

We want this to be our goal for the future in election integrity. The industry is tending in this direction anyway. There is some interest by the Git Hub software community in the idea. Also, there is some work on a standard Cast Vote Record that can help standardize the data across all election districts. Sounds good, but everything is a double-edge sword. Standardization also means any vulnerabilities can be more easily be exploited. But with the Open Ballot Initiative, there are fewer opportunities for such hacking because the system includes constant 100% audits by third parties.

To support this work:

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:
  • 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
    • "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.

Shut San Onofre Project

Since the emergency shutdown on January 31, 2012, Citizens Oversight (sometimes under fictitious name Coalition to Decommission San Onofre) has been working hard to make sure the plant did not restart, that ratepayers are treated fairly in the settlement, and that 3.6 million pounds of high-level nuclear waste is not stored only 100 ft from the seawall. On one of these, the permanent shutdown of the plant, we can report that the result comports with our intentions. The plant is indeed shutdown and defueled, and no new nuclear waste is being produced. (YAY)

On the other issues, we have not been so lucky YET. However, it does appear that things are starting to go our way. This is good news.

Shutdown Settlement

During 2017, the record was reopened on this case, and then starting early in the year, we entered into confidential settlement negotiations. These went on until the end of August without reaching any settlement. Most recently, a hearing was held in LA on the matter in an attempt to quickly make it appear they are processing the settlement deal again without actually making any changes. The scene was quite amazing, with three uniformed CHP (state police) officers in the room as the ALJ tried to stop Mike Aguirre from finishing his comments, and several times the officers would get up while Mike said "let the record show that the uniformed officers in the room are now rising and standing behind me." As of this writing, no scope has been set in the process.

CPUC President Picker tried to apologize for Mike to the ALJ and Mike objected.

I was able to make comments and I did bring up the fact that most of the hearings are not accessible remotely. They said they would allow cameras in the room in the future and would livestream it if possible. That is a big win.

Meanwhile, the federal lawsuit which Citizens Oversight is the lead plaintiff is proceeding in the 9th Circuit. It is our position that the CPUC is so fully implicated in the malfeasance of the tainted settlement deal that they cannot process it without undo bias. This case will be moving forward with a hearing in Feb or March, 2018

Nuclear Waste Dump on the Beach

This was definitely one of the most important projects of the year. At the end of 2016, the judge had ruled that our case could proceed, and a court hearing was scheduled for April 14. One week earlier, SCE agreed to a negotiated outcome, which was unfortunately a process that had to be done in confidence. On August 28, the settlement deal was reached, which requires SCE to use commercial reasonable effort to find another place for the 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel and move it there. We are now in the mode of working to provide oversight to the deal, which is the first of its kind in the nation. We are still assembling a settlement oversight panel to provide oversight as we proceed. We have received one monthly report and there are issues, and this will be announced in the coming days as to what will be happening.

Ray conducted a number of informational seminars at Oceanside, Vista, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, and Ocean Hills Country Club. Also we had a great "Move the Waste To A Safer Place" celebration at the Oceanside amphitheater at the pier.

Helms Proposal

As a follow-on from the San Onofre waste situation, a submission to the NRC is in the works. The HELMS proposal means that spent nuclear fuel would be placed in Hardened, Extended-Life (1,000 year design goal), Local (but away from the water and populations), Monitored, Surface Storage. To achieve the 1,000 year design goal, the proposal includes the use of DWC -- Dual Wall Casks with a new outer shell that will be added to the existing thin canisters. This proposal will affect the entire nation and will be soon submitted as an official petition to the NRC. As a rule of thumb, it appears that we will need to be adding the outer shell within 10 or 15 years after the facility opens, and in some cases, if the fuel is cool enough, the thin canisters should be placed inside the outer shell right away. Please stay tuned to this as we move into the new year.

Local Govt Support Campaign

We have started to solicit support from local governmental bodies for the Settlement to Move the Waste and for the Helms Proposal. We need people to help us get these govts on board.

Other projects

Citizens Oversight has been involved in a number of additional projects, such as:
  • March Against Monsanto, San Diego -- This did not occur in 2016 due to a need to start doing something new, we had done it for five years. The issue is not dead but it may be time for a change in terms of activism event.
  • 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.
  • 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. Allan has also become a representative attending the hospital board of directors. Allan has been successful in bringing up key issues such as quality of service at the emergency room and avoid side-issues. If you want to pursue oversight of any body, Allan has first-hand experience and tips of what has been effective.

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 will be sending out confirmations to our donors in the early part of next year. We have been fortunate to have some very generous donors this year which should enable us to continue the pursuit of our agenda.

Organizational Plans for the New Year.

  • Membership platform -- This platform is now running and we are in the process of getting used to using it as we move forward.
  • Regular Meetings -- We've been using the Zoom web conferencing solution which allows up to 50 people to be on the same call, with screen sharing and anyone can speak. This has been a great help in doing the limited organizing we were able to do for the Election Team. We need to set these on a more regular basis and also a local meeting place would be a help, particularly as we are interested in helping anyone react to current events with open dialog in the public space.


Please consider donating to Citizens Oversight, as you can still claim a deduction for 2017! Please visit this page: Donate To Citizens Oversight

Thank you! --Ray Lutz

Topic revision: r2 - 2019-02-09, RaymondLutz
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