If you have a choice, vote the old fashioned way: At the polls, allowing plenty of time, and ready to assert your right to vote, by provisional ballot if necessary, if you are told your name is not on the list. Although it is "easy and fun", vote by mail is second only to Internet voting in the risk it presents to American democracy. To get a glimpse of just how slipshod our control system for vote-by-mail is, read the story of Jeffrey Dean and his prison companion, John Elder:

While in prison, embezzler Jeffrey Dean became friends with a narcotics trafficker named John Elder. While still in prison, on a work-release program, Jeffrey Dean was tasked with creating a computerized vote by mail program for King County, Washington. He began this assignment while working for his brother, Neil Dean, whose business had a contract with King County to provide temporary workers for its huge absentee voting operation. At the time, King County had about 1 million voters, 600,000 of whom voted by absentee.

Jeff and Neil Dean became involved in creating a vote-by-mail automation program to handle mail processing and signature comparison. Jeff Dean then left his brother Neil Dean's employment to launch his own ballot printing and mailing company, then called Spectrum Print & Mail. He brought in prison buddy John Elder to help him manage the company.

One wonders how Jeff Dean ever got the money together to fund his ballot printing operation, which featured high-end printing machines from Europe. At the time he owed nearly half a million dollars in court-ordered restitution for his embezzlement. Someone funded his ballot printing operation, which almost immediately was given the lucrative ballot printing contract for million-voter King County.

It's not that Jeff Dean didn't have political connections. In his depositions, he claims that his embezzlement from the law firm back in the 1980s was not really an embezzlement, but a kickback scheme for some of the partners related to an off-the-books project they were doing.

Now, Jeff Dean is a liar and a crook, there is no doubt of that (most recently, he did an illegal, unregistered stock offering for an RV park he owns in an Idaho resort area, bilking a lovely couple, the Laners, out of their life savings; he purchased this expensive RV park while declaring in Washington state that he was bankrupt, then sold shares in it to unsuspecting investors).

I've looked at copies of the checks Jeff Dean wrote to himself while allegedly embezzling from the law firm (he took an Alford plea, never admitting guilt). He looks guilty to me, but his claim that he was doing something off the books for the partners is interesting, given the political nature of the firm and his immediate access to the King County election system beginning while still incarcerated. One of the partners, at the law firm Jeff Dean embezzled from was Bud Krogh, who formerly headed the Watergate burglars under Richard Nixon. Jeff Dean claims he took a fall for some of the partners on some off-the-books deal they were doing. There is no doubt that he landed on his feet unusually quickly post-incarceration.

After Jeff Dean was released, having already begun work on the computerized vote-by-mail system which would later come to dominate the US absentee voting market, he somehow launched a pricey print shop, immediately got the biggest ballot-printing and mailing assignment in Washington state, and then was assigned to work INSIDE King County elections with the GEMS central tabulator and the voter registration database. He was given a key and 24-hour access, and when then-supervisor of elections Julie Anne Kempf dug up his prison record and complained, she was fired but Jeff Dean and prison-buddy John Elder were retained.

Jeff Dean then became a primary stockholder in what was then called Global Election Systems, by selling his lucrative ballot printing and mailing operation to Canadian-based Global Election Systems, which was then purchased by Diebold. Dean pocketed a few million in the deal, but due to a court judgment against him, hid the money by transferring it to his son -- then taking assets purchased by the money back -- meanwhile declaring bankruptcy in Washington while hiding assets in Idaho.

Under Diebold, Jeff Dean became a paid consultant and John Elder took over the ballot printing and mailing, until 2004, when Black Box Voting exposed the two felons, along with three more crooks involved in the start-up of Global Election Systems (Michael K. Graye, Norton Cooper, and Charles Hong Lee, who were convicted of embezzlement, stock fraud, "defrauding the queen" and in the case of Charles Hong Lee, ordered to pay restitution for bilking investors).

The story of what became the backbone of the US vote-by-mail software doesn't end here, though. Neil Dean, Jeff Dean's brother and partner during his initial design of the vote by mail software, sold his own firm to Pitney Bowes, which came out with -- guess what? -- vote by mail software. So now we have Pitney Bowes (which purchased Neil Dean's outfit) and Vote Remote (Jeff Dean's software) dominating the automated vote by mail industry in the USA.

John Elder, after being booted out of Diebold's print and mail shop (which by then was national, handling Washington, California, Georgia, Colorado, and many other locations), set up shop as an elections consultant. What does he consult on, you may ask?

Black Box Voting has learned that John Elder has recently been acting as a middleman, massaging the huge vote-by-mail databases for California and Colorado counties before they go to the print shop. It works like this: Counties contract with a middleman to help them with their vote by mail; the middleman is findable through public records for the contracts, but John Elder is not. Why? Because he acts as an off-the-books secondary middleman. The first middleman sends the database to John Elder, who massages the vote-by-mail data and sends the database on to his friend at a print shop in Fresno.

Jeff Dean, meanwhile, lives in a huge home in Idaho overlooking Hell's Canyon, along with his computer server and several expensive horses. No one will ever serve a search warrant by surprise here, because his mountaintop house is accessible only by a forest service road he can watch from his panorama picture windows, and it takes a good 15 minutes of dusty driving to get up to his horse pastures.

Why is Jeff Dean and his server still of interest? According to court transcripts, Jeffrey Dean admitted to remotely accessing the voter databases and vote by mail programs for California counties during live elections. So what we have (or have had) is a convicted embezzler tinkering around by remote access in the vote databases that control elections.

And that's the story on our vote-by-mail craze. What we need to be focusing on is restoration of the public right to see and authenticate every one of the four essential parts of elections. It may be "easy and fun" to vote by mail, but with vote by mail we have just "easy and funned" our way out of public elections. We have transferred power.


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