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U.S. digs for vote-machine links to Hugo Chávez
Miami Herald ^ | October 28, 2006 | ALFONSO CHARDY

Posted on 10/28/2006 3:24:34 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

Smartmatic's corporate papers, obtained in Curac¸ao by The Miami Herald, reveal a convoluted trail of companies incorporated abroad and operating through dozens of proxy holders -- a structure seemingly designed to cloak the true owners.

In the debate about the reliability of electronic voting technology, the South Florida parent company of one of the nation's leading suppliers of touch-screen voting machines is drawing special scrutiny from the U.S. government.

Federal officials are investigating whether Smartmatic, owner of Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, is secretly controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, according to two people familiar with the probe.

In July, a Treasury Department spokeswoman disclosed that a Treasury-led panel had contacted Smartmatic, and a company representative said his firm was ''in discussions'' with the panel. At the time, those discussions were informal. The government has now upgraded to a formal investigation, the two sources said.

Sequoia's electronic voting machines operate in 17 states. In Florida, the machines are used in four counties: Palm Beach, Indian River, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

Miami-Dade and Broward use other technology.

Concerns about Smartmatic are keen on the eve of the Nov. 7 election, given fears that someone with unauthorized access to the electronic system could create electoral chaos. Some critics believe that if the Venezuelan government is involved, Smartmatic could be a ''Trojan horse'' designed to advance Chavez's anti-American agenda.

However, officials in all four Florida counties using Sequoia said they were satisfied with the machines and were not concerned about allegations of a Chávez connection because company officials told them the Venezuelan government had no stake in the company.

''We are very satisfied,'' said Kathy Adams, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections.

The probe stems from a May 4 letter to the Treasury Department by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., raising concerns about Smartmatic's purchase of Sequoia last year. Maloney said she was disturbed by a 2004 article in The Miami Herald revealing that the Venezuelan government owned 28 percent of Bizta -- a company operated by two of the same people who own Smartmatic. Bizta bought back those shares after the article appeared, and Smartmatic now characterizes the deal as a loan.

Bizta and Smartmatic had partnered with Venezuelan telephone giant CANTV to win a $91 million contract to supply electronic voting machines for Venezuelan elections, including the controversial 2004 referendum Chávez won.

Smartmatic categorically denies any link to the Chávez regime. ''Smartmatic is a privately held corporation, and no foreign government or entity -- including Venezuela -- has ever held an ownership stake in the company,'' Mitch Stoller, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.

Botched municipal elections involving Sequoia machines in Chicago in March added to the suspicions.

When the Chicago City Council grilled Sequoia executive Jack Blaine in April, he revealed that some Venezuelans had provided technical support during the election and that some of the glitches could be traced to a component developed in Venezuela to print and transmit results to a central tabulation computer.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is withholding further payment to Sequoia until after the Nov. 7 election.

Sequoia machines in Florida do not use the component involved in the Chicago problems, however.

The Smartmatic investigation is being conducted by the Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, CFIUS -- which determines whether deals involving foreign investors compromise national security.

Neither CFIUS nor Smartmatic confirmed the investigation, but they did not dispute it. The two people familiar with the probe asked that their names not be published because they were not authorized to speak about it.

Brookly McLaughlin, a Treasury spokeswoman, said she could not comment. Stoller, the Smartmatic spokesman, said in an e-mail: ``We have been in contact with CFIUS staff and will provide additional information as appropriate and as requested.''

Determining whether there really is a hidden connection to Chávez or anyone in his government is difficult because of Smartmatic's complex, though legal, corporate structure.

Smartmatic's corporate papers, obtained in Curac¸ao by The Miami Herald, reveal a convoluted trail of companies incorporated abroad and operating through dozens of proxy holders -- a structure seemingly designed to cloak the true owners.

The founders and principal owners of Smartmatic are Antonio Mugica and Alfredo Anzola. They are also the founders and owners of Bizta -- the company the Venezuelan government once partly owned.

Though both men come from wealthy families, a decidedly anti-Chávez sector, their reluctance to provide specific details about ownership has continued to fuel suspicions about the company.

Adding to the suspicions was a recent statement from the Venezuela Information Office about Smartmatic, which Chávez critics viewed as corroboration the company is linked to the government in Caracas.

But Eric Wingerter of the Venezuela Information Office in Washington said the ''fact sheet'' was, rather, aimed at rebutting critics' allegations that the Chávez government controls the company.

Ostensibly, the company's umbrella corporation, Smartmatic International Group, is housed inside a bank building on a scenic boulevard in Willemstad's busy Punda financial district. But all the people contacted either at the building or at the addresses of company proxy holders refused to talk to a reporter in Curac¸ao.

However, business records obtained by The Miami Herald in Willemstad's commercial registry provide no evidence of any Venezuelan government official or agency as director, associate, employee or proxy. What the records do show is the circuitous ownership structure with a paper trail leading from Willemstad to Amsterdam to Caracas to Delaware and then to Boca Raton and Oakland, Calif.

Stoller said the arrangement is standard for multinational companies.

But experts in offshore financial services say the Curac¸ao arrangement is largely designed to conceal and protect the true owners and assets of a company.

Cárlos A. Souffront, a partner and expert on offshore jurisdictions at the Miami-based law firm of Tew Cardenas, said companies often choose offshore havens to avoid paying high taxes and disclosing owners' identities or to protect assets and avoid scrutiny and oversight under post-9/11 U.S. regulations.

Stoller said the company is 97 percent owned by the four Venezuelan founders -- two of them dual citizens: Mugica (Spanish and Venezuelan), Anzola, Roger Piñate and Jorge Massa (French and Venezuelan). The remainder of the company, Stoller said, is owned ``by employees of Smartmatic (past and present) and family and acquaintances of the founders.''

Stoller did not identify any of them, and their names are not listed in records obtained by The Miami Herald.

The four top owners have not said whether they support or oppose Chávez.

Curac¸ao records show that Smartmatic International Group has three statutory directors: Piñate and two companies -- Curac¸ao Corporation Co. and Netherlands Antilles Corporation Co.

Piñate was also identified by Sequoia's Blaine as among the Venezuelans who helped deliver technology ''support'' during the glitch-plagued Chicago elections.

Curac¸ao business records also show that the two statutory director companies have 28 ''proxy holders,'' all employees of Curac¸ao International Trust Co.

CITCO is an old Dutch financial services firm based in the building Smartmatic lists as its Curac¸ao address. CITCO specializes in financial services for wealthy clients who seek confidentiality.

Smartmatic's Amsterdam address is also CITCO.

Anzola and Mugica, the main founders, are childhood friends. Anzola's father, Alfredo Anzola Mendez, wrote a column for the anti-Chávez Caracas newspaper Tal Cual.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: chavez; venezuela; votingmachines
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Smartmatic's corporate papers, obtained in Curac¸ao by The Miami Herald, reveal a convoluted trail of companies incorporated abroad and operating through dozens of proxy holders -- a structure seemingly designed to cloak the true owners.

Graphic link "follow the money trail" near top of article

1 posted on 10/28/2006 3:24:36 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

More at:

Smartmatic: all things connected
By Aleksander Boyd

London 14.08.05 | The Florida register of companies contains details of the board of directors of Smartmatic Corporation, which is formed by Antonio Mugica, Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica Rivero, Roger Piñate, Antonio Mugica Sesma and Luis Feliu [1]. Its principal place of business is 1001 Broken Sound Parkway, NW, STE D, Boca Raton, FL 33487. The company's history in Venezuela dates back to seven years ago when the venture was "the Research and Development Unit of Panagroup in Venezuela" (sic) and in "2000 we realized the true impact of our technology in the growing device-networking market, and we emerged as an independent company" (sic) [2]. The Miami Herald reported on Friday May 28, 2004 [ F2 EDITION]:

"A large and powerful investor in the software company that will design electronic ballots and record votes for Venezuela's new and much criticized election system is the Venezuelan government itself... Venezuela's investment in Bizta Corp., the ballot software firm, gives the government 28 percent ownership of the company it will use to help deliver voting results in future elections, including the possible recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez, according to records obtained by The Herald... Until a year ago, the Bizta Corp. was a struggling Venezuelan software company with barely a sales deal to its name, records show. Then, the Venezuelan government -- through a venture capital fund -- invested about $200,000 and bought 28 percent of it" (sic).

Further the Herald also shed light upon shareholders and registered addresses of both Smartmatic and Bizta thusly:

Three companies will build and execute Venezuela's new touch-screen voting system. Two are incorporated in Florida, though neither does most of its business here.

* Smartmatic Corp., which will build the machines, incorporated in Florida in 2000 and lists its world headquarters at 6400 Congress Ave. in Boca Raton. Its president is Antonio Mugica Rivero, 30, and its vice president is Alfredo Anzola, 30.

* Bizta Corp.,which will provide software for the new machines, incorporated in Florida in 2001, and lists its address as 19591 Dinner Key Dr., Boca Raton, a residential property owned by Mugica's father. Mugica is listed as president, and Anzola is vice president, according to Florida records. Venezuelan records, however, indicate Anzola is president. In Caracas, Bizta shares its office with Smartmatic.

* CANTV, Venezuela's publicly held phone company, will provide phone lines to connect the system and election day technical support. It would have been part of any voting system selected for the elections contract.

Venezuelan journalist Orlando Ochoa Teran investigated the claims published by the Miami Herald and discovered that Venezuelan officials were behind the incorporation of Smartmatic. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Venezuelan Ambassador to the USA Bernardo Alvarez Herrera are intimately related, either through long time friendship or consanguinity relationship, to the directors of Smartmatic. According to registry documents, that went missing after the Herald blew the whistle, the names associated to the company are Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica and families Gabaldon-Anzola and Herrera-Oropeza [3]. The incorporation of Smartmatic took place in the Fifth Mercantile Registry, located in the ground floor of tower B in “Cubo Negro” building in Chuao Caracas. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel's daughter -lawyer Gisela Rangel Avalos de D'Armas was, at the time, the head of the said registry.

Since March 2004 the CNE has disbursed at least $131 million to Smartmatic [4].

Who controls Smartmatic?
The findings of Orlando Ochoa did not end in a Caracas registry though. Recently he wrote for Quinto Dia another article, carrying the title of this paragraph, in which he commented upon the recent acquisition of Sequoia Voting Systems for an undisclosed amount. "With the combination of Sequoia and Smartmatic, both proven innovators with accomplished track records in either the U.S. or abroad, we are creating the first truly global leader in providing voter-verified electronic voting solutions," said Jack Blaine, President, Smartmatic [5]. Furthermore, after analyzing the minutes of a meeting held in Chicago between Cook County and Chicago's city officials with the board of Sequoia, that remained in charge after the take over, and that of Smartmatic [6], Ochoa noted that unknown Venezuelan investors, operating via proxy European ventures, could indeed be the controlling power behind Smartmatic.

Sequoia Voting Systems was the e-voting branch of De La Rue PLC, the "world 's largest commercial security printer and papermaker" (sic) [7]. De La Rue's 2005 preliminary statement reports the sale to Smartmatic thusly:

"following the strategic review in December 2004, we announced our intention to exit the business (added: of voting systems) by the year end and this was done through the sale of the business to Smartmatic Corporation, a US based device networking and election systems company. The business had revenues of £23.1m (2003/2004 : £44.2m) and made an operating loss of £0.2m in the year (2003/2004 : £(1.9)m)" [8, page 8].

Interestingly page 5 cites "During the second half, we also successfully completed the sale of the Sequoia Voting Systems business for a consideration of £8.7m (US$16m) resulting in an exceptional gain of £6.0m" (sic).

Following Ochoa's lead I searched the registry of the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce, which contains details of a venture trading under the name Smartmatic International Holding B.V., incorporated, under a different name, on March 18th 1.985. Its registered address is Naritaweg 165 Telestone 8, 1043BW Amsterdam. The company activities are described as "to purchase, develop and manage property and goods" [9]. The sole shareholder of the holding is Amola Investments N.V., which in turn was incorporated in the registry of the Chamber of Commerce of Curaçao, under number 91615. A search for Amola Investments N.V. in the register of Curaçao's Chamber of Commerce returns no results. However the incorporation number does exist in the register, containing not information related to Amola Investments N.V. but to another company by the name of Smartmatic International Group N.V. [10]. Curaçao Corporation Company N.V. [11], Netherlands Antilles Corporation Company N.V. [12] and Roger Alejandro Piñate Martinez -Vice President, Special Operations of Smartmatic Corporation [13]- are the three listed statutory and managing directors of the group.

Ochoa indicated that an entry in the minutes of the meeting aforementioned describes Cook County's Commissioner Peter Silvestri [14] asking to representatives of Sequoia/Smartmatic "who owns Sequoia?" (sic). The answer came from Honorable David Orr [15]: "Smartmatic International, which is owned by a Dutch company, owns Sequoia Voting Systems. Some key investors of the said Dutch company are Venezuelans" (sic). On May 26th 2005 Cook County's Election Department informed that Sequoia was the winner of the bidding process for electronic voting equipment [16].

The Amsterdam registry shows that Smartmatic International Holding B.V.'s managing director is Trust International Management (T.I.M.) B.V.. Both companies operate from the same address. According to the register the website of T.I.M. B.V is [17]. Citco Group is quoted in Hedge Funds World as "the world's largest hedge fund administrator" (sic) [18], that until very recently was controlled by Switzerland's Sandoz Foundation [19]. However Citco has informed that "an investor group including the Smeets Family Trust, Citco managers, and friends of the firm has acquired a controlling interest in Citco from the Sandoz Family Foundation" (sic) [20].

The USAID, IFES, Carter Center, CNE and Smartmatic connection

In June 1998, the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela contracted the International Foundation for Election Systems IFES to renew and make recommendations regarding proposals for an automated voting system in Venezuela [21, page 29 ]. IFES has been awarded (award number AEP-I-00-00-00007-00) an "indefinite quantity contract" (IQC) by USAID with the following purpose: "To support the transition to, and consolidation of, democratic governments through which citizens choose their leaders and participate in all levels of political decision-making, particularly in transition and sustainable development countries" [22, page 30 ]. According to Carter Center's America's Programme director Jennifer McCoy "President Carter had traveled several times to Venezuela, including monitoring the 1998 and 2000 elections, and he and President Chavez built a very good personal relationship" [23]. Such warm relationship may have come about due to the fact that the Carter Center is the sole subcontractor of IFES for the aforementioned purpose.

CNE's director Jorge Rodriguez traveled to Smartmatic's 'factory' in Italy, early in 2004, to check the progress of the production of the electronic voting machines. These were purchased to Tecnost Sistemi Olivetti for $57.968.040. However Italian news agency ANSA posted on the economy section on April 15, 2004 that the total amount of the contract was over $24 million:

"Olivetti Tecnost, la Business Unit "Office & System Solutions" del Gruppo Telecom Italia, si e aggiudicata una commessa del valore di oltre 24 milioni di dollari, per la fornitura complessiva di 20.000 terminali di voto elettronico in Venezuela, che saranno utilizzati per la prima volta nelle elezioni del prossimo agosto". (bold added)

20.000 AES300 machines were bought to Olivetti, however the Italian firm does not have such a model in its catalog of products but one called MAEL 205, which was designed to play lottery. Ochoa noted that the said machines produced by Olivetti were sold to Peru, India and Tunisia not for electoral purposes [24]. Smartmatic did not fulfill the CNE's criteria in terms of experience in organization and conduction of electoral processes of companies that participated in the bidding process. The obstacle was circumvented by hiring Jorge Tirado, former contractor of IFES and director of Caribbean Government Consultants (CGC):

Jorge Tirado, president of CGC, has been consultant for the State Electoral Commission of Puerto Rico since1975. He has participated in more than 63 electoral processes as consultant or as head of CGC, leading technological initiatives and process lines to ensure transparent elections. [25].

However El Universal reported that Tirado had indeed participated in 63 electoral processes not in the condition of organizer but as an observer contracted by IFES [26], organization with which he has an old relationship [27].


It is extremely worrying indeed that a company with connections to the Hugo Chavez regime has been selected to run elections in a county of Chicago and given carte blanche to operate in the USA and other countries. Equally preoccupying is the fact that leading players of the global financial market are related to Smartmatic and to some extent to Fidel Castro's heir.

2 posted on 10/28/2006 3:35:13 AM PDT by cll (Carthage must be destroyed)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Just YIKES! bump.

3 posted on 10/28/2006 3:39:00 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: cll
This is almost scary. I'm not afraid of e voting but I do realize there must be safeguards.

The Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) are hyping up Diebold as a potential problem but I've never seen a story on Smartmatic. It's almost like they're saying "Hey, look at this!" pointing to Diebold while there might be an actual problem with Smartmatic, not just crazy conspiracy stuff.

This is a real dilemma for DUmmies who hate Diebold/e-voting (even though they demanded it after 2000) but who love Chavez.

4 posted on 10/28/2006 3:53:52 AM PDT by NEPA (You say redneck like its a bad thing)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
These companies should be dumped now then sort out the connections. Unbelievable.
5 posted on 10/28/2006 4:00:20 AM PDT by G-Man 1
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I'm an engineer.

I'm opposed to electronic voting.

The stakes are too high. No matter what is claimed, the only way to have a verifiable election that can be recounted is paper ballots. In electronic land, votes can appear and/or disappear without a trace. Votes need to remain tangible.
6 posted on 10/28/2006 4:04:01 AM PDT by DB (©)
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To: StJacques


7 posted on 10/28/2006 4:19:12 AM PDT by Alia
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To: DB; All

"...the only way to have a verifiable election that can be recounted is paper ballots."

I have lived in the NYC metro area my entire life. We always (until the last election) voted with mechanical machines with little levers you'd push over to sslect your vote, it would register when you pulled the big lever to open the curtain of the voting booth. This was true in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey City and Bayonne, NJ for the past 30 years. There was never a paper ballot returned to the voter. I don't know if there was a paper ballot produced that remained in the machine. All this talk of paper ballots has confused me all this time. Any enlightenment appreciated.

8 posted on 10/28/2006 4:22:02 AM PDT by jocon307 (The Silent Majority - silent no longer)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

This is HUGH!!!!

9 posted on 10/28/2006 4:23:39 AM PDT by Rome2000 (Peace is not an option)
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To: cll
Look for the name "James Earl Carter" in the paper trail.If it's there,you know that something's fishy.
10 posted on 10/28/2006 4:24:47 AM PDT by Gay State Conservative ("An empty limousine pulled up and Hillary Clinton got out")
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To: DB
E-votong is ok as far as I'm concerned.

The democraps have been making votes appear/disappear without a trace for years.

Now the idiots that used to steal elections for them are stymied.

Just wait until they start comparing voting turnout and results in rat counties before and after the introduction of Diebold.

11 posted on 10/28/2006 4:27:43 AM PDT by Rome2000 (Peace is not an option)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

The whole point of this tale seems to be to discredit ALL voting machine devices, by tying them to questionable sources. If not the evil Republicans, then to the whacko leftist dictator of a corrupt South American country, an attempt to enlist the Republican proponents of the electronic voting devices.

The voting machines as now administered tend to make a more honest vote possible. A simple fraud like stuffing ballot boxes has become much more difficult.

It would almost seem as if the Miami Herald does not WANT fraud taken out of elections. AT least, fraud they cannot approve of.

12 posted on 10/28/2006 4:31:13 AM PDT by alloysteel (Facts do not cease to exist, just because they are ignored. - Aldous Huxley)
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To: DB

I have nothing against paper ballots except for the time that it takes to count them. I do have a big problem with machines that give you a 'reciept' saying who you voted for because I think that your vote should be kept completely confidential and people might be coherced into voting a certain way because they know that someone else will force them to show their reciept as proof that they voted the way that person wanted them to vote.

13 posted on 10/28/2006 4:34:12 AM PDT by Elyse
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
I believe it was Joseph Stalin who said:

"It's not the people who vote that matter, it's the people who count the votes."

14 posted on 10/28/2006 4:53:36 AM PDT by Perseverando
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To: jocon307

If you go to this link,

You will see on the right hand side a video of the machines we're using in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. There is a paper trail, although it stays in the machine, it is there on paper record.

15 posted on 10/28/2006 5:01:35 AM PDT by EBH (All great truths begin as blasphemies. GB Shaw)
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To: DB
I understand where you're coming from and generally agree with you but e-voting is here to stay for the foreseeable future, like it or not. There is just too much money invested in them.

They are easy to use so voters like them.

Election workers like the new machines. They are easier to set up and tally.

Until it is proven in court that machines were rigged to steal an election (from a democrat)they're here to stay.

16 posted on 10/28/2006 5:11:07 AM PDT by NEPA (You say redneck like its a bad thing)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Fantastic investigating, obviously done at the highest level.

All I can think is that the current administration has two years to get to the root of these types of schemes.

Because if Clinton-Kerry-Gore-Dean get power then you can bet the farm such players as 'Smartmatic' are going to get max protection from scrutiny and that means more 'glitches' in voting tabulations.

17 posted on 10/28/2006 5:15:33 AM PDT by Hostage
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
Those who count the votes decide everything."

Josef Stalin

18 posted on 10/28/2006 5:27:13 AM PDT by saganite (Billions and billions and billions-------and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

One good reason to vote absentee this year with a paper ballot. This smells of a DEM vote stealing scheme being a foot!

19 posted on 10/28/2006 5:46:28 AM PDT by excludethis
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To: jocon307

I haven't been in a voting booth for a number of years. I vote absentee. Before I voted absentee I always used a paper ballot that was placed in the voting machine where I selected and punched my choices. Then I removed the ballot, checked it, and then slipped it into a paper sleeve and returned it to an election worker.

I had the opportunity to check the ballot and watch it get put into the ballot box.

There was a hard record of how I voted.

20 posted on 10/28/2006 5:57:20 AM PDT by DB (©)
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