Seth Woolley's Blog

Occasional Musings


Election Law (and now Tax Law) Complaint

Initial Filing

Read the Cover letters to local election officials

Complaint w/o attachments with copies of articles:

Attachments composed of copies of newspaper articles:

Update #1 4:30pm 4-18

I have received a reply from Tim Scott, the Multnomah County Elections Director which I have provided here:

My reply is provided below:

Update #2 5:45pm 4-18

The reply from the Auditor is that they're going to defer to Scott:

Update #3 3:45pm 4-19

The reply from the SOS is that they're going to defer to Scott:

Things are playing out pretty much how I expected.  Stay tuned. More to come.

Update #4 2:25pm 4-23

I have now filed a report of possible tax fraud and tax evasion, supported by my communications with elections officials regarding Hales's residency and information in the original complaint.

You can find a copy at the address here:

(Still no follow up reply from Director Scott.)

Update #5 10:40am 5-04

I have also filed a new complaint regarding Charlie Hales's not paying Multnomah County ITAX:

Update #6 9:07am 9-28

I have submitted a new complaint document which addresses all replies above and makes jurisdiction and interpretation clear with references to case law.

The Secretary is required to investigate this matter and I point out that the county investigation was inadequate, not just incorrect.

Update #7 12:15am 10-24

Secretary Brown's office has been sitting on this for a few weeks now. The good news is they haven't rejected it, but sent back a form letter essentially saying they have received it.

That probably means they will actually do some sort of investigation.

In-process investigations are confidential in both tax and election law, so now we wait until an indictment comes down.  It will have to be one or the other according to most legal experts I have heard from.  If nothing happens, enforcement may be compelled through the courts.

Update #8 10:15:35pm 12-05

Portland City Council accepted a report today from the city auditor certifying the election of Charlie Hales based on election results provided by the Multnomah County Director of Elections.

Three Citizens, all of whom are listed as endorsers of Scott Fernandez in the primary mayoral election voter guide:\

Nancy, Cherie, and Rose Marie testified in opposition to accepting the certification until such time as the question of qualification is adequately investigated.  The Council, through Mayor Adams, in reply, made it clear that they were merely accepting a report and that this action would not prevent further action in courts regarding this issue.

You can hear 14 minutes of mp3 audio here:

The city attorney made it clear that council had no role in whether or not he would be removed if he were not qualified: the charter says that the office will immediately become vacant without any action by council.  They appeared to be washing their hands of the issue as much as they could and spent a considerable amount of time trying to cover themselves in case of any future litigation.

There still has been no reply to the Sept 27th filing.  If there is no reply, I may be forced to compel the Secretary of State to perform an investigation that she has not performed.  The County Director of Elections did perform an investigation but it was legally inadequate per case law, and the Secretary should direct them on how to determine voter registration and if they insist on improperly determining, they can step in themselves and make their own determination overriding Multnomah County Elections as Chief Elections Officer.  Such complaints (and it may take a series) to compel enforcement of the law would be filed in Marion County Circuit Court.

One might imagine a complaint to perform a timely investigation and perhaps another to correct the results of the investigation.  There are still many avenues here, and since I'm currently suing the Secretary over ballot access laws using the same power, she and others must know I know this power of judicial review of election law exists, and that I am willing to use it.

Update #9 11:59am 2013-01-18

I have just received a reply from Trout at the SoS office.

The determination was in Hales' favor, but no explanation for the determination was offered.  Instead, they are "confident" that Multnomah County Elections made the correct decision after communicating with them.

The above "sept27" version of the complaint clearly outlines what kind of investigation would be needed as per case law.  This doesn't meet those requirements, since it's just an affirmation of Tim Scott's "ask them where they think they reside" investigation.

As the complaint noted, that is specifically not an appropriate investigation according to case law.

Further, Trout explains that tax and election law residency or domicile are distinct with no explanation for why he believes in this case that tax and election law would allow him to have two different residences for residency or domicile purposes where he intends to return.  The complaint lays out how the minor differences do not apply in this case.  No explanation is offered to rebut that.

Trout further selectively quotes the law regarding who is in charge of determining registration.  The complaint fully quoted it and specifically noted that the Secretary must as chief elections officer validate registrations in later instances.  The county elections office verifies them in the "first instance".

Despite that selective quoting, Trout then goes on to agree with the county without explanation by stating they are "confident" the process used was correct.  The complaint already laid out why it was incorrect with much detail.  Again, nothing rebutted.

The letter also describes how they refuse to enforce the city charter regarding elections saying city charter and code violations are enforced by the city attorney in the city's name.

But ORS 221.315 relates to prosecutions in court, not elections processes and administration.  The Secretary as chief elections officer should instruct local election officials and county clerks on how to uniformly and accurately interpret their own laws as per actual election law, which was already noted in the complaint.

This matter is whether or not Hales was qualified to run and is qualified to be mayor.  While the complaint alleges a number of allegations of state election law that should be prosecuted, the additional city code and charter violations merely mean Hales would be "vacated" from office upon the determination of ineligibility as per the election law violations, where they clearly do have jurisdiction, also.

In sum, Enforcing the city code and charter would not be a court prosecution but an administrative determination and instruction.

ORS 221.315 clearly doesn't apply.

Despite a thorough complaint, there's no substance to counter it in this new determination letter.  A possible next step is 60 days to appeal the determination in Marion County Circuit Court and/or to compel enforcement.  Details on the exact form of the appeal will come later and will be posted here.

Update #10 11:48pm 2012-03-20

On Monday I filed a law suit with Marion County Circuit Court appealing the above determination letter.  You can read it in detail at the link above and the rest of this post for any other contextual details.

In the suit, I appeal the determination, asking first for a determination order, second asking for a review of the Secretary's order, and third asking for an injunction to order the Secretary to enforce election law as required.

You can donate to cover legal fees here:

Original Text

As you may have found out by now, I have filed a complaint with the Secretary of State, CC'd to local authorities in the City of Portland and Multnomah County Elections, alleging a number of violations of election law.

My Personal Background -- why me?

When I first heard about Charlie Hales's living in Washington and avoiding paying Oregon taxes, it piqued my interest because I'm intimately familiar with election law due to my 2008 run for Secretary of State on the Pacific Green Party ticket and was myself in a similar situation.  In 2006 through my Free Open Source Software connections, I was offered a job I couldn't refuse to work for a Silicon Valley startup on distributed supercomputing hardware.  I moved to Oakland, CA and told my wife that there is no better opportunity than in the Bay Area for people trying to break into the computer industry.  I told her that I planned on developing my resume at a few startups and then moving back.  We rented out our house in Portland that we had recently bought (and reside in now since Labor Day of 2007 when we moved back) and rented small apartments in the Bay Area.  I moved around never really having what I considered a real residence -- never staying in the same place for even a year.  I would come up to Portland and upgrade our house when I had time, including replacing our garage roof on one such trip.

At the time, I was, like Charlie Hales, heavily involved in Oregon politics, having been a leader with the Oregon Pacific Green Party. I looked at the law and determined then that though I intended to return, I didn't have enough legal standing to keep my Oregon registration.  I would be filing taxes in California instead of Oregon -- oh how I wanted to pay taxes in Oregon instead.  I reluctantly registered to vote in California.  I was so excited to be able to vote in Oregon once again in late 2007 and 2008.  I then ran for Secretary of State, having barely been a re-resident of Oregon for a year.  I looked up the qualifications for the office to be sure.

On Charlie Hales

That Charlie Hales continued voting in Oregon for so many years while enriching himself of about $30,000 in avoided Oregon income taxes, depriving Oregon of tax revenues in the process, concerns me as taxpayer who believes in the principle that taxation and representation are linked.  Charlie Hales was *not being taxed* while still *being represented*.  For a candidate to claim a history of fiscal responsibility and accountability while casting votes without having to pay the costs and experience the effects of those votes is not just hypocritical, it is contrary to the philosophical underpinnings of any just theory of taxation.  A just theory, however, is well-encoded into Oregon law in word and in spirit.

When I looked into the problem further, I ran into a major issue -- is Hales even qualified to run?  In my investigation, I came to discover that Hales's knowingly inaccurate voter registration in 2008 meant he wasn't registered to vote at his now-claimed address and so he isn't qualified to run as per the city code and charter.  This is a huge consequence for him.

On the consequences for the city and the state

If Charlie Hales is in fact ineligible, we must know now before we have to call another election and waste more taxpayer dollars, all as a result of the actions of Charlie Hales to avoid paying taxes in Oregon while claiming voting eligibility in Oregon.  I hope the process can move swiftly enough that Charlie Hales can be removed without having to call another election.  The Secretary should have acted sooner to protect Oregon taxpayers and Portland's election processes.

Solving the problem in the future

In addition to placing the legal spotlight on Hales, I think the Secretary of State should send the public record registration data to the Department of Revenue to cross-check against nonresident filers and ensure those who are not paying taxes in Oregon either do not get to influence the elections that all the other taxpayers participate in, or they get the revenue back.  That act alone may allow the state to reclaim millions of dollars in taxes it may be entitled to.  The Department of Revenue could ask each matched filer via a form letter if they would like to re-declare their domicile and if they are claiming temporary exception with no fixed residence, and any other clarifications the state may want to ask to ensure it is getting the revenue it deserves and to ensure the Secretary of State can properly check for election and voter law violations like this in the future.  A little cooperation can go a long way toward saving taxpayer money through preventing evasion-loss.

On the Secretary's and others' inaction versus upholding the law

The integrity of our election system requires that we have predictable, consistent rules and a fair application of those rules.  The current Secretary of State, Kate Brown, published an op-ed in the Oregonian on April 20, 2010 on the issue of voter fraud saying that they take the issue very seriously and note the Class C felony penalties as "perhaps the greatest deterrents" to voter fraud.  She also claimed that "believe me, we'll investigate" allegations of voter fraud in response to a mere phone call with "as many details as possible", not formally filed complaints.

Despite an impressive collection of journalism on the part of the Willamette Week and the Oregonian, the Secretary of State's Director of Elections Trout has indicated that without a formal complaint and hearing, there is not enough evidence to investigate. Apparently a series of phone calls from the media, highly skeptical articles from the established press, and tax law and election law expert weigh-in on the blogosphere and elsewhere isn't enough to start an investigation of a high profile case of voter and election fraud with more major impact than the examples listed in her op-ed.

When I started looking at the laws again to make sure my suspicions were correct, I found that there is a mass of evidence based on easily verified published and public record information that Charlie Hales had committed a series of violations of election law and/or tax law.  The filed complaint lays out that case.  At first I was expecting other people would file the complaint and I wouldn't have to, but as time went on it became clear that the other mayoral candidates had promised to remain "positive" and the traditional community institutions of Oregon and Portland were not inclined to either make the effort to lay out the complete case or were not willing to rock the boat.  Some I consulted had already made donations to a mix of the major opponents and so did not want to get too heavily involved, potentially detracting from their preferred candidate's election with a negative campaign that might propel the third person to the top of the polls.  I had a hard time finding expert attorneys who weren't involved in the mayoral race one way or another (or another) to help vet the issues.

This is all the more reason to implement campaign finance reform like Measure 47 from 2006, which is on the books but not being enforced.  Not only are our politicians corrupted, but conflicts arise from political leaders' unwillingness to participate fully in the process of ensuring law and order -- leaders who I greatly respect, but they feel they must counter money with money.  In this case, money has again acted to suppress speech.

I, too, believe that negative campaigns are not the best thing for a healthy democracy, however, when the rule and the spirit of the law are broken, particularly when it comes to the integrity of our elections and voting processes, consequences must exist for those who would violate that integrity, especially while standing for public office themselves, and also especially when false statements were made in an apparent attempt to avoid taxes.

Seth Woolley

3403 NE Stanton St

Portland, OR 97212


Seth Woolley's Blog

kate brown has lost the plot on voter suppression and ballot access(0)

Kate Brown seems to be thoroughly confused yet again. In her latest email blast, she makes some very unfortunate claims against the Republican, who I normally wouldn't defend, but the claims are so backwards something must be said to point out that she's the actual problem. She led off with this:

"As reported in the Oregonian, we now know that Republican Knute Buehler supports the movement to restrict ballot access that is gaining momentum in states across the country."

Buehler, as a former member of a third party, has actually supported making it easier for parties and candidates to get *ballot access*, something completely different from *poll access*. Ballot access is the ability of individuals to become named on the ballot. Kate Brown, on the other hand has illegally overinterpreted the ballot access laws in contravention of long-standing precedent so much so that she stated an intent to kick the Pacific Green Party entirely off the ballot by August 8th. I filed suit against her in Marion County Circuit Court to get the courts to tell her how the law should be interpreted, but the defense (the state) has oddly failed to reply in time as a possible delay tactic. Knowing full well the history of Democrats against ballot access going back many Secretaries of State, we knew we couldn't wait for the courts, so we coordinated a massive registration drive to make sure we were safe from being completely kicked off the ballot. The registration drive went better than we expected and we well overshot the numbers we needed in just a few months.

It cost us significant amounts of money we have very little of though, so please consider donating at and

Brown goes on to explain:

"If Buehler wins, he will support efforts that make it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote. / Sign my petition right now and let’s tell Knute Buehler not to bring extreme voter I.D. laws to Oregon."

I've been to one of Buehler's "idea raisers" where the community asked for various ways of suppressing the Democratic vote. Knute was surprisingly moderate, rejecting the most extreme suggestions (like wiping the registration rolls clean and starting from scratch) out of hand. He also pointed out that voter fraud in Oregon was exceedingly rare and that we already have signature checks. That makes the next claim even more odd:

"Buehler has echoed false statements about fraud in elections and made it clear that he would support plans to disenfranchise Oregon voters."

Without a direct quote, it's surprising that such a claim can be made. Here's the Oregonian's voter guide on voter fraud in full:

"We can definitely do a better job defending against voter fraud. As I’ve traveled around the state it is clear that many people have concerns about the security of our vote by mail system. Many of the concerns I hear can easily be fixed – and should have been fixed by now. It’s inexcusable to have ambiguous election law language that seems, at least by some, to be open to interpretation. In my first year as Secretary of State, I would conduct a thorough audit of our vote by mail system and lead the legislature to clean up any issues that the audit finds so all Oregonians have the confidence their elections are administered fairly, openly and without fraud or partisan manipulation."

There's nothing about voter ID here. He didn't even claim voter fraud happens, but that we can do a better job protecting against it. He's probably referring to the fact that ballots were left not destroyed after election day as they are supposed to be by statute, where Brown says that other rules contradict it. Cleaning up ambiguity does make some sense. About this issue, Knute Buehler himself has written a blog post where he calls her claim an outright lie and says we already have voter ID through our existing requirement to sign our ballot:\

Maybe he was more moderate when I was in the room and on the voter guide and in public posts, but let's see who is making the more serious claims about voter fraud. That's right, Kate Brown has been claiming there is widespread voter fraud in initiative petitions so she can clamp down in the initiative process, where she feels she can throw out almost half of all signatures in statewide petitions and apply exorbitant and absurd fines based on no actual evidence aside from claims from a couple perhaps disgruntled employees (out of hundreds). Every chief petitioner pays hourly in this state, not by the signature, because the fines are absurdly high. Why would Bob Wolfe risk an eight figure fine by paying per signature? It doesn't pass the smell test. He was given a proposed fine without even talking to him about it first. She sent the press release out without Bob knowing it was even out. Now even Bob is running against her as the nominee of the Progressive Party, to debate her directly on these issues. Democracy needs serious, consistent, and good faith administration but Brown wants to play hardball against it. And to be precise, paying per signature, even if were true, wouldn't be fraud, it would be criminal, but not fraud. Her actions seem to conflate the two issues.

But back to the real issue of voter suppression that she was trying to bring up. We have to remember that voter suppression includes the petitioning process, not just registration. Brown claimed her election in 2008 gave her a mandate to restrict the initiative process and "clamp down on fraud". Fraud that they already had major penalties for. Who was spreading FUD about voter fraud? That's right, she was, and is.

On a related matter of actual election fraud, I filed a claim of voter fraud and she simply ignored the contents of the claim. You might remember that situation with Charlie Hales:

That's a situation of actual voter fraud.

She added, "I’m running for Secretary of State because I am thoroughly opposed to the war on voting that is happening around the country."

Speaking of a war on voting, I think throwing out 48% of the signatures out of a couple hundred thousand petition signatures is a war on voting. Signing a petition is a right that is fundamental to the voting process. The technicalities she uses to throw petitions out have very little to do with actual voter intent anymore. Forget to use a staple, use a paper clip instead? All thrown out. Correct a date with an initial? All thrown out. There are many more examples. Bob Wolfe got testimony from many who had their signatures thrown out as invalid attesting that they in fact did sign the petition. Calling signatures invalid without cause is like throwing out a completed ballot without cause. Shouldn't your petition signature count? Ask yourself what kind of government do we have when your petition for a redress of grievances doesn't count?

She even asked, "Please join me: Sign my petition..."

Ironic that now she likes the idea of petitioning just after the petitioning period ended this week and she set new records for rejecting signatures with completely arbitrary rules and last-minute rule changes -- such as deciding that signatures have to be turned in to a new date two full weeks before the statutory deadline or they can't promise to count them in time -- they interpret the final deadline as applying to how fast they can validate signatures, too.

I wonder how Kate Brown expects to win this election with confused appeals screwing up two issues at once -- ballot access and voter suppression -- where she and her actions are the real problem?

Seth Woolley's Blog

still around(2)

I've just been busy.

Seth Woolley's Blog

current status of irv campaign(0)

Who I am

I'm Seth Woolley, former State Secretary of the Pacific Green Party of Oregon, 2008 candidate for Secretary of State, and treasurer of the Portland Greens.  I am employed as a senior spatial database software engineer for a silicon valley startup, but my political passion is the entire gamut of progressive election reform.

I ran on a campaign of campaign finance reform, majority voting with IRV, and ballot access reform.  The ballot access reform was successful, and in 2009 the Democrats repealed a 2005 law they passed to prevent independent candidates from getting on the ballot by unconstitutionally throwing out most party-registered candidates from petitions and nominating conventions.  In supporting IRV, I also was one of the main opponents of measure 65 which was a corporate media and corporate-financed campaign to implement the Louisiana "Top Two" Primary system in Oregon that would make the problems IRV is intended to solve actually worse than simple first choice voting we already had.  It's like they went to a mathematician and asked how to make an election system that's vulnerable to more manipulation than our current system.  I was quite pleased that we Oregonians were collectively smarter than our neighbors in rejecting Top Two by a wide margin.

How does IRV work?

Instant Runoff Voting, also called Ranked Choice Voting and Alternative Vote, is a form of Preference Voting where voters are asked to fill out more than their first choice of preferences and then counting is done using multiple rounds off the same ballots.  The way it works is very simple.  If after counting all the first choice votes and somebody has a majority, they are immediately elected and the election is done.  If, however, nobody gets a majority of the first choice votes, the last place of first choice votes is eliminated, the ballots are transferred to the next choice on those ballots, and counting is re-done.  A majority is re-checked for after each round until there is a majority or there is only one candidate left.  This ensures, as best as possible, that each candidate has a majority support and that voter's ballots are never not considered in deciding the winner due to voting their actual preferences.

In our current paper ballot system, it would simply be a matter of having first, second, and third choice slots to the right of each candidate and having voters fill in their first, second, and third choices.  Voters may choose not to fill in a complete ballot, but it is to their advantage to avoid an "exhausted ballot" to do so.  Currently anybody who votes for a third place candidate automatically has their ballot "exhausted", not influencing the outcome of the election, and in a large field of candidates, particularly non-partisan races, and also very often in close partisan races, a minority of support may only be needed to win.  We try to get around this issue only for non-partisan races by holding two elections where if there is no majority in the primary, we take the top two, even if their total isn't a majority themselves.  IRV solves this problem by not needing to have a whole second election and by eliminating the last place candidate in repetition until a majority is attained.  In our case, we'd move the first and then only election to the general election which has more participation.  To learn more about how it works and where it is used, fairvote dot org slash irv is a good place to read up on it.

Why I'm supporting IRV

Currently, the two major reforms I am working on now are IRV and Public Financing.  Spencer Burton is already leading the Public Financing effort, so I'm taking the lead on the effort for IRV by shepharding the developing mass-movement around it.  Many people during the election approached me personally and wanted to get involved to support IRV, and so we're raising money and developing coalitions.  More on that later, but I want to talk about why it is needed first.

Why IRV is needed and other auxiliary nice-to-have benefits

IRV is needed because:

  • It accurately represents people's desires, improving on the rudimentary, simple plurality system we've been using for hundreds of years.

  • It saves money because it eliminates the need to have some but not all primary elections because all local elections are non-partisan already, obviating the need for partisan primaries, and in our case, public financing is cheaper since successul campaigns using public financing have so far required runoff elections, doubling the cost.

  • It improves the political climate by making negative campaigning a huge strategic liability, because with so many options to go above you, it is unwise to do personal attacks: while negative campaigning hurts you less than it hurts your opponent, the positive opponents surpass both you and your primary opponent in public support.

  • It allows majority support of elected candidates in diverse races that we often see in Portland while at the same time enhancing opportunities for traditionally disenfranchised communities like women.

  • It increases voter enfranchisement by moving candidates elections to the general election, doubling turnout of those who will be voting, as normally we have very few runoffs, two in the last decade, for example.

  • It increases the likelihood that our votes do affect the outcome for those who vote for up and coming parties and candidates by not requiring that we vote for one of the apparent top two since we normally only get a first choice.

IRV or Ranked Choice Voting in Oregon already established

IRV is a non-partisan good government majoritarian reform intended to upgrade our 300 year old election system that currently only allows first choice preferences to be noted by allowing people to rank their candidates in order of preference, first, second, and third. Over 100 years ago in 1908 by one of the first initiative ballot measures, Oregon voters already approved preference voting and proportional representation if enacted by law which is now encoded in Article II, Section 16 of the Oregon Constitution.  This allows the state and home rule chartered entities such as counties and cities to implement it without needing additional authorization.

Current Status of IRV campaign

In the past, under Secretary of State Bradbury, John Lindback, the former Director of Elections was strangely an opponent of IRV elections, blocking efforts at the state level to make things easier for county clerks by standardizing how IRV elections would be implemented state-wide, given that it's already in our Constitution.  He also opposed it by asserting state law overrides the Oregon Constitution, but the state law he invoked doesn't actually oppose IRV elections, the language doesn't contradict the Oregon Constitution to a reasonable reading and statutes can't contradict the Oregon Constitution anyways and be enforcable even if what he argued was true.  In any case, Lindback is now back out of state and we have a new Director of Elections, Steve Trout, under Kate Brown, my former opponent.  At first, we were cautious when dealing with Trout, but both he and Brown are supporters of good government reforms such as IRV and have been on the record supporting the idea, unwilling to stand in the way of honest government reforms.  This is refreshing because the main reason I ran against her was because Bradbury was a particularly partisan Secretary of State and I was concerned Brown might repeat that.  It's refreshing to be pleasantly surprised.  Just last week I was talking to Trout about how IRV as used in San Francisco (which allows up to three rankings) was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  It's nice having well-educated administrators in Salem to talk to.  Right now we're building our grassroots support through small donor fundraising and outreach, having amassed well over a thousand donors through direct outreach on the street and door to door and we're in the process of building official coalitions and splitting off the group since it is a truly non-partisan reform that has wide appeal from all aspects of the political spectrum from any place good government is a critical issue.  The Democratic Party State Platform and Election Integrity Caucus, the Oregon Pirate Party, many Libertarians, the Oregon Education Association, Alliance for Democracy, and many others advocate ranked instant runoff voting, and in recent elections the Republicans have ironically badly lost elections that could be considered spoiled by the Constitution and Libertarian Parties.  Why they haven't supported good government reforms such as IRV is striking to me, since one could cogently argue that they lost the gubernatorial race and the US Senate race for this very reason.  One reason I think they don't is that they don't actually believe that good elections lead to more conservative candidates and they are looking at the higher-order influence of real election reform and see it working against corporate interests.

Plan to implement IRV

Our current plan is to get the city charter review committee to recommend the city commission's referring a ballot measure to the voters to amend the city charter.  If we run into any issues there, we'll file a petition and start collecting signatures.  In any case, public outreach and voter education is crucial to winning campaigns such as this and seeing it successful in the long-term.  Organizations like Fair Vote dot org are very effective in helping the advise local campaigns on these facets and we have access to established local experts such as myself, Dan Meek, Fillard Rhyne, David Delk, Paul Gronke, Janice Thompson, and Blair Bobier to help us as a community be educated.  One issue we had was that Amanda Fritz was elected using public financing and ironically didn't want to eliminate the two-stage runoff system because she got twice as much funds to help in her campaign for her own voter outreach.  Now that public campaign financing didn't pass, we're confident she will see the problem with requiring candidates and the city and county to spend twice as much money for elections.  When you have to raise money twice, it sure can be a drag.  We've already talked to some members of the Charter Review Committee and have some strong support already there on the inside, so we're probably not going to need to even bother getting our own people on that committee, which was a consideration at first.  All in all, we're progressing steadily, have no more state road blocks, and are excited for the future of the campaign.  If you want to donate toward it, please visit click the donate button and type irv in the canvasser field to ensure we earmark it appropriately so it gets to our soon-to-be-spun-off committee.

IRV implemented elsewhere and the impact on progressive politics

There are many jurisdictions which have already implemented this reform.  Australia uses it to elect an entire house.  Cambridge, MA uses a multi-seat form called Single Transferable Voting to elect their city council -- which is actually the a good form I'd like to talk about later as a further stepping stone on the path to better elections.  The not-that-progressive Liberal Democrats gained major influence in the recent UK elections based on their support of Alternative Vote, which is another name for IRV or Ranked Choice Voting based on the success of IRV as implemented in London already.  In jurisdictions with meaningful election reform Green Parties are seeing incredible victories in Europe.  In Germany die Gruenen "Realos" are winning state governorships for the first time ever and becoming coalition partners in (for Germany) highly conservative states.  The Libyan and other Wars, Fukushima incident, global warming and the success of Feed-In Tariffs, a Green Party proposal some of my friends are trying to implement here (Oregonians for Renewable Energy), have made the Greens highly popular in Germany.  Also, in France, despite having a not as good election system, the Europe Ecologie Green Party alliance has led to additional success in France, going from a few percent to 15% of the vote in European Parliament in PR party-list elections, despite having a quite terrible election system (top two and plurality) at the local level in France.  We've seen how dramatic election reform has empowered serious reform to take place around the world and now this is happening in the US.  Notably, San Francisco (San Francisco County) and Berkeley and Oakland (Alameda County) are paving the way on the West Coast.  Oakland recently had an incredibly successful election where a large number of candidates and voices in an election elected a minority candidate where in plurality elections a more reactionary white person would have won.  The Greens paved the way for this reform there through major help of Green SF City Commissioner Matt Gonzalez, a recent running mate for Ralph Nader's Independent run.  The system was so successful other jurisdictions began adopting it.  This is the model we'd like to see happen in Oregon, local elections lead to expansion as people are educated about the benefits of the system.

Add-on reforms that work together

Eventually, IRV too could pave the way for serious reform of the party system in Oregon by allowing people to run as candidates without the backing of a major party. In many places, there is a push to do non-partisan elections, and one way business interests have approved of is called "top two" voting, which allows them to buy the top two candidates right away and ignore progressive candidates the rest of the election cycle as the media focuses on their favored candidates creating a hardened spoiler strategy system that benefits the monied.  This passed in California and Washington with massive corporate, reactionary support, but failed in Oregon by a two to one margin. It does make sense to go non-partisan, though and IRV elections allow a meaningful general election without spoiling that can eliminate the primary run both by general top two and partisan ballots.  In IRV, you can vote third place for one of the top two corporate candidates while keeping your progressive choices first and second, making sure that no matter how many candidates the corporatists and corporate media back, you will have your vote counted while still being able to express true support for one or two principled candidates.

We are not pursuing Single-Transferable Voting in Portland at first because we have single-seat commissioner positions.  When IRV is enacted here, we'd like to take that issue up at a later date because as Janice Thompson of Common Cause noted, minority representation and proportional representation are major historical issues in on the Portland Council.  Also, when IRV is enacted, it will be much cheaper to implement public financing.  Successful public financing campaigns in this city, of which we've only had one with Amanda Fritz, required a runoff election, doubling the cost of public financing in those situations.  I'm also involved with the campaign to put public financing back on the ballot since it lost so narrowly due to in our opinion a perfect storm of ballot title, and political climate issues.  Eventually, too, I'd like to see none of the above options on the ballot, but that's mainly required in places that haven't implemented IRV that itself opens up races to more than two people.

Seth Woolley's Blog

position on or 2011 hb3074(0)

Update 2012-04-21:

I was wrong on this.  See the original Open Letter for the full update.

Trout simply made the processes secret.  I apologize for ever supporting Trout.


I updated my blog post with an open letter questioning Trout's hiring as director of elections:

After a couple years of dealing with Mr. Trout, the concerns mentioned in the below letter have been addressed and it is my belief that Trout administers state elections with integrity.  Paperless elections are indeed controversial, but Trout now works in a full paper ballot, auditable election system as an administrator under a progressive official.  In multiple opportunities I have had to interact with Trout, he has listened to concerns and not stonewalled as Bev Harris accused. In essence, the information that may be found online isn't as accurate as it may seem.

I suggest that people give Trout the benefit of the doubt and deal with him on a direct level before coming to their own conclusions and not jump to conclusions based upon hearsay.

HB3074 (2011) has been introduced that would enable electronic voting for what HAVA calls long-term absentee voters, intended to enfranchise military service members.  The current system of facsimile voting is flawed beyond belief and it needs updating.  By allowing the use of e-mail, better, more secure, more open technology can be enacted by rule.

The rules will be developed with the Department of Defense and election security experts.  It was interpreted by some that the statute changes don't address the trust issues that electronic voting has brought up since the 2000 election.  By deferring to rule-making process, in fact, I believe it does.  The worst elements of HAVA are where it went too far and added verbage that handcuffed the technical experts to make rules with more insight than the details of the statute, rendering them unable to complete its intent and vision.  HB3074 is actually well-written in my view and deserves support rather than opposition, to help lead us to better, more secure, more accessible voting, electronic or otherwise, in the future, where, I hope we can have open, paper-backed, cryptographically secure elections for everybody.

By attacking Trout personally rather than the issues of the bill, the bill's detractors have unfortunately gone down the wrong path.

I suggest they work with rather than in opposition to the elections division in formulating a better bill.  Perhaps during rule-making their complete concerns can be addressed under the stated intent of the statute, the spirit in which the bill was offered, and what testimony for or against it parameterized the goals of the Oregon community.

Seth Woolley's Blog

response to blueoregon kari chisholm on automated redistricting(0)

I was limited to 3000 characters, so I decided to post on my blog and link to this post.

Kari, since you're a partisan hack (this is blueoregon after all), it would make sense that you would oppose non-partisan ways of redistricting.  All of them.

However, as a spatial database expert, I can tell you that it is actually not that difficult to do redistricting.  There is only one reason people hate computer redistricting: fear that the lack of political process involved will prevent them from having their political goals included.

In 2001, Bill Bradbury drew maps that were absurdly partisan.  The Republicans thus have a lot of ground to cover to gain a more fair map that distributes voter power more proportionally.

Most of the work on computerized redistricting comes from people who introduce new ways of analyzing districts and you gave a couple mentioned.  I should note that Brian's method is a heuristic method and it depends on how you seed its initial conditions and randomness generator, so it's got a weakness there from the standpoint of completely automated.

But it's not a bad way of doing representative districts that intend to represent geography.

A basic fact is being missed in all this discussion -- what people want to see: a fair election system.  Too many people are ignoring that.

Districts-by-geography are a form of proportional representation -- proportionality not by ideology inherently, but proportionality by location.  There are many advantages to having a house that has this proportionality, but there are countless disadvantages.  For one, the boundaries are not determined by voters, but through a political process.

The goal of election reform should be to find ways to maximize the determination that can be done by voters themselves and to minimize how much determination is done by special interests, monied lobbyists, and entrenched parties.

If we followed that goal we would be maximizing true self-determination in our elections.

Fortunately, there is a reform that is much more important than redistricting -- it is proportional representation by ideology.  And not entrenched parties.  Ideologies.  This is what most students of politics call proportional representation -- and it is most often implemented by means of a party list.

I know your examples are on the federal level, but I think state reform is more possible.

We don't need a party list system -- our Oregon Constitution in Article II, Section 16 outlines the two reforms that could be combined to create a non-partisan house of representatives that truly represent us.  We could leave the Oregon Senate districted by geography -- possibly ignoring "communities related to non-geographic interests" because we will use the House to create a system where communities of ideological interest are best represented.  Right now communities of interest of the ideological stripe cannot be incorporated into a district map unless they are "kinda" close enough to draw a boundary that doesn't look too bad from above.  That's why the problem is so hard to solve -- the election method itself is to blame, not the computers trying to optimize for parameters.

The two election reforms I mention are proportional representation itself and preference voting.  There is a form of preference voting called single-transferable voting that is commonly used in advanced societies like Scotland and Cambridge, MA to allow voters to express their proportional representative interests through the rank ordering of candidates -- and since they are done using preference voting, the spoiler effect that allows strategy plays by entrenched power players is virtually impossible to exploit.  If a minority votes in a block with others of their kind, they will find the outcomes will match what they voted for in the outcome of the election because the votes transfer to concentrate election behind the ideologically similar candidates with the most votes higher in preference.

So all of this tempest could be done by computer if we wanted to.

The beauty of this system is that it actually acts as a true check and balance system -- geographic distribution and proportional distribution can team up to block a bad bill that doesn't satisfy a majority from two different styles of bodies.  The ideological house, I expect, would likely lean more left, but the geographic senate with its communities of interest split up will likely lean more right.  Multipartisanship will be required to get anything through.  The number of viable parties in Oregon would skyrocket as people would feel free to vote their ideologies -- their consciences, rather than hold their noses and vote for Kari's monied candidates.

If we really don't want to make our elections more useful, we could stick to two nearly identical looking geographically divided legislative bodies and then make a computer program that encompasses the statute-based required elements in ORS 188.010.  Showing us pictures of districts not based on the already defined parameters doesn't help us much.

The only thing that should be political about the process is how to decide what coefficients go into the weighting system.

But that is an easy problem, a very easy problem.  I would solve it by asking each sitting legislator to propose the coefficients that fit a given equal power equation -- for example, all multiply to a given number.  They will do this after having been given access to the source code that takes all of the elements of the ORS into account.  The numbers will then simply be geometrically averaged to equal the same power equation.

The ORS defines some interesting aspects, like communities of interest.  I would propose that any communities of interest be decided by simple scientific sampling -- you ask people what communities of interest they feel most associated to (they can vote more than once) and give them five communities to list.  The ones with the most cumulative votes at the end get input in proportion to others multiplied by the aforementioned coefficient.  So somebody who doesn't like communities of interest for one reason (ethnicity) would have to bias against communities of interest for them (say farmers) at the same time.

Everybody gets their say, but the computer outputs the final output in an unbiased manner.  I believe this meets all of your substantive objections, Kari.  Truly, not a bad idea at all.

Seth Woolley's Blog

avoiding tmp files(2)

In an IRC chat an expert linux admin chagrined that every now and then they catch themselves in a rookie mistake:

sort /tmp/broken | uniq > /tmp/broken

Since sort and uniq are happening in parallel in a pipe, the > clobbers the input of sort since they are acting on the same file.

Another person asked if there's a way to do it without tmp files:

sort /tmp/broken | uniq > /tmp/broken2 &&
  mv /tmp/broken2 /tmp/broken

Since this is a unix filesystem, we can abuse inode file access counts and directory reference counts to avoid a tmp file, but I have to use fuser to avoid a race between the two parallel spawns so that the rm happens after the sort opens the file:

sort /tmp/broken |
    while fuser /tmp/broken; do sleep .1; done;
    rm /tmp/broken;
    uniq > /tmp/broken;

Sort opens and the subshell opens

If sort opens the file first, fuser returns zero and the rm is issued.

If sort has not opened the file first, fuser returns one, introduces a .1 sleep and tries again and again until it has been opened -- since consuming the input doesn't happen until the rm happens (uniq comes after), sort will block holding access to the file even if it fills the buffer completely -- it won't close the connection until the file is consumed, in sort, meaning that there's no race for the end of the sort's fill of the buffer.

Once the file is removed, the reference count of the directory is now zero and the link to the inode underneath is deleted.  Since we have assured that the file is open with fuser before doing this the file doesn't go away because the file access reference count is still not zero and we are left with an orphaned inode that the filesystem will remove once all accesses to it have stopped.

uniq operates on the orphaned inode's data with the input data we care about after filtering through sort and it writes to a new inode and new file reference to the inode.  When uniq is done, the orphaned inode is closed and the filesystem deletes the inode and its contents.  The new inode that uniq created contains the expected data.

It's kind of cheating because one might think the orphaned inode as a temporary file that the operating system takes care of later.  That leads to the philosophical question -- is an orphaned inode with file contents a "file" if it has no file name?

Seth Woolley's Blog

miniature font second update(0)

If you look at the following comparison of the uclibc kernel font (converted to X11), the misc-fixed size 6 font, and my size 6 fonts, you'll see I've done some more work.

The last update at was mainly to solidify and finalize the serif and sans-serif versions with the 4 pixel x-heights.

What I've done is take swoolley2, the san-serif version, add some serifs, but not all over the place, to improve character disambiguation, rounded out the number series, ensured there were at least two pixels of differences between characters, including significant differences when characters were underlined, and also made a 20% shrunk version to match the sizes of the uclibc and misc-fixed six point fonts.  I managed to improve on both of those in readability by adopting the aforementioned practices.

I also created a swoolley8 that's one character wider, 6x6, but that I didn't include in the image below.

Then I also created an 8x6 font called swoolley9 that is about as "big" as I can get with single line leading.  I think if I go to a size 9 or 10 font I can't go much more readable than that.

Here's the comparison image, too big to inline in this blog post:\

I used instead of the motif version of the bdf editor, the author has now put out gbdfed that I've updated to and have been using.

You can download the uclibc kernel font X11 conversion and swoolley6 and swoolley7 here:

Seth Woolley's Blog

response to three letter abbreviations for parties on ballots(0)

Oregon Elections Director Trout,

It has been brought to my attention that the state wishes to replace our name, carefully chosen, "Pacific Green" with a three letter abbreviation, while the law that I helped pass (2009 SB326) and campaigned for clearly states, as you have been notified by others, that the actual name must be given on the ballot next to the candidate name.  I am not an attorney, but my plain reading indicates that this would be an illegal act, and we are considering taking legal action to ensure all parties are recognized by their full names as required by law.

The bill already handles the issue of space constraints by limiting cross-nominations to three names.  Since this issue was already addressed there is no need for you to pursue it further.

Furthermore, when the law was passed, the legislature was fully aware of the existing party names, and no party names are unreasonably long.  If this were an issue, the statute would have been made to address it.  The intent clearly was that the full names should thus be used.

If there are software problems, it is up to the counties to comply with the law and request software patches.  As a software engineer myself, I understand that this is a very reasonable process, and you should be spending your time actually fixing any supposed problems rather than depriving parties of their right to be placed recognizably on the ballot that they earned under law.  I understand that new software would need certification steps.  I suggest you begin the process as soon as possible to comply with the law.

If you do choose to violate the law, the abbreviation we request is PGP, but note that neither Pacific nor Green are identifiable in that abbreviation.  There truly is no three letter abbreviation that is readily recognized by Oregonians for our actual Party name.  Dem., Rep., and Ind. are fairly recognizable, but PGP is not.  A better alternative would be PacGrn, but you have limited it to three letters.

Ballots already cut off common formality words such as "Party", "of", and "Oregon" from most of the full party names.  If the problem is that there is a specific character limit, you should ask each candidate if they would like to assist the selection of a suitable abbreviation for all of their endorsing parties as the issue arises if there is an issue.

Cooperation would be a good way of ensuring that compromises can be made where a candidate can choose to accomodate an administrative error on your part for failing to prepare to comply with the law.

In 2012, I will likely be challenging your employer again in the general election.  If more issues like this come up, it would only provide more reason to question her selecting you as Oregon's Director of Elections, which I openly questioned when the appointment was made.

Seth Woolley Secretary, Pacific Green Party of Oregon 2008 Pacific Green Party of Oregon Secretary of State Candidate.

Seth Woolley's Blog

jeff lawrence and his incoherent debate response(0)

3rd District Oregon candidate Jeff Lawrence tries to debate the economic meltdown and fails at basic logic:\

This is my response:

His first sentence is wrong.  Lopez wasn't the "sponsor".  All three candidates were equal sponsors.  But let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Jeff says that government intervention is to "blame" for the greedy behavior of individuals that led to the economic meltdown with the argument that entities follow laws and regulations rationally.  That assumes that people are rational (no they are not as he is demonstrating now).  Being self-interested is not always the rational thing to do.  People are more self-interested than rational.  Yes, some people will try to get away with as much as they can, which is generally what happens in non-productive financial markets where dishonest work is worth more than honest work. But that dishonesty doesn't mean that it is the fault of those who are supposed to limit dishonesty.  People who are dishonest are first themselves morally wrong, if not legally wrong.  And where they are legally dishonest, that's a failure of the regulatory system to regulate them so that they are not dishonest.  I do agree with him that if the rules are lame the outcome is lame, but that doesn't imply his conclusion.  Big government can become corrupted by big business, but it doesn't make big business right to corrupt big government.  It makes it smart to limit both big business and big government.

That's where Libertarian analysis fails utterly.  Libertarians would demolish big government and leave big business intact, free of any regulation by big government.  The Green ideology of limiting both is much more sane.  If one limits both big business and big government, it decentralizes political power back to the people and individuals and create freedom.  Libertarians are anti-liberty by arguing for policies that help big business to take away people's freedom through economic hegemony, manipulation, and outright deception.

Greens centralize through the creation of diplomacy and protocol negotiation only where necessary to protect the decentralization of the individual and power.  Things like the Internet, for example, which works on common protocols decided by committees of intelligent people under the auspices of government, is an excellent creation and role of government.  Utilities and infrastructure are also examples of good uses of government.

Libertarians would privatize everything, including the Internet, allowing net non-neutrality and big corporations controlling vast amounts of the public sphere and marketplace.  Libertarians don't see how equally distorting big business is compared to big government.

And that is why I could never be a member of the Libertarian Party.

The rest of his analysis is so shoddy I won't even bother with much of it. Blaming Fannie and Freddie, which were an insignificant part of the problem, for example, demonstrates how ignorant he is of how huge the derivative securities problem was and how the removal of insurable interest enforcement created a predictable scenario that actually led to the meltdown.  Neither the Republicans nor Democrats have proposed meaningful regulation of the fiasco, and the Libertarians have their heads so far in the ground so as to only exacerbate the problem were they in power.  Greens consistently opposed the bailouts to ensure not just moral hazard was enforced, but so that the smartly operating small businesses and homeowners like myself were rewarded by being able to buy cheap bank assets in bankruptcy proceedings, keeping the brick and mortar banking system moving forward.

Further, his pathetic attempt to take over the term "sustainability" and claim that enterprise is ipso facto sustainable is shocking in light of the economic  meltdown because it was the financial enterprises, deregulated not by just government, but by all private oversight too (thanks to private rating agencies dropping the ball entirely) that specifically caused the unsustainable bubble.

For those that want responsible government, spending within its means and in a long-term sustainable fashion, the Green Party recognizes that the public sphere saves money in the long run due to leveraging *economies riding on public infrastructure*, not just economies of scale.  It also recognizes that rather than saying one should never tax, that taxes are an important part of ensuring the viability of the public sphere to drive the economy.  Greens also recognize that meaningful government derives from the people and that local, democratic control is more efficient than centralized government that can be manipulated and bought by equally large powerful interests. That being said, Greens also recognize not just where government is useful, but also where business is useful, and that free but honestly regulated markets where the public is informed is the best way to ensure rational markets.

Reactionary thinking from Libertarians opposed to all regulations, taxes, and promoting only private ownership can only lead to an irrational market, free not to create prosperity, but free to be manipulated by those who control large aggregations of capital.  Free markets can be good, but only if they are kept free for everybody to participate in, working under a common regulatory framework designed to create universal transparency into the economic system, to allow people to make rational choices that will be mutually beneficial.  Ignoring the reality that information disparity does in fact lead to failure of the market to create mutual benefit doesn't indicate to anybody that the Libertarians actually understand economics.

Further Greens recognize that information disparity is endemic and to balance out the inability of government to completely open the markets, progressive taxation should be used to redistribute large gains more equitably back to the people, especially through infrastructure reinvesement, so that all can continue driving the economy through novel and innovative ways of using the public-private hybrid marketplace.

Back to Libertarians, in fact, much of the modern Libertarian economic philosophy comes if not from the teenager-trying-to-break-free-from-their-mom magnet Ayn Rand that helped inspire a radical right group of professors in Chicago, from a man named Ludwig von Mises who established the Austrian School of economics.

In conservative circles there are two main schools of economic thought -- the Chicago school, which has recently been completely discredited by the failure of Milton Friedman's Monetarist policy under the direction of Alan Greenspan (if we ignore his fascist support of dictatorial regimes like Pinochet's) -- and the Austrian school, founded by von Mises.

Von Mises wrote a book called "On Human Action", available on a far right website near you, linked by chat rooms frequently, where he used a form of philosophical rationalism to create an economic ontology that starts from one simple fact: Humans Act.  Stealing a page from Descartes, von Mises then claims to derive some very bold statements about how to run a socioeconomic system, stopping short of claiming that god's existence can be proven by it.

As justification, he refers to Kant's analytic/synthetic and a priori/a posteriori distinctions.  Normally, I would respect somebody aware of Kant's philosophy, but von Mises then takes a curious turn.  While Kant claimed that the synthetic a priori exists in a now discarded turn at philosophy of math, von Mises claims that human action is the synthetic a priori despite the general view of philosophers of not just his time period, but in Vienna, that such claims were wholly meaningless.  In his book he makes no attempt to critique the separate critiques of synthetic a priori arguments made by his contemporaries making it a rather shoddy work of scholarship, other than to appeal to ignorance and claim it to be prima facie true.

But what is truly shocking is that after the prima facie arguments are made, it is further argued that economic systems are inpenetrable to analysis, and that only by being left alone completely will they be able to work their divine hand magic.  They don't say if completeness includes deregulating small things like murder and rape -- that would be too much nuance.

After the failure of Republicans and the Chicago School to run the world economy intelligently, the far right has recently found it convenient to resurrect von Mises' ideology, which criticized such Chicago School precepts that economic systems were in fact understandable by analysis and could be controlled (with the application of monetary policy, fiscal discipline, and structural adjustment programs).  Their basis for such critiques?  Besides the utter failure of monetary policy and rise of indigenous populations against foreign intervention in the test bed of Chicago School ideology, South America (the latter they don't even bother mentioning), they write articles assuming Austrian School precepts and then declaring Chicago School ideology wrong.

Personally it's rather fun to read articles by Mises and Cato Institute "scholars" where they arm-chair write about complex economic systems, claim it can't be understood, while claiming to understand economic systems enough to say how they should be run -- or really, not run.  It's a turn very simliar to Creationism, where any incompleteness in any theory of biology turns into insurmountable proof that Creationism is right.  But besides the fun, it is also quite dangerous.  These followers of von Mises are essentially stating that any attempt to investigate and put morality back into the economic system is impossible by ontological definition.

So meaningful regulation of the market to prevent another economic meltdown would be anathema to this new breed of Libertarian.  Where the old Libertarians would wax philosophical of Ayn Rand and cite Milton freely, perhaps throwing in a reference to Rothbard or Hayek, the new guard can get away with merely asserting the correctness of their position.

I actually pine for the days when the Chicago School was taken seriously, when one could actually bring up emperical data to a discussion instead of having to read armchair philosophers like Jeff Lawrence who can make statements in a vacuum without any data, merely asserting that their philosophical ideology is true with a bite or two of an example of how some government involvement, like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, spoiled the entire economy.  If only the free market weren't so fragile, maybe we could live in one of their utopian visions of money (or gold really) running everything.

Because, really, if you're Austrian, you believe that gold internalizes the entire human ethic, and that if we just traded with each other without pesky moral and government-enforced boundaries, we'd all be better off.

Maybe I'm reading too much into Libertarians like Jeff Lawrence, and that he's really just parroting some ignorant soundbyte and doesn't have any real philosophy underpinning his ideology other than said soundbytes.

I sure hope not, so I am being audacious and presuming that he's another "educated" Libertarian.

Seth Woolley's Blog