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Paper-trail advocate to air rigging concerns

Martin County Democrats

Palm Beach Post
Monday, January 23, 2006

By George Bennett
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Clint Curtis, a familiar name to those who follow election-stealing allegations on the Internet, will get an official audience this week with the committee advising Palm Beach County on voting technology.

Curtis is the Florida computer programmer who emerged in December 2004 at an Ohio forum and online with an affidavit claiming he had been an unwitting accomplice four years earlier in a Republican plot to rig touch-screen elections.

His disputed story has found a receptive audience in Palm Beach County with some Democrats and foes of electronic voting. Curtis was a featured speaker at this month's county Democratic Party meeting and a participant last month in a demonstration outside the county elections office demanding a ballot "paper trail."

The protest took place before a meeting of the Elections Technology Advisory Committee formed by Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson. A member of that committee, Democratic activist Jack Sadow, has been trying since September to get the panel to listen to Curtis.

The committee voted Jan. 12 to let Curtis speak for 20 minutes at Thursday's meeting about the vulnerabilities of paperless voting systems.

Curtis, 47, was a programmer for Yang Enterprises Inc. of Oviedo in 2000. Tom Feeney — now a Republican congressman, then the incoming speaker of the Florida House — was Yang's general counsel and its local lobbyist. Curtis claims he took part in a meeting in September or October of 2000 with Yang officials and Feeney in which Feeney asked him to write a program that could alter electronic votes and be undetectable.

Curtis says he wrote the program believing Feeney wanted to detect Democratic attempts to steal elections. But he says he was later told by a Yang executive that the program was actually intended "to control the vote in South Florida."

Feeney flatly denies Curtis' story. His office wouldn't comment beyond that.

Yang Enterprises also denies Curtis' claims.

Through its lawyer, the company says it has never written elections software and that Curtis was never present at any meeting with its officials and Feeney.

Curtis admits he has no hard evidence to back up his claims. He points to a lie-detector test he took last year that was administered by Tim Robinson, a retired Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief polygrapher, who confirmed that Curtis passed. The test was paid for by a Washington private investigator, Kevin Walsh. Walsh wouldn't say who hired him.

Curtis' 2004 affidavit says Feeney specified in 2000 that the vote-rigging program "needed to be touch-screen capable."

Touch-screen voting machines were not used anywhere in Florida in 2000. They only became popular with elections officials after the 2000 presidential recount highlighted problems with punch cards and their notorious chads.

"Feeney is always ahead of the curve. He's a planner," Curtis said in a recent interview.

Curtis has had other clashes with Yang Enterprises and Feeney.

After leaving Yang in 2001 and taking a consulting job with the state Department of Transportation, the firm accused him in a lawsuit of stealing its software. Curtis called the suit, which is still pending in Leon County, "retaliation" for his accusations that Yang overbilled DOT on a multimillion-dollar technology contract and employed an illegal alien in violation of the contract's terms.

Curtis' overbilling accusations led to a DOT investigation that found $212,991 in "questioned costs" in Yang's billings, including $97,437 in "unallowable" costs for which DOT requested repayment. Yang disputed the findings. The firm and DOT remain in litigation over the contract.

The man Curtis accused of being an illegal alien, Hai Lin "Henry" Nee, was indicted in 2004 on charges he shipped sensitive technology to China that could be used in missile guidance systems. He entered a plea deal in which he admitted making false statements to authorities, paid $100 and was sentenced to three years' unsupervised probation. A DOT report concluded the matter wasn't related to the Yang contract and that Nee was in the country lawfully at the time he worked on the contract.

Curtis also accused Feeney of misusing his position as speaker to benefit Yang. The state Commission on Ethics in 2002 dismissed a complaint against Feeney that was based largely on Curtis' claims.

While these disputes were playing out, and while Feeney ran for Congress in 2002 against a Democrat who hammered him on ethics issues, Curtis never came forward with any story about being asked by Feeney to design vote-rigging software.

Curtis said the only person to whom he divulged the story before 2004 was Raymond Lemme, a DOT investigator probing the Yang overbilling allegations. In a twist that has fueled some dark speculating on the Internet, Lemme died in an apparent suicide in 2003.

DOT Director of Investigations Robert Clift said he and Lemme spoke "several times a day" about the investigation of Yang's billing. If Curtis had made any election-related allegations to Lemme, Clift said he is certain Lemme would not have kept the information to himself.

"Lemme would have immediately referred those investigations out," Clift said.

The fact that Curtis' claim of a 2000 vote-tampering discussion didn't surface until 2004 drew skepticism last year from liberal Fox News personality Alan Colmes when he interviewed Curtis on his radio show.

"If what you are claiming is true, I would have shouted it from the rooftops. I would have gone to the authorities, the FBI, the police, the Democratic (Party) — anybody that would listen. I wouldn't depend on one guy with the Department of Transportation," Colmes said.

Curtis said this month that he waited to go public with the story in part because he didn't fully appreciate the potential significance of a program to manipulate electronic votes. He said he doesn't pay much attention to politics and didn't realize until 2004 that much of Florida had switched to paperless touch-screen voting machines two years earlier.

Curtis says he does not know whether his program was ever used. But he says he suspects someone tampered with the 2004 presidential results in Florida. And he says future elections are in jeopardy as long as there is no paper trail to verify results.

"If it's close, they will cheat you," Curtis said at the recent county Democratic meeting. "Why? Because they can."