2013-06-24 (WY) Reporter arrested for voting as felon after reporting voting machine inaccuracies

us-wyoming

A news director for Bighorn Radio Network, who reported on some troubling programming problems with local voting machines during the 2012 general election, was arrested a few months later on charges that he had voted as a felon; He had been convicted for burglary in 1993 in another state and had served out a suspended sentence and probation. Twenty years later he was suspended from his news reporting job, and faced up to five years in prison.

According to Wyoming Public Radio,1 Koch contributed to Wyoming Public Radio’s 2012 election coverage, reporting on operational problems at Park County polls. Though the report characterizes problems as “minor” they involved flying in technicians, affected polling place voting machines throughout the county.

TRANSPARENCY ISSUES

The specifics of the problems to which Koch had been drawing attention are concerning: The M100 scanners (made by Election Systems & Software) reportedly were reading the wrong bar code on the ballot — but only some of them were doing this.2 Voting machines are programmed from a central election management system, and no explanation was provided as to why some machines would read a different part of the ballot than other machines. In addition, some machines were “misreading parts of the ballots” other than bar codes, including a school board race and other measures.3

With so little transparency there is no way for the public to determine whether a tampered vote-counting system or a botched programming job produced the odd voting machine behavior. The Wyoming secretary of state’s office referred to the machines malfunctioning throughout the county as “a machine” and reported that it was fixed “with little if any delay”4 — though Park County Clerk Jerri Torczon told the Cody Enterprise that the software problems “persisted until about 10 p.m.”5

Wyoming also prohibits transparent recounts — hand recounts are against the law no matter how close the electoral margin.6 Making Wyoming elections yet more opaque, the National Election Pool, which conducts Election Day polling for major news organizations, announced that they had decided to omit Wyoming and 18 other states from 2012 exit polling surveys, a decision that “will almost certainly limit post-election research for years to come,” according to the Washington Post.7

Citizens who learned of the arrest from Wyoming Public Radio voiced concern over banning felons from voting, pointing out that it seems unnecessary to disenfranchise non-violent offenders, especially those who are rehabilitated after fulfilling the sentence imposed by the court. In this case, the investigation was carried out by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, a division of the Wyoming State Attorney General’s Office.

Cody journalist arrested, charged with voting illegally — Wyoming Public Radio:

A Cody journalist has been arrested for voting as a convicted felon.

Big Horn Radio Network News Director David Koch was taken into custody shortly after a broadcast on Friday.

Koch had been convicted of burglary and theft felonies in Alaska in the early 1990s. He also allegedly voted in three elections in Park County in recent years. In Wyoming, most convicted felons are prohibited from voting. A conviction of false voting is punishable by a fine of 10-thousand-dollars and up to five years in prison.

Koch contributed to Wyoming Public Radio’s 2012 election coverage, reporting on minor operational problems at some Park County polls. WPR news staff was unaware of Koch’s criminal record or alleged election participation at the time.

Big Horn Radio General Manager Roger Gelder says Koch has been suspended from his duties until further notice.

After Koch’s arrest, he was released on bail. His court date is set for July 3.

An article published a few days earlier by the Casper Star-Tribune8 notes that Koch had mentioned his history on the air.

“…Koch was released on $7,500 bail with a court date set for July 3.

Koch, 38, wasn’t quiet about his past. He incriminated himself on air, the affidavit states.

Wyoming elections officials had received a tip that Koch was voting as a felon. Koch hosted a program on the network’s KODI radio station called “Speak Your Piece.” State officials received a link from the radio program where Koch “admitted to the allegations,” according to the affidavit.

Someone called into the live radio program and asked Koch if he voted in the last election. He stated that he was a registered Republican and voted in the 2012 election, according to the affidavit. The caller then asked fellow “Speak Your Piece” co-host Tom Morrison if the station did background checks. Morrison said he didn’t think it was important.

The caller then stated that Koch was a felon.

Two days later on the Jan. 30 episode of “Speak Your Piece,” Koch said he was “a convicted felon” on air.

After listening to Koch admit to his past, the criminal investigation agent learned about his 1993 convictions in Alaska. An Alaskan Superior Court judge suspended jail time for Koch but sentenced him with two years of probation.

* * * * *

Concepts:

Election transparency: Election transparency is the public ability to see and verify each essential step in elections, the essential steps being: (1) who can vote (voter list), (2) who did vote (poll list, or participating voter list), (3) counting of the vote, and (4) chain of custody. Reasons for transparency with sources: http://blackboxvoting.org/transparency/
All Black Box Voting stories related to election transparency: http://blackboxvoting.org/category/election-transparency/

NOTES:

 

  1. Rebecca Martinez: Cody journalist arrested, charged with voting illegally, Wyoming Public Radio, http://wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/cody-journalist-arrested-charged-voting-illegally
  2. Mark Heinz: Park County results delayed by scanning problems, Cody Enterprise, 11/07/2012, http://www.codyenterprise.com/news/local/article_d64ca1ec-292d-11e2-b477-0019bb2963f4.html
  3. CJ Baker : Voter turnout high amid some problems , Powell Tribune, 11/08/2012, http://www.powelltribune.com/news/item/10324-voter-turnout-high-amid-some-problems
  4. : Wyoming elections office: Few problems, high turnout, Associated Press, 11/06/2012, http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/wyoming-elections-office-few-problems-high-turnout/article_2b13f120-45f1-5210-8196-362f435c3c96.html
  5. Mark Heinz: Park County results delayed by scanning problems, Cody Enterprise, 11/07/2012, http://www.codyenterprise.com/news/local/article_d64ca1ec-292d-11e2-b477-0019bb2963f4.html
  6. Ruffin Prevost: Wyoming law requires count and recount by machine, Billings Gazette, Wyoming Bureau, 11/25/2006, http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/wyoming-law-requires-count-and-recount-by-machine/article_3f3cb927-c520-56c4-8930-c3f6299f5f72.html
  7. Jon Cohen and Scott Clement: Networks, AP cancel exit polls in 19 states, Washington Post Blogs, 10/04/2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2012/10/04/networks-ap-cancel-exit-polls-in-19-states/
  8. Kyle Roerink: Radio host arrested, accused of voting as a felon, Casper Star-Tribune, 06/22/2013, http://trib.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/wyoming-radio-host-arrested-charged-with-voting-as-a-convicted/article_56f740c4-ca05-569d-804c-0b458e2126d9.html

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