Monday, November 18, 2019

Ex-Alderman Frank Uhlhorn Appointed as Election Commission Board Member

Frank Uhlhorn with Mayor Palazzolo at FedEx Forum

Former Germantown Alderman Frank Uhlhorn, a real estate developer, former alderman, strong supporter of Mayor Palazzolo, and admitted campaign law violator, was recently appointed as a board member of the beleaguered Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC).

The SCEC has been under fire, and is even involved recently in a lawsuit that seeks the use of verifiable paper ballots. Currently, the Election Commission uses machines that leave no paper trail, meaning that the results cannot be audited. The Sixth Circuit is being asked to review a lower court opinion that found that the risk of future harm to voters is "speculative".

Bennie Smith of Memphis is also a recent appointment to the SCEC board. He made headlines in 2014  when he discovered that a tape of numbers of voters in a Shelby County precinct did not match the Election Commission totals from that same precinct. He found that the GEMS central tabulator, used by Shelby County, has the ability to count votes as fractional, and he developed a program, named "fraction magic" that demonstrated that votes could disappear in seconds. He has since been lauded nationally and is well-known as an expert in election security.


The Election Commission will soon be making decisions on a new type of voting system. Mr. Smith advocates a system that uses images of paper ballots for tabulation, and does not favor any system that can be easily hacked by the covert insertion of a program from a flash drive.

Under this backdrop, one wonders why the State Election Commission would even consider Mr. Uhlhorn, 
an admitted violator of election laws a decade ago, as an appropriate candidate as a Board member of the Election Commission, 

After early voting ended in 2008, our citizens learned that Mike Palazzolo (candidate for alderman and current Mayor of Germantown), Frank Uhlhorn (incumbent candidate for alderman),  and Gary Pruitt (incumbent candidate for alderman) had sent out campaign literature strongly resembling a Republican "ballot", implying that they were being endorsed by the Republican party. They broke the law by not including the identity of the entity or people who financed the campaign literature. Of course, if they had shown that they themselves had paid for the literature, it would have defeated their purpose, which was to try to convince the voters that they had the backing of the Republican party. That was untrue, as neither political party makes endorsements in aldermen races. For more information on this see my blog post in April of 2017, District House Seat 95 and the Special Election, when Mr. Uhlhorn unsuccessfully ran for the State House of Representatives.
Even as he loses elections, Mr. Uhlhorn continues to benefit from a costly taxpayer-funded insurance policy. (see July 16 2016 Commercial Appeal artlcle).


Citizens Reported Uhlhorn for  Violations of City Sign Ordinances in Bid for House Seat in 2017

Uhlhorn also was a $5000 donor to the 2018 election "Germantown Values PAC"  that endorsed Mike Palazzolo, Mary Anne Gibson and Brian White in Germantown's 2018 mayor and alderman race. The PAC hired Caissa Marketing, which conducted illegal polling in the 2018 election within 10' of the polling place entrance (see Culture of Kindness and the Germantown Values PAC which details the illegal and unethical practices of this group). Caissa instructed the temporary employees to say they were non-partisan and had not endorsed anyone in the race, when in fact they had actually mailed three separate mailers endorsing Mike Palazzolo for Mayor and Mary Anne Gibson and Brian White for Alderman positions. Citizens filed complaints with Linda Phillips, SCEC Administrator on the 2nd day of early voting.  It took a full week and follow up by a campaign manager for one of the opposing candidates to get that illegal "exit polling" as they called it, stopped.

The illegal polling caused a dramatic shift in Mayor Palazzolo's campaign strategy, as the lack of support for more apartments in the City was apparent. He suddenly switched from being the author of "Smart Growth" to being the author of the "apartment moratorium", a moratorium that has since expired. The change in strategy likely influenced the election, which resulted in a narrow victory by Mayor Palazzolo. The margin of victory was determined solely by statistically aberrant absentee ballots (see December 2018 Aberrant Ballots post). Since the apartment moratorium expired, now apartments that are part of "Smart Growth" are allowed, and over 300+ apartments are part of the proposed Carrefour redevelopment. Unsurprisingly, Caissa Marketing also represents the owners of Carrefour (see Caissa Public Strategy Holds Public Hearing on Carrefour).

Caissa continues to engage in questionable practices throughout the county. As reported by the Commercial Appeal (see 7 things to know about the Co-ordinated Effort to Distribute Election Materials in Memphis and How Pay to Play Ballots Landed in Voters' Hands on Election Day ): 

"Four candidates appeared on both a genuine Republican ballot and a bogus Democratic ballot. Their management company, Caissa Public Strategy, distributed both ballots, according to temp workers."  


"Temp workers say Caissa Public Strategy trained them to misrepresent themselves to the public.

Workers paid by Caissa described being trained to tell people they were distributing the "official" ballots endorsed by the parties and that they were volunteers. Caissa's CEO Brian Stephens didn't comment on the training, saying he wasn't part of it."   

Furthermore, the same article also reports that text messages show that after Caissa was notified by workers that an injunction had been issued against distributing the misleading "ballots". Despite that, the workers were told by their superiors at Caissa to continue to hand them out at the polls.

What is the likelihood that an admitted campaign violator  and a major contributor to a PAC that hired Caissa Public Strategy will, as a Board member of the Election Commission, favor SCEC policies that stop the distribution of fake ballots and illegal polling?

It is time for election reform in Shelby County. Questionable campaign tactics must stop, and the entire system of voting, from aberrant absentee ballots and unverifiable campaign results, to the distribution of misleading "Republican" and "Democratic" ballots must be examined. Votes should be verifiable, and not be subject to hacking. Fair and honest elections are at the heart of American democracy. Admitted violators of election laws and supporters of firms that continually violate campaign laws should not be sitting Board members of the SCEC. This undermines the confidence of the electorate and leaves the distinct impression that the results are "cooked".

No comments:

Post a Comment