Guest: Wichita University's Beth Clarkson, PhD, on her theory and KS Sec. of State's attempt to block her citizen audit of touch-screen systems showing unexplained vote increases for the GOP in large precincts
Also: NM Sec. of State charged with 64 criminal counts...
Without the ability to carry out public oversight, democracy vanishes. That's what's happening right now in the state of Kansas, where Sec. of State Kris Kobach is attempting to block Clarkson's legal attempt to audit touch-screen voting system "paper trails" in Sedgwick County (Wichita), the state's most populous county.
Confirming a theory initially reported by two other statisticians in 2012 [PDF], Clarkson has found that computer-reported results from larger precincts in the state, with more than 500 voters, show a "consistent" statistical increase in votes for the Republican candidates in general elections (and even a similar increase for establishment GOP candidates versus 'Tea Party' challengers during Republican primaries). Those results run counter to conventional political wisdom that Democrats perform better in larger, more urban precincts.
The larger the precinct size, she explains on today's program, the higher the percentage of the vote for the GOP candidate. Clarkson finds "that is the case, and that is a relationship that is unexplained and very troubling." Previously, statisticians Francois Choquette and James Johnson found a similarly unexplained relationship while examining reported vote totals in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Even more disturbing, in hopes of further testing her theory, Clarkson has filed a lawsuit under the state's public records act in hopes of auditing some of the so-called "paper trails" from the state's unverifiable touch-screen voting systems, but Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach (a long-time GOP vote suppression champion) is fighting her access to those records in court. Kobach's full response is here [PDF]. The response from the Sedgewick County Election Commissioner Tabatha Lehman is here.
Clarkson tells me she believes the statistical pattern she confirms in KS is evidence of rigged elections.
"There have been a few theories advanced," to explain the statistical pattern. "The one I find most probable is that the voting machines are being manipulated. Their vulnerability seems to me a fairly high-probability explanation for this particular pattern. It fits exactly what you'd expect to see if people are flipping the votes within voting machines."
While I've been skeptical of the general theory for some time, for reasons that I explain during the program, Clarkson makes a compelling case, particularly for the ability of the public to oversee their own elections by examining the voting systems in question. If the public is not allowed to examine the so-called "paper trail" of these god-forsaken machines, what good are they?
"Suspicion isn't proof," Clarkson is careful to note. "The reason I'm suing for the paper records is because an audit can provide proof. Statistics are not going to be convincing to most people over the long term because they don't understand the math, and you don't believe what you don't understand. But an audit is fairly straightforward and the results should be fairly definitive."
She adds that Kobach's attempt to keep her from examining paper logs and tapes makes little sense, particularly when they concern elections which are long enough ago that the results may no longer be officially contested. "Voting is important and we want to keep those records secure so we can be assured of the accuracy of the count. But they're so secure now, nobody gets to see them."
Also today, as if we needed yet another reminder of why neither electronic voting systems nor election officials are simply to be "trusted", on Friday, New Mexico's Republican Sec. of State Dianna Duran --- like Kobach, also a long time "voter fraud" fraudster --- was charged with 64 criminal counts related to embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, violations of the Campaign Practice Act, tampering with public records, conspiracy, and a Governmental Conduct Act violation.
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Last Thursday, in Cudahy, CA, a small city near Los Angeles, top city officials, including former Mayor David Silva and former City Manager and Code Enforcement Director Angel Perales, agree to plead guilty to federal charges of bribery and extortion.
How did the Cudahy officials tamper with the elections? Via absentee ballots, according to the explanation of the plea agreement offered by federal officials:
The Perales plea agreement also discusses election fraud during the 2007 municipal election when absentee ballot were diverted before reaching the City Clerk. Perales “and other city officials routinely and systematically opened the absentee ballots cast in the 2007 City Council election by mail,” according to the statement of facts in Perales’ plea agreement. “Ballots cast in favor of the incumbent candidates were resealed and returned to the mail to be counted. Ballots for non-incumbent candidates were discarded.” Perales and other city officials did the same thing during the 2009 Cudahy City Council election, according to the court document.
We've said it before, we'll say it again: Voting by mail is a terrible idea. Political parties love it, for a whole bunch of reasons (this story underscores just one of those reasons), but we're not concerned with political parties. We're concerned with democracy and whether your vote will be counted and counted accurately, no matter which party you may happen to associate with (or not.)
(Note to Oregon voters who love their all Vote-by-Mail system: Yes, we're familiar with what happens in your state, and we still stand by our long-held assessment of the perils of Absentee/Vote-by-Mail. Please read this article and, as importantly, the link in the paragraph just above, before sending us your hate mail. Thanks!)
Unless you have no other reasonable option --- eg. you're going to be out of town on Election Day and can't vote on a paper ballot during Early Voting, or you live in one of the few places in the nation where you are otherwise forced to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems on Election Day --- voting on hand-marked paper ballots, at the polling place on Election Day, increases exponentially the chance of your ballot actually being counted, and counted accurately.
We've also discussed, many times, the rarity of voter fraud --- that is, fraud by individual voters, versus the concerns of systematic election fraud perpetrated, most frequently, by election insiders who have easy access to flip results of entire elections with little possibility of detection, via manipulation of results on electronic tabulators or by gaming the voting rolls themselves.
While voter fraud is exceedingly rare --- and virtually non-existent at the polling place, particularly by those impersonating other voters (the only type of fraud which can even possibly be deterred by the polling place Photo ID restrictions Republicans are cynically attempting to put in place across the country, solely in hopes of suppressing the Democratic-leaning vote) --- where actual voter fraud does occur, it's almost always via absentee balloting.
In this latest case in Cudahy, however, though the stolen elections involved absentee ballots, it was still accomplished by election fraud, not voter fraud, since the voters themselves appear to have done nothing wrong. Rather, as is almost always the case when it comes to fraudulent elections in this country, it was a matter of insider officials gaming the system.
COLUMBUS, Ohio --- Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said her office is investigating the Franklin County Board of Elections for possible voting problems.
The announcement was made after Franklin County Elections Director Matthew Damschroder criticized Brunner for directing counties to print additional paper ballots for the March primary voters who don't trust electronic voting machines, NBC 4's Patrick Preston reported.
Brunner told NBC 4 on Wednesday that her office is looking into several issues within Franklin County, including ballots that did not match in the November election and voting machines that could not be audited for accuracy.
Related previous BRAD BLOG coverage of Damschroder:
A recount after next year's presidential election could mean disaster for Cuyahoga County based on problems discovered Tuesday with paper records produced by electronic voting machines.
More than 20 percent of the printouts from touch-screen voting machines were unreadable and had to be reprinted. Board of Elections workers found the damaged ballots when they conducted a recount Tuesday of two races, which involved only 17 of the county's 1,436 precincts.
"If it is as close as it's been for the last two presidential elections and it's that close again in 2008, God help us if we have to depend on Cuyahoga County as the deciding factor with regard to making the decision on who the next president of the United States is," said County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, a longtime opponent of the county's touch-screen voting system.
"This is very much a cause for concern," board member Inajo Davis Chappell said. "All the technology issues pose a challenge to us, especially given the volume of voters we expect in the primary."
The county still doesn't know why its vote-counting software crashed twice election night. An investigation into the software problem could begin next week, once the county's recounts are finished.
"I wish those paper trails would come out pristine --- and they don't, and they're not going to," [Board of Elections Director Jane] Platten said. "We're going to have to deal with it again."
While the county was able to re-print paper trails on these machines to be counted in the recount, the practice completely defeats the point of such paper trails in the first place, since they are supposed to be verified by the voter (even though we know they usually aren't, and even when they are, voters fail to notice vote-flips).
If the paper trails are re-printed from the internal machine numbers, which can't possibly be verified by the voter, there is absolutely no point in even having such paper trails at all.
So again we ask, when is SoS Jennifer Brunner going to simply declare these machines uncertified all together. When will the rest of the election officials in the country declare same? It looks like it won't be before the 2008 elections begin. So...here we go again...
Failures in optical-scan voting systems made by Diebold Inc., as recently revealed in the state of Florida, might have occurred elsewhere across the country. In fact, any state where Diebold's optical-scan voting machines are in use might be having the problem, and they may not have been made aware of it --- either by the company, or the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) which is mandated by law to be a "clearinghouse" for such information.
A faulty connector-pin on Florida's Diebold optical-scan systems --- affecting some 4.5% of the state's machines, and as many as "one in 10 during the November 2006 election" in some Florida counties, according to a recent investigative report by the Daytona Beach News-Journal --- has been identified by the company as a "J40 connector".
It now appears that Connecticut's voting machines, made by the same company, are being affected by the same problem.
“This is Connecticut, not Volusia County," President of LHS Associates, Connecticut’s vendor for Diebold AccuVote OS machines, told me during a recent, bizarre late-night phone call. I felt pretty certain he was right, though his call came in to my home at 1:30 in the morning, so I was still a bit groggy.
LHS's John Silvestro had picked a strange time to return my call from a week earlier. We’d been following LHS’s role in addressing memory card failures during Connecticut elections since 2006 on Talk Nation Radio, and I wanted to know how many memory cards LHS had to replace before, during, and after the 2007 election.
At that hour, I declined his offer to "do the interview anyway," though we did touch on the basics of my inquiry. Did Registrars contact LHS to request replacements for "blown" memory cards as pre-election tests were being run? If so, a study currently underway at the University of Connecticut might not have been given the correct data to determine the true number of failing cards.
Silvestro asked me, "What would you say if I said Connecticut's failure rate was less than one percent?"
Perplexed, I told him I would say "OK" and we agreed to discuss the matter at a later time when he might have access to his records, as he had said he didn't have numbers in front of him at that late hour.
He wouldn't be the first LHS official to exhibit bizarre behavior. After jarringly inappropriate comments left at The BRAD BLOG several months ago, one such official was told he was no longer welcome to work in the state of Connecticut.
Late last night I posted a sampling of some of the early problem reports coming in from Tuesday's election and noted that, as has been the pattern we've noticed, the early reports from the media, on the day of any election, tend to downplay problems with voting systems. That, in no small part, is because the media rely, at first, on information from Election Officials who have a vested interest in downplaying any problems as little more than a "glitch" here or there.
I also noted the breadth of actual Election Day problems with voting systems tend to come a day or so (or even longer) thereafter.
Based on John Gideon's "Daily Voting News" roundup tonight, I'd say the assessment was spot on. If nothing else, please just click that link, and browse down the headlines he has listed tonight, covering stories across the country on problems that occurred Tuesday.
And then remind yourself that this was an off-year election, with very low turnout in most places around the country. What could possibly go wrong when the real voting begins in early 2008 and beyond?
What the hell are we thinking?
(NOTE: I may be off-grid for much of the next day or two at least. So watch for brilliant Guest Bloggers to swoop in and take my place in driving you mad.)
Voter turnout was light in many parts of the country yesterday. Ironically enough, that's the good news.
Alternet ran a preview of voter suppression issues of concern in yesterday's elections across the country. Sure enough, the author, Steve Rosenfeld, wrote in during the early evening to let us know there were problems concerning Photo ID issues popping up in pockets around the country, and that he'd have more soon. Our own Alan Breslauer touched base as well with several reports he'd been getting from around the country.
John Gideon's "Daily Voting News" yesterday pointed to some of those issues that had been reported in the media as of yesterday afternoon around the country. GOP voter suppression, through specious claims of Democratic "voter fraud" and the invented "need," therefore, for disenfranchising photo ID laws and challenges at the polls, is at the top of the Republican strategy for '08. Naturally, it was taken out for a test spin yesterday.
(Speaking of spin, don't miss wingnut Mychal Massie's despicable retread diatribe --- including the mandatory quotes from GOP "voter fraud" fraudster, John Fund, who wrote the book on it, literally --- in the wingnut WorldNetDaily. His tragically misguided piece, headlined "Vote fraud: Democrats' meal ticket" gives you just about all you need to know. Read it once, save yourself a thousand or so near-identical reads between now and November 2008. But we digress...)
The other major prong of voter disenfranchisment is, of course, the machine issue. Problems in that area, in particular, tend to reveal themselves in the days after elections. Early on election day such problems are frequently downplayed in the media, who tend to turn to Election Officials for information despite the inherent conflict of interest such officials have in hoping to portray their elections as "successful."
In the early hours, then, hints of such breakdowns are reported as little more than computer "glitches" "hiccups" "snafus" and "snags" (though "kinks" makes it debut today, see below) until later on, when the true extent of the voting system failures --- and that's what they are, not "kinks" --- become known.
With that in mind, here are just a few of those e-voting glitches, hiccups, snafus, snags, and yes, kinks, from around the country so far yesterday, as culled from Gideon's DVN last night...
A good report from a couple of days ago from the I-Team in Cleveland, Ohio. Unfortunately, they tend to run such reports just before Election Days, when it's too damned late to do a damn thing about it.
Nonetheless, some very good stuff here. Of particular note are the points from Diebold's recommendations which "appear to border on the absurd," that should voting machine memory cards be lost, "elections must be re-scheduled." Or if they fail, as our recent story concerning Diebold's admissions about memory card failures in Florida pointed towards, the company says "all voters will have to be called in to re-vote."
Heckuva voting system guys. Check out the report, above right.
NOTE: Discussion of suing Diebold comes up in this piece yet again. Along with the same concerns, as heard elsewhere, about "the Catch-22" of suing voting machine vendors. Namely, counties are afraid to sue the company they rely on to run their next election! The counties and the vendors are "joined at the hip," as the I-Team report points out. Call it a soft form of extortion, really.
If you haven't already, please sign VoterAction's petition calling on Congress to "conduct a full investigation into the dangers associated with the privatization of our public elections and to determine whether certain US voting systems companies have committed crimes under federal and state anti-fraud laws."
For an early look at concerns, largely of voter-suppression issues, around the country, Alternet has a very good state-by-state preview this morning.
Saturday's Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Diebold Election Systems, now having renamed itself Premier Election Solutions, has admitted that some of its 25,000 optical scan voting machines used in Florida and elsewhere across the nation may have a problem that causes memory card failures during elections.
As we would expect, Florida election officials and Diebold/Premier have downplayed the problem as they say that the problem does not threaten the integrity of U.S. elections. However, the Volusia County, FL Supervisor of Elections, Ann McFall, said [emphasis ours], "I don't think votes are lost". Her office has also admitted that the problem has caused problems and adds to the cost of elections.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has yet to take action on this matter, despite impending elections, the commission's statutory mission as the oversight body for certification of electronic voting systems their mandated mission to be a "national clearinghouse" for information on them and two GAO reports critical of their failure to do any of the above. If they follow previous patterns, they will do absolutely nothing to alert other states and counties who use the same system, about this problem.
Diebold/Premier, of course, and again, is attempting to downplay the severity of their failures in Florida and refusing to release their own information gathered on it, characterizing the true extent of the failure as "proprietary business information"...
In Volusia County during the November 2006 election, 11 of 249 optical scan memory cards had to be replaced, according to a county report. In Flagler County, one of 51 cards failed.
Diebold officials said the 4.4 percent error rate in Volusia was unusual, that the average was about 1 percent. The company conducted a survey of 27 Florida counties that use its machines but refused to release the results, calling them "proprietary business information."
But because the News-Journal could not get the percentages from Diebold/Premier, they submitted public records requests to all counties affected and found the results were not quite as rosy as the company would have us believe...
No time for the moment (particularly as we remain a bit under the weather) to recap the long and storied history of the national embarrassment that elections in Riverside County, California, have become. So for today, we'll just share links with you to two of the county's latest missteps.
Both of the latest boners were overseen --- yet again --- by Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore. The poor woman is clearly in way over her head and should --- as the former managing editor of the Press-Enterprisecalled for just over a week ago --- resign immediately. Or be fired. For the good of everyone.
Here's Dunmore last week inventing an ingeniously obnoxious scheme to raise $6.40 (yes, that number is no typo) for the county.
Here's Dunmore today, making ink yet again (almost literally), admitting that she screwed up --- again --- this time on the absentee ballots just sent out to her voters.
And here's hoping the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, no great geniuses themselves, finally realize it's time to find someone whose actually up to the job.
We shouldn't be too harsh, perhaps. After all, Dunmore took the job over from predecessor Mischelle Townsend, infamous for overseeing Riverside's ignominious place as the first county in the nation to go all touch-screen DRE. A $30 million disaster, that. But even more endearingly, Townsend once let fly with one of the greatest e-voting quotes of all time, during an interview with the filmmakers of HBO's Hacking Democracy (as seen on the DVD bonus footage).
Said Townsend with a straight face (but you should try not to laugh too hard): "Electronic touch-screen ballots are 100% accurate. We've not seen a single example in which their accuracy can be disputed."
Good luck, Riverside! Looks like you're gonna be needing it for quite a while at this rate!
Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer with additional reporting by Brad Friedman
Unbelievably, the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, John Tanner, contends that while it's "a shame" that elderly voters may be disenfranchised by new Photo ID restrictions at the polls because many don't have driver's licenses, minorities don't have to worry quite as much. Why? Because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
We were in Nashville a couple of months ago, at a meeting of the Davidson County Board of Elections. We tried to warn them that they would run into trouble with their ES&S touch-screen voting machines, probably sooner, rather than later. But the Kool-Aid drunk Republicans on the board would have none of it. "Paper ballots are the biggest scam ever perpetrated on America," one of them told us. To our astonishment, he actually seemed to believe himself.
That GOP blend must be some very tasty Kool-Aid.
Meanwhile, the nice Democrats who were in the majority on the board sat there and said and did nothing. They were very very nice. And completely clueless.
And now, next door in Memphis (Shelby County), where they use equally bad Diebold touch-screen machines, Mayor Willie Herenton is calling for an end to Early Voting, which began this week, as reports of votes flipping began coming into his office just after polls opened...
Takin' it easy today (at least as far as you know) after a brutally exhausting and often dispiriting week. Whether or not that led to a different mood today during my weekly guest appearance on the Peter B. Collins Show I can't tell you.
Either way, as Guest Hosted today by our friend Tony Trupiano, we covered a few things I haven't gotten to speak much about lately, and also received an important good news update from caller "Chris in Salinas." Turns out action taken by Chris over the past week, after finding something troubling in a recent special election in Monterey County, CA, has led to a happy conclusion that will effect all voters in Monterey, and perhaps across this entire state.
That story --- and much else of what we chatted about on the show --- again, underscores the need for citizens to take control of their democracy because it will not be either the media or the government who restores our country. It will be you.
UPDATE: "Chris from Salinas" writes in to comments below with more details on precisely what happened in Monterey County, the action he took, and the changes that were made because of. Useful if you haven't been able to listen to the audio above (which I still recommend, in any case).
Thirty-eight votes in the Aurora city election are missing and the problem is being turned over to the office of the secretary of state, City Administrator Toni Kelly-Richardson said Tuesday.
The city may have to have another election, officials said.
The city used three Diebold Election Systems voting machines in its election – two were designated for early voting and the other for election day.
When one of the early voting machines stopped allowing people to cast ballots, Kelly-Richardson said the city switched to paper ballots.
The memory card, which stores the votes from the machine, was “pulled out and sealed up” until the results should be counted, she said.
When the memory card was opened from storage and placed in a machine for reading, it showed to have no votes on it.
“We knew that the card had 38 ballots on it,” she said.
The story gets even more amazing as a fire breaks out in city hall, where the machines are stored, engulfing one of them in flames. You'll have to check it out yourself for those details.
But we don't mind awarding Denton County's election administrator, Don Alexander, BRAD BLOG's "Understatement of the Year Award" for this quoted comment from the story:
Don Alexander, elections administrator for Denton County, said that the company has a history of having problems.
“Diebold does not have a good reputation,” Alexander said.
The Los Angeles Times underscores everything that is wrong with relying on "paper trails" from Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting systems: Nobody ever counts them. Even in incredibly close contested elections as overseen by a court of law...
A judge ruled Monday that Janet Nguyen won the February election for an Orange County Board of Supervisors seat by a slim three-vote margin, rejecting arguments by her opponent that a recount wasn't completed because the paper audit of electronically cast ballots was not counted manually.
"All the votes were counted," said Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Brenner. "There was a full and legal recount."
It was, he said, "perfectly reasonable" for Janet Nguyen to ask for about 35,000 paper absentee ballots to be checked by hand to contest ones that weren't filled out properly and then ask to have about 10,000 electronic votes recounted the way they were on election night — by machine
Trung Nguyen, who is not related to the winner, declined to comment and left the courthouse as his attorney, Michael Schroeder, said an appeal was likely. "Why would you have a paper record if you don't count it?" Schroeder said.
All sides agreed that Brenner's ruling could set a precedent.
Please note that Rush Holt's Election Reform bill (HR811), which mandates the hand-count of a very small minority of paper records in most federal races (which this race was not) via an audit after Election Day, allows no audit to happen at all in the case of an automatic state-mandated recount --- the type that occurs when an election is incredibly close, and when such an audit, arguably, might be needed the most.
UPDATE 4:58pm PT: Election Integrity advocate Tom Courbatt of Riverside County points us towards an October 31, 2006 statement [PDF] from former CA Sec. of State Bruce McPherson, who said: "The mandatory paper audit trail will be used for a full recount if necessary." That statement is at the bottom of the 5-page press release. Guess he was just kidding. Or the judge in Orange County didn't care. Or "paper trails" don't actually matter after all, no matter what any law or elections officials try to tell you...Which is why we need a paper ballot --- one that is actually tabulated --- for every vote cast in America!