"In a decision that could have far-reaching effects on the way Rhode Island conducts elections, Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Fortunato Jr. ruled yesterday that any ballot that cannot be read by electronic voting machines during an election recount must be made available for public scrutiny to determine if a voter’s intent can be discerned. “We’re dealing with a fundamental right,” Fortunato said. “Surely we cannot surrender elections to machines.”' / "Software that Denver used to check in voters on Election Day did not "meet, or even approach, professional standards," consultants told a city investigative panel Wednesday. Experts hired to study Denver's problem-plagued election also criticized election officials for failing to catch obvious problems, and they expressed surprise at the "casual" attitude of those running a critical system of democracy." / There is a lot in the news today about the finger-pointing between Denver officials and those officials and Sequoia....
I may not be able to post at all today/tonight (though I reserve the right to contradict myself at a moment's notice.) So feel free to cover what you think the world needs to know about today in comments here. I'll be back soon (though I reserve the right to contradict that too.)
Neil Cavuto was outraged by the scuffle that took place in the Mexican National Congress on Tuesday in continuing spillover from the highly controversial presidential election. Earlier reports here, here and here, suggest there is a great deal of evidence that Vicente Fox's ruling party was only able to retain the presidency through massive election fraud. Yet, Cavuto's concern is not for the 41 million likely disenfranchised voters but that order was not maintained. Al Gore's graceful concession in the hotly contested 2000 election, by contrast, is an example of a working democracy and a working Constitution.
Unfortunately, the end of the clip (1:35) was cut off by Tivo and the late night replay was cut off by Fox as it switched to a live broadcast. My apologies.
"The question most frequently asked after the election is whether it was a success," said Doug Chapin, electionline.org's director. "Success can be measured in a two ways. If success is measured through picking winners, then yes, there were few races in which polling-place problems could have affected the outcome. But, on the other hand, if it is measured through whether every voter who showed up at a polling place had an opportunity to cast their vote without problems or obstacles, then the answer is no." We agree with this assessment and we encourage everyone to read electionline.org's newly released report. / Apparently the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) appears to have decided that the new (2007) voting systems standards decertify all Direct Recording Electronic voting machines....
A federal agency is set to recommend significant changes to specifications for electronic-voting machines next week, internetnews.com has learned.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is recommending that the 2007 version of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) decertify direct record electronic (DRE) machines.
According to an NIST paper to be discussed at a meeting of election regulators at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., on Dec. 4 and 5, DRE vote totals cannot be audited because the machines are not software independent.
In other words, there is no means of verifying vote tallies other than by relying on the software that tabulated the results to begin with.
The machines currently in use are "more vulnerable to undetected programming errors or malicious code," according to the paper.
The NIST paper also noted that, "potentially, a single programmer could 'rig' a major election."
This is a tremendously important development!
To be clear, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the group that oversees the formulation of the so-called federal "Voting Systems Standards." Those are the standards, such as there are any, which are in effect today at the federal level to determine federal certification of voting systems. NIST hosts the Technical Guidelines Developement Committee for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and they are the body who developed the current standadards now in use. This report will likely have an enormous impact in shaping whatever may happen next concerning any upcoming Election Reform or legislation in DC.
Gore Vidal was typically funny and outspoken during an appearance yesterday on Late Night on PBS with Tavis Smiley. This clip (5:08) includes Vidal's views on Bush and Iraq as well as the following descriptive quote:
But because of our crazy little President. 'I'm war-time President, I'm war-time President.' You know, quack quack quack quack quack. I mean, this is a loon. Any fool can see that he is looney.
Yesterday Sarasota County, FL, began their state-run test audits of the paperless ES&S touch-screen systems used in Florida's 13th District House race where 18,000 votes disappeared, resulting in a 369 vote margin between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R) to fill the seat vacated by former Secretary of State of Katherine Harris.
The first day of testing revealed miscounting errors on all four of the machines used during the test, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and at least two citizen observers who blogged their account of the day's testing.
State officials who convened the panel blamed the miscounting on...wait for it...human error!
Of course they did. The panel itself has already been plagued with controversy after Election Integrity organizations criticized the selection of several members assigned to the commission, including the very partisan Alec Yasinsac, who appeared on the steps of Florida Supreme Court in 2000 wearing a "Bush Won" button, and David Drury, the state official who certified these particular systems in the first place for the state of Florida, declaring them safe and accurate for use in an election.
The first day of testing employed machines that were not actually used in the November 7th election (Friday's testing will include machines actually used that day) and were not performed under normal voting conditions (e.g., the machines were hung from the wall, instead of placed on stands to approximate the height they would be for most voters --- important, since these machines tend to register votes differently for tall voters than they do for other voters.)
Nonetheless, errors in the counting were registered by all of the machines used in testing. The results differed from the votes in "scripted" ballots that state testers had punched into them. Ironically, the errors ended up giving Jennings a higher vote total than she should have had according to the prepared voting scripts.
The Herald-Trib --- who, by the way, has reinstated its FL-13 Special Coverage page since we pointed out its removal a few days ago --- is reporting today that, "All four voting machines that officials used to simulate the Nov. 7 election had miscounts, and three of them had miscounts in the District 13 race."
Some testers required two or three attempts to get a touch to register on the screen. Some appeared to have one in every three attempts to register a touch fail. So, even practiced test voters are having trouble with the touchscreens during the "audit." Not a good sign.
While today's procedure may have tested for a narrow range of possibilities, it failed to test broadly for a wider range of possibilities that could have been revealed by more rigorous and thorough testing. It is valid and reasonable for testing to try to make a system fail. That's what thorough testing is supposed to do.
The tests today did indeed revealed discrepancies. At least three votes recorded as undervotes in the election changed to Jennings votes in today's "audit." That's comes out to an approximate 7% shift in a race decided by less than two-tenths of one percent. It will be quite interesting to see how the State Division of Elections explains this shift.
And, of course, it is interesting to see how the State explained the shift, though their explanation is no longer much of a suprise...
Sunday's short NY Times editorial, titled "Déjà Vu in Florida," concerning the mess in Sarasota's FL-13 U.S. House race between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R) (369 votes difference, 18,000 missing votes on the paperless ES&S touch-screen systems in Jennings's strongest county) gets much right. But on one huge point, they get it completely wrong.
First...Here's the highlight graf amongst the stuff they got right:
The campaign wants its experts to review the machines’ secret computer source code, the programming that runs the computer inside the machine, to look for problems. Election Systems and Software, the company that made the machines, is not saying whether it will allow this. If it resists, the courts should order the company to hand over the code — a requirement that should, in fact, be routine in all places where electronic voting machines are used.
Agreed. Wholeheartedly. 'Nuff said.
But here's the lowlight graf, in which they get it all wrong at the conclusion of the editorial:
As Ms. Jennings’s suit proceeds, we should learn more about what, if anything, went wrong, and what the options are if any remedies are needed. But one verdict is already in: electronic voting without the full array of protections, including a voter-verified paper trail, is unacceptable.
A so-called "voter-verified paper trail" on Sarasota's touch-screen systems would not have solved the problem in Florida. I'll have more on this issue in the coming days, but suffice it to say for now: Paper trails, such as they are used with DRE/Touch-Screen systems, do not work. Voters don't verify them, elections officials don't count them, they are not accurate, they can be gamed, they jam the printers which leads to voters being turned away without being able to vote...among just a few of the reasons.
In the meantime, I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it...louder and louder each time if necessary: America needs a paper BALLOT for every vote cast.
I hope you'll join me in that call. I'll try to make it easier for you to do so in the coming days.
If there's one thing the events of Election 2006 have made crystal clear, it's that the VVPAT train wreck ahead needs to be derailed immediately. The New York Times (no suprise) is clueless there. But, at this point, there is no longer any excuse for any self-respecting Election Integrity organization to keep their heads in the sand on this one.
BREAKING UPDATE: Please note, since posting this story earlier this morning, a blockbuster has occured. The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), the federal body responsible for creating the federal Voting System Standards (such as we have any), has recommended that all touch-screen DRE voting systems should be decertified! Further, apropos of my story above, they've said that so-called VVPATs do not work and should not be used with touch-screen systems! Complete breaking story posted here...
A recount has been requested by a candidate for Senate in Indiana. / Riverside Co. California has announced an intent to form a panel to investigate their voting problems. / Ron Rivest visited Georgia on Nov. 7 and has recently reported on what he saw as he visited with the head of the state's elections and some polls in different counties. He was told by Kathy Rogers, the state elections boss, that the state did illegally use uncertified software in 2002. Rivest also found that the state seems to have decided it's OK to violate federal law as they turn voters with questionable registrations away from the polls without offering them a provisional ballot....
The state of Alaska which, as avid BRAD BLOG readers will recall, had been fighting tooth and nail to keep from releasing their database of how voters voted back in 2004, is at it again. Now, despite a court order, the state is refusing to release the new 2006 database, according to a press release just issued by the state Democratic Party. (Press release posted in full at the bottom of this item.)
Previously, the outgoing Governor Murkowski went so far as to have his top security man issue a memo saying release of the 2004 database would be a "security risk." The state had argued prior to that that they could not release the database because it was a "company secret" of Diebold's, according to their contract with the Anti-American Voting Company. All of that after Democrats had discovered a 200% voter turnout in some jurisdications across the state.
Murkowski's daughter Lisa, whom Frank had appointed to fill his seat in the Senate when he ascended to Governor, was in a very close race for that seat in 2004. In fact, most polls showed her trailing against her opponent prior to Election Day.
A court eventually forced the state to release the 2004 database but it was found to contain hundreds of edits since the 2004 election, including as late as July of 2006, prior to the release of the data.
Now it appears that Alaska is at it again, fighting to not release the database from the 2006 election in the only state that we know of where the Democratic Party themselves are actually fighting for complete transparency.
Here's the first two grafs from today's Press Release just issued. The complete press release follows below it...
Anchorage - The Alaska Division of Elections is violating the public records law and should immediately release copies of the electronic records of the 2006 election results so they can be examined before the election is certified, Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe said today.
"Once again, the Division of Elections is flaunting the law with excuses and delays by refusing to release critical public records," Metcalfe said. "Judge Joannides has already ordered them to make copies of each version of the 2006 GEMS database, so it is no burden on them to just release those copies that they are already making. Why won't they release the records and give the public access to them as they are required by law to do?" Metcalfe said.
As I was reading this excellent article by Ed Kemmick from Sunday's Billings Gazette I was preparing to mention how nice it would be if every state dealt with their election issues in such an adult and responsible manner as Kemmick reports would now seem to be occurring in Montana, where the state mandates a paper ballot for every vote cast.
I was also going to remark how nice it would be if the country's national media, such as WaPo, NY Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Time, et al. covered election issues with such sober, non-political, attention to detail.
I'll still strongly recommend Kemmick's piece for precisely those reasons (and for the superb quotes from the good John Gideon and others)...but then I got to the bottom where two paragraphs stuck out like a sore thumb from the rest of the reasoned discussion of the state's voting machines and what still needs to be done to assure accuracy and confidence in their system.
The final grafs covered statements from Montana's Secretary of State Brad Johnson, about the responsible proposals discussed in the rest of the article for dealing with remaining concerns in the state's electoral process. Without any mention elsewhere in the article regarding any concerns about voter identification issues in the state, Johnson sadly drops these turds into the bucket...
Yes, we're as tired of writing about it as you likely are of reading about it. But as run-off elections proceed (Arkansas's is tomorrow), touch-screen votes are still flipping from one candidate to the other on ES&S's touch-screen machines during early voting. (ES&S made the touch-screen machines in FL-13, btw.)
Heber Springs, Arkansas, mayoral run-off candidate Jackie McPherson began to suspect problems when both his mother-in-law and her mom told him their attempted vote for him flipped over to McPherson's opponent during early voting. He went to the Cleburne County Clerk's office to test the problem for himself --- in front of the County Clerk, who at first told him it was not possible --- and then they were both able to watch the vote flip about 20 times in a row.
McPherson says the head of the local Elections Commission then told him "the election would have to go on," and that he "would have to get a court order to review the machines and the problem that obviously exists."
Key grafs fom McPherson's description of his vote-flipping adventure at the County Clerk's office are below. The Sun-Times full coverage is here...
Apropos of our previous piece --- in which we pointed out that nothing exists until the corporate mainstream media says it does --- Associated Press has now officially characterized the Florida 13th Congressional Race as a "meltdown" --- one which is "a microcosm of the 2000 Florida election fiasco that put George W. Bush in the White House."
Of course, simply calling it a "meltdown" (gosh, where have we heard that description before?), doesn't mean the corporate mainstream media will treat it as one. If it's really "a microcosm of 2000," one would think the issue would lead to banner headlines everywhere. It should, of course, since the only actual difference between Florida's Bush/Gore 2000 and Florida's Jennings/Buchanan 2006 is that, as good luck would have it, the balance of neither Congress nor the White House depends on the final outcome. But that's just a stroke of luck. One that --- one would think --- even the CMSM could connect the dots on.
But perhaps not.
Even Sarasota's Herald-Trib which, as we've previously pointed out, has been the bible of mainstream FL-13 coverage, has now disappeared their website link to, and apparently ceased updating, their FL-13 Special Coverage page.
We hope that will change since the story is, quite clearly, far from over down there and we've been closely following the Herald-Trib's excellent body of coverage and archives for reference.
But for now, at least, it's back to the blogs for the latest. Paul Kiel over at TPMMuckraker has the latest updates on this week's scheduled and controversial (some would say pre-discredited) state-run audit of the paperless ES&S touch-screen machines which caused 18,000 votes to disappear in the election.
In case you missed it, over the Thanksgiving Weekend the Orlando Sentinel found that --- had the machines actually worked as well-advertised and promised --- the Democratic candidate Christine Jennings would have won the race that has since been certified by the state of Florida in favor of the Republican candidate Vern Buchanan.
With that, and the following statement from Katherine Harris (whose U.S. House seat, ironically, is the one at stake in FL-13) quoted by the AP article which kicked off this item --- "Now we're the national model instead of the national concern. There'll never be a hanging, dangling or pregnant chad again," she said in 2001 when Florida certified their "upgrade" to the machines they now use --- we might suggest the following new slogan for the Sunshine State...even if it's perhaps too long to fit on license plates:
Florida: Fucking up American Elections Since at Least 2000
For the record...AP also mentions that Florida's former and now-disgraced Secretary of State --- never one previously to let anything get between her and a press appearance --- seems to be taking a page from Diebold's Cut-and-Run PR Playbook at this point: "Harris, who lost her bid for U.S. Senate, did not respond to several messages left this week by The Associated Press."
"The Commission will receive presentations on public comments received for the DRAFT Procedural Manual for Voting System Testing and Certification Program and the proposed final document will be considered for approval. The Commission will receive presentations from election officials, community interest groups, academicians and technology experts regarding the 2006 election. The Commission will elect officers for 2007 and consider other administrative matters." Notice of a Public Hearing of the Election Assistance Commission. The meeting, on Dec. 7 in Washington DC. That's Pearl Harbor Day. Let's hope the EAC doesn't do more to torpedo our election process....
As we all know, nothing actually exists or is true or has happened until the corporate mainstream media says it exists or is true or has happened. So it's nice to know that what American citizens have by-and-large known all by themselves for some time actually exists and is true and has happened: "MSNBC Now Characterizing Situation in Iraq as Civil War".
To cover their asses, MSNBC is running a poll (results as of now seen below)...
Geez, other than 86% of us, we would have never known. Thank god for the CMSM.
What next? "MSNBC Characterizes Oxygen as Good for Americans"? "Daytime Seen as Brighter than Nighttime"? "American Electoral System Broken"?