'Something smells here,' finds 538.com, suggesting possibility of 'very devious manipulation' of voting machines or tabulators...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2010, 8:55pm PT  

This post is an update to our earlier one today, which highlighted early, unexplained disparities seen by academic experts working on behalf of South Carolina Democrats, between paper-ballot absentee voting results and those from the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen systems used on Election Day last Tuesday in South Carolina for the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race between the unheard of, jobless candidate Alvin Greene (who did absolutely no campaigning), and state legislator Vic Rawl (who did).

As we detailed in the previous post, Greene's "victory," thus far, seems to make absolutely no legitimate sense to state Democrats, or anybody else, in truth. The disparities in the voting patterns were described by experts quoted in Politico earlier today as "curious," "staggering," and "red flags," and by Election Integrity experts who we quoted as "clear signs of election fraud." Please read that post first for the full background on this story.

We've already included one update to our previous post, based on a post by Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight.com, a site which focuses on statistical analysis of elections. That post examined the possibility of the race factor in Greene's "win" over Rawl as the former is African American while the latter is white. Schaller's analysis of precinct data in the race, however, as compared to non-white registrants in each, found "no relationship between the race of a county's registrants and Greene's performance in that county," thus largely, but not entirely, ruling out race as an explanation for the bizarre results.

While Schaller had posited four existing possibilities for what "could have happened here" in his original article --- including the possibility of "systematic" election fraud --- he has now filed a follow-up report describing the matter as "getting weirder by the hour." His new piece includes a number of reports from other statistical experts which "suggest tampering, or at least machine malfunction, perhaps at the highest level"...

Schaller's follow-up piece quotes from a number of analyses by statistician and election expert colleagues of his which narrow down the possibilities of what "could have happened here," to just "two scenarios."

The analyses by Schaller's colleagues find, among other things, statistical tests in which "Rawl's Election Day vote totals depart from the expected distribution at 90% confidence. In other words, the observed vote pattern for Rawl could be expected to occur only about 10% of the time by chance."

The results of those tests lead Schaller to believe "something smells here."

Another analysis debunks the theory that the results were due to GOP dirty-tricksters, crossing over in SC's open primary to vote for the candidate presumed to be the easiest one for Republican incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint to defeat in November.

"In conclusion," writes the author of the analysis examining that theory, "while the voting patterns in the D-Senate primary are strange and may not be totally legitimate, they don't bear the expected hallmarks that would arise in the case of a Republican plant."

Schaller then summarizes what he sees as the dwindling possibilities for what may have happened as such:

[W]e can almost certainly eliminate the idea that there was a coordinated GOP effort to get Republican and/or conservative voters to pick up Democratic ballots with the intent of selecting Greene as DeMint's general election opponent.

That leaves what I think are now two scenarios:

A. The first is a combination of the first and second possibilities of my initial post: Greene was a nobody, but Rawl was darn near close to a nobody, and thus Greene's alphabetical ballot position, coupled with whatever signal the spelling of his surname sent to some African Americans that he might be (and in fact is) an African American, with a dash of Rawl's high disapproval among the 18 percent of survey respondents who had heard of him, combined to take what in theory might otherwise have been a 50/50 split among two broadly unknown candidates and turned it instead into a 59/41 race.

B. Somebody with access to software and machines engineered a very devious manipulation of the vote returns--but not so devious that he/she/they were unable to cover the tracks of the digit patterns in those results.

While we're certainly not a statistical analyst, and nowhere near as smart as Schaller, the first of his two scenarios above does not seem to take into account the disparities noted previously between the paper-based absentee votes and those cast on the unverifiable touch-screen systems on Election Day.

While Scenario A would seem to make potential sense, it seems that the same voting patterns would apply to both Election Day votes cast at the polls as well as absentee votes cast in the same race. But that wasn't the case, as we detailed in our previous article, which quotes academic experts who found, among other similar anomalies, "a staggering 84 percent to 16 percent margin" in favor of Rawl in Lancaster County, where "Greene easily led among Election Day voters by 17 percentage points."

Overall, a study by an academic expert has found, according to the Rawl campaign, that "the result in the Senate election is statistically highly significant: Rawl performs 11 percentage points better among absentee voters than he does among Election Day voters."

If Scenario A doesn't similarly apply to both the absentee and Election Day vote counts, that would seem to point to his Scenario B, "a very devious manipulation of the vote returns," or what we'll call "Scenario B.1," the somewhat less nefarious possibility of out-and-out e-voting system malfunction.

Malfunction and/or programming error with ES&S systems is neither unheard of, nor particularly rare. We experienced our own similar machine failure while attempting to vote (unsucessfully) on an ES&S e-voting system this week in Los Angeles, on the same day as the South Carolina primary, and previously, two years before when the very same system mis-recorded four out of twelve of our votes.

South Carolina itself is no stranger to failure and known breakdowns of the e-voting system. In the 2008 Republican Party primary in Horry County, as we reported at the time, the ES&S machines failed to work at all for much of the day, leaving voters scrambling to find bits of paper, and even paper towels, on which to cast emergency paper ballots. For the Democratic primary the following week, the party advised voters to print out sample ballots from off of the Internet before coming to vote, just in case the same train wreck occurred.

And, of course, we could offer countless links to BRAD BLOG reports detailing ES&S touch-screen systems flipping the intended votes of voters right on the screen. While one would presume a massive case of on-screen vote flipping would be noticed and reported, the fact is, as we've tried to warn, a vote can appear to register accurately on the screen, but be recorded for anybody or nobody internally, in the only tally that actually counts. It remains, as we've often pointed out, impossible to know that any vote has ever been recorded accurately --- ever --- on one of these types of voting machines during an actual election.

Given the well-documented history of malfunction by ES&S iVotronics and its central tabulating system, along with similarly well-documented scientific reports of how easily those specifics systems can be manipulated --- most easily and directly by election insiders --- it's sounding more and more like there is a serious problem, of some type, in South Carolina's electronic voting system.

For the record, this is not the only questionable race in South Carolina's Democratic primary. We may have more soon on a different race with very odd results. And there are also strange numbers emerging in South Carolina's Republican primary as well, where Schaller's piece quotes a study finding "three counties with more votes cast in [the] Republican governor's race than reported turnout in the Republican primary," resulting in the nearly impossible case of zero overvotes or undervotes in that race, across all three counties.

This isn't Arkansas after all, where they also use the same unverifiable ES&S voting systems, which also reported impossible numbers in the May 18th general primary as we reported last week. Or is it?

Or Florida, where the still-unexplained failure by the ES&S iVotronic system resulted in some 18,000 votes disappearing all together in Sarasota in the FL-13 Special Election for the U.S. House in 2006, resulting in a 329 vote "victory" for the Republican candidate Vern Buchanan over Democrat Christine Jennings. Or is it?

"Something smells here," indeed.

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UPDATE 6/14/10: Candidate Vic Rawl has now filed an official protest to the election, charging "unreliability and unverifiability" of election results and vowing "to bring my full energies to electoral reform well into the future." Full details now here...

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