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Ohio's Diebold debacle

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Elections & Voting Ohio s Diebold debacle:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2005
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Elections & Voting
      Ohio's Diebold debacle: New machines call election results into
      By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
      Online Journal Guest Writers
      Nov 25, 2005

      Massive Election Day irregularities are emerging in reports from all
      over Ohio after the introduction of Diebold's electronic voting in
      nearly half of the Buckeye State's counties. A recently released
      report by the non-partisan General Accountability Office warned of
      such problems with electronic voting machines.

      E-voting Machine Disasters

      Prior to the 2005 election, electronic voting machines from Diebold
      and other Republican voting machine manufacturers were newly
      installed in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties. The Dayton Daily News
      reported that in Montgomery County, for example, "Some machines
      began registering votes for the wrong item when voters touched the
      screen correctly. Those machines had lost their calibration during
      shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated. . . ."

      Steve Harsman, the drector of the Montgomery County Board of
      Elections (BOE), told the Daily News that the recalibration could be
      done on site, but poll workers had never performed the task before.

      The city of Carlisle, Ohio, announced on November 22 that it is
      contesting the results of the November 8 general election as a
      result of Montgomery County vote counting problems. Carlisle Mayor
      Jerry Ellender told the Middletown Journal that the count on the
      city's continuing $3.8 million replacement fire levy is
      invalid "since they are not sure if Carlisle voters received the
      right ballots on the new electronic voting machines."

      Harsman, according to the Journal, said, "poll workers incorrectly
      encoded voter cards that are used to bring up the ballots on the
      electronic machines in precincts in Germantown and Carlisle."

      At least 225 votes were registered for the fire levy in precincts
      with only 148 registered voters, according to the Journal. In
      addition, 187 voting machine memory cards were lost for most of
      election night in Montgomery County, according to the Dayton Daily

      In Lucas County, election results appeared more than 13 hours after
      the close of polls. The Toledo Blade cited "'frightened' poll
      workers," intimidated by the new "touch-screen voting machines."

      The Blade found that despite an $87,568 federal grant to the Lucas
      County Board of Elections for "voter education and poll worker
      training . . ." only $1,718.65 was spent from the grant.

      The Blade also reported that 10 days after the 2005
      election, "Fourteen touch-screen voting machines have sat unattended
      in the central hallway at the University of Toledo Scott Park
      Campus." The GAO report warned that touch-screen machines are easily
      hacked and should be kept secure at all times.

      In Miami County, the Board of Elections fired the deputy director,
      Diane Miley, following a 20-minute closed-door session reviewing the
      November 8, 2005, general election.

      The Free Press had reported that in the 2004 presidential election,
      Miami County was cited in the seminal Moss v. Bush election
      challenge case. The county was specifically cited for an early
      morning influx of 19,000 additional votes, mostly for Bush, after
      100 percent of the vote had been reported.

      The AP reported additional irregularities in the 2005 election in
      Ohio. In Wood County, election results were not posted until 6:23
      a.m., after poll workers at four polling places accidentally
      selected the wrong option on voting machines preventing the machine
      memory cards from being automatically uploaded, according to the
      Board of Elections Deputy Director Debbie Hazard.

      In five counties -- Brown, Crawford, Jackson, Jefferson and Marion --
      using Diebold machines, there were problems with the counting of
      absentee ballots as a result of "the width of the ballot," the AP

      In Scioto County, the vote count was not finished until 4:30 a.m.
      Board of Elections Director Steve Mowery informed the Portsmouth
      Daily Times that, as a result of machines undergoing insufficient
      testing and absentee problems, things went "poorly."

      Many counties used "roving employees" assigned to pick up memory
      cards from voting machines. In Lucas County, these "rovers"
      traveled "to multiple locations before delivering the cards to the
      election office at Governmental Center." The polls closed at 7:30
      p.m. but, "The final memory cards were delivered to the Board of
      Elections office just before midnight," according to WTOL Channel 11
      News, Toledo.

      Toledo's WTOL Channel 11 News posed the simple question: "Did the
      delay in returning memory cards to the election office open the door
      to possible vote fraud?"

      Amidst these massive glitches, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth
      Blackwell, who personally negotiated the deal for the Diebold
      machines that he called the "best in the nation," insisted through
      his spokesperson Carlo LaParo that "The new touch-screen systems
      went well."

      Odd Results for Election Reform Initiatives

      The Reform Ohio Now (RON) campaign saw polls throughout the state
      showing two of its four election reform issues to be passing easily.
      Both the Columbus Dispatch and University of Akron Bliss Institute
      polls predicted victories for Issue 2 and Issue 3, only to see them
      go down to sudden and statistically unexplainable defeat. Issue 2
      allowed for early voting in Ohio and Issue 3 reduced the amount of
      money an individual can give a candidate from $10,000 to $2,000.
      Both were predicted to pass with 59 percent and 61 percent of the
      vote, respectively.

      The Bliss Institute of Applied Politics' survey was completed on
      October 20 at the University of Akron Survey Research Center, and
      found that Issue 2 seemed likely to win approval with more than
      three-fifths of likely voters.

      The Dispatch mail-in poll was completed on Thursday Nov. 3, just
      prior to Election Day. The Dispatch poll is so accurate, that at
      least two academic studies have been published about it in the
      Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ). The first paper documents that the
      Dispatch poll between 1980-1984 was far more accurate than telephone
      polling. The study showed the Dispatch error rate at only 1.6
      percentage points versus phone error rates of 5 percent. A companion
      study published in POQ in 2000 dealt specifically with the question
      of statewide referenda. A quote from the study: "The average error
      for the Dispatch forecast of these referenda was 5.4 percentage
      points, compared to 7.2 percentage points for the telephone surveys."

      The academic study concluded that the Dispatch's mail survey
      outperformed telephone surveys for both referenda and candidate's

      The fact that the Dispatch was nearly 30 points off in predicting
      the "YES" vote on Issue 3 should raise concerns.

      Dispatch Associate Publisher Mike Curtin shrugged off the worst
      polling performance since the infamous Literary Digest predicted
      that Alf Landon would beat FDR in 1936. In an email obtained by the
      Free Press, Curtin told California voting rights activist Sheri
      Myers, "There is no evidence of any irregularities in Ohio's 2005
      voting results." Curtin, according to election attorney Cliff
      Arnebeck, had also dismissed anyone who raises issues about Ohio's
      2004 presidential election results as "conspiracy theorists."

      Curtin co-authored the scholarly papers on the Dispatch's legendary
      polling accuracy. Editorially, the Dispatch has not endorsed a
      Democratic presidential candidate since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

      Curtin pleaded with the voting rights activists, "Please don't buy
      into the conspiracy theories without any shred of evidence." Curtin
      did not deal with the specifics about how the polling, which he was
      so proud of, was up to 40 points off on certain issues for the first
      time ever. In another email explaining the unprecedented Dispatch
      polling debacle, Dispatch Editor Darrel Rowland told a Tribune Media
      Services columnist that, "I also can't imagine voting technology is
      to blame, when both Democrats and Republicans are involved in every
      crucial step of the way."

      Under oath testimony at public hearings sponsored by the Free Press
      after the 2004 presidential election revealed that election workers
      admit that they have little or no knowledge of how e-voting
      technology works and are totally reliant on private vendors for vote
      counting inside the "black box." Ohio's other major newspapers
      routinely suggest what Rowland "can't imagine."

      Rowland did note that despite the Dispatch's recent embracing of its
      unprecedented incompetence at polling that, "Over the years we have
      found that the people who return our mail poll are likely voters --
      the holy grail in political polls. Our track record in gauging
      public opinion in this state regarded as a national political
      bellwether is unparalleled.

      Don McTigue, the attorney for RON, told the Free Press that
      Blackwell had issued a ruling barring RON volunteers from the county
      vote counting rooms on election eve. McTigue and the RON volunteers
      had filled out a request form to view the counting 11 days prior to
      Election Day, but Blackwell had added a new form to verify which
      group was representing the issues. This new form was not filled out,
      McTigue admits.

      Matt Damschroder, the Franklin County Board of Elections director,
      allowed the RON observers in anyway, despite their being barred from
      the vote counting rooms in other counties.

      This is the second straight election in which the polling
      organizations were spectacularly wrong in Ohio. In the 2004
      election, the media consortium exit polls, as well as the Harris and
      Zogby polls, all declared Kerry the winner on Election Day.

      Democracy in Jeopardy

      One of the first times electronic voting machines were used, in the
      1988 New Hampshire presidential primary, former CIA director George
      Herbert Walker Bush pulled off a stunning and unpredicted upset. The
      last poll before that primary showed Senator Bob Dole winning with 8
      percentage points. Bush won by 9 points, a startling 17-point shift.
      Bush's e-voting victory allowed him to claim the White House and
      paved the way for his son to become the United States' chief

      Diebold electronic voting machines use non-transparent, proprietary
      software to count the votes. Diebold's CEO Wally O'Dell is one of
      President Bush's major donors and fundraisers.

      Election Day news coverage from the 41 counties that adopted Diebold
      touch-screen machines makes it clear that poll worker ignorance
      about how to use the high-tech equipment and machine glitches were
      widespread problems in 2005. Diebold technicians in many areas were
      key in producing the final vote results.

      Use of e-voting machines has resulted in two elections with
      improbable results in Ohio, with potentially catastrophic outcomes
      for American democracy -- especially if they are ignored.

      Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP
      STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at
      www.freepress.org, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN
      OHIO, to be published this spring by The New Press.
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