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OHIO (long but VERY GOOD)

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  • Matthew Saint-Germaine
    PLEASE FORWARD TO FRIENDS & FAMILY http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/4/224812/643 Ohio Provisional Ballots, Recounts, and Fraud [UPDATED] by Hunter Fri Nov
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 6 2:43 PM
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      Ohio Provisional Ballots, Recounts, and Fraud [UPDATED]
      by Hunter
      Fri Nov 5th, 2004 at 00:13:22 PST

      (Elevated from the Diaries - MB)
      All right. Everyone, take a breath. Stop freaking out. Stop
      accusing everyone of ignoring the issue; it isn't being ignored.

      There are two states in which questions of "fraud" have been raised:
      Ohio, and Florida. Close counts are also present in Iowa and New
      Mexico; quite frankly, however, without OH or FL those results are
      largely meaningless. First off, a summary of where we are in Ohio.


      The Ohio numbers are regarded by many with great suspicion because
      the GOP launched, in the weeks before the election, an organized
      effort to intimidate minority voters, fund push-polls and other
      robocalls, and generally depress turnout in Democratic precincts.
      Anecdotal evidence is that it did not work -- turnout was high, and
      there were very few reports on election day of Republican
      intimidation at the polls.

      Diaries :: Hunter's diary ::

      Set aside the possibility of fraud, for the moment. We will return
      to it.

      Currently, the margin of difference between Kerry and Bush is 136,483

      The provisional ballots are being counted now. "Provisional" ballots
      are ballots cast by people who the polling officials couldn't find on
      the voting rolls, or who had some other reason why they were denied
      the right to vote along with the rest of the populous. We can expect
      90% or more of these votes to be valid, but it takes a long time --
      up to ten days -- to correctly validate each and every one to
      determine that the voter is indeed eligible to vote.

      There are 155,337 provisional ballots (from MyDD). These ballots are
      going to be counted, whether Kerry asks for it or not. They are
      legally (potential) votes, and Ohio is counting them now.

      Assume they break 80% for Kerry, which is being very generous -- but
      we'll know the precise numbers soon, no matter what. That means
      Kerry gains an additional 124,269 votes, and Bush gains 31,067 -- so
      Kerry gains +93,200 votes.

      Repeating, these votes will be counted. We will know the totals
      soon. But note that that still isn't enough, best case scenario, to
      gain a Kerry victory. Again, the margin of difference is currently
      136,483 votes: shrinking that by 93,000 "gained" Kerry votes from
      provisional ballots means that a recount would have to net Kerry over
      +43,200 votes in order to actually affect the election.

      Ohio primarily uses punchcard voting. Right now, with a difference
      of over 130,000 votes between Kerry and Bush, nobody wants to touch a
      hand-recount of those ballots with a ten-foot pole. Memories of
      Florida are still omnipresent, and the national Democrats aren't
      going to go down that road unless it would credibly make a
      difference. When you are down by more than a hundred thousand votes,
      and you only have 92,000 "spoiled" ballots, there is no possible way
      that it would make a difference. However, it is likely that a
      recount would favor Kerry, because poor/minority areas historically
      have a greater rate of "spoiled" ballots -- ballots which cannot be
      read by the machine -- than other areas.

      According to MyDD, there are 92,672 ballots in which no vote for
      president was recorded. Even assuming that these ballots leaned 70%
      for Kerry, which is a very, very remote best-case scenario, that's
      64,870 for Kerry, and 27,801 for Bush -- gaining +37,000 votes for
      Kerry, if all the planets lined up precisely right.

      If the margin between Bush and Kerry after counting the provisional
      ballots is greater than 40,000, there simply isn't any credible way
      those votes will make the difference. In reality, it is unlikely
      that Kerry would gain more than 10k-20k votes from it.

      If it would potentially make a difference -- that is, if Kerry gained
      so many provisional ballots as to be within striking range, Ohio law
      allows for a recount of the ballots. It is a decidedly better system
      than in Florida 2000.

      Only after the provisional and absentee/military votes have been
      completely counted, election officials will "certify" the results of
      the election. The candidate (or his electors, or the voters -- it is
      unclear, but certainly at minimum, the candidate) may contest the
      results of the election (e.g. ask for a recount) at any point within
      five days from the day of the election, or at any point until the
      official "certification" of the results. Note that this means there
      is at least an eleven-day window here, and possibly more, depending
      on how "certification" works in Ohio. Note also that this would be a
      full "hanging-chad" manual recount -- the standards for what is and
      isn't a vote in Ohio, chad-wise, are spelled out clearly, and so Bush
      v. Gore wouldn't enter into it.

      Also, Kerry "conceding" doesn't enter into it. "Conceding" is a
      political concept, not a legal one. If Ohio looked like it had some
      possibility of turning blue, you can bet that Kerry would "un-
      concede" pretty damn quickly.

      Issues of Fraud?

      The possibility of fraud has been raised primarily because the
      results from Ohio are not what people were expecting to see.
      Republican turnout was very large, and Democrats seemed to vote for
      Bush in surprising numbers. That is indeed curious, and needs to be

      Note, however, that it may be entirely explainable. It is entirely
      probable that Republicans came out in record numbers; it is also not
      outside the realm of logic that many Midwestern Democrats, swayed by
      the We Hate Gays initiative on the Ohio ballot or by "values"
      or "terrorism" or other factors, really did vote for Bush in
      surprising numbers. It is possible. Keep in mind that rural
      Democrats and urban Democrats are, in some ways, not exactly the same
      species -- we tend to forget that, sometimes.

      Again, to repeat: Unusual numbers in individual counties in Florida
      and Ohio are potentially explainable by demographic and other
      factors; they do not, in and of themselves, constitute "proof" of
      fraud. (If there are egregious mistakes in some precincts, please
      post or link to them below, in comments.)

      But it is also possible to explain the discrepancies from fraud or
      error. Intentional fraud, or unintentional error, would in this case
      consist of misreporting of the numbers from each precinct. Note that
      few of these Ohio precincts use anything other than the punch-card
      systems; fraud would be present in the central machines that sum the
      votes, not from in-precinct shenanigans. Nationwide, these machines
      are manufactured by Diebold and other vendors; longtime readers will
      remember Diebold as the heavily-Republican-leaning company (Diebold
      executives are heavy Bush contributers) whose chief officer announced
      in a Republican fund-raising letter that the company was "committed
      to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next

      Bad fucking move, Walden. Really, really bad.

      Let's explain what these "central vote-counting" machines are.
      Basically, it's a machine running Microsoft Windows with a Microsoft
      Access database attached. (Note to the computer-savvy among you:
      Yes, I shit you not. MS Access. Jeez.) The database keeps track of
      the votes in each precinct, county, etc., much like an Excel
      spreadsheet. The software is deemed secret and proprietary; previous
      lawsuits to examine the code that tabulates the votes have been

      Sizable mistakes have been found before in Diebold-run elections.
      More notably, the machines are easily hacked in such a way as to
      change the vote totals in not-readily-detectable ways. There is
      a "second set of books" built in to Diebold machines, which can be
      accessed remotely if necessary. Note that there is some evidence
      that this has actually happened:

      MONDAY Nov 1 2004: New information indicates that hackers may be
      targeting the central computers counting our votes tomorrow. All
      county elections officials who use modems to transfer votes from
      polling places to the central vote-counting server should disconnect
      the modems now.
      There is no down side to removing the modems. Simply drive the vote
      cartridges from each polling place in to the central vote-counting
      location by car, instead of transmitting by modem. "Turning off" the
      modems may not be sufficient. Disconnect the central vote counting
      server from all modems, INCLUDING PHONE LINES, not just Internet.

      In a very large county, this will add at most one hour to the vote-
      counting time, while offering significant protection from outside

      It appears that such an attack may already have taken place, in a
      primary election 6 weeks ago in King County, Washington -- a large
      jurisdiction with over one million registered voters. Documents,
      including internal audit logs for the central vote-counting computer,
      along with modem "trouble slips" consistent with hacker activity,
      show that the system may have been hacked on Sept. 14, 2004. Three
      hours is now missing from the vote-counting computer's "audit log,"
      an automatically generated record, similar to the black box in an
      airplane, which registers certain kinds of events.

      Voting "solutions" by other companies have similar reported problems;
      look at blackboxvoting.org for horror stories about known miscounted
      election results in actual elections across the country. These
      machines, both touchscreen and optical-scan, are already proven [PDF]
      to be prone to errors:

      In the 2002 general election, a computer miscount overturned the
      House District 11 result in Wayne County, North Carolina. Incorrect
      programming caused machines to skip several thousand partyline votes,
      both Republican and Democratic. Fixing the error turned up 5,500 more
      votes and reversed the election for state representative.

      Voting machines failed to tally "yes" votes on the 2002 school bond
      issue in Gretna, Nebraska. This error gave the false impression that
      the measure had failed miserably, but it actually passed by a 2 to 1
      margin. Responsibility for the errors was attributed to ES&S, the
      Omaha company that had provided the ballots and the machines.


      An Orange County, California, election computer made a 100 percent
      error during the April 1998 school bond referendum. The Registrar of
      Voters Office initially announced that the bond issue had lost by a
      wide margin; in fact, it was supported by a majority of the ballots
      cast. The error was attributed to a programmer's reversing the "yes"
      and "no" answers in the software used to count the votes.


      Software programming errors, sorry. Oh, and reverse that election, we
      announced the wrong winner. In the 2002 Clay County, Kansas,
      commissioner primary, voting machines said Jerry Mayo ran a close
      race but lost, garnering 48 percent of the vote, but a hand recount
      revealed Mayo had won by a landslide, receiving 76 percent of the


      In the November 2002 general election in Scurry County, Texas, poll
      workers got suspicious about a landslide victory for two Republican
      commissioner candidates. Told that a "bad chip" was to blame, they
      had a new computer chip flown in and also counted the votes by hand --
      and found out that Democrats actually had won by wide margins,
      overturning the election.


      In 1986 the wrong candidate was declared the winner in Georgia.
      Incumbent Democrat Donn Peevy was running for state senator in
      District 48. The machines said he lost the election. After an
      investigation revealed that a Republican elections official had kept
      uncounted ballots in the trunk of his car, officials also admitted
      that a computerized voting program had miscounted. Peevy insisted on
      a recount. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "When the
      count finished around 1 a.m., they [the elections board] walked into
      a room and shut the door," recalls Peevy. "When they came out, they
      said, `Mr. Peevy, you won.' That was it. They never apologized. They
      never explained."


      A software programming error gave the election to the wrong candidate
      in November 1999 in Onondaga County, New York. Bob Faulkner, a
      political newcomer, went to bed on election night confident he had
      helped complete a Republican sweep of three open council seats. But
      after Onondaga County Board of Elections staffers rechecked the
      totals, Faulkner had lost to Democratic incumbent Elaine Lytel. Just
      a few hours later, election officials discovered that a software
      programming error had given too many absentee ballot votes to Lytel.
      Faulkner took the lead.


      In a 1998 Salt Lake City election, 1,413 votes never showed up in the
      total. A programming error caused a batch of ballots not to count,
      though they had been run through the machine like all the others.
      When the 1,413 missing votes were counted, they reversed the election.

      So the question of whether the machines in Ohio are working properly
      is hardly a "tinfoil-hat" concern. It is a legitimate question.
      Note, however, that as of yet evidence of miscounts or tampering is
      speculative; the only available evidence is statistical analysis of
      the counties which points to "unusual" results in certain precincts
      and counties.

      Florida, perhaps, is the bigger question. Voting there is almost
      entirely electronic now, through a combination of touchscreen and
      optical-scan systems. And, to be quite honest, the vote totals there
      are far more suspicious than in Ohio. While both states are
      exhibiting results that are reasonable, they are also exhibiting, in
      some counties, results that are highly unusual, though not outside
      the realms of possibility, compared to past elections.

      Bottom Line

      So the question becomes, are the curious numbers in Ohio (and
      Florida) due to the way the electorate voted, or due to the way those
      votes were summed up in the central office? It is entirely possible
      that errors might exist which do not affect the outcome of the
      election, but which are still serious enough to require a serious

      This is why I, for one believe it is our national interests to have a
      manual recount of some of the Ohio counties with the most unusual
      results. But this is not a Kerry issue; this is a democracy issue.
      Can these machines be trusted? Recounts in selected counties would
      resolve this: it needs to be done.

      Bev Harris and other activists are filing Freedom of Information Act
      requests and taking other steps to start analyzing the data. What we
      can do is put weight behind their efforts, without looking like
      tinfoil-hat loonies. We have to understand, the possibility that a
      miscount, even if discovered, will be great enough to change the
      outcome of the election is remote. These FOIA requests and other
      investigations are happening so that these machines can be validated,
      not because any of the parties have any actual evidence of willful

      Please put additional information, action requests, and links to good
      related diaries in comments below, as well as any questions that you
      think someone here might be able to answer.

      Update [2004-11-5 2:57:13 by Hunter]:

      From this diary, we find at least one county with a very egregious
      vote counting error.

      Franklin County, OH: Gahanna 1-B Precinct

      US Senator:
      Fingerhut (D) - 167 votes
      Voinovich (R) - 300 votes

      US President:
      Kerry (D) - 260 votes
      Bush (R) - 4,258 votes

      You don't have to be the Ohio Secretary of State to figure out the
      problem there. Let's see if he does.

      So we do have some concrete evidence of actual machine malfunction or
      egregious human error. Four thousand votes is not enough to swing the
      election. But it proves that the vote totals in Ohio are currently
      not accurate. The question is, how inaccurate are they.

      Keep in mind, from above, the kind of errors these machines are
      capable of:

      In the 2002 Clay County, Kansas, commissioner primary, voting
      machines said Jerry Mayo ran a close race but lost, garnering 48
      percent of the vote, but a hand recount revealed Mayo had won by a
      landslide, receiving 76 percent of the vote.
      I'm not a tinfoil hat person. But if the election authorities cannot
      explain the vote discrepency cited above -- and give a damn good
      reason why they expect that error to be unique, among all precincts
      and counties -- it's time for at least a partial recount.

      Not for Kerry, but for the good of the country. Democrats,
      Republicans, all of us -- we need to know whether these machines
      actually worked.
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