Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My city was gone

Keith also passes on this very curious story from the Dayton Daily News. You have to register to read the piece, but register I did, so you won't have to.

Two precincts had high undercounts, analysis shows
By Ken McCall and Jim Bebbington

DAYTON | Two Montgomery County precincts had extraordinarily high numbers of ballots cast Nov. 2 with no presidential vote counted, and the county's overall rates of such undercounts were highest where Democratic hopeful John Kerry did best.

Undercounts are ballots that do not register a vote for a particular race, in this case for president. Two precincts — one in Kettering and another in Washington Twp. — had undercounts of more than 25 percent, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of the county's unofficial results.

Overall in Montgomery County, 5,693 or 2 percent of the ballots cast registered no valid vote for president.

As predicted by political scientists, who say the poor and less-educated are more likely to have problems with punch card voting, the rate of so-called undercounted presidential ballots was higher in Democratic areas of the county than in Republican strongholds.

The undercount amounted to 2.8 percent of the ballots in the 231 precincts that supported Kerry, but only 1.6 percent of those cast in the 354 precincts that supported President Bush.

Across the state on Nov. 2, counties that used punch-card voting, as Montgomery County did, had a higher rate of undercounted ballots than counties that used optical scanning technology or electronic voting machines, which had the lowest undercount.

With punch cards, undercounts can occur when a voter:

•Inadvertently votes for two candidates in the same race.

•Decides not to vote in the race.

•Does not sufficiently puncture the punch card to eliminate a "hanging chad." Hanging chads can make it impossible for machines to read the punch cards.

The highest undercount rate in Montgomery County was in precinct Washington X, around Paragon Road and Spring Valley Pike in Washington Twp.

In the precinct, 168 or 27.5 percent of the 611 ballots cast did not have a good presidential vote. That was followed closely by Kettering 3-A, near Stroop Road and Far Hills Avenue, where 121 or 27.3 percent of the 444 ballots cast were undercounted.

Both of those precincts supported Bush, as did seven of the 10 precincts with the highest rate of undercounted presidential ballots. That's despite the county's overall trend, in which precincts where Kerry did well tended to have above-average undercounts, while precincts where Bush won had lower-than-average undercounts.

County elections officials said they have no reports of any problems at either Washington X or Kettering 3-A. The punch-card voting stands, checked Wednesday using demonstration ballots, appeared to work appropriately.

The presiding judge of Washington X, Shirley Wightman, a 40-year veteran of working polling places, said voters in her precinct encountered no problems.

"We checked the machines periodically and I could see nothing wrong with them," she said.

Wightman said turnout was high that day and there were 16 provisional voters at the precinct, a higher-than-normal number. But those provisionals do not account for the under-votes and won't be tabulated until next Monday, after officials confirm the registration of those voters.

One voter reported having trouble pushing her ballot into the slot in the voting machine, but she had not pushed the card in far enough and a poll worker helped her, Wightman said.

"Other than that things went pretty smooth," she said.

Two Washington X voters said they checked for hanging chads on their ballots before turning them in and found none.

"I personally checked mine and it punched the number I wanted," said Heather Baarlaer of Washington Twp.

Rates that high show something must have gone wrong, said Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist from the University of Virginia. Undercounts during presidential elections are typically between 1 percent and 2 percent, he said.

"It is very difficult to believe that a quarter of the people would not vote for president, especially in a year like this," Sabato said. "If I were the election officers in those areas I would be doing some very extensive checks of those machines."

Moraine had the highest presidential undercount of all the county's jurisdictions: 5.6 percent of the 2,557 votes cast in the city's seven precincts had no valid presidential vote. It was followed by Germantown with 3.6 percent undercount, Trotwood with 3.1 percent and Dayton with 2.8 percent. Both Moraine and Germantown supported Bush, with margins of 2 percent and 34 percent respectively, while Trotwood and Dayton went heavily for Kerry by margins of 60 percent and 45 percent.

Back to Keith: "What happened in the voting precincts in Moraine, Ohio? 2,557 votes were cast at seven sites there. The President won the city by 2%. The number of ballots without a valid presidential vote was 5.6%.

"What do the state undercounts in Ohio look like? Did they reduce Bush’s margin of victory? Did they eliminate votes for Kerry? What the hell happened?

The least likely explanations are that these people couldn’t make up their minds, or screwed up only the presidential part of their ballots."


"As the Ohio recount nears, the number of hotspots continues to multiply. You are aware of the remarkable late night voting lines throughout the state, and the mysterious Glitch of Youngstown which initially registered negative 25,000,000 votes. There is the Gahanna machine which gave one presidential candidate 4,000 extra votes in a community of 600. And the farcical “walling off” of the vote counting in Warren County, because the county head of security was told face-to-face of an FBI terrorism warning there - except the FBI says it didn’t issue any terrorism warnings there.

The Associated Press today carries a report of 2,600 ballots in nine precincts around Sandusky, Ohio that were counted twice— as that paper puts it— “likely because of worker error.” The Clyde precinct showed a voter turnout of 131%, to the dismay of the head of the elections board, Barb Tuckerman. Ms. Tuckerman, in one of the great quotes of the election, told the News-Messenger of Fremont, Ohio: “I knew there was something amiss.”