Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Friday, November 26, 2004

Three weeks (and two days) later

If you're first discovering this site through the magic of Kausfiles, welcome. I'm feeling it's time for a where-we're-at check-in for all readers. So here are where things are as of today.

- While they're avoiding anything looking like they themselves are requesting a recount, the Kerry Edwards campaign has started raising funds specifically for legal costs and recount costs on their website. (Update: Someone emailed us that this GELAC link has been on the K-E website since Election Day. I, however, for what it's worth, am not sure that's right -- I'd made several visits to since Election Day (y'know, out of nostalgia, loneliness, an interest to relive some of those foreign policy speech barnburners), and only came across the prominently placed GELAC link within the last week or so. But I'm open to the idea that I'm wrong. Corroboration?)

They have sent a hoard of lawyers to Ohio -- though not, as far as I can tell, to Florida or any other state -- on what they have strenuously described as a "fact-finding" mission.

They have also said that while they have not requested a recount, if a recount goes forward -- as it seems that it likely will, at the behest of Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Party Presidential Candidate David Cobb -- the Kerry Edwards campaign would participate in supporting that recount.

That recount will probably not begin until after December 6, when the votes in Ohio have to be certified. The Electoral College meets on December 13 to vote, but their votes are not "revealed" until the new year, by the newly sworn in Congress.

John Kerry sent an email statement to supporters last week reaffirming that he is committed to every vote being counted. His sending out an email is fairly big news, in that it acknowledges concerns and questions. You don't send an email out saying that dog bites man.

Ohio is not a state that made use of touchscreen voting. It is, however, a state that made use of technology created by Diebold and other companies to count and tabulate optical scan ballots, which make up a significant minority of Ohio voting (the rest being our old friends, punch ballots). Those computer systems have been proven to be easily hacked into; whether they actually were hacked in, there's no evidence, but one thing that all this talk has created is the awareness that even if the vote wasn't hacked, it could have been, and easily, and, y'know, let's fix that.

It's clear that the Kerry campaign is walking a tightrope -- making it clear that they acknowledge the discrepancies and unexplained irregularities from November 2, while not wanting to appear in any way like sore losers, but still seeking to ensure that the vote count from November 2 is as accurate as possible.

The provisional ballots for the first 50,000 provisional ballots counted have broken slightly for Bush, but the largest (read: urban; read: Kerry) counties have yet to submit their results, and there are probably 80,000 more votes left to tabulate, given that there were 150,000+ provisional ballots and about 80% of those were accepted.

- 13 (or maybe 14 if Rep. Schakowsky of Illinois signed on) Democratic congressional representatives -- including the ranking members of several of the most important committees in the House -- have called for a General Accounting Office investigation into the irregularities and aberrations in Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana, and elsewhere. The GAO this week announced that they will indeed hold a non-partisan investigation, focusing on voting technologies and glitches, and not, for example, exit poll discrepancies or suppression stories. This helps to legitimize and publicize the issue of the irregularities.

- In New Hampshire, Ralph Nader successfully filed for a recount in a small number of the Granite State's 88 wards (or parishes) where Bush seemed to do anomalously well, particularly in urban areas. These were wards that employed Diebold and other electronic technologies, not for touchscreen voting machines that leave no paper trail, but instead with optical scan ballot systems that do leave a paper trail, with Diebold manufacturing the machines that tabulate the ballots. However, in the first few wards to be recounted, the hand recount has not provided much difference at all between the original machine-tabulated totals.

- The Survey Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley, led by sociology professor and member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Michael Hout, published a paper entitled "The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections." The paper suggested the following: Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President George W. Bush in Florida. Compared to counties with paper ballots, counties with electronic voting machines were significantly more likely to show increases in support for President Bush between 2000 and 2004. This effect cannot be explained by differences between counties in income, number of voters, change in voter turnout, or size of Hispanic/Latino population. In Broward County alone, President Bush appears to have received approximately 72,000 excess votes. The paper also suggested that the researchers had run similar tests with Ohio and had not found such irregularities.

- There has still not been suitable explanation for several other situations and glitches in Ohio, including in Warren County, where local authorities locked the press and others out of the vote-counting area, claiming terrorist alert concerns that the FBI denies having made. (The county was a heavy source of Bush votes, and just recently the Cincinatti Enquirer reported that the lockdown plan had been, in fact, made several days before commissioners had previously said that it had been decided.) Or the curious case of Franklin County, where a glitch in tabulation gave George W. Bush an extra 4,000 votes. There have also been computer glitches reported in North Carolina and Indiana, two states which, while never considered swing states, helped solidify Bush's margin in the popular vote. (Though one plausible explanation for Bush's popular vote margin is that his choice to advertise on national cable -- while Kerry focused only on swing states -- helped him build larger leads from 2000 in non-swing red states, as well as do better in non-swing blue states where Kerry advertising was also nowhere to be found.)

- News coverage has varied, and the lack of coverage from the press has been surprising. Aaron Brown did do a piece on CNN this week on the irregularities and questions, the NY Times did run an editorial a week ago saying that answers were necessary, and the GAO investigation did get some play in the newspapers. But other than Salon and MSNBC, most news sources have avoided much coverage except for debunking the early irregularity rumors -- of exit poll discrepancies and of Democratic counties in Florida voting for Bush, the latter being debunked easily when those Dixiecrat counties were also shown to have supported Dole in '96 and Bush in '00. There has been a surprising lack of coverage of the Hout Paper from Berkeley, in which respected, experienced professors in statistical analysis deemed that something was very off in Florida and required further investigation. The more prominent sites of the blogosphere have been similarly cold to cover the irregularities, save for Kausfiles.

Further details about all the above can be read below in previous posts. The story isn't over, not by a long shot. The Ohio recount will be starting December 6, and the GAO Investigation will be under way. It is not yet clear whether officials in Florida will respond in any way to the Hout Paper from Berkeley. And it will be interesting to see what the next steps of the junior senator from Massachusetts will be.

In the meantime, hope you all are having a happy Thanksgiving. Keep visiting for further updates.

Oh, and the Dylan autobiography is, it turns out, a really good read. Who knew?