Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

BREAKING NEWS: Recounts in Nevada and New Mexico Being Sought!

And even the Washington Post is covering it. The recount effort is being paid by a 527 organization called the Help America Recount Fund, but being done in the name, again, of Badnarik and Cobb.

Now, I have not heard of many stories of irregularities in Nevada and New Mexico.

In fact, from much of what I've read, Nevada had one of the better run/conducted elections in the country, a model for other states.

That said, the totals/margins in both of those states were slim -- a slimmer 6,000 or so in New Mexico (a difference of .8 percent of the total vote, well within many states' percentage threshold for an automatic recount) than a 21,500 margin or so in Nevada.

I have yet to see case made for a recount in Nevada. I'd be interested in what the rationale of the Cobb and Badnarik people for a Nevada recount is, given that there were states that Bush eeked out a win with a smaller margin, namely Iowa where the margin of victory was less than 1% with a margin of 10,059.

Update: I'm wrong -- Nevada was the site of one of the "Republican groups caught destroying Democratic registration documents" situations.

SF Chronicle on voting reform

Excellent overview piece by Wyatt Buchanan in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle on the push for Ohio recount and voting reform.

Jesse opines about Ohio

Here's Jesse Jackson's op-ed piece from today's Chicago Sun-Times. He adroitly starts with describing the dire situation... in the Ukraine. Highlights:

Ohio is this election year's Florida. The vote in Ohio decided the presidential race, but it was marred by intolerable, and often partisan, irregularities and discrepancies. U.S. citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in. Consider:

In Ohio, a court just ruled there can't be a recount yet, because the vote is not yet counted. It's three weeks after the election, and Ohio still hasn't counted the votes and certified the election. Some 93,000 overvotes and undervotes are not counted; 155,000 provisional ballots are only now being counted. Absentee ballots cast in the two days prior to the election haven't been counted.

Ohio determines the election, but the state has not yet counted the vote. That outrage is made intolerable by the fact that the secretary of state in charge of this operation, Ken Blackwell, holds -- like Katherine Harris of Florida's fiasco in 2000 -- a dual role: secretary of state with control over voting procedures and co-chair of George Bush's Ohio campaign. Blackwell should recuse himself so that a thorough investigation, count and recount of Ohio's vote can be made.

Blackwell reversed rules on provisional ballots in place in the spring primaries. These allowed voters to cast provisional ballots anywhere in their county, even if they were in the wrong precinct, reflecting the chief rationale for provisional ballots: to ensure that those who went to the wrong place by mistake could have their votes counted. The result of this decision -- why does this not surprise? -- was to disqualify disproportionately ballots cast in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County.

Blackwell also permitted the use of electronic machines that provided no paper record. The maker of many of these machines, the head of Diebold Co., promised to deliver Ohio for Bush. In one precinct in Franklin County, an electric voting system gave Bush 3,893 extra votes out of a total of 638 votes cast.

Blackwell also presided over a voting system that resulted in quick, short lines in the dominantly Republican suburbs, and four-hour and longer waiting lines in the inner cities. Wealthy precincts received ample numbers of voting machines and numerous voting places. Democratic precincts received inadequate numbers of machines in too few polling places that were often hard to locate; this caused daylong waits for the very working people who could least afford the time.

In Ohio, as in Florida and Pennsylvania, there was a stark disconnect between the exit polls and the tabulated results, with the former favoring John Kerry and the latter George Bush. The chance of this occurring in these three states, according to Professor Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, is about 250 million to 1.

In one of dozens of examples, Ellen Connally, an African-American Supreme Court candidate running an underfunded race at the bottom of the ticket, received over 257,000 more votes than Kerry in 37 counties. She ran better than Kerry in the areas of the state where she wasn't known and didn't campaign than she did where she was known and did campaign.

There should be a federal investigation of the vote count in Ohio, with the partisan secretary of state removing himself from the scene.

In Cleveland, as in Kiev, Ukraine, citizens have the right to know that the election is run fairly and every vote counted honestly. Citizens have the right to nonpartisan election officials. Citizens have the right to voting machines that keep a paper record and allow for an independent audit and recount.

This country needs no more Floridas and Ohios. This shouldn't be a partisan issue. We call for a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote for all U.S. citizens and to empower Congress to establish federal standards and nonpartisan administration of elections. Harris and Blackwell are insults to the people they represent, and stains upon the president whose election they sought to ensure. Democracy should not be for export only.

One problem: I was under the impression that Blackwell tabled the use of electronic voting machines until 2008, that Ohio will have the punchcard ballots and optical scan ballots. (The machines made to scan the optican scan ballots are made by Diebold, but I think Jesse got the facts about the touchscreen machines wrong here.) And I think Jackson makes a mistake in lending much faith in exit poll discrepancies or the Freeman report.

But give this to Jesse -- the guy does know how to write. That last paragraph is a doozie.

BREAKING NEWS: Kerry-Edwards campaign lawyers join Greens and Libs in trying to overturn Delaware County judge's ruling

A few conservative sites we've seen have claimed that what they have seen as a shrinking interest/involvement by the Kerry Edwards campaign in recount activities indicates that the Ohio recount and questions about irregularities are a dead issue.

That's a very nice thought.

But I wonder, then, what to make of this. Where after attorneys for Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb asked a federal court judge to turn over a Delaware County judge's restraining order preventing a recount in Delaware County, Attorneys representing the Kerry-Edwards campaign filed papers in Delaware County to intervene, adding their voice to defend Cobb and Michael Badnarik's efforts at a recount.

The issue here being, should a state election for Presidential electors be under federal jursidiction? Mongo say yes yes.

Regardless, I can't imagine the Kerry-Edwards lawyers would be joinng in and filing papers in Delaware County today if they had decided that it wasn't a worthwhile issue to get a recount in all the counties. So much for the Kerry-Edwards are running away from the recount theory.

Ohio provisional totals update

With 75 of 88 counties reporting, including Democratic stronghold Cuyahoga (where only 2/3rd of provisionals were accepted, compared to a 78% rate statewide), the totals for the provisionals are:

Bush +46,847
Kerry +52,126

At about 99,000 provisional votes, this means that only about 10-20,000 provisional ballots remain to be counted. And right now, Kerry has cut Bush's margin down by only 6,000 votes. Bringing Bush to something like 125,000 ahead of Kerry. Or so.

Monday, November 29, 2004

You think it's easy to keep coming up with Ohio headlines?

Activists continue to challenge Ohio ballots, says this AP story being run -- and given a link on the splash page -- of (The link on the splash page says that challenges are "mounting." Now there's an encouraging gerund!) The lede graph:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Nearly a month after John Kerry conceded Ohio to President Bush, complaints and challenges about the balloting are mounting as activists including the Rev. Jesse Jackson demand closer scrutiny to ensure the votes are being counted on the up-and-up.

Jackson has been holding rallies in Ohio in recent days to draw attention to the vote, and another critic plans to ask the state Supreme Court this week to decide the validity of the election.

It gets better.

Jackson said too many questions have been raised to let the vote stand without closer examination.

"We can live with winning and losing. We cannot live with fraud and stealing," Jackson said Sunday at Mount Hermon Baptist Church.

I know that our friend Dirty Harry says that Jesse just wants to be in the headlines, but c'mon, Harry, Jesse hasn't been in headlines for a couple of years. It's nice to have him back, especially given that, unlike Reverend Al, Jesse has actually a record of standing up for some good things when some Democrats have been shy to do so. (Please, let this not be an invitation for a discussion of the heinous Hymietown incident.)

What's the big news here? Apparently, a group called Alliance for Democracy plans to file a "contest of election." The request requires a single Supreme Court justice to either let the election stand, declare another winner or throw the whole thing out. The loser can appeal to the full seven-member court, which is dominated by Republicans 5-2.

That's the Ohio Supreme Court, mind you. Yes, I know, when I first read it, I was getting pumped for J. P. Stevens or David Souter to throw Ohio out, too.

There's a Blackwell spokesperson saying there were irregularities, but not more so than usual. (Great! That's an encouraging statement!) There's mention of the Franklin County/Gahanna machine glitch. Then there's mention of the undercount. Then there's Jesse's admittedly terrific metaphor for Blackwell's Katharine Harris like position of co-chair of the Bush in Ohio efforts, calling for Blackwell to recuse himself from recount matters. "You can't be chairman of the Bush campaign and then be the chief umpire in the seventh game of the World Series," Jackson said.

More on the John, Errr, Ellen Connally Theory

The last couple of days, I couldn't help but notice that the same names seem to emerge in the last forty or fifty years of American conspiracies. Just yesterday, we were talking about Lorain County in Ohio... which shares its name, albeit spelled differently, from the motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was shot.

Now, in the latest Ohio irregularity to emerge -- thanks in no small part due to the megaphone-like announcement of the Reverend Jackson -- we have a Connally theory. Spelled differently. Not involving the late Governor of Texas who happened to be sitting in the same convertible on that awful day in Dallas, but instead, involving a retired African-American judge named C. Ellen Connally who received a net 45,000 more votes in Butler County relative to her Republican opponent than Kerry did relative to his -- and this for a black judge from Cleveland in a conservative, rural county on the Indiana border, 40 miles north of Kentucky. Not exactly the Dixiecrat choice. Oh, and in an election year when the Republican candidates in the three Supreme Court races raised 40% more in official campaign funds.

So, it's a little weird. And did I mention that Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln and Lincoln's secretary was named -- sorry.

We've been a little too busy at our day job today to get too far into it -- but thankfully, Rodger Payne, political scientist from nearby Louisville, has picked up the slack in looking at the Connally strangeness.

Update: We originally had an email Rodger sent us, but now he's posted to his own blog about it, with a few minor corrections:

Note also that Bob Fertik raised the issue on on November 22. He even has a link to a spreadsheet, though I didn't open it. Michael Froomkin links to another partisan blogger who has addressed the issue as well.

Specifically, the controversy concerns the vote totals earned by C. Ellen Connally in the four SW Ohio counties. Connally was running as a Democrat for Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice. In some counties, she did much better versus her Republican incumbent opponent than did Senator John Kerry against his.

Connally is an African American woman from Cleveland who was running against Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. I found a website apparently dedicated to impeaching Moyer, but it seems to be a dead link. The complaint can found on a broader court watch website, but the charges are marshalled by a single individual from Columbus. I couldn't really find any other reason for Moyer's relative weakness as a candidate.

In any event, Moyer won the race fairly handily, 53.4% to 46.6%. Bush, by contrast, won by only 51% to 48.5% over Kerry. Well, those are the totals until the provisional and absentee ballots are added to the totals, apparently tomorrow.

The Moyer-Connally results were reported as 2.3 million to 2 million as recently as November 17.

For some time, the Presidential contest in Ohio has been reported as 2,796,000 Bush to 2,660,000 Kerry. Note that Bush beat Moyer by nearly half a million votes and Kerry outpolled Connally by 660,000 votes. In other words, as per usual, the presidential candidates received many more votes -- and Kerry did better relative to his Republican incumbent foe than did Connally.

So what was Jackson talking about?

To get the latest data, I looked at the Butler County, Warren County, and Clermont County websites. In these suburban Cincy counties,the Dem candidate for Chief Justice polled better than Kerry did, even as the Rep candidate for Chief Justice got significantly fewer votes than Bush did. Put simply, Connally actually got more votes than Kerry in one of the most Republican areas of the state -- far from her Cleveland geographic base:

Butler results (with rounding):
Bush 109,900, Kerry 56,200
Moyer 68,400 Connally 61,600

Warren County results (with rounding):
Bush 68,000 Kerry 26,000
Moyer 45,000 Connally 28,500

Clermont County results (with rounding):
Bush 62,900 Kerry 25,900.
Moyer 43,600 Connally 30,000.

These are true anamolies. Look at the rest of Ohio's results and you cannot readily find similar oddities.

Warren, by the way, was the security "lockdown" county. Election officials cited terrorism concerns and closed the count to the media on election night.

How did Moyer lose 40K Republican votes in Butler County while Connally gained 5K over Kerry? Strange.

In Warren, Moyer lost 23K Republican votes, Connally gained 2.5K votes.

In Clermont, Moyer lost nearly 20K votes compared to Bush, Connally gained over 4K.

It seems very odd to me (and to the various observers noted above) that Connally did substantially better than Kerry in terms of absolute votes in these three Republican counties.

In "net" win-loss terms, tens of thousands of Republican voters in these heavily Republican counties apparently ignored their judicial candidate (on a night when gay marriage and judicial activism was apparently on their minds), while thousands of Democrats actually liked their top judicial candidate more than they liked Kerry.

On paper, it looks like many tens of thousands of votes might have been attributed to the wrong person. Remember how the Indiana voting machine gave straight Democratic votes to the Libertarians? Something like that might have been at work.

It's the kind of oddity, when paired with the weird exit poll results, suggest a need to recount the Ohio votes. If a vote for one candidate is accidentally given to his or her opponent, then that's a two vote swing. A margin of, say, 136,000 votes could be reversed if merely 68,000 votes statewide were misallocated.

Hamilton County has not yet updated its election night results. The "old" early November data for Hamilton shows a somewhat similar oddity, though Connally didn't get more votes than Kerry. She did, however, do much better relative to Moyer than Kerry did against Bush. Thousands of "net" votes better...

In Hamilton County, Moyer lost 5 Bush votes to every 3 Kerry votes Connally lost. Bush won Hamilton County over Kerry 215,600 to 191,000; Moyer won over Connally by 168,300 to 160,000. This one seems more plausible to me than the suburban results, but they do seem a bit mystifying. In the other two Supreme Court races, the R outpolled the D in Hamilton by an average of about 80,000 votes. The Rs got roughly 200,000 votes to the D's 120,000. The same trends were apparent in Butler County, where the R justice candidates won nearly 2-1, and in both Clermont and Warren counties, where the Rs won by about 70-30 margins.

Why was Connally so apparently strong in Republican areas far from her geographic base?

Statewide, Kerry not only outpolled Connally by 660,000, he also won a substantially higher percent of the vote. Why would Connally do so much better, relative to Kerry, in the heavily Republican area of the state...and so much better than the other Dem judicial candidates?

In Cuyahoga County which Kerry won by about 2-1 (66% to 32%), Connally won by only 60-40. That's her geographic base and she did not do as well as Kerry. Indeed, she received 145,000 fewer votes there while Moyer got only 16,000 fewer than Bush.

Republicans might be interested in these results, of course, because it could be that votes for Moyer were actually given to Connally.

Something seems to be odd.

Odd, or maybe a little rotten. These are good questions!

Jesse takes Ohio... and a weird, new irregularity

It's alive, it's alive, says Keith Olbermann in his latest blog post.

Jesse Jackson has thrown himself into the thick of it in Ohio. "'John Kerry supports a full investigation' of the voting irregularities in Ohio, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told reporters Saturday before he began two days of rallies in the state to push for an investigation - and a recount. 'I talked with John Kerry last night (Friday), and he supports the investigation,' The Chicago Sun-Times further quoted Jackson. 'His lawyers are observing it closely.'"

More than that, there's a new weird Ohio irregularity that has yet to be explained. More from Keith:

Well, evidently Rev. Jackson can observe the body twitching even if the rest of us are still where we were when Senator Kerry made his direct-to-video, M.C. Escher drawing of a statement: “regardless of the outcome of this election.” We’re scratching our heads with one hand, and wanting to use the other to poke the tall, supine creature with a stick to see if it really is alive.

Several reporters on Saturday’s conference call asked about the event that ensured the mainstream media silence that has been roundly mistaken as a “lock-down”: Senator Kerry’s concession speech on November 3rd.

“Kerry was inclined to believe what he was told,” begins Jackson’s quote in The Cincinnati Enquirer, “and he was told the election was over. But now we’re unearthing information that did not surface at first. I suppose the more information Kerry gets, the more you will hear from him.”

In his news conference and at his rally Sunday in Columbus, Jackson hit the now-familiar main points of the Ohio inquiry. He called the disconnect between exiting polling and actual voting “suspicious,” invoked the infamous Multiplying Voting Machine of Gahanna, cited the Warren County lockdown, and criticized Kenneth Blackwell’s dual role as Ohio’s Secretary of State (and thus its chief electoral official) and as Co-Chairman of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign there. Love him or hate him, Rev. Jackson still has the knack for perfect imagery. “We need to investigate, coordinate, litigate, recount and recuse. Mr. Blackwell cannot be both the owner of the team and the umpire.”

But Keith has buried the lede:

Jackson may or may not have also introduced a new rotting fish into the pile of evidence that suggests Ohio did a very lousy job of running an election four weeks ago. “We don’t want to be presumptuous, but these numbers in Butler, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties are suspicious.” Jackson refers in part to what several voters’ groups see as the incongruity of an underfunded Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, C. Ellen Connally, getting a net 45,000 more votes in Butler County relative to her Republican opponent than Kerry did relative to his. She finished ahead of her party’s presidential nominee by 10,000 net votes or more in five Ohio counties; by 5,000 or more in ten others.

It is not unprecedented for a statewide candidate - especially a popular, well-publicized one - to finish “ahead of the ticket.” But Connally was a retired African-American judge from Cleveland, and Butler County is as about as far away from Cleveland (on the Indiana border, and 40 miles north of Kentucky) as you can get and still be in Ohio. Moreover, The Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that the Republican candidates in the three Supreme Court races raised 40% more in official campaign funds than did Connally and the other Democrats. The Toledo Blade showed that the fund-raising, and thus visibility, was far more lopsided than even the party documents would suggest: “Citizens for a Strong Ohio, a nonprofit arm of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, raised $3 million to fund TV and radio ads that gave the winners exposure Democrats couldn't match,” the newspaper reported on November 4th.

The fun continues throughout the Buckeye State. The Cincinnati Post Saturday quoted Chairman Tim Burke of the Hamilton County Board of Elections as saying that approximately 400 of the 3,000 provisional ballots invalidated in his jurisdiction were thrown out for an extraordinary reason. In some cases, one polling place served more than one voting precinct - and though they were in the correct building, voters were disqualified because they got in the wrong line. “400 voters were in the right place,” Burke says, “but not at the right table.” The newspaper says Burke plans to object to those disqualifications when Hamilton County meets Tuesday to certify its vote.

Other discarded provisional ballots will be sued over. Cuyahoga County tossed a third of all its provisionals, and a group called ‘The People for the American Way Foundation’ filed Friday for a writ of mandamus against Secretary of State Blackwell in the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals, asking the court to order Blackwell to notify each of the 8,099 disqualified voters and afford them the opportunity to contest their disenfranchisement.

And lastly, though he legally has until December 6 to certify the Ohio vote, Cincinnati television station WCPO reported Sunday that Blackwell is in fact expected to do so on Wednesday of this week.

Yes, whether it's "mathematically impossible" or not for John Kerry to win this -- and it only is likelyl impossible if we accept the tabulations up until now as legitimate -- every vote should be counted. And every irregularity should be explained.


We had already explained the "Heavily Democrat counties in Northern Florida voted heavily for Bush" phenomenon, a couple of weeks back, by affirming that those conservative Democrat counties -- Dixiecrat counties -- had gone for Dole in '96 and Bush in 2000.

But just in case anyone is still skeptical about those Northern Florida counties, the Miami Herald held an independent vote count that confirmed Bush's win in Northern Florida.

Last week, The Miami Herald went to see for itself whether Bush's steamroll through North Florida was legitimate. Picking three counties that fit the conspiracy theory profile - staunchly Democratic by registration, whoppingly GOP by voting - two reporters counted more than 17,000 ballots over three days.

The conclusion: No conspiracy.

The newspaper's count of optical scan ballots in Suwannee, Lafayette and Union counties showed Bush whipping Sen. John Kerry in a swath of Florida where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-1.

The newspaper found minor differences with the official results in each county, most involving a smattering of ballots that had been discarded as unreadable by optical scan machines but in which reporters felt the voter intent was clear.

Under the optical scan system, voters fill in an oval or darken an arrow by a candidate's name on a card. A machine reads the card optically.

Wrinkles aside, the Herald count confirmed that Bush's message sold in a part of the state where many voters may be Democratic by registration only.

"They're not going to vote for a Northeast liberal," summarized Lafayette County Judge Harlow Land, director of the county canvassing board.

Kerry had solidly won the battle in South Florida, where touch-screen machines do not create a ballot paper trail that can be checked. But Bush won the war in Florida by dominating elsewhere, particularly in the 52 counties that use optical scan ballots, which can be checked for accuracy.

Republicans had often done fairly well in those counties, but this year more so.

And it was on those counties that the critics focused. Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 340,000 voters in the 52 optical scan counties, but Bush took them by about 340,000 votes - a 680,000-vote swing that assured him of winning the White House.

The Herald total: 3,393 votes for Bush and 1,272 for Kerry. There were 15 votes that couldn't clearly be counted.

The official Union County total: 3,396 votes for Bush, 1,251 for Kerry and a few dozen that couldn't be counted.

"The difference is in the under-over votes," Montpetit explained. The Herald concluded voter intent in a couple of dozen cases that optical scan readers could not discern.

The rest of the article is a good read.

But as the Hout Report and others have shown, the question is not Northern Florida and hasn't been for some time. The question is Southern Florida, in the touch-screen counties. Counties like Broward and Palm Beach that, though Kerry won the counties, experienced abnormally strong Bush turn-out that went against the 2000 experience and all demographic patterns, causing what Hout described as a "smoke alarm" situation meriting attention and answers. Given that Florida was the only "swing state" which experienced such a strong change from 2000's results, there still have not been explanations for Bush's strong performance here. (Our best shot at a plausible, no funny business explanation is that the hurricanes helped Bush. But then again, in 2000, he had the Elian controversy helping him. But then again, in 2000, Lieberman helped the Democrats on the Eastern coast of Florida! But then again, in 2000, Lieberman probably alienated the Redneck Riviera! So confusing!)

Note: We at Rotten Denmark, from what we've read, accept the explanation that one of the reasons for Bush's 3.5 million vote margin can be revealed in comparing Bush's performance in non-swing red and blue states to the swing states.

While, except for Florida, Bush's performance in swing states varied little from 2000 -- he lost New Hampshire and won Iowa and New Mexico, but the margins were slim in 2000 and slim in 2004 -- Bush did significantly better in non-swing red states like Utah and Idaho and non-swing blue states like Connecticut and California than in 2000.

Why? Because while Kerry and the 527s focused all of their advertising dollars on targetted advertising in swing states, Bush aired much of his advertising on national cable. This might have seemed like Bush was paying money to reach lots of voters he didn't need to reach, in states he was either never going to win or had in the bag, but it meant also that people in Utah or upstate New York were seeing many Bush advertisments throughout the campaign season and few Kerry ads, if any. Whether this was conscious or not, who knows -- no doubt Rove would say after the fact is was all part of the plan -- but it did rack up the popular vote totals nationwide for Bush, even though it did not play a part in the electoral vote strategy.

So the theory goes, anyway, and I find it more than plausible.

Cuyahoga at 66%

The Plain Dealer reports that the People for the American Way Foundation filed suit Friday in the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Cleveland against Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Why? Because while most counties in Ohio threw out about 10-15% of their provisional ballots, in Democratic stronghold Cuyahoga, 8,099 ballots out of 24,472 provisional ballots were thrown out -- invalidated. That was, by far, the largest single body of controversial ballots in any of Ohio's 88 counties.

The suit, a mandamus action, asks the court to compel a public official to perform a duty. Blackwell, the suit says, failed to provide clear instructions to poll workers and precinct judges about how to handle the provisional ballots.

"People for the American Way wants the court to order Blackwell and the county elections board to check electronic voter-registration rolls against paper registration records, to notify each voter who cast an invalidated ballot why it was rejected, and to give that person a way to contest the invalidation.

The suit also wants ballots counted if voters cast them in the wrong places and officials failed to send them to the right polling places."

Before the GOP whines again about "activist judges," blah blah blargie doh doh, remind them that they weren't making such complaints on November 2 when they sued to have their pollwatchers present in voting places, despite the seemingly redundant presence of non-partisan pollwatchers in such locations.

Whether he was intentionally perpetuating fraud or not, it's clear that Kenneth Blackwell has done everything in his power to discourage and suppress turnout in key urban precincts.

The Secretary of State of Ohio has one big job: make elections run smoothly. Just as it shouldn't have been a surprise that there was going to be huge voter turn-out, and Blackwell's office inadequately equipped urban precincts with enough voting machines, it shouldn't have been a surprise that there were going to be tons of provisional ballots.

And it shouldn't have been a novel concept that there should have been standards and instructions for all of Ohio's counties in how to count and consider them.

Blackwell already attempted -- after the election! -- to after-the-fact require these ballots to have a date-of-birth listed on them, even though people filling out the ballots weren't told that information was required when they filled them out.

Thankfully, that attempt was blocked. But after the fact, Blackwell succeeded in maintaining that provisional ballots that were submitted in precincts that weren't the voter's original precinct should be thrown out. That's ridiculous. It's easy enough to check and see with the voting records if someone had voted elsewhere, and avoid any double voting shenanigans within one's state.

I said in a post yesterday that I think it's mathematically unlikely that if all the totals we have now are legitimate, John Kerry will find enough votes in provisional ballots and the undercount to win Ohio.

But I think there are far too many questions at this point over the legitimacy of totals to not proceed with a recount.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Is it possible for John Kerry to win Ohio?

Dirty Harry says it ain't, or, if not impossible, it's bloody well unlikely even if several things broke John Kerry's way with both provisional ballots and the undercount (punched ballots that, for whatever reason, did not register in the machine recount).

Let's look.

Give this to Harry -- he takes the provisional totals from this blog that's sympathetic to the efforts to explain and reform the irregularities and suppression incidents of November 2. I'm not sure where Ohio Vote Suppression News -- which has done a terrific job compiling county by county news and information -- gets their totals, but as of Saturday, with 65 of 88 counties reporting -- but several larger, urban, Democratic counties not having reported -- we have the following totals:

Bush +36,050
Kerry +32,490

Bush began with a margin of about 130,000 votes, so figure now that he has a lead of 133,500.

The current percentage of provisional ballots which have been accepted by the authorities has been 77%. Note, though, that, since Secretary of State Blackwell did not institute any across-the-state standards for acceptance of provisional ballots, you have a county like Lorain County where only 32% of provisional ballots were accepted. (In Lorain, 702 of the 1,264 provisional ballots rejected were rejected for "improper registration" reasons -- while in nearly all other counties, "the largest percentage of rejected provisionals is due to ballots cast in the wrong precinct. Here, however, these amount to 160 and are apparently not part of the 702." FWIW.) Also Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, has been accepting about 66% of their provisional ballots.

How many provisional ballots, total, were issued in Ohio? According to this website from Blackwell's office, 135,149. But according to this article from the AP, and several other ones I found on Google, there were 155,337 provisional ballots. Given that the rest of the Blackwell site has not been updated -- the results listed here from election night still only reflect 8% of precincts! -- let's take the number 155,337 as the total.

If we take 77% of 155,337, to represent the number of the provisional ballots that were accepted, that gives us 119,609 total accepted provisional ballots. When we subtract the provisional ballots already counted (68,540), that gives us 51,069 ballots yet to be counted.

Let's say that Kerry wins a huge majority of those 51,069 ballots. Let's say he wins 75% of them. (Unlikely, but not impossible, given that many of those outstanding ballots come from urban areas.) Kerry wins 38,302, Bush wins 12,767.

That would then make the provisional ballot results total:

48,817 Bush
70,792 Kerry

Which would give Kerry a margin of 21,975 in the provisional ballot total.

Let's subtract that from Bush's previous margin of 133,500 in the overall vote. That would leave Bush still ahead of Kerry by 111,525 votes after the provisional ballots have been factored into the mix.

But what about the undercount, involving those ballots that do not register a vote for a particular race, often due to machines being unable to read the punch on a punchcard ballot? (Two Dayton precincts, for example, had the strange occurrence of over 27% of their voters not voting for a Presidential candidate; surely there are some voters who don't vote for any Presidential candidate, but 27%?)

If the recount that Badnarik and Cobb have filed for goes through, as I think it will, will a hand recount reveal an undercount that can drag Kerry across the finish line?

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer has reported that there were 92,000 spoiled ballots. Let's say that two thirds of those spoiled ballots go for Kerry, with a third going for Bush. (Surely, a great number of those spoiled ballots will show preference for neither candidate, but let's just play with this for a second.) That gives Kerry 61,333 votes, and Bush 30,667 votes from the undercount, which gives Kerry a margin of about 30,666 within the undercount vote.

That would bring Bush's margin of victory in Ohio to about 80,859 votes. And that's with generously assuming that 75% of the remaining provisional ballots break for Kerry, and generously assuming that Kerry wins two-thirds of the 92,000 spoiled ballots.

Let's push plausibility even further. Let's say that Kerry wins all of the spoiled ballots. Bush would still have a margin of over 20,000 votes.

(Yes, I said in a previous post that I thought Kerry would chop the margin down to 30,000. I was pulling a number out of an orifice whose statistics should not be trusted.)

What does this mean?

It means that if the Plain Dealer's estimate of 92,000 spoiled ballots is accurate, the only way that Ohio is going to end up in John Kerry's column is if a hand recount reveals that there were significant other glitches or irregularities -- accidental or intentional -- in the already tabulated totals that create a shift of 40,000 votes from Bush to Kerry, or where 80,000 votes for Kerry somehow were not tabulated, or where 80,000 votes for Bush that were tabulated did not exist.

How you look at this depends on how much confidence you look upon the systems used to tabulate the votes, and how much confidence you have that a situation like Warren County's lockdown resulted in no funny business at all.

We know that the tabulation system can be hacked, and easily; but did someone actually hack it?

We know that it's strange that Franklin County's glitch on one machine added 4,000 votes to Bush's totals, but do we think that there's a possibility that if one machine had that glitch, there could be other machines that could have done the same thing in the state? (Many have theorized that anyone wanting to commit effective electoral fraud would not focus on individual machines, but the systems that tabulate the vote totals from hundreds of those machines.) All it would take is twenty other systems to have the identical glitch as that Franklin County one for Bush to lose that 80,000 vote margin.

Obviously, those of us pinning any hopes to John Kerry somehow staging the ultimate comeback in December of 2004 have to come to grips with the sheer unlikelihood of that happening. The Red Sox winning the World Series probably filled the quota for the amazing miracles of 2004.

But just as obvious is the fact that should the recount not occur, there were too many strange glitches and irregularities that will go unexplained, and will severly mar the confidence with which we approach the computer systems and technologies with which we conduct the basic execution of democracy.

Have there been enough accidental glitches across the country, consistently favoring George W. Bush, to give one skeptical pause regarding the accuracy of the totals? I believe there have.

Has the Republican Party earned the benefit of the doubt in an election year where they back-channelled money to pay for an advertising campaign that lied in painting a war hero as a war criminal...

where they took RNC dollars to pay for leaflets announcing that the Democrats intended on banning the bible...

where after complaining about activist judges and touting tort reform they sued to have the right to place partisan poll watchers in urban polling places that already had pollwatchers present...

where the wife of the Vice President publicly described the Democratic presidential candidate as "not a good man"...

where the blatant disregard for church and state separation resulted in ignoring churches' tax free status by using churches as political outreach centers far, far, far outdid any outreach the Democrats ever made with black churches in the city...

where within a few months we watched as the rationale for a war shifted from allegations of involvement in 9/11 to funding terrorist activities to producing weapons of mass destruction to controlling the energy supply to simply taking a dictator down...

-- Has the Republican party earned the benefit of the doubt that without a recount in Ohio, given the irregularities present, we can be confident that everything was copasetic, that, yes, nothing was rotten in the state of Denmark?

I believe we cannot.

And that's why we the Ohio recount should go forward.

I ask my Republican friends to support a recount, so as to let George W. Bush serve his second term with no Roger Maris asterisk like that which hovered over his head during his firs termt.

But more importantly, I ask them to support a recount for the love of this country, and the recognition of how fractured it remains. When 20% of the voting population things Bush was not legitimately elected President this time around, let's have a recount to assauge and affirm that nothing went wrong in Ohio -- y'know, beyond the ridiculously long lines in urban polling centers and Republican pollwatchers hovering within the ballotplaces like a relic of Jim Crow.

Let us have the recount so that people can feel sure and confident that our democracy works.

That's what's happened so far in New Hampshire; they've been having the recount, and it's been dispelling worries and affirming the effectiveness of the Diebold systems.

We've watched in the Ukraine this week as people took to the streets in the name of assuring the sanctity of their democracy.

Here in our country, we do not need to take to the streets. All we have to do is support the right of Michael Badnarik and David Cobb's campaigns to register and pay the fees, as dictated by Ohio law, to see a recount take place and earn the assurance that every vote was counted in that state.

Our democracy will only be stronger for it. I certainly support putting up a million dollars for that, given how freely this administration has spent billions in far, far worse pursuits. In a year where the two political campaigns spent half a billion dollars or more, a million dollars is not a huge price to assure Americans the certainty and sanctity of the franchise.

Hamlet vs. Prince Hal

Dirty Harry claims here that Mr. Kaus is getting bad info. We'd beg to differ. The GELAC link on the Kerry website has not been prominently displayed on the splash page of the website for "months." Since November 2, maybe. We're still figuring that out. So there.

Harry predicts that a recount is not a sure thing, since according to his arithmetic, Bush will come out with a lead remaining of 120,000-130,000 once the provisionals are all totalled up, and that even if through a miracle of science Kerry wins all the undervote -- 93,000 votes, according to Harry -- Bush will still lead in Ohio by 30,000 votes. I plan on reviewing this later tonight, after dinner. Really.

"If 100% of the spoiled ballots won't put Kerry over the top, why have a recount?" asks Harry.

Well, unfortunately, Harry, after glitches give 4,000 extra votes to Bush, Republican counties lock down the ballot counting, and there are other widespread stories of vote suppression, a recount is what's going to take to give people confidence in the integrity of the vote. Don't you think it's a problem when 20% of the population doesn't think George W. Bush was legitimately elected President? I sure do, and I don't understand why any Republican wouldn't support a recount, so as to further corroborate the integrity and accuracy of the vote that elected their President.

Look, Ohio has a recount mechanism. There's a law in place, and Badnarik and Cobb and gang are following the law. Harry makes mention of a decision in Delaware County that has stopped the recount there, if only temporarily, but I can't find any other mention of such a development off Google News.

Harry does have a good thread here where his posters start to re-enact the Donner Party, eating each other. Even his GOP-leaning posters can't agree on what Bush's lead will be once a recount is finished and the provisionals have also been totalled up. It's fun reading.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Recount Ohio has been taking ads out on the Cincinnati Enquirer website, among other places. The website is pushing for John Kerry to fight for a nonpartisan recount in Ohio (and, in fact, has a petition to push Kerry and the DNC to get involved), as well as building awareness and mobilize Ohio citizens. The site is also making the not-exactly-illegitimate claim that, due to Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's status as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, he might not be the most neutral, non-partisan figure to oversee any kind of recount effort.

The website also has the details on Ohio's recount procedures:

Any losing nominee or candidate in a primary, general, or special election can request a recount. Also, a group of five or more voters can request a recount on a question or issue. The recount process begins by filing a written application with the Board of Elections of each county in which votes are to be recounted. R.C. 3515.01. The application must be filed within five days after the results were declared. R.C. 3515.02. The application must also list each precinct within the county where votes are to be recounted, and for each precinct a $10 deposit must be paid. R.C. 3515.03.

If the margin of victory of the nominee, candidate, or issue is less than one-half of one percent of the vote, section 3515.011 of the Revised Code triggers an automatic recount in all county, municipal, and district elections. An even slimmer margin —one-fourth of one percent—triggers an automatic recount in a statewide election.

Since Bush won Ohio without as slim a margin as required to have an automatic recount, Badnarik and Cobb, the Libertarian and Green Party presidential candidates, respectively, filed the paperwork and fees to get a recount in place. You might have heard of a judge finding against them last week, but that was only to stop the effort to have the recount begin sooner than December 6, when the votes are certified by the state. No recount will begin until after the vote totals are certified.

But, from all accounts, a complete hand recount will happen, and happen within a week and a half. Wheeee!

Conspirate ships

We've had more than a few readers forward us the Wayne Madsen-written story about a deep conspiracy behind the election that involves everyone except for the Trilaterial Commission and the Parallax Corporation. It didn't pass our credibility meters -- and look, many stories of irregularities and glitches do -- and I'm glad to see that it doesn't pass Keith Olbermann's bullshit detector, either.

Money quote from Keith:

None of this is written to downplay the disturbing nature of the Warren County incident. Nor is it posited even to dismiss the many who see in the various failures of electronic voting around the country nearly four weeks ago not just incompetence, but malfeasance. Hell, if a shred of Mr. Madsen’s story is true, I’ll pay his expenses when he goes to pick up his Pulitzer Prize.

But in a time when serious investigations of what did or didn’t happen on November 2nd are vital to the sanctity of our voting process, reporting - in the mainstream media and on the internet alike - has to be solid and reasoned.

And we agree. Forwarding Madsen's story around only does harm to the considerable questions and investigations involving the November 2 elections that do have merit. Feeding into the notion of the Reynolds Wrap-hat wearing crazies does us little good. There are legitimate questions that need to be answered, just as some have already been answered and debunked. Let's continue that process, pushing for answers, without immediately assuming that every discrepancy can be explained by a deep, dark conspiracy.

Though, really, what was up with that Warren County lockdown?

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?


Provisional Ohio: 100,000 (okay, maybe 80K after they threw some out) left to go!

Here's the latest on the provisional counting in Ohio. With 64 of 88 counties reporting, we have the following results:

Bush +29,285
Kerry +23,947

If you read Kausfiles, it may sound like Bush is shockingly soaring to winning the provisional ballot sweepstakes and cementing his Ohio victory.

But remember that there were 155,000+ provisional ballots, and with almost 80% of provisional ballots reported to have been accepted, that means that those numbers are probably 40% of the total number of accepted provisional ballots.

And also remember that those other 60% of the provisional ballots? They're coming from Ohio's largest counties, including Democratic strongholds like Cuyahoga.

What this does, mean, however, is that Kerry was prescient in the hours before his concession in realizing that he was not going to win Ohio based solely on the provisional vote tally. If Bush did not win a single other vote beyond that 29,285 votes, it would still be impossible for Kerry to surmount the 130,000 gap between him and Bush.

Kerry was prescient in that regard. What he did not expect or know was how many other glitches and irregularities would shake up people's faith in the integrity of the voting process.

But cheer up, Kerry fans. What can possibly happen is that Kerry could still do well enough in the urban counties' provisional ballot counts to chop the margin between him and Bush to 50,000 or so.

Which is at least a smaller margin to surmount by the recount... that won't start until after the votes are certified by December 6. And then, let the chad examination begin!


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Aaron Brown stops the silence

You can't say Keith Olbermann is alone in covering this stuff. Aaron Brown on CNN -- actually, my favorite broadcaster, with objectivity and humor in abundance -- took a step out of the media silence fog last night. (Okay, it wasn't the first time he had discussed the irregularities.)

I missed the actual broadcast, but here's the transcript. You have to go down aways to get there. Oh, hell, here it is:

BROWN: Saw a poll today showing that 80 percent of the country believes the president won the election in a fair vote. The other 20 percent write me. We have no reason to believe the election wasn't fair, but, oddly, we have less than perfect confidence that the votes were counted accurately. No one, we suppose, expects 100 percent accuracy in such things, but how much error is too much error? And perhaps a better question still, will we ever know?

BROWN (voice-over): Bev Harris, a citizen activist who first brought national attention to the problems with voting software, is now in Florida pursuing internal computer records for what she calls a forensic audit.

BEV HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLACKBOXVOTING.ORG: I think we can talk, you know, until the cows come home about what might happen and could happen and what's theoretical, and the best thing we can do is just go get the records and see what did happen.

BROWN: She's not alone. A number of experts are now looking and looking hard at not only fraud, but the possible effects of simple computer error, the kind of dumb mistake that ruined the Hubble telescope and sent Mars missions astray. So how accurate was the 2004 vote count?

DR. REBECCA MERCURI, VOTING TECHNOLOGY EXPERT: Basically, 80 percent of our votes, for the most part, we really don't know. We haven't taken the time to look into it.

BROWN: Some examples. In Franklin County, Indiana, a programming error was applying Democratic votes to the Libertarian Party. After a recount, the winner on election night is now the loser. In North Carolina, over 4,000 ballots are gone forever, lost when a voting machine passed its arbitrary limit. In South Florida, election officials were horrified to see vote totals start counting down after they hit 32,000.

What is even more disturbing, a statistical study done at U.C. Berkeley indicates that there could have been similar counting problems in all Florida counties that use touch-screen voting machines.

MERCURI: The type of testing that you need is really being done at Election Day, as opposed to being done before Election Day.

BROWN: In Washington today, in an office so new you could still smell the carpet glue, the Federal Election Assistance Commission admits it is only beginning the process of creating national standards.

DEFOREST SOARIES, CHAIRMAN, U.S. ELECTION ADVISORY COMMISSION: Every voting machine that was used this year was certified against standards that were 1990 standards.

BROWN: The chairman promises intensive federal audits, audits to guarantee eventually voter confidence.

SOARIES: We're going to go down to the ground on this much further than we've ever gone before. I don't take the opinion, and neither does my commission, that what you don't know won't hurt you.

BROWN: And the debate will go on.

"We have no reason to believe the election wasn't fair." Cough, cough.

That said, a) this kind of break in the media silence is terrific and b) though he doesn't really explain the import of the Berkeley study -- c'mon, Aaron, burying the lede about the 130,000 excess votes? -- he still mentioned it.

For the final word, we'll go to Olbermann on his blog:

Which reminds me that it was mildly encouraging to see some focus given to this entire topic Tuesday night by my old CNN cohort Aaron Brown. A carefully-worded segment included a laundry list of the problems we’ve been reporting on Countdown for the last three weeks, and compared them to “the kind of dumb mistake that ruined the Hubbell telescope.” Brown referenced the UC Berkeley study on the prospect of 130,000 phantom votes in Florida (though he didn’t mention its conclusion that all of them went to President Bush), and even had about fifteen seconds of Blackbox’s Bev Harris and her slog through the computer printout records in Florida.

Whatever your stance on any of this, the media silence has been fairly odd, given how much coverage Specter and DeLay have been receiving.

Zogby calls for investigation

John Zogby made it clear on Countdown that he thinks all the questions about this election have not been explained -- and why 4 out of 5 Americans thinking Bush was elected legitimately is not exactly good news.

“But, Keith, 20 percent don’t think the president is legitimate. And worse yet, if you take the other half, those that didn’t vote for him, about half of the other side doesn’t think the president is legitimate. That just hasn’t existed for a long, long time in our system. We need to restore, I think, some semblance of legitimacy and honor to the system.”

“I think it's in the interests of the nation that we study what happened in this election and widen that, let's study what happened with the exit polls, and let's come out with a definitive conclusions by a blue ribbon panel to restore the legitimacy of this election.”

Zogby thinks he knows the steps to take to do that. The first is for those who are raising questions, to keep doing so. “I can reassure them they’re not crazy for asking. It’s not just those who are far out, it is indeed many respectable, responsible people.” The pollster says he’s heard from thousands of them, asking him to get involved in their various causes and investigations, so many he can’t answer them all.

“I’ll take this opportunity right now to say I think that it’s in the interest of healing this country and restoring some unity to this country for us to have a thorough investigation of what happened both to the election and with the exit polls.” Zogby called for the proverbial blue-ribbon commission into the voting irregularities, and the full release of the exit polling data.

And he encouraged the recounts, even when, as they have in the first three of the nine precincts in New Hampshire, they have varied by just fifteen votes from the original count. The second tally in Ohio, Zogby says, “certainly is useful, but I don't think its enough…I called this election for months the Armageddon election, and in that context, one of the things that we discovered throughout our polling was the fact that there were going to be significant numbers, on both sides who were not going to accept the legitimacy of the other guy winning, especially if it was close election.”

Do they have reason? With three weeks’ reflection, he’s not convinced there was an altered vote - accidental or otherwise - at least not on “a grand scale.” But Zogby says the “system is not geared for a close election like this” and if “many millions of people… don’t think that their vote was counted accurately,” the results are almost as bad as if an election was rigged, or decided by static charges in a thousand computers.

New Hampshire recount update

While most of the eyes of those who follow irregularities have been trained on Ohio and Florida, Ralph Nader has been focused on New Hampshire, where he raised funds to pay for recounts in a few wards in the Granite State that seemed to experience anomalous turn-outs in support of Bush and which also utilized electronic voting systems to tabulate optical scan ballots.

A New Hampshire recount -- in a state which Kerry won, and a state where a reversal of electoral votes would make no impact on the Presidential election -- was about verifying the integrity of the technology we are quickly employing in the mechanics of our democracy.

Russ Baker reports in the Nation on the progress so far in Concord. Baker describes the recount as focusing on "precincts where results went strikingly against current statewide trends and past localized ones: a kind of under-the-hood check of the controversial private-sector machinery that increasingly drives the ballot-counting process and has drawn the skeptical scrutiny of activists throughout the country."

The results so far? They would, as Baker notes, "reassure the most skeptical among us that Diebold's much-criticized optical-scanning machines (35 percent of votes nationally are now opscan-counted) do a surprisingly good job of reading hand-marked ballots."

In the two wards where official recounts were posted, the vote totals hardly changed at all. In Litchfield, both Bush and Kerry gained three votes--precious little out of more than 5,000 ballots cast. In Manchester's Ward 7, with a similar number of voters, Bush's total remained the same, while Kerry picked up three.

Baker commends the recount as an exercise which reveals both what's good about our voting system and what needs to be fixed.

His piece also includes descriptions like this, a rare scene of Republicans and Democrats working together:

There's something reassuring about watching a trio of Democratic, Republican and Naderite observers intensely scrutinizing document after document and broadly agreeing with each other on the intentions of each voter. In addition, the monotonous seriousness of the undertaking is frequently relieved by evidence of the determined individuality of the American voter--the write-in votes for "God," the straight-ticket Republican voter who deviated only to write in Ralph Nader's name and the editorialist who left Bush's name alone but pointedly and emphatically crossed out Cheney's.

Punctuating the hushed, at times reverent atmosphere of the counting hall in a nondescript corner room in New Hampshire's low-security Legislative Office Building is the occasional ejaculation "Object!" by an official observer who has found fault with an incorrectly or ambiguously marked ballot. The fate of these challenged documents is generally left to the seasoned eye of the secretary of state, in this case New Hampshire's William Gardner, a fourteen-term Democrat who is widely respected and appears studiously fair. Of course, the objectivity of the process will depend greatly on local conditions. In Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, many questioned the neutrality of election officials who were also self-avowed partisans.

Baker says that New Hampshire has important lessons to offer:

- New Hampshire refuses to use any technology that doesn't leave a paper trail, eschewing the black box touch-screens that -- I didn't realize this -- record the votes of 29% of Americans. Every New Hampshire voter fills out a paper ballot, which is then counted with optican scanners. "Transparency is the only way to go," Baker says. This means that as long as a candidate can afford to pay for a recount, the citizens of New Hampshire can be confident that their votes will be properly counted. Florida citizens can't have the same confidence in the integrity of their system, given how many counties use the touch-screen technology down there.

- This has affirmed the role thirty parties can play. "Only a candidate can ask for a recall. With Bush having no incentive to do so, and Kerry having no interest in contesting the results in a state he won, there would be no advocate for accountability if Ralph Nader had not been in the race."

New Hampshire isn't without its problems -- the straight-GOP ticket has always been listed first on the ballot, and "numerous studies have found that ballot sequence determines preference in enough cases to make a decisive difference, especially in close races." And even having the "Straight-vote system" -- where in voting "Straight Democratic," all unmarked specific races are assigned to that party's candidate -- creates problems, as all unmarked spaces are assumed to be votes for the favored party. After marking "Straight GOP," if you try to vote for a Democrat elsewhere on the ballot, it doesn't register.

But the real question remaining: if the recount isn't, so far, showing any problems with the technology, then why did Bush get suspiciously high amounts of votes in urban Democratic precincts in New Hampshire?

Russ Baker's explanation: "although many of those urban Bush voters were Democrats, they were socially conservative, and many were Catholics who had been targeted by implicitly anti-Kerry letters from their bishop and leafleting campaigns in church parking lots."

Besides, "in other precincts, Kerry did fairly well among moderate Republicans who couldn't stomach Bush but who were not especially socially conservative."

So is everything A-OK in New Hampshire? Not completely, no.

"The hand count of a third precinct showed roughly 100 fewer presidential votes than the optical-scan machines had, and will likely have to be recounted yet again. And in a fourth one, a local Republican candidate being recounted was awarded 105 more votes than he had before. Was the problem Diebold or somebody in the counting room? The answer will soon be clear."

Another recount in Washington?

The machine recount, mandated by law in Washington State for tight margin elections, has resulted in Dino Rossi's margin falling from 261 to 42 votes.

Yes, that's 42 votes out of 3 million cast.

Christine Gregoire's campaign is talking about a recount. My first reaction was, c'mon, you can't just keep demanding recounts until you get a result you like. Concede, give it up.

Except here's the thing: machines recounted the votes that they counted the first time, and that wound up with a change in 200 votes. So much for machines being error-free.

Hand recounts -- however costly they are -- provide a result people in which people can feel confident. Especially when the machine recount results in a 200 vote difference from the first machine count. We haven't had a hand recount yet.

(Did I mention that this story should, once again, emphasize the importance of having a paper trail?)

That said, when Christine Gregoire's campaign talks about only aiming their efforts to a few counties, I start to cringe. However much more money it might mean, I think that if there are going to be hand recounts, they ought to be statewide, and not just favoring the pick-and-choose districts that might favor a particular candidate. If you're going to recount King County, then recount the counties in the conservative eastern part of the state, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Warren County Lockdown update

Here's the latest from Erica Solvig at the Cincinatti Enquirer, who has been tenaciously covering the curious case of Warren County, Ohio, where the press and others were locked out from the ballot counting, citing a terrorist concern and "an increased threat"; this was later contradicted by Federal and local homeland security officials who said there was no such evidence of any increased threat or need for concern

"County Commissioner Pat South has said the decision to lock the doors election night was made during an Oct. 28 closed-door meeting (the Thursday before Election Day).

But in e-mailed memos dated Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 - released Monday after an Enquirer public records request - other county officials were already detailing the security measures, down to the wording of signs that would be posted on the locked doors."



GAO speaks!

There was this press release on the GAO website, dated yesterday:

Statement of the Comptroller General on Election-Related Matters November 23, 2004

GAO has received a number of comments pertaining to the recent national election processes. In the past, GAO has conducted a range of federal elections-related work, including broad-based systemic reviews primarily focusing on issues relating to federal election requirements and technologies. We also have ongoing and planned work relating to systemic election issues, involving reviews of voter registration processes, provisional voting, and voting technologies. In addition, GAO has reviewed federal entities charged with overseeing various aspects of election-related activities. For example, we recently issued a report on actions taken by the Department of Justice to investigate and pursue violations of federal laws related to voting irregularities emanating from prior national elections.

1 You may obtain copies of our published election-related reports on this web site. While GAO has and will continue to do certain elections-related work, we are not authorized to engage in enforcement efforts relating to specific allegations of voting irregularities. Under the nation’s legal framework, elections are a matter largely reserved to, and regulated by, the states.

2 Thus, many of the issues relating to the recent election are primarily the responsibility of state and local jurisdictions, since they involve the implementation of state law and regulation. As a result, general questions concerning these issues, as well as specific allegations of voting irregularities, should be addressed to state and local officials, such as the Secretary of State or the State Attorney General.

Congress has, however, asserted its prerogatives under the Elections Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1) to impose certain procedural requirements on federal elections through such federal statutes as the Help America Vote Act and the National Voter Registration Act, both of which are enforced by the Department of Justice. In this regard, questions or allegations regarding federal voting irregularities generally are addressed by one of three federal entities.

The name, areas of responsibility, and contact point for these entities are:

The Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, at the Department of Justice: responsible for enforcing federal voting rights statutes. Information about how to file a complaint through the mail or by telephone can be found at the link above.

The Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section, at the Department of Justice: responsible for enforcing federal criminal laws applicable to federal election fraud offenses, among other things, in conjunction with the 93 U.S. Attorneys. Information about how to contact the Criminal Division can be found at the link above.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC): serves as a national clearinghouse and resource for information on the administration of federal elections. Information about the EAC can be found at

Specific allegations of voting irregularities should be addressed to the appropriate authority as described in the above framework. I assure you that GAO will continue to do its part in connection with important elections issues consistent with our scope of responsibility and authority.

So with specific problems and questions concerning irregularities that favored George W. Bush, we should turn to the DOJ, headed by Ashcroft and then Gonzales? Thanks, GAO!!!

The GAO investigation is happening, it's clear that this is a press release saying, "We can investigate and look at the situation, but we can't prosecute." But they can review and investigate those encharged with prosecuting!

In all seriousness, the GAO investigation is a big step. Let's continue moving forward, and getting adequate answers and explanations for what happened -- and what went wrong -- November 2.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ohio can wait

The Greens and Libertarians were suing to try to get the recount to begin before all the votes in Ohio had been certified. (Mostly due to the ticking clock from after that deadline of December 6 before the electoral college meets around December 13.) A judge has now ruled against any recount beginning until after the votes have been certified by Ohio. Can an entire state hold a recount within a week? (Though they do have until January when Congress opens the votes...) We'll see.


There hasn't been talk about irregularities in Washington State. That's because there haven't been big reports of them.

It's just a state where, when you have a close race -- and with a 261 vote margin in this year's gubernatorial race, it qualifies as a veryclose race -- there's an automatic recount mechanism. Still, it's interesting to read about their recount and how it works, as in this nice recap in DailyKos.

60% of Washington's counties have done their recount, and the result is that Republican Rossi's lead has been extended to 286 votes. However, those 60 counties only represent less than 25% of the 2.88 million votes originally recorded.

That said, the State GOP head is kind of - what's the technical jargon -- a prick.

GOP head Chris Vance has been making a larger-than-usual ass of himself by bringing suit in federal court to interfere with the King County recount as it proceeds.  He wants the elections officials to stop the practice of examining ballots that fail to register votes, in order to enhance the voter's clear intent.  In many cases, the voter may have outlined an oval, or used a checkmark or an "X", or circled a candidate's name, or written in a name that already exists on the ballot, or any of a hundred other ways to not follow clear instructions.  In such cases, election officials -- both a Democrat and a Republican -- will often agree on what is unequivocally the voter's intent, and mark a ballot such that it will be accurately recorded.  If they don't agree, the disputed ballot goes to a county canvassing board (again, with bipartisan membership) for adjudication.

Here's the problem with the GOP's lawsuit: it's, big surprise, only objecting to the process in King County -- that's Seattle -- which is a) the biggest county in the state and b) by far the most likely source of a significant increase in the number of votes for Democrat Christine Gregoire.

I'd like to point out that the Ohio recount efforts that I support are for all counties -- Republican and Democrat, urban and rural. Recount them all with the exact same standards.

BREAKING NEWS: GAO to investigate election complaints

The GAO plans to investigate the security and accuracy of voting technology, a group of Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday. This is in response to the four letters sent by fourteen Congressional representatives calling for an investigation in response to fifteen truckloads worth of irregularities, discrepancies, and other situations that would give any civic-minded lover of democracy a strong case of hives, anger, and the willies. From the CNN report -- which was prominently linked at the top of the CNN website as of 1pm Pacific Time, though the Rather resignation is the big story of the day:

The GAO said it will not investigate every charge listed by the Democrats, but will examine "the security and accuracy of voting technologies, distribution and allocation of voting machines and counting of provisional ballots."

A spokeswoman for one of the lawmakers requesting an investigation, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, said the goal is not to overturn the election results, but rather to improve the mechanics of the voting process.

"We are hopeful that GAO's nonpartisan and expert analysis will get to the bottom of the flaws uncovered in the 2004 election," said a statement released by Conyers and five other members of Congress.

As part of the inquiry, the group said it will provide copies of specific incident reports received in their offices regarding the election, including more than 57,000 complaints provided to the House Judiciary Committee.

Those reports include allegations of computer and voting machine problems that added votes to totals, as well as malfunctions that resulted in votes being thrown out.

What is the GAO leaving out, if they're focusing on voting technologies, distribution and allocation of voting machines, and counting of provisional ballots? The only thing I could come up with would be anecdotes or accusations of suppression of the vote within particular precincts. Oh, and exit polls. Thank God, exit polls aren't a part of this; talk about a dead fish of an argument to be pushing.

I don't know about you, but I'll be eager to write checks for the 2006 campaign to the following Congressional Representatives:

John Conyers, Michigan
Jerrold Nadler, New York
Louise Slaughter, New York
Gregory Meeks, New York
Robert Wexler, Florida
Bobby Scott, Virginia
Melvin Watt, North Carolina
Rush Holt, New Jersey
John Olver, Massachusetts
Bob Filner, California
George Miller, California
Barbara Lee, California
Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin
(Note: I'd also read on Buzzflash that Jan Schakowsky of Illinois had also joined the effort.)

These Congressional Representatives deserve our kudos, support, and hosannas. At the very least, they deserve our phonecalls thanking them. 202.224.3121 is the general number. You can find individual contact information for the representatives at their websites linked above.

Whatever the results of any recount efforts or investigations, make no mistake about it: there were more than enough discrepancies and irregularities from November 2 going unexplained to require an investigation from the General Accounting Office. I am glad that we're now going to get one.

Now if only the media would join with an investigation of their own.

Update: a friend who is a reformed former environmental policy lobbyist cautions me about getting too excited about the GAO. "We, the environmental political movement, used GAO reports religiously - because we were right and the GAO knew that...and members of Congress would tell us - time and time again - "you're going to have to do better than the GAO." [Senator no longer in office] once told me: 'If I wanted to investigate why my wife cries at funerals, the GAO would both take it on and get it wrong.'"

However, I replied that even if the GAO alone can't do it -- WAKE UP, NEWSMEDIA -- the fact that the GAO has announced the investigation can be an important step to pushing irregularities and the Hout Report further into the mainstream media. It legitimizes, it reaffirms, it encourages efforts, it keeps the issues from being pushed aside.

Again, the fact that it received such a high link on is a good sign, potentially of good things to come. I'm eager to see whether there will be much coverage tomorrow.

Update II: Here's the press release in .pdf format from the House members announcing the investigation.

is another good clearinghouse focusing on much Election 2004 fall-out and media coverage. Check it out, if you haven't already.

Let's take apart the machine, see how it works

An old friend of RD, a graduate student in computer science at the University of Washington, writes:

Have you heard of any e-voting machines that researchers can get their
hands on?

The inner workings might be complicated, but the configuration
I'm guessing is not outside the grasp of some dedicated grad students.

They could at least examine some well-known problem scenarios and see
what happens. This seems critical to me, and I haven't heard of it taking

Perhaps some enlightened communities could be convinced to lend their
machines to universities for investigation.

Of course, I imagine the manufacturer will not be cooperative.

Revenge of the sociologists

One of the particularly dumb conversations, which only particularly dumb 20 year old men could have, that I remember having when I was a particularly dumb 20 year old man was about what majors were "hot." Which majors in college -- particularly the university we attended in Providence, Rhode Island -- seemed to attract the most attractive women, yes, but also which majors, when chosen by a woman, made her more attractive to us.

The friend of mine who enabled this conversation and I disagreed over the plusses and minuses of several majors -- he liked the little green or red books that classics majors always seemed to be reading on the main green, while I thought Comp Lit majors, reading Flaubert not in translation, held great mystery beneath the dark sweaters and behind the clove cigarettes. And art history majors, of course, resided in their own special eschelon.

But one thing we agreed on: sociology majors. Feh. Sociology seemed like the most boring major around. And often seemed to attract their fair share of boring people majoring in the field. Then one of my best friends married a sociology professor, and she's terrific, so I started shedding my old stereotypes. But I can't help but think in reading the fine print on analyses like the Hout Report that this is God's revenge for my mocking the sociology field.

A good friend of RD -- in fact, the one who married a sociologist -- sends us this link to Crooked Timber, a Kerry-sympathetic collective of bloggers. One of their crew, Kieran Healey, a sociologist from the University of Arizona, has some skepticism towards the Hout paper. Healey disputes any notion that all electronic voting touchscreen machines in Florida were the source of aberrations, pointing out that "Broward and Palm Beach counties (which have very large populations and lean strongly Democratic) swung much more toward Bush than was typical for counties where Republicans won less than 47 or 48 percent of the vote in 2000. It turns out that these two counties are driving the findings of Hout et al’s model." The question then is what's happening in those two counties.

Andrew Gelman, a Columbia statistician, also analyzes the Hout paper. Gelman's explanation: "One possibility, as suggested by Hout et al., is cheating, possibly set up ahead of time (e.g., by loading extra votes into the machines before the election or by setting it up to switch or not count some votes) … but an obvious alternative explanation is that, for various reasons, 3% more people in those counties preferred Bush in 2004, compared to 2000. As can be seen in the graphs above for 2000, 1996, and 1992, such a swing would be unusual (at least compared to recent history), but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen!… It would make sense to look further at Broward and Palm Beach counties, where swings happened which look unexpected compared to the other counties and compared to 2000, 1996, and 1992. But lots of unexpected things happen in elections, so we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that e-voting is related to these particular surprises." Well, fine, true: it's certainly possible that in two counties in all of Florida, there was a situation that didn't exist in any other counties in the state given the demographic makeup where the two counties, which used touchscreen voting, experienced an unexplained jump in their Bush votes. Sure, it's possible, just like it's possible to win a lottery, or, using better odds, a raffle of 1000 people. That's not reason enough to push away the questions of why this anomaly existed.

Healey takes Gelman's thoughts, and summarizes: "In other words, if there is cheating it’s not centralized cheating where all the e-voting machines mess up in the same way. If you believe that the machines were rigged, focus on the ones in Palm Beach and Broward county. But it seems more likely that these results show the Republican Party Machine was really, really well-organized in Palm Beach and Broward, and they were able to mobilize their vote better than the Democrats. The general swing toward Bush in Florida seems consistent with this story."

I'd disagree with Healey's last statement. Why would the Republican Party Machine be particularly strong and make a particularly successful showing -- particularly successful described as bucking the previous models in 1996 and 2000 -- in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, rather than in other counties (such as one's more hit by the Hurricanes and thus more likely to be sympathetic towards Bush?) I think Healey makes a jump here that I can't join him on.

But where I do agree with Healey -- and think he makes a good case for this in his blog -- is that rather than focusing on evidence of a widespread discrepancy in all of the Florida counties which used touchscreen technology, eyes should be trained on the aberration/problem in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

And I'll never cast an eye down on sociology majors again. Forgive me. You are all beautiful, beautiful people. Some of you are maybe even hot.

GAO Congress letter signatories growing and growing

It started with three: Conyers, Nadler, and Wexler.

Then Rush Holt (D-NJ), Melvin Watt (D-NC), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) signed on.

Then on November 17, two additional letters were sent calling for a General Accounting Office investigation of the November 2 irregularities and glitches.

First, a letter adding the signatures of Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and George Miller (D-CA), was sent, increasing the number of signatures to nine. Here's a pdf copy of the letter.

Then, that same day, a second letter --fourth letter overall--was sent to the GAO which added John Olver (D-MA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). That made it 13.

Now, according to Buzzflash, another congressional representative, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, has asked to become the 14th signatory to the letters to the GAO. That brings it to fourteen. Fourteen Democratic representatives from all over the country, black and white, male and female.

Whither the Democratic senators?