Who Really Won?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fox and The Henhouse

The Justice Department's voting section, a small and usually obscure unit that enforces the Voting Rights Act and other federal election laws, has been thrust into the center of a growing debate over recent departures and controversial decisions in the Civil Rights Division as a whole.

Many current and former lawyers in the section charge that senior officials have exerted undue political influence in many of the sensitive voting-rights cases the unit handles. Most of the department's major voting-related actions over the past five years have been beneficial to the GOP, they say, including two in Georgia, one in Mississippi and a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) in 2003.

The section also has lost about a third of its three dozen lawyers over the past nine months. Those who remain have been barred from offering recommendations in major voting-rights cases and have little input in the section's decisions on hiring and policy.

"If the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division is viewed as political, there is no doubt that credibility is lost," former voting-section chief Joe Rich said at a recent panel discussion in Washington. He added: "The voting section is always subject to political pressure and tension. But I never thought it would come to this."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Diebold Still Works as Planned

From the Washington Post:

As the Leon County supervisor of elections, Ion Sancho's job is to make sure voting is free of fraud. But the most brazen effort lately to manipulate election results in this Florida locality was carried out by Sancho himself.

Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.

Sancho's most recent demonstration was last month. Harri Hursti, a computer security expert from Finland, manipulated the "memory card" that records the votes of ballots run through an optical scanning machine.

Then, in a warehouse a few blocks from his office in downtown Tallahassee, Sancho and seven other people held a referendum. The question on the ballot:

"Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?"

Two people marked yes on their ballots, and six no. The optical scan machine read the ballots, and the data were transmitted to a final tabulator. The result? Seven yes, one no.

"Was it possible for a disgruntled employee to do this and not have the elections administrator find out?" Sancho asked. "The answer was yes."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ohio Analysis

..based on the most accurate statistical method yet devised for determining whether exit poll error, random variations, or vote count manipulation cause the discrepancies between exit polls and official vote tallies. This analysis method was made public recently by NEDA in "Vote Miscounts or Exit Poll Error? New Mathematical Function for Analyzing Exit Poll Discrepancy" available at http://electionarchive.org/...

Exit Polls were conducted in 49 of Ohio's 11,360 precincts. At least 40% of Ohio's polled precincts show statistically significant differences between Kerry's exit poll percent and official vote count percent. 35% of these discrepancies underestimated the Kerry official vote share. This is five times the number expected. Three of the most glaring examples are:

In E/M precinct 27, with an estimated 100 respondents, Kerry's official vote count was 29% less than his exit poll share, creating a 58% difference between Kerry and Bush exit poll and official vote margins. There is less than a one in 867,205,500 chance of this occurring due to chance.

In E/M precinct 25, with an estimated 62 respondents, Kerry's official vote count was 28% less than his exit poll share, creating a 56% difference between Kerry and Bush exit poll and official vote margins. There is less than a one in 234,800 chance of this occurring due to chance.

In E/M precinct 48, with an estimated 100 respondents, Kerry's official vote was 16% less than his exit poll share, creating a 32% difference between Kerry and Bush exit poll and official vote margins. There is less than a one in 17,800 chance of this occurring due to chance.

Ohio's exit poll discrepancy pattern is consistent with a hypothesis of outcome-altering vote miscounts primarily favoring Bush. In other words, Ohio's exit poll discrepancies are consistent with the hypothesis that Kerry would have won Ohio's electoral votes if Ohio's official vote counts had accurately reflected voter intent. The patterns of Ohio's exit poll discrepancies are similar to the patterns in the national exit poll sample shown in the January 19, 2005 Edison/Mitofsky (E/M) report and discussed in earlier USCV reports.

Friday, January 06, 2006

It's the Over-Votes, Stupid

Lance deHaven-Smith, author of The Battle for Florida:

It’s an embarrassing outcome for George Bush because it showed that Gore had gotten more votes. Everybody had thought that the chads were where all the bad ballots were, but it turned out that the ones that were the most decisive were write-in ballots where people would check Gore and write Gore in, and the machine kicked those out. There were 175,000 votes overall that were so-called “spoiled ballots.” About two-thirds of the spoiled ballots were over-votes; many or most of them would have been write-in over-votes, where people had punched and written in a candidate’s name. And nobody looked at this, not even the Florida Supreme Court in the last decision it made requiring a statewide recount. Nobody had thought about it except Judge Terry Lewis, who was overseeing the statewide recount when it was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The write-in over-votes have really not gotten much attention. Those votes are not ambiguous. When you see Gore picked and then Gore written in, there’s not a question in your mind who this person was voting for. When you go through those, they’re unambiguous: Bush got some of those votes, but they were overwhelmingly for Gore. For example, in an analysis of the 2.7 million votes that had been cast in Florida’s eight largest counties, The Washington Post found that Gore’s name was punched on 46,000 of the over-vote ballots it, while Bush’s name was marked on only 17,000.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wisconsin Goes Open Source

Wisconsin's electronic voting bill, passing overwhelmingly despite Republican rule, states:

"If a municipality uses an electronic voting systm for voting at any election, the municpal clerk shall provide any person, upon request, at the expense of the municipality, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and tally the votes cast."


"If the device consists of an electronic voting machine, it generates a complete paper ballot showing all votes cast by each elector that is visually verifiable by the elector before the elector leaves the machine and that enables a manual count or recount of each vote cast by the elector."