Monday, November 19, 2007

More (& "Shakier") Recounts- Another Downside to Low Voter Turnout

Cuyahoga was certainly among the vast majority of counties, with our (approximate 18%,) low voter turnout at the polls on 11/6/07. It was a fairly local race in most places, which usually garners far less interest than the 4-year presidentials. Also there is the changing face of more people moving to now available, no-excuse absentee voting (which is NOT a good reason to move to highly fraud-potentialed, all mail-in voting - to be subject of another post.)

But generally decreasing voter turnout rates might also be signaling many things nationwide - none of them good for the future of democracy:
disgust to hopelessness and/or complete disconnection from the overwhelming amounts of very real political corruption, lies and sleaze in various incumbent administrations; disgust, hopelessness and/or complete disconnection from the corrupt insider dynamic, that elections tools and people have become nationwide; and disgust and/or complete disconnection from campaign lies, sleaze and "dirty tricks" that bombards us in years-long battles before voting days..and more.

Amazingly Cuyahoga has almost miraculously turned around the majority of its internal "people problems", as indicated in many posts found on this site - though it's still stuck with the operational and security nightmares of our vastly expensive, "proprietary" Diebold/Premier election system.

News clippings around Ohio reflect not only similar low turnouts on November 6, but also other seemingly new, possibly problematic issues that results from those moves to absentee voting, and low voter numbers, which can now let people take local elected offices at times with less than 200-400 votes- total! - hardly the kind mandates we need for elected officials to show themselves worthy of "leadership."

With small raw numbers, and given the OH law that if there is 1/2 of 1% margin or less between the winner and next highest vote count, there must be an automatic recount, and that candidates and issue committees may request a recount (which often happens in close races,) thus many more races are increasingly left hanging in the balance after election night announcements - dependent on a just few verified additional provisional ballots, and Monday and Election Day absentee ballots added to the official count, and then many more on recounts.

(For an extreme example of the implications, if a race garners a total of only 5 votes, 3 to 2, that one vote margin would necessitate a recount.)

Then, recounts - a fine public right, which in this trend, can on the other hand, begin a whole other series of many, up very close and personal, one-on-one competitive, massively time-consuming processes, and other problems - those which used to be the exception, now becoming a norm.
This is not what the people's elections were ever meant to be (but often is the way that candidates see them - to win at all costs.)

Additional to the massive amounts of time it may take to find the few votes needed to win, in Diebold DRE using counties, there is the problem of Diebold DRE's themselves, and their jamming, halting, flimsy long paper trails, which are hardly recount friendly, and are almost downright recount obstructive.

In fact the New Jersey Times Ledger reported on Sept. 5, '07, in an article titled, "State must come up with plan to replace 10,000 voting machines" it was was said:

A state law requires electronic voting machines to be refitted by January with printers, which would ensure accuracy. But printers from three vendors were found deficient this summer in tests by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the state Attorney General's Office told the judge today that retesting will take at least six more weeks.

Yet despite all the vendors' failing printers, the printed ballots on the Voter Verified Paper Trails are the DRE-users voters' official ballots for a recount in Ohio ( thus creating another important reason, among many, for paper ballots, humanly marked and read.)

In two separate Cuyahoga reports (ESI from May, '06, and the "collaborative audit" from November '06) it was shown that over 9% of all our Diebold "paper trails" are "unwhole" - smeared, scrunched, overprinted, torn, taped, unable to be validly used for voters, etc. from Diebold's malfunctioning printers.
Even today, incident reports from every Cuyahoga election show that DRE printer malfunctions including jams, occur with frequent and constant regularity.
The printers don't even give a warning that the jams are happening, so it could be overprinting and scrunching away, until some voter notices, by which time it becomes a major project for a diligent BOE to to try to find out what all was supposed to be on those paper trails, in this situation that's still non-clarified by the SoS .

At the Secretary of State's Columbus Summer Conference in June, Diebold malfunctioning printers were voiced as a signifcant problem among Diebold DRE users across the state.

Diebold's answer to aggravated and increasingly cash-strapped ( by Diebold) election officials who asked if Diebold was going to trade in the still new, but malfunctioning printers, for their newly touted "new improved - easier for poll workers models" (which I personally have never seen.) (According to Diebold almost all their machine problems are because of poll workers - the most important to elections, but also the most vulnerable since they have little voice in defending themselves with truth... Or Diebold blames anyone else up the chain, but themselves....)

With the mention of a "trade-in" (as in FREE exchange, trading good printers for their major malfunctioning ones,) the Diebold presentation leader, Ohio Sales Rep, Lois Donaldson, looked almost quizzically confused.

She eye-checked with other Diebold presentation leaders up front, to have them confirm they also "had never heard of any trade-in (!) program."
BUT like everything else there, she did assure counties that if they told her how many new printers they needed, she would give them a quote... to additionally sell these new "pigs-in-a-poke" for more thousands each, I'm sure.

Further the tens of feet long, flimsy, cash register-like tapes, with little thermal, hard to read print, not only tear easily, but are really difficult to inspect to even to find the particular races to be recounted - and just to unroll and handle.

(And I still even wonder what the bar codes under every ballot really say... Even the CCBOE does not know. Do those encode the voter's identity along with the voter's choices (yet...)? I'm sure that's coming, with the new national "Real ID card" (mandated in a Katrina Relief Bill (!)) for "Homeland Security," where we'll each have our own bar code to be used for all travel, major sales transactions, and even for voting....
To find out, why those bar codes are there, Diebold recommends that we buy bar code scanners, also run by their secret software, from them...for election counts....even though it's been found that the paper trail does not always even match the memory cards...)

I understand that recently, in a weekly phone conference which the CCBOE is now insisting on having with Diebold/Premier, this subject of their malfunctioning printers and how they were planning to solve it was discussed.
I also understand, that among Diebold's main recommendations were that every time a paper jam frequently happens, to just insert a new paper roll (bought from them)! Talk about a huge security and operational mess. And still what about the votes lost under the jam.

Another of their suggestions was that for every paper that is not whole, to just print another one at the CCBOE from the memory card! Never mind that this is against the law... to date. ( We don't know the SoS will do with this Diebold suggestion.)
This is hardly the poll worker-signed, voter veriFIED paper trail, which former AG, Jim Petro declared was the official recount ballot of voters..
Further, in less diligent more politicized counties, we would never know what a BOE would be printing those papers from.

In 2006 under the CCBOE old board, director and deputy, they gave themselves all kinds of permission to just "reprint" when they wanted to, - and never tell or show voters what they were doing. (Just like in May '06 when they had temp workers, some of whom it was later found were unable to read, press in voters choices onto DRE's from the 18,000 paper absentee ballots, which the Diebold scanners could also not read.)

I objected to this reprinting practice many times. On September 24, 2006, I presented to the CCBOE record...again...the following, among a list of questions, (with very long-awaited answers) :

21. I also noted on many of your reports now posted on the web page that Mr. Vu is pursuing the SOS’s OK to make a copy of a paper trail, where there have been paper jams or other printing problems on voting machines.
That seems to defy both AG past opinions and the law both about what constitutes the "official ballot" - which is the VOTER VERIFIED paper trail, which a copy is not - (and given the ESI report where some cards and paper trails and archives did NOT match); and the minimum necessities for the state Board of Voting Examiners to certify and to keep certified voting machines is that they can be relied upon to create each person's official ballot.

I quote, emphasis mine - "Pursuant to R.C. 3506.18(A), in such circumstances, “the voter verified paper audit trail shall serve as the official ballot to be recounted.” R.C. 3506.18(B) mandates that all voter verified paper audit trails “be preserved in the same manner and for the same time period as paper ballots are preserved under [R.C. 3505.31].”

Also - from AG opinion 2006-05
A vendor who desires to have equipment certified submits that equipment and pays a fee. R.C. 3506.05(C). The Board of Voting Machine Examiners examines the equipment and submits a report to the Secretary of State. R.C. 3506.05(D). “If the board finds that the equipment meets the criteria set forth in sections 3506.06, 3506.07 and 3506.104 of the Revised Code, can be used safely and can be depended upon to record and count accurately and continuously the votes of electors, and has the capacity to be warranted, maintained, and serviced, it shall approve the equipment and
recommend that the secretary of state certify the equipment.

With all the reports now coming out about the lack of safety of Diebold equipment, and the lack or dependability of their printers - rather than try to get around each voter having an official ballot, it seems more appropriate to decertify the machines that cannot produce them reliably.

I go on -

"42 U.S.C.A. § 15481(a)(2). Thus, to satisfy HAVA, a voting system must produce a permanent
paper record with a manual audit capacity, and the paper record must be available as an official
record for purposes of any recount. For a DRE voting system, VVPAT constitutes the
permanent paper record that is available for recount. See R.C. 3506.18(A) (“[f]or any recount of
an election in which ballots are cast using a direct recording electronic voting machine with a
verified paper audit trail, the VOTER VERIFIED paper audit trail shall serve as the official ballot to be
recounted”). For a system that uses paper ballots, including a PCOS, the ballots themselves
serve this purpose."

What is the CCBOE planning to do about following these laws?

Answer: The CCBOE will follow guidelines provided by ORC, SOS and HAVA.

22. In item 49 of your most recent issue log there appears a decision made by CCBOE managers not to print 2 long reports from each machine at election close, one of which you had planned to use if a memory card could not be read – and also NOT to print 2 long reports from each machine at election close, to allow one to to be able to post election results at the precinct per RC 3505.30.

First I refer you to HAVA and certification requirements above. If memory cards cannot be read often enough that such a discussion needed to ensue, the machines are not dependable/should not be certified. Second the manager’s decision was that when memory cards cannot be read, to reprint the report from the internal memory as “remakes”. Has anyone there read the ESI report enough to actually consider it and not just deny it? One of the glaring questions still left from May, now unable to be answered at all since you are “transferring data”to CD's – was non matching of the archive memory to their cards. How can the CCBOE validly defend such a bad decision to the public regarding accuracy of election results? If you are worried about running out of paper, change it before the report. If that is too difficult, that is a problem with the machines. If it is cost, I remind you that these thermal rolls cost $1 a piece, hardly a drop in the bucket to better assure accurate results, when compared with the millions that have been rolling out to Diebold. Just how do you defend that decision validly?

Answer: We are printing 2 long reports.

23. In May, the SOS and the CCBOE twisted the concept of ‘remakes” to allow you to have temps enter absentee ballots into DREs for counting. Now this. Where is the line which the CCBOE draws for itself regarding not doing whatever you want to do, despite security and reasonable readings of the law?

Answer: We are printing 2 long reports

It goes on.

Also in this increasing age of low voter turnout, and often tight margins of victory, what has occurred is bombardment of BOE's in the ten days between the unofficial count and the official, by candidates and the media to find out how many verified provisional voters there were, and how many last days' absentees had been cast - all trying to predict the results.

With all the confusion at the polls around provisional voting still, I can see an age coming for some boards (not the current CCBOE staff) to try to take advantage of results manipulation opportunities by again "feeding on" the poor and normally disenfranchised (who because of ID rules, frequent moves, etc. are those most likely to need to vote provisionally) - fooling with provisional verification- whose votes can count and not - or even trying to buy last-minute-made absentee votes.

Observers to this entire process are absolutely necessary.

Last Saturday, the PD ran an article about the prospective number of, and difficulty of, Cuyahoga recounts with Diebold DRE's.
(The problem is the bottom of the article is cut off online... (now frequently occuring - maybe a new plan to boost actual paper subscriptions?) I insert a hard to read version here.

It points out that Cuyahoga prospective recounts from election night results, currently, before the official results, number about 9, even given the new approx. 9,000 votes included in the official count - including such races as those of Lyndhurst Mayor; Beachwood City Council at Large; North Royalton City Council, Ward 6; Olmsted Falls Council at Large; Cuyahoga Heights Village Council; Garfield Heights City Council,; Solon School Board; Strongsville School Board, and others.

A few of the many other Ohio newspapers that headlined low voter turnouts, and lots of races that may be dependent on a few extra votes gleaned after the unofficial count, or on many prospective recounts include:
"Absentee and provisional ballots could change races";, Nov. 9,2007
"Provisional ballots tell tale for operating levy"; (Ashtabula) StarBeacon
"Conneaut (school) board votes may be recounted"; (Ashtabula) StarBeacon
"Close races may take weeks to decide; for many the election won't be over until after Thanksgiving" ; (Trumbull County) Tribune Chronicle
"Election watch: Some races, issue results could change"; (Dover-New Philadelphia, OH) Times Reporter
"Results too close in race for judge"; (Cincinnati) Enquirer
"Think not all votes count? 6 close races show they do";; Nov. 8, 2007

There's no doubt, that lowered voter turn-out increases the chances for inside election fraud in this nation - through widespread inattention, cynicism, resignation, and acceptance of the falsehood that elections belong to the politicians.
And there's also no doubt that the moves to encourage absentee voting (where there's an application for ballot,) or all mail-in voting ( where horribly ballots are sent to every registered voter - the easiest opportunity for all party operatives to buy and sell blank ballots - along with a signed identity envelope - but accepted by most on the concept of "ease";) and to make it harder to vote for whole segments of the population without "acceptable" ID's, or who move around a lot, is offering entirely new ways for nationwide insiders to manipulate our election results.

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