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News & Supplemental  

Merger of Crooked Vote Tallyers

Comment: With this impending merger, it appears that ES & Sone of the companies linked to vote tampering in recent U.S. elections–will be purchasing the money-losing unit of the better-known Diebold firm.

“US Voting Machine Makers’ Merger Nears Approval-WSJ[Wall Street Journal]; reuters.com; 3/4/2010.

But the department will require the combined company to divest a key electronic voting system, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Privately held Election Systems & Software Inc in September agreed to buy No. 2 voting-machine manufacturer Premier Election Solutions Inc, a money-losing unit of Diebold Inc (DBD.N), the Journal said.
Representatives from Election Systems & Software and Diebold could not be reached for immediate comment. A Justice department representative also was not immediately available for comment.
At a value of $5 million, the deal was too small to trigger a federal antitrust review. It has generated opposition from election officials and others concerned it would deprive voting precincts of choice and leave the country’s election system more vulnerable to failures.
After lengthy negotiations, the Justice Department and Election Systems & Software said they are near agreement on a settlement that would involve the company selling Premier’s newest voting system, Assure 1.2 — to a competitor, most likely Hart InterCivic Inc, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.


7 comments for “Merger of Crooked Vote Tallyers”

  1. Well this is about as surprising as a sunrise in the morning:

    By Brad Friedman on 12/23/2011 2:23pm
    U.S. EAC Finds ES&S Paper Ballot Scanners Used Across the Country Fail to Count Votes Correctly
    For first time, compromised federal agency admits their previous certification was deeply flawed…

    Not to say we told ya so, but, ya know, we’ve been telling you so for years (and years.)

    A new finding by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission — a rare finding, first of its kind, in fact, as the woeful EAC has never before taken the time to investigate and report on serious failures of e-voting systems that it has previously blessed with federal certification — reveals that ES&S paper ballot optical-scan systems used in a bunch of large swing states, result in machines freezing during elections, failing to log system events correctly, and, perhaps most troubling, ballots being misread and votes being lost entirely.

    The EAC’s “Formal Investigation Report” follows on April 2010 revelations by the Cleveland Plain Dealer that some 10% of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland)’s EAC-certified ES&S Precinct Count Optical Scanner and Unity tabulator voting systems failed in pre-election testing last year.

    The paper ballot scanning computers were purchased as a replacement for the 100% unverifiable Diebold touch-screen systems used previously in Ohio’s largest county, after a massive analysis of all of the state’s e-voting systems, overseen by former Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner (D), revealed serious security issues and other major flaws in the touch-screen voting machines used there and in many other states.

    Relatedly, Diebold’s own paper ballot optical-scan system has similarly been found, in the past, to include a flaw which results in votes being lost entirely, though the EAC never issued a warning about that system, to our knowledge, even after it led to hundreds of votes going uncounted in at least one election in Northern California (and lord only knows how many elsewhere that the same system is used.)

    The new findings of the failures of the ES&S op-scan system led Plain Dealer reporter/blogger Laura Johnston today to worry: “If the company can’t correct the flaw, the government could decertify the machines — leaving Cuyahoga and jurisdictions [throughout] the country no way to conduct elections in a presidential year.”

    Um, did the citizens of Cleveland lose their eyeballs? Or the ability to add 1 + 1 + 1, Ms. Johnston? Yes, there are other ways “to conduct elections in a presidential year.” For example, one could simply count the ballots by hand in public, at the precinct, in front of all voters, all parties and video cameras, and report the results right then and there before the ballots are moved anywhere — just as they still do in some 40% of the towns in the “First-in-the-Nation Primary” state of New Hampshire.

    The flawed scanners manufactured by ES&S, the nation’s largest e-voting vendor, are currently set to be used again in 2012, not only in Ohio, but also in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin, among others states

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 17, 2012, 7:20 pm
  2. @Pterrafractyl: It looks like people are really starting to wake up. The Dixiecrat-ified GOP is going to have a LOT of explaining to do one of these days. =)

    Posted by Steven l. | January 17, 2012, 11:52 pm
  3. Ah, the ol’ Abramof crew: the gift that keeps on taking giving:

    Voter Fraud ‘Study’ Authored By Republican Who Pleaded Guilty In Abramoff Scandal

    Ryan J. Reilly August 3, 2012, 6:13 AM

    A new paper claiming that voter ID laws actual protect rather than disenfranchise minority voters is getting play in conservative circles. What isn’t being mention so much is the background of the paper’s author.

    Horace Cooper, the author of the paper, told the Daily Caller this week that voter fraud “criminals — more often than not — are Democrats violating the rights of people who tend to be black or senior.”

    Cooper may not have any expertise on voter fraud, but he does know a thing or two about falsifying documents. Cooper was indicted in 2009 on five public corruption charges, charged with exchanging political favors for gifts from Jack Abramoff. Cooper allegedly accepted bribes as a staffer to former Majority Leader Dick Armey, as chief of staff for Voice of America and when he worked for the Department of Labor. Cooper later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsifying a disclosure report and was sentenced to 36 months of probation.

    Cooper asked a judge to shorten his sentence earlier this year so he could travel to Central Fiji on a trip paid for by Qorvis Communications, writing in a court document that he was hopeful a “more permanent employment relationship may develop” after the trip. A judge denied the motion. Currently, he is “self-employed as a writer and legal commentator, and operates a PR consulting service,” according to a court filing.

    In an interview on Thursday, Cooper accused TPM of “playing gotcha games” when we inquired about whether he was still on probation and said there was “absolutely no relevance” to the issue at hand. He called the Justice Department’s original charges against him “unsubstantiated” and said he’s been interested in voter integrity for a long time.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 3, 2012, 7:36 am
  4. Umm…Earth to John, the mic’s on:

    John Fund: Sure, Republicans Focus On Voter ID For Political Reasons

    Ryan J. Reilly August 7, 2012, 3:16 PM

    John Fund, the former Wall Street Journal columnist who has been promoting voter ID laws for years, admitted Tuesday that some Republicans focus on voter ID laws which restrict in-person voting over laws which could limit absentee voting because the GOP has a perceived electoral advantage when it comes to voting by mail.

    “Absentee vote ballot fraud is the tool of choice amongst fraudsters,” Fund told a group of bloggers munching on Chick-Fil-A at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. “Everytime you see a truly massive, coordinated effort at voter fraud, it usually relies in part on absentee voter fraud.”

    Fund said that many voter ID laws “take some provisions to curb absentee ballot fraud,” with a few exceptions. But he confessed that Democrats had a point when they say that Republicans focus on voter ID because of a potential electoral advantage.

    “I think it is a fair argument of some liberals that there are some people who emphasize the voter ID part more than the absentee ballot part because supposedly Republicans like absentee ballots more and they don’t want to restrict that,” Fund said. “But the bottom line is, on good government grounds, we have to have both voter ID laws and absentee ballot laws.”

    Fund and former Bush-era Justice Department official and current Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky have a book coming out next week titled Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk. Fund offered a pretty dire prediction of how things will go at the polls in a few months.

    The thing I fear most is that we’ll have five, six or seven Floridas this November, where the election is close enough that there’s no longer a margin of victory you’re talking about, there’s a margin of litigation, and we will not know the winner of the presidential race for hours or days or perhaps in the case of somewhere like Florida, perhaps for quite sometime, and the next president takes office or continues in office under a cloud,” Fund said.

    Fund and von Spakovsky attacked a report from the Brennan Center which claims that millions of voters lack valid photo identification and will be prevented from voting in November.

    Five or six Floridas…great, that’s all we need.

    The new book coming out about voter fraud by Fund and former Justice Department Civil Rights attorney Hans von Spakovsky looks like the kind of “analysis” that one might expect from these two. But it’s also quite noteworthy that the pair seem to be pushing the meme that absentee voter fraud is the primary means of massive voter fraud available today. Now what about that issue of a third of US voters now using easily-hackable electronic voting machines? Wha’ts their take on that touchy topic? Fund actually dedicates an entire chapter to electronic voting machines…in his 2004 book “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy“. Just use the “Search inside his book” function and do a search for “Diebold”. Granted, Fund downplays the threat of electronic voting machines, but at least the topic is mentioned in a book about voter fraud. Jump ahead to Fund’s new book Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk and there doesn’t appear to be a single reference to electronic voting machines in the entire thing. Once again, use the “Search Inside this book” option and so some searches for “Diebold” or even “electronic”. Nothing (at least nothing I could find).

    This is all just a reminder that the GOP doesn’t simply benefit from a suppressed minority/poor/elderly vote as a result of all these new voter ID laws getting put in place across the US. The new laws and the public fight over them also help diffuse any public attention that might have been paid towards the still growing threat of unsecure electronic voting systems. So if the “five or six Floridas” scenario emerges in November, the entire electorate and media complex is now primed to immediately jump to “Absentee voter fraud!” or “Illegal immigrants voting!” instead of the obvious culprit of electronic voting fraud.

    This, of course, is not to say that good ol’ fashioned voter-suppresion won’t do the trick. Not at all:

    August 6, 2012 7:14 AM
    Despite polls, Romney camp sees opportunity in Pa.

    (CBS News) Though both sides are adept at putting the most favorable spin on their electoral prospects, strategists for the Obama and Romney campaigns largely agree on which so-called swing states are truly up for grabs and which ones clearly lean a particular way.

    But perhaps the most glaring exception to that broad consensus is Pennsylvania, where the two camps are working under widely divergent assessments of how the race is shaping up.

    Despite earnest assurances that they are taking nothing for granted, a commonly held view among the president’s re-election team is that the Keystone State is all but in the bag. Romney’s team, on the other hand, has long been eyeing it as a realistic and potentially decisive pickup for the Republican challenger.

    “When you talk about Pennsylvania, the Obama campaign is going to roll their eyes,” said Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson. “They don’t know it, but it’s rotten underneath for them.”

    At first glance, there is little empirical evidence to back up that claim.

    The president has been ahead in every Pennsylvania poll since Romney became the GOP nominee, and he leads the Republican challenger by seven percentage points in the latest RCP polling average.

    But what many Republicans expect to be their strongest card in Pennsylvania is one that they are often reluctant to tout: a new voter identification law that requires a specific form of identification in order to cast a ballot.

    The law is considered the most stringent of its kind in any swing state in the nation and could cut significantly into Obama’s margins in the state’s largest city.

    “The bottom line is Philadelphia is incredibly impacted by that law, and it could have a real effect,” said KDKA-Pittsburgh political editor Jon Delano, a longtime analyst of Pennsylvania politics.

    Delano, who considers the state to be “very much in play,” said that there are no reliable projections on the extent to which the voter ID law might depress turnout among Obama voters, but there is no doubt that Republicans see it as a major boon to Romney’s hopes.

    At a June GOP rally, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai sparked outrage among voting-rights proponents when he trumpeted the new law as an accomplishment that would pay political dividends to the Republican nominee.

    “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done,” Turzai said, eliciting cheers from the partisan crowd.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 7, 2012, 2:27 pm
  5. Ack, the link to their new book in the above comment is broken. Here’s a fixed one. Seriously, can anyone find a reference to elecronic voting machines in that entire book using the “Search Inside this book” Amazon function? Is there a search term that I’m just not thinking of that will bring up at least one reference to electronic voting machines? John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky are foot soldiers in the far-right agenda so it’s no surprise if they want to downplay the risk of electronic voting machine rigging, but it’s quite a warning sign if a brand new book about voting theft doesn’t even mention electronic voting machines at least once.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 8, 2012, 11:36 am
  6. Virginia’s attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is now asserting that an investigation is needed to determine whether or not Obama stole the election through voter fraud. He specifically cites the fact that the President lost every state with one of the photo-ID laws that the GOP had been pining for in states across the country over the last year. And you know what, he’s right. An investigation into the need for these new voting voter ID laws and the other new GOP-inspired voting laws from this past year would be a wonderful idea.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 28, 2012, 9:11 am
  7. Here’s a question that’s probably worth asking. Repeatedly and loudly:
    Why is the Trump campaign so terrified of the Michigan recount?:


    Why Is Trump Fighting So Hard to Stop the Recount in Michigan?
    A mere 0.22 percent separates the candidates, and thousands of ballot machines recorded no presidential pick.

    By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet
    December 1, 2016

    The Trump campaign filed a legal petition Thursday to stop Michigan’s presidential recount, saying Jill Stein has no chance of winning and no grievance, and there’s no way a hand count can be done before the Electoral College meets December 19.

    “Despite being a blip on the electoral radar, [Green Party nominee] Stein has now commandeered Michigan’s electoral process,” said Trump’s petition to Michigan’s Board of State Canvasser. “Indeed, on the basis of nothing more than speculation, Stein asks that Michigan residents endure an expensive, time-consuming recount, and the scrutiny and hardship that comes with it.”

    The Trump campaign called the recount an “electoral farce,” ignoring that it has been filed in a state where its candidate leads Hillary Clinton by almost 11,000 out of 4.8 million votes cast, the smallest margin of the final three states that gave Trump an Electoral College majority after election night. (The Green Party is also seeking recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin began its recount Thursday, while challenges continue in Pennsylvania as the Green Party is filing local petitions at county election boards.)

    “She does not allege, let alone explain, how a fourth-place finisher could be ‘aggrieved’ by the election canvass,” Trump’s petition said, saying candidates must be harmed to seek a recount under Michigan law. “And even if that could be overlooked, Stein’s request would have to be denied because no recount can be reliably competed in the time required by state and federal law” (to meet the Electoral College’s deadline).

    Trump’s objection comes just one day after state officials said they would do a full, statewide hand recount of all votes cast in Michigan, beginning Friday, December 2. Because of the filing, the state canvassers’ board, an appointed body that has already pledged its support of the recount, will have to postpone counting until it holds a hearing and issues a ruling within five days. If the recount goes forward, Trump’s objections will have delayed the process up to a week and made it that much harder to complete before presidential electors convene.

    “You wonder why they are fighting it so hard,” said Bob Fitrakis, an Ohio-based attorney who was involved in that state’s 2004 presidential recount and has been advising the Green Party in 2016. “Michigan, with its thousands of undervotes [no vote recorded for president] in Democratic strongholds—these people voted the whole ticket but left off Hillary Clinton?”

    “They are trying to run out the clock,” he said, saying that same delaying tactic was used in Ohio in 2004 when the Green and Libertarian parties filed for a presidential recount in the state where George W. Bush unexpectedly beat John Kerry, despite media exit polls and other indices suggesting the incumbent president would be defeated.

    On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified that Trump won by 10,704 votes, or a margin of just 0.22 percent of the total vote. But computer scientists and election experts have raised serious concerns about election results in papers filed for the Wisconsin recount. These include the vulnerability of voting machines that can be breached without detection and have a tendency to misread ballot markings. In Michigan, there were 75,335 under-count tallies—votes that machines did not record as selecting anyone for president—nearly double the amount recorded in 2012.

    “America’s voting machines and optical scanners are prone to errors and susceptible to outside manipulation,” said J. Alex Halderman, one of the nation’s leading cyber security experts and a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan who filed court papers supporting a recount.

    “Paper ballots, like those used in Michigan’s elections, are the best defense we have against cyberattacks, but that defense is only effective if we actually look at the paper trail after the election,” he said. “That’s precisely why we need this recount—to examine the physical evidence, to look under the hood. A recount is the best way, and indeed the only way in 2016, to ensure public confidence that the results are accurate, authentic, and untainted by outside interference.”

    “On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified that Trump won by 10,704 votes, or a margin of just 0.22 percent of the total vote. But computer scientists and election experts have raised serious concerns about election results in papers filed for the Wisconsin recount. These include the vulnerability of voting machines that can be breached without detection and have a tendency to misread ballot markings. In Michigan, there were 75,335 under-count tallies—votes that machines did not record as selecting anyone for president—nearly double the amount recorded in 2012.

    Oh look at that, it turns out there were over 75,000 “under-count” tallies, where there’s no vote for a presidential candidate (or it didn’t get recorded for some reason), in a race Trump won by less than 11,000 votes. Might that have something to do with the Trump team’s recount trepidation? It seems very possible, although if you listen to the Michigan state GOP, which filed its own lawsuit to stop the recount on Monday, the concern is over wasted tax payer money. Also, the recount will give voters less confidence that their vote was accurately counted. Yes, according to the state GOP, it’s apparently a waste of money when a candidate wins by 0.22 percent of the vote total and any recount will reduce the voters’ faith in the integrity of the vote:

    The Detroit News

    GOP fights Mich. recount with federal appeal

    Jonathan Oosting , Detroit News Lansing Bureau
    7:15 p.m. EST December 5, 2016

    Lansing — The Michigan Republican Party on Monday sought to stop the state’s presidential recount just hours after it began, appealing a federal court order granting a request by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

    “We do not believe the federal courts have jurisdiction over state’s being able to run their own election process,” party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told The Detroit News.

    Party attorneys filed a notice of appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday afternoon and were preparing to make the case for “abstention,” arguing U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith should not have intervened by ordering the recount to start with legal challenges pending before the Michigan Court of Appeals.

    Those challenges would have prevented officials from beginning the recount until at least Wednesday.

    “There’s absolutely no reason Jill Stein should be granted a recount in our state that’s going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and the courts should have been able to make that determination before the federal courts intervened,” Romney McDaniel said.

    Recount workers in Ingham and Oakland counties began hand counting ballots around noon Monday, less than 12 hours after Goldsmith ruled that delaying the process could stop the state from finalizing its vote total by a Dec. 13 deadline, jeopardizing Michigan’s role in the presidential election.

    Six additional counties, including Wayne and Macomb, were expected to begin recounts Tuesday with others following suit later this week and early next, according to a schedule released by the Secretary of State’s Office.

    The Michigan Republican Party “really has no basis to file an appeal,” said Stein attorney Mark Brewer, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “The judge wrote a very strong opinion, but we’ll respond when they make their arguments.”

    Republican President-elect Donald Trump won Michigan’s Nov. 8 election, topping Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes, according to results certified last week by the Board of State Canvassers. Stein finished a distant fourth, receiving roughly 1 percent of the vote.

    Stein requested recounts in Michigan and two other states as part of what her campaign is calling “an election integrity movement,” but she has acknowledged the effort is unlikely to change the outcome of the presidential election.

    Stein celebrated Goldsmith’s order Monday in a press conference outside Trump Tower in New York, saying the judge affirmed the importance of “election fairness and accuracy, and that these things are the bedrock of our democracy.”

    Stein has justified her recount request by questioning the unusually large number of “undervotes” in Michigan, where certified results show 75,000 voters who cast a ballot on Nov. 8 did not pick a presidential candidate.

    That “raises the possibility that communities of color have been disenfranchised by an erroneous counting of the vote,” she said.

    Trump sued Michigan on Friday in an attempt to stop the recount, and the state Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments from his attorneys and state Attorney General Bill Schuette during a Tuesday afternoon hearing in Lansing.

    “Michigan law needs to govern, not some federal takeover,” Schuette said Monday on Fox News.

    State courts cannot supersede Goldsmith’s order that prompted the recount to start, according to Wayne State University law professor and legal scholar Robert Sedler, but there is a possibility state judges could invalidate the recount if they determine Stein was not an “aggrieved party” with grounds for the recount request.

    But the abstention claims at the heart of the Michigan Republican Party’s federal appeal are “not very strong” because counting votes is a fundamental right that Goldsmith said could be jeopardized.

    “The worst that can happen to the state is that it spends the money and the recount doesn’t count anyway,” Sedler said. “Under the precedents, as I understand them, this would not be an appropriate case for the court to abstain.”

    Stein’s attorneys last week paid $973,250 to cover her legally required fees to seek a recount of Michigan’s 6,300 precincts. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said the recount cost could a total of $5 million, leaving the state and county governments on the hook for the remaining $4 million.

    Romney McDaniel said courts should reject the recount request to “set a precedent in this state that we are no longer going to let our taxpayers be abused.” The GOP appeal is also expected to argue that Stein waited to file her recount until the last minute and therefore could not seek court intervention.

    The Nov. 8 election “was administered fairly and legally,” Romney McDaniel said. “Every voter in Michigan should have confidence that their vote was counted. It was certified, and Jill Stein is trying to introduce chaos into our election process.”

    The state House Elections Committee on Tuesday is set to take up newly introduced legislation that seeks to retroactively require Stein to cover all recount costs. The bill would require any candidate that received less than 5 percent of the vote in any election to pay for full estimated costs.

    “Stein has justified her recount request by questioning the unusually large number of “undervotes” in Michigan, where certified results show 75,000 voters who cast a ballot on Nov. 8 did not pick a presidential candidate.”

    So the Michigan GOP just can’t see how an an unusually large number of “undervotes” that dwarfs the actual spread between the Trump and Clinton is a valid reason for a recount. How surprising. Although considering all the clamoring about “rigging” by the Trump team before the election it would be surprising if one was foolish enough to take Trump at his word.

    Regardless, at this point it’s not even clear a meaningful recount is going to take place despite the recount being underway. Why? Because it turns out Michigan has a curious law about recounts: if the number of ballots in the precinct poll books do not exactly match those of the voting machine printout, the entire precinct is removed from the recount and the original counts are used instead. Even if they’re off by a single ballot.

    And, lo and behold, in the Democratic stronghold of Detroit, where they reported that 87 optical scanners broke on election day, 59 percent of the precincts could be thrown out due to votes being off by a hand full of votes and in many cases by one vote. In other words, the poorer the precinct and the more error prone its voting technology is, the less likely that that precinct will actually be involved in a recount. So, despite the fact that a wave of broken or miscalibrated optical scanners would be exactly the kind of scenario that one might expect to produce a large number of “undervotes”, it’s looking like those Democratic stronghold precincts might not get recounted. At all:

    The Detroit News

    Half of Detroit votes may be ineligible for recount

    Chad Livengood and Joel Kurth , The Detroit News
    2:54 p.m. EST December 6, 2016

    One-third of precincts in Wayne County could be disqualified from an unprecedented statewide recount of presidential election results because of problems with ballots.

    Michigan’s largest county voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 610 of 1,680 precincts during a countywide canvass of vote results late last month.

    Most of those are in heavily Democratic Detroit, where the number of ballots in precinct poll books did not match those of voting machine printout reports in 59 percent of precincts, 392 of 662.

    According to state law, precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots can’t be recounted. If that happens, original election results stand.

    “It’s not good,” conceded Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit.

    He blamed the discrepancies on the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying 87 optical scanners broke on Election Day. Many jammed when voters fed ballots into scanners, which can result in erroneous vote counts if ballots are inserted multiple times. Poll workers are supposed to adjust counters to reflect a single vote but in many cases failed to do so, causing the discrepancies, Baxter said.

    Even so, Baxter said it’s unlikely all 392 of the city’s precincts with mismatched numbers will be disqualified from a recount. The city is in contact with elections officials at the state of Michigan and Baxter predicted the numbers will match when the ballot boxes are re-opened for the recount, which starts Tuesday in Wayne County at Cobo Center.

    “It’s a challenge, but we’re confident the ballots will match,” Baxter said. “I don’t think it’s going to be 100 peHad this programming error been a simple flip — telling the machine to count ‘yes’ votes from ‘no’ bubbles and vice-versa — and not the blatantly obvious error it was, the municipal canvass would almost certainly have certified the results without examining even one actual ballot; the Stoughton newspaper would be coming up with perfectly believable reasons why theirs was the first city ever to vote 75% no instead of 75% yes, and a few referendum backers and election-integrity activists would be saying “That’s got to be a miscount” to anyone who would listen –which would not be many.rcent, but it never is with a recount.”

    County reports obtained by The Detroit News, though, indicate canvassers were provided no explanation for why the numbers didn’t add up in those precincts. They certified the results of the election anyway.

    In Detroit, 158 of the 392 precincts with ballot discrepancies had just one extra ballot accounted for either in the poll book or in the ballot box, according to the Wayne County’s canvassing report.

    For suburban Wayne County, 72 percent of the 218 precincts boxes with discrepancies in the number of ballots were off by one ballot.

    The other ballot discrepancies in Detroit and Wayne County precincts ranged between two and five ballots, according to the report.

    U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered the hand recount of 4.8 million ballots just after midnight Monday, granting a motion in favor of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. It began Monday in Oakland and Ingham counties and continues at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Ottawa, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

    The recount will begin throughout the rest of Michigan’s 83 counties in phases this week.

    Republican President-elect Donald Trump won Michigan by a razor-thin margin, 10,704 votes. Presumably, Clinton’s best opportunity to eliminate that margin rested in finding uncounted ballots in Wayne County, which she carried by a 2-1 ratio.

    Disqualifying huge numbers of precincts would make it “almost impossible” for the former New York senator to make up the votes, said Ernest Johnson, a Democratic political activist who worked to get out the vote for Clinton.

    “It’s a real long-shot now because, if I were looking for 10,000 votes, the first place I’d look is Wayne County,” Johnson said. “That’s a huge problem. … But if anything good comes of this it brings up this problem (with voting machines) that needs to be corrected.”

    $100K bill for Genesee Co.

    Besides Wayne, Clinton carried Oakland, Washtenaw, Genesee, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Marquette and Muskegon counties.

    None had nearly as many problems as Wayne. But at least 13 of 222 precincts in Genesee County are not balanced. More than half of those were in heavily Democratic Flint, according to county canvassing reports. The election was still certified by its board of canvassers.

    “The trouble is there’s too much leniency with the board of canvassers,” said John Gleason, Genesee County’s clerk. “They’re not as stringent as need to be because they think it won’t affect the outcome of the election.”

    Gleason, who estimated the recount will cost the cash-strapped county $100,000, said he expects the numbers to reconcile when workers begin the county recount on Wednesday.

    “It’s impossible to tell at this point how many will and how many won’t be re-countable,” added Joseph Rozell, elections director for Oakland County.

    In the first six hours of Ingham County’s recount Monday, six of 30 precincts from Lansing could not be recounted. One of the ballot containers had a hole in it, making it susceptible to tampering and not recountable, county Clerk Barb Byrum said.

    Elections officials in Washtenaw and Marquette counties told The News on Monday that votes in all precincts were reconciled.

    Krista Haroutunian, chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, said recount workers will have to sort out the issue when they encounter these ballot boxes where the numbers don’t reconcile with the election records.

    “When a recount is started, these numbers could change based on information discovered during the course of the recount, according to our procedures,” Haroutunian said. “You don’t know until you get in the middle of it.”

    Two tries to match numbers

    State law spells out a prescribed criteria for determining whether a precinct can be recounted. Workers first check to make sure the number of ballots on the seal of the container matches the ballots recorded by workers on Election Day.

    “If the seal number matches, then we know it’s not been tampered with,” Rozell said.

    If numbers don’t match, then workers can count all of the ballots in the precinct twice to see if there was an error made by workers on Election Night.

    “If it does not match after the second count, then it’s not recountable,” Rozell said.

    Entire precincts can be set aside in a recount if the ballots are stored in an unapproved container or if it isn’t properly sealed.

    “He blamed the discrepancies on the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying 87 optical scanners broke on Election Day. Many jammed when voters fed ballots into scanners, which can result in erroneous vote counts if ballots are inserted multiple times. Poll workers are supposed to adjust counters to reflect a single vote but in many cases failed to do so, causing the discrepancies, Baxter said.”

    Well isn’t that lovely: the way Michigan’s recount is set up, if a precinct reports optical scanner trouble or the machines are prone to jamming – two issues that one would think would be a great reason for a recount – those precincts are left out of the recount. And the problem presumably never gets fixed.

    So, with all that in mind, let’s take a walk down optical scanner under-counting malfunction memory-lane. optical scanner undercounting malfunction recent-memory-lane:


    WI Paper Ballot Scanners Failed to Count 1000s of Votes in ‘Citizens United’ Ballot Referendum

    Popular, oft-malfunctioning computer tabulator used in WI, many other states, tallied just 16 votes out of 5,350 cast in Stoughton, WI…
    UPDATED: Hand-count finds 4,440 YES votes, 992 NO votes…

    By Brad Friedman on 11/9/2014, 9:05am PT

    Though some 5,350 voters are known to have voted in the city of Stoughton in Dane County, Wisconsin on Tuesday, just 16 of those voters were interested in voting in a local ballot referendum calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to help overturn the infamous Citizens United decision decision — at least according to the results reported by paper ballot optical-scan computer tabulators there.

    “A malfunction with the voting machines in Stoughton Tuesday led to an incomplete outcome of the city’s referendum on whether to amend the U.S. Constitution, Stoughton clerk Lana Kropf said,” according to a terse and somewhat cryptic report in the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday.

    The city’s ES&S DS200 paper ballot optical-scanners (a computer tabulation system plagued with problems in many states over the years) reported zero votes for the initiative in five of the city’s six voting wards, and just 16 votes (7 Yes, 9 No) in the other.

    “Never in my years working in clerks’ offices have I seen something like this,” Kropf told the Journal.

    The initiative in question was added to the ballot after citizens gathered enough signatures last July to have it included on the November ballot. According to the wording of the measure, it seeks “to reclaim democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and the corrupting influence of unregulated political contributions and spending.” It is similar to referenda passed overwhelmingly in other WI communities.

    She adds: “Fortunately, no one believes the city’s voting machines”…

    The referendum was based on a Move to Amend campaign calling for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The version of the Amendment on Stoughton’s ballot reads:

    1. Only human beings – not corporations, limited liability companies, unions, non-profit organizations, or similar associations and corporate entities – are endowed with constitutional rights, and
    2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

    The city of Stoughton’s measure was the only item to appear on the back of the hand-marked paper ballots in Stoughton last week. But is it possible that only 16 voters out of more than 5,000 turned over the ballot to notice it and/or had an opinion on the resolution either way?

    Well, the good news is, we now appear to know what actually happened and should be able to determine what last Tuesday’s voters really thought about the referendum.

    The bad news is, whatever caused this problem could easily have affected any number of other elections in any number of other places both in Wisconsin and elsewhere where identical and similar tabulation systems are used. Without a hand-count of those ballots, it’s just as likely that nobody would ever notice a similar problem.

    McKim of the progressive Wisconsin Grassroots Network offered a terrific piece explaining the problem and why it appears to have happened in Stoughton, according to local election officials:

    The Dane County clerk’s office sets up ES&S DS200 opscan voting machines for each municipality before every election. To do that, they program ballot-reading instructions onto ‘memory sticks,’ which look like (and may be for all this non-IT person knows) flash drives. DS200 ballots are marked along the edges with black index marks. Each of the bubbles where votes are marked is close to one of these index marks. Translated to English from computer-ese, the instructions say, “If the bubble closest to the top index mark on the right edge of the front of the ballot is filled in, count a vote for Candidate Smith. If the bubble closest to the second-from-the-top index mark is filled in, count a vote for Candidate Jones.

    When Stoughton’s ballots came back from the printers, the referendum was perfectly placed on the ballot right where it was intended to be. However, the person who programmed the sticks wrote instructions that told the machine to look at the areas two index marks below the referendum, in white space. That explains the thousands of apparently blank ballots.

    But what explains the 16 votes? Did 16 of Stoughton’s voters know they could get their vote counted by making a black mark an inch below the bubbles that everyone else was filling in? Nope. Truth is, they were voting so enthusiastically for someone on the front of the ballot that their votes were bleeding through the paper into the white space below the referendum on the back.

    Bleed-though usually isn’t a problem, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told me today, because when two-sided ballots are designed, the bubbles are placed so that any bleed-through from particularly heavily marked votes will fall into white space on the other side–as these marks did. Usually, the machines are not looking for votes in the white spaces. Not usually, but they did on Tuesday in Stoughton.

    Presuming the explanation from officials is accurate, McKim goes on to speculate about a few potential reasons it might have occurred in Stoughton:

    * The previous veteran City Clerk resigned around the time that the petitions were handed in and the measure was added to the ballot and someone less experienced took over;
    * The late addition to the ballot and confusion about WI Republicans struck-down, then back on, then back off Photo ID voting restrictions may have exacerbated the problem by eating in to time normally spent proof-reading ballots and testing computer tabulators;
    * The machines may not have gone through their mandated pre-election tests at all, even though the City Clerk claims they did.

    That last seems the most likely and troubling, since it’s difficult to see how the issue as explained would not have been discovered during pre-election Logic and Accuracy (L&A) testing. Poor L&A testing, or complete lack thereof, has been a fairly regular problem with electronic voting and tabulation systems over the years in the U.S.

    As McKim notes, while the City Clerk is claiming testing was done, “No citizens were present at the public pre-election voting machine test to ensure that it was done properly.” She further explains: “I don’t see any way that test could have been conducted properly and not discovered the faulty programming.”

    While the Wisconsin Grassroots Network did observe pre-election testing in other towns, McKim says that nobody did so in Stoughton. “Citizens have got to do our bit,” she appropriately cautions. “We cannot relentlessly demand transparency in government and relentlessly fail to show up for things like public demonstrations of the voting machines’ ability to produce — or in this case, not produce — an error-free count.”

    Fortunately, the problem this time in Stoughton — whether the result of malfunction, malfeasance or misfeasance — was quickly noticed and should soon be easily rectified. A hand-count of those hand-marked paper ballot will take place on Monday to determine the real results of the referendum. Luckily, the town votes on paper. If it didn’t, there would be no way to ever determine the actual intent of the voters.

    But the issue, even as explained above, also reveals once again how easy it is to “trick” these systems — even computer-tabulated paper-ballots systems — via simple, standard ballot programming procedures…not that anyone would ever do such a thing either accidentally or on purpose.

    The very same failed ES&S DS200 tabulation systems are used in Florida, Ohio, New York and other states in addition to Wisconsin. As The BRAD BLOG reported in 2012 after the company’s manufacturer ES&S confirmed some of the problems that appear to have led to thousands of votes being mistallied in New York’s 2010 election, “Over 4 million registered voters in FL, more than 6.5 million in NY, over 1 million in OH, and voters in more than 50 WI municipalities…are set to have their votes tallied — accurately or otherwise — by the failed ES&S DS200” during that year’s Presidential election.

    Optical-scan paper ballot systems made by other manufacturers have failed in similar and even more spectacular fashion. Occasionally it gets noticed, as it did, for example, in Palm Beach County, FL’s municipal elections in March of 2012, when, luckily, a sharp-eyed election official noticed that the op-scan paper ballot system declared incorrect "winners" in four different races. Only a hand-count there was able to determine the real winners of the contests. (The manufacturer of that system, used in dozens of states, was forced to admit the failure was due to a “bug” present in all of the company’s voting and tabulation systems — many of which are also used in Wisconsin.)

    “If the hand count goes well on Monday,” McKim notes (presuming the chain of custody of the hand-marked paper ballots in Stoughton has been secure since Election Day), “the municipal referendum results will be final and certified — and more guaranteed-accurate than anything else on the ballot.”

    She then offers this important, cautionary, spot-on reminder:

    Had this programming error been a simple flip — telling the machine to count ‘yes’ votes from ‘no’ bubbles and vice-versa — and not the blatantly obvious error it was, the municipal canvass would almost certainly have certified the results without examining even one actual ballot; the Stoughton newspaper would be coming up with perfectly believable reasons why theirs was the first city ever to vote 75% no instead of 75% yes, and a few referendum backers and election-integrity activists would be saying “That’s got to be a miscount” to anyone who would listen –which would not be many.


    [Hat-tip WI election integrity champ John Washburn]

    * * *

    UPDATE 11/11/2014: While the Lana Kropf, the City Clerk of Stoughton, has not responded to our email queries, the Dane County Clerk’s election website has finally been updated with some new numbers following the hand-count of the referendum which was supposed to begin on Monday…

    They show the referendum easily passing 4440 to 992. It’s unclear why Wards 9 through 11 show zero votes, however. If we can learn more, we’ll update again.

    “But the issue, even as explained above, also reveals once again how easy it is to “trick” these systems — even computer-tabulated paper-ballots systems — via simple, standard ballot programming procedures…not that anyone would ever do such a thing either accidentally or on purpose.”

    Yep, it turns out paper ballots aren’t as foolproof as they might seem because they still have to be read by an optical scanner. And once that scanner gets introduced into the equation, all the fun “bugs” that come from electronic voting machines can potentially get introduced to the paper ballot count too. Which, of course, it why it should be considered absolutely necessary to hand count paper ballots in a very close election. Especially in precincts that reported optical scanner issues on election day. And, of course, the Trump team disagrees.

    In other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 6, 2016, 4:17 pm

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