Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Black Box Voting

I'm reprinting in its entirety a post from Black Box Voting. Because as Joseph Stalin was once reputed to have said:

"It's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes."


In this article you will find tools to help you analyze the numbers as they come in from Kentucky and Oregon's May 20 primary elections. New info: 2008

Tool Kit: Tool Kit.

You can find more Oregon & Kentucky tools, and discuss here:

Oregon & Kentucky tools

Kentucky is a big problem, Oregon is just plain strange. I'll start with Oregon's all mail-in voting system before I tell you the news about Kentucky. In Oregon, 100 percent of votes are absentee, or mail-in, although citizens do have the option to take their mailed ballot to an elections office to drop it off.



xls spreadsheet (Excel spreadsheet, huge mamajama, allow time to download. And see end of this article for tips on how to use.)

1. EVER WONDER ABOUT SIGNATURE VERIFICATION? Here's a little pop quiz: Out of 1.4 million Oregon votes in 2006, and knowing how people's signatures change over the years, how many signatures would you expect to mismatch?

ANSWER: Out of 1.4 million, the state of Oregon claims that 29 counties had ZERO mismatched signatures, and in the 10 remaining counties that reported mismatches, the grand total was (drum roll please)..... 34 ballots.

Yes, out of 1.4 million, just 34 signatures did not match. With those figures, it seems equally plausible that the dog's pawprint that made it through a couple election cycles in Washington State as would have fared just as well in Oregon. Heck, a scribble drawing or a blob of spaghetti might work fine too, we just don't know.

But what we do know is that according to data submitted by the state of Oregon to the EAC, Clackamas County had 146,968 ballots cast and not a single signature was too squiggly, scrawly or tilted to mismatch, and that Oregon has one of the lowest signature mismatch rates in America.

We're not wanting to disenfranchise people, but accepting every signature that floats in the door may not be a good thing. It puts extra pressure on the validity of the voter registration database and the postal delivery system, that's for sure.

2. FALSE: Oregon's claim that forced mail-in voting gives them higher turnout figures is simply not true. Oregon is squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to voter turnout, when compared to the other 50 states in the same election.

3. MIRACLE POST OFFICE: Oregon also has a remarkably, some would say impossibly effective postal service. Here's what I know: Black Box Voting does periodic mailings, and we consider a mailing of 8,000 pieces to be spectacularly large, for us. Thirty-one of Oregon's counties mail more ballots in every election than we ever do, yet they never seem to have ballots arrive late or flop around battered and bruised, to be returned months later.

That's not our experience. Some of our mailers arrive late, some probably not at all, and a few look like they've taken a bruising trip to Mongolia before they belatedly return to us.

Yet out of 2.5 million ballots mailed out in the 2006 general election, Oregon reports ZERO ballots returned undeliverable, and only 54 reportedly came in after the deadline. Oddly, 44 of those were in one county. (Not Mulnomah, the biggest county, where Portland sits. It was Washington County).

4. VOTING MACHINES: Contrary to many citizens' beliefs, Oregon uses computerized voting machines statewide, almost all ES&S scanners, and if you'd like more information on the hackability of those, check out the EVEREST Report, choose the 334-page Academic Report and look up Election Systems & Software. Every component of the ES&S machines were found to be tamperable.


Kentucky never has accounted for its 2006 election math, as can be seen by examining the data reports published by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in the above link.*

(*See end of this article for hints on how to use the two EAC Inspector Gadget obstructo-matic secret decoder rings needed to make sense of this file)

That file contains the raw data submitted by each secretary of state, with details right down to the number of absentee ballots in the wrong envelope and the reasons voters were taken off lists. What it DOESN'T contain, however, is the number of votes counted in Kentucky in the 2006 General Election. When you search the minimal information presented in news reports back then, you see a glimmer of a hint that Kentucky had a statewide voting computer meltdown in 2006.

Kentucky submitted thousands of data points for the EAC 2006 survey for every one of its 120 counties but omitted -- you guessed it -- the votes. Results have been posted on Web sites, but I find myself wondering, given the all-too-real 2006 meltdown of the voting tally system in 96 counties, whether people in the Kentucky Secretary of State's office may have been reluctant to sign a federally required report committing to those very problematic results.


Bullitt County, Kentucky citizen Kathy Greenwell could have told you that was going to happen. Her husband ran for sheriff in November 2006, and while she obtained copies to match up the voting machine results tapes with the announced results she discovered they didn't match. None of them.

Here's the article by Black Box Voting on that situation:

"Elections give you: The Judge, the Prosecutor & the Sheriff"


Voters cast their votes into paperless touchscreens at the polling place. At the end of Election Day, each voting machine spits out a results tape. Then, the cartridges from each voting machine are fed into a cartridge reader. It reads all the cartridges and transfers the data into a tallying program that adds them all up. And that's when Kathy Greenwell got her dander up in 2006, because the information coming out of the tally system didn't match the results on the poll tapes for any race.

As the evening progressed, the mismatches began to hop around like frogs on electronic lily pads. In addition to wildly fluctuating results, a bunch of questionable individuals started wandering in and out of the back room, many of whom were related to the Tinnell family, which had three members of the family on the ballot (Donnie Tinnell: Sheriff; Sherman Tinnell: Mayor; Melanie Roberts: Judge Executive). All the Tinnell people won, but none of the results ever did match up.

Kathy Greenwell keeps demanding answers, but never has gotten any. At one point Bullitt County Clerk Kevin Mooney gave her a new results tape which, he claimed, made things match up. Unfortunately, this new tape only balanced the mismatch out for Kathy's husband Dave Greenwell's sheriff's race. All the other races are still out of whack.

Bullitt County -- and the other 96 counties in Kentucky serviced by a voting machine services firm called HARP ENTERPRISES -- claimed that the incorrect vote totals were due to a "fusion problem" when the computer tried to add up the totals from the old Shoup/Danaher 1242 voting machines combined with the new Hart eSlate machines.


1. Pennsylvania also has locations that use both these machines, and their fusion program works. Or at least so we are told -- Philadelphia County got the bright idea to charge the public to look at results there, restricting viewing to those who purchase a password, and we don't know if anyone did the same thing Kathy Greenwell did, matching up each tape to the published results you have to purchase.

Nevertheless, we have no evidence that Pennsylvania's system, same machines as Kentucky, is unable to match its own results up.

2. Kentucky then "solved" the problem by deciding to stop printing the reports so no one can check to see if they match.

Yes, that's what I said. Kentucky decided to use ONLY the poll tape results, hand entering them into a computer in the back room, and never put the cartridges into the reader, never generate that second report. With only one-half of the check and balance, you can neither check nor balance the poll tapes against the cartridge reader.

For "transparency", at least in Bullitt County, observers wait in a lobby with a small video picture of people sitting in a different room typing "you-can't-see-what" onto "screens-you-can't-see", with people occasionally wandering in and out of the videotaped area into completely unviewable areas, carrying items that look like poll tapes. On at least one occasion when Black Box Voting was there, they turned off the camera for a bit while they did "we-don't-know-what."


They also had the Wrangler active that night. For those of you newbies to the activity known as "election monitoring" (also accurately termed "smacking into a brick wall") -- well, here's what a "Wrangler" is in Election lingo:

Government insiders, who are in there counting votes in secret on the computers they control, have a designated wrangler, or in trouble spots a couple of them. Their job is to distract observers if something interesting is going on. Blip-lights flicker -- out comes the lady with the candy tray. I once watched the "blue screen of death" appear on a crashing King County, Washington vote tabulator and while trying to write down the time and particulars, was accosted by the Republican Party observer who out of the blue left the computer room to engage me in a stubbornly aggressive conversation about nothing. In Bullitt County, Kentucky it was the candy tray lady, a trick reported by activists in other states as well.

3. And now we get to the best part. Scratch that. The worst part. The machines used in 96 of Kentucky's 120 counties, the Shoup/Danaher 1242s, can be tampered with rather easily by anyone with access during or shortly after the testing phase, but this could be caught -- unless you skip the step of loading in the cartridges to produce the tally report.

And that's just what Kentucky decided to do. In Kentucky, it was decided to stop reading the cartridges and use only the poll tape results. And this is precisely the check and balance cited to show that these old 1242 machines are "safe."


1) Wear a helmet. You'll be running into the brick wall.

2) Ask the officials to read the cartridges into the cartridge reader and print out a report to prove to you that the cartridge results match the voting machine results. The cartridges contain what is supposed to be the actual vote data.

3) Ask to inspect or get copies of the "poll tape" results. Ask for copies of the cartridge reader results.

4) Record the order in which Kentucky counties deliver their results tonight. Late results -- especially when accompanied by a trend reversal -- are associated with fraud.

5) Get screen shots of any tallies that go DOWN as results are coming in.

6) Hunt for "impossible numbers." Here are examples of impossible numbers found by Black Box Voting, the media, and citizen observers:

a) Barnstead, New Hampshire, 2008 primary. Fifty percent more votes than voters in the Democratic Party presidential race.

b) Election location in Harlem, New York: Obama got zero votes. Greenville, New Hampshire: Ron Paul got zero votes, and when citizens came forward swearing they'd voted for him, the Town Clerk found the missing votes. Sutton, New Hampshire: Ron Paul got zero votes. When citizens came forward swearing they'd voted for him, the Town Clerk found the missing votes. Note the pattern, hunt out the zeroes, onesies and twosies because they happen in every election.


You can get lost inside that EAC data set for weeks, but in moments when you come up for air you'll be able to raise red flags that may help prevent problems this fall.

Black Box Voting is not a fan of the EAC, but the data surveys are actually quite terrific. They show that some locations are refusing to comply (like the entire state of New Hampshire, which refuses to provide even basic numbers like voter registration or number of votes). They provide at least the skeletal framework that has potential for quality control and fraud research.

And the data can be used, in conjunction with other data you find, to identify potential hotspots for trouble this fall.

Remember sixth grade math and story problems? The EAC data tables are a like a set of Lego's for constructing all kinds of interesting story problems. Which counties are most likely to binge and purge voter registration lists? You can get a good idea of that using these data tables. Which counties appear to have been stuffing the ballot box in the past? Yep, that can be divined as well. Hint: Lake County, the Indiana location that couldn't seem to find its votes for so many hours in this year's primary, is one.


And you'll need them, because they for some reason did not bother to put the labels on the columns to define what data each column contains. For that, you need to download this file:

Survey_Data_Code_Names.xls (Excel file)

Then you get to do the fun and tedious activity of looking up the secret code in the decoder table to insert it on the top of each column.

But that's just the first decoder ring. Secret Agent Natalie, from Black Box Voting, wondered why none of the data could be summed up or divided for percentage analysis, and found that the EAC, in its infinite wisdom, converted the numeric data to text. What that means is that instead of reading the number "5" your computer reads it as text, like "f-i-v-e" and since it doesn't know how to perform math functions on alphabet letters, you can't perform simple tasks like ranking smallest to biggest, or dividing one number into another to get a percentage.

Black Box Voting has applied both decoder rings to all the data, and is providing the complete decoded, correctly labeled, numerically converted EAC data table as part of our 2008 Tool Kit

* * * * *

More information:

For more on Kentucky:

Print story: The Hunt for Joe Bolton: The Hunt for Joe Bolton

Black Box Voting YouTube video - Kentucky, The Hunt for Joe Bolton: The Hunt for Joe Bolton

Moonshine Elections: Family-run Government: Family-run Government

Moonshine America: Collapse of the "Trust Me" Model: Collapse of the "Trust Me" Model

Black Box Voting YouTube video - Kentucky's Kathy Greenwell confronts New Hampshire Sec. State Bill Gardner, face to face: Greenwell confronts Gardner

Black Box Voting 2008 Tool Kit: Tool Kit

Oregon tools, thanks to John Howard: John Howard

Bev Harris Founder - Black Box Voting

Please help us protect 2008, muster up the "Dream Teams" for field work, print the Tool Kits...

We are supported ENTIRELY through small citizen donations.

to mail:

Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98057

HT linearthinker

BTW if you find any missing or bad links let me know. This was entirely hand coded from an e-mail and it is more than possible I have made errors.

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