|The Importance of Preventing Central Tabulator Mediated Election Fraud|
Posted by Time for change on Fri Aug-03-07 05:58 AM
While there may be an infinite number of specific ways to rig an election, election fraud may be perceived as falling into three general categories:
1. Preventing people from voting
2. Causing individual voting machines to switch or delete voters’ votes
3. Causing county central tabulators to wrongly tabulate vote counts received from the county’s precincts
Though many or most Americans who are concerned about the integrity of our election system are focused mostly on category # 2, specifically the potential for DRE machines to be programmed to switch votes, it may very well be that the other two categories represent a greater threat to our election system, and it appears almost certain that the 2004 presidential election was “won” by the wrong candidate more because of illegal vote purging (category # 1) or central tabulator mediated fraud (category # 3) than electronic vote switching.
Recall that the 2004 presidential election depended on Ohio. In 2004, less than 15% of Ohio votes were cast on electronic voting machines, whereas 73% were cast on punch card machines and 12% were cast on optical scan machines. Furthermore, analysis of the 2004 Ohio vote count patterns indicated that electronic vote switching was an unlikely cause of massive election fraud in 2004.
Illegal purging of hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters was probably a much more important cause of election fraud in 2004, and probably accounted for a net loss of enough Kerry/Edwards votes to alter the outcome of the 2004 election all by itself.
While categories # 1 and 2 are of great concern, the rest of this post will confine itself to category # 3, central tabulator mediated fraud.
County central tabulators
The county central tabulators receive vote counts from all the precincts throughout the county. They generally receive the counts electronically by modem, and they receive a whole bunch of physical evidence (tapes from individual voting machines, memory cards, provisional ballots, etc.) as well. The central tabulators tabulate and report the vote counts for the whole county and the by precinct, using processes that vary from state to state. These processes can be quite complicated, as indicated by this article from Verified Voting, which explains how people can monitor the tabulation process.
The “pre-tabulator” vote counts for individual precincts are the vote counts that are posted by the individual precincts shortly after poll closing on Election Day. The “post-tabulator” vote counts are the vote counts that are reported out by the county central tabulator, and those are the official counts. For obvious reasons, the pre-tabulator and post-tabulator vote counts should match in a fair election.
Reasons why central tabulator mediated election fraud may be more practical than vote switching on individual electronic machines
Though I believe and millions of other people believe that the 2004 election was stolen, I doubt that anyone but the perpetrators know precisely how it was done; nor does anyone know precisely why exit polls in 2006 predicted a much larger Democratic Congressional victory than the official election results indicated; and more important, nobody knows what mechanisms of election fraud will be perpetrated in 2008 (if those elections are actually held) or in future elections.
But there are reasons, I believe, to think that central tabulator mediated fraud is a more practical way to influence a national election than is programming vote switching for individual voting machines. The individual voting machines at the precinct where I did poll watching in 2006 registered about one hundred votes per machine. Few voting machines register much more than that. So consider how many individual voting machines would have to be rigged to change the results of a presidential election.
County central tabulators, on the other hand, tabulate the results for a whole county, which in large counties may account for a million or more votes. So you’d have to rig the results of ten thousand individual voting machines to achieve the impact of rigging the results of a single large county tabulation. I’m not saying that I know for certain that the former couldn’t be accomplished more easily than the latter. But it boggles my mind to see how it could.
The likely role of central tabulator mediated fraud in the 2004 Ohio presidential election
The combination of exceptionally long voting lines throughout Cleveland on Election Day 2004 on the one hand, and yet surprisingly low official voter turnout in Cleveland, is very perplexing, especially since Cleveland used punch card voting, which is not subject to the delays that electronic voting tends to cause. That finding alone suggests foul play, since long voting lines should be associated with high voter turnout, not low voter turnout. And since Cleveland is a very heavily democratic city with over three hundred thousand registered voters, the potential for fraud is obvious.
Because I was very suspicious of this I tried to ascertain whether or not the pre-tabulator and post-tabulator vote counts for Cuyahoga County matched. The post-tabulator vote counts were published on the Cuyahoga county web-site, so that part was easy. I then requested the pre-tabulator vote counts from the Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Michael Vu. Though Vu repeatedly promised to obtain those for me, he never followed through. So I collaborated with Ray Beckerman’s Ohio Project to conduct an audit to obtain the pre-calculator vote counts. The initial audit of 15 precincts (out of 1458 in Cuyahoga County) showed a net loss to the Kerry/Edwards ticket of 140 votes. However, the audit was never able to be completed.
The other way that the vote count in Cuyahoga County could have been confirmed would have been to conduct a county-wide hand recount of the votes. The rules of the Ohio recount specified that a 3% recount of each county would be conducted, and if any discrepancies were found in the recount (between the pre-tabulator and the official post-tabulator precinct counts), then a county-wide hand recount would be conducted. No vote discrepancies were found in the Cuyahoga County 3% recount. However, many anomalies were observed at the recount, and two election workers were convicted of rigging the vote count.
Another county that probably involved central tabulator fraud was Warren County. That was the site of the infamous lockdown, which allowed Republican officials to tally the Warren County vote in private, rationalized by the bogus excuse of a “national security emergency”. Warren County Republican election officials claimed that they learned of this “national security emergency” from the FBI – a claim that was soon denied by the FBI. Yet the Warren County results continued to stand.
How central tabulator fraud could be prevented or identified very early
It should be obvious how central tabulator fraud could be identified very early after it occurs. We know that if central tabulator fraud is perpetrated, the official post-tabulator precinct counts will not match the pre-tabulator counts, which are calculated at each precinct shortly after poll closing.
The post-tabulator counts are easy to identify, since they are the official counts and will be posted on the county Board of Elections web site as soon as the results become official. The pre-tabulator counts are more difficult to obtain. Because of the difficulties I had obtaining those counts following the 2004 presidential election, I talked with voting rights organizations to ascertain how I could obtain them. I was astounded to hear from them that they had also tried but had rarely been able to obtain the pre-tabulator counts.
Thus, it appears that within weeks or days following the election, the pre-tabulator vote counts either tended to disappear, or else county Boards of elections tended to be unhelpful in making them available to enquiring citizens – as my experience with Michael Vu demonstrated.
But they must be available at the time of poll closing, since each precinct must report them to the county central tabulator. In many jurisdictions, they are required to be publicly posted at each precinct at the time of poll closing. But even if they aren’t posted, there should be no reason why poll watchers couldn’t obtain them. In fact, that is one of the most important tasks of today’s poll watchers. The problem is, however, that poll watching organizations have been unable to or not interested enough in recruiting enough poll watchers to cover all or even the good majority of precincts.
When I volunteered to do poll watching for the Democratic Party for the 2006 election I was told that it was an all day job, lasting from early in the morning until late at night. There must be a great many people who would like to help out but for whom taking a whole unpaid day off of work would be a great hardship.
I think that if there was a national organizing effort it should be possible to get at least one person for each precinct in the country – at least in states where the presidential election was expected to be close – to obtain pre-tabulator vote counts for president, Senator, Governor, and House of Representatives. It seems to me that get out the vote drives, which were used to such great effect in 2004, take a lot more work and organizational effort than that. If need be, depending upon how long results are required to be posted in specific jurisdictions, some volunteers could be assigned to more than one precinct.
If we could do that, it would then be possible to spot central tabulator fraud almost immediately after a county announces its official results. In a very close election, the election may not have even been called by then. With that kind of evidence in hand, it could immediately be made available to the candidate, who would then be an absolute fool to concede the election if the mismatch between pre-tabulator and official (post-tabulator) vote counts seemed great enough to alter the results of the election. Such a scenario very likely could have prevented John Kerry from conceding in 2004, and very well could have altered the results of that election.