-- Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG
Our Spidey-sense started tingling before going to bed last night and hearing reports, on MSNBC, that there were 17 paper ballots cast in Dixville Notch, NH, in its midnight, first-in-the-country voting. The report said that there were only 16 registered voters in the tiny voting precinct, yet 17 votes had been cast --- suggesting that somehow, paper ballot "voter fraud" skullduggery was afoot.
Following on that, reports throughout the day appeared that NH precincts were out of paper ballots, and voters were unable to vote.
Trouble is, both reports are either completely untrue, or wholly misleading, or both, as The BRAD BLOG was able to confirm with two simple phone calls.
Each of those reports, however, would seem to go a long way towards giving the impression that paper ballots are a bad idea, and that "voter fraud" is easy to commit when using them. Given that one of those reports seems to have begun on The DRUDGE REPORT earlier today, we're not particularly surprised that the MSM kept repeating the easily-debunked stories running all day.
That, even while there are reasons to be concerned about how the paper ballots used in the New Hampshire Primary will actually be counted by the hackable Diebold optical-scan systems used in the state, as controlled and programmed by an outrageously bad private contractor there...
First, as to the mainstream media debunking, we spoke to the Dixville Notch, NH, Town Clerk, Rick Erwin, who explained exactly what happened concerning the 17 ballots cast last night.
ABC News even spoke to Erwin themselves, according to their report. Yet still, they managed to scurrilously misreport the same irresponsible "voter fraud in Dixville Notch" rumor today.
The report, filed by ABC's Karen Travers, was published on their website today at 3:40pm ET --- an hour surely late enough to have actually confirmed the nonsense about the midnight voting last night, as we did, before running it on their website. Their report, as The BRAD BLOG bothered to confirm, was utter nonsense from the beginning!...
Will Dixville Notch go down as the first voting irregularity of this election?
Probably! But only because ABC News misreported it as such! Town Clerk Erwin explained to us what really happened.
"Yeah, that was due to the New Hampshire law that allows people to register on election day when the polls open," Erwin explained to The BRAD BLOG in a phone call within the last hour. "We had a gentleman who lived here, who moved away and came back --- the grandson of the man who started the tradition [of voting at midnight in Dixville Notch], incidentally --- he moved back, but missed the cut-off date for getting onto the registration rolls."
Erwin confirmed that yes, prior to the polls opening, there were just 16 registered voters in the tiny town, but after the new voter registered to vote, the total of 17 ballots cast as counted and reported was exactly right.
The news reports to the contrary are extraordinarily irresponsible. Especially given the case being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow concerning Photo ID restrictions at the polls, where Republicans have used a great deal of disinformation to suggest there is a massive epidemic of polling place "voter fraud" that requires such laws to be implemented. That, despite the fact that some 10 to 30 million --- largely Democratic-leaning --- voters don't have driver's licenses that would meet the requirement. Such laws, as the Indiana case being heard tomorrow before the SCOTUS, have been regarded as a "modern day Jim Crow-era poll tax" by a number of federal judges, and election experts alike, who have found such laws unconstitutional.
For the record, we also confirmed that the paper ballots used in Dixville Notch are counted by hand, transparently, "in front of a million people," Erwin hastened to add.
Our Spidey-sense continued to tingle throughout the day, as we saw reports that indicated paper ballots had run out in voting precincts across the state, due to a larger-than-expected Democratic turnout. As if to say: "Had there only been electronic voting machines in New Hampshire, this sort of thing wouldn't have happened."
Trouble is, a quick call to the NH Sec. of State's office quickly debunked that report as well.
"There's a lot of disinformation, yes," Assistant Sec. of State Karen Ladd told The BRAD BLOG after we'd bothered to call the office tonight at around 7:00pm ET. "We were getting a lot of disinformation, calls from the media, that towns were running out of ballots, and that was not true."
While there were concerns among some of the towns and wards that they might run out of ballots later in the day, due to the large Democratic turnout, Ladd confirmed that it wasn't until 6pm that "a few" places, "a coupla towns," actually did run out of ballots. In the few instances where that happened, she told us, the clerks simply gave paper absentee ballots to voters. If those ran out, they made xerox copies of paper ballots for voters to vote on.
"So there will be a ballot from everybody. Nobody will be denied the right to vote because they ran out of ballots," Ladd assured us.
So where did this rumor begin, we asked her, in reference to her comment about "disinformation"? Apparently --- surprise, surprise --- The DRUDGE REPORT!
"The Drudge Report, that's where it started," she told us, "and everybody picked up on it, and started calling" just after lunch, "around two-ish," she explained.
But the report from the DRUDGE, largely regarded as a rightwing propaganda outlet, was wrong, she says. "The fact is that nobody was running out of ballots. Nobody had run out of ballots. We did have calls that there was concerns that they might run out, but nobody did run out."
Polls close at 7pm ET in most New Hampshire precincts, and at 8pm ET in a few of them. The only large town voting precinct to run out of paper ballots, late in the day, was Londerry, Ladd said, and they simply made photocopies to ensure that every voter could vote.
All ballots are counted at the polls, either by hand or optical-scan systems, and results are announced and/or posted at the precincts before being shipped back to the Secretary of State, Ladd told us. As it should be.
However, for those in the media interested in actual concerns about the integrity of today's NH Primary, we'd strongly recommend the following video primer. In it, you'll learn that the Diebold optical-scan system used across most of New Hampshire (some 40% of precincts still count paper ballots by hand, at the precinct), can be easily rigged by insiders, and only if the paper ballots are properly audited by hand, in some fashion, can the results of the op-scanners be trusted in any way, shape, or form.
Reporters would do well to take note, particularly given the tightness of the race at this hour on the Democratic side, between Obama and Clinton --- curious, given the final Zogby polling numbers which were dead-on on the Republican side, but, so far, seem wildly off on the Dem side. Zogby's numbers had predicted an Obama blowout, 42/29 over Clinton.
The machines used in the state are the same ones seen being hacked in HBO's documentary, Hacking Democracy. As well, a single private company with a very bad record, LHS Associates, Diebold's exclusive distributor and technical contractor in New England, runs the elections and controls the vulnerable memory cards for the voting systems across the state. That company has an horrendous record of lax security policies and has admitted to having replaced memory cards, on a whim, on their own, in the middle of past elections.
As well, their Director of Sales and Marketing, Ken Hajaar, has previously posted a comment on The BRAD BLOG under his own name, declaring: "You are totally full of shit."
His tirade went on against those concerned about transparency and Election Integrity, such as ourselves and BlackBoxVoting.org's Bev Harris to be "deluded," "paranoid." and "loony ideologues."
His comments here succeeded only having him be banned from working on elections in Connecticut by the Sec. of State there, where LHS Associates also irresponsibly and secretly ply their trade at taxpayer expense.
The video below shows LHS Associate President John Silvestro challenging Finnish computer security expert Harri Hursti, during testimony in New Hampshire, after Hursti's landmark hack of a Diebold optical-scan machine in late 2005 in Leon County, FL, as seen in Hacking Democracy. That hack is again shown in this video, courtesy of BlackBoxVoting.org...
UPDATE 9:04pm PT: We'd say the numbers coming out of New Hampshire tonight, as compared to the pre-election polling, offer good reason to be concerned about the points above. Very. More details now here...