Now that we're finally back at The BRAD BLOG World News Headquarters in Los Angeles (for a few days at least) and have shaken off our road buzz (for now), gotten through the latest Sibel Edmonds blockbusters (until the next shoe drops) and have overcome last Friday's maddening 24 hour Internet outage, we've got some catching up to do on New Hampshire's continuing mess of a "recount."
Luckily for us, as we've been traveling for the last few days, and pulling off other related miracles, the hand counters in Concord took a break as of last Friday for a long weekend, which includes today's Martin Luther King Day holiday. As we all know, MLK would have hated the idea of anybody actually counting votes on his holiday, so we're glad the folks from the NH SoS office decided to let the ballots sit around and cool off in the darkness for three long days in a vault somewhere (maybe). The counting, which has so far covered just a small portion of all of the ballots, will resume on Tuesday.
So...From the latest hand count numbers, to the latest media coverage, to the latest reports from Election Integrity experts on the ground --- including one amazing photo essay illustrating New Hampshire's "chain of custody" protocol for its ballots, 80% of which have never been counted or examined by a single human being (that we know of) --- let's get caught up a bit.
Fasten your seatbelts and make sure your Pinto has a full tank of gas...
The Press Coverage...
We've got a continuing mixed bag. The worst of the coverage, ironically enough, is still being irresponsibly hammered home by the supposedly-Progressive blogosphere. We've already covered some of the notoriously bad, dangerous, irresponsible, and self-destructive coverage from some of the gate keepers (not crashers) at Daily Kos and elsewhere, but a new contestant in the anonymous irresponsibility sweepstakes, calling him/herself "Elwood P. Dowd" at dKos and elsewhere, has jumped in to the disinfo game. As usual, without any evidence to back up his/her silly claims. We've sent dear "Elwood" an email to counter his/her nonsense. To date, he/she has not bothered to post it, though late tonight, we've noticed a sad little "clarification."
(More detiails, and our complete letter to "Elwood", in response to the item linked above, at the end of this item.)
For those whose information, thus far, on the NH Election Contests consists only of the misinformation being delivered by the crack journalistic skills of "Elwood P. Dowd" and company, a reminder which we ask you to read carefully, before misreporting it elsewhere anyway:
Okay, then...Beyond the "Progressive" bloggers, we find...
• A decent and responsibly cautious story on the front page of last Friday's Concord Monitor
After quoting from some of the early contest coverage from your friendly neighborhood BRAD BLOG, in which we quoted the Voting Rights expert/attorney John Bonifaz on his concerns about transparency issues discovered when he visited Concord and spoke to NH SoS Bill Gardner last week, the Monitor quotes the SoS saying in response:
For one, Mr. Gardner, you could allow the Kucinich campaign to count the number of unvoted ballots, as they've requested. You could also tell America where the Diebold optical-scan memory cards used in the election are, and allow Kucinich's team (and everyone else) to inspect them as well. All such materials are required, by federal law, to be retained for 22 months after an election, and both are needed in order to reconcile the hand-count.
It doesn't do a hell of a lot of good to count ballots if there is no way to know that they are the actual ballots as cast during the election. Given the startling photographs detailing New Hampshire's "chain of custody" published over the weekend (keep reading), there is certainly reason to be concerned.
We spoke with Manny Krasner, the attorney in New Hampshire overseeing the hand count on behalf of Team Kucinich, and confirmed that he has a number of concerns about the process so far.
That, despite the following section from the Monitor:
Krasner disputes the Monitor's take on his comments.
"I was talking about what was going on inside of the four square walls of the counting room," Krasner told us, before detailing Gardner's refusal to allow the counting of unvoted ballots.
"We requested that unvoted ballots be counted, but they're not being counted," he said. He reports that SoS Gardner's explanation for disallowing the proper reconciliation of ballots during the hand count was "the New Hampshire recount statute, [says] that you count the ballots that were counted in the first place" as opposed to the unvoted ballots.
Krasner tells us that both Asst. SoS Bud Fitch, as well as the Asst. AG agreed with Gardner's decision.
The statute in question, "CHAPTER 660: POST-ELECTION PROCEDURE - State General Election Recounts" as posted at the NH SoS website offers evidence to support the ruling by Gardner, where it says, in Section 5 discussing "Conduct of Recount," that "the ballots cast for such office shall be counted."
Everywhere else in the statute, only "ballots," without specificity, are discussed, with the following exception. Section 16 details "General Provisions for Recounts" and refers to the "Disposal of Ballots," offering an exemption from NH's RSA 91-A, which relates to how other public records shall be disposed of [emphasis added]:
In other words, while most of the rest of the statute governing "State General Election Recounts" refers to ballots in general, without specificity, the provision above refers specifically to the preservation of "cast, cancelled, and uncast ballots."
What those uncast ballots are ever to be used for, since the SoS won't allow them to be counted to make sure that they are all there and in good order (as opposed to having being used for some nefarious purpose) is unknown.
As well, David Bright, a senior Kucinich representative who has been in the counting room serving as an observer over several days last week, tells The BRAD BLOG tonight that in addition to the refusal to allow for the counting of uncast/unvoted ballots, they have also not been allowed to review the poll books, so they have no way of knowing how many actually signed in and cast ballots on Election Day.
"We have no indication of how many voters actually voted. No check lists. No list of who signed into the poll books," says Bright.
These are no small issues, given the troubling state in which ballots are arriving in Concord. For more on that, please keep reading.
"There are a lot of other issues here," said Krasner, who has worked for Kucinich for years in the Granite State. "I thought we had a pretty air-tight system here in New Hampshire, and now I'm beginning to see a lot things that need to be tightened up, rather significantly."
What the Kucinich camp intends to do about "tightening" things up during the counting remains unclear at this hour. Though Krasner added, "We're taking notes, we will have proposals for legislation."
We're hopeful that they will do far more than that. Indications are that they might. But we'll see what they actually do as the count continues to move forward.
• Pollster Mark Blumenthal rings in, and though we've had issues with his far-too-conservative, far-too-forgiving coverage in the past on a number of items --- including his tendency to believe that sophisticated, transparent, time-tested polling methodology is far more suspect than results gathered by secretly programmed, wholly untested counting devices shown to be frequently inaccurate, prone to out-and-out failure, and exceedingly vulnerable to undetectable tampering --- he joins Salon's Farhad Manjoo (who has a similarly apologistic track record) in agreeing with us that paper ballots in New Hampshire, and elsewhere, where they still exist, need to be counted.
We'll take it.
Blumenthal quotes from Manjoo's coverage [emphasis added for "Elwood" and friends]...
He's right. Why not count the votes?
[A]fter every election, officials should randomly count some number of ballots to double-check the machines' results. It is amazing that this is not a standard procedure across the country; it is a disgrace that election officials aren't rushing to implement such procedures now.
Blumenthal then adds: "I couldn't agree more."
As well, he offers a number of misleading points in other areas, as we see it, but we can save those for another day, as this article will be long enough already, and we're delighted to see that he's at least partially beginning to speak out for verified elections.
And while Manjoo was refreshingly correct on a number of points made in his Salon piece, including just how hackable the Diebold machines used in New Hampshire are, and that "Proving that theft didn't occur should be a routine part of elections --- all elections, all the time," he seems to have been wrong on the data analysis he used to suggest that the various concerns about the NH results, regarded widely as anomalous, and certainly a surprise to just about everybody, "don't hold water."
According to analysts at the Election Defense Alliance (EDA), who combed over Manjoo's analysis, it seems he was working from inaccurate data, as posted early on after the election by a well-meaning Ron Paul supporter.
As compared to the actual results as posted by the NH SoS, it seems that it's Manjoo's conclusions that "don't hold water" instead. At least according to the smarter-than-us folks on the EDA analysis team.
The EDA folks notified Manjoo almost immediately after his article was published a good 10 days ago. No correction or retraction has been posted to date. Though we've seen plenty of people point to the article in attempts to quash the notion that there are concerns about NH's election results.
We hope the editors at Salon will take appropriate action immediately to correct the egregious errors.
• Two editorials from local papers are of note. One because they got at least one point correct. The other, because it's so demonstrably embarrassing for them.
The Union Leader points out in Monday's paper that "REP. Dennis Kucinich was right to request --- and pay for --- a recount of the ballots in the Democratic presidential primary."
They then go on to blow it, by referring to questions about "voter fraud" (versus election fraud, or even just tabulation error --- the voters are still doing fine, so please leave them alone!); "conspiracy theories," which no serious EI advocate has charged at this time, and; that it's appropriate for Kucinich, not NH, to have to pay for such a hand count, instead of the state, which has been delinquent in its job and responsibility to, as Manjoo averred, "prove that theft didn't occur" as a "routine part of elections --- all elections, all the time."
The Union Leader then concludes its brief, unbylined editorial with:
While nobody seems to be questioning "Gardner's integrity" at this time, it's foolish to believe "there can be no question about the integrity of the count" given Gardner's refusal to allow the counting of unvoted ballots, failure to supply poll books for validation of the number of actual voters, and his complete disregard for the whereabouts of important election media, such as the sensitive Diebold voting machine memory cards which are still "missing."
The Eagle-Tribune, on the other hand, just make complete idiots of themselves with their editorial today --- on Martin Luther King Day, of all days --- by suggesting that "It doesn't matter" that "the machines did not count every vote."
"A few hundred votes either way" is no prob for the E-T; Kucinich is blasted for "the damage he is doing to the country" by asking that ballots actually be counted; "the results will not change an iota" (guess it depends on your definition of "iota"); and that the "whole idea that it will is a fallacy that is destructive to Americans' confidence in the democratic process."
Wow...talk about "destructive to Americans' confidence in the democratic process." Keep up the horrible work, E-T!
They also blame a "failure of people to make the minimum effort required of citizens of a democracy" for ballots that went uncounted by the Diebold machines. We guess those 550 ballots that couldn't be counted by the Diebold machines in Stratham, according to public records requests, because they couldn't read the ink on the ballots, were also the fault of those lazy citizens.
Yes, believe it or not, the Eagle-Tribune is an actual newspaper, as opposed to The Onion.
• In regard to our article last Thursday, just before we were knocked off line for a bit, reporting "huge disparities" in the tallies of Manchester's Ward 5, where the counts were discovered to be anywhere from 40 to 60 votes off for each of the leading candidates in just that one precinct alone, the Union Leader reported on Friday that:
As we noted in our update to the original item, pointing to the reporting above, we've been unable to confirm that as the cause of the disparity one way or another, but we're happy to see that the problem was discovered, thanks to Kucinich's hand count. Those errors, and likely many more to come, would have stood in for the official results, because New Hampshire didn't bother to verify any of them.
But never mind the disinfo, misinfo, and ridiculous opinion out there. What about "the numbers"? The proof is in the pudding after all.
But proof of what? That the ballots where never counted, as we've argued correctly, while being much maligned for such an argument from the beginning? That much is stone cold accurate, despite the yutzes and "Elwood's" of the world.
So, in any case, what else have we learned since we last we reported on the results slowly dribbling out of the hand count process in Concord?
In addition to the Diebold miscounts discovered across almost all of the Democratic candidates, in almost all of the wards as counting began last week, and the huge mistallies in Manchester's Ward 5, discovered on Thursday, Friday's counting revealed still more large mistallies in Nashua ward 5, according to the NH SoS website's "recount" results page (which is incredibly poorly designed, btw.)
In Nashua 5, there were very notable discrepancies, as follows...
|NASHUA, WARD 5|
Beyond the candidates mentioned above, in Nashua, Ward 5, Richardson lost 3 votes (out of 72, as tallied by Diebold originally) and Biden lost 1 (out of 9). Everyone else, including Kucinich, remained exactly the same after the hand count in that one precinct.
Note: The above numbers are from Nashua, Ward 5. As opposed to Manchester, Ward 5, which we reported on last Thursday, with some consternation, after enormous disparities were revealed by the post-election hand count in that precinct as well.
As mentioned previously, other folks, smarter with numbers than we are, and able to study them much more closely, are following the results as they come in. There's still a long way to go, so we'll leave it there for now.
But since the NH SoS results page is so impossible to read, we offer you this more illustrative version of SoS's numbers so far, in aerial overview, for the three leading candidates, as painstakingly compiled by Bill W. of Crooks & Liars. This graphic shows mistallies found for just the three leading candidates, though it doesn't specify which are hand count and which are Diebold precincts. Still, it offers a good overview of the number of mistallies so far discovered, now that folks are actually bothering to check them by hand in New Hampshire...
(Butch & Hoppy) + Post-It Notes = NH's Chain of Custody
Lastly (or almost) for now, is this extraordinary photo essay, as posted over the weekend by Bev Harris at BlackBoxVoting.org.
We're running it in full here, with her permission, because we believe it's so important for you to see for yourself. The photos and comments are all hers, culled from her time on the ground in New Hampshire where she, and a number of other volunteer Election Integrity advocates and experts, are documenting some extraordinary stuff on video. She's got much more on all of this, and we encourage you to keep a close eye on the work she's posting at BlackBoxVoting.org as the counting continues.
But for now, meet Butch, Hoppy, and New Hampshire's "chain of custody"...
"Butch" is on the left, "Hoppy" is on the right.
This is the van that "Butch" and "Hoppy" drive. These two men pick up all the ballots in New Hampshire from more than 230 locations and bring them to one central location for the recount.
They are followed by a single state trooper.
"Butch" has a real name: Armand Dubois. He doesn't like to be photographed and in video after video, he ducks out of the shots. He wears a baseball cap and dark glasses. At one point he said "you're taking a picture of me?"
Perhaps he's shy, but this is an evaluation of chain of custody, which includes knowing the names and background for people who ride around the state inside a van containing the ballots for the presidential primary election.
According to "Butch", the real name for "Hoppy" is Peter, but we do not yet know the last name. "Hoppy" is not camera shy, but we would like to know his real name and background. (Do not post personal or speculative information here. It will be removed. E-mail privately to email@example.com )
Ballots are contained in a variety of cardboard boxes, with a few metal boxes thrown in from certain parts of Manchester. The New Hampshire secretary of state's office, which provides the labels for the boxes and provides the ballots for all the towns, claims they leave the decision up to the towns as to how to secure their ballots.
When people ask about the security of using old, used cardboard boxes to transport and store the official ballots for the presidential primary election, New Hampshire state officials quickly frame the issue as one of "frugality" and paint the problem over with rustic charm.
That doesn't address the problem. The random nature of the boxes enables both accidental and deliberate chain of custody breaches.
If the state of New Hampshire can provide the ballots and tell the towns what labels to use, they can tell them what container to store ballots in, or at the very least, publish guidelines for this.
Originally, the ballots were to be delivered to the state archive warehouse without notification to the public as to when they would arrive, and without permitting the public to photograph or videotape the ballot intake process.
The team assembled by Black Box Voting objected to this and insisted on public access to view the incoming ballot boxes and the intake process. We prevailed, at least temporarily.
So they have been bringing the ballots in the front door, taking them through the counting room, out the back door, through the electronically key-coded door into the archive warehouse, down the hall inside the key-carded warehouse, placing them in what they call a "vault" which is actually a small room with a lock that can be opened by a single key.
Ballots being transported from "vault" to counting room
Other items besides ballots have been kept in the "vault" as well:
Items left in ballot vault after transporting ballots, held in "vault" overnight, to the counting room.
Two other observations about the state archive warehouse:
They use the same bar code identification system for all items.
There are no windows and no way to observe what is going on in the warehouse. It has two loading bays in addition to the electronically key-carded door, and the counted ballots are NOT stored in the "vault" but rather, on shelves like all the other documents. Here is a photo of the loading bays:
As ballots are being transported back and forth to the warehouse "vault" and being counted in the counting room, boxes are being loaded and unloaded from the loading bay behind the building.
Shelves inside warehouse.
Ballot boxes photographed while being removed from the "vault":
Secretary of state Bill Gardner has several assistant and deputy secretaries of state. The assistant secretary of state in charge of ballots and ballot chain of custody is David Scanlan.
Here is David Scanlon (far end) moving a ballot cart with state archive employee Brian Burford.
Ballot box closeups:
The box below was shipped from the secretary of state TO the town clerk. The pinkish label is a shipping lable and so is the label next to it saying "deliver to":
The rebuttal provided by state and archive employees to concerns about the particular slit shown above is that the label on the top is the only thing that counts.
I'll post a closeup photo of the top label further down. On the top label are the signatures of the selectmen and information about location and information about the ballots inside.
I chose the above photo because it provides a clear image of the SHIP TO labels and also shows the label on the box top that is said to secure the ballot box. I cannot tell from this photo whether the clear tape is on top of that label or underneath it, but let's give the benefit of the doubt and assume the label on top is further secured with clear plastic tape.
This is not a chain of custody. There is absolutely no way for any observer to tell whether the clear plastic tape (if it's over the top label) was affixed on the night of the election, by the town clerk after the election, by Butch and Hoppy or a person they met enroute, or in the vault in the middle of the night.
It is easy to get distracted with off-topic questions like "are you accusing Butch and Hoppy?" or to take at face value someone's statement that the tape was put there on election night.
THAT IS NOT A CHAIN OF CUSTODY.
The only item that even remotely resembles a chain of custody is the signed label on the top of the box. Since we have no idea when the other tape was put on, or who affixed it, that tape cannot be considered part of the chain of custody.
Furthermore, this taping of the label was not a consistent practice from box to box or town to town.
I think we can all understand that the town clerk would slit open the end of the box to retrieve shipped ballots.
That explains the slits that ONLY slit the two original shipping labels.
That doesn't answer the chain of custody questions revealed by the above slit. The questions raised by the above photo in my mind are:
1) Can someone get their hand into the slit?
2) Was the box slit secured by tape or anything when it came out of the van?
3) Was the box slit secured in any way at the town before pickup?
4) Is there any record of what the box looked like on election night and also, before pickup? In other words, do the signatures even match, is the tape in the same places.
5) If there is no tape securing the label at the top, it would be the ONLY thing securing the box since the sides are slit. If this label is removed, does it leave telltale evidence?
6) Does the slitting of the labels upon receipt of original ballots explain all openings on all ballot boxes?
Let's look into that a little further.
Here is a ballot box that has been opened for counting.
Here is a ballot box that has been counted. It has both the lable affixed at the town with the selectmen's signatures on it, and a new label affixed to show it has been counted.
Here is an empty ballot box with the top label attached. The ballots are in the process of being counted. As Anthony Stevens, from the sec. state office, watched I checked to see whether the labels on the top of the boxes leave any mark if you remove and reaffix.
They stopped my experiment after I had peeled about two inches.
I now call these labels "Post-Its".
It is important NOT to allow referring to these labels as "seals" because they are not seals, they are removable labels. When writing about the chain of custody in New Hampshire, we should not refer to the boxes as being "sealed" by these labels, which are in many cases the only line of defense when the end of the box top is sliced.
These are labels. Not seals. A "seal" actually "seals" the container. These labels do not seal it.
The person with responsibility for making sure the seals are actually seals is Assistant Secretary of State David Scanlan. He chose labels that are not seals.
I asked Scanlan if he believed the ballot boxes were secure when slit at the end. He said the boxes are secure because of the label on the top. Here's a hand in the slit. You decide if you are comfortable with this.
He was referring to what I call the "PostIt" note.
After seeing the condition of the ballot boxes coming out of the vault, I was curious about the condition of the boxes as they were unloaded from the van. The photos below are of ballots unloaded from the van during the early afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 17:
Let's have a closer look at that last box coming out of the van:
Pat and Manny, the representatives for Kucinich, did not go back to the ballot vault with me. To the best of my knowledge, the only people who went back there were the Hillary Clinton observers.
The Kucinich representatives have said they are comfortable with the chain of custody. I did not see them take a single photograph, nor did I see them lodge any protest about this.
Republican ballots were also brought in, to the best of my knowledge, WITHOUT notifying the Republican candidate who has paid for a recount.
The next series of photos will be from the towns we visited to capture photos of the condition of the ballot boxes before they were loaded into the van. I will do that in a separate thread, perhaps later, and open this thread for discussion now.
In New Hampshire, the ballot chain of custody is a bunch of broken cardboard boxes with a post-it on top.
And One for the Irresponsible "Elwood"...
In concluding what is likely our longest post ever (sorry, but we had a bunch of days to catch up from in one swell foop!)...We mentioned the anonymous "Elwood's" wholly incorrect and irresponsible article earlier in this post. We sent him/her, and his/her editor at Blue Hampshire, a letter requesting correction and/or retraction, along with detailing a number of the egregious errors and outrageous evidence-free attacks he'd made on ourselves and others who believe that elections should be accurate and transparent.
He/she also writes the same sort of inaccurate, evidence-free horseshit over at Daily Kos, of course.
Instead of retracting, he/she posted a squirrelly, unimpressive a second item, as a "clarification," but didn't bother to apologize, retract, or even run the letter we'd sent him, as requested.
So since "Elwood" is incapable of doing the right thing, we'll go ahead and run the letter here ourselves. You're welcome, Elwood. And we look forward to more of your lectures on "how dishonest, willfully ignorant, and damaging to the cause of election integrity the highest profile self-appointed advocates of election integrity are." ...
Sent: Monday, January 21, 2008 4:00 PM
Subject: You are just wrong. And damagingly so.
I am not a registered user at bluehampshire (nor wish to be), so can't respond to your silly comments directly as posted at: http://www.bluehampshire...howDiary.do?diaryId=3312
…Please feel free to run this letter in full, if you wish.
(Though do not include my phone number, which I will give you at the bottom, so you can ASK questions and CONFIRM things before "reporting" them completely inaccurately, without a stitch of evidence for your inaccurate claims)
BradBlog and BlackBoxVoting starting talking about evidence of fraud as soon as the results were announced, claiming that the variance between candidate percentages in scanner precincts versus hand-count precincts was very suspicious. It took all of 30 minutes of simple research to show that claim was completely unfounded.
I can't speak for BlackBoxVoting, but I can speak for BRAD BLOG. We made no such claims. Ever. Period. In fact, what little that we did report on the difference between hand-count and Diebold op-scan towns, was noted along with the caveat that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for such disparities.
Here is the virtual entirety of our reporting on the difference in the officially announced results between hand count and Diebold precincts:
Had you bothered to check first, before "reporting", you would have performed a service, instead of a disservice to your readers, and to the cause of Election Integrity. Your report to the contrary, is extraordinarily irresponsible, in addition to being plain inaccurate.
More recently BradBlog held up the Manchester Ward 5 recount results, where some 141 votes were stripped from Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, as evidence of problems with the scanners. But he had observers in the recount room - he must have known that the actual cause of the original overcount was: in that ward write-in votes on the Vice President spot got added to the Presidential counts.
As noted in the report you refer to ( http://www.bradblog.com/?p=5573 ) the article was filed very quickly, just minutes after the new numbers had come out that night, and just before I had to leave the hotel to get to a screening of a documentary film on Election Integrity up in Oakland.
While I have no "observers in the recount room", as you suggest (again, without evidence), the fact that 141 votes had been mistallied would never have been discovered were it not for the hand count requests by the Kucinich camp. The completely inaccurate numbers were previously part of the "official" results, since NH doesn't bother to verify a single ballot is counted correctly on the 80% of ballots which are "counted" on error-prone, hackable, Diebold op-scanners.
The item referred to has been updated with the reference to the New Hampshire Union Leaders claim that the error was due to mismarked Veep tallies. I have not confirmed that point either way, at this time. Have you?
Either way, it reveals --- yet again --- the importance of human verification of automated ballot counts.
[T]he loudest supposed champions of "election integrity" have made it more difficult to build support for that legislation, by making easily disproven allegations over the past two weeks.
Again, I can't speak for BBV --- though I am unaware of any "disproven allegations" they have made --- but I can certainly speak for The BRAD BLOG.
I stand by every single word I have written and reported, and ask you for a single piece of evidence to back up your unfounded, inaccurate and incorrect claims.
You'll note that both myself and Bev Harris report transparently, putting our own names --- not pseudonym's such as "Elwood" and "Elwood P. Dowd" --- behind our work. So it's much more difficult for us to NOT take responsibility for everything that we write.
The only "allegations" so far "easily disproven" here, are the ones you've been making such as in articles like the one above. I'll be happy to do the right thing and retract and/or correct any point made here, if you're able to prove me wrong. Will you be willing to do the same?
(please do not post that number, but feel free to call it next time to CONFIRM your "reporting" before posting it, and causing great harm to the cause of Election Integrity and Reform)
Publisher/Editor, The BRAD BLOG