By Brad Friedman on 11/9/2008, 9:40pm PT  

The election results being reported in Alaska still stink from top to bottom. While it may be true that fewer voters turned out to vote for Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Barack Obama on this year's Presidential tickets than turned out to vote for Bush and Kerry in 2004 --- even with Alaska's record increases in voter registration and voter participation during their primaries and unprecedented turnout during early voting --- it does strain credulity, as noted by Anchorage's Shannyn Moore, by poll analysist/expert Nate Silver and others.

There could be some reasonable explanation for poll-shattering upset victories by Republicans in Alaska's U.S. House and Senate contests, despite pre-election polls predicting near-certain defeat for convicted 7-time felon Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, who is currently under FBI investigation on corruption charges.

The state senator I spoke with --- who can't understand how it could be that polls predicted Democrats would gain 4 to 6 U.S. House seats in Alaska, but instead, according to Diebold and state election officials, currently seem to have lost 2 seats instead --- could simply be wrong in his belief that something strange is going on up there.

But, as always, rather than speculating on any of it, I suggest another way: Find out for certain who won and who lost, in such a way that no party or citizen would have reason to question the final results, by, among other things, counting the ballots --- all of them.

I've come to learn that's a nutty idea that only crazy people would advocate, but for all of you crazy people out there, here's what can be done to try and find out who really won or lost any particular race...

Counting the actual ballots --- all of them --- is a swell way to begin, and it looks like that's set to happen in the Coleman/Franken U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, at least. As far as I can tell, that needs to happen in all races in Alaska (and should happen everywhere else as well, but counting ballots in America in 2008 is, apparently, a radical, extremist idea in these United States, so I'll just focus on MN and AK for the moment).

But counting ballots can have only limited meaning without proper reconciliation of the entire election, including unvoted as well as voted ballots, and other materials that need to be examined to ensure a clean accounting of votes.

To that end, I have passed on the following recommendations to some of those concerned Democrats in Alaska, and hope that folks in Minnesota, where oversight and full reconciliation of the Coleman/Franken recount are similarly important, will also take note. These recommendations are for Democrats, Republicans, and/or citizens of any party or none at all who wish to ensure that the will of the voters in both states is accurately accounted for. (As to the U.S. Senate race in Georgia, where they use 100% unverifiable, fully faith-based, touch-screen voting machines, there's much less that anyone can do about it, but perhaps I'll make recommendations there, for their upcoming runoff next month, at another time.)

These are among the immediate actions required in order to ensure that citizens can have confidence that the election results, whatever they may turn out to be, in both AK and MN are accurately counted and fully reconciled as per the voters' intent:

  • All memory cards and hard drives from all optical-scan machines and tabulators must be immediately impounded and securely retained for the 22-month period required by federal law in case there is any need to examine them for any reason. Simply retaining the paper ballots used in both races will not do. If necessary, a court order mandating the secure sequestration of that material should be sought immediately, since many jurisdictions seem to feel that memory cards, etc., can be erased and re-used before the 22 month statutory federal period, requiring retention of all election materials, is over.
  • Public records requests must be made from all counties (in Alaska, they're lucky, since all 14 election divisions are run out of a single election headquarters in Anchorage) for invoices of the number of paper ballots ordered, printed, and delivered.
  • Any hand count of the ballots in the election must include full, transparent accounting for voted ballots, spoiled ballots, and unvoted ballots. The total numbers of each should equal exactly the number of ballots shown as having been printed on the invoices and delivery records from the printers. Those are fully public records and should be made available to all.
  • Public records requests must be made for copies of all poll books/registers signed by voters on Election Day and during early voting, so the number of voted ballots can be properly reconciled.
  • All iterations of all computer tabulator database files --- from before early voting began, up until certification of the results --- need to be fully released to all political parties and the public so they can oversee how voters voted, review audit logs of what actions were taken (and when) on those computers, and possibly determine if Diebold's GEMS central tabulator may have dropped votes, as regularly occurs on their system, as per their recent admission. (The Diebold GEMS central tabulator is used in several large counties in MN, and for the entire state of AK...It's also used for the entire state of GA for that matter, where there are no paper ballots to double check any of the reported results.)
  • Further public records requests must be made for signed, secure chain-of-custody logs for all ballots from the time they arrived from the printer through today, as well as for Election Day poll-tapes (including "Zero Test" tapes from before polls opened, and results tapes from after polls closed), all voting equipment, memory cards, etc. All of this information should be made publicly available immediately for examination by all interested parties and citizens.

The above advice is meant for all parties and/or all citizens who wish to ensure the elections in question in AK and MN are counted accurately, but the same list is likely useful for almost any election in these United States, in general. At least those where paper ballots are actually available to be counted by human beings. If any of the parties or candidates need more details, feel free to let me know. I'm pretty easy to find.

Yes, that's a lot of material, and yes, it's a pain in the ass, but yes, that's what we're forced to do, at this point, in order to try and have oversight over our public elections, even as they've been almost fully outsourced to private companies and their secret hardware and software. Get rid of that hardware and software, and unaccountable company employees in the middle, and so much of this would be so much simpler, transparent, easy to oversee, and without so many questions every damned time we have an election.

If you don't yet know why all of these materials are important, you can start reading the previous 6000 or so pages here at The BRAD BLOG. Otherwise, if I can catch my breath at some point soon, I can try to put together a post with all of the most damning evidence about these specific damnable machines in order to, again, detail the nightmare that we have allowed to be brought upon ourselves.

As long promised, The BRAD BLOG has covered your electoral system 2008, fiercely and independently, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work with a donation to help us keep going. If you like, we'll send you some great election integrity documentary films in return. Details on that right here...