Isn't It Time for the U.S. to Consider a Secretary of Election Integrity?
By Brad Friedman on 11/11/2008, 5:35am PT  

Guest blogged by Shannyn Moore

ANCHORAGE - It doesn't bother me to have fundamental differences with people. If it did, I'd never get out of bed. The person I most respected growing up, my Pop, was and is a conservative ideologue. I'm crazy about him. Disagreeing with facts is fair and healthy. Arguing from a place lacking intellectual curiosity is quite another as nothing is learned nor gained.

Since my first post questioning the voter turnout and other anomalies in Alaska's election, I've been accused of all sorts of things. I have been misquoted in the Anchorage Daily News. They claimed I wrote the election was "stolen." I wrote "Stolen Election in Alaska?" It wasn't the word, it was the punctuation.

But there is good reason to be concerned. A lawsuit filed in 2006 in State Superior Court to release the Diebold GEMS Software from 2004 revealed the database had been tampered with. Unfortunately, the user log-in and password were set to the default settings so it was impossible to tell who had edited the software numerous times post election, since all entries were made by "administrator" with password: "password". So it's not too outrageous for anybody to believe it's important, this time, to pay very close attention to the results of last Tuesday's election...

Since Election Day, the votes have been rolling in to the Division of Elections. They are now reporting 90,635 ballots remaining to be counted; nearly 29 percent (28.8%) of the total vote has not been counted yet.

Though closer to the total votes cast in 2004, the turnout percentage is still down from that election in which neither our own Governor nor Barack Obama were running. The total ballot count is at 314,268, with turnout at 63.3% (registered voters = 495,731). Turnout in the 2004 General was 66.6%, with 314,502 voting and 472,160 registered voters statewide. If 100% of the requested mail-out ballots are returned in time to be counted, we can expect about 3600 more.

I'm proud of the Alaskan mail-in voters. They really seem to have shown up this year. All the envelope licking and stamping, well, it's impressive! According to the newest numbers from the state, 92% of those who requested absentee ballots have now returned them! Fantastic! You betcha. I wonder what GOTV worked so well, since the 2004 return rate was dismal by comparison. A total of 58,559 absentee ballots were mailed to voters and just 32,075 were returned by the deadline in 2004. That was a pitiful 52%. Hard pressed to figure out why there was such an increase in absentee voter participation this year, while turnout by voters at the polls was so low.

Monday's newly posted ballots [PDF] include about 4,000 additional "Questioned" [elsewhere known as "provisional"] ballots and about 5,600 additional Absentee ballots. Wednesday, the Division of Elections (DOE) plans to count the majority of early vote and absentee ballots that were verified by Election Day. The DOE plans to count the remaining ballots on Friday. However, there could be enough ballots left after Wednesday's count for any of the races to still go either way. A public records request has been submitted to the Division of Elections, as per many of the recommendations laid out by Brad Friedman, for a number of important pieces of information that are required so that citizens of all parties may try to ensure an accurate reconciliation of all votes cast.

All camps; Ted Stevens and Mark Begich in the Senate race, and Don Young and Ethan Berkowitz in one of the House races with the strangest results, are still at work. Crunching numbers and refreshing the Alaska Elections website as often as possible. It feels like 2000 Bush-Gore around here.

On the state-side races, leadership positions are being divvied up and plans going forward for the session in January. But polling showed huge differences in at least 5 of the state House races, and with 29% of the votes still UNCOUNTED, it seems prudent to give it some time.

Between the hanging chads in Florida, long lines and lost voters in Ohio, the tampered software in Alaska, and the increasingly long list of all-too-regular election "irregularities," it's time for a change. It's time for a new cabinet level position. Why shouldn't we consider a Secretary of Election Integrity? We must find a way to insure the basic right of Americans to vote, to have that vote counted and to have it counted accurately and transparently, so that everyone - all political parties and citizens alike --- can know that it actually meant something.

Previously related...
11/6/08: "SOMETHING SMELLS VERY FISHY IN ALASKA"
11/9/08: "Alaska Stinks & Minnesota's on Edge, So Here's What Parties and Citizens Can Do to Try and Ensure Election Results with Integrity There and Elsewhere"
11/10/08: "Alaska Update: Thousands of Ballots 'Found', One-Third Remain Uncounted in the State's Still-Fishy '08 Election"

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Shannyn Moore is a Native Alaskan and a top rated progressive broadcaster based in Anchorage, Alaska. Shannyn blogs at ShannynMoore.wordpress.com and Huffington Post.

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