By Brad Friedman on 8/25/2010, 12:38pm PT  

We were on the road all day long yesterday, after getting the morning's Green News Report. We finally got off the road and back on the grid as the sun was setting here in the Midwest, and as "results" began coming in from some of the five different states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Vermont) holding primary elections last night.

It seemed a good moment to ask a question on Twitter about what we'd missed so far. In the bargain, we received some interesting Twitter replies from NBC's Chief White House Correspondent and election results guy Chuck Todd, in regard to counting ballots and the fact that he (and others) were busy reporting "results" to the world, even as not one single ballot had yet to be counted by any human being in all of the United States by that point.

Here's how some of that conversation on Twitter went...


Been on road/off grid ALL day. Who is Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, HartIntercivic & Dominion reporting as "winners" tonight?


Anybody know of any single ballot in all of the U.S. that has actually been counted by any single human being tonight?


Am I a party pooper? Or just paying attention?


@TheBradBlog You do just fine for me as a party pooper, keep it up

(For those not familiar with Twitter, "RT" means "ReTweet". It's akin to quoting the person you are responding to.)

Every party needs one! (Now, if I could just find a party!) RT @shivabeach: @TheBradBlog U do just fine for me as a party pooper, keep it up


RT @TheBradBlog Am I a party pooper? Or just paying attention?/YOU are paying attention, and I am very happy you are


Some1's gotta :-( RT @FrancoIKU: RT @TheBradBlog Am I a party pooper? Or just paying attntn?/YOU r paying attntn & I am very happy you are

(As Todd had been tweeting various incoming results, we decided to ask him a direct question about them.)

@chucktodd - Just curious, are u aware of any single ballot, in all the elections today, that's actually been counted by ANY human being?


@chucktodd ...& if not, what makes u so comfortable reporting "winners" & "losers"? Priv. corp. computers r "good enough" 4 U.S. democracy?


Early vote in FL? Great Q RT @TheBradBlog u aware of any single ballot in all elections today, that's actually been counted by ANY human


Counting by humans illegal in FL. Seriously. U.S. democracy deserves WAY better. RT @chucktodd: Early vote in FL? Great Q


If @ChuckTodd knows of no single ballot in all of U.S. actly counted by a human being, why do we regard "results" as legit?


@chucktodd Human counting is not more accurate than machine counting. Not a great Q. This perpetuates a myth.

(And here, just a few minutes later, after receiving SDWinkler's specious, unsupported "myth" tweet, alleging that human counts are not more accurate than machine counts, Todd appears to do a 100% flip-flop on his previous "Great Q" position.)

Totally agree on this. RT @sdwinkler Human counting is not more accurate than machine counting. Not a great Q. This perpetuates a myth.

(...Before he then asks us the following question.)

@TheBradBlog Curious, why do you assume that hand-counting is somehow better? Do you avoid ATMs?


ATMs auditable, secret ballots not. RT @chucktodd: @TheBradBlog Curious, y do you assume hand-counting is somehow better? Do you avoid ATMs?


When u want to know who won close elctn, what do u do? RT @chucktodd: @TheBradBlog Curious, why do u assume hand-counting is somehow better?

(Todd doesn't answer the above. But, if only momentarily, he becomes a bit more careful in his tweets declaring who is reportedly up or down, based on machine counts, in Florida's tight Republican Gubernatorial primary between Rick Scott and Bill McCollumn.)

If this weren't Florida, bet many a news organization would call it for Scott. #extracautious (As we ALL should be).

(Not long after polls closed in Arizona, former Washington Post, now Slate blogger Dave Weigel, who'd been similarly tweeting unverified, machine-counted "results" previously, gets curious as to why Arizona's numbers --- a state where they've had serious problems with voting machines in the past --- are not coming out fast enough.)

Does Arizona plan to count these votes at some point?


Nope. But Sequoia & Diebold will & all will accept it w/out scrutiny :-( RT @daveweigel: Does AZ plan to count these votes at some point?

(We then go back to tweeting to Todd.)

Re: ATMs @ChuckTodd, wld u deposit ur paycheck in it if NO possibility of EVER confirming it was actually received by bank?

(Todd doesn't respond to the above, and his "cautiousness" doesn't last long, as a few minutes later, he tweets the following.)

AP calls it MIAMI (AP) - Businessman Rick Scott wins Republican nomination for governor in Florida

(To which we reply...)

Any single ballot actually counted by ANYONE first??? RT @chucktodd: AP calls it - Businessman Rick Scott wins Repub nom for gov in FL

(A very few minutes later, Weigel, who also tweeted AP calling it for Scott, gets irritated at Bill McCollum for not conceding after the Republican Governors Association issues a statement congratulating Scott. That, despite the fact that ZERO votes have actually been counted by any human being in the entire state of Florida, and just a few thousand, unverified, machine-counted votes are said to separate McCollum from Scott.)

RGA congratulates Rick Scott. McCollum still hasn't conceded. #dude #comeonalready


Make 'em COUNT the damned BALLOTS first, Bill! RT @daveweigel: RGA congrats Rick Scott. McCollum still hasn't conceded. #dude #comeonalready

(Talking Points Memo's Eric Kleefeld makes a wry joke, as he seems to get similarly antsy while waiting for Arizona to report on their unverified, machine-counted "results".)

Maybe Arizona should hire some cheap labor to start counting their votes.


Human beings? Counting votes in AZ? Dream on, Eric. RT @EricKleefeld: Maybe AZ should hire some cheap labor to start counting their votes.

(Hoping to inform Kleefeld, Weigel and Todd about just some of the past problems with machine-counted votes in Arizona, we tweet the following.)

If unfamiliar, AZ's had a historic prob or 2 w/ vote counting computers. @ChuckTodd @DaveWeigel @EricKleefeld


Probs w/ AZ's election computers involve BOTH Gov candidates Brewer & Goddard. @ChuckTodd @DaveWeigel @EricKleefeld

(No replies come to the above, before NBC's Todd retweets a report of Arizona's GOP Senate primary "results" to his 57,217 Twitter followers.)

RT @BreakingNews Sen. John McCain defeats J.D. Hayworth, wins GOP nomination for re-election in Arizona


Any single ballot actly counted in THAT state either? (A: No.) RT @chucktodd: RT @BreakingNews McCain defeats Hayworth, wins GOP nom in AZ

At this hour, as we prepare to hit the road again for, largely, the entirety of the day, there remain several high-profile races where the media have not yet been able to declare a "winner". Among them, the five-way race for the Democratic nomination for Governor in Vermont where, as reported by Politico late last night,
"140 Vermont towns count their ballots by hand, while 106 towns use optical scanners."

The op-scanners used in most of Vermont were made by Diebold, and are serviced by a less-than-reputable (to say the least) company called LHS Associates. Diebold's op-scanners were infamously hacked in HBO's Emmy-nominated documentary Hacking Democracy. You can watch that landmark hack, which succeeds in flipping the results of an election undetectably (unless someone actually bothers to count the paper ballots by hand), "live" as it happened right here.

According to AP a few minutes ago, one candidate in the Vermont race has declared himself the winner, even though the reported results have him just 200 votes ahead of the second place candidate, and a few more than that in front of the third place candidate (who happens to be the Secretary of State).

In Alaska, the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is said to be "on the ropes" in a surprisingly close primary race against lesser known Joe Miller (who was endorsed by Sarah Palin). Miller is reportedly winning by 1,960 votes out of some 89,000 votes cast as we write this. Those votes were likely "counted" by the state's Diebold optical-scan system. Alaska has featured a number of notoriously questionable elections results over the last few cycles.

The results from some of the rural areas in Alaska where, Anchorage Daily News reports this morning, "paper ballots are counted by hand" are not yet included in the reported results. But the final results, they say, "won't be known for over a week. The Alaska Division of Elections said over 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and as of Monday night 7,600 had been returned. The first count of absentees will be next Tuesday and there will be two subsequent counts as the absentee votes trickle in on Sept. 3 and on Sept. 8." Those absentee ballots will most likely be counted by Diebold's hackable paper-based optical-scan systems as well

Whatever Diebold reports those results to be, reporters like Todd, Weigel and Kleefeld will most likely report them uncritically, no matter that it's likely not even one of the ballots will have been examined by hand to assure that Diebold's op-scan systems are "counting" them correctly. Hopefully Murkowski will demand that somebody does so before she concedes the Republican primary race. As always, we're more than happy to offer her advice on how to do that, if she wishes to contact us.

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