The state and voting systems that impossibly gave Democrats Alvin Greene for their U.S. Senate nominee, continue to fail voters...
By Brad Friedman on 1/23/2011, 11:05am PT  

Yup. This about sums it up...

Almost 100 people packed into North Charleston City Hall on Thursday night to hear whether crucial cogs in their democracy --- South Carolina's voting machines --- are working right.

The consensus seemed to be no, they weren't, but there was less certainty about what to do about it.

The Charleston County Democratic Party arranged the forum on the electronic voting machines, which several leaders have called into question after last year's shocking primary win by unknown Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene against former judge and Charleston County Councilman Vic Rawl, a former circuit judge.

Rawl, one of the panelists, said this issue isn't about him but instead about the sanctity of the principle of one-man one-vote.

"From every expert I talked to, that (primary result) was an aberration," Rawl said. "If that aberration was contrived or accidental, we seriously need to get rid of that machine."

State Democratic Party Executive Committee member Susan Yarborough Smith began her remarks by paraphrasing Communist leader Josef Stalin, saying, "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."

For six years, the state's voters have used about 12,000 iVotronic touch-screen machines made by Election Systems & Software, a Nebraska-based company.

Frank Heindel, a Charleston businessman who has launched his own investigation of the machines, noted there were thousands of error messages on Charleston County machines in the 2010 elections. Also, he noted that a different error led to 1,389 extra votes in statewide races in Colleton County.
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However, [State Sen. Phil] Leventis, [D-Sumter] and Sen. Raymond Cleary, R-Georgetown, said the Legislature won't do anything unless it is pressured to. Cleary noted lawmakers are satisfied with the outcome of their own elections: They won.

As I say, that about sums it up. "They won," so most of the lawmakers who would be the ones to force voting system reform, don't much care. That, even after the disastrous Democratic U.S. Senate primary last year, which The BRAD BLOG covered in great detail as it all shamefully unfolded. (Search "Vic Rawl" or "Alvin Greene" here for some of that coverage).

But for those who would like a few more details on those "1,389 extra votes in Colleton County," as mentioned in the article above, as well as --- perhaps even more disturbing --- some 13,500 votes apparently missing entirely from Charleston County, please read on...

Frank Heindel, a SC commodities trader, who is mentioned in the article above, has almost single-handedly been taking on the system in his state by demanding transparency, oversight, and accountability via public records requests and meticulous hand-audits of the voting system logs in his state ever since last year's disastrous primary election. He is an inspiration, frankly, and another one of this nation's great models for what citizen-led Election Integrity work looks like.

He is all the more inspiring in that he is a Republican! Unfortunately, most of those who've done real EI work over the past 10 years or so have tended to be Democrats (if often disaffected ones), as it has historically been their ox most frequently gored (pun intended), along with a fair number of Libertarians or Greens.

Here is Heindel's concise, full speech from the Democratic forum reported above this week, in which he notes:

Did you know the [State Election Commission] is paying Chernoff Newman, a PR and advertising company, 40,000 dollars a month to manufacture positive spin to the voters, politicians, and press about how state of the art our system is, when in reality, the exact opposite is true?

I wish the state would give me 40,000 dollars a month to hire computer experts to perform election forensics and audit all the state's election data. Over the last 6 months, I have spent approximately 1,000 dollars out of my own pocket on a citizen's audit. I am a Republican and view our voting machines strictly as a non-partisan issue.

He went on in his remarks,to offer more details on the extra and/or missing votes in the counties so far examined, but among the tasks he's taken on as well is helping to assemble computer scientists to examine many of the records he's been able to obtain via those public records requests.

One of those members of the team, Chip Moore, a programmer from Cambridge, MA, detailed the work the team has been able to do so far. See his full report here, but below are some of the specifics of what they've uncovered in regard to the unexplained extra votes in Colleton County to date:

After the November election, Travis Avant of Walterboro, a former Sheriff of Colleton County, contacted Mr. Heindel about some inconsistencies in the returns from his County. On election night, Colleton County reported, and this is still on the website for the state election commission, 13,045 votes in the race for Governor, 12,877 votes for Lt. Governor and 12,733 votes in the U.S. Senate contest. However, as Eric Campbell, the Executive Director of the Colleton County Board of Elections admits, and our audit confirms, only 11,656 votes were cast in Colleton County in the November election.

1588 absentee votes were cast in Colleton County in the general election. Director Campbell says this is the correct number and our review of the audit file agrees. Yet in the certified returns for the County, the number of votes cast on absentee ballots in 14 separate county-wide contests exceeds 1588, some by more than 300 votes. The director has thus far refused to recount the absentee votes. The audit information we have for Colleton County does not include ballot data for the absentee votes, so we cannot provide an accurate accounting. Today, 11 weeks after the election, the tally of votes in Colleton County is incorrect. Neither the County nor State Election Boards seem to be in much of a hurry to get the numbers right.

In reading some of these numbers, I'm reminded of the "impossible numbers" we discovered in the Monroe County, Arkansas, primary election last year --- where ES&S systems are also used --- and where thousands of votes simply "disappeared," with neither county nor state officials able to explain what happened. Of course, nobody else in the entirety of either the state legislature or the media gave enough of a damn to follow up on our exclusive report to demand an explanation for the failure.

And here are Moore's key points (also too familiar) on the unaccounted for votes in Charleston County:

In the 2010 general election in Charleston County, the official returns from the election board reported that 104,087 votes were cast. However, in our audit of that election, we only found 82,190 votes recorded on the County's iVotronic voting terminals and 8078 on paper ballots.
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By our reckoning, we can account for 90,586 votes on voting terminals, paper ballots and 318 ballots entered manually by the election staff. That still leaves 13,501 votes missing from the input stream. Those votes were probably cast on the 14 voting terminals missing from the log file containing vote events, but without the data, we cannot be certain.

Seven of the missing machines may not have contained any vote data. The Charleston County Election Board was unable to collect audit data from those terminals. In the log file, the reason listed for why audit collection failed is “Invalid Ballot Database Version in Audit/Vote file”, which does not inspire confidence that anyone was able to cast a vote on these devices.

Similar studies are being done on data from Richland, Sumter and Lexington counties, but these are not so far along because the data was obtained later than from Charleston.

Finally, for good measure, here are a few more granular details from specific systems in Colleton County that simply failed, suggesting much more such failure across the state where the team has yet been able to examine details...

In the Jacksonboro precinct in Colleton County, where 201 votes were cast on three voting terminals, one machine recorded just 14 votes. That same machine registered 13 vote-canceled events, one for having the wrong ballot and 12 because of a terminal failure. In Edisto, a precinct where 146 ballots were recorded on three terminals, terminal #5129854 accepted only 19 votes. This machine logged 6 vote-canceled events because the voter left the voting booth and 7 errors caused by the Personal Electronic Ballot voters use to cast their ballots failing to communicate with the iVotronic machine. Lastly, 52 votes were cast in Berea precinct on three terminals, but one machine was used for only seven votes. That terminal registered another 13 errors caused by the Personal Electronic Ballots.

All-in-all, those are some very disturbing details, and yet, these 100% unverifiable voting systems --- and ones identical or nearly-identical to them --- continue to be forced upon some 20 to 30% of voters across the nation. That will undoubtedly be the case once again when the nation goes to the polls to elect a President in 2012.

Of course, our federal legislators don't much care either and continue to do absolutely nothing about the problem. Why? Because as SC's Post and Courier noted above, "lawmakers are satisfied with the outcome of their own elections: They won."

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