By Brad Friedman on 1/9/2012, 11:54pm PT  

For those masochists who'd like to relive all the "fun" of the 2008 New Hampshire primary election disaster, when Hillary Clinton defied dozens of independent pre-election polls and even same day Exit Polls to inexplicably be named the "winner" over Barack Obama in the "First-in-the-Nation" primary, you can check out an index of the key reports in our exhaustive coverage here.

It was an election that Keith Olbermann characterized that night, while unverified Diebold optical-scan computer results were announced, as "a titanic upset victory." NBC's Tim Russert called it "the most stunning upset in the history of politics." Two days later, Chris Matthews, still justifiably mystified by the unverified computer-reported tallies, demanded an explanation from the pollsters and politicos he featured on his show that night:

MATTHEWS: So what accounts for Hillary Clinton's victory in New Hampshire? What we don't know is why the victory is so much different in fact, than the polling ahead of time, including what we call the Exit Polls were telling us. Obama was ahead in those polls by an average of 8 points, and even our own Exit Polls, taken as people came out of voting, showed him ahead. So what's going on here?

"Why were the polls taken, of people coming out of the booth, so off?," Matthews tried to ask of each of his guests again and again and again. They had no good answers. Only speculation about how Clinton's teary moment at a campaign event over the weekend may have swayed the electorate. Though that still didn't explain the Exit Poll results taken the day of the election, as voters left the polling place.

All of the pollsters and pundits simply presumed that somehow, all of the independent polls had been wrong. None wondered if the results produced by the easily-hacked, oft-failed Diebold system were actually right. Even though, by that time, not a single one of the ballots tallied by those machines had been examined to make sure the computer had read them correctly.

A well-known pollster had confirmed to The BRAD BLOG, via an email, which we never received permission to run publicly, that he too was looking at the raw exit poll data throughout the day (raw exit poll data that us mere mortals outside of corporate media are no longer allowed to see) and it was clear to him also that Barack Obama, fresh off his victory at the Iowa Caucuses, was going to handily defeat Clinton.

He didn't. At least not according to the very same computerized optical-scan computer systems made by Diebold and programmed and serviced by a company with a criminal background, that will once again be used in tomorrow's all-important "First-in-the-Nation" primary contests in the Granite State...

The Good News: 40% of the towns in New Hamsphire cast their ballots on hand-marked paper ballots and count those ballots publicly, by hand, at the polling place immediately after the close of polls, with results announced right then and there before they are called in to the county, and before ballots are moved anywhere. It is what we Election Integrity advocates describe as Democracy's Gold Standard. It's almost identical to the excellent, transparent processes we saw in last Tuesday's GOP Caucuses in Iowa. The citizens of those towns which count by hand in NH take great civic pride in that process. There is never a shortage of volunteer counters and results are often completed before the machine-town counties have finished.

The Bad News: Those towns only account for about 10% of the ballots that will be cast tomorrow. The rest will be cast on hand-marked paper ballots, but tallied by the Diebold optical-scan computers. The same ones shown many times to be easily manipulated and and which sometimes just drop votes in such a way that there is no way to know whether they have been manipulated or failed unless one bothers to actually hand-count the paper ballots. The state does not hand-count those ballots in NH, unless a recount is called for. By then, as we saw in 2008, the chain of custody has been broken and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to know if the ballots being "recounted" are the ones that were actually cast on Election Night. (See some remarkable pictures of the abysmal chain of custody for NH ballots in 2008 here.)

These same processes will be used in tomorrow's primaries.

In 2008, as the results between Clinton and Obama were so very close, he could have had the entire state recounted for just $2000. He declined, turning his attention to the next primary state instead. It was noted that Obama was the winner of the hand-counted towns in NH, while Clinton won in the Diebold towns by an almost mirror-opposite percentage.

Bill Maher, on HBO's Real Time would comment: "It does bother me that a private company runs the polling machines and that only they, certainly, seem to know what went on in that [election]."

There were so many questions about the results said to have been produced by the Diebold machines, that, after Obama declined to do so, then Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich demanded a recount of the Democratic ballots, while obscure Republican candidate Albert Howard demanded one on the Republican side. Rather than $2000 to recount the entire state, as could have been done on behalf of Obama, had he requested it, Kucinich was forced to raise some $60,000 to count just 40% of the ballots before running out of money.

Though huge disparities and discrepancies were found across the state during Kucinich's partial recount, eventually he was forced to stop counting, asking Sec. of State William Gardener in a letter for "a complete and accurate recount of all ballots", citing "significant percentage variances" from 4 to 10% in precincts that had been hand-counted so far up to that point.

Gardner would later lie to the media, telling them that Kucinich was "satisfied at the integrity of the recount."

The media accepted Gardner's explanation without question. He has, after all, been serving in the post for 36 years, having been first appointed by the state legislator in 1976 and continuously serving --- relected by both Democratic and Republican legislatures alike --- ever since. Though only Third-World dictators and small town Sheriff's tend to serve for that long in any one office, the media doesn't question Secretary Gardner, as he continues to be the state's point man zealously protecting its billion-dollar industry known as the "First-in-the-Nation" primary.

BlackBoxVoting.org's Bev Harris tells us the old, wide-open, grocery store fruit boxes are no longer used for ballot storage, as they were in 2008. The state has wised up since that embarrassment, and coughed up the dough for actual metal storage boxes. Other than that, little has changed --- at least not for the better --- since 2008.

We could offer you many more details on the disaster that was the 2008 primary in NH, but we'll spare you, and just point you again towards our 2008 index of coverage if you're interested.

Our advice to Election Integrity advocates --- or just those who'd like to try and help oversee what there is to oversee of the counting tomorrow: Bring your cell phones to the polls as they close, and get photographs of the poll-tapes printed out by the Diebold machines after they are printed and signed by poll workers. "Not that it proves anything," writes Harris, with more advice today on what you can do tomorrow, "but you might get lucky."

More likely, whatever results the Diebold systems report, we'll all likely be stuck with --- whether they reflect the true intent expressed by the voters on their ballots in the Granite State or not.

Good luck, New Hampshire.

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