Pollster Mark Blumenthal Joins the Crowd of Folks Who Simply Don't Get It or Otherwise Just Don't Care
By Brad Friedman on 11/23/2005, 2:03pm PT  

"Mystery Pollster" Mark Blumenthal follows up his recent post on the matter of the extraordinarily questionable results of Ohio's November 8th, '05 Elections. All four of the Election Reform initiatives on the ballot that day mysteriously and spectacularly failed to win approval in stark opposition to the pre-election polling by the historically accurate Columbus Dispatch which had predicted most of them would win by large margins.

That they lost by large margins instead, has been the subject of some controversy. We've blogged about it (here and here) and responded (here) to Blumenthal's analysis of tweaks in the Dispatch polls methodology that he feels "might" have skewed their findings this time around. Despite the major changes in the "methodology" used to gather the actual Election Results in Ohio this year (44 of Ohio's 88 counties installed all-new Touch-Screen Electronic Voting Machines for the first time ever) Blumenthal's presumption is that it must have been the tweaks in the Dispatch poll's methodology rather than any problem with the Election Results as gathered by these all-new, untested, unaccountable, untransparent and demonstrably prone-to-failure Electronic Voting Systems.

In his latest article on the matter, he follows up by suggesting that citizens in Ohio take advantage of Public Records Laws in the state which --- according to Blumenthal's information gathered from the Ohio attorney general website --- allow for the examination of "paper ballots" 60 days after Election Results have already been certified by the state. Says Blumenthal:

That means that in early January, any Ohio citizen (or reporter) can request access to the paper ballots and conduct their own audit. An enterprising voter or investigative reporter should be able to check the ballot paper trail in any of the 82 of 88 counties to look for inconsistencies between that paper record and the official count.

While Blumenthal later calls for "more formal routine audit procedures with far more transparency," he stops short of accepting my previous invitation that he join those of us calling for a truly transparent democracy by ending the use of Electronic Voting Machines employing secret software protected by the Voting Machine Companies who have claimed that examination of their source code by the public would violate "proprietary trade secrets". So the privatization of our Public Elections by private (and partisan) corporations, paid for with our tax dollars is presumably just fine for Blumenthal. Which is good, because billions of tax-dollars are now being given to those corporations to do exactly that, even though millions of us agree with the non-partisan GAO that reported recently on how all of this is a threat to our democracy.

Beyond that, there are apparently a number of points the Mystery Pollster mysteriously doesn't seem to understand about all of this, or that he simply does not wish to acknowledge when he calls for "an enterprising voter or investigative reporter" to "check the ballot paper trail" in Ohio. For example...

  • Such requests by citizens groups have been made in the past, and Boards of Election in Ohio, as well as the partisan Sec. of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell have made every effort --- often successfully --- at keeping those records unavailable to those who'd like to examine them.
  • The "ballots" he refers to are not ballots. They are "paper trails" and there is a big difference. A ballot is the official, legal record of a voter's preference. A "paper trail" such as those produced by Diebold Voting Machines on a three-inch wide "toilet-paper" thermal roll of cash register paper has neither legal standing, nor is it any indication of how the voter actually voted.
  • Does Blumenthal understand that a magnifying glass is actually provided by Diebold with those machines so voters might be able to read the tiny writing on those thermal rolls before they become "voter verified"?
  • Does he understand that those "paper trails" are so meaningless to voters that on several of Lucas County, OH's busiest Voting Machines last Nov. 8th, a number of those thermal rolls were discovered to be entirely blank after the polls closed that night???
  • Does he understand that on Diebold's machines (and many others) in use in at least half of Ohio's counties, that "paper record" stays on the same roll with all the other records, including the "spoiled" ones and rolls back into the machine?
  • Does he understand that even if a voter is able to see that tiny record, and understand it, and verify it as accurate, that there is no way to verify that another record hasn't also been added to that same roll, effectively cancelling the voter's intended vote?
  • Does he understand that for any audit of such "paper trails" the pollbooks from the precinct must also be available so that there is something to actually check against?
  • Does he understand that --- though vigilance is necessary by all citizens to maintain our democracy --- citizens without funding should not be forced to fight to receive public records and then pore through such records after each and every election just to ensure their integrity?
  • Does he understand that 60 days after an election has already been signed, sealed, certified and (yes) delivered by the Secretary of State before any such citizen is even able to begin requesting access to such records --- even if they eventually did find anything questionable --- is so impossibly long after an election that such an audit could likely never change any results of such an election?
  • Does he remember that in 2000 George W. Bush went to the Supreme Court to argue that simply counting every ballot during the official counting period would result in irreparable harm to Bush since the media had already declared him the "winner" of the election based solely on early results and exit polling? And that the Supreme Court agreed?!
  • Would he have suggested that the citizens of Ukraine last year wait for 60 days after their election had been certified by Government Officials before they began finally making requests for Public Records from those same officials so that they could then check the validity of their vote? (If so, that would be in contradiction to George W. Bush and Colin Powell who used the results of the Exit Polls the very next day after the election in that country --- Exit Polls performed by the same company who peformed them in this country last year --- who felt those Exit Polls demonstrated fraud and the need for an immediate new election!)
  • And finally...does he realize how difficult it is to uncover systematic fraud and other anomolies through such selective audits of any records that anybody is actually ever to receive access to, given that just 6 votes --- 6 votes! --- flipped from Kerry to Bush in each Ohio precinct last November would have been enough to give Bush the votes he was officially "certified" as receiving and thus "winning" the state of Ohio?
  • The cavalier way in which Blumenthal seems to marginalize those of us "obsessing over the Dispatch poll," as he describes it, would seem to indicate that Blumenthal simply doesn't understand the problem here to even the smallest extent. Either that, or he just doesn't give much of a damn about the validity --- and/or the importance of confidence by the electorate --- in the most basic element of our American democracy: The right to vote and to have that voted counted accurately.

    Blumenthal asks, "why not take the first step [of] a 'citizen's audit'?" We're not sure where he has been, but such audits have been tried, and freedom-loving patriots continue to try such actions. However, in the face of constant roadblocks by numerous and monied parties and officials who are doing everything they can to keep such audits from happening and/or from having any legal effect or standing, such audits are merely annoyances at best to the powers-that-be who have demonstrated their interest in doing whatever possible to obstruct and invalidate such efforts.

    Our Electoral Democracy in this country has now --- officially --- become a sanctioned and privatized three-ring circus of deceit, dishonesty, deception and distraction. Blumenthal suggests we find a few unpaid dancing bears to help tear down that entire enormous tent.

    We argue, it's time to shut down all three rapidly growing rings entirely and restore our democracy to something that is accountable, recountable, transparent, public and in which voters can have confidence before --- not after! --- any of them bother to make their way to the polls to try and have their voice be heard.

    Why is that concept so impossibly difficult for Blumenthal --- or anybody else for that matter --- to understand???