Minor reporting errors a tribute to - NOT indictment of - public, citizen-overseeable system of hand-counted paper ballots...
By Brad Friedman on 1/9/2012, 6:35am PT  

Before we move on to the nightmare of democracy and secret, concealed "trust-me" vote-counting which will comprise the bulk of the "First-in-the-Nation" primary in New Hampshire, I'd like to offer a few final thoughts, for now, and for the record, on last Tuesday's "First-in-the-Nation" GOP Caucuses of Iowa. What happened there ought to remain firmly in all of our memories as we move into what is likely to be a nightmare of democracy and secret, concealed "trust-me" vote-counting across almost the entirety of the nation in this important Presidential Election year.

I had planned to post this article (or one like it) on Friday, when I was suddenly side-tracked by the report from Ron Paul supporter Edward True that he had noticed a mis-reported tally on the Iowa GOP's caucus results website. It was a small mis-report to be sure, but in a race that had previously been "called" for Mitt Romney by just 8 votes out of some 122,000 cast at 1,774 different caucus sites, the 20 vote error noticed by True and called to the attention of the media (and since confirmed by the Appanoose County GOP Chair) could prove to be decisive in the final certified total promised a week or so from now.

The discovery of the error --- a reporting error, apparently, as opposed to a counting error --- and the ability to quickly and independently verify the real tally of that particular precinct through a number of different, independent sources, is a tribute to the way the Republicans allowed their own voters to vote and those votes to be publicly counted.

As we spent some time detailing over the last week or two, the Iowa GOP, in a remarkable display of almost indescribable hypocrisy, allowed their voters to use processes they fight virulently against allowing for almost everybody else, particularly in elections where non-Republicans will be participating. In the Iowa Caucuses, however, where the party, not the state, sets all of their own rules for access, vote-casting and vote-counting, caucus-goers were allowed to register and vote on the same day, without disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions, on hand-marked paper ballots which were immediately and publicly hand-counted at the caucus site with results announced to all before they were called in to the central party headquarters and before the ballots were moved anywhere.

That is largely the essence of Democracy's Gold Standard for elections and it is because of that process that there are so few questions about the overall results today.

It's important to make this point, loudly and clearly, before we get lost in what is to come. It's one that even MSNBC's Rachel Maddow --- whose political analysis, whether you agree with her personal perspective or not, is usually spot-on --- missed by a country mile on Friday night while reporting on this issue. She was broadcasting from New Hampshire on the True incident back in Iowa, and on one other quickly-cleared-up question that came up about the results late night on Tuesday, when she offered an assertion that seemed more cheap-shot at Republicans than supportable assertion. It was far beneath her usually excellent standards of fact-based analysis...

Here's the way she summed up the matters at the end of her short segment on Friday [video posted in full at end of article]...

Republicans have spent their legislative time and energy since the 2010 election screaming from the rafters about their grave concern for the integrity of the vote. The supposed grave and imminent threat to the sanctity of every single vote has, according to Republicans, compelled them, required them to push new restrictive voter ID laws in states across the country. These voters ID laws making it hard to register. The republican lie is it's not restricting the vote to ensure integrity of elections. Integrity. In the first contest of the year, a Republican only event run by the Republican party, Republicans cannot be bothered to figure out how to count their own votes and figure out who actually won. That's how devoted they are to the integrity every vote.

Maddow is right on the money, of course, in the first part of those remarks, in regard to the way the GOP has spent the bulk of the last year claiming to be concerned about the "integrity" of the vote, even as they knowingly and cynically implement laws --- such as polling place Photo ID restrictions --- meant to do nothing more than pervert the voice of the electorate by suppressing the ability for legal voters (disproportionately Democratic-leaning ones, in any case) to legally exercise their right to vote.

Without a shred of evidence to support their hollow claims, Republicans have argued over the past year that such laws are necessary to prevent "voter fraud" at the polling place. They know, however, that their claims are a lie. Those who don't are simply stooges who apparently can't be bothered to educate themselves with the very well-documented facts [PDF] on the GOP "voter fraud" fraud. But if you need any more evidence, just look to how the Iowa GOP themselves ran their own elections when they were allowed to create any rules for access they wished. That, even in a state where the Republican legislature and Republican Secretary of State had, just last year, attempted to institute polling place Photo ID restrictions for everybody else in general elections. There were no such restrictions on their own GOP caucuses last Tuesday when it could have been instituted by fiat, rather than having to force it through the rule of law.

But in using the opportunity of the extraordinarily few questions that arose about the publicly-counted hand-tally of 122,000 votes at 1,774 precincts in Iowa --- all cast on paper and publicly counted by hand within an hour or so of the close of voting --- in order to take what seems little more than a cheap partisan shot at Republicans, as Maddow's assertion on Friday that these questions are indictment of the GOP IA caucus process is both short-sighted and ill-serving to the cause of open, free and transparent democracy that I'm certain she otherwise fervently supports.

What has happened since the voting concluded last Tuesday is not an indictment of the GOP processes that they allowed for their own voters, but a tribute to them.

We know about the misreported tally from Ward 2, Precinct 2 in Appanoose County as reported by True, because of those processes. We are able to confirm that he, not the GOP website, had it right because so many others witnessed the counting and the announcement of the results at that precinct where supporters of all the candidates were allowed to oversee the counting and record, --- via written record, photographic and/or video-tape --- the results at each caucus site.

Due to the lack of security-by-obscurity but, instead, security by thousands of eyeballs all watching, we do not have to simply "trust" in any one person or party or computer system. Any errors --- and there have so far been remarkably few given the size of the contest and the closeness of the race --- can be, and have been, cleared up quickly, and verifiably by more than just a single source in whom voters are usually forced to simply "trust".

If the GOP has any intention of gaming any of those results behind closed doors, it will be next to impossible for them to do so. That's why the system works, not why it didn't, as Maddow asserted in charging that "Republicans cannot be bothered to figure out how to count their own votes and figure out who actually won."

It's true that when True stepped forward with the evidence of the mis-reported tally, he was slimed by the state Republican Party who owe him both great thanks for his diligent oversight and a fervent apology for their obnoxious reported statement that he is "not a precinct captain and he's not a county chairperson so he has no business talking about election results."

Little wonder whoever offered that remark to Des Moines' KCCI did so without offering her name for the record. It was obnoxious and wrong, and should be corrected immediately. True has every "business" doing what he did, and ought to be thanked, not attacked for it. (Aside from participating in a caucus for the first time, as he told me over the weekend, he also volunteered to serve as one of three counters at his precinct as well.)

But, once again, it doesn't matter what the Republican Party says or does or asserts or who they wish to slime. What matters is that because of the processes they used, the correct results will ultimately be determined by the people not by the party. And that is the very essence of the self-governance envisioned by our Constitution.

If only Republicans would allow every citizen in America to enjoy the same type of transparent, citizen-overseeable democracy --- where citizens can vote without restriction and even register on the same day to vote in the election and watch every moment of the counting on paper ballots verified to reflect the voters' intent --- as they allowed their own caucus voters to enjoy last Tuesday, our nation might someday become the "World's Greatest Democracy" so many of them pretend that we still are.

That is what democracy looks like.

That is the very model of democracy which ought to be extrapolated and followed across the entire nation. That --- fully transparent elections in which all are invited to participate without artificial, anti-democratic barriers --- is Democracy's Gold Standard. If it can be done in Iowa, with mostly citizen volunteers overseeing the entire process, with citizens from any jurisdiction welcome to observe the entire process of voting and vote-counting, it can --- and should --- be done everywhere.

Sure, there are differences between caucuses with just one race on the ballot, where all voters vote within an hour or so, and a full election with multiple races and ballot initiatives and polls open across an entire day. But the differences are ultimately both slight and overcome-able --- if we wish them to be. What's clear is that Republicans --- and many Democrats alike --- do not wish them to be. They prefer the nightmarishly burdensome system of unverifiable, proprietary, oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer systems, secret, concealed "trust-me" vote-counting, difficult and overly burdensome registration processes, and --- thanks to new laws recently instituted by Republicans, but only for elections in which Democrats will be participating --- barriers to the ability to cast one's legal, Constitutionally-assured vote at all.

For that we'll now move on to New Hampshire, where the nightmares we covered in great detail in 2008 --- in both the Republican and Democratic primaries --- still haunt to this day and remain a blight on the Granite State's no-longer-deserved "First-in-the-Nation" status for Presidential Election years.

(If you'd like to review what happened in 2008, as a preview for what may lie ahead this week, The BRAD BLOG's index of coverage of that particular aberration of democracy can be perused here.)

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Rachel Maddow's "miss by a mile" analysis of the very few problems --- all easily and verifiably corrected --- as reported from last week's Iowa Caucuses, as broadcast from New Hampshire on 1/6/2012 on MSNBC...

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