ELECTION FRAUD NEWS & The Money Party
Powerful Arguments Presented to Void Florida Congressional Election
Notice of Contest: Christine Jennings,
Understanding Florida 2000 is central to understanding where we stand today as a nation. Al Gore's clear victory in the popular vote was obscured immediately by the last minute drama of the Florida vote count. The extended melodramatics of the post election period further confused and confounded the fundamental problems with that election.
Rather than focus on the at least 50 thousand black Floridians who were summarily removed from state registration rolls due to a faulty felon purge computer program (citizens who had every right to vote), we had to endure the endless discussion of a few hundred flawed ballot in a retirement community.
Instead of focusing on the over 20,000 invalidated presidential ballots in Duval County, which came almost exclusively from Democratic precincts, and the tens of thousands more mostly minority ballots that were arbitrarily tossed out by so-called election judges, we had to endure a dyspeptic Judge from Leon County who told the lawyers he had plenty of time when, as he knew, time was of the essence. And when the votes were finally being recounted in Miami Dade, instead of focusing on a preppy riot by Republican Congressional staffers flown in just for that event; a riot that ended the vote count, we were diverted to minutiae. Even though knowing their identity would have been a huge story, no one bothered to tell us who these scary folks were.
What was the grand plan to prevent any more elections like Florida 2000? Lets all vote on computerized voting machines. Everybody knows you can't cheat with a computer. We'll even spend billions to buy states and counties voting machines from vendors with strong Republican ties. And even better, we'll set up an Election Assistance Commission that focuses almost exclusively on voting technology while totally ignoring race and class bias plus political dirty tricks, the real problems with Florida 2000.
This article presents the arguments offered in the Election Contest recently filed by Christine Jennings and additional information that may help understand that filing. Part 2 of this series will consider the history and current political climate and how the challenge may be handled.
Florida 2006: 18,412 Missing Votes for Congress in Sarasota County
Somehow, on Election Day 2006 one in seven voters Sarasota County voters chose not to vote for their Representative to Congress. Did this happen anywhere else in Florida? Has it happened in Sarasota County before? No to both questions. No one who is at all serious believes for one moment that 15% of the voters suddenly decided not to vote for Congress
Nevertheless, the state of Florida certified a winning candidate, the Republican. In this questionable election, however, we're seeing something very new, a candidate willing to fight for her office and the public's right to vote and have those votes counted.
The Election Contest in Behalf of Christine Jennings
On December 20, 2006, Democratic candidate for Congress Christine Jennings filed a Notice of Contest Regarding the Election in Florida's 13th Congressional district. Jennings trailed Republican Vern Buchanan by 369 votes at the close of voting. There was one glaring problem. The announced results showed that there were 18,412 undervotes in Sarasota County, the heart of the district and also Jennings stronghold of support. Attorney Coffey defines an undervote as ballot that lacks a mark for one race while others are marked (undervotes at the top of the ballot, i.e., the Jennings race are of particular note).
The 18 thousand voters who showed no selection for the congressional race represent 14.9% of voters of Sarasota County voters for this election. Florida undervote totals are typically at or below 2.5%, a marked difference from election day 2006 results in Sarasota.
Even by the standards of Florida elections, this result was strange and disturbing. There were protests and excuses offered almost immediately. Then Jennings Campaign cried foul:
"There is a real crisis in confidence among voters, not just in Florida but throughout the country. The voters of District 13 deserve answers, but this case has much wider implications beyond Florida. This is a test case for the entire nation." Christine Jennings, (picture left) 30 Nov. 2006
The Buchanan campaign immediately dismissed Jennings complaints. They continue to do so in vigorous terms. "Undeterred by the facts and despite some good advice from even the most strident Democrats who cautioned against challenging the election in the U.S. House, Christine Jennings has now filed a baseless notice of contest that will potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars on top of what is already being spent on litigation. The Buchanan Campaign, 20 Dec. 2006
The Election Contest
Federal election law provides for challenges to elections when serious questions arise - Federal Contested Election Act (P.L. 91-138, 83 Stat. 284). Election contests have declined considerably since the 1930's but they remain part of the rules and procedures of the U. S. House of Representatives. Just two months before this election, then House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland urged the House Committee on Administration to clarify and clean up election contest. Hoyer anticipated a number of very tight races and noted problems with the law and procedures. His suggestions were dismissed by the Republican controlled committee. House procedures and precedents will be considered in Part 2 of this series.
The Democrats appointed Rep. Rush Holt, Dem, NJ to head a legislative inquiry into the Jennings case. This signals serious consideration given Holt's considerable knowledge of elections issues. The sponsor of three House Resolutions on voting rights is a well known critic of some forms of electronic voting and an advocate for the elimination of various forms of election fraud (voter intimidation, providing false voting information to citizens, barriers like excessive voter identification requirements.)
Core Arguments Presented in the Jennings Challenge
The election contest was filed with noted Miami attorney Kendall Coffey as lead counsel. His web site notes that he specializes in high stakes and high profile cases. He represented Al Gore in the 2000 Florida recount and before that, Cuban child refugee Elian Gonzalez.
The Jennings case as presented relies on four key arguments.
(1) There is "no possibility" that 14.9% of the Sarasota County voters intentionally withheld votes. The thousands of missing votes were lost due to machine malfunction.
(2) Reports by voters demonstrate that many voted for Jennings but had problems with the iVotronic touch screen voting machine
(3) There is a strong correlation between the date iVotronic touch screens were prepared for voting and the percentage of undervotes
(4) Incremental reductions of undervoting would result in a Jennings victory beginning with just 2000 less undervotes.
There are supporting points as well, including a discussion of the Jennings case in Florida Court to open up ES&S computer source code for examination
The conclusion drawn from the evidence is simple: the election should be held null and void, there should be a new election, and no one should be sworn in or seated in Congress until after the new election.
Argument 1: There is "no possibility" that 14.9% of the Sarasota County voters intentionally withheld votes. The thousands of missing votes were lost due to machine malfunction.
Coffey presents his most persuasive evidence immediately. He notes undervotes in Saratoga County are six times higher than surrounding counties. These counties have rates within expected ranges, while Saratoga is well above the expected rate (around 2.5% at the highest). In a remarkable move, Coffey then shows that within Saratoga County, there is a major difference in undervotes based on the type of voting machine used. iVotronic touch screen voting machines were used for early in person voting. Undervotes occurred on 17.6% with the touch screen machines. Optical scan readers with special paper ballots were used for early voting by mail. The undervote rate for these 22 thousand votes was "only 2.5%, which is consistent with historical norms and expectations." (p. 8)
Thus, in the opening argument of the contest, Coffey compares Sarasota undervotes with surrounding counties and then within Sarasota County based on voting machine type. In both cases, the Sarasota iVotronic voting machines produce undervote totals six to seven times those normally expected. In research terms, both between group and within group comparisons support the Jennings arguments. This is quite an accomplishment given that Coffey is dealing with after-the-fact evidence.
Anticipating a Republican argument, Coffee points out that a purported cause for undervotes, disaffection or disgust with negative campaigning, cannot be the cause since this was not reflected in other counties in the congressional district. He also argues that the poor ballot design argument advanced by some is not viable either. In the famous 2000 butterfly ballot fiasco in Palm Beach, a poorly designed ballot by popular agreement, undervotes only totaled only 1%. There is no precedent for this level of undervotes as an election day phenomena.
The poor ballot design argument relies on what election defenders term as the confused voter argument. Were the 15% of the voters confused on election day by a ballot that had one of the hottest races in the state? Not so argues Coffey: voters were motivated to vote, the race was an obvious focus as they entered the polling booth, and while not perfect, the ballot clearly showed the contestants in the congressional race.
Of real interest, Coffey (right) offers an explanation for the phenomenon. He claims that poor ballot design interacting with ES&S source code was the culprit that caused voting machines to malfunction. The configuration of the ballot, he asserts, probably triggered problems with the ESS computer source code that denied the voting rights of thousands for whom no vote was recorded. This is consistent with an analysis from Professor Dan Wallach of Rice University who suggests that ES&S voting machine source code problems prevent actual votes from registering, thus producing undervotes.
Argument 2: Reports by voters demonstrate that many voted for Jennings but had problems with the iVotronic touch screen voting machine.
The totally unexpected and unprecedented percentage of undervotes found only in Sarasota County is further explained as a machine problem by voter testimonials presented in the election contest brief.
There was no warning or mention of any problems however, I was aware there may be a problem with the Congressional vote based on various media reports. I went through the ballot and specifically remember voting for Christine Jennings. When I arrived at the review screen, there was no candidate selected for the Congressional vote. I called a poll worker over and explained the situation and she told me that I did not "press hard enough" when selecting the vote (p. 14)
This voter report covers a number of points that appear through out the citizen testimonials. The voter heard about voting problems with the touch screens in Sarasota County and took care to cast a ballot for Jennings. When receiving assistance, the voter was then informed about the need to press hard in order for the vote to count.
When I got to the review page, my vote for Christine Jennings was not reflected. I called out to a poll worker to alert them that my vote…had not been recorded. The poll worker who came to assist me informed me that the same thing had happened to her when she voted earlier. (p. 15)
In these and other voter reports included in the brief, the same pattern occurs again and again. Voters intended to and did vote for Jennings only to find out at the review screen that no vote was marked.
After describing the same type of problems and the difficulties voting for Jennings, one voter said "I am registered Republican and I believe these machines failed democracy."
Evidence was gathered from the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office in the form of incident reports and other documentation. Coffey found that county officials were aware of clear problems with the iVotronic machines well in advance of the election. Despite the foreknowledge of problems; the county did nothing to correct the problems.
Argument 3: There is a strong correlation between the date iVotronic touch screens were prepared for voting and the percentage of undervotes.
Professor Charles Stewart III of MIT provides analysis found a possible explanation for the machine malfunction.
The machines prepared in the final days before the deadline for completing all such preparations exhibited the highest congressional undervote rates. Another strong correlation exists between the number of machines "cleared and tested on a given date and the undervote rate: "As the county's staff or consultants got busier clearing and testing more machines on a singled day, the Congressional undervoting rate climbed." The graph (p. 23) shows that on September 19, October 2, and October 5, 2006 only one machine was cleared and tested a day. Those machines had a 7% undervote rate. On October 17, 2006, 158 machines were cleared and tested. That group produced election day undervote rates of 21%.
Argument 4: Incremental reductions of undervoting would result in a Jennings victory beginning with just 2000 less undervotes.
The contest brief then goes on to present remarkable evidence supporting the claim that had the touch screen machines worked, Jennings would have been the clear winner
To support the Jennings victory hypothesis, he uses additional analysis by Professor Stewart, a proponent of electronic voting. The MIT political scientist analyzed the race and developed a formula that demonstrates a relationship between excess undervotes (any number above 3%) and their impact on the election.
This chart developed by Charles Steward, PhD, MIT shows the relationship between reduced undervotes due to machine error and a Jennings victory margin. With just 2000 fewer undervotes, Jennings would have won by 100 or so votes. As excess undervotes are eliminated, the Jennings victory margin increases. The final bar at the right represents the actual number of excess undervotes. Jennings would have won by 3000 votes in this scenario. Stewart's calculations evaluated ballots based on the pattern of voter selections to determine the likely vote – Democrat or Republican (p. 25).
Holt in the Hot Seat
Without a doubt, Holt (left) will have greater insight into the details of this particular case than all but a few members of Congress. With his training as a scientist, he will understand the low probability of these events being anything other than machine malfunction, at the least, or malicious code (software designed to commit illegal acts) in the alternative. How will he handle the evidence and findings in a way that the House
membership and general public can understand? On the basis of Jennings contest document, his decision is inevitable: the election has no merit whatsoever. This is clearly a defining moment for Rep. Holt.
The Case So Far
The suit to examine software in Florida court. Jennings strong case took a hit when Florida state court denied her request to examine critical iVotronic software and methods (claimed as trade secrets by ES&S). Or did they? This Florida court decision simply signals that ES&S has something to hide as does the state which also opposes open review? Is there any sensible reason why the secrecy of voting machine source code used for this public election, purchased with public funds, would prevail over the interests of the public to determine if a serious error was made in that election as a result of that software and its method of operation? As a matter of fact, there is: if you have something to hide, either an error or a malicious act, then you have every reason to avoid a full examination of the voting machines.
Isn't there something terribly disturbing about public officials who hide behind contracts with private vendors when those contracts thwart the public right to know who really won an election? Does this bring the historically close ties between ES&S and the right wing of the Republican Party into play? After all, ES&S plus the Republican county and state officials all worked to keep voting machine operations a secret.
An objective review of the statistical data and reports in the contest document is enough to create doubt as to the outcome of the election. As the election contest proceeds, events and evidence may emerge from new sources. Since there are no fixed rules of evidence in the contest, if relevant, the evidence can be heard. For example, on first review it appears that iVotronic touch screens have similar problems with undervotes in a major county in the Southeast.
Computers do not produce consistent errors by accident. When consistent actions are performed by a computer controlled device, that device was programmed to take those actions. Further investigation should focus on this question: were the excess undervotes produced by a computer malfunction or was this an intended function of these voting machines. That would be the most interesting and informative outcome of all.
© Copyright. This material may be used in whole or in part with acknowledgment to the author, ,Michael Collins, and the publisher, "Scoop" Independent News; plus a link to the original "Scoop" article.