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|4-22-09: Arizona A.G. releases result...
Post Number: 10451
Best of Black Box?
Votes: 1 (A keeper?)
|Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 12:02 pm: ||
by Jim March, with addendum by Bev Harris
Arizona AG Releases Official RTA Results:
Election A Clean Bill Of Health, Pima County Elections...Not So Much...
THE OFFICIAL BOTTOM LINE
At a press conference today in Tucson, AZ Attorney General Terry Goddard released the results of the 2006 Pima County RTA election handcount. His office says that most ballots are present and accounted for save for less than 100, and the hand count totals match the machine count of 2006 to within .01% - variances of 300 to 500 votes between the two questions, in an election with over 120,000 votes cast.
This seems to be an end to the RTA controversy...but not quite.
WHAT ABOUT THE MISSING BALLOTS?
Former NSA computer guru Mickey Dunahoe went over the high-resolution video of the handcount this week, and managed to do his own accurate-to-the-ballot count of a precinct box. This precinct contained around 1,500 ballots – filling the 12” tall box to the brim without overstuffing. The count we had managed to perform during the election was of a box of mail-in votes, counting about 1,240 or so before box-bulging began.
This would indicate that mail-in votes were literally thicker cardstock than the precinct votes. By basing our count estimates on thicker mail-in votes, our estimates on the precinct vote were off by up to 300 votes a box (with 55 precinct boxes).
When asked about the difference, the AG's office admitted not even noticing a possible difference in paper stock for the ballots.
We'll be getting the full paper trail from this "investigation" soon, and will try to revisit this and other issues.
OTHER PROBLEMS WITH THE HAND COUNT
The AG's office made three mistakes with the handcount process.
* They didn't try and do a tally of counted precinct votes against either the original statement of votes cast (SOVC) report or against the polltapes and/or pollworker “end of day report” (also known as “the yellow sheet” in Arizona). IF the paper record was manipulated, it would be easier to fake the numbers for vote totals rather than try and get fake paper ballots lined up in the correct ballot boxes. Auditing to a precinct detail level is a barrier against paper swap or alteration frauds.
* They didn't attempt to confirm paper ballot authenticity with spot-checks under a microscope or ink age analysis, or even an informal look at why the same ballot boxes hold more precinct ballots than absentee ballots.
EASY MICROSCOPE EXAM: The newest “ballot on demand” printers are big laser printers that leave distinctive residue on paper ballots as opposed to offset printing as would have been used in 2006. Spot-checks under a microscope would have taken well under half an hour; the lack is hard to understand.
* The AG's office ran the handcount in such a non-transparent fashion that they could have cooked up whatever numbers they wanted. We're not accusing them of doing so, we are simply pointing out that effectively reserving that right as a practical (if immoral) option was itself improper. It might have been legal in this circumstance, but it was still wrong.
Brad Nelson of the Pima Elections Department may have run such a sloppy election, with so many transparency barriers that it looked like he was cheating even if he wasn't.
But we can't say that to a certainty just yet.
We will to review everything we can related to the AG's messy investigation. We're going to look at poll tapes for the telltale signs of the sort of "Hursti Hack" Black Box Voting demonstrated in Leon County FL in 2005. We'll look at signature authenticity.
We're going to keep our eyes open and check additional details.
ADDENDUM FROM BEV HARRIS: CHAIN OF CUSTODY
Despite all the barriers to transparency and common sense, Jim March and other citizens succeeded in making an independent count of how many ballots were actually processed in that RTA hand count. Here's more on that:
The published official ballot total was 120,821. Yet, the total number of ballots observed being pulled in and out of the boxes calculated out to be only about 105,000.
It now appears that some boxes contained ballots on a different paper stock. Only about 1200 ballots fit in the standard ballot box when packed full. Pima County citizen John Brakey examined the packing logs for several other elections around the same time period -- 1200 ballots per box in those elections too. The absentee ballot box analyzed for the RTA election, 1200 per box. But the polling place box analyzed, for some reason, packed 1550 to a box.
If a box gets full with 1200 ballots, you'd have to sit on it to strap it shut with 1550. If 1550 ballots fit neatly into the same box that filled up with 1200, they'd have to be on thinner cardstock. John Brakey called Runbeck, the company that printed the ballots. They say they used only one cardstock.
Chain of custody -- when it's muddy and secret -- is the whole ball of wax in a recount that takes place two years after the election. The question now is: Were some of the ballots from this recount printed on different paper stock, and if so, how many, for which precincts, and when was that printing done?
Devil's always in the details.
Frequent Voting Rights Forum Participant
Post Number: 5503
Best of Black Box?
Votes: 1 (A keeper?)
|Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 10:00 pm: ||
This story gets more and more interesting as it unfolds.
Thanks Jim, John and all the others involved in keeping an eye on this election.