Election Fraud for Dummies 1
November 24, 2004

by Ian Reed

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-11-24.htm
this essay is also on Reed's website, at http://www.reedandwrite.com/Dummies.htm

Ian Reed is a correspondent whom I met (on line) several years ago through the
CERJ (Coalition for Equity-Restorative Justice) list.2 Yesterday he wrote,3

      "It has been a huge effort, poring through reports and analysis from all over the country, cross-checking information, selecting and sorting it, and finally distilling a vast subject, full of analysis as well as anecdote, into the most accessible and digestible form I can muster. Having attempted that journalistic balancing act of being comprehensive without being copious, dare I suggest that if you read nothing else about the widespread allegations of election fraud in 2004, you should at least read this?" I agree, and strongly recommend you take the few minutes needed to read it.

Protest against Nov 2nd election, on Saturday November 20, 2004 in Denver, at the steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building. Photos from The Denver Voice, at http://denvervoice.org/index.htm.4

Electronic Voting
      But first, a bit of background. In the last few years, a growing controversy has emerged about electronic voting machines and especially about the nation's largest provider of them, Diebold Election Systems. Diebold's CEO, Walden O'Dell, is a major fundraiser for Bush and he infuriated advocates of democracy in 2003 by saying he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." More than 35 counties in that state use Diebold machines.

      But Ohio is just one of 37 states where the company's systems – both touch-screen voting stations and "optical scanners" that count and tabulate ballots – were used in 2004. Diebold's own website boasts that "over 75,000 Diebold electronic voting stations are being used in locations across the United States."

      The list of individual counties throughout the U.S. using Diebold runs 28 pages, according to William Rivers Pitt of independent media organization, TruthOut [at http://truthout.com/]. "That is a lot of counties, and a lot of votes left in the hands of machines that have a questionable track record, that send their vote totals to central computers which make it far too easy to change election results, that were manufactured by a company with a personal, financial, and publicly stated stake in George W. Bush holding on to the White House."

      Nor is Diebold alone among politically connected manufacturers of electronic voting machines. Election Systems & Software Inc. (ES&S), which claims more than 40,000 of its touch-screen systems are now installed in 20 states, is partly owned by Republican senator for Nebraska, Chuck Hagel. And the Republican governor of Florida, Jeb Bush (brother to George W.) also boosted the company's fortunes when he fired the Broward County elections supervisor in November 2003, after she criticized Florida's use of ES&S machines. Nationwide, according to the company's website, ES&S voting equipment supported nearly 60 million or 42% of all registered voters in Election 2004. "All in all," the website concludes, "it was a very good day."

      It is all part of a trend, critics say, towards the privatization of democracy. The entire electoral process, as political author David Corn puts it, "has been outsourced to private companies." And it doesn't help that the lines between corporations and government have become increasingly blurred. In Auglaize County, Ohio, for instance, election results were compiled by a former employee of ES&S.

      Though convenience and accuracy are the major advantages claimed for electronic technologies, and though this carries a strong theoretical appeal, practical implementation has strayed far from offering trustworthy election outcomes. Voters in both Ohio and Florida reported a "jumping-screen" problem in Election 2004, by which voters would try to cast a ballot for one presidential candidate, only to find the screen jump in an attempt to default the vote to Bush. In Broward County, the subject both of Jeb Bush's intervention to enforce ES&S technology (and of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to halt the recount in 2000), the machines at one point started counting backwards. In Carteret County, North Carolina, more than 4,500 votes were just plain lost. Finally, in LaPorte County, Indiana, a Democratic stronghold, voting machines capped each precinct at only 300 voters. All in all, within just one week of the election, there were more than 1,000 reports of electronic voting machine malfunctions across the U.S.

      On top of that, according to investigative reporter Bev Harris, author of 'Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century,' neglect of basic election procedures has greased the wheels of democratic devilry. "You are never going to find the problems with the machines that you can quantify until you at least do the basic canvassing that's set out in current election procedures," she said, "such as, comparing how many people showed up to vote with how many signatures are in the poll book with how many votes show up in the machines. They haven't even done that. They have chosen to go ahead and call elections without doing the very procedures that they say protect the system."

      Harris has been especially busy in Volusia County, Florida, where election officials on Nov. 16, 2004 provided her with printouts from optical vote scanners that differed both in quantity and result from those she subsequently found in trash bags and destined for shredding. "Some polling place tapes didn't match," she reports. "In fact, in one location, precinct 215, an African-American precinct, the votes were off by hundreds, in favor of Geroge W. Bush and other Republicans. The Volusia elections office also reported 17 memory-card failures on Nov. 3, 2004 and, by Nov. 12, had increased that number to 25.

      The key shortcoming of current electronic voting systems, according to critics, is that they provide no verifiable record of voter intentions on paper. Although Congressman Rush Holt introduced legislation in 2002 to require an auditable paper trail, his bill has been aggressively suppressed by Republicans and has still to get out of committee stage. Ironically, Venezuela's new electronic-voting machines, which do generate a paper record, were manufactured by a Florida company, Smartmatic Corp. (based in Boca Raton). These were used in Venezuela's August 2004 recall referendum, to which international election monitors unfavorably compare the U.S. presidential election of 2004.

      Academia has also weighed in heavily against current black-box voting mechanisms. In the Summer of 2003, scientists at Johns Hopkins reported that Diebold's voting software fell "far below even the most minimal security standards" and afforded insiders the opportunity both to modify votes and to violate voter privacy. And just last week, a research team at UC Berkeley reported that irregularities associated with electronic voting may have awarded Bush 130,000-260,000 excess votes in Florida alone, in the 2004 presidential election. The study shows an unexplained discrepancy between votes for Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were used, versus counties using traditional voting methods. The statistical probability for these anomalies is less than 0.1%.

Exit Polls
      Speaking of statistics, perhaps the juiciest analytical morsel comes from Steven F. Freeman, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, who thoroughly examined discrepancies between reported results and exit poll data, with particular emphasis on the crucial states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Specifically, Ohio's reported results gave Bush a 6.7% premium over exit polls in 2004, Florida gave him an extra 5%, and Pennsylvania boosted him by 6.5%.

      Freeman calculates the combined statistical probability of these three discrepancies occurring in 2004, is one in 250 million. In 10 of the 11 so-called "battleground" states, he observes, "the tallied margin differs from the predicted margin, and in every one, the shift favors Bush."

      But what are exit polls, and how accurate are they? Basically, they ask people leaving a polling area how they voted. And, as for precision, even Republican consultant Dick Morris gives them high marks. "Exit polls are almost never wrong," he wrote in a November 2004 article. "So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places, that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries."

      Note, too, that exit poll discrepancies in Ukraine's run-off leadership election of Nov. 21, 2004, similar in magnitude to Bush's three sixes in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, were enough within days to bring hundreds of thousands of protestors into the streets of Kiev.

      The exit poll data for Freeman's own analysis of the 2004 election came from the National Election Pool, a consortium of major television networks and the Associated Press, and are collected by two respected polling firms, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Freeman notes that in Germany, where it takes a week or more to tally an election, the German people nevertheless know the results the night the polls close "because the news media's exit polls, for two generations, have never been more than a tenth of a percent off."

      And here in the U.S., reported results did exactly match the exit polls in states where paper ballots were used, but in states where there were only electronic paperless voting machines, Bush showed an inexplicable 5%-8% premium over exit polls.

      This ghost-in-the-machine phenomenon has proven menacing for experts in a range of disciplines. Tony White, a computer programmer, writes: "As someone who makes my living as a computer programmer and understands numbers fairly well, the large differences between the exit polls and the reported results in the two most important battleground states strike me as suspicious." Bill Hawkes, a retired A.C. Nielsen Co. statistician, comments: "I've spent my whole life in marketing. The difference is clearly beyond any sampling variability…The community of statisticians and media experts need to not let this be dropped."

      To conclude this section of the exit poll controversy, I defer to the following succinct summary by DemocraticUnderground.com, as it comments on the contrast between reported results and the exit-poll findings of polling organizations Zogby and Harris. "To believe that Bush won the election, you must also believe: that the exit polls were wrong; that Zogby's 5pm election day calls for Kerry winning Ohio and Florida were wrong (Zogby was exactly right in his 2000 final poll); that Harris' last-minute polling for Kerry was wrong (Harris was also exactly right in his 2000 final poll)…that it was just a coincidence that the exit polls were correct where there was a paper trail and incorrect (+5% for Bush) where there was no paper trail; that voting machines made by Republicans with no paper trail and with no software publication, which have been proven by thousands of computer scientists to be vulnerable in scores of ways, were not tampered with in this election."

Perverted Preferences
      But exit polls are not the sole source of statistically-based suspicion. Reported results also show inexplicable divergence from known allegiances, whether those allegiances are measured by the ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans in a particular county, by demographic factors, or by prior voting patterns.

      Let's look at Florida. In Baker County, Democrats make up 69.3% of party registrations, Republicans 24.3%. Yet the vote tally gave Bush 7,738 to Kerry's 2,180. In Dixie County, Democrats make up 77.5% of party registrations, Republicans 15%. Yet Bush got 4,433 to Kerry's 1,959.

      Throughout the state, in counties with optically scanned ballots, Bush received 16% more of the vote than analysis of voter registrations by party would suggest. In 11 counties, the Bush vote was at least twice as great as expected. In one county where 88% of voters are registered Democrats, Bush got nearly two-thirds of the vote.

      In Ohio, meanwhile, we may ask with Green Party activist Ben Manski how "precincts with 70% Democratic registration went 60% for George Bush." We may also wonder why, on Election Night, Warren County election officials locked down the building where votes were being tallied, citing a "level 10 security threat on a scale of 1 to 10." Bush was awarded 72% of the county's more than 92,000 votes in this secret operation.

      Nor was New Mexico spared. Chaves County has a 44% Hispanic population, plus African Americans and Native Americans. Hispanic voters tend to vote Democratic two-to-one, yet Bush "won" there 68% to 31%.

      Finally, in New Hampshire, some of the 126 precincts using Diebold's 'Accuvote' optical scanning machines gave Bush up to 15% more votes than had been expected on the basis of exit polls and the 2000 presidential vote.

Silly Sums
      Nor do you need to be a statistician to sniff out the rat in Franklin County, Ohio, where records show only 638 people cast ballots, yet Bush received 4,258 votes to John Kerry's 260. Or in Fairview Park, Ohio, where only 13,342 registered voters recorded more than 18,000 votes. Or Sarpy County, Nebraska, where 3,342 votes were recorded in a ward where not even 3,000 people are registered to vote.

Spoiled Ballots
      The problems enumerated above deal mainly with dodgy arithmetic once votes are cast. But let's go one step back in the process to the problem of "spoilage" – the term used to describe how votes are discarded before any tallying even begins. In Ohio alone, spoilage wiped out 92,000 votes in Election 2004.

      Spoilage was also crucial in overturning the outcome of Election 2000, according to BBC investigative reporter, Greg Palast. In the pivotal state of Florida, which spoiled almost 200,000 ballots in 2000, a black voter was nine times more likely to have a vote discarded than a white voter, because of the preponderance of inferior voting machines in districts with large black populations.

      "And Florida, Heaven help us, is typical," Palast reports. "Nationwide, the number of Black votes 'disappeared' into the spoiled pile is approximately one million. The other million in the no-count pit come mainly from Hispanic, Native-American, and poor white precincts, a decidedly Democratic demographic." Palast also reveals that in New Mexico, the ballots of Hispanic voters – two-to-one Kerry supporters ‑ spoil at a rate five times that of white voters.

Provisional Ballots
      A close cousin to the spoiled ballot is the so-called "provisional ballot," an option given to voters whose eligibility is in question. Provisional ballots "seem like voting ballots, and sound like voting ballots, with one critical difference," according to U.S. political commentator Mumia Abu-Jamal. "Unless there's a legal challenge, or a recount, they are not counted!" In New Mexico, "they were giving them out like candy," reports Albuquerque journalist, Renee Blake.

      In Ohio, where provisional ballots officially number 153,000, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who also happens to be co-chair of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, will have final say on how and where and under what circumstances any counting of them proceeds. In Palast's words, "Blackwell has said he will count all the 'valid' provisional ballots. However, his rigid regulations…are rigged to knock out enough voters to keep Bush's skinny lead alive." Palast concludes "the ballots that add up to a majority for John Kerry in Ohio – and in New Mexico – are locked up in two Republican hidey-holes: 'spoiled' ballots and 'provisional ballots.'"

      Bear in mind that Bush was awarded a lead of just 136,000 votes in Ohio, where official tallies of "provisional" ballots and "spoiled" ballots add up to 245,000. Yet even that number may be understated, according to BlackBoxVoting.org's Bev Harris. "They don't even know how many provisional ballots there are," she said. "They don't know if there's 150,000 or 500,000. They don't seem to be able to tell us what records they have. This is amazing, and I knew this was going to happen. They set up this thing. They said we're going to have provisional ballots nationwide. They didn't set up any auditing for them. And so, in case after case, we're not able to account for those ballots."

Democracy on Hold
      Another step back in the democratic process takes us to the extremely long lines on Election Day, caused by inadequate numbers of polling machines in low-income, African-American, and Democratic-leaning precincts throughout the nation, especially in Florida and Ohio. Steven Rosenfeld of Air America Radio points out that in Ohio's minority-rich cities, where the number of voters grew by as much as 50% from the 2000 election, the number of voting machines on Election Day shrank by a third. According to SierraClubVotes.org, "there were fewer machines in some inner city precincts than in 2000, despite Board of Elections' and secretary of state's projections of record turnout."

      Texas lawyer and Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb also talks about "reports on the ground, flooding in by the thousands, of people in Ohio who experienced voting rights violations as they attempted to exercise their right to vote."

      Nationwide, there were well over 100,000 calls of complaint to the Election Protection Coalition on Nov. 2. Combine that with shortages of provisional ballots, last-minute polling station changes, and the observation of international monitors that they had less access to polls in Florida than they had enjoyed in Kazakhstan, and you have a dismal day for democracy on display.

Rigging the Registrations
      Going back yet another step in the process, we address the issue of who is even allowed to cast a vote in the first place. This is where the subversion of democracy gets really creative, and though it would be overwhelming to list all the dirty tricks around the country, a sampling follows, including the manipulative maneuvers of Bush's loyal Ohio partisan, Ken Blackwell, who decreed in late September 2004 that all new voter registrations in the state must be submitted on "white, uncoated paper of not less than 80-pound text weight." This is the quality of card stock used for wedding invitations. He made this announcement after seeing voter registration increase by 250% in Ohio's Democratic areas.

      Even when citizens did manage to register, they were sometimes not notified where their polling station was. Meanwhile, as noted by the Green Party's Cobb, "long-time voters simply disappeared from voter rolls in Ohio. We don't know why."

      Another blow to democracy comes from the removal of eligible voters from the rolls by falsely labeling them as former felons. Florida is in the vanguard here, with the disenfranchisement, under the auspices of Jeb Bush, of 93,000 citizens in 2004. "Investigations appear to have established that only three percent of the largely African-American list were illegal voters," the BBC's Palast reports. In Colorado, 6,000 voters were knocked out by the same ploy.

      As Robert Herbert wrote in the New York Times, the day before Election 2004, the Republican Party "is systematically stomping on the right of black Americans to vote, a vile and racist practice that makes a mockery of the president's claim to favor real democracy anywhere."

      Further evidence the Republican Party was out to stifle democracy among blacks came from Republican state representative for Michigan John Pappageorge, who said in July 2004, "if we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election." African Americans comprise 83% of Detroit's population.

      And, for sheer audacity, consider Nevada, where an organization funded by the Republican National Committee to conduct voter registration, tore up applications from people who chose to register as Democrats rather than as Republicans. This information comes from people who worked for the organization, and whose conscience led them to report this to the authorities.

      All in all, as Palast puts it, the "pre-election maneuvers by Republican officials – late and improbably large purges of voter rolls, rejection of registrations – maximized the use of provisional ballots which will never be counted."

Cowering Kerry
      So what does John Kerry have to say about all this? Not much. In the Gore tradition of championing his own defeat, and in spite of the $50 million remaining in his campaign chest, Kerry has left it to the combined forces of the Green and Libertarian parties both to muster the funds necessary to demand a recount in Ohio and to counter Blackwell's determination to sabotage any such challenge.5

      Kerry "conceded very prematurely," says Bev Harris. "They don't even really know if they won or lost in Ohio. They are basing this on a verbal okay from someone in the secretary of state's office who said there were only 150,000 provisional ballots. But where is the source data on that? What auditing do they have on those? They couldn't tell me. I don't understand how you would concede without even beginning the canvassing, because with these voting machines, we don't have adequate auditing in place."

      Contrast that with the stand of Viktor Yushchenko, opposition candidate in Ukraine's own recent elections, who within days of that rigged result had claimed victory, alleged fraud, summoned his supporters to the streets, demanded a general strike, and even sworn an oath of office on the constitution and a bible! 6

      As the Green Party's Cobb puts it, Kerry "is complicit in his silence. And he is certainly complicit in a concession speech which was a downright capitulation, especially in light of all the evidence that was already available about voting rights violations that occurred in Ohio."

Mumbling Media
      You may have observed that in the foregoing analysis, I rarely quote from "mainstream" media sources. This is consistent with complaints of a "lock-down" in the mainstream news industry and reports that TV network producers and employees have been told to lay off the subject of voting fraud. CNN even went so far as to change its exit poll data for Ohio, some time between 1am and 2am on Election Night, to fall in line with the reported result.

      "Corporate media is attempting to manufacture consent around the lie that this was a clean and fair election," says Cobb. "The reality is that this was not a clean and fair election. Far from it. There is a litany of problems, not only with voting equipment, but with clear and obvious civil-rights and voting-rights violations."

      All this adds up to a hands-down victory for Kerry. Not that I am a zealot for this exquisitely uninspiring shadow of his former Vietnam-era self. But I am a zealot for Truth, which was defiled in Election 2000 and finally put to death in Election 2004. Bush does not have a mandate to lead the country, and the reckoning of his much vaunted "political capital" is spiritually bankrupt. It is surely time for the U.S. to follow Venezuela's lead with holding a recall referendum of our own.

. . .

      I remember . . . my very first voting experience. Using a short, stubby pencil provided by the polling station, I simply marked a box beside a candidate's name on a slip of paper. Just 20 years later, we are technologically light years ahead yet democratically in the dark ages, our votes written on air and our provisional ballots in the hands of Republican operatives assuring us the check's in the mail.

      Many of us saw this coming. In my poem of July 2003, 'Ode to the Alternative Media,' I wrote: "Next year's election is already bought." Again, in my 'Common Sense Manifesto' of September 2003, I warned: "with election-counting now in the hands of Republican operatives, the 2004 presidential result has already been decided."

      Even so, I am struck by the number of people involved in this highly orchestrated fraud, people who have acted in concert to overthrow normal standards of decency and honor, people who have suppressed that instinctive mechanism, hardwired into humanity, that recoils from wrongful acts.

. . .
Ian Reed, November 2004

'Incredeclection', a collection of poems
and essays about U.S. Election 2004,
is at http://www.ReedandWrite.com

1 An earlier posting, "Was the 2004 presidential election stolen???", is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-11-18.htm

2 You can subscribe to that e-mail list by writing to John Wilmerding <wilmerding@earthlink.net> or to CERJ <cerj@igc.org>, and including your first and last name, your email address, and your state, province or country of residence.

3 A very few paragraphs of Reed's article are omitted here, with his permission. The full text is on his website.

4 The photo montage is by Kali Autumn Lynn and Shirley Whiteside, along with several others they prepared, all at http://denvervoice.org/features/Nov_2004/Protests%20In%20Denver%20-%20Photo%20Spread.htm. Thanks to Mary Ellen Crawford , another correspondent whom I met (on line) through the CERJ e-mail list, for forwarding the page with the pictures to me. (G.S.)

5 Under Ohio law, all candidates must be given at least five-days' notice before a recount can commence, and no recounting can begin until after Blackwell certifies the Ohio result. Having extented the deadline for certification to Dec. 6, Blackwell could delay a recount until Dec. 11, but that would leave the challengers only two days before the Dec. 13 national deadline for delegates to the electoral college to submit their votes that ultimately decide the presidency. Those two days are too little time for a meaningful recount to occur.

6 In a gesture of exquisite irony, the Bush administration, "deeply concerned by extensive and credible indications of fraud," is stepping up pressure on Ukraine for a review of its election. "We cannot accept this result as legitimate," said Colin Powell, "because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse. We call for a full review of the conduct of the election and the tallying of election results."

All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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Last update of this page: November 28, 2004