January 14, 2008

Only Diebold knows for sure …

Posted in Diebold, election audits, Elections, NH Primary, paper ballots, politics, voting, voting machines tagged , , , , , , , at 9:19 pm by bluebanshee

…And the rest of us will find out via a recount in New Hampshire.  Because Diebold won’t tell.

The paper ballots hold the key.

I have said before and I will say it again here — paper ballots are not enough to ensure election integrity and transparency.  You’ve got to do something with the paper to check the election results — like a mandatory routine audit.  If New Hampshire had a law on the books requiring a post-election audit we would not be in the ignominious position of

  • first, begging for a candidate, any candidate,  to step forward and ask for a recount and,
  • second, scrambling around to help raise funds to pay the thousands of dollars it costs to recount all the ballots even in a small state like New Hampshire.

We are grateful that Democrat Kucinich and Republican Howard have stepped forward to help find answers the  burning questions:  Who really won the primary —  and, could the vote have been hacked?

The announced results in New Hampshire were contrary to the pre-election and created consternation among pollsters and conspiracy theories in the minds of some activists.  Because there are two layers of corporate secrecy between voters and the count, it appears to many that the paper ballots go into a black hole for counting and then, poof, the results are announced.

Premier Election Solutions (the company formerly known as Diebold) is the maker of AccuVote optical scan machines used in New Hampshire — that’s one layer of obscurity because the computer code used in the machines is a propriety trade secret.

The second veil of secrecy is a company called LHS Associates, which programs and maintains all the N.H. machines, which count the 81 per cent of ballots which are not hand-counted.  Election officials appear to have turned over the entire operation to these two private companies — and the voters are left in the dark about how their votes were really counted.

Under current law, the only recourse in New Hampshire is a recount of the ballots, a time-consuming and costly endeavor.  It will take a couple of weeks to haul all the ballots to the state capital from all corners of the state and then hand count them one-by-one.

A far better plan would be a post-election audit, where in each town a scientific sample of the paper ballots could be recounted by hand to check the reliability and validity of the count.  If the sample were to  show possible discrepancies then further investigation would be warranted, up to and including a recount in that location.  With this process the answers could be forthcoming in days, not weeks, at far less cost.

Furthermore, we could all move on to other election issues, like how to confirm the results in paperless states like South Carolina, where the primary date is rushing toward us. And then we will  have a different voting machine company to pick on — ES&S, the maker of the touchscreen iVotronics that are used in that state.

Meanwhile we are all wondering … what did Diebold know and when did they know it?  What really happened in New Hampshire?  Only time (and a recount) will tell.

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