May 24, 2008
Bev Harris gets it wrong, part 2
Once again, an e-mail from Bev Harris of Black Box Voting landed in my mailbox filled with smears, insinuendos and half-truths (the most dangerous kind). Guess her coffers are empty and she needs to do a little fundraising.This time Bev takes aim at the recent primary in Oregon, singling out three counties for attack.
IMPOSSIBLE AND IMPROPER NUMBERS FROM OREGON’S MULTNOMAH, POLK, AND YAMHILL COUNTIES
– Results reported before they exist.
A rather wonderful voting rights citizen volunteer named John Howard went to the results reports posted by Multnomah County at this Web site Wednesday night and was surprised to see that results posted on Wed. May 21 at 4:28 pm time and date-stamped on 3:53 pm May 22, which happens to be Thursday!
Look at these pictures to see what I mean:
Check out the time the results were uploaded. Then look at the time and date stamp on the results: The report was “run” nearly 20 hours LATER than it was posted!
POSTING COUNTY-WIDE RESULTS BEFORE THE POLLS CLOSE:
Polk County and Yamhill County, Oregon posted results on the Internet BEFORE the polls closed, at 7:31 and 7:41 pm, respectively. The polls didn’t close until 8 pm.
Looks really bad for these three county election directors, if Bev is to be believed.
However, if Bev knew a but more about how VBM works in Oregon — if, for instance, she had read the Vote By Mail Procedures Manual — if, for example, she had actually observed election-day procedures — or if, she had asked election officials in these three counties what actually happened (as this writer did!) — if she had done any or all of these things, she would have found that there are simple common sense explanations (not Oopsies!) for what she is so excited about. But then she wouldn’t be able to send out alarmist e-mails to provide grist for her fundraising mill.
Let’s examine Bev’s claim about Multnomah county that election results were posted on the website with the next day’s date. Turns out there was a problem with the system clock on the Windows computer that tabulates the votes and produces the reports. The machine was showing time as p.m. rather than a.m. when it was first booted up for the election. In the process of re-setting the system clock to a.m., the date was inadvertently rolled forward and not caught until after the election. Not a big deal. Not a situation that effects the integrity of the election results. No cause for alarm. The reports were run at the correct time but the time-date stamp was wrong. Much ado about nothing.
Polk and Yamhill Counties
The situation for Polk and Yamhill counties is different. The reports that were posted on election night for the first release of results at 8 p.m. had date-time stamps of 7:31 and 7:41 p.m. Again, there is no cause for alarm here, just a misunderstanding of election procedures in Oregon. Under Oregon law no election results can be released until 8 p.m., which is the official close of polls and the deadline for ballots to be delivered to a ballot drop box.
Election officials start running ballots through the scanners the morning of election day right after the public Logic and Accuracy test is completed but no results can be released until polls close at 8 p.m. There is usually a gaggle of representatives from the media, political parties and campaigns gathered at the election office anxiously awaiting release of these first results. So generally election officials will print out the first results report in advance of the 8 o’clock deadline so they have time to make enough photocopies for everyone asking for them.
This does not mean that the results were posted on the internet at the same time the reports were printed. Because the tabulator computer does not have an internet connection for security reasons the reports have to be taken to a separate computer with an internet connection so that they can be posted online. This process of posting the results online may actually happen a few minutes after 8 but the time-date stamp of the original report may still be visible.
So again the explanation is simple. It is not a cause for alarm or distrust of election officials.
Signature verification and the performance of the USPS
Bev also sent out another e-mail about Oregon’s VBM system this week. Bev says that in her opinion
“Oregon is just plain strange”
and makes it abundantly clear that being strange is not a good thing.
First she raises questions the robustness of Oregon’s signature verification process. In doing so she displays a basic lack of understanding of the signature verification process. Citing a report filed with the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) she suggests that Oregon’s high rate of acceptance of signatures on ballot envelopes indicates that just any scribble will do. On the contrary, questionable signatures that do not match the signature on the voter’s registration form are simply set aside for further investigation. The voter is contacted and has 10 days to resolve the issue. A ballot with a questionable signature is not counted until and unless the issue is resolved.
Bev also wonders about the performance of the U.S. Postal Service in delivering ballots to every voter. Granted that would be a problem if there were not a remedy available to every Oregon voter. Bev is clearly unaware of every Oregon voter’s right to secure a replacement ballot when the Post Office fails to deliver. A simple phone call or trip to the county election office is all it takes to get a replacement ballot.
While pretending to be an expert on elections and voting, Bev Harris displays an appalling lack of knowledge about legal requirements and election procedures in Oregon. If she is so wrong about Oregon, there is little reason to trust her judgment about the situation in other states, where she may be equally uninformed and apparently unwilling to learn. Jumping to conclusions based on incomplete or faulty information seems to be her favored method of investigating a situation.
It appears to this writer that all Bev Harris does is spread smears of election officials and mis-information about elections — wrapped up in a fundraising appeal where she pleads for donations to enable her to keep doing what she is doing. Based on the evidence presented above about her lack of expertise and also because of Bev’s thinly veiled bias against election officials, a donation to Black Box Voting would not be a worthwhile investment of money IMO. If one is interested in election integrity there are other more reality-based (and effective) organizations to donate to — Project Vote, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Verified Voting and the Brennan Center for Law are just a few examples that come to mind.