Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Humboldt Dems May Consider HCPB Resolution

While everyone is talking about the improbable outcome of yesterday's NH primary, I've barely had a chance to read about it. Voter Confidence Committee work for hand-counting paper ballots has kept me very busy, including making a presentation earlier tonight to the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee. I forgot to bring my voice recorder. But I was brief and it went more or less like this:

Thank you for inviting me here tonight. I know I have to be brief so I won't go into detail about things we all know about, like the successful hack tests and the academic reports that conclude no "procedural mitigations," or new security precautions, can completely secure the machines we use here in Humboldt. The VCC spent 8 months studying the local situation and we've put out a 20-page report as well as a flier, a fact sheet, a diagram and more. These things are being passed around the room.

Among the many recommendations we make, there is one that is clearly most important. We have to get rid of these secret counting machines and get the community together to count the ballots by hand. The big resistance to this comes from unfounded opinions that usually say it will take too long or require too many people.

Our Feb. 5 primary ballot has 8 contests. In NH, where they have a long history of hand-counting, they say it takes six seconds to count each contest on each ballot. That would mean 48 seconds per ballot for us in Feb. Let's figure as newbies we might be a little slower, say one minute per ballot. Our last federal election was November 2006 when we averaged 266 ballots cast per precinct. If it took one minute to count each of those ballots, it would take just under 4.5 hours to count all the ballots on election night in the precincts using teams of four people.

We had 109 poll sites in Nov. 2006. That means we'd need 436 counters. That is about one-half of one percent (0.5%) of all registered voters in Humboldt. That's not a high bar to reach. We've already collected over 200 names of willing hand-counters. The sign-up sheet is going around the room.

So I'm here to talk to you all as individuals who can choose to support this and of course if the group as a whole wants to get behind this I'll leave it to you all to determine what that would look like.
Milt Boyd, the Committee Chair, then told me of their subcommittee structure and I thanked everyone and sat down. I left before the end of the meeting.

Around 8:30pm, Larry Hourany, longtime member of both the Dems and the VCC, called to say it went very well. He was very helpful in figuring out the approach for tonight, which I stuck with exactly as planned. Hourany said that near the end of the meeting he attempted to make a motion but the Chair steered it to one of the subcommittees. That means that now we (Larry, me, VCC) are going to get to write a resolution that this subcommittee will consider and potentially send to the full group with a recommendation. I've been listening to a lot of Rage Against the Machine lately, so excuse me when I say this is fucking excellent.

Now, to this New Hampshire situation, where it appears Obama beat Clinton in towns with hand-counting but Clinton won the state on the strength of her victories in towns counted by Diebold optical scanners, identical to those used here in Humboldt. Because I haven't been able to fully read up on this yet, I'm going to give you the links of what I'm about to dig into. But first, I have to say one more thing and it really harkens back to the essay I wrote on the GuvWurld blog called Why Old Election Numbers No Longer Matter.

See, we don't really learn anything from holding the so-called election that we didn't know before. The votes will be/were counted in secret. The expected result and the actual result are inherently uncertain. Nobody should be trying to convince anybody that fraud did or did not happen on the basis of data from what passed for an election yesterday. Hand count all the ballots, then we can first have a serious conversation about an election that occurred.

Read Rady Ananda's piece at OpEdNews. She has picked up my inherent uncertainty frame and run with it. She's got good quotes from several people including me.

BradBlog has several stories, of course.

Black Box Voting has a thread I was referred to by Tom Courbat of SAV-R-VOTE in Riverside County. Hi Tom, thanks. This one has charts and graphs.

The great Bob Koehler has a column for Tribune News Services called Primary Concerns.

Feel free to post more links in the comments for this post. And a reminder that Thursday between 6-7pm PT you can tune into and I'll be on the air during the KHUM Review program.


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