Thursday, January 08, 2009

Humboldt Election Transparency Project Identifies Another Discrepancy In November's Reported Results

This is the first of two breaking stories from the Humboldt County, CA election integrity scene on the evening of January 8...

In a message posted just before 5pm Thursday at the Democracy Counts blog, Mitch Trachtenberg and Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich made a joint statement announcing the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project (ETP) has found a second discrepancy in the results of November's election, which Crnich certified as accurate in early December, just prior to discovering the Diebold central tabulation program, GEMS, had secretly deleted 197 ballots from the total count.

Joint Statement on the November 2008 Humboldt County Election Results

Carolyn Crnich,
Humboldt County Clerk and Registrar of Voters

Mitch Trachtenberg,
Humboldt County Election Transparency Project volunteer

January 8, 2009


As we've compared the results from Humboldt County's official count with the independent count Mitch has conducted with his Ballot Browser independent vote counting software, we've found two additional issues.

First, the Election Transparency Project had scanned the front side of 63 ballots twice (once upside down); these duplicate scans will be removed from Ballot Browser's counts.

Second, the Elections office appears to have scanned 57 ballots into the Diebold GEMS system twice -- these duplicates need to be removed from the GEMS results.

The numbers from the two systems are now extremely close, though not identical.

We believe many of the remaining variations may be a result of differing vote sensitivity between the Diebold system and Ballot Browser, with Ballot Browser's totals approximately 0.05% higher than those from the Diebold system (approximately one added vote per 2,000 counted vote opportunities).

The variations that remain do not affect the outcome of any races.
That last line about no outcomes being affected, while I don't doubt it, seems almost obligatory to the point of cliche in these types of stories, like many a government-issued denial ("the US does not torture," or even, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"). Even given the benefit of the doubt, things look very wrong and smell foul. But hey, what's a little secret vote counting among friends, right?

Since the news of the original GEMS failure, the We Do Not Consent blog has twice broken stories of the Registrar's rushed and hushed plan to replace GEMS and the county's Diebold optical scanners with similar eScans made by Hart InterCivic. Crnich told the Eureka Times-Standard "This plan that is proposed pre-dates any of the problems that were found to exist in this election."

I personally confirmed this quote with Crnich on Tuesday when she acknowledged having shared her plan in November with volunteers of the ETP, who were asked to keep it a secret.

Even prior to learning this, I had already written a series of articles and letters calling for a public process to evaluate multiple alternatives to the current Diebold system, which of course I'm thrilled we'll finally be done with. With cooperation from Parke Bostrom and others, an outreach campaign is underway aimed at getting the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to create such a process at their January 13 meeting, when Crnich's proposal comes up for their approval. We are beginning to receive support from some perhaps unexpected places. That's the other breaking story, coming soon...

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