East Haven GAE Hearing + Video

The fifth and last hearing was in East Haven on 2/27. Once again a different flavor and new information.

Video: From erfoley in a comment at MyLeftNutmeg.com:

I attended and taped the General Administration and Elections Committee hearing in East Haven on the 27th of February. The video, for anyone intersted, is up on google video. The video is in two parts since the hearing lasted 1 hour 46 minutes. The testimony of the 2 Registrars of Voters and the Chief Moderator from the East Haven recount is in the first half of the hearing. They lay out in some detail what happened during the recount and the lack of useful help from the SOTS office.

Here is the link to part 1:

http://video.google.com/videop…

Here is the link to part 2:

http://video.google.com/videop…

My notes only cover the highlights quickly written. For more view the video — and where my notes diverge the video would obviously be the more accurate and complete.

A large part of the testimony was given by the two Registrars (Donna Norman, Joe Ballencourt) and Head Moderator (Laurie Jacy) from East Haven. They had the disastrous recount in the Nov election that from the morning till perhaps 11:00pm resulting in 113 extra votes. The initial count was performed by fourty people with no guidance from the Secretary of the State’s Office and no plan by the team from East Haven.

The second count a few days later was largely planned by the Head Moderator, used less people, and less time and came out withing two votes in the very close Mayoral race. All the participants support the idea of recounting by machine, yet, to me did not seem insistent. After all they proved that a manual count, even of multiple races, of eight-thousand votes was clearly possible to accomplish. They also demonstrated that many election officials can organize recounts and audits that are highly accurate.

Here I want to comment that much of the justification and talk of recounting by machine seems to try to overcome concerns that the machine will not count questionable ballots accurately – but those concerns are groundless as it seems that the machines when properly programmed and adjusted count very accurately and almost every vote. Many talk of separating out votes that are completely clean, perhaps single party votes, separated by party then running them through the machine – but that would prove noting if the machine was incorrectly programmed since an identical machine would simply make the same errors. Perhaps such a scheme would be faster but not much faster if ballots all had to be reviewed and separated, and then read through machine(s) again. In the case of East Haven it was, perhaps 7 machines requiring at least seven people to feed the ballots for several hours after the sorting. But it does not matter if it were free, because it would be useless as far as protecting our vote from errors or fraud.

It seemed to me that Representative Lawlor who says he will introduce a machine recount bill in the legislature took every opportunity to ask this group and other registrars during the evening to agree that a machine recount would be preferred.

Betsy Adams, Registrar, Cheshire
Concerned with primary date change. Said it was changed by the SOTS with no open forum to discuss the change. Hard with schools open and February weather. Like many registrars she was concerned with school safety.

Aleta Looker, Registrar, Cheshire, Vice-Chair New Haven County ROVAC
Internet connection between registrars’ offices crashes regularly. Only IT person in SOTS office was on vacation 2/4-2/18 (during election and Voter Registration System problems).

Concerns that IVS was originally only for Federal elections and costs $800 service charges per election; the $0.35 per ballot printing costs; $300 to program cards for each election.

Nancy Wells a Coalition Audit Observer Testified:

Good evening. Thank you for holding these hearings. I am a Berlin voter and I have observed the election audits.

I am concerned about fair elections. It is not only important for elections to be honest and secure but it is important for the citizens to have faith that our elections are honest and secure.

Since 2000 I have been particularly concerned about our elections. There is not much point to voting if elections are not honest. It is nothing new, in the United States we have had dead people voting, legitimate voters disqualified and all sorts of illegal voting. But now we have optical scan voting machines and we are told three companies have proprietary programs so we can’t see the programs; they say “we must trust them, our votes are safe”. Well even with the best of intentions programs can have flaws and if someone wanted to affect the outcome of the elections optical scan voting machines are an ideal tool.

Audits are not about whether elections running smoothly; they are about seeing that the elections are fair? When I observed an audit I was not concerned that the auditors were trying to hide illegal practices but with the best of intentions there was confusion and mistakes were made. I think there should be an audit committee made up of people from both parties and professional auditors. The audits would be scheduled before the elections and the votes to be audited would be randomly determined the day after elections. Discrepancies would be found in time to make corrections. Towns would not have to find money for the audit; it would be handled at the state level with people who understand the procedure. The State would budget the money for the audit. It’s money well spent.

In reading the handout from www.CTVotersCount.org I thought their suggestions (#10) “The key to safe elections” were excellent.

It is not only important for the citizens to have faith in our elections; it is important for our elections to be honest and secure.

Doug Sutherland, Trumbull and CTVotersCount member
Expressed concerns with the “watered down” audit procedures and the problems documented with the audits. He applauded the SOTS for selecting optical scan over touch screens. He said that the paper trail is the most important part – if we don’t use that we lose. Audit is to deter fraud. If there is only a small chance of being caught then people will be tempted.

Some of the chaos is growing pains. Go back to basics, use the paper trail. Don’t focus too much on cost and efficiency.

April Capone Almon, Mayor of East Haven, elected before and after the recount
Nerve Wracking before the 1st recount and between recounts. She though there was a process for a recount. Would like a procedure given to towns. Eliminate fraud and error in the beginning of the process. Mixed feeling about recount being triggered by statute.

Bill Bunnell, TrueVoteCT
Recounts are a unique process, public wants and should be done. Don’t leave to any to decide other than the General Assembly. Concerned that the SOTS suspended the manual count procedures, should not be left changeable at whim of elected official.

Questioned earlier testimony that LHS owns memory cards. They are part of the purchase agreement between the state and Diebold with cards purchased at $250 each. There are 68 “eyes” in each scanner. Scanners have not been calibrated since purchased. He recommended they all be calibrated before the Nov 2008 election.

Anthony Esposito, Registrar, Hamden, Exec VP of ROVAC
Connecticut’s strength is one set of rules across the state. Quoted an old Italian saying, translated as “As soon as you make the law somebody will make a way around it”.

He pointed to problems of cost, lack of facilities to meet security requirements in many towns, chain of custody, training and staffing. Need registrar training as well as moderator training. Problems getting registrars to go to ROVAC conferences. Many only go for one day of three, not wanting to drive three times and many towns do not pay for the conferences.

(Once again I am not a reporter. Apologies for names misspelled, points missed, and incorrect. Corrections will be cheerfully made.)

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