HAVA Scary Halloween: Ten years older and deeper in debt, yet far from credible elections

Two years ago we posted a Halloween preview: eTRICK or reTREAT? Nightmare of Elections Future. Lets look at where we are this year, and then we will calibrate (not celebrate) how far we have come, with the help of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

The good news is that there are a slew of articles and reports in the mainstream media covering election integrity 10 years after the 2000 debacle. Just in time for the 2010 mid-term elections and just in time for Halloween. For adults wishing for that old-fashioned Halloween scare  these articles should do the trick.

Need To Know covers the risk of paperless electronic voting with excellent demonstrations and explanations direct from Princeton: Ballot boxing: The problem with electronic voting machines <video>

While USA Today provides an editorial: A decade after Florida fiasco, voting remains a hodgepodge <read>  Especially equipped with a Board of Elections’ Prayer for those interested in “Faith Based Voting”:

Let the weather be clear, let the turnout be heavy and let everyone who wins, win big.

And if you are not scared yet, take a dose of expert warnings about Internet voting in an article from CSO Secrity & Risk, quoting Doug Jones and David Jefferson: E-voting: How secure is it? <read>

More than half of all states in the U.S. will allow some kind of internet voting this year. But security experts say it’s a mistake and puts the nation at risk…On-site electronic voting machines also risky

Back To The Future - Revisiting: eTRICK or reTREAT? Nightmare of Elections Future.

The Ghost Of Presidential Elections Future:
It seems the problems all stemmed from what happened in the 2008 election and its aftermath. Its a little hazy but the ghost warned of three possible outcomes:

  1. The polls are said to be very very wrong:
    The people chose one candidate for President, but manipulations of the data, voter suppression, or Supreme Court action made the other candidate the winner. The media covers every reason but the obvious one that goes unreported. The really scary part was that the voters docilely accepted it – instead of hitting the streets, we all ended up on the streets over time.
  2. The polls are only off a “little”: The predicted candidate won the Presidency by a small margin. Instead of the predicted 58-60 Democrats in the Senate and 20 more in the House, there were 54-55 in the Senate and 5 more in the House. Activists continued to object and present a wealth of facts. They are dismissed by the media as “conspiracy theorists”.

Grade: Incomplete.

Can we get away with saying “On the way to Halloween the Obama landslide ate our homework”?. All we can do is hope things don’t go wrong before there is a change in voting integrity. If Harry Reid wins by 15% or Christine O’Donnell pulls an upset then the pollsters or the election officials will have a lot more than missing homework to explain.

To paraphrase Walter Cronkite, “Nothing has changed, but your votes are not there”. The nightmare continued:

Beltway Lugosi Appears, The D.C. Goblin:
How could this have happened? Surely by 2012 or by 2016 we would have had election integrity.

  1. Rep. Rush Holt proposes a better, stronger bill in 2009: The caucus says “what’s the rush Rush, come back later its too soon – we have important issues to deal with, there is plenty of time before the next Presidential Election”.
  2. A persistent Rush Holt proposes a better, stronger bill in 2010: – House Leadership says “its too much, work on it and come back next year”.
  3. Rush Holt proposes weakened bill in 2011 – Everyone says “Its too late, the election officials can’t get it done in a rush Rush, come back after the next election when there will be plenty of time”.
  4. Rush Holt proposes a better, stronger bill in 2009 and it passes the House – The Feinstein/Bennett bill is immediately resurrected in the Senate and passes – it is all put into a joint committee – the result is the “Star Wars” of voting with spending as far as the eye can see and even less voting integrity than 2008.

Grade: CTVotersCount: A-, Congress: F-

We can’t be sure of all the details, but it sure looks a lot like we got #1, #2 and #3 pretty close. But we bet on some congressional action and #4 did not happen. We are just too optimistic by nature. We can always hope for 2016 or 2020. Lets work and hope for a good tipping point, before a bad one gets our democracy.

At least in Connecticut, we can rest assured that our votes will count, with our nickname, “The Constitution State”. Even if the voters approve the ballot question in 2008 to have a Constitutional Convention, surely we can rely on our other nickname, “The Land of Steady Habits” to carry the day and eventually, some day, protect our votes. The nightmare continued:

The Devil Is Truly In The details:

Connecticut earns its nickname, “The Nutmeg State“. When it comes to post-election audit law, the “Devil” is truly in the details.

  1. The Shays/Himes Congressional race is close, less than .5% There is a recanvass(recount). Since recounts are by machine, if Himes(D) loses, Secretary Bysiewicz(D) cannot call for a manual recount without being charged with being political. If Shays(R) loses, she would be under great pressure to reverse her decision to recount by machine.
  2. The Constitution question is close, less than .5%, and there is a recanvass(recount).
    Since recounts are by machine, if “No” loses, Secretary of the State Bysiewicz, a strong supporter of “No”, could not call for a manual recount without being charged with making a political decision. If “Yes” loses, she would be under great pressure to reverse her decision to recount by machine.Worse, a single statewide recount, by law, eliminates all post-election audits, even if the Shays/Himes Congressional race is close but over .5%.
  3. The Constitution question is close but over .5%:
    It will not be audited – questions are exempt from post-election audits in Connecticut
  4. The Shays/Himes Congressional race is close but over .5% and is not randomly selected for audit: We randomly select three offices for audit statewide. Instead of auditing close races for the U.S. Congress or the State Legislature we may waste resources excessively counting races with huge margins, or those with unopposed candidates, such as most races for Registrar of voters.

Grade: Course Not Offered. Maybe it will be available this November?

None of the races were that close. Secretary of the State, Susan Bysiewicz chose to audit all five races and avoided any risk of biased selection.

This time, November 2010,  the option of auditing all the races would be viewed as prohibitively to expensive to mandate. We will encourage the Secretary of the State to go beyond the law and to randomly select the three races to be audited in public (Its not required in the law, districts must be randomly selected publicly but not races). Let say there is a close race for Governor, Secretary of the State, or Congress. Choosing races for audit that avoid close races were the Secretary’s party won, or choosing those that the Secretary’s party lost can generate suspicion even when its done transparently in public.

Then again we could take the alternate course of a statewide recanvass – a nightmare in its own right!

I am awake now. With hard work and some luck, the voters choices may be confirmed in the election results and the voters could awake after the election to stay eternally vigilant. Some may say that this is just a dream, but it is preferable to the alternative nightmare.

  • The polls were accurate: The election results were as predicted. The predicted candidate won the Presidency. There were 58-60 Democrats in the Senate and about 20 more in the House. A few hard core activists remained, were completely ignored by the media, yet continued the fight for election integrity. The potential of election theft remained, while the potential for election integrity all but vanished.
  • Grade A-

    From all the mainstream media stories about the Washington D.C. Internet voting test and the recent coverage of electronic voting, it seems that the media is waking up a bit. But we boldly predict, little, if any mainstream media coverage after, say, mid November.

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