Friday, January 14, 2005

The lingering stench (updated)

No more touch screens in Ohio. Ken Blackwell has ordered that all 88 counties in Ohio scrap touch-screen voting and use optical scan paper ballots. This move has angered some count officials who aren't sure how they will pay for the conversion.

Before you crow that we've won this round, keep in mind: Our major concern has always been the central tabulators -- the counting machines that those optical scan ballots are fed into. They can be hacked.

Do the paper ballots provide an audit trail? Yes -- and here, perhaps, we have taken a step in the right direction. But, as the recount oddities have taught us, much of the problem now comes down to questions of security and chain of custody.

Those paper ballots have to be stored somewhere. The paper trail will be double-checked only in the event of a recount, and the legal process to initiate a recount takes time. Much mischief can occur during this period. Buildings have keys; seals can be easily broken and replaced.

In short: It is no difficult trick to insure that optical scan ballots conform to the numbers generated by the central tabulating machines.

Blackwell has not cleaned up the election process; he has mandated a methodology which can make theft more persuasive to a skeptical public.

The exit poll disparity. A vote-fraud skeptic on Democratic Underground linked to a study which called into question the accuracy of exit polls. This led me to muse on the prevailing theories used to explain the exit/actual disparities which now seem to mark our every election. Correct me if I'm leaving anything out, but it seems that the explanations boil down to a mere three:

1. The "Chatty Dems" theory. According to this notion, Dems love to shout their views to all and sundry, and especially to exit pollsters -- while Republicans are, by nature, tight-lipped Deep Thinkers, not unlike the cowboys of yore. This idea might have appealed to me if I hadn't encountered so many verbally aggressive -- make that abusive -- Republicans.

2. The "Evil Dems" theory. Proponents of this view hold that Mitofsky is but the latest incarnation of the eeeeevil librul conspiracy which has plagued Christendom since the days of Adam Weishaupt. He and his media comrades-in-deviltry therefore concocted false numbers in order to depress the Bush vote. The problems with this theory are manifold. To name but two: Why didn't the media bigwigs publicize their fake numbers? And where is the evidence that exit polls have ever kept anyone away from the ballot box?

3. The "Oopsie-daisy!" theory. This is the one favored by people of all political stripes who like to consider themselves scientific-minded blokes. The argument boils down to this: Exit polls are by their nature inaccurate, and these inaccuracies are accidental. Ornery nay-sayers like yours truly insist on countering: Why do the "accidents" always veer in one direction, election after election? Why do we never see an exit poll call it for the Republican when the Democrat has actually received the most votes? Ask that impertinent question, and your average scientific-minded bloke will ahem and harrumph and twiddle with his tie until you finally take pity on him and allow him to switch the subject.

Does anyone recall a theory which exists outside the three categories listed above?

"Clear!" Most people haven't heard, but there is a recount underway in New Mexico. Despite this inconvenient fact, New Mexican election officials are clearing the electronic voting machines.

Speaking of NM: Here's a good piece on Democratic Underground. A choice excerpt:

How the GOP Targets Minorities: A New Mexico Case Study

The Five Pillars of Minority Disenfranchisement:
1. Keep Them From Registering to Vote
2. Purge Them From the Rolls
3. Keep Them From Reaching the Polls
4. Keep Their Votes From Counting
5. Vote For Them Ahead of Time

Registration Fraud: The well-reported account of Voters Outreach, a Republican National Committee sponsored organization, canvassing states to register voters as Republicans or to illegally destroy registrations of Democratic registrants is well-known. The strong possibility exists that this was not an isolated incident. Incident reports in New Mexico suggest there may have been a campaign to collect registrations from Hispanic voters with no intention of turning them in. Can't register enough of your own voters? Why not pre-empt Democratic registrations by sweeps through county fairs and Wal-Marts and then trash them? If the purportedly registered Hispanic voters show up on election day and try to vote, then they are the ones who look suspicious -- besides who's going to believe a poor Hispanic voter?
A side-note: Wal-Mart never allows political workers to operate outside their stores unless the operators favor conservative interests. Never fill out a registration form anywhere near a Wal-Mart.

Daniel Hopsicker on Sequoia: In his latest radio interviews (go to part one and part two), this odd-but-interesting Florida-based independent journalist looks into the shady history of a major vote-counting firm. You think you've heard the worst? Think again.

He discusses the history of this company in the 1990s, including the indictments issued after a shady vote on a New Orleans gambling initiative. One of the individuals caught with his fingers in the cookie jar was Jerry Fowler, who went to jail. Hopsicker connects Fowler to a bete noir, Adnan Khashoggi -- whose name, you will recall, came up in our discussion of Triad, or rather the various companies bearing that name. (Khashoggi, it is said, had an interest in a proposed casino, and thus in the electoral results.)

I remain of two minds concerning Hopsicker's contention that Triad GSI, which behaved so unusually during the Ohio recount, has an link to the various firms bearing that same name owned by Khashoggi. But as long as we're talking about Adnan, take another look at this fascinating older piece by Sy Hersh on Khashoggi's middleman efforts between Saudi interests and Richard Perle -- yes, the same Perle whose motto seems to be Israel Ueber Alles.

But I have digressed. Hopsicker goes far beyond the matters I've mentioned above, and gets into the nitty-gritty of questionable vote counts in various Florida counties. Not least, he puts some new info on the table concerning ES&S.

The spies in our midst. I will refer only glancingly to a brouhaha which has remained mostly confined to email and various lists. Certain individuals involved in vote fraud research have been accusing certain other individuals of being fakes. Plants. Disinformationists. Republican ringers.

Such accusations had legitimacy in a few instances; I'll always recall "Brad Menfil" and "Jack Seymour" with a certain skewed fondness. But in recent days, the paranoia level has expanded past the boundaries of reason.

As I've noted before, hysteria of this sort once spread among the JFK assassination researchers. ("Mark Lane is an agent! He's CIA, I tell you! See-freakin'-eye-AY!") Word to the wise: The moment internal dissent devolves into the Goody-Proctor-is-a-witch stage, the public stops paying attention to your issue.


Anonymous said...

RE the Exit polls:

Only 250 out of nearly 12,000 polling places were exit-polled. These pollingplaces were not chosen randomly. If you want to prove fraud you have to find out where these 250 places were, and compare the poll data for those places with the election 'results' for those places.
This is so simple, but nobody seems to have done it. Everything else is bunkum, or disinformation.

JamBoi said...

John Dean [AKA The Bozo] is so full of wack its unbelievable. RotFLMAO!