Recount: Election Report Update January 2017
I have not written about the recount situation for awhile. I really needed to catch up with my family, the holidays and other parts of my life. I am now back to tell you about how it all ended and to express some feelings and thoughts about the whole situation.
Also at the bottom of my letter, I am including a detailed article written by attorney and investigative reporter, Dr. Bob Fitrakis, my associate at TrustVote.org and the publisher of the Free Press (freepress.org). At this point, I have just been exposed to the existence of a company called Clear Ballot which is providing software to count ballot images with transparency. The company has been put together by Larry Moore, who I have known through Bob Fitrakis since 2008. I believe he is sincere, and we both agree that integrity is essential for a trustworthy election system. We are looking into this company. I will write about it in the next article, which will focus on possible solutions.
A deep hope for election results we can trust.
I feel generally very dismayed about the situation with elections in our country and with our country’s process around recounts. First, with respect to the elections, we have shown you through a series of articles that our elections may be being electronically manipulated from the Democratic primary onwards. We have tried to get the raw data from Edison Media Research. We have presented Edison Media Research with a lawsuit when the company refused to give us the raw data. That lawsuit sits waiting to be heard. We have also shared with you about Interstate Cross Check through showing and talking about film produced by Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. There was also voter suppression against college students in the Democratic primary and against minorities in the main election.
With respect to electronic manipulation, we also presented on the creation of Fraction Magic, a software system developed by Dominion (formerly Diebold) that can fractionalize votes according to the preferences of a secret programmer within Dominion if that programmer so chooses. Dr. Eric Coomer admitted to creating this system for “marketing reasons.” Dominion Voting’s website promises its customers a very “satisfying election experience.” We have also shown that this system has been adopted by many other voting machine companies, among them HartIntercivic, and ES&S. It may also be being used by SOE, a division of Scytl, yet another company that manages elections and counts votes. We also presented a way to stop Fraction Magic which is to preserve and count ballot images or to do a hand recount of ballots. During the course of the recount in Wisconsin, we found very widespread use of wireless modems in precinct tabulators in which election results within the tabulators could be changed from the distance. The fact that modems are widespread makes it even more important to preserve and count ballot images or ballots. It is important to note that counting ballot images is substantially less expensive and time-consuming than a hand count. And now to top everything off, there is serious talk about Homeland Security taking over our elections because of the Russian hack. I do believe that the Russians were involved in hacking emails. I have yet to see evidence that they invaded voting machines. It seems that kind of manipulation could be done much more easily by a company insider.
About the recount attempts: After experiencing what happened with the Jill Stein recount, I can say with confidence that our state and federal governments do not support recounts after an election. This has been true since 2004. I thought it might be different this time. As it has turned out, it is just as bad 2004. This is also very sad. After election day, we saw many discrepancies in the exit polls taken at the close of the election and the computerized vote totals. When we helped initiate the recount, I was so hopeful that the issue of election integrity would have been finally been recognized as profoundly important by the people and government officials of the United States. As it has turned out, it is not being recognized as such by our federal or state government. One positive thing that evolved during the 2016 election is that there are now many Americans who believe that our elections can be manipulated.
What disturbed me profoundly was all the resistance from election officials in each of the states. In Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, two Republican and one Democratic-controlled states, respectively, the recount effort met with TREMENDOUS resistance. I came to see that the bulk of election officials and other government officials in all three states vigorously defended the computer vote totals and did not give Jill Stein any space to create a true recount or audit in any of the states. I saw the amount of money Jill had to raise be expanded by Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania as a way of deterring the recount. Jill Stein was also treated with much suspicion, ridicule, and disdain by government officials and much of the media, who are always invested in preserving current election results. I had hoped by 2016 the amount of resistance had changed. It has not. In fact, it appears to have expanded. If you read the article by Bob Fitrakis that follows this brief letter, you will get a detailed account of just how much legal and financial resistance there was in all three states.
The Institute’s (trustvote.org) work in Wisconsin: We at TrustVote.org made a choice to focus on Wisconsin, not because Michigan and Pennsylvania did not deserve our attention, but as a form of triage with limited funds. In Wisconsin, the only state that got anywhere with a recount, only 50% of the municipalities did a hand recount, which is the only kind of recount that is really worthy of trust. The other 50% of the municipalities refused. They agreed to only a machine recount which involves a low-paid election official feeding the ballots through scanners. After all the ballots were fed through, the same “total button” on the same tabulators that delivered the earlier results were pressed and the same computer totals were reached. Those recounts proved that the machines were in good condition. They delivered the same totals! We will be publishing the names of the municipalities and election officials that did participate in hand recounts and the ones that did not. We hope that these names will get to many people in Wisconsin in particular so that they know the kind of election officials that are in their municipalities. We celebrate the officials who supported transparency in the election recounts! Thank you! The hand recounts differed only modestly from the computer totals.
When a municipality refuses to do a hand recount trust is lost. A person can wonder, ‘What are these election officials hiding?” I am not saying that anything illegal was carried out, but it could have been and the election official would have gotten away with it. It is very interesting to note that wireless modems have been found in the scanners in a great many counties in Wisconsin.
The scanners send results to the tabulators. This advertised feature of the ES&S DS200 scanners is meant to make sending election results to the central tabulators more efficient. What may also be possible, though, is that the modems in these scanners may be able to receive input. In other words, they may be able to receive changed election results which then are reported to the tabulator. A full examination of the software in the scanners would reveal much, but that kind of exam is not being allowed. The software in the scanner modems is considered proprietary.
Trust is the essential ingredient in the electoral process. it is also essential to effective, true campaigning. When a politician asks for your vote or your money for his or her campaign, that politician wants you to trust that your money and vote will count and not be made inconsequential from vote manipulation. As a result of both the presidential primary elections and the presidential election, much trust has been lost. Additionally, I have just learned from Recount Now that ballot images were destroyed in at least two Wisconsin counties. Ballot images are photos that are taken of ballots. They are potentially easier to recount. Larry Moore of Clear Vote has designed a system to recount ballot images. We are hoping this will be used. As of now though, our electoral process is profoundly damaged.
TrustVote.org and the FreePress.org have continued with additional attempts to get the true Wisconsin election results by making public records requests from the 1800 municipalities that have refused the hand recounts. In all but two of the municipalities the response has been “talk to our lawyer” or “what do you mean by registration data?” or “what are ballot images?” All of these responses from these municipalities are attempts to delay both organizations getting results. If we were able to get ballot images, then we could get a true count in a municipality because Fraction Magic cannot manipulate and change ballot images, only election totals. The two municipalities that did finally send us material. Thank you, Troy and Cicero!!
Additionally, Mike Haas, the election commissioner of Wisconsin, has offered to send us ballot images for all municipalities that refused hand recounts. We will see if this happens. We are looking to find a software system that will help us count ballot images if we are lucky enough to get them. The state of Wisconsin was given $3.5 million by the Jill Stein recount campaign to do a full recount, up from $1.1 million which was the original amount. For that money, only 50% of the municipalities did a hand recount. We may need to raise some more money to count ballot images if we really do receive them. We will let you know.
Much smaller recount attempts were made in Florida by Clint Curtis and in Nevada by Rocky de la Fuente. I appreciate both of these people for their noble efforts. The recounts did not progress in these states either. Also, investigative work was done by Warren Lennie, who put together the group/organization Recount Now with the help of election integrity expert Emily Levy. (Recountnow.org) They investigated additional election problems in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada. Unfortunately, no lawsuits have evolved out of these efforts. Our election system gives concerned citizens too little time to address election irregularities! Please continue to check their website for updates. They can also use donations.
For a detailed account of the Jill Stein recount attempts in three states, please open up the PDF below which will show the article by TrustVote.org and FreePress.org fellow, professor, and attorney Bob Fitrakis, who was deeply involved in all parts of the Jill Stein recount effort.
The next article that will come out on TrustVote.org will focus on possible ways of repairing our election system and also some ideas I have about reforming, as opposed to eliminating our Electoral College. We may also hold another conference in the San Francisco Bay Area on election integrity reforms. I will also possibly be presenting on Clear Vote as a strategy to count ballot images. I have also been hearing from Larry Moore that Clear Vote is becoming a voting company that is dedicated to transparency. Bob Fitrakis and I will be checking out this company more fully before reporting on it.