Updated: Mar 13
As a result of this interaction with the Secretary of State and the analyses of four statisticians, the Institute has decided to take a leading role in a recount of Prop 37. We are not clear how far we will take the recount. If we raise enough money, we may do many counties in the state. You can contribute to discovering the truth about the counting of Prop 37 by donating on our website.
by Brian Frank (KCET) on December 12, 2012 8:58 AM
Another Bay Area citizen has called for a recount on a statewide ballot measure, this time on Prop 37, and she's being helped by the man responsible for the Prop 29 recount last summer.
Lori Grace, an election integrity activist based in Tiburon, Calif., filed a formal request with the Secretary of State's office on Monday for a recount in the contest over Prop 37, a voter initiative that would require special labels on foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. (There won't be any other ballot measure recounts from the general election, since Monday was the last day to file).
Having two such recounts in one year is highly unusual, if not unprecedented. The earlier effort came after the June primary, when Bay Area surgeon John Maa requested a recount for Prop 29, the cigarette tax initiative that would have helped to fund cancer research.
Now Maa is imparting some of his own hard-earned (and expensive -- recounts in California must be bankrolled by the requester) knowledge to Grace. Both acknowledged that Maa has given her strategical advice on how to proceed.
Grace is no stranger to the electoral process, either. In an interview by phone late Tuesday, she said she has been actively involved in issues of elections integrity since at least 2004, when she helped with an audit of the presidential election. Her interest began after the Bush-Gore recount in Florida in 2000. She also heads an organization called the Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity.
Grace said that at least one of her reasons for requesting the Prop 37 recount was the obvious one -- to see the election results overturned and Prop 37 pass. She is founder and director of the Sunrise Center, which advocates "green" and healthy lifestyles and has publicly supported Prop 37. But she also said that she and a small group of citizens are concerned "about election anomalies that can't be explained" in a few counties.
"We've done a certain amount of statistical analysis. It's just a question -- nothing's for sure," Grace said.
In an email, Maa provided a little more background:
"In the weeks during the canvass following the November election, the margin for Proposition 37 narrowed substantially, as over 3 million provisional, absentee, and damaged ballots were counted. Unusually high numbers of provisional ballots were noted in several counties, likely the result of the new online voter registration processes implemented before the November election. Supporters of Proposition 37 questioned whether the Associated Press called the election prematurely a victory for 'No on Prop 37' with such a large number of ballots remaining to be counted."
Grace has an uphill battle ahead, not least because of the way recounts work in California.
First, the financial burden falls to the requester. In the Prop 29 recount, Maa poured in roughly $250,000 of his own to keep the campaign going. Not many individual citizens have that kind of disposable income to spare, so without substantial fundraising or a coalition effort, a recount is out of reach for a lot of voters.
Second, strict rules turn any recount here into a head-scratching game of strategy. A person could conceivably call for a recount in all 58 counties from the outset, but that could easily cost millions of dollars. Instead, it becomes readily clear that the only cost-effective way to proceed is to pick out a handful of counties that are most likely to offer the biggest shift in the vote count.
If the final goal is truly to win Prop 37 outright, and not to unveil fraud or other irregularities in the November election, then the task may be even harder.
While the general election results will not be certified until Friday, the latest count shows Prop 37 losing by a margin of 3 percent. That makes it the most closely contested race of all the statewide ballot measures, but it still means the proposition trails by a daunting 378,584 votes. Elections officials across the state would have to find that a total of nearly 200,000 votes were miscounted in some way -- whether a "yes" was tallied a "no," a lot of "yes" votes were left out of the count improperly, or a lot of "no" votes should have been thrown out as invalid or fraudulent.
Grace is following Maa's lead by starting the recount in a county that they think is more likely to show signs of irregularities, based, she said, on their statistical evidence. In this case, that would be Orange County, which they also said happens to be one of the cheapest counties in which to conduct a recount, an idea even the county's elections chief seemed to acknowledge.
"I need to do a fee study. I'm hearing San Diego, Placer County, are a lot more expensive than we are. But they're putting a lot more overhead into their cost. I think that's why they're starting with us," said Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley.
Fifty-eight counties, each with their own costs and potential vote payouts, lined up like squares on a checker board. Find enough votes, and the election can be reversed. But doing it at a minimum cost -- there's the rub. And even then, opponents of Prop 37, backed by major multinational food companies, can come back and call for another recount, bringing more counties into play.
All of which makes the other motive seem more compelling, even if it is a long shot.
Grace has been pushing for a more open, transparent method for counting votes in California.
She argued, for one, that there is a lack of transparency inherent to the machines used to tabulate votes in certain counties. Since elections are managed at the county level, wide variations exist in the approach to casting, collecting, and counting ballots. Some counties, such as Los Angeles, use paper punch cards. Others, like Orange County, use a form of electronic touch-screen machines. Activists have complained that some types of e-voting machines use proprietary software that is kept secret from the public.
Grace's institute for election integrity backs an alternate method for counting and verifying votes that relies on open-source software rather than something developed by a private company. That system is called the Trachtenberg Election Verification System (TEVS).
If they do find problems in the vote count, Grace said, then the "basic hope is to begin to show people here in the American public that we have a system that isn't really transparent, that could be possibly altered electronically, and there could be mistakes electronically."
Kelley, for his part, stands behind his team and their results.
"What I've seen is machine counting is precise," Kelley said. "It's just a pretty clean system. It's been tested over decades. First of all, I don't blame individuals for doing this. They want to check to make sure it's accurate. But this system has been tested."
The recount is set to begin in Orange County on Dec. 18 at a cost -- to the requester -- of about $600 a day. According to Kelley, that's the cost for a single board or table to handle the counting. For $2,500 a day, you get four tables. Having only one means this recount isn't going to move very fast.
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Lori Grace was involved in the 2000 Bush-Gore recount in Florida. In fact, she said she was involved with an audit of the 2004 election results. The story has been corrected accordingly.
Food Democracy Now!
Join us in standing up for open and transparent elections - join us in reporting "statistical anomalies" and 6 million votes for Prop 37 !
Since November 6th, people from around the world have watched as the vote tally from Prop 37 has slowly edged up towards 6 million votes. On Tuesday morning, December 4th, 2012, Prop 37 hit the 6 million vote milestone on the California Secretary of State’s website, but this tally was quickly reversed with an hour of being posted publicly (more on that later).
On election night the California Secretary of State’s office called the election for the No side, declaring that Yes on 37 to label genetically engineered foods had failed to pass by a margin of 46.9% to 53.1%.
While reports of election fraud have circulated on the Internet, at Food Democracy Now! we have been closely monitoring the results as they’ve come in and had not heard any credible reports of possible voting irregularities - until now.
Yesterday, we received some disturbing news from a voter integrity monitor, claiming that possible “statistical anomalies” had been detected in 9 counties in California.
According to Francois Choquette, a statistician closely monitoring incoming election results in California, there were significant “irregularities” in the vote totals for prop 37 to label genetically engineered foods that could not be explained by random coincidence.
Right now a team of independent statisticians are analyzing raw voter data or “preliminary data from 17 of California's 58 counties”. Potential anomalies have been detected in a number of the largest precincts in Orange, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda and San Diego counties, among others.
And while Food Democracy Now! can’t say if election fraud has taken place, we want Prop 37 supporters to be aware of the fact that the results from the election are not over and we're asking you to be vigilant in standing with us as we call for further inquiry into these questionable patterns.
The next 24 hours are critical. Right now county election officials in the state of California are required to report their final results to the Secretary of State’s office by (tomorrow) Friday December 7th. According to state law, Secretary of State Debra Bowen has until December 14th to certify the results of the election.
And this is where we have some concern.
While Prop 37 lost on election night, with some 4.3 million Californians having been reported voting Yes on 37 by the next morning, since then the ballot proposition to label genetically engineered foods has slowly and steadily advanced both its vote total and percentage of the total vote.
California SOS Website Reports 6 Million Votes for Prop 37, Then Votes Disappear
As of Monday, December 3rd at 4:58 pm, the California Secretary of State’s office reported that Prop 37 had garnered 48.5% votes to the No side’s 51.5%, with 5,986,652 voting to Label GMOs and 6,365,236 Californians voting against.
The following morning, ccording to the California Secretary of State’s website the Yes on 37 campaign had received 6,004,628 votes and edged down to 48.4% of the vote total. The timestamp on the California Secretary of State’s website showed December 4, 2012, 6:04 a.m.
Six million votes is an important milestone for the election and the growing movement of millions of Americans that support labeling of genetically engineered foods across the country that were inspired by Prop 37.
I immediately shared the news via Twitter @food_democracy at 8:40 am PST.
Less than an hour later, the site was no longer showing the 6 million vote total. After capturing a screenshot, I Tweeted the image and then contacted the Secretary State’s office.
When asked about the discrepancy, the Secretary of State’s office claimed their office would no longer being updating the vote total until after December 14th, when the election is required by law to be certified. When asked why, the Secretary of States’ office claimed that making updates to the official site were “no longer cost effective”.
After several calls to the Secretary of State’s office, their staff refused to give the number of remaining uncounted ballots and only stated that the latest vote totals were posted on the website and this information would not be updated until December 14th. This seems odd, since the Secretary of State's website had updated the vote count every day until December 4th, when the Yes side briefly appeared above 6 million votes.
Join us in standing up for open and transparent elections and to ask California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to make sure that the election results from Prop 37 are properly counted.
Please share the screenshot below showing more than 6 million votes for Prop 37 to label GMOs, this may be our only hope to make sure that open and transparent election results are reported in California.
Click on the link below to share the image of the disappearing 6 million vote total for Yes on 37 on Twitter.
Post on Facebook - Now spread the word and share this with your friends to stand up for transparent elections and your Right to Know!
Right now we are uncertain if election fraud has taken place, but we find the reports and these developments with the California’s Secretary of State’s website and their office’s responses troubling. Currently, less than 400,000 votes separate the Yes on 37 campaign from the No side. The voters of California deserve the truth.
The No on 37 campaign ran one of the dirtiest elections in modern history with a constant stream of lies and fraudulent activity. As if spending more than $46 million on an endless stream of TV and radio ads wasn’t enough, the No on 37 campaign sent more than a half dozen fraudulent mailers from Democratic and environmentalist front groups, made demonstrably false statements in the official California Voter Guide as well as the fraudulent misuse of the official seal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
While none of these specific incidents can be used to bring the opposition to court or overturn the election, the current vote total irregularities taking place in California are concerning.
Right now, 48 hours before the final results vote counts from county election officials are to be handed over to the Secretary of State’s office, we need a strong showing of support for transparency and democracy.
Please stand with us and share this news far and wide.
Together we have already shown that we can stand up to the most powerful corporations on the planet, it’s time to make sure our democracy is as safe as our food supply.
Thanks for participating in food democracy,
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team