Saturday, August 20, 2005

Another Stolen Election?

Was Democratic Candidate Robbed by Voting Machine Fraud in Special Election?

North County Blues links to a disturbing article in The Raw Story. The contention is that San Diego mayoral candidate Donna Frye had votes systematically changed by Diebold voting equipment, software or fraudulent human intervention. The result of these changes may have been to prevent Frye from garnering the 50% mandate required in the July 26 especial election and forcing Frye into a November 8 run-off election against Republican Jerry Sanders.

The backstory on the special election is an epic in its on right and I won't get into the details, but in brief, Frye was litigated out of a write-in victory last November when she ran against two Republicans in the general election. When Dick Murphy, the ultimate winner of that election, resigned, a special election was held in July. In that vote, Frye received 43% of the vote, 16% more than Sanders.

The Raw Story piece depends on the results of a "parallel election" process held in just five polling places representing a tiny fraction of the city's precincts. This parallel election resulted in a consistent 4% variation between the reported vote counts and the predicted vote counts. Statistically, the odds that such a consistent variation would occur in multiple precincts is very low, somewhere around 1 in 1,300.

"The Citizens Audit Parallel Election (CAPE) asked voters exiting polls to vote again and sign a log book attesting to the accuracy of their second vote. Sealed parallel election ballots were counted at KGTV's studio with a TV camera crew filming the counting process.

"Nearly 50 percent of all voters participated in the parallel election, which included five polling places representing 11 precincts. The sample included more conservative than liberal precincts, with participation as high among Republicans as among Democrats. The tandem election results showed what most feel to be startling results.

"There is a shift of four percent of the vote, consistently," Joe Prizzi, (engineer and physicist,) reported at a press conference held by CAPE in front of City Hall. Frye received 50.2 percent of the votes cast in the parallel election - enough for an outright victory if those results reflect the outcome citywide. CAPE also found that the official count added approximately 2 percent to each of Frye's two Republican opponents, Jerry Sanders and Steve Francis."

In addition, CAPE examined the only other ballot measure, a proposition over a war memorial cross on public land. The proposition's vote total also appeared to have been padded by 4 percent in the official election tally, which was certified Friday August 19 by San Diego County's newly appointed Registrar of Voters, Republican Mikel Haas."

Does this mean that the election was rigged and that Frye really won?

I don't think so. Is it possible the Diebold optical scan machines used in the questionable precincts failed to accurately count the votes? I think that is likely. Is it possible that some sort of active vote fraud occurred? I think that is unlikely.

The Raw Story goes into great detail about the case of Jim March from the group, Black Box Voting, who ultimately was arrested on election night. March, a Republican, according to Raw Story, complained to election officials about a multitude of details while exercising his rights to observe the vote counting process. When election officials refused to move a computer terminal closer to March's observation point, March entered the secure tabulation area and was subsequently arrested.

It is difficult to determine if March is a libertarian with an axe to grind or a legitimate election fraud detective. A technical expert I know, who was an official observer of the vote count, found no evidence that equipment was improperly set-up. Other observers at the Registrars office, with whom I spoke, are more convinced that March's behavior during the entire process was deliberately provocative and that March fully intended to be arrested to publicize his point of view.

Based on the results of the "parallel election" the Registrar of Voters is planning a recount of the ballots in the 11 precincts included in the study.

Official results in those precincts show Frye with around 46% of the vote. Parallel results show her with 50.2%. However, Frye's overall vote percentage in the entire city was just over 43% and that includes votes cast on election day on all types of equipment and absentee ballots.

The capability of automated equipment without a paper trail to be used to defraud and disenfranchise is a clear and present danger to democracy in the
United States. Is this election evidence of that? No, it is not.