Vote Watch 2004
Vote/Election fraud, vote suppression, voting irregularities, voter intimidation in Election 2004



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Here, I use the definition of Swing States by the Swing State Project

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11/12/04 [Permalink]
Over 11,000 more votes for President recorded in North Carolina county than were actually cast

Via BradBlog, we have this story in the New Bern Sun Journal:

A systems software glitch in Craven County's electronic voting equipment is being blamed for a vote miscount that, when corrected, changed the outcome of at least one race in Tuesday's election.

Then, in the rush to make right the miscalculation that swelled the number of votes for president here by 11,283 more votes than the total number cast, a human mistake further delayed accurate totals for the 40,534 who voted.

The glitch occurred Tuesday night as absentee ballot totals for one-stop early voting at three Craven County locations and ballots mailed-in were being entered, said Tiffiney Miller, Craven County Board of Elections director.

The Elections Systems and Software equipment had downloaded voting information from nine of the county's 26 precincts and as the absentee ballots were added, the precinct totals were added a second time. Precincts affected were Havelock East, Havelock West, River Bend, Cove City, Ernul, Fort Totten, Grover C. Fields, Glenburnie and West New Bern.

An override, like those occurring when one attempts to save a computer file that already exists, is supposed to prevent double counting, but did not function correctly, Miller said.


11/11/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 12/14/04
Voting mess in North Carolina apparent from disappearing, missing, "appearing", double-counted and uncounted votes 

Via reader radtimes, here is a piece in the Charlotte Observer:

Double and triple counting votes. Not counting votes. Losing votes. Election Day is gone, but the election's still not over in several N.C. counties, including Mecklenburg. Troubling Election Day flubs have kept the vote counting going.

The biggie was in Carteret County, where more than 4,500 early ballots were lost because the maker of the county's voting machines did not update the computer software. The company said the machines would hold 10,000 votes; in fact, they were programmed to hold just over 3,000. The mistake literally disfranchised voters and could cause not only a new election in Carteret, but maybe even a new statewide vote in state races where those lost votes might determine the outcome.

A whopping mistake discovered Tuesday in Gaston County could negate the need for such a revote, though. During their canvass of last week's results, Gaston officials found about 12,000 votes that had not been counted. They were mostly early and absentee votes that officials said were in their computer system but not released from the machines when other votes were tallied. The number of uncounted votes is larger than the margin of victory for state commissioner of agriculture and superintendent of public instruction and could change the outcome of those races.

These mistakes don't inspire confidence in the voting process. Neither does what happened in Mecklenburg County. Elections Director Michael Dickerson said human error caused ballots from at least seven machines used for early voting to be counted twice, and seven others not to be counted at all. The resulting error, spotted by county Republicans, left two county commissioner seats unresolved for a week. Challenges are still likely even with the official tally.

And another:

A state study commission will convene as early as this week to decide how to overhaul North Carolina's hodgepodge of voting machines - including the one that lost about 4,500 votes in Carteret County.

Other problems included an election night miscount in Mecklenburg County and the delayed discovery of 13,200 ballots in Gaston County. National and state experts said those cases are not unusual and other states saw worse glitches.

Despite all 100 counties reporting unofficial results in North Carolina's Nov. 2 election, the outcome of two statewide races won't be known for days.

Protests and requests for recounts have been filed by candidates for agriculture commissioner and superintendent of public instruction, forcing election workers to again labor over the more than 3 million ballots cast. They have until Wednesday to complete the task.

As recounts and protests go on, the quest to restore voter confidence is taking center stage.

Federal auditing officials will meet Monday to review a request from six congressional Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte, for an investigation of voting problems in North Carolina and other states. Watt said he wants the Government Accountability Office to scrutinize the laws and processes nationwide.

"The objective ultimately is to get to a system where people vote," he said, "and feel that their vote is being counted."

National experts call Carteret County's lost votes one of the worst election flubs this year.

There, outdated software consigned 4,500 ballots to electronic oblivion with no backup, raising the prospect of a statewide re-vote for agriculture commissioner.

Carteret County officials had been assured the machine would take 10,000 ballots, but the software had not been updated. When the machine hit its limit, the screen said "voter log full," said UniLect president Jack Gerbel, whose California company made the machine.

But it didn't stop voters from thinking they'd voted, and poll workers say they never saw the signal.

"From now on," Gerbel said, "it will stop and not let any other votes be counted."

National experts reacted with the equivalent of "Well, duh!"

"You have to wonder what kind of bonehead would design a computer system that would hit capacity, then continue to take votes and just throw them away," Stanford University computer science professor David Dill said.

University of Iowa computer science professor Douglas Jones, a voting-machine expert, said the number of votes lost forever in Carteret County may be a new record.

The fiasco has renewed interest in machines that leave a paper trail. The mechanics of N.C. voting vary from county to county, ranging from punch cards to touch-screen machines.

Via reader radtimes, there's more!

Gaston County Elections Director Sandra Page, already struggling to explain why most early votes were omitted from the county's unofficial election results, said Friday that her office had also omitted an entire Dallas precinct.

Responding to a question from the Observer, Page said Gaston's unofficial results excluded 1,209 votes cast at the Dallas Civic Center. She said she learned of the problem one or two days after the election, but did not correct the unofficial results until Monday.

"I guess people are angry with us about this, but it was not done on purpose," she said. "It's astounding, but we just missed it."

The revisions did not affect the outcome of any local race. And Page again insisted on Friday that there were no errors in the county's official results. All the votes were eventually counted, she said. The problems were "part of the reporting process, not part of the voting process."

But it is the second time in a week Page has conceded a major error in the unofficial results her office sent to the state and published online after the Nov. 2 election. She announced Tuesday that she had discovered the absence of about 12,000 early votes.

Page said she still cannot explain how the errors occurred. In different interviews with the Observer, she has blamed human error and computer error for each of the problems. And she said Friday that she has yet to contact the manufacturer of the county's voting system, Diebold Election Systems.

Also see this article with more foul-ups, via Brad Blog, and this one via Votersunite and this one and this one via reader LV.

This is another incident reported in the Shelby Star, via reader LV:

Precinct officials in Casar searched the volunteer fire department for 120 missing ballots last night, but none were found.

Democratic and Republican Party leaders said election certification is a two-tiered process, with the vote tallies from each precinct being compared to what was reported to the Board of Elections on election night. This is called the canvass and is usually done about a week after the election.

The second part, called certification, counts the actual ballots and compares them against the canvass totals. They counted Casar’s on Monday and discovered the discrepancy.

There were 120 fewer ballots in the Casar box than there were votes on the canvass, said Betsy Wells, chairman of the Cleveland County Democratic Party, and Wes Westmoreland, her counterpart in the Republican Party.

Monday night, the chief judge of Casar, Debbie A. Wortman, and other precinct officials searched the Casar Volunteer Fire Station for the missing ballots.

Neither Mrs. Wortman nor Debra Blanton, director of the Board of Elections returned calls to The Star following the search.

The missing ballots prompted Mrs. Wells to write a personal letter to Mrs. Blanton, calling for a full recount of all races in Casar.

UPDATE 11/20/04

Via E-voting Experts, an update on the Cateret County problem:

When Carteret County submits its report next week to the state elections board, the document will include test results from the county's now-notorious electronic voting system.

State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett and three of his staff members simulated an election at the Carteret County elections office Tuesday and watched to see exactly how the electronic equipment reacted.

The state board is gathering all the information it can before a Nov. 23 meeting to discuss Carteret County's Election Day problems in which 4,438 ballots were lost.

"We want to present all the facts that we possibly can as it relates to this issue," Bartlett said.

Only 3,005 of the electronic ballots cast during the early voting period were properly tallied. County officials have said they were misinformed about the system's storage capacity. They believed it could hold up to 10,500 ballots when, if in fact, 3,005 was the limit.

In all, 7,536 voters cast early ballots. Of those, the 3,005 valid electronic votes and 93 curbside votes verified by paper ballot were counted.

Since then, one question that has surfaced is whether there was proper warning that the storage capacity had been reached.

Once vote 3,016 was cast during Tuesday's mock election, a message reading "Voter Log Full" appeared in a text window on the control unit operating the 12 ballot machines, Bartlett said.

He said the fact that the warning did not appear until after vote 3,005 could be due to variations in the types of ballots cast Tuesday as compared to those cast during the real election. For instance, he said, there are differences in straight and split tickets.

While the warning message did show, it did not appear continuously, Bartlett said. The message would disappear from the screen after the machine was reset for the next vote, he said.

"It might pop up a second or it might be (longer) depending on how long before the next vote," Bartlett said.

Carteret County Board of Elections Chairman Ed Pond has said in correspondence to the equipment manufacturer that such a message was never detected or noticed during the early voting period. And the numbers counted by the control unit always matched with the number of voters in the poll books, election officials said.

The fact that the machine continued to count ballots even after storage capacity was reached was also confirmed during this week's re-creation.

UPDATE 12/7/04

Via reader radtimes, an update on Carteret County:

Voters in one North Carolina county can return to the polls next month to recast ballots that were lost due to a malfunctioning e-voting machine in the November election.

The state's Board of Elections voted last week to allow about 4,400 Carteret County residents whose votes were lost -- along with 19,600 who didn't go to the polls -- to cast ballots Jan. 11 for the state agriculture commissioner.

That was the only state or local race close enough for the 4,400 votes to make a difference, said Robert Cordle, one of five members of the board.

UPDATE 12/14/04

Via reader LV, an update in the Shelby Star:

It’s no mystery where the 120 missing ballots from the Casar precinct are.

“Under two feet of dirt in the landfill,” said Cleveland County Board of Elections Director Debra Blanton.

The provisional ballots sought Monday night at the Casar Volunteer Fire Department had been found in an envelope by someone at the fire department in a routine cleanup after elections, according to Debbie Wortman, Casar precinct’s chief judge. Not knowing exactly what they were, the clean-up crew put the ballots in the trash, she said.

Mrs. Blanton said it is her understanding that the board will have to certify the votes with the ballots they have in hand. However, Mrs. Blanton e-mailed the director and attorney for the N.C. Board of Elections, asking what to do.

The state responds to election problems in order of priority. By Tuesday’s end, she hadn’t received instructions from the state.

The trashed ballots affect the N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction and N.C. Secretary of Agriculture races. If the ballots do affect the outcome, it would be a “very small” difference, she said, because they are statewide races.

The elections board still has the vote totals from the Nov. 2 general election, so every vote was counted, said Mrs. Blanton.

The ballots were lost after everything was recorded, she said.

Here’s how Mrs. Wortman describes what happened to the ballots:

When polls close, voted ballots must be transferred from the voting tub to a secured box. The box is used to take the ballots to the elections board office.

On Election Day, a provisional ballot was mistakenly put in the voting machine. Poll workers were to open the machine to find the misplaced ballot, marked with a red line, and put it into an envelope. For 15 to 20 minutes, poll workers individually flipped through stacks of ballots to find the provisional one.

Mrs. Wortman’s guess is that a stack got pushed to the side. When it came time to seal the ballot box, the stack was overlooked.

It wasn’t until the ballot recount Monday — two weeks later — that poll workers realized ballots were missing, she said.

Mrs. Blanton said the ballots were run through a machine again Monday. Workers expected to get a count of 780 votes but instead the machine counted 660.


11/2/04 [Permalink]
Older News: North Carolina Mecklenburg County Republicans attempt to suppress voters by rejecting state funds for early voting; later relent under criticism

Via the PFAW/NAACP report, here is one of the first reports in the Charlotte Observer (bold text is my emphasis):

Mecklenburg County commissioners may reverse a controversial attempt to stop Sunday voting that prompted outrage from Democrats and accusations of voter suppression on Wednesday.

Commissioners Chairman Tom Cox has called a special meeting for Friday afternoon [10/22/04] to reconsider a party-line vote from Tuesday night's meeting. Led by Republicans, the commissioners voted 5-3 not to accept a state grant for early voting because local elections officials planned to use part of the money for voting this Sunday.

Voting will happen Sunday as scheduled at four libraries and the Board of Elections. Elections director Michael Dickerson said his office will appropriate other funds until the commissioners make a final decision.

Tuesday's action has sparked a partisan, racially charged debate and interrupted the plans of many groups -- including several black churches -- for a "Souls to the Polls" effort after services on Sunday.

The commissioners' vote will backfire, said Danielle Obiorah, chair of the Black Political Caucus.

"I think it's going to mobilize people. People are upset. People are angry," she said. "It essentially says that the only way we can win is if we prevent people from voting. And in a democracy, we want people to vote."

After the close 2000 election, both parties are on edge nationally, watching for any change in the electoral process that could give either side an advantage.

What commissioners discussed Tuesday was a $55,992 grant from the state elections office.

The Republican majority argued that in September, the Democratic-controlled local and state elections boards improperly added a four-hour window for voting this Sunday afternoon.

Arguing that one partisan turn deserves another, some Republican commissioners said they would spend the money -- only if Sunday voting were canceled.

"I can play as tough and as hardball as any Democrat any place in the United States," Republican commissioner Bill James said Wednesday. "And I can shove it right back in their face the same way they're trying to shove it down the throats of the public."

Outraged Democrats alleged Wednesday that Republicans were simply trying to limit some voters' access to ballots.

"It is a terrible, terrible insult to democracy and to the voters of Mecklenburg County to say that we are not going to do everything we can do to make voting as convenient as possible," U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., of Charlotte, said at a news conference.

Cox, a Republican, said he wanted to make sure the county's actions were legal, so the debate Friday may turn on a close reading of the state statutes that govern early voting and the county's responsibility to pay for it.

The law requires that county elections boards (which currently have two Democrats and one Republican in all counties) must make unanimous decisions about certain early-voting procedures. The state board, which also has a Democratic majority, can make the final call if there is a split locally.

Local elections officials adopted a unanimous plan early this year, and that's the one that should have remained in place, said Republican commissioner Ruth Samuelson.

But in September, the local board split on the Sunday plan, which would cost about $5,000.

Samuelson said she did not know how she would vote at Friday's special meeting.

"It's just frustrating to me, because on my part it was clearly never meant to be a racist vote, and people who know me would say that is the farthest thing from my mind," she said. "It was also not meant to create a firestorm. I just didn't want to have my hand rubber-stamping something that was not right."

State law requires the county commissioners to pay for early voting, but Republicans argued that they could force the elections office to find the money elsewhere in its $2.9 million budget, instead of using the state grant.

Don Wright, general counsel to the State Board of Elections, said local and state elections officials followed state law.

Tuesday's decision not to accept the grant could have future ramifications for the county, said state Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg.

"The next time they come whining to us for money," he said, "I'll remember that."

Voter-turnout advocates say early voting and Sunday voting make it easier for people with busy schedules to cast ballots.

Mary Klenz, state co-president of the League of Women Voters, said she had trouble understanding the commissioners' decision.

"I can't imagine elected officials trying to stop people from voting," she said. "What could they be thinking of?"

Cox said he has grown to abhor the political influence in the democratic process, from redistricting to voting procedures.

Cox added he does not know what will happen Friday. Already, James has said he cannot attend the meeting because he has child-care responsibilities. Republican Vice Chairman Dan Ramirez is trying to reschedule an out-of-town appointment. Democrat Parks Helms, who was absent Tuesday, is back in town.

"As the story unfolds," Cox said, "I'm not sure where it's going to go."

PFAW/NAACP reported that:

Responding to the firestorm, the commission changed course and vowed to accept a state grant to pay for the Sunday voting.[i]

[i] Richard Rubin, "Board Rethinks Sunday Voting," Charlotte Observer, 10/21/04; Richard Rubin, "Sunday Voting Okay; Meeting Canceled," Charlotte Observer, 10/22/04




















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