Friday, November 10, 2006

How to Rig a Northampton County Election

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingA few months ago, I ranted here and at Northampton County Council about Walter R. Garvin, aka Wally G, and his multiple roles as local Democratic party officer, partisan radio show host and elections commission chair. I argued there's an appearance of impropriety when the chair of a quasijudicial body like the elections commission is actively involved in local party politics.

Councilman Lamont McClure disagreed, and challenged me to state specifically how an elections commission chair could rig an election. Fortunately, Garvin came to his senses and resigned his position in the local Democratic party. But Tuesday's election demonstrates several ways in which an elections chair, with a little help from elections officials, could easily rig an election.

First, you can manipulate the number of machines available at different precincts to ensure that you can vote quickly in one and stand in line in another. In Palmer, for example, one precinct with over a thousand voters waited in long lines to vote on only two machines while another precinct with fewer voters had twice as many machines. Why is that? If someone wants to suppress a heavy Democratic or Republican vote in a particular precinct, he can just make sure it doesn't have enough machines.

Second, the Palmer poll worker who told me about turning people away, also told me that the Advanced Voting Solutions touchscreen voting machines kept freezing. I repeatedly asked whether any votes were lost and he just doesn't know. But he told me he constantly had to slip some white card into these machines to reactivate them. This is disturbing. And when these machines constantly break down, voters walk away. That's another great way to suppress the vote, and may even have the added benefit of losing votes already cast.

Third, the Northampton County ballot on Tuesday was designed to encourage people to vote a straight party ticket. David Strout, in a letter to the editor, explains why this is so. "The initial screen just has a large blue 'Democrat' box and a large red 'Republican' box. In the upper left corner is a short phrase about voting a straight ticket. In the lower right corner, there is a 'next' button. Instead, there should be the phrase, 'If you do not want to vote a straight ticket, push the next button.'" On Tuesday, a Democrat who may have intended to split his ticket to vote for Dent may have actually voted for Dertinger as a result of this confusion. Democrat Dertinger actually beat Republican Dent by 127 votes in Northampton County. Is this because Northampton is that much more liberal than Lehigh or because its confusing ballot made it difficult for voters to split their ticket?

Finally, as noted in my earlier post, is the refusal to make provisional ballots available to those whose names fail to appear on the list. You could provide provisional ballots in precincts that are going your way, and just not mention them elsewhere.

Last Tuesday, all the conditions existed to permit a rigged election. Now, don't get me wrong. The problems I noted were pure happenstance. But real election fraud is only a matter of time unless (1) we insure that elections commission members are completely impartial, (2) provide for better training of poll workers, and (3) correct the completely foreseeable problems with the Advanced Voting system. I'll tell you about them in another post.


Anonymous said...

If that was true then how did they people in Northampton boro give more votes to Harhart than they did to shade>?

Anonymous said...

How to rig the war vs American citizens.

Illegal Immigrants… Killing the Actresses Americans Don’t Want To Kill (19th in a series)

Ecuadorian (is that a word?) Diego Pillco - in the country illegally, doing the jobs that Americans don’t want to do - like killing actresses and old ladies - confessed to murdering indie film star Adrienne Shelly and making it look like a suicide.

November 7, 2006 — In a stunning turnaround, a construction worker yesterday confessed to killing indie actress Adrienne Shelly, whose death in a Greenwich Village apartment last week was first thought to be suicide, cops said.

“I was having a bad day,” illegal immigrant Diego Pillco, 19, allegedly told cops. “I didn’t mean to kill her. But I did kill her.”

Pillco told detectives that he punched Shelly, 40, last Wednesday afternoon outside the Abingdon Square apartment she was using as an office after she yelled at him about the noise he was making while working in a vacant apartment below.

Pillco, who is from Ecuador and speaks only Spanish, also claimed that Shelly slapped him first.

After seeing she was unconscious and believing she was dead, Pillco claimed, he dragged Shelly into her apartment, wrapped a bed sheet around her neck and attached it to a shower rod in the bathroom to make it appear she had hanged herself, sources said. The medical examiner has not yet released autopsy results.

Pillco added that, since he was only here seeking a better life for himself and his family, that he should be let off with probation. Who can blame him? Who hasn’t had a bad day while trying to achieve the American Dream™?

Posted by Preston Taylor Holmes @ 11:19 am
9 Comments and 1 Trackback | Permalink | Trackback URI

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Election Predictions

Based on this weather map:

Bernie O'Hare said...

It is true that Detinger got more votes than Shade in NC. It is also true that the ballot was confusing to me, Rich Grucela, the fellow who wrote that LTE and Angle. It is also true that the Shade-Harhart race, like the Dertinger-Dent race, was in more than one county. Voters from LC voted as well.

Now I'm not saying that it this confusing ballot caused Dertinger orShade to get more votes than they deserved in NC. But I think it's a possibility that a few voted a straight party ticket when they did not intend to do so. I'll check and look at the specifics between Shade and Harhart and get back to you. You raise an interesting question.

Bernie O'Hare said...

In Northampton County, Harhart actually did better against Shade than in LC, believe it or not.

The same is also true in the Minger-Beyer race, which was split betwen two counties.

So the confusing ballot did not throw state rep races. I don't think it threw the US Congressional race, either, but I think a few votes may have inadverdently been cast for Dems.

This could just as easily hurt the Dems as help them in other situations.

And the Shade and Minger examples are probably too small to be statistically significant.

Gort said...

I'm surprised the Republicans aren't yelling about voting machine problems today. My position is that everyone has to be confident in the results of an election or the whole system goes into the tank.


When are the County Council meetings?

Maybe if they don't conflict with City Council I may go.

I need more Uber enemies!

Mayor Mitman and Councilwoman Heffley are not enough!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Gort, I don't think Rs are yelling bc Tuesday's election wasn't close, even with the problems I noted. Theonly close race in NC was the US Congressional race. Dent lost by 127 votes in NC but had a big lead in LC.

So far, the only people I've heard complaining about the new touch screens are Democratsd, excepting Ron Angle. The Republicans are probably just smarter than some of the rest of us and didn't see it as a big deal.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Spike The NC Council corcus comes to town on the first and third Thirsday of every month at 6:30 PM>

Anonymous said...

The only reason the R's are not complaining is because they accepted the defeat. I cannot for the life of me understand why you are all still complaining, you finally have control after 12 years, now quit crying and start focusing on the candidates that did win and supporting them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Whew! I'm a Dem, Anon. I voted for Dems with one exception. I don't think the election was rigged. But there are flaws in the way the election was conducted. And it could pervert democracy if it continues. That's my concern.

Anonymous said...

The Lehigh County machines are similar in that the first screen you see is the straight party boxes. I was a Dem poll watcher and can tell you that out of apprx. 500 voters where i was watching, 93 Dems voted straight ticket and around 13 Repos did. That does not seem like it was caused by confusion. If there was confusion, I think the number would be much higher. The polling place I was also had a high concentration of elderly voters. Maybe this polling place was an exception to the rule though.

I am sure that Lehigh Co. Voter Office can provide statistical data about this across the county, since the machines do keep track of who voted straight tickets.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anonm 10:15, Thanks for your special insight, coming as it does from someone who actually worked the election as a poll watcher.

NC uses the WinVote system while LC uses Diebold's AccuVote system.

For the most part, NC's system worked well. But I had some confusion in the very beginning when it presented the striaght ticket option. I think it needs to be improved.

Anonymous said...

r.moshki, dude...what are you smokin'? You need to cut back a hit or two or three next time.

Anonymous said...

In LC the Diebold Accuvote system asks you if you want to vote straight ticket then makes you cancel that out to split your ticket. While in NC the WinVote machines actually make you review the ballot and if you want to change your vote. Like if you realize you want to split your vote you can without back tracking.

Also people don't miss voting for the questions on the ballot with the new system if they just go in and vote a straight ticket and walk out.

While there is a lot to be worked out it is clear that the the voice of the people was hear in this election.

If the votes were rigged Dertinger Casey and Rendell would have all gotten the same vote counts. Swann, Dent, and Santroum would have all lost by the same margins.

Not to mention Shade would have done much better, etc...

I agree there needs to be reform, but that reform will come. I think it is good that at least in the 15th Congressional Districts the LC head of elections is picked by a R and in NC it is picked by a D.

I think the results in this case really reflect the will of the people. I don't hear anyone yelling fraud too loud. Not everything can always run 100% smooth.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:31, Thanks for the informative comment. I think there are a lot of advantages to touch screen voting. You mention it is harder to miss a referendum question. Another advantage is rthat it is easier to do a write in vote.

But there ae big dangers with those macines. A lawsuit is being litigated over that right now. They can be hacked and there is no paper trail. And I know for a fact that if they choose to do the wireless transmissions they are discussing, that's somethin I could jam myself with a HAM radio license. More about that some other time.

Aside from the machiunes themselves, there are other ways to manipulate the outcome, as explained on my post.

But I certainly don't mean to suggest that actually happened. I merely suggest that the conditions exist in which votes can be manipulated.

Like you, I agree the tallies last time reflect the will of the people. And if the straight party option confused some people into voting a straight ticket, I don't think it was a very large number.

But this election, with its minor glitches, is a demonstration why the elections chair must be free from any political influences. Lamont McClaure discussed revisiting the Home Rule Charter and I think that's a good idea. Also, overworked poll workers ned better training. They do a good job but need to be better trained concerning provisional ballots. They should not be turning people away w/o first offering them provisional ballots. And precincts with heavy turnouts should have more machines than those with light turn outs.