Questions Mount Over New Hampshire Primary by Lynn Landes
New Hampshire Vote Analysis Reveals Bush in Serious Trouble by Eric W. Green / Lightening Bolt Media
February 27, 2004
Questions Mount Over New Hampshire Primary
By Lynn Landes
It's been all downhill for Howard Dean since he lost the New Hampshire primary by a significant margin. But, now questions are being raised about the security of New Hampshire's voting system in the wake of a recent analysis of the election results. It could add up to nothing, but it does underscore how easily technology can be used to sabotage the voting process.
|Diebold electronic touch-screen voting machines could determine the next election. The fellow who manufactures the machines has declared that he is prepared to do "everything in my power to see that George Bush is reelected" in November. Feeling reassured?|
Only one company, Massachusetts-based LHS Associates, Inc., programs and services all of New Hampshire's optical (ballot) scanners. Only two manufacturers -- GOP-friendly Diebold and ES&S -- provide all of the state's scanning equipment. And only Microsoft's Excel software tallies the results of all of those machines. It looks like New Hampshire has put all its eggs in one basket.
However, New Hampshire is unusual. Unlike many states that allow ballot-less voting, in 1995, the New Hampshire legislature passed a law that requires paper ballots in all elections. Has this law made New Hampshire's voting system any more secure? Twenty percent of the ballots are hand-counted, but 80% are optically scanned -- a technology that has a long history of being highly vulnerable to election fraud, which is documented in various reports as well as in the book, VoteScam: The Stealing of Democracy.
Was Howard Dean Undone by Diebold?
Recently some people have been asking if the 2004 New Hampshire primary was rigged.
Martin Bento published online an interesting analysis of New Hampshire's election results based on the voting systems used [www.livejournal.com/users/explodedview]. It's been getting a lot of attention. According to Bento, Howard Dean lost to John Kerry by only 1.6% when the ballots were hand-counted, 9.7% when ES&S optical scanners were used, and 14.7% on Diebold scanners.
That doesn't look good. On the other hand, pre-election and exit polls do seem to match the election results. Of course, polling organizations can be as partisan as think tanks, so their accuracy should always be suspect. The exit poll for the major news networks was done by Mitofsky International and Edison Media Research (on whose board Mitofsky, the "father" of exit polling, sits). It's really a reconstituted version of the highly secretive and controversial Voter News Service.
Curiously, Mitofsky's exit polls do not disclose their over-all results. Everything is broken down into subcategories. The people at Edison told me to ask Kathy Levine of ABC's World News Tonight for that information. Levine told me that I could "buy it" from Edison "like the major networks did." As if I could afford it. Well, there always seems to be something fishy going on with the networks and their election polls, something that's also documented in VoteScam.
Moving on. Others point out that geography was the real factor in how the New Hampshire vote count went down, that the more populated areas where optical scanners are more often used are closer to Massachusetts (Kerry Country). Whereas, the rural areas where hand-counts rule are nearer to Vermont (Dean Country). The problem with that analysis is that it's a 'guess' at best. The only way to really know for sure is to check the ballots. But, there seems to be little interest in doing that.
Nobody Audits Elections
"We don't audit our elections," says New Hampshire's Assistant Secretary of State Anthony Stevens. Frankly, I don't know a state that does, although it sounds like a good idea. Stevens contends that the numerous hand recounts that the state has conducted over the years for contested elections, serve as a deterrent to machine tampering and ensure that the machines work properly. But, Stevens admits that he wants to examine the exit polling data to see if there's anything to Bento's analysis.
That begs the question, why not just check the ballots? Isn't that what they're there for? Reliance on questionable polling data is no substitute for examining the hard evidence of how people actually voted. State election officials say that they have never overturned an election due to a machine malfunction. But, that doesn't mean that it can't happen. And there are trillions of dollars at stake in this particular election.
Although New Hampshire law does not provide for audits, "it doesn't prohibit them either," says Assistant Attorney General Bud Fitch. Considering the fact that a handful of corporations control the optical scanners and vote tabulation system in the state, one would think that election officials would be more vigilant and less trusting.
Voters can't count on any certification process or pre-election testing to prevent vote fraud. Although touch-screen voting machines (DREs) have received the bulk of criticism lately, computer security experts are quick to point out that optical scanners can also be easily rigged to manipulate votes and remain undetected. Even a specially marked ballot can reprogram software as it's being scanned. Or, Microsoft's Access or Excel program could tally the results incorrectly.
Off-the-shelf programs are exempt from any federal guidelines (such as they are) for voting equipment. And it doesn't help that all the software is proprietary (i.e., a corporate trade secret), although "open source" software is highly vulnerable to tampering, as well.
It doesn't take a vast conspiracy to rig an election. Just one person from LHS or Diebold or ES&S or Microsoft or an election official or some rogue programmer could rig a large part (if not an entire) election in New Hampshire.
Internet Voting Would Be Even Less Secure
And if that news isn't bad enough for the security of New Hampshire's current voting system... the future is in Internet voting, if Republican Governor Craig Benson has his way.
It's the most insecure voting system in the world. Even the Pentagon canceled their online voting project for this year due to a scathing report from a panel of computer scientists. [Under the Pentagon proposal, ballot counting for US elections would have been "outsourced" to a company in Kuwait. -- The-Edge]
The state has joined the National Student/Parent Mock Election project. Together with America Online (AOL), the nation's largest internet provider, New Hampshire has joined other states across the country "to make it possible for participants to cast votes online -- from around the world if they wished -- foreshadowing the way Americans will vote in the future," according to the project's website.
I've always viewed the people in New Hampshire as conservative folks who like to hold government accountable. Yet, from what I can tell, they're practicing the same faith-based voting that's going on in the rest of this crazy country. Oh well. There's one thing we can all count on. Questions will continue to plague American elections as long as voting machines are part of the process.
Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. She is also the publisher of EcoTalk.org. Lynn is a former news reporter for DUTV and commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). firstname.lastname@example.org
Vote Analysis Reveals Bush in 'Serious Trouble'
By Eric W. Green / Lightening Bolt Media
JEFFERSON, NH (January 30,2004) Results of the January 27 Republican New Hampshire primary virtually ignored or even denied by national media such as Fox News and C-SPAN show that President George W. Bush faces a significant obstacle to his re-election in November, according to political analyst Peter H. Estabrooks.
|When these protestors in San Francisco painted their banner, they had no idea that "Peace Republican" John Buchanan was about to publish definitive evidence of a "Bush-Nazi Connection."|
Despite what Estabrooks characterizes as "an ongoing lack of national or local press coverage of the actual results or their implications," a voter turnout analysis released by New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardiner indicates that Bush fell far short of the "85 percent" landslide victory purported by political pundits. On election eve, columnist Bob Novak predicted that Bush would receive "99 percent" of the GOP vote.
"There are roughly 278,000 registered Republicans in New Hampshire," says Estabrooks, who has independently tracked NH primary results since 1992 -- when insurgent Republican Pat Buchanan challenged then-President George H.W. Bush on his "no new taxes" lie and garnered 37% of the Republican vote, badly shaking the re-election effort of the current Presidents father, who lost to Bill Clinton that November.
NH Shocker: Bush Only Polled 80 Percent
"Given that this President Bush received just 53,000 votes, versus 13,000 votes that went to other candidates including a field of unknown Republican challengers, Democrats both known and unknown, and write-in votes that means that roughly a quarter of the total vote went against Bush," observes Estabrooks. "The mainstream media has so far covered up that reality."
In addition, he notes, the last-minute appearances in New Hampshire by "Republican big guns" including Governor Craig Benson, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and US Senator John McCain, failed to rally eleventh hour turnout by rank and file Republicans to support Bush.
Adding insult to injury, there were even anti-Bush protests in Merrimack when Bush finally came to New Hampshire. Angry voters included union workers, veterans, bikers and college students.
"All of the facts suggest a powerful message that general election candidate Bush faces a serious problem in New Hampshire, and probably across the rest of the country," says Estabrooks. "The numbers speak of a strong message equivalent delivered four years ago by John McCain, when he upset Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire Republican primary. Put simply, this President is in big political trouble."
Bush Challengers Cite Political 'Sabotage'
Two of Bushs under-publicized "dark horse" opponents in New Hampshire former Berlin Mayor Richard Bosa, and Miami Beach "Bush-Nazi" journalist" John Buchanan agree with Estabrooks.
"Considering that my entire campaign was silenced by the Republican National Committee and the New Hampshire GOP, and that and their Fortune 500 corporate patrons made sure I got no press coverage, despite campaigning in more than 183 cities and towns across the state, I feel that I won a moral victory by getting my 841 votes," says ex-Mayor Bosa, a veteran of the Vietnam war and international businessman who now resides in Portsmouth.
Bosa's counterpart, John Buchanan was the first newspaper reporter in US history to see the "Bush-Nazi files" at The National Archives and Library of Congress and published a series of articles in The New Hampshire Gazette in October and November. "For my part," Buchanan says, "I came up here to prove, as 'the truth candidate' representing 'we the people' against the Bush-Cheney regime and their corporate conglomerate media backers that America still belongs to us and not to them. I [The] low Republican turnout and the fact that a quarter of those voters went against Bush because his policies have devastated the state of New Hampshire and the nation represents a virtual indictment of this President."
Buchanan also alleges that he has been the victim of a "dirty tricks" campaign by the Republican National Committee and New Hampshire GOP. On January 22, NH state chair Jayne Millerick filed a false police report with Concord Police alleging "harassment" by Buchanan, who claims he was "thrown out of the GOP headquarters in Concord by "two thugs" at the direction of Millerick.
"I intend to prosecute Ms. Millerick and Karl Rove to the full extent of the law, for doing to me what they did to John McCain in New York state in 2000 -- for which Senator McCain won a landmark lawsuit which my attorneys will use as precedent for my lawsuit alleging criminal subversion of the electoral process."
Even GOP Stalwarts Are Abandoning Bush
New Hampshire talk radio host and commentator Don Rondo, 74 -- a lifelong, loyal Republican -- adds: "To say Bush is in trouble is, in my opinion, an understatement. This is the first election in my lifetime where a President is not only a cause of concern to voters, but is actually despised.
"Under this President, New Hampshire has lost more than 21,900 jobs, including a quarter of our manufacturing jobs. We have 7,000 homeless veterans, and our public drinking water is being auctioned off for privatization and profit in places like France and Germany. The American Revolution began here when we caused the overthrow of another tyrant named King George. Id say this ones days are numbered, too."
Even Clear Channel talk host Dan Pierce noted on the air after the election that Bush has led to an unprecedented "division" in America.
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