by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
July 30, 2007
Note: This is the Second in a Two-Part Series
The Free Press recently published an article entitled “Sausage making and electronic voting machines” that revealed shocking facts about e-voting flaws in a 2006 Franklin County, Ohio judicial race.
This extensive investigation into this stolen election is a strong indictment of electronic voting in general. It underscores the importance of the national debate on the Holt Bill and other legislation now pending on “reforming” or abolishing the use of these problematic machines altogether.
Indeed, what was left out of the Magistrate’s report in the Squire case (which is now on appeal) but was well documented in the court’s evidence record, constitutes an even greater indictment of touchscreen voting machines than has generally been known.
To understand the implications of this obscure election, readers should realize that it’s one of the most exhaustively studied e-voting races in U.S. history. Election Day and recount observers, two auditors, joined by one of the country’s leading electronic voting experts and under oath depositions and testimony from Board of Elections officials exposed in detail the unreliability of electronic voting systems.
The Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) appears to have violated the law when it refused to comply with Ohio law. BOE officials must follow election laws. “Strict compliance” is mandated under Ohio law. Failure to comply is a first-degree misdemeanor.
The BOE refused to impound election material as ordered by the Franklin County Court of Appeals. Magistrate Joel Sacco refused to punish the BOE and allowed them to get away with presumed fraudulent activity in their non-compliance with the Appeals Court order. Ohio law assumes fraud has taken place when election officials refuse to comply with court orders.
Moreover, Franklin County BOE Executive Director Matt Damschroder admitted under oath that he did not compare the total votes cast in the recount precincts with the number of voters listed in the pollbook in direct violation of the Secretary of State’s recount requirements. Also, when election officials failed to provide the poll books, poll lists and/or signature poll books for visual inspection as requested, they again violated recount procedures.
The facts the Magistrate ignored in the court record are the most damning toward touchscreen voting machines. Much of this reaches the legal standard for criminal election or vote tampering.
The key issue regards how election officials handled the real time audit log (RTAL) paper rolls that are supposed to ensure a fair recount. Hundreds of RTALs were already sitting out on various tables when Judge Squire’s observers entered the recount site. Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, Squire’s expert witness, noted that the correct procedure is for the “sealed containers holding the RTAL rolls to be opened in the presence of observers.” The premature extraction of the RTALs exposed the audit to the potential of a biased result.
Missing from many of these paper rolls was the additional tamper-proof tape that held the roll together.
The court record indicates that many of the RTAL rolls were incomplete. At the end of many rolls, where the final vote tally is printed for candidates, the figures were missing.
The explanation from election officials was that many of the rolls were incomplete because they had most likely been changed during the election process, the machines had simply run out of paper, or the paper rolls were damaged or ripped.
Mercuri estimated that between 5-10% of the machines either had not printed an ending vote tally or that tally was simply missing. The court record shows that specific machines lacked the end print out tallies. These machines include #5152130, #5157287, #5153310, #5153871, and #5159550, among others.
Another machine, #5151765, had a blank RTAL. Not to be outdone, machine #5155228 printed out all zeros.
A fair and unbiased audit is impossible to conduct under these circumstances.
Karen Cotton, the administrator for the Franklin County BOE, tried to explain away the fact that many RTALs had not been signed by poll workers. Cotton claimed that the “paper may have jammed” making it impossible to sign the vote tally.
Mercuri testified under oath that “I did not observe any [RTALs] that were signed at all.”
So, in the Squire v. Geer race, an uncertified system that was incapable of being audited produced unexpected election results. And the Board of Elections officials responsible for ensuring free, fair and unbiased elections failed to safeguard the people’s votes.
The real RTALs, or voter verified paper trails, prove to be worthless for audit purposes in an election where 90,000 votes were in question, according to the court record.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org.