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New Study Asks "Was Prop 8 Straight?"

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Exclusive Interview with EI Advocates Sally Castleman and Emily Levy

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I have with me Sally Castleman of Election Defense Alliance and Emily Levy of Velvet Revolution, two veterans of the Election Integrity movement. Welcome to OpEdNews, Emily and Sally.

In November 2008, Proposition 8 was a hot issue in the State of California. The proposition actually stripped existing marriage equality rights. There were strong feelings on both sides; between supporters and opponents, over $80 million was raised. The proposition was passed and the state constitution was amended. Almost immediately after the election, questions were raised about the validity of the election results. Recently, a study on Proposition 8 was released. What does the study show?

Sally: The study shows that at ten polling places in Los Angeles County where the exit polls were performed (that covered 19 precincts) the official election results appear to have been corrupted. The study doesn't prove that the results were wrong. Neither can whether any incorrect vote counts were the result of error or fraud. But the results of the study indicate that an investigation is warranted.

Emily: Fortunately, because California does have paper ballots and those ballots by law must still exist, an investigation is possible. In states where touch screen voting machines are used, a problem like this could not be evaluated effectively. In this case, if the chain of custody of the ballots and other evidence has been maintained, a meaningful investigation should be possible and should be initiated immediately by the Secretary of State's office. We've launched a new website,, where readers can write email to Secretary Bowen and take other actions.

What are the implications of the study for Proposition 8? For future elections?

Emily: Proposition 8 is not going to be overturned as a result of this study or even of an investigation but both can shed a lot of light on how our elections are run.

Sally: Once again, the implication is that we cannot know at the end of an election counted by electronic software-based equipment whether the results are true and correct. I say "once again" because many many studies and analyses have indicated such discrepancies in some controversial races. Even more striking is that that the disparities always come out in one direction.

The initial results, before adjusting to conform to the announced results (as the Edison-Mitofsky polls have done in recent years), the results of every poll have differed from the offical results in the same direction: the official results report more votes for the more conservative candidate or the more conservative initiative/proposition question. This is not random "error."

The implication for future elections is that our elections are at great risk. Too many studies of too many kinds are showing the vulnerabilities of electronic vote-counting. Computer scientists are proving how easy it is and how many ways there are to change election results without leaving a trace. Social scientists are showing that exit polls indicate suspicious disparities. Poll workers are talking about machine technicians coming in during elections and swapping out memory cards. Voters are talking about optical scan machines jamming and their not knowing if their ballots were ever fed into the machine.

The bottom line implication is that our democracy itself is at great risk. If we cannot know our votes are being counted as cast, if our votes are counted by private companies with clear self-avowed political intentions, if we know the equipment counting our votes is easily corruptible, if we are aware that the candidates truly elected may not be the declared winners, how can we think we have much of a democracy left?

There's a general impression among the public that exit polls aren't particularly accurate, especially with controversial issues, because people are hesitant to give answers that might make them look like bigots. Why should this particular poll be believed?

Emily: In this poll, voters filled in their own questionnaires privately and confidentially, and put them in the questionnaire box themselves. This means that their answers were anonymous. They were not answering questions asked by an individual with whom they might have felt embarrassed to say how they really voted.

Sally: As to why should "this particular poll be believed," this poll should not be believed on its own, even though the findings are strong. It should be taken in the context in which it was meant -- as one tool, one of the few ways there are to validate votes counted without public oversight. Because we are not allowed to see or examine the ballots or the computer logs or many other of the election documents that rightfully belong to the public, we are left with inexact methods. The poll clearly shows that further investigation is indicated.

You say the results of the poll don't match the official results. Why is it the poll , and not the official results, that should be believed?

Sally: Just the fact that we cannot know the answer to this question is the problem. Why should those of us living in a democracy not be able to know whether our election results are accurate? And why should we not be able to validate by seeing the ballots on election night, before they leave the public view? We know that after they leave the public sight they are vulnerable to tampering.

The question really isn't which results to believe; the question is why should there be any question at all? As long as our votes are counted inside a black box by unreliable, corruptible, software-driven computers that are vulnerable to malfunction and malfeasance, and as long as we cannot count the votes by hand to validate them on election night before they leave public view, we will not know if the official results are correct.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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