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Hot on the Trail of Democracy: 48 Hours in New Hampshire

Message Vickie Karp
48 Hours in New Hampshire
by Vickie Karp
I've just completed my second day in Concord and other parts of New Hampshire with Bev Harris, Kathy Greenwell of Bullett County, Kentucky, and Jeannie Dean of Sarasota, Florida. We have been monitoring the chain of custody of the ballots being transported by a van which is sent out each morning from the State Archive Building in Concord and is driving a route to little towns around (so far) south New Hampshire, stopping at Town Hall buildings in each town to pick up that town's ballots for the recount. While the Democratic recount has been taking place inside the Archive Building in Concord, with lots of transparency and observors sitting across from each table, we've been chasing a van and a police car through the New Hampshire countryside, sometimes at 80 to 90 mph in 55 mph zones, to track ballot chain of custody custody for the interested voters of America.
"Bring peanut butter and Depends!"
Our advice for those who will take our place once we leave.
There are no lunch breaks on this gig, and no bathroom breaks either!
"Butch" and "Hoppy", the van driver and his assistant, have certainly done their best to "shake" us, and they succeeded yesterday with a shrewd escape from a back exit of a town hall parking lot which was not visible from where our car was parked in front. "I thought they were turning around to go out the front driveway!" I moaned to Bev, when we realized they had split out the back way. We never did find them again, but saw several hours later when the van arrived back at the Archive building to deliver the boxed ballots. No citizens were present when those boxes arrived. And w e just don't know exactly where the van was during those 2-3 hours prior to delivery.
Yes, this is what "eternal vigilance" looks like this week in New Hampshire!
My experience as a Realtor has come in handy as I've been on many a Realtor tour where we "caravan" from one new listing to another, speeding every inch of the way. I had to run a yellow light yesterday to keep up with the targets, and at the next town hall where we followed the van and the state police car, the patrolman came over to my little rent car and gave me a stern warning that I might receive a citation if I broke the law. ("What about YOU?" I said to him, under my breath of course.)
But today it was the patrolman who got a lecture, this time from Bev. Kathy, whose husband is a policeman in Kentucky, noted that their speeding through a school zone with yellow lights flashing, and going 50 in small towns with speed limits of 25 and 30, was endangering children, citizens, and of course, US, as we fly along behind them trying to keep up. Bev decided to mention this to the NH patrolman today when the race was on again, while we were parked in one of the town hall building parking lots waiting for Butch and Hoppy to bring out the boxes of ballots (we had done a lot of videotaping of ballot boxes coming out of the offices & going in to the van yesterday).
After the lecture, the van and police car were easier to track because they really did stay more in line with the speed limit. We had a little more time to enjoy the snow-laden fields and yards of the beautiful New Hampshire countryside while we followed the two vehicles from towns such as Rye, Portsmouth, New Castle, Auburn, and Greenland.
Still, they managed to give us the slip again this afternoon by doing a clever elusive maneuver: They pulled into a convenience store/gas station and made a U-turn, then turned into a busy lane of traffic which was too congested for us to follow right behind them. We madly passed all the cars we thought were between us, then realized they were nowhere in sight. We parked our two cars in front of a furniture store while we called Walter Reddy, who was back at the Archive building, and asked him to write a Freedom of Information Act request for Secretary of State Bill Gardner to request the schedule of towns where the van was headed. With that information, we could probably catch up with it. Just as Bev was giving Walter the wording for the FOIA over the phone, in a scene reminiscent of a Laurel & Hardy movie, the van and police car suddenly drove right by us, apparently having double-backe d from a wrong turn, and now putting us right back on their tails!
It's the chain of custody, STUPID!
When this is what citizens have to do to ascertain that ballots have not been tampered with, and this is the resistence we face, how can we have confidence in the results of this recount?
When we returned to the Archive Building late yesterday afternoon I finally got to watch some of the Democratic recount. The procedure is open, transparent, and citizen videographers are welcome; they just can't touch the ballots or the ballot boxes. Fair enough.
Four long tables are set up in a large room. Counters sit on one side, observors on the other side. They sort, count, and stack the ballots, with pink strips across the top of the Republican ballots and blue strips across the top of the Democrats'. The actions of everyone in the room are highly visible. I took lots of video tape and no one complained. The procedure reminded me of the way VoteRescue volunteers count paper ballots after a Parallel Election, or Exit Poll results at the Texas Straw Poll and the November 6th election.
Problem is this chain of custody thing. Bev and Sally Castleman found ballot boxes last Thursday with slits in the sides. The van picking up the ballots has hours of time unaccounted for by any citizens and regular monitoring of the van may or may not be able to occur. The ballots are delivered outside the observation of citizen monitors. Boxes of ballots were left on the floor of the counting room overnight last week and not locked up in a vault in the building, counter to prior procedure just days before. The security of these boxes is supposedly a long adhesive seal afixed across the box tops and sides. Today we found a box of these lying around in the counting room after the events of the day were over. Kathy peeled off the paper backing and stuck the seal on top of one of the empty ballot boxes sitting next to it. She peeled it right back up. No muss, no fuss, no cardboard fragments from the box top adhered to it. In other words: Completely reusable, and security value: ZERO!
What all of this does, of course, is put a dark cloud of suspicion on the results of this recount.
Today Kucinich's team threw in the towel and ended their part of the recount. By 3 pm the counting room was vacant and all ballots stored away. What I'm hearing is that the money for continuing the recount simply isn't there. I do not yet have the results of this effort. I have heard that weird anomalies have shown up in the machine counted towns' ballots in particular. I'll be doing another writeup on those findings as soon as I can.
Tomorrow the Republican recount begins. I met Albert Howard on Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate who filed for the recount and paid for it in full, something along the lines of $55,000 (with the help of the Granny Warriors and a lot of campaign contributions, many, I hear, from Ron Paul supporters.) I admire his courage and tenacity. When he filed for the recount, the filing fee of $2000 was a challenge to produce. Now the money to recount the entire state has been paid to the Secretary of State and the process begins anew tomorrow.
The most amazing thing about all this is being here with Bev, Kathy, Jeannie, Sally, Walter, and other election reform activists who share a burning passion to make this recount a clean event. They come here from all across the country to observe, videotape, monitor, question election officials, and yes, chase down vans and police cars. Bob Schulz of We the People Foundation is here doing webcasts for the duration of the recount, I hear, and I hope to meet him tomorrow.
If you have some spare time over the next few weeks to give to election reform, come to New Hampshire! Your country needs you here!
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Vickie Karp is a Texas voting activist and author of Hacked! about electronic vote fraud in American elections.
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Hot on the Trail of Democracy: 48 Hours in New Hampshire

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