BY Nancy Tobi
An article from Humboldt County, California, (cited here and appended below) shows what happens when election officials work in friendly and cooperative collaboration with citizen watchdogs to protect democratic elections. Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich worked with a local citizen election watchdog group to create the Humboldt Election Transparency Project. From the article:
The basic idea behind the first-of-its-kind transparency project is fairly simple: every ballot cast in an election is passed through an optical scanner after being officially counted and the images are then placed online and available for download. Software, created by volunteer Mitch Trachtenberg, then allows viewers to sort the ballots by precinct or race to conduct recounts at their pleasure. Shortly after the election was officially certified Monday, Crnich said she got an e-mail from Trachtenberg saying something was amiss.
"(Eureka's) Precinct 1E-45 seemed out of kilter," she said. "The count just wasn't adding up." After double checking all of the precinct's logs and ballots, Crnich said she discovered a deck of 197 vote-by-mail ballots for the precinct that had been run through the ballot counting optical scanner, but did not seem to appear in the final vote tallies.
Someday, we hope to be able to post a story like this about New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, to this point, NH's response to citizen pressure has been both defensive and offensive (in every sense of the word).
In fact, according to Bev Harris of Black Box Voting:
"Black Box Voting had recommended the transparency project methodology, specifically, to New Hampshire in 2007, along with another optional method of the transparency project using video to compare input to output. New Hampshire showed absolutely no interest in any of these ideas."
When election watchdogs attempted to provide citizen oversight during the 2008 Primary recount, they were met with intimidation and obstructionism. Afterwards, the legislature, at the urging of the Scretary of State, responded by tacking on a rider to pending legislation in order to tighten the noose around our democratic processes and make recounts more difficult to obtain.
When citizens attempted to provide oversight to the central tally following the 2008 General Election, the state responded by locking them out and warning them to stay clear of where the counts were being conducted in "nonpublic" rooms within the offices of the Secretary of State.
This kind of obstructionist behavior on the part of our election officials is alarming. Do our public officials remember that they are public servants, that the elections belong to the public, and that open vote counting is mandated by the New Hampshire Constitution?
Here is the New Hampshire story as it stands today.
In New Hampshire, nearly 90% of our votes are counted by a private corporation with a criminal history using trade secret software with known defects that threaten the integrity of the vote count. This technology was originally developed by a convicted embezzler by the name of Jeffrey Dean. His specialty was alteration of computer records. The corporation that owns and markets the technology has a history of partisan ties and questionable business practices. It is currently implicated in a lawsuit tying the company to a widespread conspiracy to defraud the nation's elections.
The New Hampshire Department of State in 2006 unconditionally approved this technology for use in our elections, as seen in this video.
This approval came despite the vendor's own testimony that it is defective in ways that compromise the integrity of election results.