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General News    H3'ed 11/23/11

Paper Ballot Op-Scan Election Results Flipped After Recount Finds New Tally 'Extremely Favors Opposite Candidate'

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'We're doing recounts of recounts of recounts," says candidate announced as 'loser' on Election Night...

After the Municipal Council elections in Provo, Utah on November 8, residents had been told that Gary Winterton had narrowly defeated Bonnie Morrow for the District 1 seat -- by just 9 votes.

The margin was close enough that Morrow was allowed to ask for a recount of the paper ballots which were tallied on Election Night by the city's optical scan systems made by Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (Following years of failure of Diebold's voting systems, the company changed their name to Premier, only to see the assets of the failing company finally purchased last year by Dominion Voting, a Canadian firm which now services the machines.) The same optical scan systems are used all over the country, and are set once again for use in the New Hampshire's "first in the nation" GOP Presidential primary to be held in January.

The first "recount" of Provo's Municipal Council District 1 ballots -- carried out on the same op-scan systems that tallied them in the first place -- was held yesterday, only to be abruptly called off when the results were found to be "extremely in favor of the opposite candidate."

As reported by the Daily Herald this morning...

"County officials recounted the ballots cast for the Provo Municipal Council District 1 Tuesday morning, but the discrepancy between the recount total and the total from election night became so large that officials stopped the counting process.

"They did a recount and the numbers came out so extremely in favor of the opposite candidate that there appears to be something wrong with the machine," said Helen Anderson, spokeswoman for Provo city."

Yesterday's tally, the paper reports, were "coming out overwhelmingly in [Morrow's] favor," so officials planned to begin a hand-count -- as per "Democracy's Gold Standard" -- for today...

According to the Daily Herald, however, "Bryan Thompson, Utah County clerk, noted the hand count was not preferred, as state code prescribes that recounting of votes should be done in a similar process to the initial vote count."

While voters can be thankful that 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems were not used in the race -- as is the case in most of Utah, including in Provo's Utah County where, as The BRAD BLOG report in 2010, all of the county's Diebold touch-screen voting systems failed at all of their 110 polling places on Election Day -- the November 8 failure this year makes it clear once again that optical-scan systems are as unreliable as the touch-screen systems.

"The numbers were varying too much," Utah County Chief Deputy Clerk/Auditor Scott Hogensen tells the Deseret News about the District 1 race. "It became obvious the machines weren't counting things correctly."

But whether the Diebold op-scanners tallied the ballots inaccurately on Election Day or during the so-called "recount" remains unknown at the moment.

According to Deseret News, "Morrow said she asked for the recount to be done by hand in the first place but the request was denied."

"We're doing recounts of recounts of recounts. I just want to make sure the law is followed," Morrow said, adding that her confidence is now shaken in the entire process.

Amusingly, and for reasons unknown, Hogensen told Deseret News that, according to the paper, he "does not believe machine malfunctions affect the outcome of any other races in the county.

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan E. Thompson said the county's focus is on the District 1 race because that's where the recount was requested, but he left open the possibility a tallying problem could affect totals in other Provo races."

"Some totals could change," Thompson is quoted as saying. "If there are any questions, we'll be above board and transparent to make sure everybody has confidence in the outcome."

Following the 2008 primary election in New Hampshire, where the same Diebold op-scan systems were used, and where Hilary Clinton was reported as the "winner" on Election Night in a stunning surprise victory over Barack Obama, The BRAD BLOG wrote a series of detailed reports highlighting the fact that nobody had bothered to actually count the paper ballots before announcing her the winner. Despite conclusive evidence that those particular machines are easily manipulated, and dozens of pre-election polls predicting an easy win for Obama -- and even Election Day Exit Polls which reportedly showed him as winning handily -- most media immediately decided the polls were wrong and the Diebold-reported results were accurate.

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