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Update from the trenches: Can NH recount chain of custody be rescued?

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Black Box Voting : Latest Investigations from Black Box Voting: 1-15-08: Can recount chain of custody be rescued?

Posted by Bev Harris on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 11:42 am:

We are finding in New Hampshire: the best of the best in MOST
situations, but considerable naivete and in some areas, an alarming
and wilfull negligence.

Among the "best of the best" of New Hampshire situations:

(1) Beautiful, community oriented hand counted paper ballots in more
than one hundred jurisdictions.

(2) Very democratic and participatory township structure of
government, combined with very high level of representation of local
areas in the state legislature

(3) Amazing level of responsiveness of public officials. Bill Gardner,
for example, answers questions personally and tirelessly from just
about everyone. Many, many high level officials perfectly willing to
talk with and answer all questions from the public.

(4) Beautiful, participatory 100% hand counted recounts.

(5) Very good public records laws. If they have it in their
possession, they let you see it THAT DAY. Along those lines, Paddy
Shaffer did a hand written records request today which elicited some
very good information. The dream team here is in the process of
editing another request as I write this.

On the almost schizophrenically BAD side:

(1) A reliance on a sole source private contractor that is fully
idiotic in nature. Not particularly bothered that the company has
private chain of custody during critical points, no policy or even
apparent concern with having convicted felons involved in the voting

(2) Use of a system with known defects without even taking any
mitigation steps

(3) NO REQUIREMENT to even save the memory cards. The explanation is
that they get a disk with the "program" on it. VotersUnite attorney
Jon Bonifaz questioned the assistant attorney general on this closely
today, because federal law requires records retention of 22 months on
electronic media. New Hampshire has a truly idiotic policy of allowing
the memory cards to be kept, or not, with a chain of custody, or not,
shipping back to LHS, or not, and it's perfectly okay with New
Hampshire if the memory cards are erased altogether. They profess to
believe that they are okay, because the DoJ allows them to, if they
just have LHS ship them a disk containing the purported program --
BEFORE the election, when there aren't even any votes registered on
the card. No one could even tell us if this is the memory card
program, or the GEMS database file, or the optical scan chip. They
seem to have no idea what they are doing with this and I would call
this wilfull ignorance, not naivete.

(4) Lack of documentation and lack of diligence on keeping
documentation or written procedures in key areas

(5) Ballot chain of custody procedures with major holes and a few very
creepy areas that will be the subject of a future article.

The upshot will be that New Hampshire could be the role model for the
nation, but not until they purge themselves of a limited number of
very significant problems.

The problem with chain of custody: You can have a strong, beautiful,
stainless steel chain but if one link is broken, the rest doesn't
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Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.
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