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Next challenge for New York: Run better elections than New Hampshire

Message Allegra Dengler
Now that the cheers and victory parties over the big win for paper ballots in NY are winding down, it’s time to turn to the next challenge-ensuring a good transition to the new voting system. There must be adequate audits, good ballot design, secure chain of custody and public ownership of the scanner software.
[Note: If NY had gone to touchscreen DREs, all the issues of the required 3% audit, security of the chain of custody and handcount of the computer-generated paper trail “ballots” would still be required but would be considerably more difficult and much less reliable.]
We have work to do so that nothing ever happens here that vaguely resembles the poorly run elections in New Hampshire. NH does not do audits. 20% of the ballots are handcounted, the other 80% are counted on a famously hackable Deibold scanner. Other states have decertified this scanner because it can be so easily hacked. They are not on the list for purchase in NY.
The big story was the lack of security for the transportation and storage of the ballots. Were we really counting the original ballots, or had ballots been substituted somewhere along the line? There was no way to tell. There was nothing secure about the “ballot boxes”. I was surprised that the ballots were stored in old cardboard boxes-used Staples boxes, Quill boxes, boxes reused for more than one election. They were “sealed” with a paper label on top.
What's the difference between a recount and an audit? An audit is a routine handcount of a few randomly chosen precincts in the precinct on election night. A recount is a count of all ballots in an election, days or weeks after the election, often in adversarial circumstances, under a cloud of suspicion about chain of custody and the legitimacy of secret vote counting.

This photo essay by Bev Harris at Black Box Voting covers the vulnerable chain of custody of the ballots in NH, which involves speeding vans, a mysterious rendezvous with a green SUV, slits in ballot boxes and more.
Holes hidden in plain sight
Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2008 Bev Harris
The "seals" are not seals. The "chain of custody" is not a chain of custody. Ballots being transported by the "state police" are actually transported by Butch and Hoppy, who are not employed by the state police. Butch and Hoppy's real names are not really Butch and Hoppy.
BLOGGED BY Brad Friedman ON 1/23/2008 8:12PM
EXCLUSIVE: Kucinich Letter Cites Miscounts in NH, Requests State Carry Out 'Complete and Accurate Recount of All Ballots'
Democratic Presidential Candidate Details 'Significant Percentage Variances,' from 4 to 10%, Discovered So Far During Hand Counts as Paid for by His Campaign
Citing "significant percentage variances in four voting districts in Hillsborough County," Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is requesting that New Hampshire's Secretary of State, William Gardner, "order a complete and accurate recount of all ballots in the New Hamsphire Democratic Presidential Primary election," according to a letter sent this morning, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG.

Friday, January 18:

The Outsourced, Unaccountable New Hampshire Election System
and Implications for the Recounts Underway
by Bruce O'Dell, EDA Co-Coordinator for Election Data Analysis

..."LHS, the vendor that runs New Hampshire elections, took custody of the Diebold optical scan memory cards after the 2008 primary election.. Harri Hursti and Black Box Voting publicly demonstrated just one means of altering the contents of a Diebold memory card in such a way as to both alter the outcome of the election and also produce a matching, fraudulent poll tape report."


Report: Observing the New Hampshire Recount
By Allegra Dengler
On January 18, I served as an observer for the Kucinich recount of the Democratic presidential primary at the State Archives Building in Concord, NH.
I arrived shortly after 9 AM to observe for the Kucinich recount. The Clinton campaign also had observers there and was well organized with coffee and donuts, an organizer and lots of volunteers. The Kucinich team was not as well organized (no coffee or donuts), but I found someone who directed me to a table. The rules were simple, don’t touch the boxes, don’t touch the ballots. No paper on the table. Just observe.
In the morning my fellow observer was Stephen Johnson, a NH State Representative from Manchester, representing Clinton. He commented on how honest the Secretary of State was and what a waste of time and money the recount was. His view was reflected in the day’s editorial cartoon in the Concord Monitor, which showed a counter logging in “…a waste of $57,372.24.. …a waste of $57,372.24.. …a waste of $57,372.24..” Johnson had recently voted against a bill to require audits and it was defeated. He said they did 8 or 9 recounts at the request of candidates each year. He was very strong in his belief that audits were not needed and that recounts would catch anything. But the paper reported that one candidate in a local race discovered that he won only after a different candidate called for a recount.
The two counters were friendly, very conscientious and capable and worked steadily all day. With a one-hour break for lunch, and some short breaks during the day, the two counters worked from 9:30 AM until 6:30 PM. First we observed as they recounted the ballots for four towns that had been handcounted (Deering, Hancock, Lyndeborough and Sharon). At the end of the day they recounted Nashua Ward 3 that had been scanned. They counted 1533 ballots from 4 handcounted towns and 1890 ballots from Diebold counted Nashua Ward 3 for a total of 3423 ballots plus about 15 votes for others (Dodd, Biden, Gravel, write-ins for Paul, McCain, ) in 9 hours of work.
This was a long tiring job, and less conscientious counters would not have counted so many ballots in one day.
The results for the three top candidates in both handcounted and Diebold-counted precincts were exact in 8 counts, and within three votes in 7 counts. But counts in other parts of Hillsborough County turned up enough discrepancies that Kucinich has called for a recount of the whole state.

The scanned paper ballots were easy to recount because they were uniform. The fill-in circle that the voter marked was easy to spot and recount. They were large sturdy ballots easy for the voter and for the counter to read and handle. When the counters had to go through the stacks of ballots to make sure no REP ballots (red) were in a pile of Dem ballots (blue), it was easy to fan them like a deck of cards and flip through them. NH used to have levers in the machine count towns and the folks that I talked to like the scanners much better than levers.

Some districts ran out of paper ballots and photocopied additional ballots on regular weight paper. The photocopied ballots were more difficult to handle because they tended to stick together.

This picture shows the handcounted paper ballots sorted into piles for each candidate before counting. The small cardboard "ballot box" is on the right. Official counter Jane is rubbing her neck after hours of work. The observer in the red shirt was from the Clinton campaign.

The ballots were transported in used cardboard boxes. They were “sealed” with a large paper label and tape.
No Republican observers were there to oversee their ballots during this stage. Republican ballots were taken out of the ballot boxes along with the Democratic ballots, sorted to separate them (REP were pink, DEM were blue) and replaced in the “ballot boxes.”
If there was any protocol as to what should be in the “ballot boxes”, it was not observed, as the contents of each box differed slightly. In one of the boxes, the sign-in sheets for the voters were there. In another box there was a sealed envelope that Dep Secretary of State David Scanlan said should have been sent to the state separately. He took that himself and did not put it back in the box. There were no Diebold scanner cards in the boxes.
I was surprised that old cardboard boxes of various sizes were used- used Staples boxes, Quill boxes, boxes apparently reused for more than one election. The "seals" on the top were really labels, and much less securely attached than FedEx labels. There is video on the showing the label being peeled off and replaced easily without damaging the label. Because the boxes were reused, there was a lot of tape of different kinds on the boxes There was no security against cutting open the bottom of the boxes for access to the ballots, then resealing.
This shows the paper label (crossways) used as a "seal" across the doors to secure the counting room at night. When the room was opened for the recount that morning, this label was slit through for access. Black Box Voting reports that uncounted ballots were stored in this room one night.
Allegra Dengler
Citizens for Voting Integrity
Dobbs Ferry, NY

"WARNING: YOUR VOTE MAY BE LOST, DESTROYED, MISCOUNTED, WRONGLY ATTRIBUTED OR HACKED." New York Times Magazine cover story on voting machines, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008
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Allegra Dengler is a voting activist in New York State.

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