The RDV Group InfoSec Blog

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Workers accused of fudging ’04 recount

I occasionally post pieces about voting irregularities and issues with verified voting, because I feel that it's one of the biggest challenges we face as a democracy today. Avi Rubin has done a lot of good work in this area and has testified frequently before congressional panels about electronic voting problems. With many states rushing to implement HAVA requirements, reliable, verifiable, open-sourced and transparent voting systems are sorely needed.

So my interest was piqued when I read this item in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A special prosecutor has charged that Cuyahoga County Ohio election workers secretly skirted rules designed to make sure all votes were counted correctly immediately following the 2004 presidential election, to prevent a recount from automatically kicking in.

At this time there isn't any proof that they were trying to sway the election one way or another, but rather were trying to save money: " ... While there is no evidence of vote fraud, the prosecutor said their efforts were aimed at avoiding an expensive - and very public - hand recount of all votes cast. Three top county elections officials have been indicted, and Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter says more indictments are possible."

Evidently they were supposed to take a random sampling of 3% of the ballots and compare with the related machine totals: " ... If the hand and machine counts match, the other 97 percent of the votes are recounted by machine. If the numbers don't match, workers repeat the effort. If they still don't match exactly, the workers must complete the recount by hand, a tedious process that could take weeks and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars."

But they prepared the sample ahead of time, by opening ballots and eliminating any that didn't match the machine, to prevent a manual hand recount: " ... Kathleen Dreamer, manager of the board's ballot department, Rosie Grier assistant manager, and Jacqueline Maiden, Elections Division director and its third-highest-ranking employee, have been charged with misdemeanor and felony counts of failing to follow the state elections law. A May 8 trial date has been set."

It's going to be interesting to see what happens, and if this leads to bigger fish.


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