Question for Jim March about voting


September 24, 2004, 02:32 AM
Suppose that we have the Nov. 2 election, and, say, 100% the votes for president in Santa Clara County are reported as being for George W. Bush.

To make it more interesting, further suppose that that vote puts California in the Bush column, and decides the national election.

What happens then?

No recount is possible, because there's nothing to recount. (We use the Diebold touchscreens.)

So, what happens? Do they throw out the results for the whole county? Have a quickie special election for a do-over? Pro-rate the votes cast based on the 2000 election? Or based on the ratio of the party registrations of those who voted? Or based on the rest of the state? Or what?

It sounds to me like an unsolvable disaster.

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Jim March
September 24, 2004, 04:03 AM
Santa Clara County where you're at uses the Sequoia touchscreens, not Diebold. But Sequoia sucks too :).

And it sucks not just because it lacks a paper trail, although that of course is a major thing.

What happens?

Only candidates have the right to challenge election screwups in court afterwards. Ordinary citizens don't have "standing" because according to the courts, we're not "hurt" by electoral cheating.

No, I'm not kidding. I really wish I was.

NOW you know why Kerry has a couple thousand lawyers on retainer so far. Bush probably has almost as many.

Democratic political operatives have been "pumping us for data" - "us" being the various activists and techies tracking this stuff. Myself included, Bev most of all. I'm VERY concerned that even if there's no cheating, if Kerry flames out he'll *blame* electronic voting.

Most likely: all these companies, Sequoia, Hart, ES&S, in private they *detest* Diebold for their obvious blunders. If it hadn't been for Diebold screwing up so badly and getting caught, raising awareness levels, these guys could have run completely rampant.

As it is...there's a hell of a lot of eyes watching.

STILL, widespread vote-hacking in the 5% or less range is still doable.


Long term, we'll win this one. Diebold is going to come completely unglued and implicate the testing labs. We won't just get paper trails, we'll get open source too...

September 24, 2004, 01:11 PM
Thanks for your reply, Jim!

I notice that you didn't address the question of what the remedy would be if there is a unambiguous, obvious screw-up. I take it that that's because nobody has a clue what to do if that situation arises?

Sadly, I think you're right that the Kerry side absolutely will blame cheating if he loses the election. The carload of folks I rode to Sac'to with for the voting machine meeting back in Jan or Feb believed utterly that Bush "stole" the 2000 election. Actually, I shouldn't use the word, "believed"--it wasn't belief, it was simply obvious common knowledge to them, like that things fall down when you drop them, it was just as obvious to them that Bush stole the 2000 election.

And they were equally convinced that the "the fix is in" for November, 2004. And they believe that life as we know it will cease if Bush is reelected, that it will be the end of the world.

Jim March
September 24, 2004, 01:23 PM

That's why vote fraud even hurts the winner. Or even the *appearance* of vote fraud.

As to what would happen in your scenario?

Hellifino. Court fight from hell at that point.

BUT nothing will be that obvious.

September 24, 2004, 01:45 PM
Well, that does answer my question--there really isn't any remedy that is currently recognized. The standard remedy in questioned elections has been to recount the ballots. But you can't do that with these machines. So you're stuck. And in the scenario where the outcome of the presidential election is at stake, that means that the Supreme Court of the United States will ultimately end up deciding the election.

I agree that deliberate tampering won't be that obvious. However, we've already seen several paperless voting disasters that have been almost that obvious, and with this being the first nationwide election using all this new hardware, I bet we'll see a few of those this time, too. Hopefully none of them will matter to the outcome of the presidential election, or we're going to have a something close to a civil war on our hands.

As an aside, I note that the traditional remedy of recounting the ballots does nothing at all to address questions of fraud in the election. When "Lucy Ramirez" votes three times in every precinct in the state, there's not much you can do about it after the fact. We really need to be doing something to reduce the stuffing of the ballot box that's going on.

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