Norwich GAE Hearing

Testimony submitted and posted at GAE site.

Update: Testimony of Beth Angel, East Hampton <read>

in my hometown, East Hampton, at the last municipal election. The results of the election required a recount effort, which ended up necessitating 3 recounts. Each recount delivered differing results from the initial count after the November 6 election. Those who were in attendance reported these irregularities.

  • At the first recount, the moderator walked into the main counting room carrying 70 ballots in his arms and UNSECURED
  • At the second recount, envelopes were already open and distributed without the public present
  • At the third recount the same moderator came in with 117 ballots, again in an UNSECURED envelope
  • I understand from the law all ballots must be secured after the vote, prior to and after any recounts and audits
  • While they counted the ballots in the room with the public audience
  1. no members of the public were allowed to observe the actual ballots including the hashing or counting process and
  2. when it came time to total each candidates’ vote hashes, the moderator (D) and the Republican registrar went into a back room outside of public observation. I repeat, totaling of votes was done out of the public eye
  • We voters want to be sure the people who were actually elected by the voters of our town are sitting on our Town Council.
  • Finally ballots were impounded because of citizen complaints filed with the SEEC due to irregularities observed.
  • All of the above information is part of several citizen complaints…

Original Post:

Two articles in the Day on the hearings <read> <read> also commented on at by greenpeas at MyLeftNutmeg.I have been a bit busy working on my own testimony for the hearing coming up tomorrow in Norwalk. I am an activist and a blogger, not a reporter. At the Norwich hearing I took some notes while I spent most of my time listening to the testimony. But there is plenty to add that was not covered in these two articles and one correction. (I don’t blame the reporters, this is an aspect of protecting democracy that is more important than the details of tax law or defense contracts, yet not nearly as interesting. to many). I wish I could be more detailed which is precluded by time and my reporting abilities, but at least I will be able to touch on some of the additional issues.

Lets start with a correction which leads to a huge problem:

Marilyn Mackay, Democratic registrar in North Stonington, said her town had only one puzzling problem: election checkers counted 24 more voters than the machines tabulated.
Mackay said local officials were mystified and eventually called the Secretary of the State, who suggested the town had 24 write-in candidates that weren’t placed in the proper slots in the machine.

What I understood was the opposite. The checkers lists had 20 (or 24) less votes than the candidates received. So, either the checkers under counted the voters, the machines overcounted, election officials put in some votes twice, there was some other error, or skulduggery. She called the Secretary of the State’s Office and Ted Bromley said it must have been, that by mistake, some election official must have read in the write-in ballots (not realizing the other votes on a write-in are counted by the machine).

Denise Weeks, CTVotersCount (yes, a relative by marriage – ours), an experienced software testing leader, pointed out the falacy of jumping to a conclusion without examining the evidence.

What is wrong with this picture?

  • We don’t know what caused the discrepancy. With memory cards long gone and ballots preserved but not under seal, someone could still do an investigation and perhaps produce evidence that might point toward the cause.
  • There is no way that a lawyer sitting in Hartford can determine the answer. Without evidence each person can only speculate.
  • The advice that should have been given would be to count the ballots – the number of ballots – then if they balanced with the checkers totals, count the votes on the ballots. Suspecting the possible write in problem, then count the votes for the candidates involved on the write-ins and see if double counting them would have been a reasonable solution. And taking a breath and applying common sencse anyone could figure that out. But wait!
  • Also count the other races on the ballots and the write-ins and see if they balance, if the write-ins ballots are counted twice or not.
  • In fact, the Moderator should have called for such a count as soon as it became clear that the checkin count was significantly less than the vote totals.
  • When a plane crashes, with no obvious explinaton they blame the pilot. The most convenient excuse when counts are off is to chalk it up to election official error or blame the voters.

This is a symptom of a greater problem of working to explain discrepancies, not determine their cause:

For the post-election audits, registrars reported 31 instances of discrepancies between the machine and hand counts with differences ranging from 10 to 54 for a candidate, in a single district. The highest percentage discrepancies were: 44%, 19%, 18%, 13%, 13%, 11%, and 10%. Without a physical investigation we cannot attribute the differences to either machine or human counting errors. To date, none of these discrepancies have been physically investigated. Evidence for a complete investigation is no longer available as the ballots are no longer under seal and memory cards were reprogrammed for the February primary.

Testimony of Melinda Valencia, CTVotersCount member.

Melinda Valencia, a volunteer with a group called CT Voters Count, said state officials recommend that the privacy booths be placed at least 3 feet apart. “You have a lot more room standing behind someone at a CVS,” Valencia said.

Once again, what a reporter knows the public can understand and can be conveyed in a sound byte.

Melinda was a volunteer for the Citizen Audit Coalition, a Math major in college and a former Tax Lawyer, she pointed out that the Post-Election Audit Procedures from the Secretary of the State’s Office were not only confusing to registrars. – they were completely incorrect with some formulas reversed, multiple names used to describe the same data columns, and many other errors and inconsistencies. She also testified to the lack of uniformity and following of the procedures in the two towns in which she observed the audits.

She also mentioned that the Secretary of the State’s Office has solicited and received detailed comments for improvement of the procedures from CTVotersCount.

Question: Why has the Secretary of the State proposed changes in the law to fix the problem with privacy in the polling place?

Answer: Procedures won’t do the trick. They are not enforceable.

Question: Why are clear and strong procedures necessary, but insufficient for conducting post-election audits in which we can have confidence?

Answer: [Left to to the reader. Hint -there are at least three reasons.]

Testimony of Wm. Bunnell

Bill, a member of TrueVoteCT, probably knows more about the Diebold AccuVote-OS and GEMS that anyone in New England, including LHS, with the possible exception of Dr. Alex Shvartsman and his team at UConn.

Bill Bunnell, a voter from Madison, said he saw wet ballots that resulted from people holding their completed ballots against their wet coats. But in his town, spilled coffee also ruined a ballot.

Bill called to tell me that the coffee did not spill in Madison. He is from Madison, but the story is from another town, another election. He has contacted the Day to correct it.

But Bill spent most of his time addressing other issues.

  • Structural problem that the Secretary of the State’s office has no expertise to deal with the technical details
  • Memory card problems – the UConn pre and post election reports showed that registrars are confused about handling the cards, and LHS has huge quality control problems with testing and programming the cards
  • He pointed to paragraph 2.3 of the Connecticut contract with Diebold (which covers the LHS work) and suggested that they might well be in breech of the contract.

After Mr. Bunnell’s testimony, Representative Caruso said “People need to feel integrity and trust”. I completely agree. Candidates and people also need a system that is provably accurate.

Registration System Down

Nancy DePietro, Democratic registrar in Norwich, gave emotional testimony to the legislative committee Monday, admitting to some mistakes her the office, but also blaming lack of staffing at the Secretary of the State’s office and said the statewide centralized voting list computer system was down much of Monday.

This is a serious problem. Other registrars mentioned this as well. But I guess that the news reports of “no serious problems on election day” are correct on this issue. This happened on another day when the media was naturally focused on the fact that Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton visited the state.

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