Round-Up: O Me O My O – Errors in Jersey and Fraud in Ohio

Editor’s Note: We frequently highlight stories of election error and fraud nationwide. We do this  as a service to provide references to counter the  frequent statements from election officials and legislators claiming no record of such errors and fraud.

O Me O My O –  How They Add Votes In Ohio

Secretary of State turns investigation over to prosecutors: Elections chief suspects voter fraud – Secretary of State seeks criminal investigation <read>

Looks like certain fraud and perhaps a strong case for prosecution:

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted wants the attorney general and the Lawrence County Prosecutor to determine if a group of Democrats attempted voter fraud in the 2010 general election.

If so, it could mean prison time and a fine for anyone convicted of these crimes.

On Tuesday Husted turned over to Mike DeWine and J.B. Collier the findings of his investigation into the applications of 119 Lawrence County absentee ballots for further review and possible prosecution…

At issue are applications for absentee ballots that were sent to two post office boxes — 42 were sent to a box in the name of Ironton resident Charles Maynard and 77 were sent to a box in the name of Russell Bennett of Chesapeake during the fall of 2010.

“Of the 77 absentee ballot applications marked to be sent to Russ Bennett’s P.O. Box, 68 reportedly were hand-delivered to the Lawrence County Board of Elections office by a man named Butch Singer,” according to the letter sent to Mike DeWine and J.B. Collier.

In October a board of elections employee noticed that the handwriting in the “Send Ballot To” portion of the applications differed from that in the section with the voter’s name. The board then contacted 10 voters to see where they wanted their ballot sent.

“All 10 voters replied that they wanted their ballots mailed to them at their home address, suggesting that the ‘Send Ballot To’ portion of the absentee ballot application was completed after the voters filled in their application form,” Husted’s letter states.

Incidents like this demonstrate the reality of absentee/mail voting risks and why we would limit such voting to those genuinely unable to vote in person.

Humans and Machines Err In Garden State

In New Jersey, a voting machine is misprogrammed, then apparently a faulty or lax pre-election test fails to recognize the error.  Finally, the surprise result causes an investigation: “Human error” found in Fairfield election results <read>

A supposed malfunction of the problematic and much-debated Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machines is being chalked up to human error.

Results from Primary Election day last month puzzled two candidates who expected the exact opposite. Less than a month later, there’s a line in the sand being drawn between a second election and inspection of the voting machine itself.

“On Election Day, the votes cast for Candidates Vivian and Mark Henry registered for Candidates Cynthia and Ernest Zirkle, respectively,” read a statement addressed to all affected by the Democratic County Committee election in Fairfield.

According to documents provided to The News, Cumberland County Board of Elections Director Lizbeth Hernandez takes responsibility and regrets a pre-election programming error.

Attached to a legal petition filed by the Zirkles were 28 affidavits from voters swearing they supported the two candidates.

Those 28 votes of the 43 total cast on June 7 make up the majority.

How frequently do such errors occur? We have no way of knowing. The good news is that in this instance the error was discovered and will be corrected. Yet, it is rare that so few voters are involved and that such strong evidence can be developed so that an investigation is initiated. Since New Jersey has paperless touch screen voting machines a re-vote will be required.

There is a tendency to dismiss these errors as “only” “human errors”, just as we dismiss transportation accidents as pilot, controller, or engineer errors. However, whatever role inadequate human capabilities or inadequate systems play in the equation, these are voting integrity issues that can be significantly reduced with better procedures, training, and systems, along with corrective measures like paper ballots and post-election audits.

Here in Connecticut we have paper ballots so that if such a problem were discovered we would not need a re-vote, just a recanvass or a recount. Yet we have little no reason to celebrate. We have many referendums  or special elections in single towns with all memory cards programmed identically. In many cases there is no obvious reason to believe, let alone realistically prove, which candidate or decision “should” have won – too  close an election or too many voters to realistically get enough  affidavits.  And referendums and special elections are exempt from post-election audits such as they are.


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