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November 5, 2004

Mathematically impossible
Posted by Teresa at 03:08 PM * 29 comments

Lenny Bailes points out this bit in The Daily Kos:

Franklin County, OH: Gahanna 1-B Precinct

US Senator: Fingerhut [D] - 167 votes
Voinovich ® - 300 votes US President:
Kerry [D] - 260 votes
Bush ® - 4,258 votes

Why are my civil authorities not looking into this, backed up by my law enforcement officials, and if necessary my military forces? How many of them have taken vows to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution? They should be doin it.
Comments on Mathematically impossible:
#1 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Pardon me while my head explodes. Hopefully my stylish tinfoil chapeau will keep most of my brains in place.

Back in '91, when they had a ticker-tape parade that featured tanks and armaments, I thought, "How Soviet."

It turns out I had no idea at all how Soviet we would become. Let's see if this all gets sorted out.

#2 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Over in Why, yes, that is odd, Jon Sobel mentioned that is trying to obtain voting records, including event logs, under the Freedom of Information Act.

#3 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 03:47 PM:

Went poking around the Secretary of State in Ohio site. It's all in county lumps. No way to separate out the precincts. I know very little about Ohio geography, so I did some comparison checking with our own results (little local things) here in KC Missouri. There's state results for everything in a searchable database. There's also a separate (not linked) county site and city site with results available, but not by precint either.

I wonder if you have to be an election official to get precinct results. Anyone know?

#4 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 03:55 PM:

There is some info on other e-voting irregularites at Wired.

Friends don't let friends cast electronic ballots.

#5 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 04:00 PM:

More Ohio e-voting irregularities here:

Best quote:

"That led to some races showing votes of negative 25 million, Munroe said. "

#6 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 04:01 PM:

What I heard about this on the radio earlier today is that the OH Secy. of State can't look into it until the county clerk officially reports the results.

So, when does the county clerk finally get around to reporting the results officially?

#7 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 04:13 PM:

Let me try that again:

#8 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 04:18 PM:

Judging by what happened last time voting irregularities were pointed out, the response from the majority of Americans, Republican or Democrat, will be a big ol' yawn - of disbelief, I think, mostly.

It goes without saying that there will be no official investigation, and results from any private investigation, however sound, will be ignored.

And in 2006 and 2008, it will all happen all over again.

I think countries where politicians regularly and unironically say that this is the greatest country in the world" are fundamentally different from countries where that doesn't happen. I'm beginning to think this is the root of my Not Getting US Politics to the extent that I don't. This whole "The world is looking to us! We must count every vote!" thing: most of the rest of us on LJ (privileged Westerners that we for the most part are) live in countries where every vote is always counted. The last place we'd look for procedural example is the US. cite
#9 ::: Dana ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 04:23 PM:

According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, the error, called a computer glitch, was corrected.

#10 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 05:32 PM:

Lis, according to this story on the Ohio counts, the official tally is done "later this month."

#11 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 05:37 PM:

Tracina, do you mean ?

TNH, let me point out that the Daily Kos page you linked to begins with: "All right. Everyone, take a breath. Stop freaking out. Stop accusing everyone of ignoring the issue; it isn't being ignored." Not that you shouldn't help spread the word, but I wouldn't call out the military just yet.

#12 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Jeff: Yes, that's the one I meant. Obviously I need more sleep. Thank you.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 07:22 PM:

CNN today

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.

Bush actually received 365 votes in the precinct, Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch.

State and county election officials did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for more details about the voting system and its vendor, and whether the error, if repeated elsewhere in Ohio, could have affected the outcome.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, last year

COLUMBUS - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.

O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch earlier this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

The letter went out the day before Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify Diebold as one of three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election.

Bought and paid for, folks. Bought and paid for.

#14 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 08:31 PM:

Etymological note: Gehenna is the English corruption of the Hebrew name of the place for which Hebrew's Hell (gehennom). SO fitting.

#15 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 08:37 PM:

Of course, we are all paranoid to think that any such thing could happen here.



I voted on a Diebold machine this year, and while I triple-checked everything I did, and checked to make sure the paper receipt was accurate, I am still not soothed that what it recorded is what I cast.

#16 ::: i, squub ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 08:55 PM:

Our touch-screen machines in montgomery county, maryland had nothing vaguely resembling a paper receipt.

#17 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 09:10 PM:

We didn't have paper receipts in Manassas, VA, either, but my city had a much larger Democratic vote than any time in recent memory, so I don't think they mucked with the totals.

#18 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 10:32 PM:

The assorted authorities aren't really looking into it because this happens all the time. There are always errors in preliminary totals -- usually just that someone wrote down the wrong number -- which is why recounts always end up adjusting the total one way or another. But elections aren't certified until well after Election Day, so these things nearly always get corrected. And where they make a difference, they are always corrected, since any recount would catch this.

This isn't new with electronic voting; it's happened everywhere probably since the first election was held a few thousand years ago. And this one isn't even close to the largest erroneous vote swing. In this year's Pennsylvania Senate primary, for example, Arlen Specter briefly gained about 80,000 votes from one precinct due to a reporting error. That one was caught in the initial vote count on Election Day because everyone noticed right away.

#19 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 10:33 PM:

Leslie Turek posted some links to hard data in her blog today:

This link shows more clearly than anything else I've seen that the fix was in in Florida again:


Can anyone describe how polls are managed in Florida? Aren't there people from both parties working in each precinct? I'm more used to Pennsylvania, where representatives from both parties always work the polls (and even in PA, the exit polls didn't match the final tally as closely as I would have liked!).

#20 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 11:28 PM:

I wasn't polled this year, but I was in '96. I said I voted for Dole when in reality I had left the President slot blank. I'm just contrary that way.

Also, has anyone looked to see if there's any correlation between voting patterns and people more likely to go tell the pollster where they can stick their clipboard?

#21 ::: Anne KG Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 07:48 AM:

Interesting letter on voting irregularities over at

I think one would have to prove that Bush or the Republican party was involved to overturn the results though. I'm not sure.

The deadline for voters overseas to get their ballots in is November 12. The clerks can probably delay reporting results until then.

#22 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 07:58 AM:
Bought and paid for, folks. Bought and paid for.
It should be pointed out that, if Wired is to be believed, Franklin County does not use Diebold machines.
#23 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 09:28 AM:

Eric --

What recount? There's nothing available to be counted; there's just a number in an insecure database.

An insecure database which doesn't have even rudimentary protections against unlogged operator write access.

David --

Diebold is only one of three Dominionist, receiptless, and socially interconnected voting machine makers operating in the US.

The important thing is not 'Diebold machine'; it's 'no paper trail', closely followed by 'unlogged and uncontrolled operator write access to the DB'.

#24 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 06:10 PM:

Recounts can happen even when you can't count individual votes; they just don't count individual votes in that case. (Which is a problem, but it's a topic for another discussion.) A recount also involves double-checking the actual vote totals on each machine against what was reported, double-checking precinct totals against what was reported, and so on up the ladder. That's often done for the official count anyway, but it's certainly done for a recount. It would catch anything like this, because the number in this case wasn't reported by the actual voting machine.

#25 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2004, 10:36 PM:

Well, this certainly does shed an interesting light on the question of whether morality won the election...

#26 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2004, 01:21 PM:

Question: From what I understand of how these machines work (and I've read several technical reports about them), Graydon is correct: there is only a single figure stored for each location. No log is made of individual votes. There is no audit trail or way of performing a manual recount.

In this case, how on Earth did they figure out what the total should have been, if there was an error in it?

#27 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 02:17 AM:

Jules: Eric's not talking about an error in the total as stored as the "single figure stored for each location". He's talking about errors between the stored number and what was in the provisional, non-official, state tally (and on the "election results" pages) for that location.

(For the details on what actually happened, see Dana's comment, ninth from the top -- we don't need to speculate.)

In other words, the voting machine's data cartridge was sitting there with "115" on it, and somehow that mutated into "4008" when the cartridge was first read. The recount would involve going back to all the voting machines (including that one), rereading the data cartridges, comparing them to the records on the machine itself -- and that one did provide reasonable numbers that matched the machine's "memory banks" when reread -- and retallying them. According to the article, that sort of doublechecking is a standard part of the process of producing the official tally; it doesn't only happen when something obviously strange shows up.

#28 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 02:20 AM:

P.S. Teresa: the second-to-last word in your post should be "doing", or possibly "doin'", not "doin".

#29 ::: DLacey ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2004, 11:54 AM:

Detailed Ohio statistical analysis of e-voting that might soothe:

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