Friday, April 20, 2012

Once Again - Anchorage Bloggers Outdo the ADN, Alaska Dispatch, Anchorage Press, KTUU and KSKA: The Strange April Municipal Election

image from screenshot of interview by Steve Aufrecht
Anchorage bloggers Linda Kellen Biegel, Jeanne Devon, Shannyn Moore, Mel Green and Steve Aufrecht deserve some sort of special award for their coverage of the most questionable municipal election in a large Alaska city in recent memory.  The election, held on April 3rd, immediately drew criticism, as many voters were told there were not enough ballots, standards for accepting votes were questionable from precinct to precinct, and there were anomalous disparities in the numbers represented on the various ballot issues.

Beginning April 5th, The Mudflats began a series of articles that continue through today, asking serious questions about what happened.  Jeanne Devon wrote early on the day after the election:
What a night. It was unnerving, disappointing, and had no closure whatsoever. Not by a long shot.
A post will be coming later this afternoon talking about the massive mayhem that surrounded this election, including insufficient ballots, voter misinformation from the anti-equality crowd, and what appear to be some serious violations of election law.
Shannyn Moore immediately started raising questions about the integrity of the election on her KOAN AM talk show.  On April 7th, Moore used her weekly Anchorage Daily News column to raise questions:
We need a thorough, arm's-length audit of Tuesday's election. That will require reconciling reported election results by reviewing summary reports signed by poll workers with detailed accounting of total ballots received, cast, spoiled and left over. Then that can be compared to the poll tapes, signed voter registries, ballot receipts and a partial hand recount.

Some say re-running the city election would be too expensive and wouldn't change the outcome. I say the cost of an election in which we know that people were denied the most fundamental right of citizenship, though not measured in dollars, is far greater.
Moore is one of the most knowledgeable Alaskans on the shortcomings and tamper vulnerability of our Diebold-manufactured voting machines.  Since the 2004 election some Alaskans, perhaps most notably former State Representative Kay Brown, have openly questioned the integrity and  vulnerability of the Diebold Accu Vote and optical scan machines, the former which we have been using here since the 1990s.  There were anomalies in the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 statewide elections, most notably the huge differences between all polling data on the 2008 Don Young - Ethan Berkowitz contest.  These results, though attracting national attention from vote rigging experts Brad Friedman and Bev Harris, received almost no attention and no close scrutiny from Alaska's mainstream media.

Friedman has weighed in on Anchorage's April 3rd election at his own blog, and as a contributor at The Mudflats.  When the serious issue of illegally used voting machines with broken seals came up on April 14th, Friedman wrote:
“If and when any seal on these machines are broken they are to be immediately taken out of service and quarantined for forensic investigation.  If that is not already the law in AK or Anchorage, then it is a grave security hole in the law.
Anyone who instructs someone to not report a broken seal and use such a machine anyway should be investigated for malfeasance, misfeasance and/or criminal election fraud.”
None of the above will be visible to anybody unless a full hand count of the paper ballots is carried out. And such a public hand count this late after an election is only as reliable as the chain of custody of the ballots since election night.
It’s not only actual election failures and Diebold admissions that instruct us of the many ways these machines fail, but also independent study after independent study by world-class computer science and security experts in states like CA, OH and CO who have all found the very same thing over and over in each and every test.
  On April 17th, Friedman wrote the best national-level account of this election, putting it into context of some of our earlier strange election results in Alaska.  Here's part of his summation of the April 3rd problems:
The municipal election in early April including a Mayoral race and a number of ballot propositions. The most contentious was Prop 5, an initiative to extend anti-discrimination legal protections to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) community.

Just days before the election, a poll [PDF] by the conservative firm of Dittman Research & Communications found the incumbent Republican Mayor Dan Sullivan likely to defeat his Democratic opponent Paul Honeman, 56% to 35%. The same poll, however, showed Prop 5 set to win 50% to 41% with 9% of respondents still undecided.

On the night of the election, Sullivan was reported as the winner of his race by the paper-ballot Diebold optical-scan systems. The margin was 59% to 38%, pretty close to the results Dittman had predicted. Several bond initiatives on the ballot also reportedly passed, by even larger margins.

Yet Prop 5 was said to have gone down in flames. According to the Diebold results that night, it lost 58% to 42% --- a full 25-point swing from Dittman's pre-election poll just days earlier.
Anchorage blogger and investigator Mel Green, writing at Bent Alaska on April 17th about Friedman's interview with Anchorage Deputy Municipal Clerk Jacqueline Duke, notes:
The potential for vote tampering is obvious — and whether intentional or not, Duke’s instruction to election workers to disregard broken security seals serves to make discovery of any such tampering less likely.

When interviewed by Friedman, Duke claimed ignorance of any problems with Diebold AccuVote machines, as did Election Commission chair Gwen Matthew, who also spoke with Friedman — this in spite of widely documented problems with the machines (described in both the Mudflats and the Brad Blog stories), including a years-long lawsuit in Alaska about the (lack of) integrity of the 2004 statewide elections.

These are (two of) the officials entrusted with guaranteeing the integrity of our election process. Whether out of malfeasance or out of willful blindness and/or incompetence: they have failed.
 Steve Aufrecht, at his blog, What Do I Know?, today posted an extensive interview with former Deputy Municipal Clerk (and close friend of mine - you can come see her perform French Horn in the Anchorage Civic Orchestra next Saturday), Guadalupe Marroquin.  She used to have the same responsibility as Jacqueline Duke.  Unlike Duke, she took the responsibilities of monitoring elections and election machinery seriously.  Here is Aufrecht's interview with Marroquin:

The local media has finally sort of come on board. But no article I've read or feature I've yet heard or seen comes as close or as deep in its scrutiny as the work of Devon, Biegel, Moore, Green or Aufrecht.

Good job, bloggers!


Mel said...

Thanks for the props, Phil, but no, the local media has not "finally sort of come on board." I have yet to see one story from the ADN, Dispatch, KSKA, KTUU, KTVA, Anchorage Press that makes any mention whatsoever of Jacqueline Duke's malfeasance in instructing election workers to ignore broken security seals on voting machines -- & even telling them to simply replace broken security seals with new ones that they've apparently been supplied with. I have not seen any story that follows up on Steve's interview with Lupe Marroquin. The press appears to have decided to continue being mere stenographers for official statements, & to continue to enable incompetent & even corrupt activity by elected & appointed officials by not investigating or asking questions.

Philip Munger said...


You make a bunch of very good points. I suppose I gave the ADN "Our View" editorial on this more credit than it deserves.

My experience in watching the local media cover the tamperability or electronic vulnerability of Diebold and ESS machinery is that it is woefully lamentable, back from when this became a peripheral issue when the AK Dems sued the Division of Elections over the Knowles-L. Murkowski contest for Senate.

Steve's interview of the former Deputy Clerk just came out. We shall see.

People and the media seem as afraid to talk about the vulnerability of these machines as they are about any other subject that might be considered by the uninformed to be a "conspiracy theory." Yet it has proven to not be, time and time again, as Mr. Friedman has covered so fully over the years.

As example, when I told Ethan Berkowitz in 2008, after Young's surprise "victory," that I thought the vote for him had been fixed criminally inside the machines, to steal votes from him and give them to Young, he asked me to never print his answer.

We will never know the real votes in that election, in the 2010 Miller-Murkowski-McAdams contest, or in this April Anchorage one, unless every single vote is counted and audited BY HAND.