Join Date: Aug 2004
Local Time: 09:03 AM
They don't use touch-screen in NH, these were optical-scan card-readers.
salon.com tech columinst Farhad Manjoo, who's written extensively on election fraud and the frightening hackability of Diebold machines, had a column about the proposed NH recount today. While he gives Kucinich a thumbs-up for putting his money where his mouth is and ultimately adopts the stance of, If doubts are rampant why NOT do a recount, Manjoo also found the evidence for suspicious discrepancies very uncompelling.
...Officials in charge of small counties are more likely to choose to manually count their ballots. But if you've got 10,000 or 20,000 voters in your county--like in Manchester or Concord--you'll use machines. Money is also a factor; poorer places are less likely to have the resources for machines. Governmental efficiency might also matter--some elections officials may not have gotten around, yet, to adopting machines--as might local infrastructure, or any number of other factors.
But, of course, the same demographics would also affect voting results. It's likely, for example, that people in small places or poor places would vote very differently from people in large places or rich places--and, therefore, variances in the result that look like they were caused by voting-machine fraud might actually only be the product of normal regional differences.
Indeed, there's plenty of evidence showing that Obama did well in hand-count areas because those places were Obama strongholds. Consult the second table on this page, the one that shows hand-count vs. machine-count results in counties with fewer than 750 votes. There, you see Obama got a blowout in hand-count areas--39.59% to Clinton's 33.64%. Clinton did better than Obama in machine-count places, but her margin is smaller than in other places in the state: just 37.37% to Obama's 35.04%. Even more interesting is the third table on the page, which shows how the candidates did in places with more than 1500 votes. Here, Clinton, not Obama, did better in hand-count areas--a lot better, 44.17% to Obama's 31.61%. Meanwhile, in similarly large counties where machines counted the vote, Clinton's margin was smaller--40.28% to Obama's 35.96%.
...All of these variances are much more plausibly the product of differing demographics. If you check out the county-by-county results, it's possible to find many counties where Obama won handily even despite Diebold (Amherst, for instance, which uses optical-scan voting and where where he got 44.68%; if the Diebold machines were hacked for Clinton, they didn't do much good there). At the same time, Clinton won in many areas that manually count their votes--she got 44.44% in Boscawen, 43.93% in Carroll, 43.52% in Charleston, and on and on.
Can exit polls tell us whether fraud occurred? Regular readers might know that I've long been skeptical of efforts to use exit polls--surveys of voters as they leave voting booths--as a forensic tool to detect fraud. Academic election experts and pollsters (including the surveyors who carry out the exit polls) say that exit polls, at least as they're practiced in America, are not precise enough to catch fraud in close races.
Many election-reform activists disagree, though, and they've been calling on the news networks to release what they call "raw" exit polling data. The exit information that is currently posted on media sites has been weighted to match the final voting results. This is a standard practice, and is not at all nefarious; surveyors re-weight the exit poll results to match the election outcome in order to provide a better look at why people voted the way they did. In the absence of "raw" polling data, activists have pointed to a quote from Chris Matthews, the Clinton-bashing MSNBC anchor, that suggests that Obama was far ahead of Clinton in the exit poll data that news networks were getting throughout the day on Tuesday. In a video Matthews says, "Even our own exit polls, taken as people came out of voting, showed him ahead. So what's going on here?"
But information I've been able to find about the intra-Election Day exits suggests that Matthews is letting his Clinton hatred get ahead of the facts. Daniel Merkle, who heads ABC News' "decision desk"--which was getting the exact same exit polling data that folks at NBC were getting--told me that the numbers he was receiving during Election Day did not show a certain Obama win. Merkle said the data indicated "a very close race on the Democratic side," and "that's what it ended up being...It was within a couple points," Merkle said. "When we're seeing an exit poll within a couple points, that's a close race." The exit poll numbers, he added, were a "surprise" compared to pre-election polls. "The exit poll was not showing an 8-to-10-point Obama lead. It was showing a close race."
So far in this piece, I've been careful not to sound too certain. There are many reasons to trust the New Hampshire results. Besides the ones I've outlined here--reasonable explanations for the machine vs. hand-count variance, an exit poll that showed a close race--there's also the plain fact that, despite Diebold's hackability, it would have been hard to have rigged the vote all over New Hampshire. Elections are greatly decentralized. Across the state on voting machines, Hillary Clinton won by an average of 40.12% of the vote, far more than she was projected to win. Her surrogates would have needed to get into a lot of card readers and GEMS machines in order to achieve that count through hacking. They would have needed helpful confederates in many areas of the state, and those confederates would have had to have been disciplined enough to escape the notice of the many campaign officials and get-out-the-vote volunteers that Clinton's rivals had installed all over.
There is a label for such a far-flung scenario: a conspiracy theory. Wise people on the left are cautioning their fellows against going down this path. "There is...something perverse about the quick knee-jerk reaction to assume that any election that dramatically doesn't go your way was stolen," Josh Marshall, in a post titled "Enough," wrote yesterday. He added: "There is a sullen childishness at work in this thinking that no robust political movement can ever be built on."
...Still, while we can be pretty sure that Clinton didn't steal the race, we don't know--if you were to be called into a court of law and asked to prove that she didn't steal it, you wouldn't be able to. And many activists want courtroom-level proof. And they deserve it--or something close. We live in an era in which partisans on each side believe that the other side is capable of out-and-out theft. Proving that theft didn't occur should be a routine part of elections--all elections, all the time.