In Exit Poll Dispute, It’s WH Deputy Tech Chief v. the Commercial Press


The day after the 2000 presidential election, the Washington Post ran “Networks Try to Explain Blown Call” — a probe into why, not if, network statisticians somehow botched the exit polls they conducted before projecting U.S. presidential candidate Al Gore the winner of Florida at 7:50 p.m. on Election Night.  Discrepancies between exit polls and official election results that benefit the D.C. Establishment have become commonplace in the years since — as have, ironically enough, the number of ballots counted by private-owned, un-auditable E-voting machines, which are now used to tally about 4/5 of the electorate’s votes.

Until recently in the 2016 race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, not a single pundit in the US commercial press bothered to mention an obvious hypothesis. That is, perhaps the mathematicians who conduct exit polls keep “failing” and official results keep routinely skewing toward Clinton due to the proliferation of the same vote-counting machines that subtracted 16,022 votes from Al Gore in Volusia –– a Florida county which had just emerged from a “sordid [20th century] history of election fraud” featuring “shootouts, ambushes, and stolen ballot boxes” (Post, 11.10.00).  This includes self-described “data journalist”–turned “empirical journalist” Nate Silver and colleague Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight (who’ve been mocked for their consistent failed predictions this election), as well as Nate Cohn of the New York Times — all of whom conspicuously shun the topic of E-voting security while advancing other explanations.

Both before and after imperiously dismissing it as an “idiotic” conspiracy, The Post’s Philip Bump manages to at least fleetingly hint at the hypothesis of current White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Ed Felten –– protagonist of “Princeton Prof Hacks E-vote Machine” (9.13.06, Washington Post).

“The suggestion is, I guess, that there’s a common software [in the proprietary voting machines] that was somehow edited?” Bump asks, without answering, in the wake of a 12 percent exit poll discrepancy (and 125,000 Brooklyn-voter purge) in the New York Primary. The answer to Bump’s question – public knowledge since Gore’s negative votes, and satire since Homer Simpson popularized it prior to Obama/McCain ’08 — is yes.

The ability of anyone with a basic knowledge of computer programming to hack the software of the privately owned voting machines is central to Felten’s decade-old Princeton Study, “Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine,” as well as several other studies, such as the supervised hack performed by Finnish cyber-security expert Harri Hursti for the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy. In his own study, Felten writes:

“Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss.”

This backs up the testimony of computer programmer Clint Curtis, whose dog (not Bump’s) mysteriously died of a gunshot wound the day he gave it. Curtis’ sworn affidavit states that just prior to the 2000 Election, Tom Feeney,  Florida’s soon-to-be Speaker of the House, asked him if his company “could develop a prototype of a voting program that could alter the tabulation of a vote in an election and be undetectable.”  Curtis informed him, “If the code were [to be] compiled before anyone were able to review it, then any fraud would remain visible to detection.”

Bump, who routinely attributes Clinton’s success in the former Jim Crow/confederate South to black people — and not that region’s higher prevalence of the irregularity-prone DRE Voting Machines (see map) —  goes on to assert that Sanders sympathizers (many of whom, he fails to acknowledge, are conversant with Felton, et al.) think, “voting machine fraud…is responsible for all problems” but don’t realize the hard truth that it’s “lacking in any widespread examples.”

But since 2000, concerned citizens like Kansas statistician Beth Clarkson have investigated abundant evidence pointing to voting machine fraud – evidence that exists all across the country, in spite of a commercial press that prioritizes “try[ing] to explain” itself instead of publicizing it.  In 2004, Project Censored and NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller began to challenge the press’s lack of coverage of the evidence.

“Late in the evening” on Election Night ’04, as investigative reporter Brad Friedman has since noted, “six states that exit polls showed were going to John Kerry suddenly veered off to [George W.] Bush.” The race then centered on Ohio, where, conveniently for Bush, his campaign co-chair also happened to be the Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell. Katherine Harris also assumed those two roles in Florida in 2000, indicating that it’s very plausible and civically responsible (not “idiotic”) to hypothesize about and investigate systemic fraud.

After Ohio, a legal battle against Blackwell lasting years ensued, culminating with the suspicious plane crash death of Republican consultant Mike Connell, a key witness facing subpoena questions about his alleged connection to a “man-in-the-middle” rigging of the Ohio vote traced to a server in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Connell allegedly received threats demanding he take the fall for the fraud from Karl Rove, who himself later ignored a subpoena on the grounds of executive privilege.

The late Gore Vidal, who wrote the introduction to John Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee Report investigating Ohio’s fraud, lamented the dereliction of the commercial press in its failure to report on this issue of serious civic and legal importance. His criticism still applies to the establishment pundits of 2016:

“The New York Times would not review the book, would not mention the book. The Washington Post wouldn’t do anything. If the two self-loving newspapers of choice in the United States are going to ignore the fact that the second presidential election in a row has been stolen, we don’t have a republic; there’s nothing left.”

Similarly, though it’s still a story of major international importance, only local outlets like the Emporia Gazette have covered Clarkson’s current legal battle with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) over the right to audit her state’s E-vote paper trail, which a judge has prohibited. She published a 2015 study in the Royal Institute of Statistics about “consistent manipulation” of electronic voting systems in the U.S. and has even taken to writing an Open Letter to Sanders arguing that this issue is central to his youth-led movement’s revolutionary aims:

“If you want to win the presidency and elect a revolutionary congress, you must find a way to force accurate counts of votes across the country…You, as a candidate, have the right to demand manual recounts…If you were to do so, irrefutable evidence of problems with vote counts will emerge in some of those places. If and only if your supporters can find and correct those problems can your revolution win at the ballot box.”

To others, implementing a more transparent and democratic method of voting altogether is the only way to ensure real democracy. Cyber-security expert Stephen Spoonamore — whose clients have included the US Navy, the State Department, and Boeing – has argued that the most secure voting technology is also the simplest: pen and paper. In an un-aired interview with ABC News Producer Rebecca Abrahams, he stated, “I can’t make it any clearer than this: you cannot have secure electronic voting; it doesn’t exist.”

Spoonamore argues the current system is a serious national security threat because any state’s central tabulator is subject to both domestic and “foreign-national” hacking. His sworn deposition for the 2004 Ohio lawsuit states, “…there is NO POSSIBLE WAY to make a secure touch screen voting system”  — the kind prevalent in Clinton’s corporate-media-dubbed “Southern Firewall” —  because “secure systems are predicated on establishing securely the identity of every user of the system. Voting is predicated on being anonymous. It is impossible to have a system that does both.”

What about the optical scanning machines that register votes after they’re written on pen and paper? Spoonamore tells Abrahams, “It is possible to design relatively secure optical scan machines” but cautions, “even these can be hacked in even the best of cases.”

Mathematician Richard Charnin has followed this issue since 2000 as well, and believes 2016 exit poll discrepancies in Massachusetts, Missouri, Illinois, Arizona, Ohio and several other states almost certainly indicate fraud has occurred to the benefit of Clinton.

In January 2016, Bob Fitrakis, a plaintiff in the Ohio Lawsuit, published with Harvey Wasserman a proposal called the “Ohio Plan to prevent the Strip & Flip of American Elections.” If the Sanders movement really wants to achieve revolutionary change, it ought to stand with affected citizens like Clarkson, Fitrakis, and comedian/activist Lee Camp (who recently interviewed Charnin), by publicizing this issue and militantly demanding change.

If it does, Paul Krugman and the all the other smug, status quo voices of the establishment will probably laugh. But as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang during America’s New Deal era, “They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother when they said that man could fly”…

These are the six points of the “Ohio Plan” the Sanders movement needs to demand be instituted if it wants a real revolution:

1. Voter registration must be universal and automatic for all citizens as they turn 18.

2. Ban electronic poll books, with all voter registration records maintained manually.

3. All elections happen over a 4-day weekend – Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – which together comprise a national holiday, preferably around Veterans Day in November.
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4. All voting happens on paper ballots, using recycled or hemp paper.

5. All vote counting is done manually, with ballots preserved at least two years

6. Polls are run and ballots counted by the nation’s high school and college students, who will get the days off and be paid a “scholarship” for their work at $15/hour.

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