Machine Failures

NY23 Collected Coverage by Northern NY News

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com

Northern NY News
Written by Nathan Barker

Tuesday, 01 December 2009

A Summary of our coverage of the problems and pitfalls in New York's 2009 Special Election.  ImageCast electronic voting machines were used in many districts under a New York State "Pilot Program" causing myriad errors and problems with the election results.  Our exclusive coverage of these issues, in chronological order:

Virus in the Voting Machines: Tainted Results in NY-23 by Nathan Barker

Voting Machines Used were Not Certified by Nathan Barker

Statement from the NYS Board of Elections

Fact Check: The Gouverneur Times vs. NYS Board of Elections

Ghost in the Machine by Scott A. Reddick

Updated December 2nd, 2009: Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23 by Richard Hayes Phillips Ph.D.

First the Impossible, Now the Improbable in NY-23 by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

NY-23, Sequoia, and the Private Corporate Takeover of your Once-Public Democracy by Brad Friedman

Letter to the Editor on NY-23 Election Results by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

December 1st, 2009: Because Your Vote Should Count by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

December 2nd, 2009: False Vote Counts in Four Counties in NY-23 by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.





NY-23: False Vote Counts in Four Counties

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com

3rd in a series
For related articles, click topic link NY23

Hoffman Votes Switched to Other Candidates

False Vote Counts in Four Counties in NY-23

Northern NY News
by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.
Dec. 3, 2009
  
CANTON, NY – It is now widely known that zero votes were initially reported for Doug Hoffman in numerous election districts in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.  What has not been previously reported is that these votes were shifted to other candidates.  While most of these counts were corrected during recanvassing, they never should have been reported in the first place.

This vote switching is best illustrated in Madison County, where the Board of Elections (to its credit) released, for each election district (or precinct), its preliminary results, before the recanvass, and its final results, as certified to the State.  A comparison of the two reveals what really happened on Election Night.

In the initial vote count, Hoffman got zero votes in three election districts in Madison County.  In Fenner, the count was 157 for Owens, 248 for Scozzafava, and zero for Hoffman.  In Hamilton’s 3rd district, the count was 75 for Owens, 79 for Scozzafava, and zero for Hoffman.  In Sullivan’s 2nd district, the count was 173 for Owens, 251 for Scozzafava, and zero for Hoffman.

Somebody should have noticed this.  On Election Night, Scozzafava was awarded 578 of 983, or 58.8%, of the votes in these three districts, while winning only 583 of 16,770, or 3.5%, of the votes in the rest of the county.  This illustrates perfectly why election results need to be released at the precinct or district level.

These numbers were corrected during recanvassing of the results, and absentee ballots have since been added to the totals.  In Fenner, the certified count is 159 for Owens, 242 for Hoffman, and 21 for Scozzafava.  In Hamilton’s 3rd district, the certified count is 76 for Owens, 77 for Hoffman, and 4 for Scozzafava.  In Sullivan’s 2nd district, the certified count is 174 for Owens, 250 for Hoffman, and 11 for Scozzafava.  This amounts to a gain of 4 votes for Owens, a gain of 569 votes for Hoffman, and a net loss of 542 votes for Scozzafava.

Vote Counts Were Switched

The Board of Elections has attributed the false initial numbers to human error.  Poll workers mistakenly read the wrong line on the computer tape, or so the story goes.  But votes were not only denied to Hoffman; they were delivered to Scozzafava.  What obviously happened is that vote counts were switched.  Hoffman’s tallies on the Conservative Party line were given to Scozzafava, and Scozzafava’s tallies on the Independence Party line were given to Hoffman.  If all of Scozzafava’s 36 rightful votes in these three districts were on the Republican Party line, the result would be false tallies of zero votes for Hoffman.

Thus, for the “human error” explanation to be true, poll workers in three different polling places must have made the same two mistakes.

Also in Madison County there were two other districts with egregious errors that somebody should have noticed:

    * In Nelson’s 1st district, Hoffman was awarded 100 extra votes on Election Night.  This is obvious because, after the counting of absentee ballots, Hoffman’s count has decreased by 93 votes; and because the revised total of 336 votes counted for Congress more closely resembles the other contests in this district, the next highest number of votes counted being 333 votes for County Sheriff.  Unfortunately, the numbers for “blank” ballots are not reported, so we have no way of knowing the number of actual voters without auditing the poll books and the absentee voter lists.

    * In Georgetown, all the votes were double-counted on Election Night.  This is obvious because the initial count was 178 for Owens, 28 for Scozzafava, and 284 for Hoffman; and the certified count is 91 for Owens, 16 for Scozzafava, and 149 for Hoffman.  If the initial count is divided in half and subtracted from the certified count, the remainder represents the absentee ballots: 2 for Owens, 2 for Scozzafava, and 7 for Hoffman.  By comparison, the certified count is 256 votes for Congress, and 260 for County Sheriff.

Countywide, the initial count for Madison County, reported on the morning after the election by the Watertown Daily Times, was 7743 for Owens, 8110 for Hoffman, and 1128 for Scozzafava.  With corrections and adjustments made, and absentee ballots counted, the final (certified) count is now 8290 for Owens, 9155 for Hoffman, and 724 for Scozzafava.  Thus, Hoffman’s lead of 367 votes on Election Night has grown to 865 votes – a net gain of 498.

For Oneida County, at 11:50 P.M. on Election Night, the Albany Times-Union posted these vote tallies: 3510 for Owens, 2432 for Hoffman, and 274 for Scozzafava.  Owens was reportedly winning Oneida County by 1078 votes, with 56% of the total.  The next morning, the Watertown Daily Times reported very different numbers: 2024 for Owens, 2779 for Hoffman, and 362 for Scozzafava.  Owens was now losing Oneida County by 755 votes, with only 39% of the total.  This represents an overnight reversal of 1833 votes.  But by that time, Hoffman had already conceded the election.

Preliminary precinct results obtained a few days after the election contained no votes from Lee’s 2nd and 5th districts.  The partial results from elsewhere in the county match what was reported in the Watertown Daily Times, so these were the only two districts not reporting.

But even the corrected partial results were incorrect.  In Camden’s 2nd district, the Board of Elections was still reporting 100 (74%) for Owens, 23 (17%) for Scozzafava, and 12 (9%) for Hoffman.  Somebody should have noticed this.  By comparison, Hoffman’s lowest percentage anywhere else in the county was 43% in Boonville’s 4th district.  In Camden’s other two districts, Hoffman received 66% and 67% of the vote. 

Vote-Switching Methodology

The Camden example demonstrates clearly the methodology for vote switching.  Hoffman was awarded 12 votes, not zero.  These votes had to come from somewhere.  The simplest explanation is that Hoffman’s tally on the Conservative Party line was given to Owens, and Owens’ tally on the Working Families Party line was given to Hoffman, who suffered a net loss of at least 75 votes.  If these votes were shifted not to Scozzafava but to Owens, the other leading candidate, the margin was affected by 150 votes.

Whether these numbers from Camden’s 2nd district have been corrected is not certain, because Oneida County has not released its final precinct results.  The final countywide results show 2243 for Owens, 3225 for Hoffman, and 459 for Scozzafava, which represent, since the corrected partial results reported the morning after the election, gains of 219 votes for Owens, 446 votes for Hoffman, and 97 votes for Scozzafava.  Either way, Hoffman’s countywide percentage has grown from 39% on Election Night to 54% today.

The Oneida County Board of Elections has confirmed that optical scanners were used only in the Town of Marcy.  Lever machines were used elsewhere.  Thus it seems likely that the numbers from Camden’s 2nd district would have been corrected during recanvassing, because the true ballot positions that correspond with the vote tallies are plainly visible on a lever machine.

In Jefferson County, Sean M. Hennessey, Democratic elections commissioner, said that poll inspectors in four districts reported that Hoffman had received zero votes after inadvertently reading the wrong line of the poll system’s printout.  Hennessey said that results in some other districts were either incorrectly relayed by the poll worker or incorrectly typed by the part-time staff answering phones at the Jefferson County Board of Elections office.
_________________________________________
'Altogether, vote switching in four counties
altered the reported margin between Owens and Hoffman by an estimated 2,650 votes.
And this is only what we know about. . . .

With concealed electronic vote counting, partial shifts of the vote count
could occur without a trace, and not be readily apparent in the election results. 
And yet the New York State Board of Elections is expected to certify these election results
and the untrustworthy machines that produced them.'
_________________________________________
 
Jefferson County election officials blamed the mistakes on “chaos” in their call-in center, and on inspectors who read numbers incorrectly when reporting results over the phone.  “The machines were not at fault,” said Jerry O. Eaton, Republican elections commissioner for Jefferson County.  “It’s all human error that happens every election.”  Jefferson County has not conducted a hand count of the paper ballots from the election districts where the zero vote counts were reported.

The initial vote count reported in the Watertown Daily Times was 9996 for Owens, 9439 for Hoffman, and 1155 for Scozzafava.  By the time the Jefferson County Board of Elections provided its preliminary precinct results to one of the involved campaigns, three days after the election, the zero vote counts had been corrected in all four districts.  The corrected preliminary results were 10,238 for Owens, 10,358 for Hoffman, and 1179 for Scozzafava.  This represented net gains of 242 votes for Owens, 919 for Hoffman, and 24 for Scozzafava, and a change of 677 votes in the countywide margin.  The combined increase of 1185 votes (5.8%) indicates that not all districts had reported their results when the Watertown Daily Times went to press, and suggests that vote shifting had altered the margin by about 640 votes.  But more importantly, the ratio of the newly counted votes (Hoffman got 78% of them, Owens 20%, and Scozzafava 2%) indicates that, in the four districts with the zero vote counts, most of Hoffman’s votes had gone to Owens.  The “tally sheets” from these four election districts should tell the tale.

But even the corrected preliminary results were not correct.
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