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Why Joe Miller Has a Point

Something  in Alaska stinks. Again. Not just an ordinary low tide smell. Not like something you’d blame on the dog. It smells like an infection. For me to plug my nose, I’d have to overlook some curious facts.

I’ve written another piece like this. It was after the last election. I said it the three elections before that. In the words of baseball great Yogi Berra, it’s Déjà vu all over again! I’m writing and talking about the same thing, in what has become an even-year ritual: Alaska doesn’t count votes properly and hasn’t for years.  Alaska still uses the Diebold Accuvote Optical Scanners. The same Diebold machines California “decertified” because of the “Deck Zero” anomaly after the company admitted the software error plagues all versions of their paper ballot op-scan systems, deleting the first batch of scanned ballots under certain circumstances without alerting elections officials to the deletion.

I’m not a Joe Miller fan. My “horse” is out of the US Senate race in Alaska. It’s not about any candidate. But has everything to do with my candidate, Scott McAdams’ slogan: “It’s about Alaska!” Specifically, it’s about the bedrock of election integrity. If democracy were a religion, voting would be the sacrament. It’s poisoned.

Here’s some history:

The Democratic Party obtained the 2004 Diebold Global Election Management System (GEMS) database by suing the Division of Elections in State Superior Court. That suit was made necessary because the Division of Elections insisted that the database was not public record. The Division of Elections refused for more than nine months to release the GEMS database, but did so a few days before a hearing was scheduled to begin in Superior Court.

According to the Division of Elections’ Diebold-produced vote reports for 2004, as posted on the Division’s official web site, a far larger number of votes were cast than the official totals reported in the statewide summary. In the case of President George W. Bush’s votes, the district-by-district totals add up to 292,267, but his official total was only 190,889-a difference of 101,378 votes. In that year’s U.S. Senate race, Lisa Murkowski received 226,992 votes in the district-by-district totals, but her official total was only 149,446-a difference of 77,546 votes.

The Division’s own posted data for 2004 shows that in 20 of the 40 State House Districts, more ballots were cast than registered voters. In 16 election districts, the voter turnout was over 200%.

A review of the audit logs of the GEMS database for the 2004 election shows that modifications were made on July 12th and 13th of 2006. The Division claims it kept no backup copies of that database after the 2004 election was certified.  It was impossible to know who had made the modifications because the entire department HAD THE SAME USER NAME: ADMIN, AND THE SAME PASSWORD: PASSWORD.

The law says that public records must be produced “as soon as practicable, but not later than the 10th working day” following receipt of the request. Democrats requested the database on Oct. 30, 2006, and, through its counsel David Shoup, again on Nov. 3. In a response dated Nov. 27, Division of Elections Director Whitney Brewster told Shoup she would not respond to the Democrats’ records request until Dec. 6, two days after the new Governor would be sworn into office on Dec. 4.

Again, in 2006, the Democratic Party of Alaska had to sue the DOE to secure evidence.”Loren Leman’s reluctance to release this critical public information highlights the need for a Lieutenant Governor who will ensure the transparency of elections. We need someone in charge who doesn’t agree withthe way Lt. Gov. Loren Leman has handled all this. Sarah Palin’s running mate, Sean Parnell, says he’d handle it the same way as Loren Leman,” Metcalfe said. Parnell said Oct. 12 at a public forum at the University of Alaska, Anchorage that he would handle the Democrats’ request for information the same way Leman has – by offering to let them count the paper ballots. Parnell told the Anchorage Daily News in August of 2006 that the Democrats’ lawsuit to get the 2004 electronic election data “smacks of political posturing more than a real desire to see a fair result.” [Anchorage Daily News, August 17, 2006]

In 2006, I watched a tied state house race publicly decided with the flip of a coin onto a beaver pelt. I trusted the outcome of the coin flip far more than the closely-guarded “secrets” of the GEMS database and the culture of secrecy (or, so-called “security by obscurity”) surrounding one of our most precious and fundamental rights-the right to vote.

Sean Parnell is now the Governor.  His concern with election integrity and the ability of citizens to oversee their own elections – otherwise known as self-governance – is completely flaccid.

In 2007, the University of Alaska began an audit of the Alaska election process. They followed in the footsteps of similar recommendations from universities in Florida and California. A “fix it” list was created that included replacing the software. To date, there has been no report on the suggested fixes.

Move along, nothing to see.

Fast forward to 2010.

Despite heavy national media coverage and historic Citizens United money spent on Alaska’s hotly contested and much-watched three-way US Senate race, the results, if we are to believe them, were a surprisingly low voter turnout. In fact, this election was one of the lowest turnouts since they started tracking ballots cast versus registered voters in the mid-1970s.

It’s strange that Anchorage appearances by both Rachel Maddow and Glenn Beck covering the high profile race had such a chilling effect on voters.  It’s curious that the forgotten gubernatorial race, reportedly, had several hundred more votes recorded than the attention-grabbing U.S. Senate race. Furthermore, as returns from around the state poured in on election night, the percentages between candidates in statewide races never changed throughout the evening-despite Juneau, for instance, being ideologically opposite of Wasilla.

Election chain of custody is the unbroken trail of overseeable accountability that ensures the physical security of our ballots during an election.  Goldbelt Security Services was contracted by the Alaska Division of Elections to provide the security and transportation of the ballots to Juneau.  Goldbelt is an Alaska Native Corporation with SBA 8(a) status-meaning they are eligible for sole-source, no-bid government contracts.  The 8(a) program was relentlessly attacked by Joe Miller.  The Alaska Native 8(a)’s unanimously backed Lisa and provided tremendous financial support in the bargain. As they transported the record of the state’s future, Goldbelt Security had a tremendous stake in the outcome of the election. Imagine if the Alaska Division of Elections contracted Drop Zone Security to transport and guard the election ballots. How would the Murkowski camp react?

I’m not buying it.  We are a small enough state that we should have hand counts. Based upon Alaska’s documented and nefarious election history, we should, at the very least, be able to perform a basic audit of any precinct. We, the people, should be able to reconcile reported election results by reviewing the summary reports, signed by poll workers detailing total ballots received, total ballots cast, total ballots spoiled, leftover ballots and compare all of that to the poll tape and signed voter registries.

Apparently, Joe Miller’s campaign is on the same page:

Anchorage, Alaska. November 16, 2010 — The Joe Miller campaign is pleased the Division of Elections will allow access to several precinct registers for review; however, the Division has not responded to the campaign’s request to review the voting tapes generated by the voting machines at the polling places. These tapes tally the total number of votes cast.

The Joe Miller campaign filed suit last Friday in state court in Juneau in order to compel the State to fulfill its legal obligations under the Public Records Act and allow inspection of the election registers from certain precincts that voters signed before casting their ballots. The Division of Elections had been unresponsive to the Miller request. The lawsuit simply asked that representatives from the campaign be given access to inspect the election registers.

Given the contested nature of the election, time is of the essence to ensure the vote count is trustworthy and that each valid vote is counted, and that there be no opportunity for fraud to taint the election results. Irregularities at polling places have been noted both Election Day and during the ballot review process including sworn affidavits testifying to unsecured ballot boxes and ballot envelopes arriving in Juneau presorted by the Senate race: these ballots are not to be handled in this fashion prior to the write-in review.

Miller Campaign chief counsel Tom Van Flein noted, “The campaign determined that inspection of precinct registers was an appropriate audit to spot check the process. The registers will provide data on the number of people who signed in to vote which can be matched with the number of votes tallied for each precinct.”

If we want to have faith in something, we go to church-not the voting booth.

Lisa Murkowski’s campaign, funded by millions of dollars from corporate sugar daddies, will no doubt prevail. The Alaska DOE counted “Lesa Murcowshit” as a vote for Murkowski. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the voter’s intent.  Joe Miller has been criticized and mocked for challenging write-in votes. What he should be doing and demanding is a full scale election audit and reconciliation of every vote cast and every ballot not cast.

Some Alaskans will be bitter regardless of the outcome.

My point isn’t about either one of them.

It’s About Alaska.



38 Responses to “Why Joe Miller Has a Point”
  1. B in Wasilla says:

    Darn I thought this was going to be about the shape of his head. BTW I voted for McAdams also.

  2. Sarafina says:

    I think I posted after another story, and was ignored. Is there really proof of fraud in voting, and Alaskans are doing nothing? (Diebold machines are BAD, unless you are Republican.)

    What in hell is the point of supporting any candidate if the votes don’t count? It seems like AKM and Shannyn and everyone were just wasting time, theirs and ours, if the vote counting mechanism isn’t accurate.

    Forget finding good candidates before the vote count is fixed. I’ve lost a lot of respect for you guys. Gee, trying to gain support for a candidate with no guarantee of a win even if he’d gotten the most votes?

    Seems stupid and unproductive to me.

  3. analaskancitizen says:

    Regarding write-ins: this might be a good time to set some standards. In a city election in my town, in order to file you need 25 signatures of qualified voters. Might this be a good idea for a state election, maybe 100 and a filing fee and an apoc statement. This might have limited the chaos.

  4. Zyxomma says:

    Better luck next time, AK. Thanks, Shannyn. Depressing, but excellent, post.

  5. beth says:

    IMHO, Scott McAdams and the DNC missed a golden opportunity at the close of voting stations on the 2nd to lock the entire state into the ‘blue’ column for generations to come. Instead of creating a solid foundation for future Democratic candidates to work with, they just backed out and left M&M to battle it out — they left the RNC and the Baggers having the last word.

    Had McAdams filed suit on the 4th or 5th to get, basically, what Miller is now suing for, the DNC would’ve been seen as the enforcer of straight-up *integrity* in the voting process….no matter the outcome! They’d have been viewed now, and in the future, as The Party more concerned with the fact that “It’s [truly] about Alaska” than with any petty spats, political/personal ambitions, and/or personal desires. It would’ve shown McAdams as a true and fair fighter *for* ALL Alaskans. And, putting himself ‘above’ the politics of the moment, McAdams (and the DNC) would’ve laid the groundwork for him being an absolute shoe-in for ANY political position he ran for in the state. Ever.

    Unfortunately, he –and the DNC– didn’t seize the moment. What a shame. beth.

  6. Eddie in Anchorage says:

    I suspected the corrupted balloting process when 60% of Third Judicial District voters were reported to have voted Yes to retain a judge who had recently got his second DUI conviction.

    Oh wait, Anchorage and Wasilla are in the Third District. Never mind.

  7. Viapops says:

    My out-of-state college attending son requested an absentee ballot and while he managed to receive plenty of election flyers almost immediatedly following the request he never received the most important piece of mail- the ballot itself.

  8. SendLawyersGunsAndMoney says:

    Miller, Murkowski, both bat-s**t idiots. One’s bad, the other worse. I haven’t had faith since pre-2000. Move on, nothing to see here.

  9. fishingmamma says:

    I certainly hope that Leas-a does not take this outcome as a mandate from the people of Alaska. She must know that many of the votes she got were not FOR her; They were AGAINST Miller.

    I would like to see an audit of the election, without it, the results are not trustworthy.

    The state requires every organization that recieves grant money to have an annual financial audit to ensure that they are good stewards of the state’s money. The state should be held to the same standard. I would like to see the legislature require an outside firm (not an ANCSA corporation) audit the voting process.

  10. Moose Pucky says:

    It is troubling that Goldbelt Security Services was in charge of transporting ballots, considering the high profile of Native Corporations in this race.

  11. Moose Pucky says:

    Division of Elections has not updated their website count of votes since November 2nd. Anybody know why??? Hard to really analyze the results this way.

  12. Angela says:

    The sad thing is, if the roles were reversed Joe Miller would not want all the ballots for Murkowski hand counted. All of them only want what is best for them. If they cared about what the voters really wanted, he might contest “Murkowshit” but not “Murkowski, Lisa”. He only wants to win and voter rights or intent mean nothing to him, as they probably don’t to any other person running for office, winning is everything.

  13. Moose Pucky says:

    Voter registration lists need to be updated (to remove folks who have died or moved away). This way we could get a report of percentage of voter turnout that is somewhat accurate. Current lists are pathetically outdated.

    It is reasonable to ask, this year especially, that voter registration lists/check-ins be matched with the number of votes recorded in each precinct.

    Division of Elections has changed the rules of the election process daily this year, because the Republican incumbent was the write-in candidate. This Alaska has allowed to slide–and has been even given the blessing of the Alaska Supreme Court. Poll workers/poll watchers had no clear consistent rules across the State.

    Lisa has announced herself the winner. But, yes, it’s all rather smelly–for many reasons.

  14. Kenrick says:

    There is an update about what the state implemented from the University of Alaska recommendations here:

  15. zyggy says:

    I can understand that something besides the tideflats smelling when it come to tallying of the votes, but all the write ins were counted by hand.

    • Tom says:

      The write-in ballots WERE NOT counted by hand. They were sorted between unchallenged count, challenged count, challenged not counted. Once sorted, the ballots were fed into the Diebold Accuvote Optical Scanner.

  16. No tea! says:

    If Miller wasn’t go guano crazy, I’d sympathize with him. I don’t want that guy getting in to DC; he’s unstable. I know it is about Alaska, but since it is about out state, I don’t want him in.

  17. Irishgirl says:

    Well, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Miller forces them to do a hand count and McAdams wins!

  18. Kimosabe says:

    And canada is a small enuf country to have a hand count. And, they do, even in national elections. Canadian friends, correct me please if that is wrong.

  19. Dee says:

    Commission a study at UAA or UAF, compare margin of error of hand counts vs Diebold machines. Graduate students consistently perform the numerical gruntwork upon which research papers are published.

  20. Laurie says:

    This is the kind of thing that makes it hard to have confidence in our system. All of the problems with our various voting machines and systems were brought to light after the 2000 election. Yet we did nothing to make our systems better.

  21. SandraB says:

    Thanks for continuing with this information. To me, unless the voting process is legal, fair and transparent it negates our democratic process. People are so vested in Joe v. Lisa I think they forgot to look at the process. I hope our elected officials will at least try to fix this process before the next statewide election.

  22. ks sunflower says:

    Guess we have to wait to see what Miller does. He said he’d concede if the math didn’t work in his favor. Hmm, anyone know how good his math skills are?

    BTW, AKM, I agree with you. Election reform must begin at the ballot box first and foremost. Then we can tackle the money end. If people don’t trust the system, the system is toast.

  23. Reluctantly (because I fear an outcome that might make Joe Miller our Senator) I agree with this article.

  24. Evelyn says:

    Excellent. Accurate results are more important that quick results. Let’s go back to the hand count.
    600 people sign for a ballot, 600 numbered ballots are used, candidate totals don’t exceed 600. So simple. I hope Joe Miller spends a fortune getting this resolved.

    • datelma says:

      The problem is that it won’t be Joe paying for the recount, it will be Alaskans. Perhaps this issue should be solved between elections. After all, Joe didn’t have a problem with the machines when he won the primary.

  25. Dagian says:

    “I’m not buying it. We are a small enough state that we should have hand counts. Based upon Alaska’s documented and nefarious election history, we should, at the very least, be able to perform a basic audit of any precinct. We should able to review the summary report, signed by poll workers detailing total ballots received, total ballots cast, total ballots spoiled, leftover ballots and compare that to the poll tape and signed voter registry.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. Of course, I think that a hand count is the gold standard for every election and if there is a dispute, it is to be done. Getting it right counts for more than what it may cost in dollars and cents.

    • WhichTruth says:

      We need to know we can trust the count, no matter who wins.

      • Dagian says:

        I agree–but that is true of everything that can be disputed. It happens all the time in science. Ballot-counting, by hand, as an open process is still the gold standard. It won’t be error-proof, but it’s still better than not.

        But I fervently hope that Joe Miller isn’t sent to live in my geographic location. If Alaska didn’t see fit to vote in Mr. McAdams (this time), I hope it’s not HIM.


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