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April 23, 2014

Indications of Malfeasance and Election Fraud Surface in Anchorage

By Jeanne Devon and Linda Kellen Biegel

Friday’s Assembly work session at the Loussac Library was a chance for Anchorage Assembly members to ask questions of the key players involved in the botched Municipal election of April 3. They’d be speaking to Gwen Matthews, Chair of the Election Commission; Barbara Gruenstein, Municipal Clerk; Jacqueline Duke, Deputy Municipal Clerk; and Dennis Wheeler, Municipal Attorney.

Validity of Votes Cast

First up was Gwen Matthew who spoke of her role checking for the validity of the votes cast. She assured the Assembly that her team was examining everything with all the tools at their disposal. No illegitimate votes would be counted, she said. There were a lot more rejected ballots than last year. Over 500 ballots have been rejected so far, with many more votes to be counted in the coming days.

Election Commissioner, Gwen Matthew

Ballots Will Be Replicated by Hand

Assemblyman Ernie Hall asked about the ballots that were photocopied for voters to use in precincts that had run out of ballots.  “Only an official ballot will run through the AccuVote machine,” Matthew said. “So those votes need to be transferred to a ballot card that runs through the machine.” This means that each photocopied ballot will have its individual selections hand-copied by someone on the Election Commission from the photocopied ballot to an official ballot.

The replicated ballot will then be scanned through the machine. No one asked why the photocopied ballots cannot simply be hand-counted, which would no doubt be faster, and leave much less room for error. These votes do not “need” to be transferred at all.

“I cannot imagine having to transfer by hand, all of those marks, and get them right. I’m a little concerned about how you validate that all those marks are transferred correctly from each one,”  Assembly member Harriet Drummond commented.

“I think Jacqueline, with the Municipal Clerk could answer that question better than I,” said Matthew. Jacqueline Duke had no answer.

The answer is that in an emergency such as the one we had last week, photocopied ballots should be allowed in all cases. Many polling places, including schools and churches, have copy machines right on the premises. Many who tried to vote were turned away, sometimes in the parking lot, and told they would be unable to vote at their regular polling place. They then went to another (sometimes two or three) other locations before being permitted to vote, or giving up along the way. Some ran out of time. Nobody should be turned away from the polls, ever. This is something the Assembly must address.

The original ballots filled out by voters are kept for only 30 days after the election is certified, and then they are destroyed.

Assembly member Ernie Hall

Chris Birch Asks the Critical Question

There were other more specific and detailed questions from every Assembly member, and all the while the Chair of the Election Commission assured them, and us, that the vote was in good hands. Nobody would be missed. Every vote would be painstakingly scrutinized. She wanted the vote to be “100% accurate.” And she might have seemed credible if it hadn’t been for Chris Birch, who finally asked the question that has needed to be asked since 2004.

Matthew’s answer to Birch’s question flew under the radar of many there, but for anyone who has been following issues of Alaska election integrity, it was jaw-dropping, and seriously calls into question Matthew’s believability and integrity.

Birch - I just had a question kind of on the functionality of the hardware – the Diebold scanning units. As I recall, they were secured by the state in about 2002. It kind of went through a statewide process, through the Lt. Governor’s office. I know when I personally voted, it kicked out my ballot a couple times. And I know from having familiarity with laptops, and computers and stuff, you know… things from 2002, 10 or 11 years later sometimes the technology can get pretty outdated. So, I just wanted to know, as a Commission, do you have any engagement with the hardware side of this, the functionality of the scanning equipment?

Matthew - Well, I happen to have been Chairman of the AccuVote testing board for this, (laughs) so I do. Those are amazing machines – utterly amazing. You… they print out everything. It is impossible for them to go haywire. You can put it in any way – front, back – sometimes if it doesn’t read you just turn it over and put it in. We have tested each and every one of those machines, every year, and um, we run tapes, and double-check and just like at the commission, two people work at the same time. They are highly accurate. I think that I could almost say that they’re totally accurate. I’ve never found a discrepency.

Birch - Well, that’s good to understand. What is that bounce-back – you know, when you feed it in and it kind of kicks back, and that seemed to be a recurring issue.

Matthew - Occasionally there are marks on the side, in the margin… those little dots that are on the side of the margin is what they read, and um, sometimes it’s bent or torn, or there’s a stray mark that’ll kick it back. But it also records… it also tells you on the front of the machine what is the problem. Like perhaps it’s an over-voted race, perhaps they voted twice in the same candidacy, or under-voted and it will tell you – um – it’s a very smart machine.

 

Brad Friedman, award-winning investigative journalist and noted election integrity expert, responded to Ms. Matthew’s description of the Diebold AccuVote scanners. “Anybody who says it’s “impossible” for these machines to fail either knows absolutely nothing about how these machines work or is simply lying. I don’t know Ms. Matthew, so I won’t guess which one of those two things is true, but I promise you one of them is.”

Let’s have a little recap of what Matthew described as a “very smart machine” to fully understand why her answer is literally unbelievable. The state began using Diebold AccuVote scanners in 2002.

“A Very Smart Machine”

After the 2004 election, the Division of Elections posted the vote totals out on their website. They posted both a “statewide summary,” and the breakdown of the House district votes. But when vote totals of individual districts were added up, the total didn’t match the statewide summary total. Here are a couple examples:

  • George Bush received 190,889 votes according to the statewide summary. But, if you added up all the House district votes, he received 292,268 – a difference of 101,379 votes.
  • Lisa Murkowski  received 226,992 votes according to the statewide summary, but only 149,446 if you added up all the House district votes – a difference of 77,546 votes.
  • Precincts across Alaska were reporting voter turnout exceeding 200%.

The Democratic Party (ADP) asked the Division of Elections (DoE) to explain what had happened and what the correct totals were. They couldn’t. Then, they asked if the Division of Elections could simply turn over the data. They refused.

By the spring of 2006, David Shoup, an attorney specializing in civil litigations representing the ADP, asked for the DoE to turn over the central tabulator file which is the device that actually tabulates all the vote totals from the GEMS (Global Election Management System) database. This is public information, and a matter of public record. We the people already own this information, we just wanted a copy of it.

The State refused stating the information was proprietary to Diebold. When it was pointed out that all the information they said was proprietary to Diebold was readily available on the internet, they changed their reason. Citing a post-9/11 code, they said they were withholding the information because it posed a “security risk.” A judge wasn’t buying this new reason, and the State couldn’t adequately explain how turning over vote data was a security risk. Finally, the ADP sued the state in the spring of 2006, and the state was forced to turn over the information.

They discovered that when individuals entered the totals from the voting machines into the GEMS database, there was no code or key indicating who had entered the votes, or where they were coming from. The username in each case was “admin” and the password was “password.” The votes could never be reconciled, and we would never know why the numbers didn’t add up. And it got worse.

“One of the things we discovered ,” Shoup said to a shocked studio audience of the TV show Moore Up North, “was that you could hack into the GEMS database from a phone in Cleveland, and insert votes into it for an Alaska election.”

These are the very same ballot scanners that we use today, and that were used in the 2012 Municipal election.

 Machines “Routinely Miscount Votes”

Friedman had more to say about Matthew’s assertions that the AccuVote was virtually infallible.

“To say they are “totally accurate” is simply astounding to hear from an election official who claims to understand these machines. Diebold themselves have admitted, time and again, that the machines routinely miscount votes, drop entire sets of ballots from the count without notifying the operator, can be rigged in such a way that pre-election testing won’t reveal the tampering, and can have their entire “audit logs” deleted (to hide any such gaming) without notice to the administrator. Worse, in addition to all of the above, they can also be gamed by insiders in such a way that no testing in the world would reveal.”

There are many reports of problems with Diebold machines, and in particular the AccuVote scanner and software. An optical scan system using the same technology as ours recently declared the wrong winners in Palm Beach county Florida in several races. Those races were ultimately settled by hand count.

Defensive Duke

During the Question-And-Answer period with the Municipal Clerk’s Office, it was clear that the member of the office in charge of the election, Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke was quite defensive. Each Assembly Member who attempted to establish a clear timeline of events for April 3rd seemed to end up frustrated. The session generated more questions than it answered. It was especially confusing when they attempted to determine who was giving the marching orders that “troubleshooters” were relaying to the voters. Ms. Duke claimed that she did not tell them to send voters away…or to absentee ballot polls UAA or the Airport…when the ballots ran out at 53 precincts. However, Lindsey Spinelli, assistant to Mayor Sullivan, must have felt comfortable enough with that information to post it on the Mayor’s Facebook Page at 6:44 pm:

And then to post an hour later that they should wait for ballots:

When asked by Assemblywoman Harriet Drummond why the Mayor’s Facebook page posted those instructions, Ms. Duke had no explanation.

In Jacqueline Duke’s sometimes feisty exchange with members of the Assembly – in particular Bill Starr and Debbie Ossiander -  she made one thing quite clear…she personally conducted the training sessions for election night poll workers this year.

Jacqueline Duke, Deputy Municipal Clerk

Bombshell

Duke’s training of the election night poll workers made election worker Wendy Isbell’s revelation regarding her poll worker training even more shocking.

In an interview with The Mudflats, Isbell said that she had attended one of the training sessions for the 2012 Municipal election workers, and she has worked as one for four years. She was well aware of the instructions in the election book, given to every poll worker, especially the one regarding the seal in front of the memory card of each Diebold voting machine (Accu-Vote Opening Instructions on page 7, Step 5 #2):

Isbell claims that the verbal instructions coming from the trainer, now determined  to be Jacqueline Duke (by Duke herself), were quite different. According to Isbell, Duke told the trainees at the session she attended that (paraphrasing) ‘if the seal over the memory card was broken when they picked up the Accu-Vote machine they should not be concerned. The seals break all the time.’ Further, Isbell states that the seal on the Diebold machine for her precinct was, in fact, broken.

Other than the fact that the verbal instructions Wendy Isbell alleges directly contradict the 2012 Elections Manual, such lax security has been known in other states to leave the machines open to all kinds of mischief.

It is also interesting to note that in the diagram of the Accu-Vote machine in the MOA Elections Manual, the location of the important memory card seal is nowhere to be found:

Election Fraud?

When asked to comment on the broken seals, Brad Friedman stated emphatically

“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.

To get a full understanding of why security seals must be intact, take a look at the final scene of HBO’s Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy. Alaskans may recognize the voting machine being tested. It’s our very own Diebold AccuVote scanner – the one that Election Commissioner Gwen Matthew called “utterly amazing” and “highly accurate.” The security seal is the piece of metal that holds the memory card in the vote scanner. A broken seal means there is no guarantee the card stayed in the machine untouched, before arriving at the polls. And this is what can happen.

 

The issue of how many ballots were printed, and location of ballots is a critical piece to this puzzle, but it is not the only thing that needs to be investigated. Nothing else really matters if we are faced with elections where there is no way of proving that the results are accurate. Anchorage should demand:

1) An independent investigation of the election to determine why 53 of 121 polling places ran out of ballots, where the ballots were stored, why they were not at polling locations, why the troubleshooters were late in responding,  and many other questions concerning the logistics of the vote.

2) A full audit and recount by hand of paper ballots, and the chain of custody of those ballots.

3) Clarification that photocopied ballots are acceptable, and should be the first step taken in such an emergency. It is never acceptable to turn voters away from their polling place.

4) Based on facts known, the Assembly needs to demand that we no longer use the faulty, and easily compromised equipment we are currently using. The most accurate and honest way to count a vote is the old-fashioned way – by hand. Anchorage (and Alaska as a state) is perfectly capable of performing an open and transparent hand count of ballots. It is cheaper, more accurate, and allows the public to have confidence in the most critical process of our democracy.

5) An investigation of the Clerk’s Office and the allegation that poll workers were instructed to ignore machines with broken seals.

And, finally:

5) A new election.

There is no way of knowing how many voters were disenfranchised at the polls, how many gave up and went home, how many were told by friends not to bother, how many ran out of time racing from polling place to polling place, etc. Even a hand recount is only as good as the chain of custody of the ballots this long after the election.  Easily tampered-with machines that arrived at polling places with broken seals are enough to render any results meaningless.

It is critical for conscientious citizens to demand an accurate and thorough vote count, and to question any result that relies on this equipment. The Democratic Party was right to question it in 2004, and 2006.  Joe Miller was right to question it in 2010. The Anchorage Assembly is right to question it in 2012.

The Municipality is in the position to be able to demand answers, and to change the way we do business on election day. This change is far easier to make on the Municipal level than on the state level. It is absolutely critical to contact the Assembly (wwmas@muni.org), share your concerns with them and tell them what you want them to do. This isn’t about who won or lost. Democracy only works when it works for everyone.

 

 

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Comments
39 Responses to “Indications of Malfeasance and Election Fraud Surface in Anchorage”
  1. Really? says:

    Several years ago I was a juror in a DUI case. A couple of jurors thought there was something wrong with the way the Data Master was programed. The bac. reading from the Data Master was so different than the hand-held bac reading that the jury decided not to convict the accused.I remember one of the jury members just could not believe we thought the State of Alaska would have “broken machinery”. 18 months later I read in the Fairbanks Newminer that the State of Alaska found out that the Data Masters
    had been programed wrong and “they” were going to fix them. All of the DUI cases that included someone using the Data Master for the previous 2 years were able to be re-evaluated.
    I hope the State of Alaska’s “vote counting machines “are programed and working correctly very soon so the citizens of Anchorage can have a fair and equal re-vote.

  2. Dale Sheldon-Hess says:

    Just a point on naming: Diebold is no longer a voting machine company. They still make ATMs and such, but the voting machine division was sold to a company called Premiere, and Premiere was purchased by a company called Dominion.

    The crap machines we have a still labeled Diebold, but the company that you want to be yelling at, the company that maintains and services these things, they company that fights to keep them certified, is Dominion. http://www.dominionvoting.com/

  3. Man_from_Unk says:

    Alaska is a crooked state and to have implications of “Election Fraud” in it’s largest city is not surprising. It’s common place out here in Rural Alaska especially when there is millions of dollars to control.

  4. Simple MInd says:

    It is a sad, but true, fact about most politicians that they do not respond to persuasion or even a conviction of what is right. They respond to pressure – publicity, a fear of losing votes. Begin writing an email or leaving a message with your assemblyperson several times a week, even every day. Get friends to do it. Whatever. Start writing and calling our state representatives, even our federal ones. Sure, they don’t have direct jurisdiction but they can bring pressure. (Although Voting fraud is a federal issue as well as a local one.) My point is that unless forced to act, the Assembly will be more comfortable shoving this issue into Wheeler’s in-box for a few months in the hopes that it will quiet down.

  5. Audrey says:

    I wrote an email to all of the Assembly members only two responded Patrick Flynn and Elvi Gray-Jackson. funny thing about that neither of them are My assembly person.

    “Please consider a redo of the April 3,2012 election. If we do not have the right to vote what do we have? Voting for our leaders is our nations way. There are far to many questions than there are answers. Was there 70% ballots even ordered? Did Mr. Minnery influence illegal actions with his email? We as citizens expect clean and transparent election process. Voters unable to vote at their polling place, sent driving all over town for ballots, the clerk and other city officials laughing it off. Really….My youngest son turned 18 last year he asked me so tell me again why I need to vote and what does it matter? Please do your job. ” My question why has the mainstream media ignored Mr. Minnery’s actions….. he should not be given a pass he should be prosecuted.

  6. Kelly says:

    MUST WATCH!

    This video proves that the central tabulator software-GEMS- was written with malicious software code ON PURPOSE for the sole purpose of throwing elections and covering your tracks. It’s a bit dry and the audio is a bit of a challenge. But this is worth 15 minutes of your time to see how the main diebold software at elections HQ is hacked!

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7262269533321066760

  7. BarbaraB says:

    Almost 500 names on an online petition calling for an independent review of the municipal election Add your name http://signon.org/sign/independent-review-of?source=s.em.cr&r_by=464805&mailing_id=3416

  8. leenie17 says:

    I just watched the video on the Diebold machines. WHY are these machines not illegal throughout the country? They’ve been proven, over and over, by reputable, non-partisan researchers to be easily hackable.

    Why is anyone still using them and, worse, still buying them after all the problems other states and municipalities have had???

  9. David Otness says:

    Good job and yes this does have statewide and national implications.
    The history of these machines and the fact their manufacturer is a strident neo-con Republican only
    sickens the plot. How GW won Ohio in 2006 comes to mind.
    We need to be done with these travesties because what I have been saying about the Republican rule
    book is borne out more every day that slips away:
    Rule # 1—There are no rules when it comes to taking and holding power.
    Remember Watergate?
    Spiro Agnew?
    Richard Milhouse Nixon?
    Frank Bank and Jim Clark?
    The Corrupt Bastards Club?
    Republicans to a fault as cheating is their default.

  10. WhichTruth says:

    My gut feeling is to throw this election out and start over.

  11. Ndjinn says:

    Man. I coulda brought my hacker card if I had known they weren’t checking the memory seals..

  12. juneaudream says:

    Having read moi way through this..I am..grinning. Sad situations occur..but..the …finding of missteps/ommisions/and ‘paper-panky’..leads to ..even more light..brought to bear. Way..to go!!

  13. Lancaster York says:

    It’s probably just an odd coincidence, but the Assistant Clerk J. Duke, graduated with honors from Heritage Christian Academy in 1998.

    You’ll never guess who used to be the President of the Board of Directors of that school up until 2002….

    http://commerce.alaska.gov/CBP/Main/CorpDocumentViewer.aspx?r=40460&v=264491&d=163861

    And I’m sure it’s just another coincidence……but here’s another odd link.

    The husband of the woman above, Richard, is listed as a participant in the 2011 Heart Run with with the woman who ran the election for ESS, Mona McAleese.

    Weird, I know….

    http://www.upandrunningak.com/results/mat2mat.pdf

  14. JeanneF. says:

    Great reporting! Returning to the standard written and hand counted ballots for our next election is definitely the way to go. I am in disbelief that the clerk’s office actually hand writes/transfers the bubbles from the original ones to a new ballot that can be scanned. Next article title suggestion: How to rig an election 101.

  15. Stephen Gingrich says:

    The people on the eight member election commission are nominated by the Mayor and approved by the Assembly. Their only role is ballot counting. They are not investigators.

    Under Mayor Mark Begich, the staff person in charge of elections was a full time position, competently filled by Lupe Marroquin. Sullivan has reduced this to a part time position.

    • AKMuckraker says:

      Actually it’s even worse – the full time position still exists and is fully-funded in the budget, but it sits vacant!! Those in charge of filling that spot are Gruenstein and Duke.

      Sullivan is not in the picture here, although if he were, I’m sure the result would be the same.

  16. Sourdough Mullet says:

    Wow. I hope this gets wide circulation to stress the need for election reform at every level. And it’s just so fitting that it’s the Sullivan administration caught with their pants down – rotten to the core, and just so brazenly transparent (ie: stoopid).
    On the bright side, it does answer the question of who Shannyn’s creepy stalker guy is, and why he’s following her around the grocery store. Clearly he’s a Diebold hit man, moonlighting as a grocery checkout scanner repairman. He’s following her to see what she’s buying, and next week, she’ll be paying $49.95 for a quart of milk and will have to put bread on layaway.

  17. Simple MInd says:

    Every person out there in Anchorage (and elsewhere) should ask their representatives repeatedly, “Why, in one of the most technologically advanced nations on Earth, can’t a small municipality hold a simple election with assurance of an accurate vote count?”. This is an embarrassment. Why, when everyone from the Department of Energy to college students to basement bloggers have shown that the Diebold machines are easily hacked are we calling them “amazing” and that it is “impossible” for them to fail? Why, when we are talking about less than 100,000 ballots, aren’t we just hand-counting the damn things? This is your vote. This is the foundation of our entire democracy. Why, Mr. and Ms. Assemblypersons, are we tolerating such a clown show?

    • Bigtoe says:

      Exactly. The citizens of this state, hell any place Diebold is involved, is not being served well. Diebold, and any other electronic voting devices, keeps getting a pass, it seems, because they are able to convince politicians of their infallibility. Whether or not something nefarious is happening, the appearance of such should send up the red flags and our public representatives should behave in a manner that instills confidence in the electorate that democracy is being practiced. If that means a little slower but more accurate hand count, then so be it. I can wait.

  18. Moose Pucky says:

    If Anchorage cannot have an election process that can be trusted, Alaska cannot have an election process that can be trusted for any office.

    • Kelly says:

      HERE HERE! We need to do what should have been done after the frauded 2004 statewide election. DE-CERTIFY DIEBOLD! If Anchorage, as Alaska’s largest borough, dumps Diebold, the state will have to find another way to count the votes this fall.

    • Man_from_Unk says:

      Perhaps Anchorage is just copying what Rural Alaska people have been enduring since statehood. It’s common out here.

  19. WinBeach says:

    Follow the money. That’s what it’s all about.

    When Ms Duke was put in charge of the elections just after Sullivan became mayor 3 yrs ago, she was asked by some poll workers if their supplies could contain two calculators–because a lot of figuring is needed at the end of any election day to see if ballots signed for equal the number torn off the packets, and other calculations such as figuring in spoiled and questioned ballots. Election workers are very tired after 14 hrs of work so two calculators are really about accuracy at that time of the day.

    Ms Duke said, “No, we have to keep costs down.”

    Remember, when Sullivan ran the first time he was all about costs AND he said he wanted to hire younger blood–meaning a number of things, but foremost that they probably cost less to hire and might bring new ideas. I’ll buy the new ideas, but not without clear oversight by people who know the ropes and with historical perspective, especially in things like elections.

    In all fairness there have been improvements in the elections accountability forms that the elections office produces for the poll workers, as well as organization of the supplies (it makes a big difference after 14+ hrs of work). And there are now two calculators in the supply packets.

    My question is–were the sample ballots that were then transferred to readable ballots, double checked by a second person before they were put into the machine? They should have.

    I want to know who formats the machines’ software–that’s my biggest question.

  20. Hooray – I have been eagerly awaiting your definitive post on this issue. I was only there for a few minutes, but was sitting close to Ms. Duke and was amazed at her body language and facial expressions. Disdain would be the word. How long has she been in that position and who hires that position?

    • bucsfan says:

      Can anyone tell me what Jacqueline Duke’s professional backround is? What did she do before becoming Deputy Municipal Clerk that made her qualified for that position? I understand the Mayor has the right to appoint people, but given Diamond Dan’s history of cronyism, I would really like to know what her qualifications are.

  21. AKjah says:

    I am sticking with the colored rocks. Why the AnchoRAGE voters are not out in the streets is sad.

    • Kelly says:

      Because we’re busy emailing and calling our elected representatives and showing up at work meetings and assembly meetings and city hall!

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  1. [...] (wait for it)… overseeing the Division of Elections. What could possibly go wrong? (Click HERE to see what could possibly go [...]

  2. [...] insufficient amount of ballots were circulated to the various precincts? After all, according to The Mudflats more than 500 ballots have been tossed out, amid allegations that poll workers were instructed to [...]

  3. [...] Mudflats reported Sunday about an interview with election worker Wendy Isbell about instructions given by Jacqueline Duke to [...]



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