Thursday, January 17, 2008

Climate Change - Comparing Candidates

This is a helpful video series that Katie Couric did comparing each candidate's views on climate change, and the solutions they have in mind.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Were the Polls Wrong? + Issue Meat

Some of the news organizations are running articles now about the problem with polls.
MSNBC.COM - Of what use are opinion polls?
Newsweek - a lengthy interview where Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll eats crow, while pointing out that polling for the Republican lead candidate was very accurate.

"We don't think that there was a flaw with the polling per se. By that I mean a sampling or methodological problem. The poll was well done. That's underscored by the fact that on the Republican side the estimates were remarkably close to what actually happened. We had McCain up by four, and he won by five. That leads us to believe there was something going on with Democratic voters in New Hampshire, and that it wasn't actually a problem with the polls themselves."

Lots of great updates by Bev Harris on the recount going forward in New Hampshire. It looks like only the democratic recount is going forward. I read somewhere that the Republican candidate Albert Howard's bank had held up the check and he missed the 3pm deadline set by Sect. of State Gardner. Can't remember where I read that, but Bev says that Howard has been cut out.

"Albert Howard, was cut out of the recount altogether. I'll write more on the details later this week."

Democracy for New Hampshire is reporting that they wil count all of the ballots by hand:

"Okay, I just got off the phone with the Sec'y of State's office; ALL ballots, from EVERY jurisdiction in New Hampshire, are being trucked to Concord for the recount. That means EVERY SINGLE BALLOT CAST will be recounted, and the PAPER ballots from the Diebold districts will be counted (as opposed to simply recounting the machine totals). The recount will commence at approx. 900am, today, at the Archives Building in Concord, located at 71 South Fruit St. Anyone in the public is welcome to come, so I suggest anyone checking in here please go down and monitor the process closely. The campaigns are allowed to name particular monitors (I imagine they get a position close enough to read the tick marks on the ballots, whereas the public just watches the process from a gallery). I'm going to notify the campaigns as best I can, but if any readers know people from inside the campaigns, please notify them and have them contact the Secretary of State's office to insure access."

And is reporting that contrary to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the exit polls were not showing Obama ahead.

"Daniel Merkle, who heads ABC News' "decision desk" -- ...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."

On another front - once the voting starts the emphasis on whose ahead or behind becomes overwhelming. So I'm going to try to put up links that emphasize policy issues.
This is a good article on Obama's legislative track record.

Here are a few links about Mike Huckabee's "Fair Tax Plan". He wants to eliminate the IRS and institute a national sales tax instead. Some estimates say that the sales tax would have to be as high as 45% to raise the same amount for government services.

Here's support for the plan.
Skepticism here.
A "Fairer Fair Tax" here.

Something to consider: When we were doing research for the film, we looked into how long on average it takes to do your taxes. If I remember correctly (I'm blogging away from home) the IRS estimates it takes on average 15 hours per year. That's the same amount of time Dr. Jamieson at the Annenberg Public Policy Center told me it takes to stay informed in a Presidential campaign: 15 hours per election. I'm not saying that if Americans weren't spending all that time on tax forms they would automatically watch more debates - but I think there is a large segment of the population that is overworked and overwhelmed, and if they had a little more free time, would like to follow current events more closely.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Primary Registration Deadlines are Here

Today was the deadline to register to vote in the New York primary. Other deadlines are coming soon:

This is a link to the primary schedule, and if you scroll down the deadlines to register for each state are listed.


California Sect. of State visits New Hampshire

courtesy of Democracy for New Hampshire


Mixed Messages

I saw some data this morning for the first time that seemed to support the demographic argument that Hillary won by winning big in the big cities. Look at this chart:

Take a look at just the hand counts in small, medium & large towns.


Clinton small 33.635% Obama small 39.591%
Clinton med 34.662% Obama med 38.823%
Clinton lg 44.172% Obama lg 31.605%

I have a good deal of faith in the New Hampshire hand counts. I have seen videos of how they are done, and they seem meticulous and open. So assuming these are accurate figures - they are said to be from data at - It looks like Obama is winning in small towns, but when you get into the large towns Clinton nails him by over 12%. There were even more large towns that voted by machine, so if she maintained that spread in most of the large towns, it's easy to see how she could overcome a 4-6% he lead he might have had in small and med sized towns.

There are some odd things happening in the Republican spread however. Romney seems to be ahead in the Machine count everywhere. And Huckabee lost almost 9% points between the machine count and the hand count in large towns. That's a little strange, since, except Romney all the other candidates did about the same when comparing same size towns.

I've been up all night, and I'm beat, so please check the charts yourself, but that's what it looks like to me.

The problem is really that the huge gaping holes in the Diebold security leave room for a lot of doubt and speculation. So it's hard to ignore blog posts like this:

"Update: Some more statistics from the data shows that Obama in non-Diebold towns garnering 38.7% of the vote to Clinton's 36.2%. The results in Diebold towns show the exact opposite: Clinton with 40.7% of the vote and Obama with 36.2%. Not only are the positions swapped but the informal statistics have the second place candidate holding 36.2% in both cases, which could easily be a pure coincidence. What doesn't make a lot of sense to me right now and this could be a mathematical mistake on my part is where Clinton got the extra 2% of votes in Diebold towns. All the other numbers almost exact for every candidate, even Edwards who recieved 17% of the vote in Diebold towns compared to 17.6% in non-Diebold towns. That still doesn't make up for the extra 2% vote Clinton is receiving when she leads in certain towns compared to when Obama has the lead."

Also, Chris Matthews has acknowledged that the exit polls showed Obama ahead. That's significant, because exit polls are always considered more reliable than preliminary polls.

I think it's important that the blogosphere try to get some coverage in the main-stream media (MSM - as they're known out here). I've written a note to the BBC, part of which I'll excerpt here:

"It is important that you handle the results of the New Hampshire primary with caution and healthy skepticism...

It is very difficult to say what happened in New Hampshire. There are aspects of the election that have never faced voters here - both a woman and an African-American as serious contenders for the Presidency for the first time. So it's hard to draw conclusions. But the security problems with the voting equipment are real, and add an element of suspicion to the entire process. This is leading many voters here to view the entire election as unreliable at best, and possibly a complete facade."

I liked the idea in one of Brad's comments to get Bev Harris on Oprah. I think that could open a lot of minds. The important thing is to get rid of the machines that are owned by companies like Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S, and put reliable, transparent counting methods such as hand counting, or machines and software that are owned and well-maintained by the state (that's what they have in Oklahoma). All machine counts need to be accompanied by parallel hand-counting in the precinct on the night of the elections.

Oh Kucinich is calling for a recount, along with one Republican candidate - Albert Howard. But if you read the Bradblog, you don't need me to tell you that. Brad Friedman deserves a blogger pulitzer for his 24/7 coverage of this story. (Although the comments there have gotten unpleasantly profane). And Holy Toledo Batman! Bev Harris' Op Ed about how the recount may not give us the answers is right below The LA Times and The Boston Globe on the google news links!!!

That made my day.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hand Counts vs. Machine Counts

The difference in the results between the hand count precincts and the machine count precincts in the New Hampshire primary is worth looking at. I emphasize worth looking at. On the various blogs, people are assuming that because someone is pointing out discrepancies or asking for a recount they are claiming that the vote count was manipulated. There are actually 2 problems.

1) The actual possibility that the count has been tampered with. That is a serious and real problem, because the machines have been demonstrated to be vulnerable by a variety of computer scientists.

2) The appearance that the vote has been tampered with combined with the possibility that it could have been tampered with undermines people's confidence in the process. Fewer people participate, and the winner of the election ultimately has less legitimacy because there is the suspicion that the count was not accurate. That in itself is a serious problem.

Here is a post on the bradblog that illustrates that:

"Honestly though it really makes little to no difference whom steals what anymore as they are ALL crooked & corrupt plus the Congress is utterly worthless and clearly in the pocket of that top 2% so not a damn thing is ever going to change until we change EVERYTHING."

Here are the specifics about the hand count/machine count discrepancies:

Clinton and Romney went up in the machine count. All other candidates went down, or stayed approx the same. Why isn't it more random? Some up, some down?

Clinton by machine: 39.618%
Clinton by hand: 34.908%

Obama by machine: 36.309%
Obama by hand: 38.617%

Edwards by machine: 16.853%
Edwards by hand: 17.584%

Richardson by machine: 4.330%
Richardson by hand: 5.548%

Romney by machine: 33.075%
Romney by hand: 25.483%

Huckabee by machine: 10.560%
Huckabee by hand: 13.318%

McCain by machine: 36.766%
McCain by hand: 39.322%

Ron Paul by machine: 7.109%
Ron Paul by hand: 9.221%

The breakdown here makes it look worse.

Here is a possible demographic explanation, from about 1/2 way down the page:

Wed, 01/09/2008 - 10:11 — Anonymous (not verified)
Bullshit from a New Hampshirite

"No, no, and no. I'm a born and bred New Hampshire, one who is interested in both candidates, and I'll tell you right now: this doesn't fit the political profile of New Hampshire. We're genuinely one of the squeakiest-clean states when it comes to corruption. The big-city-rural-debate makes much more sense here. Look at the map at the NY Times on where Obama was popular--out in the western part of the state by Keene--VERY rural besides Keene--and right up the river to Canada--VERY rural, excluding Hanover, which is not really a city either. Lots of hand counting.
Take your conspiracy theories elsewhere, bub"

But other comments point out that it seems implausible that Obama did worse in the cities.

Here is a map, with the breakdown of the vote by region.


The Diebold machines that were tested and de-certified in California were the Diebold GEMS/1.18.24/AccuVote, including the AV-OS (AccuVote Optical Scan), Central Count AV-OS, AccuFeed and Smart Cards.

In New Hampshire they list there machines simply as "ACCUVOTE" and don't say what model. Diebold has a long history of saying that they were going to fix problems, and then not fixing them.

On this page you can find out more about how the machines were approved. The clip called - Diebold Vendor John Silvestro Admits Product is Defective (3.4 MB) is worth looking at.

Here is a list of the various studies showing the vulnerabilities of the Diebold systems.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Research which has this to say about hacking Diebold:

The Open voting Foundation released information on alternate booting configurations for the Diebold voting system. This includes hi-resolution picutres of the internals of the system and also show the exact jumpers to configure. According to them, a “completely legal and certified set of files can be instantly overridden and illegal uncertified code be made dominant in the system, and then this situation can be reversed leaving the legal code dominant again in a matter of minutes” — which is pretty scary. The worst part is that they say the flash could be read from a “field-added” piece of flash memory, which implies that one could run whatever they wanted on the system.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Don't Look at the Man Behind the Curtain

If you watched TV coverage you heard the commentators, trying to grapple with how the polls could have been so wrong in the Clinton/Obama race. It certainly does seem improbable that 8 well-known polls would be accurate in all races, but miss the mark on that one race by double digits in some cases. Hmmmmmmmmmmn.

About 81% of New Hampshire votes are counted by Diebold Optical Scan machines. These are the same machines that have been de-certified by California.

The Red Team is the team of expert computer scientists that was hired to hack the voting machines in California. You can read the Red Team report here to see all the ways they were able to compromise the machines. Here are a few:

(p. 10 & 11) They were able to hack the Windows platform that it runs on and access the system as an administrator. Once they had administrator access they used it to corrupt and manipulate the database, which could lead to manipulated vote totals. They were able to take these actions without being traced.

(p. 12) They were able to gain "sufficient access for an attacker to manipulate every setting on the networking devices and on the server." And then establish remote access through a wireless device.

(p. 12) "The Red Team was able alter vote totals in order to change the vote results on [the] machine."

(p.17) They summarize by saying that they were able to, "...alter vote totals, violate the privacy of individual voters, make systems unavailable, and delete audit trails.

You will find concerns about the New Hampshire vote totals at, and at, which also has an older post about how the same Diebold Optical Scan machines were hacked in 2000 in Volusia County Florida. That hack was well-documented in the media.


Hillary Lets Her Guard Down