Friday, October 24, 2003

Mysterious Vote Shifting Led To 2000 Election Call For Bush

If you strip away the partisan rancor over the 2000 election, you are left with the undeniable fact that a presidential candidate conceded the election to his opponent based on a second card (card #3) that mysteriously appeared, subtracted 16,022 votes from Al Gore, and in some still undefined way, added 4,000 erroneous votes to George W. Bush, then, just as mysteriously, disappears.

Black Box Voting reveals for the first time that it was the Volusia and Brevard County anomalies that caused TV networks to call the election for Bush. An internal document from CBS, combined with timelines and interviews from Agence France-Presse and internal Diebold memos show that:

- A replacement set of votes was uploaded on the Diebold machines (then called Global Election Systems) in Volusia County about one hour after the original votes.

- The original votes were on “copy 0” of the memory card containing the vote database. The replacement votes were tagged to a “copy 3.”

- According to an internal memo written by Diebold Election Systems Sr. V.P. of Research and Development Talbot Iredale, the second set of votes should not have been done and may have been “unauthorized.”

- In the replacement vote set, totals for all races were correct except for the presidential race.

- According to CBS documents, the erroneous 20,000 votes in Volusia was directly responsible for calling the election for Bush.

- Brevard County, Florida also used Global Election Systems (now Diebold) voting machines. Brevard omitted 4,000 votes for Gore from its tally, which contributed to the decision by the networks to call for Bush.

- The two erroneous county totals came directly from the central tabulating system for the county. The GEMS program is Diebold’s central tabulation software.

One journalist was doing his job correctly that night: Ed Bradley, a CBS correspondent best known for his work on “60 Minutes.” Bradley sounded alarm bells over discrepancies in the data, but no one paid attention to him. CBS also ignored independent data from The AP; had CBS and the other networks used AP data instead of Voter News Service (VNS), they would not have called the election for Bush.

The election was first called by Fox analyst John Ellis, who had earlier conferred with his two cousins, George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Ellis was privy to the numbers from VNS, and presumably knew the margin that would be required in order to call the election.

During the evening, a 55,000-vote spread evaporated into just hundreds of votes.

Al Gore called George W. Bush around 3:15 a.m. and conceded the election. Between 3:30 and 3:45, he boarded a motorcade to make a public concession. Votes were melting away at a rate of some 5,000 every 15 minutes, and Ed Bradley from CBS was telling everyone in sight that someone needed to check the figures. When Gore was two blocks from Memorial Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee, where he planned to issue a formal concession, word of the disappearing votes reached him.

He chose not to concede: Thus we had a recount in Florida.

If this isn’t disturbing enough, consider these three points:

1) We don’t know if this is an isolated incident. It may have occurred in other locations in smaller, less spectacular totals
2) The errors were correctable because paper ballots existed.
3) The fact that “negative votes” could be applied to a candidate’s total demonstrates such a fundamentally flawed software model that it calls into question the competence and integrity of the programmers, the company and the certification process itself.

According to the memo from Talbot Iredale, there were two uploads from two different cards.

• The votes were uploaded on the same port approxiately 1 hour apart.
• Only one memory card was supposed to have been uploaded.
• “Copy 0” uploaded some votes.
• “Copy 3” replaced the votes from “Copy 0” with its own.
• Iredale believes the second one is the one that caused the problem.
• The “problem”: 16,022 negative votes for Al Gore

I uncovered an 87-page report called “CBS News Coverage of Election Night 2000: Investigation, Analysis, Recommendations prepared for CBS News.”

According to the CBS News report: “These 24,000 votes would have nearly eliminated the 30,000-vote final Bush margin the CBS News Decision Desk has estimated. There would have been no call if these errors had not been in the system.”

Breakdown of the 24,000 votes: [20,000 from Volusia -- 16,022 negative votes for Gore and 4000 erroneous votes for Bush, plus 4000 omitted votes for Gore in Brevard County, which also used GES/Diebold voting machines.

According to the CBS report, “the call for Bush was based entirely on the tabulated county vote” [i.e., GEMS or equivalent programs]. “There were several data errors that were responsible for that mistake. The most egregious of the data errors has been well documented. Vote reports from Volusia County.”

“The mistakes ... which originated with the counties, were critical,” says the report. “They incorrectly increased Bush’s lead in the tabulated vote from about 27,000 to more than 51,000. Had it not been for these errors, the CBS News call for Bush at 2:17:52 AM would not have been made.”


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