Skip to content

Michigan Had 84,290 Unregistered Blank Votes: Stein Requests A Recount While Trump Argues Those 84,000 People Are Too Expensive To Count

December 2, 2016

Michigan elections are always fraught for me, given that our campaign finance laws  allow judicial candidates to be bought, judicial opinions to be bought, legislators to be bought, well, you get the picture. I have always suspected Michigan ballots of being not quite accurate, because I have voted for years in local and national elections here, and I have been lectured by poll workers on the types of ballots the machines won’t count. \

For instance, if a ballot line isn’t colored in darkly enough with a blue or black pen, which required coloring to connect an arrow, the ballot won’t be read. If someone has too many blank spaces using a fine-tipped pen instead of a marker, the ballot won’t be counted. If someone makes a mistake and colors in a “party affiliation,” but then votes against party for one candidate, the ballot won’t be counted. And the only parties to choose from are Democrat or Republican sometimes, not Green Party. To make matters even more confusing, due to the demographics, often elections are uncontested, so voting by party often means that someone can’t vote in local elections, if they happen to be on the ballot, and this is determined by county.

It’s enough to make a person’s head spin, but it’s also enough to call for a recount. Michigan had 80,ooo “blank” votes, or ballots that the machines didn’t read, and since Donald Trump only won by 10,000 votes, this could swing the election results in another direction.

Trump’s party discounts this assertion that 80,000 votes are important, when Trump only won by 10,000 votes in Michigan:

Trump spokesman Jason Miller referred Monday to the recount as “nonsense,” noting that Clinton conceded to Trump and chastising reporters for “chasing the shiny object.

“I really do think it’s ridiculous that so much oxygen has been given to the recount effort when there’s absolutely no chance of any election results changing. This election’s been decided,” Miller told reporters on a call.

That “shiny object” may well be an electoral college victory, and that “shiny object” represents 84,290 people that Trump has deemed unimportant.

Why were there 80,000 blank votes? Voting machine irregularities and not making a dark enough line could account for it. Here is a sample of the ballot instructions from the Michigan.gov website:

 

TO VOTE: Completely darken the oval opposite each choice as shown: Marking optical scan ballot that uses ovals
– OR –
TO VOTE: Complete the arrow opposite each choice as shown: Image: Marking optical scan ballot that uses arrows

It would be very easy to mis-mark. I have been lectured about how to mark the ballots, and even I am not always sure if my pen is dark enough. How does one know if the pen is dark enough until a vote is scanned, and then you can’t change it. I vote every time not knowing if my vote was counted because of my pen or marker. If a marker dries out some, does that make the vote invalid? If a tree falls in forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

Here are Michigan’s instructions for completing its ballots:

IMPORTANT: To mark your ballot, use only a black or blue ink pen. DO NOT USE ANY OTHER INK COLOR!

PARTISAN SECTION: To vote the partisan section of the ballot, you may cast a “straight ticket,” a “split ticket” or a “mixed ticket.”

Straight Ticket: Vote the party of your choice. Nothing further need be done in the partisan section.

Split Ticket: You may vote a straight ticket AND vote for individual candidates of your choice.

Mixed Ticket: Vote for the individual candidates of your choice in each office. NONPARTISAN and PROPOSAL SECTIONS of the ballot (if any) must be voted

separately.
DO NOT vote for more candidates than indicated under each office title.

WRITE-IN CANDIDATES: To vote for a candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot, write or place the name of that candidate in the blank space provided and (completely darken the oval) or (complete the arrow). This must be done even if you cast a straight party vote. Do not cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name is already printed on the ballot for that office.

CHECK BOTH SIDES OF BALLOT: This ballot has two sides. Be certain to check the reverse side of the ballot.

WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED VOTING: Place the ballot in the secrecy sleeve so that votes cannot be seen and the numbered stub is visible. Return the ballot to the election official stationed at the tabulator. (If voting by absentee ballot, follow the instructions provided by the clerk for returning the ballot.)

NOTE: If you make a mistake, return your ballot to the election official and obtain a new ballot. Do not attempt to erase or correct any marks made in error.

How would a voter even know if a mistake had been made? How would a voter know to request a new ballot? I have requested a new ballot when I made a mistake, but I was yelled at for it. There were shouts across the room about how I needed a new ballot, about what to do with my mistake, which entailed dropping my marker and leaving a line across the page, and another time for doing “straight party,” when I wanted to vote against that in local elections.

Does the ES &S 100 model offer the same voting instructions as the Michigan.gov voting instructions? In short, no. The voting machine manufacturer differs in its voting instructions, stating that a specialized marker must be used to make votes be counted, something the Michigan government doesn’t specify in its instructions to voters:

A carbon ink-based felt-tip marking pen which produces a mark of adequate reflectivity is the preferred marking instrument in the polling place. The reflectivity specifications of such markers, as well as the manufacturers thereof, are available from ES&S. A Number 2 lead pencil can also be used.

It would be stupid if different pens or pencils made an 84,000 vote mistake, but maybe it happened.

Because there are a shocking number of unallied votes, the Election Board, made up of 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats, approved the recount. Since Michigan never performs an audit unless it’s asked, no one knew before about the 80,000 uncounted votes.

Here are Michigan election stats for past years:

There is a huge uptick in uncounted votes.

According to Stein’s legal team, a hand recount is the only way to assure that the 80,000 votes get counted:

Stein has suggested Michigan had a “sky-high number of blank votes,” which is why she plans to pursue a recount of the Nov. 8 results. Stein received 51,463 votes, or about 1.1 percent, of the ballots cast in the presidential election.

Trump edged Clinton 47.6 percent to 47.4 percent of the vote, while Libertarian Gary Johnson finished third with 3.6 percent. Approximately 84,290 ballots were cast in the election without votes in the presidential contest.

Lass said the recount would show whether any of those ballots contain faintly marked ballots that were missed by Michigan’s optical-scanning machines.

There is no way to believe that 84,000 people who voted had no commentary on the 2016 Presidential Election.

I am saddened that Michigan has no auditing procedure of its own, and while Trump’s attorneys and headlines trumpet how much a recount will cost taxpayers, I am angry that these campaigns would be willing to otherwise write off 84,000 people and their votes.

“Michigan does not have an audit of the machines, so a hand recount of all of the paper ballots is the only way to make sure the machines are counting properly,” he said.

There is no way to audit the machines, so a hand count it is. I wanted to contact our clerk for information, but I won’t be able to do it before I publish this.

According to the Michigan.gov website, these are the voting machines used:

The ES&S M100 voting machines use a ballot which is compatible to use with the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal. The AutoMark Terminal offers voters with disabilities the ability to cast a ballot with greater independence.  While the AutoMARK is designed for voters with disabilities, any voter may use it, upon request.

So, I looked up “how to hack ES &S machines,” and I came up with a handy reference guide on How To Tinker:

Name Kind How hackable? Paper recountable?
The worst: remote hackable, no paper trail
AccuVote TS DRE Internet or local No
WinVote DRE Internet or WiFi or local No
iVotronic (newer models) DRE Internet? (we don’t know [Note 2]) or Local No
Pretty bad: need physical presence to hack, no paper trail
AVC Advantage 9 [Note 3] DRE Local only No
Shouptronic DRE Local only No
iVotronic (older models) DRE local No
Not so bad: Hackable remotely (in principle), but with auditable/recountable paper trail*
iVotronic with “real-time audit log” DRE with VVPAT Internet? (we don’t know [Note 2]) or local Sort of [Note 1]
Better: Hackable remotely (in principle), but has auditable/recountable paper ballots that the voter actually marked
ES&S Model 100 Optical Scan Internet? (we don’t know [Note 4]) or local Yes
ES&S DS200 Optical Scan Internet [Note 4] or local Yes
Best: Need physical presence to hack, but has an auditable/recountable paper ballots that the voter actually marked
AccuVote OS Optical Scan Local only Yes
Optech-III Eagle Optical Scan Local only Yes

For more information . . .

You can find out what voting machines are used in your state and county, and you can also find descriptions of the voting machines. And remember, those paper ballots only protect against hacking if someone actually looks at (some of) them in an audit.

Given that 84,290 votes weren’t counted in Michigan, a hand recount is the only option, and audit becomes a constitutional mandate in that people who vote should receive the right to have their votes be counted, regardless of whether or not the machinery is working correctly. An audit, at this point for Michigan, should be a mandate, not an argument.

Note that the ES &S Model 100 is used in “my county,” according to Michigan.gov, which makes me wonder how the Michigan.gov website is tracking visitors when I didn’t enter a zip code.

What does Michigan’s voting system security entail? Not much. “Security Seals” again are the form of security.

Guess what, I got onto a “Security Seals” website and I can order the seals for upwards of $40, or less, if I wanted to, and I don’t have to provide any certification. PrintElect.com has a page that confirms it provides service through 2018 for the ES &S machines. Want to see the “security seals”?

Cutest little thing ever, isn’t it? It’s $23 and has a Product ID number of 1372. Clearly this is not designed to prevent “tampering,” just supposedly alert an election official to malfeasance if  it’s missing. There is no note on Michigan’s website detailing that the safety seals are ever audited for accuracy or to alert to tampering though, so it’s not listed as standard election procedure.

The other safety seal is cheaper, but it’s just as cute.

That little beauty runs $16 and is Product ID Number 1379.

Ah, the joys of the internet to the uninitiated, namely our legislators…Trump campaign…Trump himself…

Clearly security itself isn’t a priority for Michigan. Since there is no procedure

Security Concerns

Security Seals Ideally, the M100’s exposed ports, memory card access areas, ballot box doors and case seams would be covered with tamper-evident security seals. The integrity of these seals should be maintained at all times, and only breached under controlled, explained circumstances. Seals should be logged to maintain chain of custody of sensitive materials.

Ballot Box Access Optical scan systems have at least one and possible more ballot boxes. Each ballot box should be inspected by a voter at the beginning of voting to make sure that they are empty. These ballot boxes should locked and/or be sealed with tamper-evident tape.

Memory Card is Sensitive Corrupt memory cards may be able introduce viruses, cause the main election server to crash and falsify votes. Access to the memory card should be controlled, monitored and logged at all times.

Correct Inks Some Optical Scan systems have trouble reading red inks or inks with red in them. Voters should use the writing instrument provided at the polling place or, if voting at home, black ballpoint pen that does not bleed through paper.

Keys The keys for the M100 are the same for all M100 machines and are easily pickable with readily available tools. Care should be observed around the ballot box lock and the scanner key lock (turns the system off and on).

Counterfeit Ballots It is fairly easy to frustrate the counterfeit ballot detection mechanism on the M100. People who produce counterfeit ballots could cast multiple votes and the detectability of these ballots would only depend on how close they appeared to be like the real ballot cards.

Background1

In the 1980s, the advent of simple one-dimensional sensors spawned a revolution in such applications as fax machines and page scanners. The first machine to incorporate this technology into a ballot tabulator was the American Information Systems PBC 100 scanner, later known as the Model 100. The system, which came on the market just as AIS was reorganized into ES&S, uses an Intel 80386 microprocessor to process the data from the image sensor. It reads the election configuration from a PCMCIA memory card before opening the polls. When the polls close, it records the results to the memory card and optionally transmits them by modem to the election office. As such, the PCMCIA card serves the same purposes as the memory pack used on the Optech I scanner.

I thought that maybe the PCMCIA cards would be some sort of security system, but there are PCMCIA cards of varying types available for purchase online, with eBay being the first vendor to pop up, $19.95. What does PCMCIA stand for? Some proprietary technology that is not hackable? Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, originally called PC Cards, they are designed for adding memory to computers, and according to Wikipedia, there are only tree types made. This explains why any of these memory cards are available on eBay. They are probably available on most websites, and an enterprising hacker, which I am not, could probably determine which ones fit voting machines, and since votes are stored on this PCMCIA cards, could, ostensibly, sway an election.

I am sure all of this would require some programming experience, which I don’t know of off the top of my head, and I wouldn’t know how to shop for it either; however, there are plenty of people who are talented in coding, and every university I know of has a coding program for students. I could try to run down the ease of such a thing, but I will admit I am too lazy for that much work.

Because I need things for computer software simplified, I did a basic search to see if any state governments that also use the ES & SM100 have data on the memory cards. The Secretary of State from Mississippi gives information on these memory cards, which don’t sound proprietary at all:

The Model 100 tabulator reads marks on both one and two-sided ballots. Administrators can request custom ballot acceptance criteria, which ES&S programs onto the tabulator’s election definition PC card. For example, if a jurisdiction prohibits counting blank ballots, ES&S election coders can program the Model 100 sort blank ballots out of the general ballot count until jurisdiction officials can review the ballots. With each acceptable ballot counted, the Model 100 increases the running vote totals for each race included on the election definition.

This covers blank ballots, too, of which Michigan has plenty. But, just as I suspected, Personal Computer cards, memory extension cards for any home computer, are used to store voting data. It’s not that the method for vote tabulation shouldn’t be made public, because transparency in our election process is essential to everyone accessing their Constitutional right to vote; however, I just expected security or technology to be more extensive than a simple home computer memory upgrade which any grade schooler is capable of executing.

Oh, thank goodness there is some security, which I found further down on the Mississippi page:

The Model 100 uses PC cards to store the tabulator’s election definition, audit log and other election-specific information. Data on the PC card exists in one sequential block, which is updated each time the Model 100 scans a ballot. Use PC cards with a memory capacity of 512KB (kilobytes).

NOTE: The PCMCIA card does not require it to be formatted. The card uses a block memory device and does not have to be formatted or erased as it is overlaid with a block of data with a defined length. You will need ES&S proprietary software and hardware to write, modify and read the PCMCIA card.

ES&S

HPM is used to write the election definition onto the PCMCIA card.

The M100 reads the election definition from the PCMCIA card, modifies the results and status area as ballots are tabulated and writes log entries as appropriate.

ERM is used to read the results from the PCMCIA card

There is, at least, a software block, and my understanding of that ends at deciphering ERM to possibly Enterprise Resource Management? I am not certain about this. It just sounds familiar. But, then again, what is HPM? I tried looking up the software used, but I got onto a site that listed problems with voting software, notably that one of the Carolinas reported a county in which a programming glitch meant that ballots were recounted. North Carolina, but the message was dismissed because the voting irregularity wasn’t noted at the time the man voted. I am not sure what would have been done, but there is proof that nothing was done, even when the voter reported he voted Democrat and the machine logged a vote for Trump:

The Alamance County Board of Elections will recalibrate the voting machines at the Graham early voting site after a second-hand, anonymous complaint. A man claiming to be a concerned citizen called the Times-News and said that when a friend of his attempted to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, it selected Republican candidate Donald Trump. The information was left in a voicemail with no return phone number or name of the individuals involved. Alamance County Board of Elections Director Kathy Holland said she received a similar phone call from one of the local political parties about a man claiming the machine had selected a different presidential candidate from the one he was attempting to select. No one, she stressed, has complained while voting. She said they would recalibrate the machines after voting ended Monday evening at the Youth Services Building.

Our response to them and everyone is that if they think anything is not entering correctly, before they cast their vote, they are supposed to go to the person in charge,” Holland said. “That could be the chief judge on Election Day, or site coordinator in early voting, and let them re-create what happened. We calibrate all of our machines before they go out, and that’s not to say that they can’t come out of calibration, but I’ve talked to all the workers, and I’ve not had one person to say one thing about it.” She said she and her staff tell voters never to leave their voting machine unless they are satisfied with their ballots.

It would seem best to audit the election in North Carolina, but that hasn’t happened. And, note that the person reporting the voting irregularity couldn’t have known the machine was about to malfunction, because the only proof of a machine malfunction would be an audit or test. It’s possible that voting machine had been hacked or misprogrammed, but nothing has happened except to “recalibrate” the machine, and that was at the end of the day, after it’s possible that people intending to vote for Clinton ended up voting for Trump.

NPR has a story on “flipping votes,” but says the machines aren’t rigged, just old and not recording votes correctly:

Norden thinks the real problem is that voting machines used in much of the country are old, more than 10 years in most places. The machines rely on outdated technology — some of it is from the 1990s — to calibrate the touch screens. And the hardware is starting to wear out.

“Over time, as people vote, that calibration becomes less and less accurate,” says Norden. So by the end of a long day of voting, the machines aren’t as accurate as they were in the morning. Also, the sealant that attaches the screen to the machine can deteriorate over time, which causes the screen to be misaligned.

Larry Norden, the person referenced above who is supposedly reassuring us that the hardware is just wearing out, doesn’t have any qualifying expertise to advise that the machines weren’t hacked other than “it would be a very stupid thing to do…” No, a very stupid thing to do is to use tape as a security device (See my post from yesterday:“Is Hacking An Election Possible?” Short Answer: yes, with smart phones or simple idiocy ) or a memory card that tallies votes that can be bought on eBay.

I can’t find a tough way actually to hack an election. The ballot counters all seem to rely on outdated technology and components that anyone can purchase on the internet. It might require some serious coding skills, but then again, it may not, just access to a machine and a the equivalent of a zip strip or sticker roll.

Regardless of the ire about the cost of a Michigan recount, over 84,000 people deserve to have their voice heard. I may not even like what they have to say, but they have the right to vote and have their votes count. Thank you to Jill Stein for pointing out how many Michiganders had been silenced and being willing to say that a Constitutional right is priceless.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: