Election 2014  
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Republicans Whip Up Fears of Rigged Voting Machines to Delegitimize a Likely Obama Win

Top state election officials reply in forceful letters debunking accusations.
 
 
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The Republican National Committee has opened another front in its propaganda war to discredit potential election results in a half-dozen swing states. The RNC sent a letter to top state election officials this week saying that it has received reports of electronic votes that are cast for Mitt Romney immediately turning into votes for Barack Obama.

The top election officials in two of those states—Nevada and North Carolina—quickly wrote back letters calling the RNC’s charge “irresponsible and unfortunate,” and based on little more than “rumors and Internet hysteria.” Both gave detailed explanations why the RNC’s alleged vote-hopping scenario was little more than a blip; they said machine errors occur but noted that voters are given multiple chances to review and change their choices.

“The rumors and Internet hysteria surrounding allegations of DREs [direct recording electronic voting machines] switching votes in North Carolina has centered around Guilford County,” wrote Gary O. Bartlett, Executive Director of North Carolina’s Board of Elections. “Since early voting started in Guilford County October 18th, there have been reports of 24 alleged incidents on DRE machines. That is out of more than 100,000 ballots cast. These incidents occurred early in the voting period. And all these voters in the alleged incidents noticed the concern in the review ballot and changed their vote.”

“Unfortunately, your letter fails to provide any direct evidence that any particular voter in Nevada experienced ‘errors’ with their voting machine or any details which could be used to open an investigation,” wrote Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, in his reply to RNC Chief Counsel John R. Phillippe Jr. “To date, our multi-jurisdictional task force has not received any direct, first-hand complaints from voters experiencing voting machine errors of the type you describe.”

The RNC’s letter demanded that election officials in Nevada, Ohio, Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri and Colorado “re-calibrate” their electronic voting machines, add technical staff and post notices at polls telling voters to double check ballots. Fox News has been covering this as if a handful of mostly unsupported complaints in a few states should call into question the results of more than 100 million presidential voters.

Both Nevada’s and Bartlett’s response also took issue with the RNC’s claim that the voting machines had been pre-programmed to flip votes.

“Preliminarily, it is nearly technically impossible to pre-program the voting machines in Nevada to vote for a specified candidate because it is not a centralized process and is tested individually by each of the state’s 17 counties,” Miller said. “While it is possible for a voter to inadvertently select a candidate, it is not possible for the machine to automatically select a candidate.”

Miller said that his office—working with the FBI and Nevada Attorney General—had “investigated similar complaints and rumors in 2010” and issued a report that found “no evidence of voting machine tampering or voter fraud. It does reveal the presence of occasional human error in the election process, which cannot be avoided as long as humans are part of the process.”

“Claims that challenge the integrity of our elections that are solely based on rumor, hearsay or unconfirmed media reports are irresponsible and unfortunate because they undermine the public’s confidence in the electoral process,” concluded Miller’s letter to the RNC. “As Nevada’s Chief Officer of Elections, I take these issues very seriously and fully investigate these types of complaints when brought to my office’s attention.”

North Carolina’s Bartlett reminded the RNC that his state has instructed poll workers to post signs urging voters to “confirm their choices on the ballot.” He also said that the “DRE machines are examined every day prior to use and recalibrated as needed. There is also sufficient technical support for voting systems, as evidenced by the over two million votes already cast in North Carolina since the start of early voting.”

Bartlett also explained why “improperly calibrated machines do not default in a manner that causes Republican votes to be recorded as votes for other candidates, Democratic or Libertarian.” He said, “The software will highlight only those candidates’ names the voter touched. But if a machine has lost its calibration or a voter inadvertently touches the wrong part of the screen, then the ballot may not reflect the voter’s intent. As a safeguard, every iVotronic voter is prompted on the screen before casting the ballot to review every vote on the ballot and to correct or change it if necessary.”

These responses are not saying that electronic voting-shifting problems do not occur. But that when they occur their scope is very limited—singular instances—and that there are ample opportunities for voters and poll officials to catch and fix the mistakes.

However, those reasonable replies are coming at a stage of the 2012 election when the political propagandizing is peaking, including the RNC’s efforts to cast doubt on the presidential results before the final votes are even cast on Tuesday.   

 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, the low-wage economy, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

 
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