Experts Question Clinton's New Hampshire Primary Win
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Election integrity activists parsing the precinct-level results from New Hampshire's Democratic Primary say their early analyses have found anomalies suggesting vote totals may have been altered to deliver a Hillary Clinton victory.
The activists, led by the Election Defense Alliance, a nonprofit formed after the 2004 election when exit polls also predicted a victory by a candidate other then the eventual winner, point to a series of discrepancies when comparing the official results from hand-counted and machine-counted paper ballots. Computer scanners, much like a standardized test, counted 80 percent of the ballots.
They begin by noting that Barack Obama won in hand-counted precincts, which tend to be more rural with fewer voters. In contrast, Clinton won in the precincts where computers tallied results, which are larger towns, cities and Boston suburbs. That discrepancy suggested that had the computer-counted ballots been tallied by hand, Clinton might not have won a victory defying pre-election polls, the activists said.
Anthony Stevens, New Hampshire's assistant secretary of state, said on Thursday that the hand count-computer count discrepancy was not unusual. He noted that in 2004 Democrat Howard Dean largely carried the hand-count precincts while John Kerry won most of the computer-count locales.
However, later on Thursday, Bruce O'Dell, an information technology consultant who is coordinating Election Defense Alliance's analysis, found the percentages of the vote given to Obama and Clinton, according to which counting method was used, were mirror images "down to the sixth decimal place."
"There is a remarkable relationship between Obama and Clinton votes, when you look at votes tabulated by op-scan (computers) versus votes tabulated by hand:
Clinton optical scan: 91,717 (52.95%)
Obama optican scan: 81,495 (47.05%)
Clinton hand-counted: 20,889 (47.05%)
Obama hand-counted: 23,509 (52.95%)
"The percentages seem to be swapped," he wrote, in a short piece posted Thursday on OpEdNews.com. "That seems highly unusual, to say the least."
O'Dell's report has lead many election integrity activists to conclude that New Hampshire's Democratic primary was "stolen" for Clinton. There have been numerous emails saying exactly that on a list-serve used by activists who are parsing the official primary results. Clinton beat Obama by 7,603 votes, according to the official results.
Interviewed on Friday, O'Dell said it was premature to jump to any conclusion other than the Democratic primary results were "suspect." He and others involved in scrutinizing the primary data said activists and others who were making premature conclusions would undermine their efforts to investigate the vote count.
"We are trying to be very careful on how we are phrasing this," he said.
Parsing the primary vote
O'Dell said he is focusing on examining the results within New Hampshire counties, to see if there are variations in candidate percentages in nearby precincts where ballots were counted by hand and counted by computer scanners. If there are variations in areas with similar socioeconomic profiles, he said that would re-enforce "the hypothesis" that the computerized count was inaccurate.
"This is a data-mining exercise," O'Dell said, adding that by Friday he and other researchers had narrowed their focus to three counties in southeastern New Hampshire, where most of the state's population lives. "We have made a considerable amount of progress," he said.
O'Dell's methodology has precedents. Election integrity activists in Ohio used it after 2004 to show the uneven deployment of voting machines in Franklin County caused John Kerry to lose nearly 17,000 votes. That figure emerged after activist investigators found that some precincts in Columbus's inner city lacked sufficient numbers of voting machines. Thus, by comparing voter turnout in the properly supplied precincts to nearby precincts that lacked machines -- causing long lines and people to leave -- they projected how many votes were lost. That analysis led a federal judge to order Ohio counties to preserve 2004 election records.
O'Dell also said he was looking for New Hampshire precincts with spikes in voter turnout and precincts where Clinton's margin was significantly greater than in neighboring towns. Spikes and margins, if found, could suggest vote padding. This methodology was used in Ohio in 2004, notably by Democratic staff investigators for the House Judiciary Committee, who found improbably high turnouts and vote margins favoring George W. Bush in rural counties.
Of course, the bottom line suggested by the Election Defense Alliance's inquiry is partisans somehow accessed New Hampshire's electronic voting machines to alter the outcome in Clinton's favor. While O'Dell acknowledged his findings and inquiry were building a case toward vote count fraud, he would not speculate how that could happen.
"The how to me is irrelevant," he said. "I work on IT (information technology) systems. There is a long catalog of vulnerabilities."
But the "how" question is very significant. Every election official interviewed for this report, from New Hampshire and other New England states using the same voting system as was used in New Hampshire's primary, and some of the nation's top voting rights attorneys, did not believe Clinton's primary victory was stolen.
While they agreed the mainstream media should do more to stand behind their exit polls and investigate what happened with the vote count, they cited other unreported factors that could have led to Clinton's victory, including last-minute mistakes by Obama's campaign with contacting New Hampshire voters.
Verifying the vote
While the election integrity activists press on with their analysis -- feeding speculation that a prominent Democrat has now joined prominent Republicans in "stealing" an important election -- it appears the political process will address the question.
On Friday, New Hampshire's secretary of state office confirmed that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich had formally requested a recount of the Democratic primary vote. A Republican, Albert Howard, also requested a recount in his party's presidential primary.
Secretary of State William Gardner did not return a phone call Friday to comment on the inquiry by the election integrity activists and discuss the recount. However, an official in his office said that "we will recount each and every paper ballot," and the process was "completely public."
Oddly, some activists are opposing Kucinich's recount request, saying there are "chain of custody" issues concerning the primary's paper ballots. They also say a private contractor hired by the state to maintain and program the scanners would be involved in the recount. Their solution is a more transparent counting process on Election Night, according to several statements posted online.
Still, it is important to remember there is a paper trail in New Hampshire that can be used to verify the vote -- if those ballots are counted by hand, not run through possibly suspect scanners. In South Carolina, which will hold its primary later this month, all the voting is on paperless electronic machines. No recount is even possible there.
The timing of the New Hampshire recount is unclear. As of late Friday, Kucinich's campaign had not yet paid a $2,000 deposit, an official in the secretary of state's office said. And the campaign will have to pay for its full cost.
"It will be many thousand dollars," the official said on the phone.
CORRECTION: Several days after this story was published the Election Defense Alliance revised its calculations for the hand counts and voting machine counts. The revised figures for the hand counts are: Clinton, 46.75% (16,767 votes), Obama, 53.25% (19,097 votes). The revised figures for the machine counts are: Clinton, 52.73% (95,843 votes), Obama, 47.27% (85,910 votes).
A statement on its website said, "While the actual difference... are not a mirror image of each other to four decimal places as we had initially believed, the undeniable fact that Obama appears to have carried the hand-count tally statewide, while Clinton carried the optical scan statewide tally -- by almost exactly opposite margins -- remains a remarkable result."
Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at Alternet.org and co-author of What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election , with Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (The New Press, 2006).