No candidate in a close contest should concede (ever!) without first taking the following steps:
- Obtain detailed vote tallies broken out by ballot type (mail-in votes, polling place, early, provisional,…) and by precinct for each county if possible. New Mexico is the only state currently publicly posting the detailed vote tallies necessary to reveal patterns consistent with ballot box stuffing, vote switching, and subtraction differing by ballot types that are hidden by aggregating tallies.
In counties delivering mail-in ballots to the precincts to be fed into precinct-based machines rather than counted at the election office, there may be no convenient way to separate the mail-in ballot tallies.
- Reconcile the number of voters and ballots for each jurisdiction (county, parish, or township) by counting all blank and spoiled ballots and voters to account for all printed ballots (including examination of blank ballot orders and receipts from the printer, perhaps verifying with the printer directly) in at least any counties having anomalous patterns (patterns showing margin differences in the mail-in versus polling place counts or in counties showing unusually high precinct turnout rates or unusual patterns compared to prior elections or other contests), by examining all poll books and all absentee ballot envelopes mailed in by voters with their signatures to verify the number of eligible voters who cast votes.
If an election administration official cannot produce the unused blank ballots for reconciliation, examine the absentee ballot envelopes in a forensic manner to look for possible forgeries and compare the number of absentee ballots cast with the number of absentee ballot voters and compare the names of absentee ballot voters with the candidate’s version of the voter registration rolls.
Note: Ballot-on-demand systems make the type of reconciliation described here virtually impossible. Thus, a different set of safeguards and procedures must be developed to try to reconcile ballot-on-demand systems.
- Confer with a computer voting system expert and request copies of all the voting and operating system electronic log files and the reports available for the particular voting system(s), and have the expert examine those files for evidence of tampering with electronic records of vote tallies.
- Analyze the results of the above steps and do forensic analysis of the ballots and other records if there are unaccounted for blank ballots or vote tally patterns consistent with ballot box stuffing or ballot switching, or if ballot tampering is suspected.
- Manually count sufficient voter-marked paper ballots to verify the publicly posted machine tally accuracy because machine retabulations do not detect voter-marking errors or all types of machine miscount.
There is a federal right to examine voter registration records (poll books and mail-in ballot envelopes) under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, so the candidate’s attorney should have no problems obtaining access to these voter registration records necessary to evaluate the accuracy and currency of voter registration records, as well as the integrity of ballots.
By obtaining the above information (such as the number of unaccounted for blank ballots ordered from the printer that could have been used for ballot box stuffing or substitution for voters’ ballots) the candidate might be able to justify a forensic examination of ballots and a manual recount rather than mere machine retabulation that does not detect ballot box stuffing, ballot substitution, voter-marking errors, or many types of machine miscount.
Caution: These procedures may not detect ballot tampering, such as deliberately spoiling votes cast for opposing candidates by over-voting cast ballots, and will not detect all types of vote switching by electronic ballot (digital recording electronic) voting machines. Digital recording electronic machines should not be used to cast anonymous ballots because at least four types of DRE vote switching schemes are undetectable by any post-election auditing method.
Unfortunately, today virtually all US jurisdictions use the discredited principle of security by obscurity giving inside administrators and their assignees opportunity to tamper with, pad, or substitute ballots or miscount votes. To be able to detect all types of post-election insider ballot or vote tampering would require publicly verifiable oversight over ballot security, which is virtually nonexistent, to my knowledge, in most states today. Post-election forensic analysis of ballots could be a substitute for publicly verifiable ballot security.
What state or federal laws would help to ensure honest elections?
State or federal laws would help to ensure honest, accurate election results by requiring jurisdictions to:
- use voter-marked paper ballots for all able-bodied voters;
- prior to the election, allow candidates and political parties to compare the printed ballots for all precincts with electronic ballot definition files to be used to electronically assign votes to candidates based on ballot positions;
- publicly post all polling place results at the polls during poll closing and publicly post detailed vote tallies (election results) broken out by precinct and by ballot type (polling place, absentee, early, provisional) on the state election web site (very small precincts can be combined if desire to protect voter anonymity);
- publicly post and allow public comment on, oversight of, and participation in ballot security procedures before, during, and after elections, including during transportation;
- preserve and secure all cast, unused and spoiled ballots, computer and voting system electronic log files, voting machine memory devices, mail-in ballot envelopes, poll books, and so forth that are necessary to reconcile and audit elections;
- allow public access to all electoral records necessary to evaluate the accuracy of election outcomes;
- conduct routine post-election independent manual counts to check the accuracy of the publicly reported electronic vote tallies of at least sufficient tallies to detect, with 99% probability, the minimum amount of miscount that could cause an incorrect election outcome, assuming any miscount is well-hidden in the fewest number of tallies necessary to cause an incorrect outcome, given the initially publicly reported tallies; and
- preserve a copy of the voter registration rolls as they existed when polls closed on Election Day, prior to continuing to do updates.
Please pass along this information to any candidate in a close contest who is declared the loser according to initially reported results.