MASSACHUSETTS | 2010 | U.S. Senate Special Election
HAND-COUNTED BALLOTS INDICATE POTENTIAL FRAUD IN A STRATEGIC ELECTION
Opaque voting machines, contractors known to break election law, zero public access to electronic election media, and discrepancies between paper and electronic vote counts warrant further investigation.
- Suspicious Results: Tea Party candidate bested a popular attorney general in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
- Statistical Evidence: Comparison of electronic voting with hand-counted ballots shows a significant discrepancy.
- Strategic Target: With a filibuster-proof Senate majority hanging in the balance, the election was a prime target for fraud.
- No Accountability: 97 percent of ballots were counted on riggable tabulators that the public can't observe.
- Corrupt Contractor: The secretive company that services the voting machines is known for employing criminals and violating election law.
Tea Party candidate Scott Brown won what the New York Times described as an “extraordinary upset” over Martha Coakley in the January 2010 special election to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
Massachusetts is an overwhelmingly Democratic state—registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 3 to 1 (though the state also has a large mass of unaffiliated voters)—and Martha Coakley was by no means an unpopular politician.
Coakley won more than 1.5 million votes for attorney general in 2006, and more than 1.4 million votes later in 2010 when running for reelection, but in the special election she reportedly received a mere 1 million votes.
The Senate special election was of strategic importance, ending a filibuster-proof Democratic majority. With a key vote on President Obama's health care agenda pending, billions of dollars were riding on the contest.
Should residents of Massachusetts have confidence that this high-stakes election was fairly administered?
There is almost zero accountability in the way elections are conducted in the Bay State.
Ninety-seven percent of the ballots cast in January 2010 were counted on optical scanners that essentially operate in secret. Three percent of ballots were counted by hand in a manner observable to the public.
The scanners were manufactured by just two corporations—Dominion (formerly Diebold), and Elections Systems & Software—with a history of partisanship and deficient equipment wide open to manipulation.
Most of the voting machines were programmed, distributed, and serviced by just one company, LHS Associates. LHS is highly secretive, employs criminals, and flaunts election laws. (see below)
Without any check on the power of insiders or hackers, the public is reduced to blind faith that election results are accurate. Consider these opaque Massachusetts procedures:
- Ballots: No scanned ballots were examined or are permitted to be examined.
- Memory Cards: No memory cards were examined or are permitted to be examined. The memory cards are considered corporate proprietary information.
- Computer Code: No computer code was examined or is permitted to be examined. The computer code is considered corporate proprietary information.
- Audits: No systematic audit of the count was performed. No spot checks of the count were performed.
- Recounts: There was no recount of any ballots.
- Exit Polls: There were no exit polls performed.
If an insider or malicious actor gains access to the tabulator programming, there is nothing in the official process of Massachusetts to detect and correct election rigging.
THE HAND-COUNTED BALLOTS
In the absence of any evidence validating the scanner results, it is useful to look at the hand-counted ballots. Just over 65,000 ballots, in 71 communities, were counted by hand under public observation.
These ballots were not randomly distributed across Massachusetts in a way that allows for easy comparison, but it is still possible to draw inferences.
In areas where votes were observably counted by hand, Democrat Martha Coakley defeated Republican Scott Brown by a margin of 2.8 percent. In areas where votes were counted secretly by machine, Brown defeated Coakley by a margin of 5.2 percent.
Could partisan geography explain these divergent results? According to party registration data, the hand-count areas where Coakley won were actually more Republican than the optical scan areas where she lost.
Wide Divergence Between Hand Count and Electronic Count in 2010 U.S. Senate Special Election
This evidence alone is inconclusive given the large number of voters unaffiliated with either party, but results from previous elections show that Coakley’s loss was abnormal.
In 2006 and 2008, neither John Kerry nor Ted Kennedy had a disparity between hand-counted ballots and scanned ballots.
When Coakley ran for state Attorney General in 2006, she performed just as well in optical scanner districts as she did in hand-counted areas—in fact, she did slightly better in the scanner communities.
PASSING THE SMELL TEST
The hand count versus scanner disparity in the 2010 special election for Senate in Massachusetts stands out as a dramatic and unexplained anomaly.
The prior Coakley statewide race—along with the 2006 and 2008 Senate elections which present a baseline reference—was not competitive enough to invite manipulation. The risk entailed in a major vote shift is prohibitively high.
In the Brown-Coakley contest, where the risk-reward ratio was extremely favorable, a shift of 5 percent would have been sufficient to flip the outcome.
Thus the Scott Brown victory was numerically plausible enough to pass the smell test—the risk was minimal; the political reward astronomical.
None of this “circumstantial” evidence proves that computerized fraud took place. To furnish such proof, the public would need access to the memory cards, the computer code that ran in the scanners, and voter-marked ballots—yet all of these materials are off limits to inquiry in Massachusetts.
It cannot be said with 100 percent certainty that the votes counted on optical scanners were subject to manipulation. But it is fair to ask: What evidence exists that they were not?
Citizens of Massachusetts must work toward a truly transparent and accountable voting system.
Secretive Company that Services the voting machines is known to break Election Law
LHS Associates, the private company that programs, distributes, and services voting machines in Massachusetts and throughout New England, is known to employ criminals and routinely break election law. For more information on LHS Associates, see the coverage compiled at Brad Blog.
As Bev Harris of Black Box Voting documents in the video below, featuring John Silvestro of LHS Associates, election clerks have been proven susceptible to relatively minor bribes in exchange for access to voting machines—the same machines that researchers have shown can be hacked in a handful of minutes.
"Believe It (Or Not): The Massachusetts Special Election for U.S. Senate," by Jonathan Simon, Election Defense Alliance.
"Easily Hacked Voting Systems To Be Used in Massachusetts Special Election for the U.S. Senate," by Nathan Barker and Brad Friedman, Gouverneur Times.