Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One, Two, Three

The recount for the Attorney General's race in Charlottesville went as smoothly as expected this morning, ending before 11:00 a.m. after beginning with a brief training session at just past 9:00 o'clock.

There were no changes to the totals announced at the post-election canvass, which did not come as a surprise. (The numbers differed from the unofficial totals of election night, as they should.)

We encountered some difficulty as the two teams of Recount Officials started with the first two precincts, but that was owing entirely to the unfamiliarity everyone had with the forms that needed to be filled out. Once it became clear what was required of us, the next eight precincts were finished up both quickly and thoroughly. (We have eight physical precincts in Charlottesville, plus a central absentee precinct and a provisional vote precinct; the latter two have paper ballots, but only the provisional vote precinct had paper ballots that needed to be recounted by hand, a grand total of 8 ballots -- 5 votes for Deeds, 3 for McDonnell.)

One of the Deeds observers raised a question about the high number of undervotes in Tonsler Precinct. We noted that Tonsler traditionally has a higher percentage of voters who choose not to vote in down-ticket races, and that while the undervote percentage in that precinct may seem out of the ordinary in comparison to other precincts, it was not unusual for Tonsler. That seemed to satisfy the observer, who did not insist that we rerun the totals on the tally computer -- an exercise that would have lengthened the time of the recount substantially only for us to find out that the numbers were the same as those reported in that precinct on Election Day.

Meanwhile, as we were cleaning up and waiting for a state trooper to pick up our results envelope to take to the Circuit Court in Richmond, we heard from Fairfax County that they were already making plans to order dinner, because it looks like they'll be recounting well into the evening. (Fairfax has nearly 25 times as many precincts as Charlottesville has.) And Dickenson County lost power and only had one working telephone line, which might cause some delays in reporting.

Chad Dotson has some scattered results from around the state, indicating that there are only a minuscule number of changes in the totals that have been reported since the election was certified on November 28.

Should there be changes resulting in the nine precincts that are hand-counting their optical scan ballots (one in Lynchburg and eight in Gloucester County), it seems to me that an aggrieved candidate could complain formally that the principle of Bush v. Gore -- that statewide recounts should be conducted with uniform procedures and rules in every voting jurisdiction -- has been violated. (Creigh Deeds would have benefited from a ruling that all optical scan and marksense paper ballots be recounted by hand, since those types of machines often miss votes that are indicated by light pencil or pen marks, or whose marks are somewhat askew.)

My prediction, however, is that because the results of the electronic voting machines are secure and unchanging, and because only a handful of paper ballots are being recounted by hand, Bob McDonnell can be confident that his certified election as Attorney General will remain just that -- certified -- and he can plan on being sworn into office next month.

One surprise about the recount in Charlottesville: Only one media outlet, WVIR-TV (Channel 29) felt this story was important enough to send a reporter to cover it. There was nobody there from the Daily Progress, The Hook, C-VILLE, or WINA radio. (Where was Chris Callahan? This is the sort of thing he revels in.)


Anonymous said...

My prediction, however, is that because the results of the electronic voting machines are secure and unchanging [...]

There's a big difference between "secure and unchanging" and "lacking contradictory or confirmational evidence". I could claim that I untied and re-tied my shoes four times while alone in my office today, but without any witnesses or detailed examination of my shoes or shoelaces, you have to take me on my word.

Rick: Did you examine the audit logs from the voting machines? Did you compare the software currently installed on the machines with any sort of reference version of the software? Did you check if the software had been altered or if the media on which the DRE stores its software had any errors? Did you see if any errors had occurred? Did you check the calibration of the screens to make sure they had recorded the votes correctly in the first place?

Or did you just re-copy the numbers you got the first time around onto a piece of paper the second time around? Do the numbers match only because you wrote the same number down twice?


Steve said...


Why do you say that "Creigh Deeds would have benefited from a ruling that all optical scan and marksense paper ballots be recounted by hand"?

More numbers would have changed, but not necessarily in favor of Deeds.