Election Eve in Alaska. Again. Sort of.

11 11 2008

Alaska’s election is not over. There is no rest for the weary. The giant bottle of Tums still sits just to the right of my keyboard.

But, tomorrow, a chunk of the 91,000 outstanding ballots in Alaska will be counted.

For days, the count has been frozen. Sen. Ted Stevens leads Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by about 3,000 votes with roughly 30 percent of the ballots remaining to be counted, including:

• 61,000 absentee votes.

• More than 20,000 questioned ballots.

• 9,500 early votes.

Of those, at least two-thirds of the absentee votes and nearly all the early votes are expected to be counted Wednesday, said Division Director Gail Fenumiai.

Election workers began poring over questioned ballots Monday in Anchorage, a process that will likely continue through the final count, which is expected Nov. 19.

Meantime, absentee votes are still arriving in the mail and precincts are sending in more questioned ballots.

Here are the squeakers:

With a little more than 90,000 ballots left to count:

U.S. SENATE: Sen. Ted Stevens (R) leads Mayor Mark Begich (D) by about 3,257 votes.

STATE HOUSE (District 19): Pete Petersen (D) leads Rep. Bob Roses (R) by 136 votes.

STATE HOUSE (district 27): Rep. Bob Buch (D) leads Bob Lewis (R) by 67 votes.

 

<!–[if !supportEmptyParas]–><!–[endif]–> Bev Harris, election guru from Black Box Voting was on KUDO today, urging Alaskans and all Americans not  to “get complacent.According to Harris, when numbers don’t’ add up, when books don’t reconcile, we need to act. She points out the dangerous mindset of only caring about election issues when it appears as though the outcome of the race will be affected.  Regardless of the closeness of the race, or whether our candidate is ahead, we need to challenge these anomalies on principle.  Every vote should count, and be counted properly regardless of the other votes surrounding it.   And just because the leadership changes, don’t assume the problems get fixed.

So, what about Alaska?  Harris was circumspect, but indicated that there were several red flags, and things which would need closer scrutiny….after the final numbers are in.  The thing that concerns her most of all is the fact that all Alaska votes are counted on a central tabulator in Anchorage.

This particular system, explains Harris, has “a number that you never see, an internal number that identifies which candidate is which.As absentee votes come in, and are counted, this number can be manually flipped back and forth by the individual operating the machine. Harris characterizes this type of system as “reeeally dangerous” because there are no checks & balances.

The fact that Bev Harris calls our system “really dangerous” is enough to make me think I may not sleep well tonight.

In addition, when an Anchorage voter votes in the polling place, there’s a tape at the end of the day that is associated with each particular voting machine.  With absentee voting there is no voting machine tape. Totals can literally be adjusted as they come in. A manual entry screen allows anyone with access to the machine to type over the old totals and make new ones. Scary, but true.

So, what do Alaskans need to do?  Harris has counseled an engaged group in Alaska to get audit logs, and copy information from the database as often as possible during the counting process.  Why?  Because it is our right to do so, and because we KNOW that they were tampered with in Alaska in 2004.  We just don’t know who did it.  There are eyeballs in the right places this year, but vigilance by all citizens is critical.

There is much we don’t know.  But we DO know that Bev Harris and Black Box Voting is paying close attention to our results.  And while she has said that  in Alaska “there are some very interesting issues to be looked at”, she’s playing her cards close to her chest until the numbers are all in.  More than half the uncounted ballots will be tallied tomorrow, and the final numbers are due in on November 19th, one week later.

We wait and watch.

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