Part II - Rigged Elections for Romney?
Part I of this series suggested that there may well have been massive vote flipping for candidate Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries (Rigged Elections for Romney (10/22/12) The article and the initial research analysis were received broadly. In addition, highly motivated citizens across the country and a team of high school students contacted the authors for help replicating the research in their states. The researchers, Francois et al., point out that this can be done with their open source techniques.
The basic argument is straightforward. If you look at precinct level voting data arranged from the smallest to the largest precincts, you will see Romney's gains increasing substantially as the cumulative vote increases. For example, Ohio and Wisconsin show this clearly as do eleven other states presented here. This extraordinary vote gain from smallest to largest precincts is so out of line, that the probability that this would happen by chance alone is often less than 1 out of a number represented by 1 preceded by 100 zeros and a decimal point, a value beneath the statistical package’s lower limits. As a result, the researchers termed the suspected vote flipping for Romney the “amazing anomaly.” (The Amazing Statistical Anomaly)
The research team's observation of Romney gains based on precinct size is not unique. The anomaly was raised previously concerning the Republican presidential primaries by a commenter on a political discussion forum.
Richard Charnin, posting as TruthIsAll, first noted the pattern with an analysis of the 2005 special election for a vacated seat for Ohio's 2nd district, in the House of Representatives. The candidates were the liberal-populist Democrat Paul Hackett versus a right-wing Republican, Jean Schmidt. Charnin noticed that Schmidt's votes and percentages increased substantially from the smallest to largest precincts in that district. This was a patently absurd pattern of vote accumulation since the liberal Hackett wins were in highly conservative counties that rarely voted for any Democrat. (See Precincts with the most votes favored Schmidt at nearly 100%)
Vote flipping is a form of election fraud that occurs "when votes are changed [without the voter’s knowledge or consent] from one candidate to another or several others during electronic voting and vote tabulation." County election officials conduct computerized vote tabulation as precincts submit their voting results, but cannot detect the fraud because only the total number of votes is checked and vote flipping does not affect the total votes. The activity is suspected in many of the critical Republican primaries in 2012.
In each case, Mitt Romney was the beneficiary. For example, without vote flipping, Romney would have lost the Wisconsin, and Ohio, and Illinois primaries as well as primaries in other states. A comprehensive review will appear in Part III of this series.
Critics of the analysis presented in the first article claim that there is a perfectly logical expectation: that Romney would be more popular in suburbs. Hence the votes increase as precinct size increases, indicating a move to supposedly Romney favorable urban areas. Part I of this series mentioned that the research group anticipated that criticism and had factored out urban density from the analysis. The article linked to a fairly complex research analysis from the team. Here is a much simpler explanation, via example.
Mitt Romney was a candidate in the 2008 Maryland Republican primary. The race shows no statistical anomalies in vote accumulation from smallest to largest precincts for Romney.
In particular, you can see that Romney's flat lined in the 2008 Maryland primary. There is no indication that precinct size played any role in his accumulation of votes. The demographic criticism fails on the basis of extensive statistical analysis presented by the research team and linked in the first article illustrated by the graphic representation above.
What is the Likely Explanation for the Amazing Anomaly?
Which step in the vote counting process best explains suspected vote flipping?
The researchers, Francois et al., maintain that the likely culprits are central tabulators used by county election departments. Typically, election precincts submit their individual results to a county-run central tabulator. The central tabulator combines the precinct totals for a county total for every candidate on the ballot. That information is then transmitted to state election officials. The candidate vote count produced by the central tabulators is the critical element in the election process.
The central tabulators are computing devices owned or serviced by private companies such as Dominion, ES&S, and Hart Intercivic. The operational details and software engineering are almost always the exclusive knowledge and intellectual property of the private companies. As a result, public officials and citizens lack the type of access necessary to monitor the vote process.
In addition the intermediate data between the precinct machines and the central tabulators is stored in a proprietary obfuscated binary format unavailable to even the county registrar of voters. That represents a loss of the “electronic chain of custody” of the votes.
Their evidence from Francois et al. is straightforward and powerful.
The researchers asked two questions: Did a county vote distribution violate the laws of probability in terms of increased vote totals for one or more candidates based on precinct size (an amazing anomaly)? And was the county using a central tabulator or not? The answer the second question moves us in the direction of isolating a locus for the process.
Fortunately, Wisconsin has a number of counties that do not use central tabulators. One of those counties, Outagamie, is the sixth largest county in the state.
Tabulator versus No-Tabulator Counties in Wisconsin - Milwaukee Compared to Outagamie
The entire state of Wisconsin displayed the amazing anomaly of Romney gains as precinct size increased. Central tabulator counties make up the vast majority of votes and voting precincts in the state. This graph below, from Part I, displays that phenomenon. It is worth reviewing briefly. The slope of Romney's line is an amazing anomaly. As you can see with the red oval, the anomaly produces a trend that leads to victory for Romney. Without the amazing anomaly, Romney would have lost Wisconsin by 53,991 votes: Romney 34.29%, Santorum 41.14%.
The graphs below show candidate vote accumulations from the smallest to largest precincts in the county. The graphic representation of the vote accumulation in Outagamie (left) is well within the realm of statistical probability. The graph of Milwaukee County, below right, shows the amazing anomaly for Romney, as seen above, for the entire state. These two graphs represent the same election, same day, same state.
(Note: An outside volunteer independently downloaded the data from Wisconsin’s counties and came up with the exact same results. (Click for larger images)
(Click here for Excel of Wisconsin by precinct with amazing anomaly calculations)
In Outagamie County, WI Santorum won with 10,673 votes to Romney's 9,750. Romney won Milwaukee County 48,424 to Santorum's 28,491. Several other no-tabulator counties in Wisconsin fail to show an amazing anomaly increase for any candidate from smallest to largest precincts.
Milwaukee County, on the other hand, used ES&S electronic voting machines and an ES&S Unity Server central tabulator as part of the county elections division. In Milwaukee County Romney's vote totals and percentage for precincts increased at a highly improbable rate from the smallest to the largest precincts.
In non-central-tabulator counties, precinct workers report the election data to county elections officials, who then enter the data on an Excel spreadsheet and display directly on their county website. They also transmit that data to the state elections officials. As a result, there is no opportunity for private parties to manipulate the vote count in a central tabulator.
Voting in Outagamie County is done on a mix of paper ballots and optical scan voting machines, which have a real paper trail, the optical scan forms that voters fill out. There is no observable amazing anomaly occurring in precincts using either paper ballots (with some optical scan machines) or optical scan machines only. (See pdf from volunteer for all Wisconsin counties by paper ballot versus voting machine results for the amazing anomaly.)
Iowa and New Hampshire
The Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary also display the amazing anomaly. Each showed signs of suspected vote flipping.
The Iowa Caucuses are run by the Republican Party. After meeting in precinct areas for debate, Iowa Republicans cast their ballots for candidates on paper ballots. These are counted at the caucus site and transmitted to the Republican Party, which then tabulates the vote.
There was little in the way of transparency in the Iowa central count that produced the final result. The Republican hierarchy chose to conduct the count in total secrecy and, possibly, out of state in Kansas. Party officials said the secrecy and mystery location resulted from fears that some Occupy movement would disrupt their counting.
Fortunately for citizens, Watch the Vote 2012, a voting rights activist group, was present to monitor the caucuses. They had a presence in approximately half of Iowa’s counties.
That allowed a check of the relationship between precinct size and vote accumulation for each candidate. The records also allowed a check of precinct totals against those produced by the secret tabulation of precinct totals.
The precinct voting by activists did not match up with the party data presented. Edward L. True, a caucus participant, was wise enough to photograph his caucus count. It was different from the party count; the discrepancy resulted in a recount that changed the outcome from a Romney to a Santorum victory. The finding was too late to do any good but it made an important point.
The New Hampshire primary was also monitored by the WatchTheVote2012 activist group. They monitored hand counts at voting places. This allowed a comparison of hand counts, created without any computerized intervention, with the count of the central tabulator for the state provided by a private company, LHS Associates.
The hand count precincts showed no amazing anomaly, while the central tabulator producing totals for precincts revealed the amazing anomaly, progressive and highly improbable vote gains for Romney as precinct size increased.
The results from these two states demonstrate that central tabulation does not necessarily require computer involvement to produce highly questionable results. In this case, questions persist due to secrecy and the potential for human interference. In the case of New Hampshire, citizen diligence and involvement made the difference in detecting irreconcilable differences between no-tabulator results and results produced by a central tabulator that appear to make no sense. .
Are Central Tabulators Vulnerable to Hacking and Manipulation?
The best way to hack a central tabulator is to buy an elections equipment company. These privately held, unaccountable firms provide the majority of voting systems in the United States. ES&S acquired Premier, successor to the ill-reputed Diebold franchise, but was forced to sell it to Dominion. These two plus Hart Intercivic dominate the market for elections systems, from voting machines to central tabulators to service contracts for full election management.
What better place to control an election outcome, tailor made for whomever.
These firms sell or otherwise provide equipment with the provision that the software behind the machines is their sole intellectual property. County and state election officials are unable to inspect the software at multiple levels due to this restriction. This is truly secret voting outsourced to private firms who operate behind the scenes and have limited accountability. There is no true public accountability.
In his Ars Technica article on the subject, “Miscounting the Vote,” Jon Stokes outlined methods of attacking a central tabulator. These apply today. Blackboxvoting.org has demonstrated the vulnerabilities to system hacks, even showing how a trained chimp could perform the task.
Francois suggested his own variations on hacking a central tabulator in an effort to update Jon Stokes.
"Method #1: Using an optical scan voting form, DRE, or absentee ballot, encode the form or use the keyboard to issue commands to the central tabulator (CT). Therefore the VOTE ITSELF is used to hack the CT. For example: the Riverside 2012 General election includes 20 elections. Fill out the ballot for each of the first 10 elections as follows: 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2 This ‘wakes up the CT’. Then fill out ‘3, 1, 4, 2, 2, 1, …’ which commands the CT as follows: ‘in election #3 flip candidate #1 up; in election #4 flip candidate #2 up; in election #2 flip candidate #1 up’ and so forth.
"From that point, the CT software knows exactly what to do. It won't bother with candidates with less than 10% of the vote. But, it will flip progressively as a function of precinct size and try to flip just enough to win, etc. By communicating commands through votes, NO INTERNET to the CT connection is required. No local accomplices at the County level are required. The ‘fix’ could have been programmed in the CT software as far back as decade ago, with no knowledge of this year’s political candidates.
"Method #2: Using a DRE only, enter any kind of odd entry. For example, enter 5 over votes in a sequence to ‘wake up’ the CT. The voting machine rejects them all and then turns into a special, secret maintenance mode. At that point, commands will be directed to the CT at the end of Election Day when the election data memory cards are transferred, physically or electronically and vote counting begins.
"In a variation of method #2, embed a command for vote flipping in a voting machine or other fraud prior to the election. Have the activation react on the receipt of a code word or phrase like ‘All hail the king.’ That activation triggers any vote flipping or other fraud desirable.
"Method #3: Use a power line communication and chips to transmit anything you want to a compromised central tabulator. Again, this alleviates the need for an Internet connection to the CT." Francois, October 30, 2012
Between private firms operating in secret, one a foreign firm, and demonstrated vulnerabilities, there are reasons for serious concern. These elections belong to us but our officials are unable to determine the accuracy, fairness, and security of the process.
A Second Look at Explanations for the Amazing Anomaly
The research group's conjecture is that central tabulators are the locus of the amazing anomaly for Romney in the 2012 primaries. The comparison of no anomaly results in Wisconsin no-tabulator counties is convincing evidence. Data recently acquired by François et al. replicates the presence of the anomaly in the Wisconsin statewide count. Furthermore, it seems to indicate that partial or full use of paper ballots predicts an anomaly-free result. Further work on this just-received analysis will be forthcoming.
In addition to the suspected role of county-based central tabulators, there are other factors that lead to unexplainable election results.
First and foremost is the absence of open elections with every step of the process available to citizens for examination and evaluation. Watching the vote count is guaranteed in many state constitutions but it is rarely if ever offered. The ability to watch elections is denied outright by proprietary software and hardware held behind a corporate firewall of "intellectual property." Even with that restriction, citizens have to right to be present at vote taking and counting. That is often a struggle and always incomplete when electronic voting and tabulation are involved.
The fundamental cause of the suspected amazing anomaly and any of the other forms of election fraud is a fundamental disregard of the rights of citizens to vote and know that their vote counted.
Ironically, the politicians (supported by regulators and academic consultants) who make decisions about election systems are the very same people who are elected again and again by these flawed approaches, software, and equipment. Our public elected and appointed officials are the ultimate virus in the electoral system. It needs a good cleaning.
This article may be reproduced with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.
Very special thanks to Jill Hayroot for her contributions.
Research group articles on the amazing anomaly:
Full Excel of 2012 Wisconsin Republican Primary with amazing anomaly analysis7">Full Excel of 2012 Wisconsin Republican Primary with amazing anomaly analysis
Wisconsin counties showing amazing anomaly and type of election equipment used - paper ballots versus optical scan voting machines.