Vote Fraud Cover-Up In Sarasota Election
An analysis of early news accounts of the massive and unprecedented "undervote" in Sarasota FL after the hotly-contested Congressional race there indicates the major cause is not the innocuous "poor ballot design" and "voter disgust at negative campaigning" recently cited by The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, but rather electronic voting machine malfunction, or, in short, vote fraud.
Election officials, including Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent and the Florida Secretary of State's office, appear uninterested in explaining just what the by now oft-cited phrase "massive 18,000 undervote" really means: approximately 13,000 voters in Sarasota County were arbitrarily disenfranchised, and had their votes go uncounted in the Congressional contest between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings.
Moreover, the New York Times-owned Sarasota Herald-Tribune's recent election reporting is filled with falsehoods and misinformation on a scale not seen since the pro-war sales job performed by New York Times reporter Judith Miller during the run-up to the war in Iraq, when she debuted the slogan used to justify war: "The first sign of a smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud."
All the news that's ripped from print
In a story last month headlined "Analysis points to bad ballot design," the Herald-Tribune offers what clearly seems meant to be the definitive explanation for the "irregularities" in the election.
"A Herald-Tribune analysis of the 2006 election results shows that Sarasota County's ballot design was likely the most significant factor that led to more than 18,000 undervotes in the disputed District 12 Congressional race."
Unfortunately, their "analysis" is almost completely at odds with the paper's own often-laudable early coverage, when recollections were still fresh and voter outrage burned fierce.
In a Nov.7th story headlined "Dozens of voters complain about glitch," the Herald-Tribune had already reported what actually happened on election day:
"Throughout the day, dozens of people complained that their votes in the 13th Congressional District were not recorded properly. One volunteer election watcher said he heard dozens of such complaints."
"Those statements have been rendered inoperable"
The Herald Tribune confirmed the account and added new details a week later, in the results of their own survey of half of the county's 156 precinct officials, a clearly representative sample.
"Election Day trouble was widespread," read the head. (emphasis ours.)
"More than one-third of precinct officials responding said they received complaints that voters struggled to get their votes to register… Poll workers' experiences seem to support claims by hundreds of voters who said they did not intentionally skip the District 13 race to protest negative campaigning."
More in a moment. But it is not too soon to pose the question: Does this in any way square with the Sarasota Herald Tribune's meant-to-be-the-final-word report that ballot design was likely the most significant factor?
The Herald-Tribune's own very first story on the day of the election was headlined "Voting glitch prompts warning," and spoke of trouble voting:
"At least four people complained that their initial votes for Democrat Christine Jennings weren't recorded…"
The very first voter complaints the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports do not concern a poorly-designed ballot. They are about "votes for Democrat Christine Jennings not being recorded.
A response so vague as to suggest…
Kathy Dent's response can only be characterized as a total non sequitor, establishing a pattern of "non-denial denials:"
Dent issued an email directive that "Poll workers are to remind every voter to look out for the 13th Congressional District race."
She believes "a very small number of early voters overlooked the 13th Congressional District race because it is sandwiched in between the Senate and the governor's race."
Huh? Does this response in any way address the four voters who are complaining--on the very morning of the election, so its not sour grapes from sore losers in the aftermath--that their votes for Christine Jennings were not recorded?
"Try to get a tight shot of her nose growing."
Nor is this an isolated incident on Dent's part. The following exchanged occurred in her one press conference.
Question: There is a lost of concern about the undervote in the Jennings-Buchanan race. Are you looking at that and how that factors into a possible recount?
Kathy Dent: Well, the undervote doesn't factor into the recount per say. There does seem to be a higher number in the 13th congressional race. I do not know what to attribute it to completely to. I do know we did not have equipment failure yesterday … It was recorded with all the other races we had.
Question: So there was no complaints about … there were people telling us "we pushed the button and it didn't go through. It didn't show up.' You saying you didn't have any of those?
Kathy Dent: No, we have reports from our poll workers who were advising the voters. Make sure you go back if no selection made showed up on the review screen; the voters could go back and cast their vote. So, on the review screen, most of the voters that my poll workers talk to actually said their vote did show up on the review screen and were able to cast their ballot.
Legal definitions of "Okie-Dokie" notwithstanding
This statement is so deliberately vague that it makes it difficult to parse; but she appears to be suggesting that anything over 50%–if "most of the votes" are counted, is Okie-Dokie with her.
In the coming days, in explaining the unexplainable, Dent will blame voters, blame poll workers, and blame negative campaigning… But she will never once address the far more serious charge which is voters central complaint: that their votes were not registering, and thus not counted, on the electronic voting machines on which the election was conducted.
Kathy Dent had lobbied hard for these self-same electronic voting machines, a fact to consider should there be any subsequent charges of felony vote fraud.
"Break that down into English for me."
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune shares Dent's squeamishness about delving into the real cause of the controversy enough to have seemingly deliberately obfuscated the results of their own survey of election officials.
"About half of the county's 156 precinct officials responded to the unofficial survey," the paper reported.
"Of those, about one in five officials said voters complained they did not notice the congressional race when initially voting. About one in eight said their precincts had problems with voting machines that forced them to shut down or replace machines. And a much larger number, more than one in three, had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record in that race."
Hidden in this gobbledygook is real news. Here's how they would write it if the subject were something less… sensitive.
"More than a third of the county's precinct officials responding to the Herald-Tribune's survey reported that "voters had trouble getting votes to record in that race."
In other words, more than 50 election officials told them the machines didn't work right.
It probably wasn't the reporters fault
These decisions tend to come from above. In fact, the Herald-Tribune reporters did an admirable job documenting the reports of hundreds of eyewitnesses/voters.
But when it came to correlating their results, once more someone couldn't bear to have the results reported straight and the paper again printed the results in gobbledygook. (Don't believe us: Read it for yourself.)
"More than 300 voters have so far contacted the Herald-Tribune by telephone or e-mail about their experience at the polls on Tuesday.
The vast majority of voters interviewed by the Herald-Tribune reported one of two major problems.
Either they couldn't find the District 13 race as they scrolled through their voting screens (about 36 percent) or their votes for either candidate did not initially register on the ballot summary page (more than 62 percent).
Although most of the callers say they voted for Jennings, about 18 percent of the voters who reported problems were Republican. Callers spanned the demographic spectrum: young and old, male and female, and from a variety of precincts."
With the obfuscation removed, voters reported to Herald-Tribune reporters that well more than half of them (62 percent) said their votes for either candidate did not initially register on the ballot summary page. Most clearly remember voting for Christine Jennings. But once they reached the final review page on their ballot, they saw their vote had not registered.
That's a big story. Too bad no one's reporting it.
Voters get a knuckle sandwich
The Miami Herald found the same thing. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune did, before they began to back-pedal as fast as they could.
"(Election official) Leslie Rowland walked into the polling station where she worked and realized there was serious trouble. Some voters complained that the touch-screen machines weren't registering votes for Congress, prompting Rowland to shut two down briefly for inspection."
"Some of the criticism might be blunted if people didn't vote simply because they didn't notice the race."
"But Rowland, other poll workers and voters say more than bad ballot design was involved. She said some people had such trouble getting the screen to register their votes that she devised other techniques for ballot casting.
"I was telling people to use their knuckles," she said. She said she then turned the machines off and called technicians to check them out. When the machines were turned on again after 40 minutes, she said, the technicians gave her a frustrating explanation:
"They have to really press down hard. They're not pressing hard enough," she said the technician told her.
Who you calling "Orwellian?"
The Miami Herald, in the same story, also reports that problems began even before the day of the election.
"During early voting the week before Election Day, Dent's office was beset with complaints from voters who said they couldn't find the race. Others said they cast votes, but noticed during their review that no mark was recorded in the congressional race."
Here are three uncontested fact:
1. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that one third of the county's precinct officials whom they contacted reported "voters had trouble getting votes to record in that race."
2.The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported well more than half (60%) of the 300 voters who called the paper complained of discovering that after they voted their vote in the Congressional race had not registered.
3.The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's conclusion is "ballot design was likely the most significant factor" in the massive undervote.
"Okay, well what does "Orwellian" mean, anyway?
Here are three more uncontested facts (all reported in the major media) which help explain the three uncontested facts already cited.
1. The battle for the 13th Congressional District was the most expensive U.S. House race in history, obliterating the previous spending record by more than $1 million. So the undervote occurred in an "extraordinary" Congressional race which both sides deemed crucial.
2. The massive" undervote" occurred in only one of the three counties which make up the District, Sarasota County. Unsurprisingly, Sarasota County is also the only county which voted for Christine Jennings.
3. If the "undervote" in Sarasota County had been consistent with that of the other two counties in the 13th District…or with that of the rest of the state… or with that of the rest of the nation… the new Representative in Florida's 13th Congressional District would today be Democrat Christine Jennings.
"If the missing votes had broken for Jennings by the same percentage as the counted votes in Sarasota County, the Democrat would have won the race by about 600 votes instead of losing by 368, according to a Herald Tribune review.
Taken together, even this set of agreed-upon facts indicates strongly that something went horribly—and very likely deliberately—wrong in the Congressional election conducted by Sarasota County.
Moreover the unsatisfactory explanations offered by local Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent, as well as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's summaryreporting, are both at such variance with the facts that the more cynical among us might easily conclude they suggest some other agenda, or perhaps even some degree of guilty knowledge.
Of course, we wouldn't suggest that. We're already looking at defending two slander lawsuits at the same time.
But we certainly think somebody should.
NEXT: EYEWITNESSES TO VOTE FRAUD SPEAK OUT
THEN: THE RETURN OF GARY GREENHALGH