Saturday, December 15, 2012

California's Prop 37 Goes Into Recount


For many Californians the most disappointing result in last month's elections was the narrow defeat of Prop 37, the initiative to make junk food dealers inform consumers when they use genetically-engineered ingredients in their products. Pesticide and junk food manufacturers bombarded voters with $45.6 million worth of deceptive ads-- Monsanto alone spending $8,112,867 and Dupont another $5,400,000-- and managed to get 6,365,236 (51.5%) votes. The pro-transparency proposition wound up with 5,986,652 supporters (48.5%) and Prop 37 was the most closely contested race of all the statewide ballot measures.

But the electoral fight might not be over. Lori Grace, head of the Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity filed a formal request for a recount on Monday, just before the deadline for recounts. She will have to raise the money for the recount but she says there are "election anomalies that can't be explained" in a few counties. Bay Area surgeon John Maa, who is working with Grace on the recount explained that "In the weeks during the canvass following the November election, the margin for Proposition 37 narrowed substantially, as over 3 million provisional, absentee, and damaged ballots were counted. Unusually high numbers of provisional ballots were noted in several counties, likely the result of the new online voter registration processes implemented before the November election. Supporters of Proposition 37 questioned whether the Associated Press called the election prematurely a victory for 'No on Prop 37' with such a large number of ballots remaining to be counted." For the recount to succeed, Grace will have to close a 378,584 vote gap.
Elections officials across the state would have to find that a total of nearly 200,000 votes were miscounted in some way-- whether a "yes" was tallied a "no," a lot of "yes" votes were left out of the count improperly, or a lot of "no" votes should have been thrown out as invalid or fraudulent.

Grace is following Maa's lead by starting the recount in a county that they think is more likely to show signs of irregularities, based, she said, on their statistical evidence. In this case, that would be Orange County, which they also said happens to be one of the cheapest counties in which to conduct a recount, an idea even the county's elections chief seemed to acknowledge.

...Grace has been pushing for a more open, transparent method for counting votes in California.

She argued, for one, that there is a lack of transparency inherent to the machines used to tabulate votes in certain counties. Since elections are managed at the county level, wide variations exist in the approach to casting, collecting, and counting ballots. Some counties, such as Los Angeles, use paper punch cards. Others, like Orange County, use a form of electronic touch-screen machines. Activists have complained that some types of e-voting machines use proprietary software that is kept secret from the public.

Grace's institute for election integrity backs an alternate method for counting and verifying votes that relies on open-source software rather than something developed by a private company. That system is called the Trachtenberg Election Verification System (TEVS).

If they do find problems in the vote count, Grace said, then the "basic hope is to begin to show people here in the American public that we have a system that isn't really transparent, that could be possibly altered electronically, and there could be mistakes electronically."
The Orange County recount starts Tuesday. The cost to Grace and her supporters will be $600/day. We'll keep you posted.


At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure why Lori or anyone else thinks "open source" is any more transparent than "proprietary software." There will still have to be recounts with computer experts -- not regular voters -- to see what the code is and how it counted.

At 2:09 PM, OpenID ninasbreakfast said...

I voted in the OC. There is still a paper receipt of my vote. My parents mailed theirs in. Why don't they get volunteers? They work in pairs. One is pro 37, one is against 37. That should keep it honest! There are easy and cheap ways to do this. I will volunteer!


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