Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Continuing Saga of Sarasota's Lost Votes

Heavily abridged history: One in seven votes recorded on Sarasota’s ES&S iVotronic systems in the Congressional race were blank. The margin of victory was radically smaller than this. If you attempt to do a statistical projection from the votes that were cast onto the blank votes, then you inevitably end up with a different candidate seated in Congress.

Okay, then. On to the GAO’s report. GAO did three tests:

1. They sampled the machines to make sure the firmware that was inside the machines was the firmware that was supposed to be there. They also “witnessed” the source code being compiled and yielding the same thing as the firmware being used. Nothing surprising was found.
2. They cast a number of test ballots. Everything worked.
3. They deliberately miscalibrated some iVotronic systems in a variety of different ways and cast some more test votes. They found the machines were “difficult to use”, but that the summary screens were accurate with respect to the voter’s selections.

What they didn’t do:

* They didn’t conduct any controlled human subject tests to cast simulated votes. Such a test, while difficult and expensive to perform, would allow us to quantify the extent to which voters are confused by different aspects of the voting system’s user interface.
* They didn’t examine any of the warehoused machines for evidence of miscalibration. They speculate that grossly miscalibrated machines would have been detected in the field and would have been either recalibrated or taken out of service. They suggest that two such machines were, in fact, taken out of service.
* They didn’t go through any of ES&S’s internal change logs or trouble tickets. If ES&S knows more, internally, about what may have caused this problem, they’re not saying and GAO was unable to learn more.
* For the tests that they did conduct, GAO didn’t describe enough about the test setup and execution for us to make a reasonable critique of whether their test setup was done properly.

Meanwhile, you can expect ES&S and others to use the GAO report as some sort of vindication of the iVotronic, in specific, or of paperless DRE voting systems, in general. Don’t buy it.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which counts Vern Buchanan's Sarasota Ford dealership among its largest advertisers, is satisfied. Its K-Y Jellified editorial reads in part:

We believe that the issue of some 18,000 undervotes got the expert study it deserved, and the results are persuasive -- although they do not solve the central mystery: Why, among the five counties in Florida's 13th Congressional District, was Sarasota the only one to record such a high rate of nonvotes?
"Case closed, let's stay on our knees and suck down those SUV ads!"

We're not sure everyone is equally content to consign this anomaly to the dustbin of dim journalism.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sarasota Herald-Tribune Vanishes Big Election Mystery

The New York Times-owned Sarasota Herald Tribune scored another dubious honor Thursday: It reported the whitewashing GAO report absolving the iVotronic voting machines of error, and thus legitimizing Vern Buchanan's "win" over Dem. Christine Jennings in 2006 -- yes, it's taken that long to get just this far.

However, the truly eye-popping feat of reportage by Doug Sword was how he managed to completely fail to mention that less than two weeks earlier, another report came out from the Florida Fair Elections Center, entitled "Sarasota's Vanished Votes," which raised serious questions about the machines, the supervisor of elections, and the entire way the election and its review have been handled in Sarasota.

That report has been disappeared from the Herald-Tribune's reportage just as curiously as the 18,000 undercounted votes from the electronic machines in the Buchanan/Jennings election.

Sword and the Herald-Tribune also managed to ignore the fact that Sarasota activists have been fighting for truly impartial look at the vote and the review of the vote. Indeed, the very day its story ran, Kindra Muntz, President of SAFE and a vocal critic of the Sarasota election process, was interviewed on WMNF-Tampa (fast forward a little to locate Muntz) and discussed at length the farcical procedures of the electoral review, which included allowing the very elections personnel being investigated to decide what the investigators would actually see, and used voting machines that had already been swept clean of data in order to be used in a later vote.

The curious absence of any mention of the Florida Fair Elections Center's "Vanished Votes" report is odd by any journalistic criterion. Surely as the issue is gaining national attention in this presidential primary and election year, it would behoove alleged "News" reports dealing with extremely squirrelly ballot results to mention that there are conflicting studies, instead of just mentioning the one that sees no evil?

One might only point out that prior to becoming an elected representative of the people, Vern Buchanan was - and remains - the owner of Sarasota Ford, the largest car dealership in Sarasota (and the one with the biggest flag). As such, he constitutes one of the major revenue streams of the failing Herald Tribune, which has been cutting staff repeatedly in the past several months in an effort to stanch its bleeding bottom line.

The "powers" that be at the Sarasota paper would be better advised to either act with honor and credibility in reporting, or shut the paper down before it can't afford the mortgage on its fancy new Main St. Media Palace. Anyone in the mood can contact the paper here.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

50 More Years of Iraq

McCain, still afflicted with PTSD, talking to the Illuminati of Polk City, Penile State:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Amnesia is what happened

Hey Vern, read this and drive your Ford SUV off into the sunset

There is no question that the 2006 contest for the U.S. Congressional District 13 seat in Sarasota was a failed election, where thousands of voters who thought they had cast a vote in this race did not have their votes counted.

From the Executive Summary of the report just out from the Florida Fair Elections Center entitled: Sarasota's Vanished Votes: An Investigation into the Cause of Uncounted Votes in the 2006 Congressional District 13 Race in Sarasota County, FL.

Summary of the Sarasota 2006 election.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Florida keeps racking up f-f-fantastic awards

Florida gets an 'F' for insurance system

Jacksonville Business Journal

Florida has one of the least effective property and casualty insurance systems in the country, according to a new study that gave Florida and four other states an 'F' grade.

Consider it a down payment on your future catastrophe

“I haven’t seen so much bobbing and weaving since Muhammad Ali did the rope-a-dope.”

Florida Insurers Defend Increases in Home Rates

Published: February 5, 2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Facing accusations that they have been gouging customers, executives from one of Florida’s largest homeowners’ insurance companies told a special State Senate committee on Monday that they had been forced to raise rates to offset losses and prepare for the possibility of more frequent hurricanes in the future.

The company, Allstate Floridian Insurance, “faces the very real risk of being wiped out in the event of a bad hurricane season,” said Joseph Richardson Jr., chairman and chief executive. Allstate Floridian is a subsidiary of the Allstate Insurance Company. NYT.