Election Integrity News - September 4, 2006

This Week's Quote: "Outlawing wireless components in voting machines, requiring tamper seals on all machines, mandating the use of voter-verified paper records and requiring auditing procedures would not be overly expensive; particularly when balanced against the confidence they would build." Former Republican Georgia Congressman Bob Barr

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Actions to Take Now

Nationwide: Support Emery County UT Clerk Bruce Funk

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

National: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977


In this issue ...

National Stories

Rep. Maloney Questions Defense Department Plan For Internet Voting Website

California First To Pass Legislation To Establish National Popular Vote For President

News From Around the States

Arkansas Latest To Discover That HAVA Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving - To The Voting Industry

California: Democracy Denied - San Diego Judge Dismisses Busby/BilBray Election Contest On Jurisdictional Grounds

California: What Do Paper Trails And The Gestation Period Of A Baby Elephant Have In Common?

Connecticut: Bysiewicz Can't Seem To Say "Diebold"

Federal Judge Protects The Right To Vote In Florida

Florida: Good Thing Grades Were On Paper; Your Vote Won't Be

Florida: Secretary of State Joins County In Suit Against Citizens

Nevada: The Constitution As A Weapon Against Democracy

New York: To Avoid Glitches, Council Pushes For Vote Machine Tests

Ohio: Federal Judge Rules That State Registration Restrictions Are Unconstitutional

Ohio: Destruction of 2004 Ballots Delayed

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On the Importance Of Paper Ballots
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University

This article was posted on Avi Rubin's Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

A lot has been said about paper ballots and paper trails in the last few years. There are many good arguments for having the paper, including the ability to audit the machines, transparency of the vote counting, recount capability, and voter confidence. But there is another reason why it is important to have paper ballots (which I prefer over VVPAT on a DRE), and that is simply that electronic ballots are more fragile than paper. A power glitch can cause a magnetic memory card to lose its data. So can a magnet. There are multiple ways that electronic data can be come corrupted or lost. Paper is not immune to corruption or loss, but there are two big differences. The loss of many paper ballots is more likely to be noticed immediately, and a loss event is likely to effect fewer paper ballots than electronic votes. One memory card can hold thousands of votes, and such a card is significantly smaller than a deck of cards.

Look at the New Mexico election in 2004. The Washington Post published a story about how 678 votes were completely lost due to a programming error of the electronic voting machines by election staff that was not properly trained. Arguments were made by different people on different sides of the issue about why these votes were lost, or whether they in fact were really lost. The bottom line is that if people had voted with paper ballots (even if they were marked using a ballot marking electronic touchscreen machine), then the election workers would not have even been in a position to cause the votes to be lost.

Another example is Carteret County, NC where, as many news stories reported, 4,532 votes were lost due to faulty electronic equipment.

As we approach another election this fall, we have to consider the possibility of close races and lost votes. With so much at stake, it is a shame that we have to worry about whether or not computers will crash, memory cards will die, or election workers will make mistakes that could cause the wrong results to be tallied. Equally frighting is the possibility that the election will simply fail due to an unecoverable problem.

I don't think enough emphasis has been placed on the problem of recovery in the discussion of e-voting. It is easier to recover from election problems if we have paper ballots to count and machines to audit against paper than if all we have are electronic tallies.

Aviel Rubin, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University and author of Brave New Ballot: The Battle To Safeguard Democracy In The Age Of Electronic Voting.

National Stories

Rep. Maloney Questions Defense Department Plan For Internet Voting Website
by U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney -September 2, 2006

In response to an announcement that a new website is under development by the Defense Department will provide information on electronic voting options for servicemembers and other U.S. citizens living overseas, U.S. representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY, pictured at right) wrote the following letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Integrated Voting Alternative Site, which is scheduled to be accessible Sept. 1, will include information from all 55 states and territories on the various electronic ballot request and delivery alternatives available to U.S. citizens living overseas covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. Rep. Maloney's letter raises important and serioius questions of procedure and security.

Dear Mr. Secretary,

It was with great interest that I read the press release issued on August 25, 2006, Web Site to Outline Voting Options for Troops Overseas, by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA, American Forces Press Service which announced that, "A new Web site being developed by the Defense Department will provide information on electronic voting options for service members and other U.S. citizens living overseas." The release later mentions that ". . .IVAS will have an electronic Federal Post Card Application - the form citizens use to request an absentee ballot - that can be filled out and submitted to the state officials via a secure site." This is certainly welcome news. I have advocated for some time that both military and overseas civilians need easier access to the voting process while they are overseas, and I am glad that DOD is taking steps to achieve that, especially at a time when so many of our servicemen and women are overseas facing combat.

However, I am very concerned that similar to previous attempts in this vein, this DOD/FVAP effort may be overly ambitious, executed with insufficient planning and coordination prior to launch, and that it will cause military voters and states unforeseen problems for this election, and in the end, do more harm than good. Hopefully, you can prove my fears groundless and demonstrate to me that adequate measures have been taken to ensure our servicemen and women have an easier time voting. In light of the above, I have a few questions:

Was Congress briefed on the details, the mechanics, the costs and the expectations of this new program?

It appears that the scope of the project encompasses both military and overseas voters but to what extent is unclear. Like the SERVE project, is the emphasis with the IVAS system only on military voters? Please explain what is proposed for DOD contractors and Americans overseas generally. Read the Entire Article

California First To Pass Legislation To Establish National Popular Vote For President
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - September 1, 2006

California has become the first state to pass legislation in a innovative initiative to render the Electoral College meaningless and establish a national popular vote for president. The bill (AB 2948) – passed by the State Assembly in May and in by the Senate in August - would enact the proposed interstate compact called the "Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote" in California.

The bill was sponsored by Assembly members Tom Umberg (chair of the Assembly Elections Committee, pictured at right), Mervyn M. Dymally, John Laird, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, and Ted W. Lieu and Senator Jack Scott. The bill now goes to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has until September 30 to act on it. Under AB 2948, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim), California would grant its electoral votes to the nominee who gets the most votes nationwide — not the most votes in California. The California legislation would not take effect until enough states passed such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes — a minimum of 11 states, depending on population.

Similar legislation is pending in five other states: New York, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado and Louisiana. It is expected to be introduced in Vermont and Arizona soon.

Legislation to eliminate the Electoral College is introduced into every session of Congress – there is currently one Senate bill and no less than five bills in the House – but the is no chance that such legislation would ever even be addressed in committee much less reach a vote. The state-by-state approach to eliminating the Electoral College was proposed by a group of prominent currewnt and former elected officials and articulated in their book “Every Vote Equal”.

Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Arkansas Latest To Discover That HAVA Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving - To The Voting Industry
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - September 1, 2006

No Federal Money To Pay For Ongoing Cost Of HAVA Purchases

Arkansas is discovering what other states across the country have already found out – running elections on electronic voting machines is expensive – very expensive. And while the federal government was very generous in footing the voting industry’s bill for purchasing the machines, the ongoing costs are the responsibility of the individual counties and the state’s Board of Election Commissioners. This all worked out just right for Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and the others – the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) puts billions in their pockets for equipment that costs more billions every year to service, program, and maintain. What a racket!

According to a Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article “This spring’s primary and runoff elections — the first held since a federal law expanded the use of electronic voting machines — cost Arkansas roughly $600,000 more than elections in recent years, according to estimates released Wednesday. State officials attributed the added expense to the cost of programming the electronic voting machines and printing specialized ballots.”

We’re talking about operating costs – not the cost of purchasing the machines – ES&S got $15 million from federal taxpayers for that. This is just the cost of running the elections - $2.3 million statewide in 2002, $2.9 million this year. Ongoing costs include ballot printing, programming the vote-counting and electronic-voting machines, the audio recordings for blind-accessible voting machines and the paper used to print hard copies of votes cast on touch-screen voting machines.

And the Board of Election Commissioners is expecting 2008 to cost even more - Susie Stormes, director of the Board of Election Commissioners, said preliminary estimates show that 2008 election costs will grow to as much as $ 3. 7 million as the state replaces old voting equipment in more counties.

Facing a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year of $154,000, the Board will be asking for an additional $2 million from the State Assembly for election administration.

California: Democracy Denied - San Diego Judge Dismisses Busby/BilBray Election Contest On Jurisdictional Grounds
by Emily Levy, for The Brad Blog - August 30, 2006

Finds Rushed Swearing in of Presumed Winner Bilbray by U.S. House — Just 7 Days After Election and 16 Days Before Certification — Transferred Power to Decide Election Outcome to Congress - California Voters, Courts Left Powerless to Challenge Illegally Administered Election According to Ruling

This article appeared on The Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the editor.

A judge in the San Diego challenge to the Francine Busby/Brian Bilbray U.S. House Special Election in California's 50th Congressional District has found in favor of the defendants' motion to dismiss the case based on jurisdictional grounds, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

We have covered the defendants' argument, that the swearing in of Bilbray — just seven days after the election and a full 16 days prior to certification by San Diego County — effectively transferred power to decide any election challenges from the California courts to the U.S. House of Representatives. Those arguments are discussed in detail in several previous BRAD BLOG articles (here, here, here and here.)

The defendants' attempts to force plaintiffs to cover the cost of attorneys fees (a so-called "SLAPP back" motion) was denied by Judge Yuri Hofmann based on the same jurisdicational arguments used to dismiss the case, according to the plaintiffs' attorney, Paul Lehto. Since the California court has no jurisdication to adjudicate an election contest for a California U.S. House election, it also has no jurisidiction to find against plaintiffs in the "SLAPP back" motion, says Lehto. Read the Entire Article

Se Also "It's Outrageous," Says Busby On Dismissal Of Election Contest

California: What Do Paper Trails And The Gestation Period Of A Baby Elephant Have In Common?
by Office of State Senator Debra Bowen - August 30, 2006

Bowen Bill To Ensure Voting Machine Paper Trails Retain Their Integrity And Readability  Signed Into Lawa By California Governor

01 064.gifElectronic voting machines used in California will have to produce an accessible voter-verified paper audit trail (AVVPAT) that will retain its integrity and readability for 22 months under SB 1760 by Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), which was signed into law Monday night.

These machines use thermal paper, and as anyone who has ever left an ATM receipt on the passenger seat in their car for too long knows, there’s far too great of a risk that the vote results on these paper trails could vanish into thin air,” said Bowen, the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee. “Under current law, elections officials already have to keep all ballots and AVVPATs for 22 months, but if the actual votes on the audit trail disappear, it undermines the requirement to keep the ballots and the paper audit trails.”

Current law requires elections officials to retain ballots and other items – including the paper record copies produced by a touch screen’s AVVPAT – for 22 months after an election. SB 1760 precludes the Secretary of State from approving an electronic voting system for use in California unless he or she ensures the paper used for the machines audit trail is of sufficient quality to maintain its integrity and readability throughout the required 22-month post-election retention period.

"Back when everyone had those fax machines with the thermal paper, the first thing you always did whenever you got a fax you wanted to keep was to copy it onto a piece of regular paper, because traditional fax paper is hard to deal with, it crinkles and smudges easily, and the images on it fade over time,” continued Bowen. “The larger issue here is the accuracy and the integrity of California’s election results. The reason we keep ballots and other materials for 22 months after every election is so that if questions are raised or irregularities are discovered about the results in a particular race, elections officials can go back to the original ballots and solve it. They won’t be able to do that if the votes on the AVVPATs, which are what we use in the case of a recount or an election contest, have evaporated into thin air.”

SB 1760, which was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan 39-0 vote and by the Assembly on a bipartisan 74-0 vote, will take effect on January 1, 2007.

* Answer: Elections officials are required to retain ballots, AVVPATs, and other materials for 22 months. That, coincidentally, is also the gestation of a baby elephant. For more information on elephants, feel free to go to: http://www.zoo.org/educate/fact_sheets/elephants/asianel.htm.

Connecticut: Bysiewicz Can't Seem To Say "Diebold"
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - September 1, 2006

Election Integrity Activists Appalud Secretary of State's Decision To Go With Paper Ballot System - But She Still Won't Say Diebold

Several reports have been published in local Connecticut newspapers in the past few days concerning Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz' 180 degree turn away from Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting equipment to the more cost effective and reliable option of optical scan voting system. But as in her August 7 press conference announcing the decision, she is still refusing to admit publicly that the machines the state will be using are produced by Diebold Election Systems.

Typical is an article in the Citizen Register, which discusses the state's 20 year contract with LHS Associates, LLC, of Methuen, MA without mentioning Diebold. But LHS is merely a third party vendor that supplies Diebold equipment to several New England states. Bysiewicz seems to have less trouble with the state's choice for complying with HAVA accessibility requirements, Louisville-based IVS.

As Michael Fischer of TrueVoteCT explains in a letter posted at VerifiedVoting.org: For the lever machine replacement, the state will be buying Diebold AccuVote-OS optical scan machines from LHS Associates of Massachusetts. Towns may buy these machines for the November 2006 election and must have them in place by November 2007. Total cost for the state is $15.7 million. For the accessibility requirements, the state will buy the IVS "Inspire" vote-by-phone system, configured to print the ballot at the polling place via FAX, and have it in place in all polling places by November 2006. This is a centralized system which is accessed via public dial-up phone lines and actuated by the push buttons of an ordinary touch-tone telephone. This is a one-year contract with an initial cost of about $1 million."

The State has also entered into an agreement with the Computer Science and Engineering department of the University of Connecticut to "assist in certification and acceptance testing of the new voting technology". The evaluation team will be headed by Alex Shvartsman and includes several other faculty members and graduate students with expertise in cryptography, computer security, and software systems. They apparently already played a significant role in convincing Bysiewicz that, as she now says, "Touch-screen technology, in its current state of development, is simply not ready for 'prime time' here in Connecticut."

The only voting machines that LHS lists on its website are Diebold AccuVote optical scanners and Diebold TSx touchscreens. VoteTrustUSA joins concerned citizens in Connecicut and across the country in appalauding her decision to choose a paper based voting system for her state. But lets call it what it is - Diebold - and not hide behind a less familiar third party broker.  

Federal Judge Protects The Right To Vote In Florida
by Brennan Center Press Release - August 29, 2006

Court Blocks Law Creating New Obstacles to Voter Registration

Decision Likely to Impact Restrictions in Ohio, Georgia, New Mexico and Colorado

A full copy of Judge Patricia A. Seitz’s decision can be found by clicking here
Download the Original Complaint

A federal court in Miami blocked enforcement of a Florida state law enacted earlier this year that would have imposed crippling fines on voter registration groups. The plaintiffs, civic organizations and voting rights groups that have been working in Florida through many election cycles without government interference, say that the law had shut down their efforts to help eligible voters get on the rolls.

This is a win for democracy and will send a signal to officials in Florida and other states that you cannot erect unreasonable barriers to voter registration,” stated Wendy Weiser, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and co-counsel to the plaintiffs. “This decision could help head off comparable voter-suppression statutes in other states, such as Ohio, Georgia, New Mexico and Colorado,” continued Weiser.

At issue in the case, League of Women Voters v. Cobb (case no. 06-21265), was a punishing and tiered regime of deadlines and fines for groups engaged in non-partisan voter registration in the State of Florida. Under the law, (Fla. Laws 2005-277, Secs. 2 and 7), which went into effect on January 1, the government would have imposed a mandatory fine of $250 for each and every voter registration form submitted more than ten days after the form was collected from a prospective voter, $500 for each registration form submitted after the passing of a registration deadline, and $5000 for each registration form not submitted, for any reason. Read the Entire Article

Florida: Good Thing Grades Were On Paper; Your Vote Won't Be
by Glenn J. MacLean, Secretary of the Palm Beach Election Technology Advisory Committee - September 2, 2006

This editorial appeared in The Palm Beach Post.

As the secretary of the Election Technology Advisory Committee, I regret to inform everyone that the panel failed to recommend a verifiable paper-trail system for the voters in Palm Beach County. We did identify an approved system that would do the job, one which has been approved by the state elections office. But the committee voted against this optical-scan system. The final report of the ETAC will put lipstick on the pig that is the system for electronic tabulation of votes now being used.

This result soon will be published in the final report of the ETAC, which will be signed by the chairwoman, Linda Mainard. Ms. Mainard did an admirable job in conducting what were at times unruly meetings. But the significance of this is that during the months when the committee met, the school district computer system was hacked. Ms. Mainard is the Palm Beach County School District's information technology director. One of the county's bright young 15-year-olds again hacked the school district's computers and changed grades. The great irony is that the hacker was found by comparing paper copies of grades with the grades in the electronic system. The schools had a paper trail.

Various school officials at the time made statements to the effect that where there is a will, there is a way to hack a computer system. One recommendation was even to have a hacking contest to see who could find glitches in the system, and reward the hackers rather than punish them if they did so on their own. It's a good thing no one would want to alter the outcome of a presidential campaign. Read the Entire Editorial

Florida: Secretary of State Joins County In Suit Against Citizens
by Kindra Muntz, Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections - September 2, 2006

Lawsuit Questioning Petition Language Could Keep Referendum Off November Ballot

Over 14,500 people from all political parties in Sarasota County, Florida submitted petitions to require voter verified paper ballots and mandatory random independent audits of election results.  The number was well over the 12,030 required to put the issue on the ballot in November to amend the County Charter.

On September 1st,  Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb joined a lawsuit by the Board of County Commissioners to question the petition language prior to putting the measure on the ballot.  The added support from the state could bolster an effort to kill the referendum before voters have a chance to vote on whether they want verified and audited elections or not.   

Citizens are now fighting for their right to petition their government and be heard.  Thomas Shults, attorney for the nonpartisan citizens’ group Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE), filed a simultaneous suit to force the Commissioners to place the measure on the ballot as required by Sarasota County home rule charter government.  Shults will represent SAFE in the trial of the two consolidated lawsuits in Circuit Court in Sarasota County Wednesday, September 6th.

The results of these lawsuits could affect decisions on voting equipment in Sarasota County and other counties in Florida, and will show whether the voices of the citizens are being heard.

Nevada: The Constitution As A Weapon Against Democracy
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - September 4, 2006

Let me preface this with a statement. I am not an attorney. I'm just a retired "knuckle dragger" (marine machinist). While I'm not an academic I do have the ability to read something and know what it says especially when it is written in clear English. I've also got a bit more common sense than most academics because I've had to exercise it throughout my life.

Any reader of The BRAD BLOG is familiar with the court decision from San Diego County. Essentially the judge ruled that he did not have jurisdiction because Bilbray was already sworn in as a member of Congress and the US Constitution gives the Legislative Branch jurisdiction over elections of their members.

Friday's Nevada Appeal has an article regarding a court challenge that stemmed from problems in the GOP primary election for Congress. That race between Dean Heller, present Secretary of State, and Sharron Angle, was closely contested and Ms. Angle filed the challenge based on what she thought to be possibly illegal practices in Washoe County.

The judge threw out the case, not on a finding that the practices were not illegal but on a constitutional basis. The judge found that he had no jurisdiction, in part, according to Article 1, Section 5 of the US Constitution.

The pertinent part of Article 1, Section 5 says: "Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members,........". Note the phrase "of its own members".

We learned from Busby-Bilbray that the California Secretary of State's staff almost fell over themselves getting a memo to Denny Hastert to tell him that Bilbray won the election even though the certification of that election, and the final and legal naming of the winner of the election, was days away. That directly led to Bilbray being sworn in and becoming a member or the House of Representatives.

However, in Nevada we have two citizens running in the GOP Congressional primary. Neither of them is a member of congress now. So how, and why, did Article 1, Section 5 of the US Constitution come into play? How can anyone read the Constitution and decide that the people's votes don't matter, the Legislative Branch will make the decision for us? Read the Entire Article

New York: To Avoid Glitches, Council Pushes For Vote Machine Tests
by Reuven Blau, The Chief-Leader - August 30, 2006

This article appeared in The Chief Leader. It is reposted with permission.

As the Sept. 12 primary nears, the City Council has unanimously passed a resolution urging the city Board of Elections to conduct public tests of the new voting systems that are under consideration for the fall 2007 elections.

The resolution, which is largely based on research conducted by voter advocate Teresa Hommel (pictured at left), also asks the Board to publish an analysis of the "acquisition, transition, and continuing costs of new voting systems."

Electronic Kinks

Ms. Hommel and other election integrity advocates have charged that computerized Direct Recording Electronic systems are fundamentally flawed, and have been urging the Board to use only paper ballots and optical scanner devices.

They contend that computerized voting systems similar to ATM machines cannot be properly audited after elections and that the technology can be easily hacked into and manipulated. In addition, purchasing enough DREs for the entire city will cost approximately four to six times more than the simpler and more manageable optical scan machines, according to Ms. Hommel.

Optical scanners are similar to Scantron systems used by Teachers to grade tests. They involve placing paper ballots into an optical mark recognition machine to detect markings in each race and tabulate the votes. The ballots can later be manually checked to verify the results. Read the Entire Article

Ohio: Federal Judge Rules That State Registration Restrictions Are Unconstitutional
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - September 2, 2006

On Friday, September 1, U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley has granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits enforcement of those parts of Ohio House Bill 3 that deal with voter registration. The bill was enacted earlier this year and imposed crippling requirements on voter registration groups. Noting that Labor Day weekend would be a time of great voter registration activity, O’Malley issued the order from her bench just two hours after hearing arguments in the case. She ordered Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to update his website to reflect her decision within 5 days.

"This is a win for democracy, and coming on the heels of the similar decision in Florida on Monday, the beginning of a national trend of courts rejecting unreasonable barriers to voter registration," stated Wendy Weiser, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and co-counsel to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs in the suit, Project Vote v. Blackwell, include Project Vote, ACORN, People For the American Way Foundation, Communities of Faith Assemblies Church, and Common Cause Ohio.

At issue in the case were restrictions on voter registration in the state of Ohio enacted by House Bill 3 and the rules and procedures for voter registration set out by Blackwell, that have drastically limited the ability of civic groups to register new voters and threatened individual registration workers with felony charges for minor mistakes in complying with the new rules. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the rules will limit voter registration, unnecessarily exclude eligible voters from the election process, and suppress the vote in Ohio. Read the Entire Article

Ohio: Destruction of 2004 Ballots Delayed
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - August 31, 2006

Responding to pressure from an independent candidate for governor and a team of statisticians and lawyers, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office has announced that paper ballots from the 2004 presidential election will not be destroyed as planned next week. Critics hope the ballots will be archived in the same manner that Florida’s ballots from the contested 2000 election were preserved.

Federal law permits, but does not require, destroying paper ballots from federal elections 22 months after Election Day.

The New York Times quoted Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York group that is part of the lawsuit, "This is not about Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush or who should be president, this is about figuring out what is not working in our election system and ensuring that every cast vote counts."

"There is a gap between the numbers provided in the local level records, which until recently no one has been allowed to see, and the official final tallies that were publicly released after this election, and we want to figure out why that gap is there." Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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