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TRUTHOUT: Lack of transparency in exit polling makes it more difficult to know when an election is rigged
Stealing your vote is easier than ever now that the media has decided it can't afford the exit polling that helped track irregular ballot counts in more than a third of the states. Here's why it's important, and what you can do.
The news that America's mainstream media has cancelled exit polling in 19 states, means that insider election theft this November is now even harder to track, and therefore easier to get away with - something that scarcely seemed possible.
As I've written in the November issue of Harper's Magazine ("How to Rig an Election"), our voting system is already privatized, corporatized, computerized and arguably less secure than Vegas slot machines. It's also controlled by a shadowy cartel of right-wing affiliated companies that keep merging and changing their names, perhaps - and almost certainly in the case of Diebold - to avoid association with the record of white-collar criminal charges and convictions that trail them from state to state.
Precious few methods now remain for verifying results generated by these corporate "black box" touch-screen voting machines and optical scanners, which have been proven (ad nauseam) by experts to be vulnerable to insider rigging and outsider hacking. This evidence remains long unreported by the mainstream media, which ignore the kind of stories now broken weekly at the Brad Blog, like the latest White Hat hack of Diebold voting machines: In September, 2011, the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Labs gained controlling access to the electronic votes within the machines using $20 in parts and the equivalent of an 8th grade science education.
The Election Integrity (EI) movement in America is a network of democracy activists (individuals, community groups, and national groups like Black Box Voting, Election Defense Alliance and even a spur of the Occupy Movement - Occupy Rigged Elections), who recognize the deepest threat inherent in this loss of democratic transparency and accountability: the rise of a "full-spectrum-dominance" corporatocracy in America, and the ability of unpopular, unelectable, ideological extremists to steal elections.
And this is where something as un-sexy as exit polling starts to matter to revolutionary democratic reform.
Killing the Exit Polls: Why It Matters
To make the case that we've got to toss these corporate Trojan Horse voting machines into the scrap heap (as was just done by Ireland), the EI movement has heavily relied on public opinion polls, tracking polls and exit polls for election forensics: comparing polling data to the "trust us" numbers spit from the secret innards of the voting machines.
Election forensics has turned up some very serious discrepancies in elections spanning the past few decades, and even led to the coining of a new term: The Red Shift.
The Red Shift has been detected in both state and federal American elections, where computerized vote totals have consistently "shifted" - often by a 5 percent to 7 percent margin disparity (sometimes less, but sometimes much greater) - in comparison to hand-counts and polling data. This mysterious seismic lurch invariably pushes votes to the right, and when the dust settles, it has inordinately benefitted GOP candidates and ballot issues.
To conceal these unnerving discrepancies that strongly suggest computerized vote rigging, exit pollsters began "adjusting" their final reported numbers - literally forcing polls at the end of Election Day to better align with the voting machine results.
Surprisingly, this is not a criminal or even covert act, but common knowledge amongst pollsters (though certainly not the American public) and accepted practice.
Therefore - and here's the rub - only the early, "unadjusted" exit polls numbers can provide evidence of the "red shift." But this smoking-gun data has been increasingly guarded by the pollsters, and withheld from release to EI analysts.
Nevertheless, the "red shift' reports we do have are beginning to attract attention, thanks to the tenacity of EI activists spreading them on the Internet. Could this be why the media consortium that controls the exit polls is shutting them down in 19 states?
David Moore, former Vice President of the Gallup poll for 13 years, agreed in an interview with me that the killing of the exit polls in 19 states is a "disaster" for the Election Integrity movement, "because you don't have the kind of polling data to help you determine whether polls and vote statistics are in accordance with each other."
The non-exit poll states in 2012 will be Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
These states are considered non-competitive; and already in the “blue” or “red” bag. But does that mean their exit polls don’t matter?
According to EI activist and former Wall Street analyst Richard Charnin, unadjusted state exit poll data has been a major component in calculating exit poll discrepancies. “Having the data for just 31 states means that it will no longer be possible to compare the total weighted average of the state polls to the official recorded share,” writes Charnin, author of Proving Election Fraud: Phantom Voters, Uncounted Votes, and the National Exit Poll.
Could it really just be about money, as the pollsters say? Suddenly they just can’t afford the expense of polling in these states?
"Put it in context," argues Jonathan Simon, Executive Director of the non-profit watchdog group Election Defense Alliance. "We spend two billion per week to bring 'democracy' to Iraq. You know two billion would buy approximately 200 years of biennial exit polls at their current cost here in the good old USA! I guess having democracy for seven generations in America is not worth one week in Iraq. Makes sense, doesn't it?"
Just Who Are These Media Pollsters, Anyway?
The private media consortium in charge of exit polling shares a few unnerving commonalities with voting machine companies; It's extremely secretive, considers its data "proprietary," and, like some corporate fugitive on the run, it keeps changing its name.
In 1964, it was born News Election Services (NES), a consortium of ABC, CBS, NBC, AP and UPI. In the mid-90s, NES merged with Voter Research and Survey (VRS) to become Voter News Service (VNS), which included CNN and Fox News. In 2002, it morphed again to become News Election Pool (NEP).
The existence of NES was first brought to light in the 1992 book "Votescam: The Stealing of America," written by my late father and uncle, independent investigators James and Kenneth Collier, whose groundbreaking research into insider election fraud spanned 25 years.
The media consortium, they discovered, was not simply exit polling; they were also gathering raw electronic vote data from counties across America, aggregating it in secret and reporting their final results to the public - which accepted them on faith.
"Perhaps the most important piece of history uncovered during the Votescam probe," they wrote, "is a potently candid study of the US electoral system conducted in 1980 by the Air Command and Staff College in cooperation with the University of New Mexico."
An excerpt from the study reads:
In the case of counting actual ballots on national election night, public officials have abdicated responsibility of aggregation of election night vote totals to a private organization, News Election Service of New York (NES). . . . This private organization performs without a contract; without supervision by public officials. It makes decisions concerning its duties according to its own criteria. The question and accountability of News Election Service has not arisen in the nation's press because the responsibility NES now has in counting the nation's votes was assumed gradually over a lengthy period without ever being evaluated as an item on the public agenda.
Over the years, the operations of NES/VNS were marked by a paranoid lack of transparency. Attempts by the Collier brothers to garner basic information were met with an odd and chilling response: "This is not a proper area of inquiry." Or, more often than not, the director simply hung up on them.
This smacks of more than just bad manners.
Remember, this was a private consortium of the major networks - they were the media. If they were cooking the books, who would report on it?
Despite their centrally important role on election night, NES/VNS printed no promotional material, and posted no web site. Their bunker-like Election Day headquarters in New York City was strictly off-limits to the public and independent media. Even Geraldo Rivera and a cameraman from his show "Now it Can Be Told" couldn't gain entry into NES headquarters in the World Trade Center in 1992.
Yet, in 2000 I was granted a surprise and lengthy interview with Bill Headline, then the CEO of Voter News Service, who insisted that nothing untoward could possibly be occurring behind their closed doors.
Why then, were their operations handled like a black-ops National Security lock-down?
"We're private organizations," Headline told me. "Mobile Oil doesn't invite people in to see how they send out credit card bills."
"But of course, this is different," I countered. "This is the American vote."
"It's not different," said Headline.
When I admitted my difficulty in simply trusting a secretive consortium of the networks, given how much information I knew they regularly censor, Headline hung up on me.
It seemed I was carrying on a family tradition.
The New Threat: Online Vote Rig
Today it may be more difficult for a secret media vote-counting consortium to fudge the numbers, should they be tempted.
Secretaries of State, who oversee elections, are moving toward reporting their votes in real time on public web sites. Unfortunately, these web sites are programmed by private companies. Now, it's those companies we have to seriously worry about (unless, of course, we actually decide to do something about this situation and restore a public, transparent vote count).
In 2004, for example, "unadjusted" exit polls showed John Kerry winning the Presidency by what many considered an insurmountable margin, until Ohio's votes surged for George W. Bush late on election night. The unexpected windfall that handed Bush Ohio's electoral votes - and therefore the White House - was reported on the web site controlled by the Republican Ohio Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, a fundamentalist Christian, and - yes, it's true - Honorary Co-Chair of the Committee to Re-elect George W. Bush.
Blackwell's web site was programmed by two companies deep under the sheets with the GOP - GovTech and SMARTech - and operations were coordinated behind the scenes by campaign manager, Karl Rove.
Which brings us back, full circle, to the problem of this new blackout of exit polls.
"The problem," writes Jonathan Simon, "is that Karl Rove now has 19 states to mine votes to cover a Romney popular vote loss (undermining and casting suspicion upon his easily arranged Electoral College 'win'), without the remotest trace of the theft, not even the telltale 'red shift.' This was done in 2004 for Bush, and it showed up in the 'red shift' in states like Alaska and New York, as millions of votes were shifted in non-competitive states where there was little forensic vigilance. And if it turns out that they need even more votes for Romney, with the public now 100 percent blind to these 19 states, they'll have them by the millions."
The same threat hangs over competitive Senate races across the country, which will determine the balance of Congress, and the courts, for years to come.
Now more than ever, if we suspect our vote is stolen, we couldn't prove it if we tried.
Yes, You Should Still Vote: But That's Not All
Remember, low voter-turn out makes it easier to rig elections. Don't kill your own vote by not casting it. Cast a ballot, but do it with your eyes wide open to the reality of the changes that need to be made in our vote counting system, then get busy organizing to make those changes happen before the next election.
Join the Election Integrity movement. If there's not a group in your area, start one. Educate, organize and help us restore transparent, publicly observable hand-counted paper ballot elections in communities across America.
Democracy is quite literally in our hands.
Bev Harris. Black Box Voting. free internet version — © (Bev Harris, 2004)
ISBN 1-890916-90-0 Chapter 8: What you Won't Find on the Company Websites. Also see, Felons Fingers In US Vote-by-Mail System; Prison Records of Voting System Programmer Jeffrey Dean, 1996, from Black Box Voting.org. Other coverage of the issues in Voting-Machine Sales Can be Dirty Business (The Baton Rouge Advocate, 5 February 2002); and Arkansas Secretary of State Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes in Computer Voting Equipment Case (The Baton Rouge Advocate); Hart-Intercivic And ES&S Up To No Good; BradBlog, Securities Fruad Litigation Filed Against Diebold, Inc.; and Lundin, Leigh (2008-08-17). "Dangerous Ideas". Voting Fiasco, Part 279.236(a). Criminal Brief. Retrieved 2010-10-07
Collier, James and Kenneth, Votescam: The Stealing of America ISBN 0-9634163-0-8 p.302