What’s happening in Minnesota? part 5

As of this morning, Norm Coleman leads Al Franken by 206 votes in the results reported for the Minnesota Senate seat at issue this year. The mandatory recount is to begin next week.

Hennepin County includes the city of Minneapolis and its suburbs. It is Minnesota’s most populous county. One of our readers served as an election judge on November 4 for a precinct in Hennepin County and writes to reiterate a point we have previously noted:

As “machine judge” it was my duty to set up and take down the voting machine. I still find it very surprising that there has been no attention to the issue pertaining to problems with transmitting the election results in Hennepin county. I followed up with other city authorities and confirmed what I had heard.

The way the process is to work is that the voting machine or optical scanner is set up in the morning and a tape is run that is left in the machine showing a zero sum total for all the candidates. The polls are then opened and the ballots are fed in throughout the day. There is a counter on the machine which shows how many ballots have been counted, so that a comparison to the number of ballots used can be made. At the end of the day, the polling location is closed, and the absentee ballots are then addressed and fed into the machine.

Once all this is done, we must close out the totals. This entails a number of steps, one of which is transmitting the results. There is a modem in each of the voting machines which can dial up the county and send the results before the official tape is printed within the machine. This offers a level of security as the results are now off site, and the Official Tape with the totals is still at the precinct.

What happened on election night was Hennepin County set up the wrong IP address for all the machines in the county. There was no way to transmit the results to a secure off site location. Instead all the precinct’s needed to pull the electronic cards out of the machine, along with the tape, and head to City Hall to consolidate and then have them sent to the County. This means that one person had all the voting results and ballots in their possession for that precinct. So it certainly dropped the level of security a level.

So in my mind the process was not followed, and the integrity of the procedure was flawed, if not corrupted. I personally recorded the totals from my precinct to view and ensure they were recorded properly, however some judges after working 16 hours, may not have felt the need to be as diligent, nor hang around to the very end. A cynic could say something could have been swapped out in the process.

Someone should be asking Hennepin County officials and [Minnesota Secretary of State] Mark Ritchie, why the transmission of votes from these machines did not work. and how can they ensure the integrity of all the vote totals without this added step. I really believe this needs to be addressed. This system did not work as it was designed and someone needs to explain why.

I can’t find any report of the events raised by our reader in the local press. If accurate, it is an important element in the story now being played out.

UPDATE: Another Hennepin County election judge writes to provide a corrective to this account:

I also served as a declared Republican Election Judge on election day in Hennepin County. I served as Chair Judge (that’s the EJ leader) for pct. 10-6. I want to point out two things concerning the message you’ve posted from the reader.

It was known on election day morning that there would be no electronic transmission of the results to an off site location and that the electronic card would be physically sent to a drop-off center. I learned of it by reading the prepared instructions that were pulled from our voting materials at 6 a.m. No reason was provided to me for this change.

The source is incorrect when he says, “This means that one person had all the voting results and ballots in their possession for that precinct. So it certainly dropped the level of security a level.” The regulations clearly call for not one, but two judges, each of separate major declared parties, to take the e-card, the tape, and other important data, to the local drop off center, if before 10:30, or downtown, if after.

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