October 07, 2006
Voter secrecy dead in King County
Horsesass David Goldstein has publicly outed and named a Seattle resident and published how that individual voted on his secret ballot during last September's primary election. In his most recent post he dumps on Tim Borders of SEA 43-2064. The information was provided to Goldstein none other than by judicial candidate Richard Pope.
At issue is how Borders voted in his Republican Precinct Committee Officer race. Borders was the only candidate and, according to Goldstein and Pope, received zero votes.
It's an odd Axis of Feeble when you have a chest-beater and self-promoter like Goldstein team up with a dumpster-diving attorney/troll like Pope. Their partnership has the makings of a fine reality show should they ever decide to fully consummate their relationship and become roommates.
With that said I do know that most Americans agree that they have the right to cast their vote in secret. It is guaranteed in the state constitution. And they don't want people like a candidate for District Court Judge, Northeast Position No. 2, Richard Pope and a blogger like Goldstein to publish who they voted for on cyberspace. The duo may also be finding themselves in trouble with state law since RCW 29A.84.420 states...
(1) It is a gross misdemeanor for a person to examine, or assist another to examine, any voter record, ballot, or any other state or local government official election material if the person, without lawful authority, conducts the examination:
(a) For the purpose of identifying the name of a voter and how the voter voted; or
(b) For the purpose of determining how a voter, whose name is known to the person, voted; or
(c) For the purpose of identifying the name of the voter who voted in a manner known to the person.
(2) Any person who reveals to another information which the person ascertained in violation of subsection (1) of this section is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(3) A gross misdemeanor under this section is punishable to the same extent as a gross misdemeanor that is punishable under RCW 9A.20.021.
Voter privacy advocates whom I've spoken with have been shouting since 2004, unheard, about these little quirks in the system where you can foil a voter's right to secrecy. One of them is that in legislative precincts that have a widely disparate percentage of voters you are able, through public records requests, to completely determine how that individual voted on their supposedly secret ballots.
Goldstein is not very smart here. Since he is arrogantly ensconced in Seattle he only views politics through the warped prism of downtown Progressive politics. But the same tactic he used to personally attack and intimidate a private citizen in this instance can be used, in theory, against Democrats in heavily Republican precincts.
Goldstein is not very smart here either because he and Pope, yet again, got the story wrong. Goldy and Pope gloat over the fact that Tim didn't even vote for himself.
Apparently not true. During a conversation this Saturday Tim Borders said that he indeed cast a ballot for himself. That Election Day he was working as an observer, as is his wont, at a polling place other than where he is currently registered. Unable to leave that particular polling place, since he was working, he voted for himself using a provisional ballot. He claims that he paid the $1 filing fee. And after the election he said that he checked the King County election website and saw that his ballot was indeed counted. He thinks that a clerical error occurred where his ballot was misplaced or mishandled possibly leading to this instance of disenfranchisement in the PCO race.
So is revealing how Borders voted on his secret ballot in a PCO race a big deal? You're damn straight it is. The same stunt that Goldstein and Pope used to out Borders for his PCO race could be used to determine how he, and others, voted in the primaries for president, governor, senator, congress and the state legislature.
Voter secrecy is important because in our nation's past there were unpleasant incidents where people would be intimidated, beaten or shot because of whom they voted for. You have instances in the South where white Democrats harassed freed slaves for daring to vote for Republicans. Similar instances occurred in company towns where mine and factory owners would hire thugs to intimidate workers on election days.
It looks like Goldstein is keeping that history alive today.
As I mentioned before I need to disclose that Tim is personally one of my best friends and it's hard for me to be impartial and fulfill my completely unbiased duties as a journalist here. And for those concerned I had a pleasant time tonight just like I always do.
I see that Tim has posted below some comments. I feel that his email to David Goldstein which he forwarded me is relevent.
Although I am bothered by the fact that you do not seem to care for my right to a secret ballot (a right guaranteed by the state constitution: Article VI, Section 6, and state law: RCW 29A.04.611 (11) and RCW 29A.84.420, which makes violations a gross misdemeanor) since you splashed this over the internet without first approaching me, I will take you up on your claim that you will cover a recount of my PCO race.
In fact, I did vote; I voted for "Tim Borders" in the PCO race, and although I was told my vote was received and counted, it was not. On the day of the election, I had to vote a provisional ballot as I was a pollworker in another polling place (other than my home polling place). Subsequently, I received a confirmation from King County that my ballot had been counted. (The web page for the "provisional ballot lookup" on the Elections website has since been taken down.)
Lo and behold, despite the assurance that my ballot had been counted, the PCO results showed zero votes. I was effectively disenfranchised, and I expect an explanation from Sherril Huff Menees into how it happened. I spoke with her yesterday by phone when I received no response to an email sent to Garth Fell on this subject.
Since you will be looking into this, perhaps you would want to look into the possibility that my ballot had been properly duplicated but was never tabulated. KCREALS identified 13 instances during the recent Pope/LaSalata/Ottinger recount in which it was learned that some ballots had been fed through the tabulators multiple times during the initial count, and presumably 13 individuals were skipped over. (On Thursday, I asked for an explanation into these ballots from Garth Fell, since this came as a surprise to the recount observers during the Canvassing Board certification meeting, but I have not yet received my promised phone call. I did speak with Sherril Huff Menees on the subject Friday.)
Although I do not live in the area covered by the recount, the problem was likely exhibited across the entire county, and perhaps my ballot was skipped over in favor of someone else's ballot.
For further background on the above scenario, let me inform you that I have been a longtime observer in KCREALS, and I was there during both the initial count and the judicial race recount.
I requested observer access to the tabulation machines, but due to space constraints, observers were not allowed to monitor tabulation machines except from a distance. It would be simple enough for a crooked tabulator (working alone) to run favored ballots through the machine multiple times, and from a distance, it would look perfectly normal. Quite often, an operator who is doing his or her job correctly will encounter ballots with timing mark errors, and when this occurs, an error message will appear and the operator will run the problem ballot through from another direction, and it usually corrects the problem.
This happens with such frequency that mistakes and/or outright fraud on the part of a tabulator would be impossible to detect, unless observers are watching the screens on the machines as ballots are tabulated.
Please contact me if you need further clarifications, preferably before you post.
Rep. Toby Nixon's comment below bears some witness particularly in regards to aggragating precinct counts. Little wonder why he received an award from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
It's also bizarre to me why when the non-partisan issue of election integrity pops up people circle the wagons. If it was Karl Rove pulling this stunt maybe folks would think differently.
Posted by DonWard at October 07, 2006
07:06 PM | Email This
1. I wonder if any of the votes marked on Borders' ballot were included in the vote tabulation for that precinct. If he cast any vote in the GOP primary, then showing the vote tally in that precinct would reveal his vote. Were there any GOP candidates running in any primary in that precinct? What would any honest and reasonable county election official do to avoid revealing Borders' votes and still remain within the law?
2. Would there have been any way to not reveal Borders' vote? After all, if he ran as a Republican PCO and is challenging the results on him not receiving any votes, it's pretty clear who cast the vote. What am I misunderstanding?
3. I voted for Pope in the primary. With this stunt, he's just lost my vote in the general.
4. Micajah and Alcon Nighthawk,
Yes, there is a way to preserve voter secrecy: WAC 434-262-020 says results can be aggregated among neighboring precincts in order to safeguard voter secrecy. For example, if vote totals from three adjacent precincts (including SEA 43-2064) were aggregated, there would be no way to tell that only one person in my precinct voted Republican. Yes, there would be one PCO vote, but nobody would know that there was just one Republican in SEA 43-2064.
I guess I'm having some trouble with your reasoning about this being an outing of something that is secret. The results of the PCO election are on-line and contain the names of the candidates and precincts
Anyone can go there and see that your friend Tim got zero votes.
To recap what happened:
1. I voted provisionally at a polling place other than my home polling place since I was a pollworker there.
2. My provisional ballot was counted, according to the KCREALS website (which has since been shut down).
3. My vote for "Tim Borders" in the PCO race was not counted.
4. I contacted Sherril Huff Menees (Asst. Director of REALS) on Friday; she said she would look into why this happened.
5. Richard Pope contacted David Goldstein about this today; David obliged with a posting on his blog. Richard also sent me an email along these lines (perhaps bcc'd to David Goldstein, I don't know), and I do not think he was trying to do anything other than highlight the irony that a person who was a plaintiff in the Rossi/Gregoire election challenge may need to request a recount of his own.
The voter secrecy issue is separate: we have a right to a secret ballot, and KCREALS could take steps to ensure voter secrecy in situations just like this one. I may or may not want anyone to know how I voted my ballot; regardless of how I feel about my privacy, voter intimidation and bribery are the two reasons why legislators think ballots should be secret.
R in Burien,
I don't think the privacy problem is with the PCO results file you cite, but the canvass file, since it is possible to determine exactly how I voted on all the partisan races.
I would reiterate that I know I received at least one vote; however, the PCO file itself says I received zero votes. This isn't the issue. Trying to tie me to a particular vote on a race is a violation of state law, however (at least according to a strict interpretation of RCW 29A.84.420).
A certain blog tried to reveal how I voted in a particular race, using official records from KCREALS. Perhaps this falls into the (1)(b) category.
I tried to fix this privacy vulnerability during the 2006 legislative session by introducing House Bill 2549
, which would have made it mandatory for auditors to aggregate precincts if any
of the races or ballot issues were unanimous (which is what allows you to deduce how people voted); additional precincts would need to be aggregated until no race on the ballot was unanimous, in order to preserve ballot secrecy. This would include any specific ballots types which are separately reported (such as provisional ballots, in Tim's case). Unfortunately, the Democratic chair of the State Government Committee didn't think the potential for such a privacy violation was high enough to warrant even giving the bill a hearing in committee.
Nobody other than Tim Borders has revealed what kind of ballot Tim Borders cast or who Tim Borders voted for. Nobody's secrecy rights have been violated here.
King County Elections reported ZERO votes for Tim Borders. This doesn't seem logical from Tim Borders' statements -- he says he marked his ballot for Republican preference and voted for himself.
For better or worse, only ONE ballot (out of 52 in SEA 43-2064) was marked for Republican preference. And Tim Borders says he marked Republican preference. This would allow someone to look at the King County precinct canvass results, and arguably determine everyone who Tim Borders voted for.
Logically, with Rep. Toby Nixon's bill, the results from SEA 43-2064 for all of the other Republican preference races (which would either show ONE vote for a given candidate, or ZERO votes, as the case may be) could be aggregated in such a way as not to identify them with SEA 43-2064.
But how do you keep King County Elections from reporting that Tim Borders received either ZERO votes or ONE vote in this election? This couldn't happen, even if the results were aggregated county-wide, since SEA 43-2064 is the only precinct that voted for PCO from SEA 43-2064.
Such a tempest in a teapot. Most people, knowing they will be working the polls, vote an absentee ballot. In most counties, a provisional ballot does not allow for a vote for a PCO, but an absentee would.
But I would say we have a pretty unsuccessful PCO if he couldn't find even one other Republican in the precinct- or were they all crossing over to vote in the Democratic primary in the 43rd? But the overwrought comments here indicate a serious lack of maturity being demonstrated.
It should be no great secret that a Republican PCO voted for Republican candidates, and given the lack of any choices on the GOP primary ballot in the 43rd, the only possible secret that could be revealed is that the PCO voted for someone other than McGavick...
As for aggregating to hide that there is only one Republican in the precinct, that is really stretching the law. It's purpose is not to cloud the partisan numbers, but to promote the secrecy of the actual ballot choices.
Anyway, here is no record of partisan ballot choice. There was no way to tell who cast the lone Republican ballot. Goldie's post read "Or should I say, a single vote from Borders, since apparently Borders either didn’t vote, chose a Democratic ballot, or cast the sole GOP ballot in the precinct… but declined to vote for himself."
So Borders outed himself. All Goldie did was list the three possibilities.
Of course, if the parties had not hijacked the primary, this wouldn't even have become an issue.
I can see where the ZERO vote apparent error came from. If Tim Borders cast a provisional ballot, it may have been on a ballot form designed for another precinct, or a ballot form that did not include the PCO race. So Borders logically would have written his name in some way to make sure that a vote for himself was recorded.
Provisional ballots are often duplicated onto the correct ballot form for the precinct in question. When this process took place, they may have overlooked transferred the PCO vote onto the duplicated ballot -- figuring that it really wasn't important. This probably happened with most PCO votes, since rarely would someone write in the correct name for PCO when casting a provisional ballot in another precinct. Since most PCO races are uncontested, will easily satisfy the 10% criteria, and there will likely be at least ONE party preference ballot from that precinct (besides the provisional ballot), this normally would not be a problem.
12. Don, don't waste our time with posts like this one.
13. I think the most interesting thing about this post is that Don has a date.
Jeff B. et al,
Call me old-fashioned. But when a candidate for elected office, a judge no less, uses his time in order to dig up dirt on how someone voted on their secret ballot. That's news.
When this information is used in order to embarass, harass, intimidate or discredit a private individual simply because they're perceived as being a political enemy. That's news.
It doesn't matter if it's a podunk PCO race or a Presidential election. Who an individual votes for on a secret ballot during an election is nobody's business and it's not for public consumption.
The bigger issue here is that Borders is not the only individual in this situation. Do we want politicians publishing how a gay Democrat in Black Diamond votes or how a black Republican in Fremont votes? Under current management at the King County Elections Office that can happen.
You picked a particularly wingnuttery (and logically flawed) interpretation of Goldy's post. Neither Goldy nor Richard revealed who Borders voted for. They revealed who he didn't vote for. There is a huge difference between what Goldy did and what you are wanking about here, as Goldy eliminated only one of some six billion people on planet earth that Mr. Borders may have voted for. Furthermore, Goldy points out that Borders may not have voted at all. You know--like Stefan has pointed out for Darcy Burner.
At least you can admit your emotions have caused you to sacrifice your journalistic impartiality (and post something that is, frankly, um...stupid) But with sentences like "I'm breaking this news real quick since I have a date," it looks like your emotions have caused you to toss proper grammar out the window, too! :-)
I hope your date, at least, went well.
"Do we want politicians publishing how a gay Democrat in Black Diamond votes or how a black Republican in Fremont votes?"
Quit illogical, my friend. In the world of confidential information, this process is called "deductive disclosure." In this case, one can only nail who someone voted for is if there is only a single registered voter in a precinct and a single vote, or multiple registered voters in a precinct, and complete homogeneity in how the votes were cast.
That is, if there are 100 registered voters in a precinct and 50 votes cast and all 50 votes were cast for the same candidate, then one can deductively disclose who voted how after the voter records are released (to identify who did and did not vote). But if only one person votes for another candidate (or casts a ballot but doesn't vote in that particular race), it becomes a matter of speculation on how each individual voted.
"Under current management at the King County Elections Office that can happen."
How is this King County specific? I mean, aren't precinct-level voter tallies public records for all precincts in the state?
17. But I would say we have a pretty unsuccessful PCO if he couldn't find even one other Republican in the precinct- or were they all crossing over to vote in the Democratic primary in the 43rd? But the overwrought comments here indicate a serious lack of maturity being demonstrated.
Let's not forget, we are talking about King County elections dept here. It's not possible to conclude from the results how many votes Tim received. If anything, this reinforces the notion that it's not possible in King County to know how many votes ANYONE received. If anything can be safely assumed, the number of votes reported is NOT the number of votes cast.
One more thing can be safely assumed...there will be no shortage of apologists for the incompetence of King County, minimizing, rationalizing, assurance that it's "no big deal," and that those who want clean elections have a psychological flaw.
This is what passes for sophistication in the more progressive areas of King County.
Comparative Election Results for SEA 43-2064:
September 16, 2003 Primary
King County Assessor
Scott Noble (D): 48 (73.85%)
Richard Pope (R): 9 (13.24%)
Undervotes: 11 (16.18%)
Total Votes: 68
September 19, 2006 Primary
Political Party Preference
Democrat Party: 47 (90.38%)
Republican Party: 1 (1.92%)
No Party Chosen: 4 (7.69%)
Total Votes: 52
Leaving aside the issue of the uncounted provisional, surely no one is suggesting that the ballot secrecy laws require us to refrain from logical deductions so simple that even leftists can perform them.
There are all sorts of deductions which can be made in that way. Suppose a candidate gets a single vote in his own precinct, and someone else announces that he voted for the candidate. Has that person violated ballot secrecy laws by enabling the deduction that the candidate did not vote for himself? Or is it only the people who make the deduction who are violating the law?
If we want to pass Rep. Nixon's law requiring the suppression of information which would enable such deductions, then let's debate the pros and cons of that law. But as long as the information is out there, it is unreasonable to expect people not to think about it, and it would be a violation of the First Amendment for the law to forbid them from talking about it.
On the lighter side of things, Goldy was otherwise occupied last night:
"I'll be on stage at Town Hall tonight, and oh yeah, Janeane Garofalo, Atrios, Matt Stoller and David Postman will be there too. The event will be moderated by Angie Coiro of Mother Jones Radio, and we'll be discussing Politics and the Press: Fair and Balanced or Lazy and Cowed?"
Fair and balanced "discussion", Seattle style.
21. dumpster-diving attorney/troll like Pope.
Ain't that the truth.
And since we're talking about how people voted, when given the opportunity to vote for Christine Gregoire or Richard Pope in the 1996 Attorney General race, I left my ballot blank. To put that in perspective, I was a Foreman supporter who held his nose and voted for Craswell in the General.
I've got no use for people who try to play both sides. Reap what you sow, Richard.
22. JDB, where's your outrage? Borders appears to have been disenfranchised, (a word lefties used in every other sentence just a few years ago in a State called Florida).
23. "Unless Borders voted for a Democrat, if he voted at all (see, we don't know, still a secret ballot. Maybe he has come to his senses and voted Democratic), he must have not voted for himself.
There is no violation of the secret ballot. We don't know how Borders voted, maybe he has come to his senses and voted Democratic "
The presumption is that there is not another Republican voter in his district. Goldstein's entire argument relies upon this false assumption. Perhaps a Democrat came to his senses and marked his ballot Republican or perhaps a Democrat decided to "crossover" and vote Republican to cause havoc (a more plausible scenario). Such a scenario certainly agrees with what Tim has reported.
As much as it pains me to say so, I do not think there is any disclosure of how Tim voted as Goldstien's argument flows from a false premise.
The outrage should be at why Tim's provisional ballot never got counted. But that point will probably be lost in the catfight.
24. "And you have to get your Republican Excuses straight. You don't claim to have voted provisionally, you claim that it was the Democrats fault. Then that Borders has been drinking and is entering rehab. Lastly, that he was molested by a clergyman.
How hard is that? "
Could he just claim he "did not huv sex with dat woman" and thump his fings on a podium?
25. Much Ado about Next to Nothing!
What in the hell are you thinking?
Often you do incredibly fine research and come to the right conclusion.
You have an opportunity to be a Judge for God's sakes.
Are you trying to sabotage that chance like Ross Perot did in his Presidential bid?!!
pbj at 25:
you are right, how could I forget the number one and two Republican Excuses:
2) It's Clinton's fault.
1) Clinton did it too!
27. Sorry folks. One of our posters has been trying to hijack this thread by bringing up a Florida-based scandal that is irrelevent to this thread. I do not want this topic degenerating into a "You're wrong about Scandal X because of Y and Z" tit-for-tat shouting match.
Matt Rosenberg's topic about Gay Republicans below is the place for THAT issue.
28. 22. JDB, where's your outrage? Borders appears to have been disenfranchised, (a word lefties used in every other sentence just a few years ago in a State called Florida).
The only serious crime is voting Republican.
29. "The only serious crime is voting Republican."
And if elected, the socialist apparatchik will outlaw it , right?
Well first of all, I was not the poster @25 you liberal moron. Put the bong down and clear your head.
"you are right, how could I forget the number one and two Republican Excuses:"
2) It's Clinton's fault.
1) Clinton did it too!
Uh, I never mentioned Clinton at all. I guess we know what you think of the only president in the past 100 years to be impeached. In fact Democrats are the only ones with stinkers so rotten as to be impeached.
31. Up here in the 46th district I don't remember seeing a Republican PCO candidate listed for my precinct in eons. Not surprising a bit that Tim should have been elected based on his one (uncounted) vote. It's even bleaker territory in the 43rd. I hope Tim will keep us updated as to what responses he gets from King County Elections.
Hmmm...., seems like you are forgetting a certain Richard M. Nixon. Yes, he was not techinically impeached, but come on, try to be a little bit intellectually honest.
And you were 25. Don Ward doesn't like that I made fun of him and the lame excuse he came up with for Borders not voting for himself. He has erased it at least three times in the last 12 hours. He would make George W. Bush and Dennis Hastert proud.
I'm not really sure of the importance of this "outing." After all, last year Stefan "outed" Tony Conlin-Allen (among others)for not voting in an election in the same way. This doesn't prove that voter privacy is dead in KC, but that with Tim's direct testimony that KC hasn't fixed their election issues. After all, Tim could have (given the nature of the 43rd district) voted the Dem slate just as easily because in all likelihood the Dem slate will be the one elected in November and thus his efforts would help choose the least of evils candidate. There certainly is no crime in that, not even for someone running for GOP PCO, although the other zero GOP-selecting voters in the precinct may have another opinion about that.
On the other side, I'm not sure why this should be newsworthy for either Pope or Goldstein. I guess with a Seahawks bye week they were looking for something to do.
34. What's his name, jdb/biteme/blowjob?
Soup for Brains:
You need to get off your desire to blow me. I don't swing that way "Mr. Congressman." You will just have to find someother man to focus your affections on. I'm sure there are plenty in Congress that would be more than happy to meet you.
36. What's his name, jdb/biteme/blowjob?