The Alaska Democratic Party said Monday that Alaska’s Diebold computer system used to tally votes led to significant errors in reporting in the 2004 election.
In a press release, the party announced it had filed a public records request with the Division of Elections seeking a copy of the “central tabulator data file” taken from the computer supplied by Diebold that was used to run the Global Election Management Software, or GEMS, application.
The party also requested paper records of the machines used in “early voting,” and a copy of the voter file as it existed immediately following the entry of data from the 2004 General Election.
“The Division of Elections is looking into the request,” said Whitney Brewster, director of the division.
The familiar Diebold AccuVote machines require voters to fill in small ovals next to candidates and issues, ovals that are then read and counted by the machine. Brewster said election numbers provided by the division have been accurate, but acknowledged they can be difficult to decipher. What Democrats actually want, she said, was to see the data provided in a different format.
“We are looking into ways to provide post-election reports in 2006 that would be more user-friendly,” she said.
The Democrats’ request would be honored consistent with the law, she said, as long as it did not divulge confidential voter information or breach the security of the division’s system.
None of the requested records would indicate how any person voted, said Kay Brown, a former state representative recently hired by the party as communications director.
But “numerous discrepancies” in the votes tallied by the familiar optical scanning machines, which began appearing in Alaska in 1998, are a problem. In 2004, the division’s “Statement of Votes Cast” by district and precinct showed a far larger number of votes than the official totals reported in the statewide summary, she said.
According to the party, President George Bush’s district-by-district totals added up to 292,267, while his official total was only 190,889, a difference of 101,378 votes, the party said.
Brown said part of the problem arises from the way certain votes are “bundled.” So-called “early votes,” which are different from absentee and questioned ballots, were grouped oddly, she said, making it difficult to analyze how voters voted in individual precincts.
“We were trying to analyze the election,” she said. “We asked the division to unbundled the vote. They said they were not sure if they can. They’re working with Diebold to get it done.”
Brewster said the states’ vote numbers have been “put to the test” in every election since 1998 through recounts. The paper ballots, meanwhile, are held for 22 months in compliance with federal law. Recounts also include randomly selected hand counts, Brewster said.
AccuVote machines were in 65 percent of precincts and at least 70 percent of voters used them in 2004. That same year, Diebold Election Systems tallied about four out of every five votes cast in the U.S., according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia service.
Brown said they want to analyze the division’s records to see how well they match what had been reported at the time of the election. Finding that the final election numbers were accurate would be reassuring, she noted, but voters need more than “trust us” promises from Diebold.
The Division of Elections has a duty to provide accurate information about the election results,” said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe. “They haven’t done that. For the public to have confidence in the integrity of the election, the state must correct and explain these errors and release all the data that will allow us to verify their conclusions.
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