If you believe an election has been corrupted by voting equipment --
you will need to begin doing as many of the following things as soon as possible:
- Encourage candidates who were declared "losers" to NOT concede the
election. Monitor the situation to see that "winners" are not sworn into
office, which may effectively cease or prejudice any post-election contest.
- Collect affidavits from voters and poll workers with specific statements
about problems they encountered on election day. Be sure these testimonials
are notarized and have proper contact information.
- Obtain the detailed official list of votes cast and tallied for
the election. Request to see the original reports (not just copies or summaries).
These should be per voting machine per precinct for all precincts in the
election (not just those machines and precincts that may be in question),
if possible. Ask that this data be separated as to type (such as regular
precinct votes cast, absentees, emergency, provisional, foreign language,
disability access) if possible. Data for all races in the same election
can also be useful for comparison purposes.
- Compare the total number of people who voted on election day with
the number of ballots cast and votes tallied for the election. This involves
comparing the number reported on the public counter of the voting machine
with the number of signed-in voters to see if these are the same. You may
also need to consider the numbers of emergency and provisional voters (and
possibly also absentees) in this calculation -- ask the elections office
to explain (preferably in writing) how to account for these various types
of voters with the information they have provided regarding these numbers.
(If paper ballots are being used, the number of signed-in voters should
equal the number of paper ballots.) As well, the number reported on the private
counter at the end of the day minus the number on the private counter at
the beginning of the day should match the number on the public counter (which
should be the same as the number of people signed-in to vote). The totals
in each race should be compared to the number of votes cast in order to determine
the number of "undervotes" (sometimes referred to as "residual" votes). Calculate
the percentage of undervotes for each voting machine and each race and compare
these percentages to each other to see if any are unusually high (or low).
Also compare the vote and undervote percentages cast on computer-based devices
(such as DREs, touchscreen, and disability access machines, if any) to the
percentages for hand-prepared (opscan, absentee, etc.) ballots to see if
there are significant differences.
- Check to see if the number of precincts reported in the official election
totals matches the number of precincts that actually exist in the municipality.
Some areas have (for years) included "ghost" or "phantom" precincts that
are used for sub-tallies, or for absentee and military ballots. If
such precincts are listed, have the election officials provide a detailed
explanation of the sources for any votes tallied there and the necessity for
each extra precinct, in order to ensure that these votes were legitimate and
also not counted more than once.
- Get the names and official titles of all individuals who supervised
the voting system setup, operation, balloting, shut-down, and vote tabulation
processes for the election. These should include the Board of Elections
members and staff, as well as local poll workers and party officials.
If voting system vendors, staff, or contractors were involved, collect their
information as well.
- Seek to have the election equipment impounded before it can be altered
or reset. Make sure that all paper ballots (emergency ballots, absentees,
provisionals, and VVPATs if any) and election-day polling books (or other
voter signature records) are also properly impounded. This may take a court
- Request an independent recount (canvas) and audit of the election,
including a hand count of all paper ballots. Some voting systems may
not be capable of providing an independent recount. Have your election
officials explain (in writing) why.
- Attempt to obtain as much documentation as possible for all voting
systems used at the election. (Note that some regions use different
systems for early/absentee voting than those used on election day.)
This would include manufacturer names and addresses, model and version numbers
of all components of the voting system, purchasing and maintenance contracts,
certification documentation, procedures and practices, and any other materials
that are required to be archived.
- Become very familiar with your State or municipality's election
laws (should be available at legal libraries in your area).
- Make timely filing of requests for recounts or other election complaints.
- Collect and retain all newspaper articles that have pertinent information
related to election operation practices, vote casting, tabulation and recount
activities. Involve the press in publicizing your activities.
- Retain all correspondence you receive from any election officials or
others who have responded to your inquiries. If a response is made orally,
take and retain notes about the conversation (time, date, location, names
of individuals present).
- Try to find a local computer expert who could assist with testimony
and evidence gathering.
- See if your political organization can provide you with a local attorney.
It helps if they are familiar with election law, but trial lawyers who specialize
in other fields should be able to assist with court filings and information
- Consider conducting a "citizen audit" -- more information on how to
do this after an election (or even during an election, when it is typically
called a "parallel election") can be found at http://www.thelandesreport.com/CitizenAudit.htm.
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