The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, December 20, 2004


Welcome to USCountVotes

A group of independent mathematicians, statisticians and computer professionals has formed a new, volunteer scientific research project to objectively investigate the accuracy of elections in America.

Voting accuracy is a controversial topic: The "Help America Vote Act" was enacted after the 2000 presidential election to improve voting system technology and election administration procedures, but even so, more than 27,000 anecdotal reports of irregularities in the 2004 election were submitted to the independent "Election Incident Reporting System". An alleged pattern of discrepancies between exit poll results and final tallies in several key states is still regarded with suspicion by many observers. In response to Congressional request, the General Accounting Office plans to launch an investigation into the security and accuracy of voting technologies, the distribution and allocation of voting machines, and counting of provisional ballots.

Compounding this crisis of confidence, many electronic voting machines do not create a paper audit trial, and as a result an independent recount cannot be performed. These machines may malfunction or possibly even be reprogrammed by malicious insiders, with no independent method of detecting that a problem occurred. Concerns about potential problems with unauditable electronic voting machines are widespread in the computer science community; in a recent survey of US members of the world's oldest and largest computer society, 95% of respondents opposed deployment of unauditable electronic voting machines.

Our Response: We propose to create and analyze - for the first time ever - a single database containing precinct-level election results for the entire United States. This rich mine of data will be analyzed by our project's affiliated mathematicians, computer programmers, pollsters and statisticians, as well as by an independent peer-review board. Our goal is to use this data to develop and test mathematical techniques to reliably detect precinct-level vote counting errors worthy of investigation.

If the database and analytic tools can be put in place by the national election in November 2006, for the first time in American history, it could be possible for candidates to be reliably warned of indications of machine or human-caused vote count errors in time to challenge the results. With a sound scientific approach and methodology, it may be possible for our project staff to serve as expert witnesses, or to help develop statistical evidence in support of legal filings.