An Open Letter to the New York Times (and by implication) the Rest of the
US Media Who are Trying to Whitewash the 2004 Presidential Election
by LILIAN FRIEDBERG
Dear New York Times, etal,
As a long-time subscribed reader of your publication one, I have always
staunchly defended one of the best in the world--I am incensed by your
dismissive handling of what is one of the most significant breaking news
stories since Watergate.(your Nov.12 article,Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by
Blogs, Are Quickly Buried)
Here I am, seated at my computer, submerged in the nefarious bowels of the
internetreading a New York Times article with all the twitchy
cloak-and-dagger thrust of booking an airline ticket, making a hotel
reservation, a bank transfer or reading the Washington Post, Atlantic, New
Yorker, ABC, NBC, and CBS headlinesthings most of us do on a regular basis
in the parallel universe that is the internet (citing another derogatory
and patently absurd quip by NBC News Chip Reid).
I am neither internet enthusiast nor blogger: the term blogosphere did not
even enter my vocabulary until several weeks before the 2004 election when
these citizen journalists, some more legitimate than others, began
emerging as a powerful political force in the election. I am not unlike
most of your readers: educator, writer, editor, translator with a PhD and a
two-page publications list under my belt, in German and English. I
volunteer for my local park district, where I offer performing arts
programs for children and youth. All in all, Im pretty averagenot unlike
the now nearly 40,000 people whove signed the electronic petition to
Congress requesting an investigation of the 2004 presidential election.
(Note: I do not argue for the legitimacy of all these signatureswhats a few
thousand plus or minus in the greater scheme of things?). The internet is
not a distant planet: I would venture to guess that it is inhabited or at
least visited by 99.9% of your readers.
These readers dont appreciate their entirely justifiable concerns about the
accuracy of the electoral process being discredited and dismissed as
conspiracy theorist-quackeryas eight out of nine responses printed in
One glaring omission in your coverage involves the way this story began:
you claim that it emerged from the ether in the course of seven days as
mysteriously as the creationist version of human evolution. But that is not
So how did thousands of Times readers get swept up in the maelstrom of the
online market of dark ideas surrounding the last weeks presidential
election? What really happened to spawn the internet hysteria?
The stage was set on election night, with worldwide shock and disbelief
over Bushs overnight sensation victory: observers throughout the country
and the world who had been following the election closely tucked themselves
into bed Tuesday night confident that help was on the way. This logical
assumption was based not only on early exit polls: it was based on the
worldwide public perception, particularly salient in the United States,
that the only way a Republican victory could be secured was through a
dubious fiat similar to the one we witnessed in 2000. As one astute reader
responding to your front-page coverage of this highly significant media
event succinctly stated: If George W. Bush had won the 2000 election
honestly, people would not be so quick to assume that he did not win this
one fair and square either. Of course, that was in the letters section,
A30. So many readers may have missed it.
Years before the election, perhaps it was with the quiet passage of the
2002 Help America Vote Act which mandated the use of Diebold and ES&S
machines notorious for their "tamperability"--concerned citizens from
various walks of life--professors, computer scientists, systems analysts,
even grandmothers and literary publicists from Seattle--had been attempting
to sound the alarm: the Diebold voting machines are not secure; the
democratic process itself is in jeopardy, seriously so. Bev Harris,
Executive Director of the consumer protection organization
Blackboxvoting.org, first published her groundbreaking book Black Box
Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century in 2003. Avi Rubin, professor
of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of
the Hopkins Security Information Security Institute, authored that study.
Rubin is a qualified expert with years of practical experience in the
fields of cryptography, network security, Web security and secure Internet
services who was employed by such companies as AT&T and Bellcore prior to
accepting his appointment at Johns Hopkins. On Wednesday, October 27, 2004,
one week before the election, CBS's 60 Minutes broadcast an alarming
segment covering electronic voting, featuring not only Rubin, but David
Jefferson of the Center for Applied Scientific Computing at Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory. Jefferson described the system currently in
place as the "electoral weapon of mass destruction" which could easily be
manipulated by a "rogue programmer." Mark Crispin Miller, professor of
media studies at New York University and author of several "legitimate"
books on American government published by Norton & Company, also pointed
out the potential for problems with the machine-voting systems, and these
are but a few of the "minority report-esque" voices who attempted to sound
the alarm before the most recent election scandal broke loose on the
internet. Are we to discredit these experts as "internet conspiracy
In the hours since you posted your disparaging report, the bloggers have
lashed backed faster than you could flog them: As Joseph Cannons Friday
blog points out, even as you discount the early reports that began
appearing just two days after the election, you neglect to take into
consideration Dr. Stephen F. Freemans (University of Pennsylvania; degree:
MIT) study published on November 10, whichtwo days prior to your biased
and poorly researched reportlent support to the bloggers conspiracy
theories. Instead, you invoke the imprimatur of Harvard, Cornell and
Stanford, citing an email by three unnamed political scientists posted to
the website ustogether.org (a study that has since been revised and is now
being referred to in the scientific community as the Dopp and Liddle
report). According to your account, there was not sufficient concrete
support to merit the investigations sought by the three Congressmen (John
Conyers. Jerrold Nadler and Robert Wexler). The Dixiecrat theory has, in
fact, since been de-debunked by solid research findings, not by anonymous
emails shot off from prestigious schools. At present, the three primary
studies circulating on the net are the Dopp and Liddle report, the Caltech
report and the Freemans MIT report. Dr. Freemans report concludes that
while Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion, but the
election's unexplained exit poll discrepancies make it an unavoidable
hypothesis, one that is the responsibility of the media, academia, polling
agencies, and the public to investigate," and that furthermore that, "As
much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is
impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts
in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have
been due to chance or random error." Freeman concludes that the odds of
those exit poll statistical anomalies occurring by chance are 250,000,000
These studies do not involve a the kind of fuzzy math implied by the Times
report of blog-to-e-mail-to-blogthey involve a diligent, however frenzied,
study of the actual data produced by exit polls versus actual results.
These so-called internet conspiracy theorists are credentialed
professionals engaged in hard research--most of which is beyond my grasp as
a classically literary-minded PhD, but which clearly reflects solid
research conducted by people who, by virtue of their professional training
in precisely the fields required to analyze this data, are hard at work
doing the job of the entire nation right now. They are doing your job, and
they deserve your support and gratitude, not disdain, derision and
dismissal. The fact of the matter is, the situation we face as a nation is
far too complicated to be figured out without the aid of sophisticated
independent scientists who can analyze the data. The jury is still out on
this one: the fact of the matter is, there are three well-researched
statistical analyses that will need to be studied, compared and analyzed by
highly discerning and well-trained minds. That is likely to take some
timeconsider the stakes involved, wed best just hold our breath waiting for
the research to be complete. In the meantime, these three studies alone
provide enough evidence of anomalies to merit a thorough, time and cost
Lets not even begin to discuss or otherwise dismiss the most recent
findings of investigative journalist Greg Palast, one of those
internet-conspiracy-theorist-bloggers charged with snowballing rumors in
cyberspace: in his BBC report (also available online) he states that
documents from the Bush campaign's Florida HQ suggest a plan to disrupt
voting in African-American districts. Is it the BBC that is spreading
rumors, or Germanys highly regarded Spiegel (also available online), which
rightly identifies Palast as an investigative reporter, documentary film
producer and best-selling author and the remaining internet conspiracy
theorists as watchdog groups (in most democracies, this is a positive
moniker not a pejorative).
I must confess, Mssrs. Zeller, Fessenden and Schwartz, in my professional
capacity as a translator of German historical and literary texts, I often
have the unpleasant task of researching internet conspiracy theories and
subjecting myself to the horrific rantings of stark-raving lunatics on the
net. One classic example can be found at this site:
http://www.regmeister.net/verbrecher/verbrecher.htm. This, sirs, is an
internet conspiracy theorythe remaining sources I have cited here are
highly legitimate studies and reports conducted by credentialed scientists
and respectable journalists.
Had you done your research, youd have recognized the difference. Perhaps
you got your internets confused: I see from todays headlines that the
Pentagon [is] Envisioning a Costly Internet for WarTim Weiner reports that
the Pentagon is building its own Internet, the militarys world wide web for
the wars of the future. The goal is to give all American commanders and
troops a moving picture of all foreign enemies and threatsa Gods-eye view
of battle. Maybe that was the internets you had in mindIm quite content
with the Gods eye-view Im getting right here and now on this ol fashioned
The story is bigger than Watergate. Your dismissal of it is on a par with
the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
Dr. Lilian Friedberg
Reporting from the Democratic Mandate of the United States of America
Bev Harris Finds 'Missing'
FL Vote Records In Trash!
Black Box Voting.org
Dueling lawyers, election officials gnashing teeth, Votergate.tv film crew
catching it all in Volusia County, Florida Here's what happened so far:
Friday Black Box Voting investigators Andy Stephenson and Kathleen Wynne
popped in to ask for some records. They were rebuffed by an elections
official named Denise. Bev Harris called on the cell phone from
investigations in downstate Florida, and told Volusia County Elections
Supervisor Deanie Lowe that Black Box Voting would be in to pick up our
Nov. 2 Freedom of Information request, or would file for a hand recount.
"No, Bev, please don't do that!" she exclaimed. But this is the way it has
to be, folks. We didn't back down.
Monday Bev, Andy and Kathleen came in with a film crew and asked for the
FOIA request. Deanie Lowe gave it to us with a smile, but I noticed that
one item, the polling place tapes, were not copies of the real ones, but
instead were new printouts, done on Nov. 15, and not signed by anyone.
I asked to see the real ones, and they told us for "privacy" reasons we
can't have copies of the signed ones. I insisted on at least viewing them
(although refusing to give us copies of the signatures is not legally
defensible, according to our attorney). They said the real ones were in the
County Elections warehouse. It was quittin' time and we arranged to come
back this morning to review them.
Lana Hires, an employee who gained some notoriety in a Diebold memo, where
she asked for an explanation of minus 16,022 votes for Gore, so she
wouldn't have to stand there "looking dumb" when the auditor came in, was
particularly unhappy about seeing us in the office. She vigorously shook
her head when Deanie Lowe suggested we go to the warehouse.
Kathleen Wynne and I showed up at the warehouse at 8:15 this morning. There
was Lana Hires looking especially gruff, yet surprised. She ordered us out.
Well, we couldn't see why because there she was, with a couple other
people, handling the original poll tapes. You know, the ones with the
signatures on them. We stepped out and they promptly shut the door behind
There was a trash bag on the porch outside the door. I looked into it and
what do you know, but there were poll tapes in there. They came out and
glared at us. We drove away a small bit, and then videotaped the license
plates of the two vehicles marked 'City Council' member. Others came out to
glare and soon all doors were slammed.
So, we went and parked behind a bus to see what they would do next. They
pulled out some large pylons, which blocked the door. I decided to go look
at the garbage some more. Kathleen videotaped this. A man came out and I
immediately wrote a public records request for the contents of the garbage
bag, which also contained ballots -- real ones, but not filled out.
A brief tug of war occurred, tearing the garbage bag open. We then looked
through it, as Pete looked on. He was quite friendly.
We collected various poll tapes and other information and asked if they
could copy it for us, for our public records request. "You won't be going
anywhere," said Pete. "The deputy is on his way."
Yes, not one but two police cars came up and then two county elections
officials, and we all stood around discussing the merits of my public
They finally let us go, about the time our film crew arrived, and we all
trooped off to the elections office. There, the plot thickened.
We began to compare the special printouts given to us with the signed
polling tapes from election night. Lo and behold, some were missing. We
also found some that didn't match. In fact, in one location, precinct 215,
an African-American precinct, the votes were off by hundreds, in favor of
George W. Bush and other Republicans.
Hmm. Which was right? Our polling tape, specially printed on Nov. 15,
without signatures, or theirs, printed on Nov. 2, with up to 8 signatures
Well, then it became even more interesting. Lana Hires took it upon herself
to box up some items from an office, which appeared to contain -- you
guessed it -- polling place tapes. She took them to the back of the
building and disappeared.
Then, voting integrity advocates from Volusia and Broward, decided now
would be a good time to go through the trash at the elections office. Lo
and behold, they found all kinds of memos and some polling place tapes,
fresh from Volusia elections office.
So, we compared these with the Nov. 2 signed ones and the "special' ones
from Nov. 15 given to us, unsigned, and we found several of the MISSING
poll tapes. There they were: In the garbage.
So, Kathleen went to the car and got the polling place tapes we had pulled
from the warehouse garbage. My my my. There were not only discrepancies,
but a polling place tape that was signed by six officials.
This was a bit disturbing, since the employees there told us that bag was
destined for the shredder.
By now, a county lawyer had appeared on the scene, suddenly threatening to
charge us extra for the time we took looking at the real stuff they had
withheld from us in our FOIA. Other lawyers appeared, phoned, people had
meetings, Lana glowered at everyone, and someone shut the door in the
office holding the GEMS server.
Andy then went to get the GEMS server locked down. He also got the memory
cards locked down and secured, much to the dismay of Lana. They were
scattered around unsecured in any way before that.
We then all agreed to convene tomorrow morning, to further audit, discuss
the hand count that Black Box Voting will require of Volusia County, and of
course, it is time to talk about contesting the election in Volusia.
Black Box Voting
By UC Berkeley
Thursday 18 November 2004
Research team calls for investigation.
Today the University of California's Berkeley Quantitative Methods
Research Team released a statistical study - the sole method available to
monitor the accuracy of e- voting - reporting irregularities associated
with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000-260,000 or more
excess votes to President George W. Bush in Florida in the 2004
presidential election. The study shows an unexplained discrepancy between
votes for President Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were
used versus counties using traditional voting methods - what the team says
can be deemed a "smoke alarm." Discrepancies this large or larger rarely
arise by chance - the probability is less than 0.1 percent. The research
team formally disclosed results of the study at a press conference today at
the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center, where they called on Florida voting
officials to investigate.
The three counties where the voting anomalies were most prevalent were
also the most heavily Democratic: Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade,
respectively. Statistical patterns in counties that did not have e-touch
voting machines predict a 28,000 vote decrease in President Bush's support
in Broward County; machines tallied an increase of 51,000 votes - a net
gain of 81,000 for the incumbent. President Bush should have lost 8,900
votes in Palm Beach County, but instead gained 41,000 - a difference of
49,900. He should have gained only 18,400 votes in Miami-Dade County but
saw a gain of 37,000 - a difference of 19,300 votes.
"For the sake of all future elections involving electronic voting -
someone must investigate and explain the statistical anomalies in Florida,"
says Professor Michael Hout. "We're calling on voting officials in Florida
to take action."
The research team is comprised of doctoral students and faculty in the
UC Berkeley sociology department, and led by Sociology Professor Michael
Hout, a nationally-known expert on statistical methods and a member of the
National Academy of Sciences and the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center.
For its research, the team used multiple-regression analysis, a
statistical method widely used in the social and physical sciences to
distinguish the individual effects of many variables on quantitative
outcomes like vote totals. This multiple-regression analysis takes into
account of the following variables by county:
number of voters
change in voter turnout between 2000 and 2004
support for Senator Dole in the 1996 election
support for President Bush in the 2000 election
use of electronic voting or paper ballots
"No matter how many factors and variables we took into consideration,
the significant correlation in the votes for President Bush and electronic
voting cannot be explained," said Hout. "The study shows, that a county's
use of electronic voting resulted in a disproportionate increase in votes
for President Bush. There is just a trivial probability of evidence like
this appearing in a population where the true difference is zero - less
than once in a thousand chances."
The data used in this study came from public sources including CNN.com,
the 2000 US Census, and the Verified Voting Foundation. For a copy of the
working paper, raw data and other information used in the study can be
found at: http://ucdata.berkeley.edu/.
Complete US Exit Poll Data Confirms Net Suspicions
Full 51 State Early Exit Poll Data Released For The First Time
By Scoop Co-Editor Alastair Thompson
Scoop.co.nz is delighted to be able today to publish a full set of 4pm exit
poll data for the first time on the Internet since the US election. The
data emerged this evening NZT in a post on the Democratic Underground
website under the forum name TruthIsAll.
The new data confirms what was already widely known about the swing in
favour of George Bush, but amplifies the extent of that swing.
See graph q
Figure 1: Graph showing the "red shift" between 2004 US General Election
exit polls & the actual 2004 US Election results
In the data which is shown above in graph
form, we can see that 42 of the 51 states in the union swung towards George
Bush while only nine swung towards Kerry.
There has to date been no official explanation for the discrepancy.
Ordinarily in the absence of an obvious mistabulation error, roughly the
same number of states should have swung towards each candidate.
Moreover many of the states that swung against Democratic Party hopeful
John Kerry swung to an extent that is well beyond the margin of error in
exit polls. Exit polls by their nature - they ask voters how they actually
voted rather than about their intentions - are typically considered highly
Last week in an analysis of a similar, but incomplete set of data, Dr
Stephen F. Freeman from the University of Pennsylvania calculated that the
odds of just three of the major swing states, Florida, Ohio and
Pennsylvania all swinging as far as they did against their respective exit
polls were 250 milllion to 1. (See…"The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy"
– Dr Stephen F. Freeman - .pdf format)
Dr Freeman's academic paper contains a thorough description of why and how
exit polls are conducted (in some countries they use them to prevent
against vote fraud), and considers a number of hypotheses for why this
year's polls could have been so dramatically wrong. He concludes that the
reasons are unknown.
CAUTIONARY NOTE: The data that is released today shows the 4pm data run
from the Edison-Mitofsky polling company. This run was based on 63% of the
full 13660 sample in the poll. However as we also have a set of data from
around midnight with which to compare this data, we can tell that the final
exit poll results were not that far different than these early results.
This in itself tends to suggest that the polling system did not have a
systemic bias in its early data as suggested by some commentators in early
reports on this puzzle.
(For a more detailed description of the limitations of this data and the
claimed gender bias in the early data see.. EXTENDED FOOTNOTE ON THE
LIMITATIONS OF THIS DATA - By Jonathan Simon )
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