The fraudulent vote count would have resulted in Don Young being wrongly seated in a House seat actually won by his Democratic opponent Ethan Berkowitz, and would certainly have changed the outcome of the District 7 Lower House Race so that Democrat Karl Kassel would have beaten Republican Mike Kelly. [Note Kassel lost by four votes.] Democrats Andrea Doll of the 4th lower House District and Val Baffone of the 28th Lower House District were also likely the actual winners of the races they officially lost.At what point do we take assertions seriously? After all, I had had emails about the National Guard scandal as far back as 2010 and I'd seen Blaylock's long list of allegations on line. But I didn't write about it for lack of further information and lots of other things to do.
My experience with the 2012 Municipality of Anchorage election (see list of posts at bottom of this post) showed me how vulnerable the voting machines are. While I tend to think the problems in that election were more related to incompetence and not tampering with the voting machine software, the situation exposed the many vulnerabilities of the procedures and the machines.
I've read Foelster's claims. They represent a lot of painstaking work, not only in gathering and interpreting the data, but also in how to present it. He has a series of video tapes that walk you step by step through his hypothesis and the evidence backing it up. While the conclusion is sensational, his presentation is not. It's painstakingly detailed, self aware and self effacing, and outlines exactly how he went about getting to his claims.
I've sent the information to a couple of good data people and got a long response from one who knows a lot about elections and the computers. While this person didn't read it all, and raised some questions here and there, he allowed it was a possibility and was concerned about the greater environment of election fraud vulnerability of the nation as a whole. I've also had some email exchange with Foelster to follow up with questions I had.
Problems with Reporting Computer Crime
Manipulating computer data is the kind of crime that doesn't emotionally effect people like murder, armed robbery, kidnap, and rape. Television footage of computer code just isn't compelling. Computer crime is all hidden in 1's and 0's inside the computer, in computer code that most people don't understand. It's also something we don't want to believe is happening because it violates our sacred belief in American democracy. There are lots of websites that give details on how the voting machines can be hacked. Bradblog covers all sorts of voting issues including problems with voting machines. Here are some others.
- Votescam - large overview of electronic voting issues
- What Really Happened
- There's a great video - Hacking Democracy - but when I tried to look at the video just now on their site it said it "The uploader has not made this video available in your country."The website is still worth visiting.
- Even conservatives are now using voting machine fraud arguments.
- How Many Ways Are There To Steal An Election? And Why Doesn't Anyone Care?
This is a post I did in 2012 when I was covering the Anchorage Municipal election problems.
So, back to Foelster's allegations. Here, from his website, is the outline of his evidence:
[UPDATE Nov 23, 2016: his website now has restricted entry]
"The lines of evidence are as follows:Each item links to further information.
- The polls in 2008 indicated that the Democrats in Alaska would do much better than they did in the reported results.
- In 2012, there was a large swing to President Obama, one that was too large to have been caused by Governor Palin no longer being on the Republican ticket.
- The number of Democrats in the electorate in 2012 was significantly lower than the number in 2008.
- The report on electorate composition this information can be found in appears to have been reformatted in an attempt to draw attention away from it.
- The 2008 results are unique in recent Alaska history for having very Democratic Absentee results and very Republican in precinct results.
- A variation on a known technique for compromising AV-OS machines would have produced the effects described above, and this hack could have been introduced by one person working in Juneau.
- The size of the above anomaly varies from district to district based on the number of registered Democrats in precincts with AV-OS voting machines.
- The State Review Board’s Hand Count Audit of the paper ballots could also have been compromised by this same single person."
As I read this, I see him taking two main approaches:
- Technical: The data show anomalies that indicate votes in 2008 were tampered with.
- In 2012 there was a significant boost in votes in Alaska for Obama than in 2008. This runs counter to every other state where the support for Obama went down in 2012. This happened because in 2008, a large number of Democratic votes in Alaska were switched over to Republicans.
- How the voting machines work and how to hack them to get the results he thinks happened
- Human: The narrative of who might have been involved, how, and why
The technical part isn't necessarily flawless. Perhaps other explanations would account for what he found. For example, if enough Democrats switched parties to vote in the Republican primary race between Murkowski and Miller, would that accounts for the dip in Democrats that 2008? I don't know.
Who Is John Foelster?
Foelster identifies himself as a 'nerd' who lives in Pennsylvania and has never been to Alaska. He also has Aspbergers. And experience in computers and voting technology. I don't see that he has any particular interest in Alaska politics other than he saw this inconsistency and then obsessively pursued it. My sense of Foelster is that this anomaly caught his attention and he ran with it. I don't believe he works for any party or has any particular personal interest in Alaska. It's just a puzzle that came his way and he got deeply into it. I understand that. I did something similar with the redistricting board.
Computer crimes are hard to prove - first that they happened and second who did them - without lots of access, patience, and savvy.
Even if all his allegations proved to be correct, I don't see Ethan Berkowitz being retroactively sworn in to the House of Representatives. But if this really did happen, we ought to know about it and take steps to do something to protect us better in future elections. And if it didn't happen here the way Foelster says, there are other possibilities where it might have happened.
Can it happen in tomorrow's election? Yes, but there were patches made, according to Foelster, in 2011 that would preclude the particular hack he describes as for 2008.
I see two things that should be done here:
- We need a technical election committee that reviews every election in Alaska. It looks at the hardware, the software, and makes a statistical analysis of voting results to find any suspicious anomalies.
- That committee could start by reviewing Foelster's work.
I would note that the Municipality had such a committee - though its charge was not quite this thorough - but it was abandoned before the 2012 election.
I would also note that in that election there were lots of sloppy practices - plastic seals on ballot bags that easily broke off, voting machines and ballots being taken home by election workers overnight - that opened up many opportunities for fraud. Barb Jones, the new municipal clerk (after the 2012 election) and the election official Amanda Moser, have eliminated some of these practices and have been accessible to me as a blogger to exactly how each step of the process works. But we're still too much in the small town, we trust each other, level that our procedures originally came from. We're still leaving a lot of windows open and doors unlocked.
2012 Municipality Election Posts To Show Where My Concerns Come From
I have put together a list of posts I did on the 2012 Municipal election. (The posts were not well labeled and I had to poke around to find them.) I offer this list to help readers understand my experience with elections and why I'm willing to give John Foelster some attention here.
The Myth of the Big Election Turnout
Guadalupe Marroquin, Former Anchorage Election Chief Talks About The Election... (10 minute video on how to tamper with the machines and how they work from the previous election chief)
What Do The Election Percentages and Numbers Tell? Maybe Nothing
Polling Gap - Dittman Confirms It's the Biggest
Brad Friedman Rips Apart Election Commissioner's Testimony
Jacqueline Duke, Elections Chief, Fired by Assembly
What's Happening With The Anchorage Election?
Assembly Exchanges Barbs: Barbara Jones To Replace Barb Gruenstein.
Citizen Group on Election Meeting Now with Assembly Attorney
Hensley Report on Election Now Available - Form Over Substance
141 "Potentially Uncounted Ballots" Found July 11 (From April Election)
How Many Ways Are There To Steal An Election? And Why Doesn't Anyone Care?
(This is marginally about Anchorage - trying to link us to bigger national issues)