Wednesday, January 26, 2005
On this day:

A "Stolen" Election...What Do the Unreported Numbers Say?

Continuing from yesterday...

The Mobile Register editorial linked in the last post mentioned the fact that "there was a colossal reporting error in Baldwin County that briefly credited Mr. Siegelman with some 6,300 votes that in fact never existed."

One thing that is often overlooked is that Siegelman wasn't alone in having an erroneous vote total attributed to him on election night. This (cached) article from the Decatur Daily reprints a Birmingham News account of events surrounding the vote count in Baldwin County. The whole thing is worth reading, but here is a particularly interesting excerpt (emphasis added):

As a member of the canvassing board, Capt. Marvin Ussery helped oversee the count. In addition to Ussery and poll officials, William Pfeifer, chairman of the Baldwin County Democratic Party, and John W. Hicks, chairman of the Baldwin County Republican Party, were on hand.

Sophocleus No. 2

The first summary report of the votes showed Libertarian John Sophocleus as the number two vote-getter. Officials knew that couldn't be right.

"Right there we knew something was wrong," said [Baldwin County Republican Party Chairman John W.] Hicks.

They called their computer specialists, who said there may be a problem with the data pack from the Magnolia Springs precinct. The numbers were too high from that small city, [Baldwin County canvassing board member Capt. Marvin] Ussery said.

Mark Kelley, general manager of Election Systems and Software Inc., which built the voting machine, said there was no problem with the machines at the precinct, but the computer at the Sheriff's Department misread the data pack.

Officials re-ran that pack, and Sophocleus' numbers dropped from about 13,000 to 937.

A summary sheet printed after the glitch was corrected showed Siegelman with19,070 votes. That was the sheet given to news media and campaign representatives.

That answers one question from my post yesterday: Why was Don Siegelman the only candidate who "lost" votes in the process, or was he? According to the newspaper excerpt above, the answer to that question is clearly NO. Both John Sophocleus and Don Siegelman were credited with erroneous votes at some point on election night.

Thus, there were (at least) two errors, affecting vote tallies for two different candidates, one of whom (Sophocleus) stood absolutely no chance of winning the election. This strongly refutes the contention that the errors were an intentional attempt to deprive any one candidate of votes. Rather, it seems much more likely that there was a either a problem reading data from the memory packs or an unintentional human error in tabulating the results. It may not be possible to know for sure which was the culprit, but I'll try to dig up a little more info to post on that tomorrow.