Did networks fake exit polls, while AP 'accessed' 2,995 mainframe computers?
By Lynn Landes
Journal Contributing Writer
Jan 7, 2005, 02:44
Why have exit polls historically matched election results? How about
this? It's all made up. It's a scam. A con. A fake. A fraud. Since they
first started "projecting" election night winners in
1964, the major news networks have never provided any 'hard'
evidence that they actually conducted any exit polls, at all. Researchers and
activists who point to the disparity of the early exit polls and the 2004
election results, have failed to consider the obvious -- that exit polls
never existed to begin with.
That was the conclusion of the late-Collier brothers, authors of the
book, VoteScam: The Stealing of America. In 1970,
Channel 7 in Miami projected with 100 percent accuracy (a virtual
impossibility) the final vote totals on Election Day. When the Colliers asked
the networks where they got their exit poll data, both Channel 3 and
Channel 7 claimed that the League of Women Voters sent it in from the
precincts. But, the League's local president tearfully denied it, saying, "I
don't want to get caught up in this thing." The broadcasters then told
the Colliers that a private contractor used the data from a single voting
machine to project the winners. But, the contractor said he got the data from a
University of Miami professor, who in turn denied it. In the end, the news
broadcasters appeared to have pulled the polling numbers out of thin air.
Not much has changed since then. According to their website, The
National Election Pool (NEP) was created by ABC, AP (Associated Press), CBS,
CNN, Fox, and NBC to provide tabulated vote counts and exit poll surveys for
the 2004 election. These six major news organization appointed Edison Media
Research and Mitofsky International as the sole provider of exit polls for the
most important political races of 2004. The AP collected the vote tallies.
But actually, the networks and Mitofsky have been
collaborating under different organizational titles, such as Voter News
Service, since 1964. And the AP may be doing more than "collecting"
Nothing about the 2004 election makes sense. The numbers don't add
up. The surveys don't match up. But, the networks have clammed up.
Despite mounting questions and controversy, the networks continue to stonewall.
Citing proprietary claims (something the voting machine companies like to do),
the NEP won't release the raw exit poll data. Okay. Maybe they have a point.
However, they also won't release any logistical information either,
particularly where and when the exit polling was conducted. And that's
definitely not cricket.
John Zogby, president of Zogby International, a well-known polling
company, said that such complete non-transparency is a "violation
of polling ethics". Under the American Association for Public Opinion
Research code, Section III, Standard for Minimal Disclosure: "Good
professional practice imposes the obligation upon all public opinion
researchers to include, in any report of research results, or to make available
when that report is released, certain essential information about how the
research was conducted. At a minimum, the following items should be disclosed,
Part 8 -- Method, location, and dates of data collection."
When looking at the data that the networks do provide,
things don't check out. According to the NEP website, 5,000 people
were hired for Election Day, 69,731 interviews were conducted at 1,480 exit
poll precincts. However, NEPs raw exit poll data has just been released on
the Internet by the alternative news magazine, Scoop.
It seems legit. It indicates that on November 2, the results of
16,085 exit poll interviews were published by 3:59 pm, 21,250 interviews by
7:33 pm, and 26,309 by 1:24 pm on Nov 3 (which doesn't make sense, maybe they
meant 1:24 am). Anyway, that grand total comes to 63,664 interviews. But, that
number may not be right, either. Edie Emery, spokesperson for the NEP, wrote an
email to this journalist stating, "On Election Day, 113,885 voters
filled out questionnaires as they left the polling places." Where did that
number come from, I asked? No answer from Edie. She said that the
networks would make more information available in their "archives"
sometime in the first quarter of this year. That's not very timely. Perhaps,
that's the idea.
At any rate, it appears that nearly a third of the results of the
exit polls were not available until after midnight! Wow, Nellie! What happened
to the stampede to "project the winner" right after the polls closed,
like the networks used to do? What went wrong this time?
And that's not the only mystery. It looks like Mitofsky/Edison used
two very different forms for their exit poll surveys. One survey is about
what you would expect -- -- a double-sided
single sheet of paper that the voter is supposed to fill out. However, the
other form, which matches the Scoop data, is several pages long; it is
huge. It is impossible to believe that anyone would take the time or
trouble to answer all those questions on Election Day.
And then there's the second half of NEP's role on Election Day 2004. The
NEP website states that vote totals were "collected"
from 2,995 "quick count precincts". I don't know what that means
either, because the NEP spokesperson refused to answer my questions. So, I'll
theorize. Does that mean that nearly 3,000 mainframe tabulating computers were
accessed directly by the AP? Although, the
AP admits it was the sole source of raw vote totals for the major
news broadcasters on Election Night, AP spokesmen Jack Stokes and John Jones
refused to explain to this journalist how the AP received that
information. They refused to confirm or deny that the AP received direct
feed from central vote tabulating computers across the country.
Thankfully, American Free Press reporter,
Christopher Bollyn was in the right place at the right time on Election
Night 2004. He spotted an AP employee connecting her laptop to
an ES&S computer at the Cook County (IL) election headquarters. But,
was she downloading or uploading data? In an interview with this reporter,
Bollyn said, "When I asked the AP "reporter" if she had "direct
access" to the mainframe computer that was tallying the votes, she said
yes and then Burnham (a Cook County official) stepped in and re-asked my
question for me. Again the answer was, "Yes."
I called Cook County this week and spoke with Cass Cliatt,
their spokesperson. She said that, after the polls close, any reporter can use
the county's "connector cables" that allow them to download the
latest vote totals. Cliatt said that this did not constitute a connection
to the mainframe computer. She did admit that AP employees were
there on Election Night and had cables dedicated to them specifically. But, she
again insisted that the AP cables were not connected to the
mainframe computer. Bollyn disagrees.
"Cook County had a complete press room set up in the back room
where there were about eight computer terminals hooked up to the Internet. So
why was this AP woman and her helper, a man, setting up their laptop in the
front room with wires that came across the counter only for them? And the real
question is why was Scott Burnham so dedicated to defending this AP 'reporter'
and not allowing me to talk to her? He did not care if I talked with the
Fox News guy or the CLTV people. It was only the AP 'reporter' who was
being protected. Scott Burnham is David Orr's (county clerk) right hand man and
PR person. What was the county clerk's office trying to hide? I have
never seen something like that and Burnham was very firm about that -- I
was not allowed to talk to the AP reporter directly. As you recall, I saw she
had more important things to do -- she was in deep into the middle of a
novel as the first numbers came in from Cook County," wrote Bollyn in an
email to this journalist.
I asked computer security specialist, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, a fellow at
the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, for her
reaction. Was it a good idea to allow reporters to "hook up" to
a cable in order to access vote tabulation data? She didn't think so. "It's
not as if they are handing them a CD with the data on it. That would be
the safest thing to do and probably faster. Why would they allow them to
connect up?" she asked.
So, what's really going on? Do we have an unholy alliance
between those who control the computerized voting machines (including election
officials) and the major news networks? State election
officials across the country have outsourced the tabulation of the vote to
a handful of Republican and foreign-owned corporations. There is no meaningful
public oversight of the count. No one knows if votes are being added,
subtracted, or switched. Meanwhile, the news networks publish exit polls
numbers, but refuse to offer any hard evidence that they have ever conduct
any exit polls at all.
What if the polls are all a fake? What's the point? What are
the networks trying to accomplish? There are various possibilities. But, I have
my own theory. I think that the networks simply match their bogus exit
polls to extensive pre-election polling. Then, if someone wants to rig an
election and not raise red flags, the exit polls get tweaked.
That accounts for their great track record historically. Imagine the
market for that kind of service. Imagine the power the networks would have to
control legislation affecting their industry -- and the industries of their
corporate parents. I must admit, until recently, I didn't factor in
the possibility that the networks had direct access to
mainframe vote tabulating computers, as well.
On the other hand, what does it mean when the exit poll system
appears to break down, as it has recently? Maybe the networks are not
only engaged in selling a service, but executing a sort of "squeeze play"
to boot. For instance, in this past election it looked like Kerry was going to
win. Then everything changed. Maybe, deals were getting cooked during
the day. Mitofsky said that when all was said and done, everything checked out
fine; the exit polls matched the election results. Really? Where's the proof?
Over the years the Colliers tried in vain to pierce the veil
of secrecy surrounding the networks' Election Day operations. For the 2002 and
2004 election, this journalist called the exit pollsters and the networks and
got the same stonewall. With the Justice Department intent on burying its
head in the sand, it will be up to all of us to -- as Reagan put it -- "Tear
down this wall".
In the meantime, there's no good reason to believe exit polls or
election results. They're as fake as a $3 dollar bill and worth about half as
Lynn Landes is one of the nation's leading
journalists on voting technology and democracy issues. Readers can find
her articles at EcoTalk.org. Lynn is a
former news reporter for DUTV and
commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org / (215)
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