Minnesota Recount: Hennepin County knew of machine failure 11 days out

posted at 12:50 pm on November 12, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The story of Hennepin County and the election continues its curious path today with a new revelation about the transmission process.  Yesterday, I spoke with an election judge in Hennepin County who told me that the modems in ballot-counting machines was known to county elections officials four days prior to the election.  Today, in speaking with an official involved in the elections process in the county, I not only confirmed that none of the machines in Hennepin County could electronically transmit their results on the night of the election, but that county officials knew about the failure eleven days in advance.

Minnesota uses an optical-scan balloting system that makes the entire process more secure.  Not only does this allow for voters to catch unusable ballots before they leave as well as to automate the counting process, it removes human error from the vote reporting to county election centers.  Hennepin County spent a lot of money on these systems and explicitly selected the wireless modem option for that purpose.

The machines have wireless modems that have to be pre-programmed with a specific IP address to securely transmit those results directly to the election centers.  For some reason, the machines had the wrong IP address entered on the cards.  The cards would have needed to be reprogrammed to correct the error, and with a few hundred precincts in Hennepin (which includes Minneapolis), that would have taken a significant effort.  However, with eleven days to accomplish this, the failure to take corrective action for a national election is mystifying.  The source to whom I spoke said that county officials were aware of this by October 23rd, and possibly earlier.

Why would Hennepin County refuse to correct such a fundamental failure of the elections process eleven days ahead of what everyone expected to be a close Senate race, let alone a presidential election?  To answer this, I spoke with Michelle Desjardin, the elections manager for Hennepin County.  She said that the county did know of the failure at about October 23rd, but that they didn’t have enough time to reprogram the 860+ memory cards and meet statutory deadlines for public testing — seven days in advance of the elections.

But here’s the strange part.  Desjardin confirmed that the electronic transmission system worked in the primaries.  The cards did not get reprogrammed, and the destination IP address did not change from the primaries.  There was no reason why the transmission cards should have required reprogramming at all.  Desjardin acknowledged that the failure of all 860+ machines to connect was a mystery, but that they have higher priority statutory deadlines to meet before they can begin investigating the failure.

Another question arises from this.  Why didn’t the county test this system in time to make those changes?  The entire point of testing is to find broken processes and correct them in time for the election.

Desjardin also told me that the county provided written procedures to the cities as a work-around to the transmission process.  The cities were responsible for sending the written instructions to the precincts.  Hennepin County could not confirm that any or all of the precincts received them, but Desjardin confirmed that each city did.

I also contacted the Secretary of State’s office and spoke with the Director of Governmental Affairs, Beth Fraser.  Fraser explained that Hennepin County is responsible for managing the elections process in their jurisdiction.  On the issue of custody, Beth said that the rules vary depending on whether the ballots get counted in the precinct or in the county election centers.  In the latter case, it requires two judges at all times to carry the ballots back to the election center.  However, if ballots are counted, sealed, and signed by the judges in the precincts (using the optical-scan precinct tabulators), the state only requires one person to have custody in transporting the ballots.  Therefore, nothing untoward happened in that process.

Hopefully, our local media will start asking why a crucial safeguard to the election process was knowingly allowed to fail, and what caused that failure.  Minnesotans spend a lot of money on their elections, and the most populous county in the state should have performed better than it did.

Update: I’ve made some edits for clarity after conferring with my sources.  But here’s one final question.  If all 860+ machines failed, and no changes were made to the destination IP, why didn’t Hennepin conclude that the problem wasn’t the machines but the destination?  Why didn’t they try to fix the problem on the receiving end?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Curiouser and curiouser…

Del Dolemonte on November 12, 2008 at 12:53 PM

We really need men and women of integrity to run for office as election officials.

INC on November 12, 2008 at 12:54 PM

CHANGE!!!

Sponge on November 12, 2008 at 12:56 PM

Hopefully, our local media will start asking…

I doubt they will

…why a crucial safeguard to the election process was knowingly allowed to fail, and what caused that failure.

I think we all know the answer to that question.

Vashta.Nerada on November 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM

Yet another hit to my faith in the system.

Chad on November 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM

INC you are right. About all that can be said. My Niece lives in MN. I know she didn’t vote for Franken. I detest that slime ball. And he gets by with threatening the President. If one of us said that, there would be swarms of Secret Service at our Front Door. They would lock us up and throw the key. But a despicable slime ball gets by with it.

sheebe on November 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM

Call Jimmy Carter

Wade on November 12, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Great original reporting. Time to form the ABP, Associated Blogger Press, and take away the customers from those sorry writers at AP.

Mark30339 on November 12, 2008 at 12:59 PM

CHANGE——————THE VOTE COUNT

rico101 on November 12, 2008 at 1:01 PM

Silly, if the process had worked as intended it would have been more difficult for the Democrats to steal the election — they would have had to rely in old fashioned voter fraud. So the broke the process, or claimed that it was broken, so they could safely stuff the ballot box without risking people getting caught and going to jail.

johnsteele on November 12, 2008 at 1:02 PM

The cards did not get reprogrammed, and the destination IP address did not change from the primaries. There was no reason why the transmission cards should have required reprogramming at all.

Yeah that’s the unfortunate part about wireless. In addition to not being very secure, it’s just not very stable. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve had a wireless card work, not work, then work again – hell, I’ve got one right now that works just fine … until I start a torrent. Then it causes the computer to hard lock and blue screen.

The failure of all 860+ machines makes it sound like something happened at the receiving end of the transmission though. A single point of failure somewhere in the system probably.

apollyonbob on November 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM

Minnesota = banana republic.

jeff_from_mpls on November 12, 2008 at 1:04 PM

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Minnesota, find yourself another country. And take Pennsylvania with you.

Percy_Peabody on November 12, 2008 at 1:04 PM

Mark Twain once said that ‘No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe, while Congress is in session.’

If he were around today he could have changed that to “No election is safe so long as Democrats are around.”

johnsteele on November 12, 2008 at 1:04 PM

So many words and unnecessary jargon in this post, when the easy solution is to cut out the machines altogether before it’s too late

Greenhelmet on November 12, 2008 at 1:05 PM

There must be something bad in the waters of Minnesota. Maybe somebody poured massive amounts of Koolaid in the water plant at Hennepin County.

Kevin in Washington State on November 12, 2008 at 1:06 PM

The MSM will ignore this story altogether and when you have shills like Shep Smith on Fox calling the media bias for 0bama ‘preposterous’ after it completely failed to vet him and report anything in his past, it will pass slowly into the night, just like Ayres, Wright, Rezko, Pfleger(sp) and the questionable campaign contributions that he received.

We can all rest assured that McCain will be thoroughly investigated, though. NO BIAS HERE.

Sponge on November 12, 2008 at 1:07 PM

So is norm gonna pull this out or what?

goldeagle11 on November 12, 2008 at 1:07 PM

I’m already resigned to democrats getting Franken in the senate the hard way. That’s a given.

I’m a few months down the road. With animals like this in charge of our government, will they feel emboldened to have their show trials in which they prosecute the previous administration for crimes against humanity?

They’ve shown they’re willing to throw much of our system away. Can anyone think of a single reason why they won’t go for the big show trial? Have they even remotely signalled that they recognize a line below which they will not go?

jeff_from_mpls on November 12, 2008 at 1:08 PM

We need change that only a Mossberg 500 can bring.

Onager on November 12, 2008 at 1:08 PM

Just proves the old adage: to err is human, but to really screw up takes a computer.

rockmom on November 12, 2008 at 1:09 PM

Franken will eventually declared to be the winner. They will count and count until he wins.

I just scanned the sound politics archives, and I had forgotten some of the other fun items from the WA recount.

Democrats were allowed to contact voters whose absentee ballots were tagged for signature mismatch so that a new matching signature could be provided. Election workers were divining voter intent and creating new ballots that could be tallied.

Here’s an optical scan ballot that was counted as a Dem vote.

rw on November 12, 2008 at 1:13 PM

Without secure borders or elections, you have no country.

infidel on November 12, 2008 at 1:13 PM

This is stupid. Just get the paper ballots and count them by hand. There are paper ballots, right? That’s what “optical scanning” implies.

indythinker on November 12, 2008 at 1:14 PM

So is norm gonna pull this out or what?

goldeagle11 on November 12, 2008 at 1:07 PM

Ever seen one of those documentaries on the Discovery Channel where the lions chase the gazelles? They go after the weakest one. And once the attacker has his jaws around the gazelle’s neck, it’s over. She clamps her jaws shut while the victim passes out. Other gazelles keep running. The feeding frenzy begins.

This is how animals behave.

jeff_from_mpls on November 12, 2008 at 1:14 PM

So is norm gonna pull this out or what?

goldeagle11 on November 12, 2008 at 1:07 PM

At one point I thought he would. Given all the crap that’s been happening, I kinda doubt it now. These institutional failures have given the operatives plenty of time to put the fix in.

The thing is this — this result will anger a lot of people and not just Norm supporters. Minnesotans take great (and sometimes unwarranted) pride in our reputation for good government, probity, etc. This is typical ACORN-style action and it won’t sit well. At a minimum, Mark Ritchie will have a big target on his back in 2010. And Amy Klobuchar will in 2012, too.

Mr. D on November 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM

Probable nonsense

If 860 or so machines all had the wrong IP, why not just set a virtual host IP to that wrong address? Assuming the wrong IP was also under state control this fix would have been utterly trivial.

And if not, IP forwarding is pretty trivial to set up too.

Paul Murphy on November 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM

Ed-

Keep pressing the issue.

Whether you like it or not, you and your cohorts at Powerline and other bloggers arre the media now.

Belly up to the bar and face that fact.

Great job and demand answers.

mylegsareswollen on November 12, 2008 at 1:21 PM

Probable nonsense

If 860 or so machines all had the wrong IP, why not just set a virtual host IP to that wrong address? Assuming the wrong IP was also under state control this fix would have been utterly trivial.

And if not, IP forwarding is pretty trivial to set up too.

Paul Murphy on November 12, 2008 at 1:15 PM

This is government we’re talking about- nothing is simple for those folks. I’m sure they held multiple meetings about it though.

This doesn’t strike me as an effort at fraud- just normal government incompetance.

Hollowpoint on November 12, 2008 at 1:23 PM

We used to laugh uproariously when Saddam Hussein would win with like 99.83% of the vote.

Our elections are well on their way to equal absurdity.

innominatus on November 12, 2008 at 1:27 PM

This is stupid. Just get the paper ballots and count them by hand. There are paper ballots, right? That’s what “optical scanning” implies.

indythinker on November 12, 2008 at 1:14 PM

There are paper ballots- you fill in the little ovals with a pen and enter it into the scanner when finished. With Coleman ahead by some .01%, a hand count of the paper ballots will no doubt be what they’ll do. From what I’ve heard, most of the “undercounted” ballots were in areas that went for Franken, so there is reason to worry.

Sounds like the problem isn’t whether the scanners counted the votes correctly, but that they weren’t able to communicate the results electronically.

Hollowpoint on November 12, 2008 at 1:28 PM

This reminds me of the “not me” child that lives in every household. No one takes the blame, yet chaos magically ensues.

SassyDarlin on November 12, 2008 at 1:29 PM

We need change that only a Mossberg 500 can bring.
Onager on November 12, 2008 at 1:08 PM

Brother, I’m with you.

Is anyone out there willing to raise an army and invade my state? I’m trapped behind the Walleye Curtain and life as a partisan can get old, quick.

Bishop on November 12, 2008 at 1:33 PM

That was weird:
The lady wearing the ‘Obama IS President t-shirt’ who sold me my mocha was wearing a strange smile…
sip…
hey, this tastes funny…
hmmm…
change
change
change
*ding*
Wow! Franken might win! I want Franken to win! I love Obama!
Obama! O-BAMA!

Doug on November 12, 2008 at 1:36 PM

They’re offering brownies too, Doug. ;-)

Ed Morrissey on November 12, 2008 at 1:37 PM

Me thinks,if McCain won,the Democrats would
of asked for,demanded,and would of gotten,a
recount,straight across the board in every
precinct,county,state!!
———————————————————-
Its time for an overall of the election process,that makes
any glitches,snafu’s,not possibly!

No computers,touch screens,back to the paper ballots
and locked steel ballot containers,and have secruity
and accountants do the counting,under survaillence!!

What ever measures need to be in place to eliminate fraud,
and that includes ACORNS scamming multiple votes of voter
identification fraud!

Get er done!!

canopfor on November 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM

How many more “surprise” votes all for Frankenstein have they found today?

drjohn on November 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM

For weeks I’ve been saying that if Obama wins, 2008 will be the last fair election we see in this country for generations. Looks like I was too optimistic.

MarkTheGreat on November 12, 2008 at 1:40 PM

Why is it that 860 machines can’t be re-programmed in four days? If the programmers worked 8 hours a day for four days, and it took an hour to re-program one machine, they would need 27 people to do it. A city the size of Minneapolis can’t find 27 programmers for a national election?

Even if they couldn’t reprogram ALL of the machines during that time, having SOME of the modems work properly (for example, in the most populous precincts) would be a vast improvement, so that only the precincts where the machine eventually failed would have to send the ballots or records by hand.

But if Ms. Desjardins is a Democrat, everything would be explained. Fix the problem, and Franken would only have one way to win–honestly. Leave the chaos in place, he has two ways to win.

Steve Z on November 12, 2008 at 1:43 PM

At least in the future, under the new DFL Compassionate Hegemony, there will be no such voting discrepancies.

You simply step up to the election judge’s desk, state who you are voting for, and then walk away. Easy.

The guy standing next to the table with the AK-47, glaring at you while you state your vote? Eh, don’t worry about him.

Bishop on November 12, 2008 at 1:45 PM

“most populous county in the state”
==
Another “coincidence” reminding me of the Washington state 2004 Governor’s elsection that was stolen…

Washington’s most populous county is/was King County (Seattle and surrounding areas) – and it was King County where most of the new votes materialized for the democrat.

SeattleJohn on November 12, 2008 at 1:47 PM

Y’all need to learn that Democrats have more right to win an election than Republicans.

Also, this country won’t be healed until Obama gets 99% of the vote.

James on November 12, 2008 at 1:49 PM

So are the Repulbicans going to fight back by finding their own votes or is only one party playing this game?

mylegsareswollen on November 12, 2008 at 1:49 PM

Oops,thats not possible,not possibly!Ugh.

canopfor on November 12, 2008 at 1:51 PM

All it would take is an IT guy who supports Obama to make a change on a firewall, or httpd.conf or similar to block all machines. Out here in WA, we know all about fraud. Democrats in the King County elections office illegally counted more than a hundred unauthenticated provisionals in 2004. It took more than a year for a diligent local blogger, Stefan Sharkansky to uncover where the chicanery had occurred. By that time, the recounts, subsequent trial, etc. were over and we had a Democrat governor. That same governor just rode Obama’s coattails to a second term. That might have never happened had the very Pawlenty like Dino Rossi won in 2004.

But Urban Democrats/ ACRON operatives know how to play games with voters, registration, email GOTV efforts, counting, provisionals, etc.

If its close, they can steal it.

JeffB. on November 12, 2008 at 1:51 PM

The thing that is scaring me is that I keep hearing people wondering if skipped senate votes are “implied” votes for a candidate based on who the person voted for POTUS.

I know of two people who voted Obama and Coleman. I would hate to see the “hanging chad” interpretation come up with these ballots.

This has fraud written all over it. I’m actually thinking about volunteering to watch the recount.

gophergirl on November 12, 2008 at 1:52 PM

Yeah that’s the unfortunate part about wireless. In addition to not being very secure, it’s just not very stable. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve had a wireless card work, not work, then work again – hell, I’ve got one right now that works just fine … until I start a torrent. Then it causes the computer to hard lock and blue screen.

The failure of all 860+ machines makes it sound like something happened at the receiving end of the transmission though. A single point of failure somewhere in the system probably.

apollyonbob on November 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM

Agree with the final paragraph. They probably had a Democrat as the lead system administrator.

Wireless cards are not normally loaded with an IP address — unless they’ve got some really weird hardware, the OS usually handles that part. Secure wireless transmission would require some form of VPN and special wireless-to-wired routers, unless they have the Mark IV Multitronic Unit, in which case they do not want to be wearing a red shirt and stand between it and any source of power; they would then have more than enough wattage to transmit all the way to the State election center at DNC headquarters.

unclesmrgol on November 12, 2008 at 2:02 PM

MN Sec of State Ritchie needs to play this very gingerly. He is one ambitious dude, and if he blows this he kisses a 2010 guv run goodbye.
His dilemma: who do I love more – Al Franken or Mark Ritchie.
Look for him to walk Norm home while trying to keep his screeching base happy. Since The One won the White House he has wiggle room.
Nonetheless, the GOP needs to play hardball and use every intimidation tactic in the book to keep Ritchie focused on saving his own political ass.

Bruno Strozek on November 12, 2008 at 2:07 PM

Wait till the hand recounts start. We should have some good lawyers with a good working sense of smell so as to be able to sniff out the ballots that have been pulled out of the crack of Al Frankens ass.

44Magnum on November 12, 2008 at 2:08 PM

Because they had to stall the election as much as possible. Any delay provides for more opportunity for Democrats to succeed where they normally wouldn’t – through any means possible.

Grafted on November 12, 2008 at 2:28 PM

OK-I deal with MN hunter-types out here in SW ND. There are some that are decent & nice, but for the most part, they are citified uppity people who think I’m a stupid hick bcs I live out here.
Most MN natives from the CITY are pretty crappy people.
Every state I’ve lived in (quite a few) has been overrun with nut jobs that take over the state political system from the common sense natives.
I watched it happen in WA-I watched in happen in CA & CO. Everywhere I moved they were comin’ after me!
I think I’m safe for a little while here. But for HOW long?!

Badger40 on November 12, 2008 at 2:29 PM

the machines had the wrong IP address entered on the cards.

Was the new IP address senatorfranken.com?

andycanuck on November 12, 2008 at 2:34 PM

It’s nice finding out about these problems after the fact. We watch the GOP scramble after every close election as we let the Dems steal it from us. That is why the GOP needs a full time voter fraud unit with field people in every state. If we don’t fight the fraud, and make it one of our party’s highest priorities, it really won’t matter what candidates we select or whether we move back to our conservative roots. Maybe this is the 60 seat wake up call for the GOP who has turned a blind eye to this fraud for too long.

Done That on November 12, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Our justice system will let a serial killer walk free if the rules of evidence aren’t followed. Criminals get out of jail all the time because the chain of evidence was broken or the judge believed that the police didn’t have probable cause, or any tiny thing.

Our votes should be subject to the same rules of evidence. Instead, Demcrats in Minnesota are participating in a total perversion of justice. They should be ashamed — and afraid. Do they want to live in a police state?

bonnie_ on November 12, 2008 at 2:44 PM

Forget it . . . the “Peoples Republic of Minnesota’s left wing gangster politicos have decided whom they want for their senator and the voters have nothing to say about it. Besides, Franken will be a better fit for the Marxist regime that is about to take power in Washington.

rplat on November 12, 2008 at 2:45 PM

If there is a state with dumber people than Minnesota let them stand up now and claim their spot. As for that dweeb Sheppard Smith he is like the wimp in highschool who always got put in the trash can and had his lunch money ripped off.

Irvin88 on November 12, 2008 at 2:50 PM

Just as curious as the credit card AVS failure on the part of Dear Leader’s campaign.

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

rbj on November 12, 2008 at 3:06 PM

OK-I deal with MN hunter-types out here in SW ND. There are some that are decent & nice, but for the most part, they are citified uppity people who think I’m a stupid hick bcs I live out here.
Most MN natives from the CITY are pretty crappy people.
Badger40 on November 12, 2008 at 2:29 PM

I’m one of those MN native hunter types currently living in the city. Nice stereotyping. Now go clean the outhouse and fetch some water from the creek before your date with your cousin.

Most of the problems I’ve had with other people hunting weren’t from those from the cities, but local yokels who went out of the way to screw with “those people” from “The Cities”- which they define as anywhwere between St. Cloud and Rochester. Many had a complete disregard for hunting regulations and ethics as well.

Fortunately I managed to get 3 deer, no thanks to the local idiot who illegally drove up on his ATV right when season opened.

Hollowpoint on November 12, 2008 at 3:08 PM

Hopefully, our local media will start asking why a crucial safeguard to the election process was knowingly allowed to fail, and what caused that failure.

Yes, I expect the Strib to get right on it.

eyedoc on November 12, 2008 at 3:08 PM

If Norm Coleman wanted to win he should have had his lawyers on the ground ahead of time. They should have all started screaming bloody murder at the first “correction”. The accusation of voter fraud should have hit the airwaves on Thursday at the latest. By Sunday when the last hundred Franken votes trickled in Norm’s case would have been made.

Pawlenty should have led the charge. These guys are all losers. Since the GOP wants to play nice, Norm’s doomed IMHO.

The Dems don’t care how it looks or what people say as long as they can rig a win.

rcl on November 12, 2008 at 3:56 PM

I posted questions I have about the recount process here. Transparent & beyond question this is not.

LFRGary on November 12, 2008 at 5:02 PM

I live in Hennepin County. I truly hope they didn’t mess up my vote. That would be change, but not hope…

Aronne on November 12, 2008 at 5:05 PM