Welcome to the first edition of “Recount doubt watch,” dedicated to vetting items that sow doubt about the integrity of Minnesota’s election system.
The claim: Hennepin County’s failure to wirelessly transmit precinct results compromised security, as did letting single couriers transport optical scanner data.
The case: According to an unnamed election judge, “What happened on election night was Hennepin County set up the wrong IP address for all the machines in the county. There was no way to transmit the results to a secure off site location. Instead all the precinct’s needed to pull the electronic cards out of the machine, along with the tape, and head to City Hall to consolidate and then have them sent to the County. This means that one person had all the voting results and ballots in their possession for that precinct.
“So it certainly dropped the level of security a level. So in my mind the process was not followed, and the integrity of the procedure was flawed, if not corrupted.”
The response: Jill Alverson is Hennepin County’s auditor. She says several things are wrong with the judge’s testimony.
First, the county didn’t “set up the wrong IP address for the machines” on Election Day. The flaw was discovered during public testing — in front of partisan observers — days before the election. The IP flaw only affected the ability of each machine to clearly identify itself wirelessly, and did not affect tabulation.
Fixing the non-vital flaw so close to Election Day would put the card at risk. So Hennepin County used its backup plan: cards would be delivered to eight county collection sites, where the data was transmitted via county-secured laptop over analog phone lines.
The implication is that somehow not wirelessly transmitting the information reduced security. However, the technique is about speedy results, not security, Alverson says. Hennepin is the only county in the state to send returns over the air. The backup plan is one that the rest of the state regularly uses. So it’s not weird or bogus, unless you believe the rest of the state is corrupt.
Another pillar of doubt: a single judge/courier compromises security.
That does sound like a weak point, but consider what happens before the courier sets off. Three tapes get run before the machines are shut off. In the presence of partisan judges, one copy of the tape and the memory card are placed in the envelope, which is shut with a special seal. The judges sign the envelope.
Everyone who touches the envelope — only election judges, city officials and county staff can do so — signs a log. A county staffer with ID receives the info and transmits it.
For the ultra-paranoid: remember there are multiple copies of the tape than can be cross-checked if anyone messes with the envelope’s contents.
A few hours after the Powerline item went live, another judge wrote in (why don’t these election officials use their names?) to say there are two couriers. Alverson says city clerks may decide on a single-courier model to get info to their city halls.