Washburn's World

My take on the world. My wife often refers to this as the WWW (Weird World of Washburn)

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Location: Germantown, Wisconsin, United States

I am a simple country boy transplanted from the Piehl Township in northern Wisconsin to the Milwaukee metropolitan area who came down "sout" in 1980 for college and have stayed in the area since.
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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Congratulations to Marilyn Jo Drake

You may not have heard of Marilyn Jo Drake, yet. Marilyn Jo Drake is the County Auditor for Pottawattamie County, Iowa. In Wisconsin, County Clerk would be the analogous title.

This last Tuesday (June 6, 2006), Marilyn Jo Drake decided an accurate election was more important than a convenient election. Marilyn Jo Drake had computer-generated numbers conveniently available to her. Instead Ms. Drake reported actual vote totals to the public in lieu of these computer-generated numbers which were masquerading as vote totals.

Making this right, but inconvenient decision has cost her much embarrassment, time, and money.

She had to tell candidates and the press near midnight of election night there would be no results that night. Candidates had to go to bed without knowing if they won or lost in the primary. Poor babies.

This meant 22 people had to spend hours hand counting the paper ballots in order to determine the actual vote totals instead of settling for the convenient, but incorrect, machine totals.

This meant vote totals for Pottawatomie County were not available until the end of day Wednesday.

This meant the actual winner of an election will move on instead of the candidate the counting machines had incorrectly (fraudulently?) anointed.

This is an uncomfortable place to be in and Marilyn Jo Drake deserved our support.

On election night the candidate she liked, John Sciortino, was losing to an improbable foe, Oscar Duran. The full details can be found here.

Here is what Marilyn Jo Drake did.

She noticed something weird.

On her own authority she performed an audit of a single, sample precinct to determine if the voting machines were counting correctly. Since the abbsentee ballots are tallied separately, the absentee ballots were effectively a Precinct Zero.

She determined from this audit, the machine counts for Precinct Zero (the absentee ballots) were manifestly incorrect.

She then went public, immediately. That same night she informed the press, candidates, and the Division of Elections, the ES&S equipment (M100's scanners and an M650 scanner) had tainted the administration of the public elections in Pottawatomie County.

She then executed recount of the machine programing for the 41 physical precincts of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.

As a result of the 42 recounts, Marilyn Jo Drake now has vote totals for Pottawatomie County, Iowa instead of convenient, computer-generated numbers masquerading as votes totals for Pottawattamie County, Iowa.

Marilyn Jo Drake is a hero.

She accepted the uncomfortable truth over the pleasant, convenient and plausible lie. Her life would have been so much simpler today had she accepted the lie and stated the election in Pottawattamie County, Iowa was was "problem free". Instead, she chose accuracy over expediency.

I fear Marilyn Jo Drake may find she is one of only a hand full of election officials in the nation willing to choose this difficult option. But, I do know this, it may be a small club (3 so far), but being a member is worth it.


Blogger Paul Malischke said...

Let's hope the machine in question has been quarantined. Perhaps 2 outside experts should be brought in to examine it. Doug Jones and JW, perhaps.
It will be important to find out exactly what went wrong.

Sun Jun 11, 06:37:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just three fact checks:

1. You're spelling the name of their county wrong, it's "Pottawattamie" - no second "o".

2. Unofficial results from the hand count were available on the Pottawattamie County web site as the precincts were completed on Wednesday. You can see the final voting results as they appeared Wednesday here: http://pottcounty.com/html/elections3.shtml

3. The candidates/press at the courthouse were informed around midnight, not 11pm.

Mon Jun 12, 12:15:00 AM CDT  
Blogger John Washburn said...

The problem has been determined ot be an election configuration error. Iowa law provides for ballot rotation. The ballots were printed with ballot rotation but the election configuration file was not. Thus, in half of the precincts for County Recorder a mark next to the printed name, John Sciortino, accrued a vote inside the machine memory to Oscar Duran.

The net result was the Sciortino/Duran race was nearly 50/50 instead of 85/15.

11 of the 36 races on the ballot were similarly affected. And in one race, County Board Supervisor District 5, the top 3 name annointed by the machines was differnt than the 3 who actuall got the most votes. In that race the mistake in the election configuration file cause nearly all candidates to get about 10% of the vote. The actual top vote-getter had 20% of the vote.

A voting machine erro which affected the outcome of an actual election in a real world setting and the only this which prevented disaster is a quick witted Auditor performed and audit of the machine for accuracy.

Mon Jun 12, 12:18:00 AM CDT  
Blogger John Washburn said...

Sorry about the mispelling of Pottawattamie, Iowa.

In my defence my BSA troop belongs to Potawatomi Area Council. As a matter of fact when I called the
county auditor's office it was as if I had a speech impediment. I kept saying Potawatomi council instead of Pottawattamie County. Very embarrassing.

I have corrected the factual errors. thank you very much for brining them to my attention.

Mon Jun 12, 12:42:00 AM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to see the "offical" numbers ... before and after the hand count from.

Wed Jun 14, 03:13:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank goodness Mary Jo is a Republican !!!!

Wed Jun 14, 03:20:00 PM CDT  
Blogger John Washburn said...

So what if she is a Republican?

There are honest Democrats and there are cheating Republicans.

Election integrity is non-partisan.

Thu Jun 15, 06:08:00 PM CDT  
Blogger John Washburn said...

I will be requesting the end of day poll tapes in order to compare to the official canvass numbers.

But, I customary wait until after the second Friday following an election before I send in the ope records requests for election paperwork.

The week of and the week following an election are hectic for an election adminstrator. They don't need me until things settle down.

Thu Jun 15, 06:11:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Paul Malischke said...

The story is described at

Sat Jun 24, 07:47:00 PM CDT  

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