December 20, 2004

Triad Mechanic Permitted to Disassemble Vote Tabulator Day Prior to Recount in Mercer County, Ohio

Report from Mercer County, Ohio, recount observer:

I .... would like to share what I personally experienced in
Mercer County. Mercer only had one table, so we designated two
volunteers to be the actual witnesses for the G/Lib Parties and three
more of us observed from outside the counting room. Mercer had the
recount set up in the BOE office. When you enter the office there is a
space approximately 6 X 10 ft. between the door and a high counter with
a narrow opening in it. Behind this counter are the desks of the
employees, and behind them is a door to a small back office. That's
where the recount was to take place. One table was set with four
chairs. We were told that the punch card ballots would be examined by
one Democrat and one Republican, and that the results would be
tabulated by another team consisting of a Democrat and a Republican.
Only one problem: the Democratic tabulator had called in sick and there
was no replacement for him. In addition, the county attorney (a
Democrat) was present and a woman from Blackwell's office. She was
seated on a stool inside the door. Everyone else was forced to stand up
during the entire recount process, which seemed to be a needless
inconvenience that could easily have been resolved.

Witnesses with credentials included our Green and Libertarian
representatives, a Democrat, and a Republican. All witnesses were women.

Observers outside the room included two men who stated that they were
Republicans, two Wisconsin volunteers, a local woman who was our
contact person, and an attorney who identified himself as representing
the Republican Party. When the recount was about to begin, the
Republican attorney was invited to stand in the doorway to take down
all the names of those in attendance. I asked that one of us be allowed
the same courtesy, and that's why I know how the room was laid out and
who was in there. We had been kept waiting initially in a reception
room until just after the appointed time, and all the personnel were
already in place before we were admitted to the office.

The Deputy Director of the Mercer County BOE was delegated the task of
explaining the procedures to those of us who were observing outside the
room. She came out to show us the header card and explain the rotation
of candidates, and in the course of this she mentioned that because
Nader had been disqualified, any votes for him were not counted. I
remembered our discussion during the training about the need to get the
tally of ballots for which no presidential votes were recorded, and
started wondering how many of these were actually Nader votes. I asked
our local contact person if Nader's name had been covered on the actual
punch card units at the polls and she replied that they had not been
and that this had been controversial.

The county's attorney came out during the counting and I asked him
about the Nader votes. I specifically asked him if it was possible for
us to get a number on those, after we discussed the fact that Nader's
name was not covered, which could have caused confusion among voters.
He told me that signs had been posted in every poll, but that he would
see if we could get a count. He returned to say that the only way we
could get this number would be to request and pay for a complete hand
recount because the company that provides the tabulating equipment and
computer software had come in before the election and reprogrammed
everything to simply ignore the Nader votes. I asked who the vendor
was, and he replied Triad Systems. I then asked if they had been back
to service the equipment at any time since November 2, 2004. He replied
that, as a matter of fact, they had been at the Mercer County BOE the
day prior to the recount. He further stated that he was told that there
was some problem with the tabulator, and that the technician had
replaced a switch. I asked him to clarify that the tabulator being used
in the recount had been disassembled by this Triad technician, and
altered in that process within the past day, and he reiterated that was
the case. Then he pointed to the hallway outside the office and stated
that the technician who had done the work was still on the premises,
waiting in the hall should he be needed for any reason.

I went outside and called our coordinator who requested that we get the
name of the technician and any information he was willing to provide as
to what he had done to the machine. One of our volunteers returned to
the building and engaged him in a conversation. It turned out he had
actually disassembled the tabulator at 7:30 that morning. He said he'd
replaced a box containing a switch, and then made a remark to the
effect that he didn't have anything to do with the software, that he's
just a hardware technician. We have his name and more details on this
conversation which will be sent along to our coordinator.

I then had a conversation with our local contact person and she told me
that the woman representing Blackwell had until recently been the
Director of the Mercer County BOE. She still has her office in the
county, but now works directly for Blackwell in some capacity which is
unclear. Evidently she travels from county to county in the area doing,
well, who knows what?

Our group had prepared a checklist of items to be covered/information
requested at the recount by the observers in the room. One item
concerned whether any of the counting equipment had been serviced. I
have only verbal confirmation so far that the question was asked, and
that the officials denied that this had occurred. Apparently not all
participants in Mercer County are reading off the same page in the

It seems to us that the tampering with the vote counting equipment
demands greater scrutiny of the Mercer County results. In addition to
this activity, which is on its face suspicious, we were denied access
to the poll registry and the 3% of ballots to be recounted were already
selected in advance. To give an appearance of randomness, two precincts
with vote totals closest to the 3% required were preselected, and then
a coin was tossed to choose which one to recount. This was a
meaningless sham of course.

Unlike other counties at which the Wisconsin volunteers were present,
our volunteers did not have the opportunity to see what happened when
the data was transferred from the tabulator machine to the computer
compiling the votes. The officials present did claim, however, that
this computer is not networked to any other. I would not accept this on
its face since they were not honest about the equipment being serviced
the day of the recount. Surely they all knew this had occurred.

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