Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has requested a recount of the New Hampshire primary vote following percentage discrepancies between results tallied from hand ballots and those tabulated from electronic machines.
The call for a recount surely will renew debate over the reliability of e-voting machines, which are being deployed in record numbers across the country for the upcoming primary season.
“Serious and credible reports, allegations and rumors have surfaced in the past few days,” Kucinich, a longshot candidate who garnered slightly more than one percent of the New Hampshire vote, wrote in a letter dated Thursday to Secretary of State William Gardner.
Kucinich referenced online reports that showed second-place finisher Sen. Barack Obama performed better in precincts in which votes were hand counted, whereas victor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton received more support in precincts using Diebold’s optical-scan voting machines.
According to the watchdog Election Defense Alliance, Clinton received 52 percent of the vote from the state’s 236 optical-scan machines, and Obama garnered 47 percent. Those results were reversed in the districts that used hand-counted ballots.
Critics have contended optical-scan machines can easily be tampered with to conduct voter fraud. Last year, an HBO documentary called Hacking Democracy focused, in part, on the vulnerabilities of these machines.
Chris Riggall, spokesman for Diebold’s Premier Election Systems, which manufactures the voting machines, said the machines produce a paper trail, which would help rule out any allegations of misconduct.
“You can examine them to your heart’s content and address these types of issues,” Riggall told SCMagazineUS.com today. “We think a recount would be a wonderful thing from the standpoint of confirming what we’re very confident is an accurate result.
Princeton University computer scientist Edward Felten, who has conducted research into e-voting machines and has been particularly critical of Diebold’s touch-screen machines, said he does not view the New Hampshire results as suspicious.
“The demographics of people who vote on hand-counted paper are different than the demographics that vote on optical-scan machines,” he said.
Felten said the more rural towns in New Hampshire, which likely used hand ballots as a cost-savings measure, tended to favor Obama anyway. Meanwhile, larger cities preferred Clinton, and they used e-voting machines.
“Demographics are probably the explanation,” Felten told SCMagazineUS.com today. “That level of variance among demographics between precincts is pretty common.”
Meanwhile, Kucinich also raised suspicion over the final results, considering pre-election polls listed Obama as the clear favorite.
“The integrity, credibility and value of independent polling are separate issues, but they appear to be relevant in the context of New Hampshire’s votes,” he wrote in the letter.
Clinton pulled the upset win after across-the-board polls showed Obama with a healthy lead – some as much as double digits – heading into the Tuesday primary. Clinton ended up winning with 39 percent of the vote, compared to Obama’s 36 percent. Former Sen. John Edwards received about 17 percent.
Liberal bloggers questioned whether they should trust the results.
“While I have no evidence at this time – let me repeat, no evidence at this time – of chicanery, what we do know is that chicanery, with this particular voting system, is not particularly difficult,” wrote election fraud watchdog Brad Friedman on BradBlog.com.
Felten said that while the optical scanners do contain software that can be tampered with, the fact that the devices produce a paper trail should answer any questions over legitimacy.
Under New Hampshire rules, Kucinich must pay for the recount because he lost by more than three percent.
According to reports, representatives from the Obama camp have no plans to contest the election.