While we are examining ethical issues surrounding Alabama Governor Bob Riley, let's look at the strange election that put him in office in the first place.
Several journalists have reported on a paper by Auburn University professor James H. Gundlach, analyzing possible electronic manipulation of vote totals in Baldwin County during Alabama's 2002 governor's race. Scott Horton, of Harper's referenced Gundlach's analysis here.
Steve McConnell, a reporter for Gulf Coast Newspapers, included an interview with Gundlach in a recent in-depth article about the Riley-Don Siegelman race of '02.
While Gundlach's work is fairly well known, I'm not sure it is well known that his paper can be read on the Web. The paper is available in PDF format here.
Some highlights of Gundlach's work:
* He says three factors raise suspicions about the returns: (1) An unusually large increase for the 2002 Republican candidate (Riley) over the 1998 GOP candidate (Fob James); (2) The one-third reduction in Siegelman's vote total from the first to the second report; (3) Computerized vote tabulation, which provides no method for producing two different results, save human intervention.
* Gundlach states: "When Baldwin County reported two sets of results, it was clear to me that someone had manipulated the results. There is simply no way that electronic vote counting can produce two sets of results without someone using computer programs in ways that were not intended. In other words, the fact that two sets of results were reported is sufficient evidence in and of itself that the vote tabulation process was compromised."
* Gundlach has a theory as to what happened. "My hypothesis is that someone was moving a little more than 3,000 Baldwin County votes from Siegelman to Riley by calculating a fifth of Siegelman's votes in each voting district, rounding it to a whole number, adding the resulting value to Riley's votes in that district and then subtracting that number from Siegelman's vote. However, instead of subtracting the calculated number, they added it to the vote for Siegelman. This is a common error created by using copy and paste to produce the invisible formulas for cells of spreadsheets. The result was a first report of county vote totals that had percentage distributions close to what was expected but a total vote that was much higher than expected. Once they went back and fixed the procedure so that it performed as they desired, a reasonable total vote and Riley winning the election, the difference between the first and second reporting of Siegelman's vote was twice the number of electronically shifted votes. If what I hypothesized happened, then the total votes for Baldwin County was 27,866 for Riley and 15,283 votes for Siegelman. This would have produced state totals of 669,039 for Riley and 671,652 for Siegelman."
* How could the vote be manipulated? Gundlach offers four scenarios and focuses on one in particular. "The fourth approach, and the one I would take if I were to do it, would be to install an 802.11 card on the tabulating computer, along with enabling software, and use a similarly equipped laptop in a nearby room to modify the data files immediately after they were read from the cartridges. This would simply require access to the tabulating computer at some time before the election to install the card and after the election to remove the card."
I'm sure some would like to call Gundlach a crank, or worse. But the main raises some serious issues, and I know of no one in authority who has taken a look at the key points he makes.