Page 6


into Harris County’s computers.” A STOLEN ELECTION? NEASE DEVELOPED about the security of the computer-tabulated mayoralty election in Dallas in 1985 after the incumbent mayor, Starke Taylor, attained just a 472-vote majority over the field, although he had a 3,981-vote margin over the second-finishing candidate, Max Goldblatt. “There is every basis [to believe] that it was stolen,” Goldblatt said at the time, but he firmly absolved the winner of any suspicion. On his motion a computerized recount was granted, but it changed the outcome by only 26 votes out of the roughly 77,000 cast. “The allegation is,” Terry Elkins, Goldblatt’s campaign manager, was quoted at the time, “that the computer used to count the votes, was given new instructions after it calculated that Max Goldblatt was leading Starke Taylor by 40 votes.” Not convinced by the second computerized count, Elkins, a, political independent, and her friend, Republican precinct chairwoman and political. organizer Pat Cotten of Dallas, conducted an extensive excavation into the records of the Dallas County election warehouse. Their findings and Elkins’s report and representations to the office of Attorney General Jim Mattox precipitated an, official state investigation. Conny McCormack, the Dallas County elections administrator in 1985 who last year resigned that post to take a bigger job running the elections in San Diego County, California, declared during an interview I had with her over breakfast in San Francisco that Elkins had never brought her charges directly to her for explanations, instead “running to the Attorney General” with them. As she had done before, McCormack offered innocent explanations for discrepancies in the election records that had been turned up by Elkins and Cotten. Fred Meyer, now the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, played a role in the matter. He had been president of Tyler Corp., the Dallas conglomerate out of which Cronus Industries was spun in 1977, and had held stock in Cronus until, as he announced in the press, he sold it early in 1986. When Meyer ran for mayor of Dallas in 1987, the chairman and then-CEO of Cronus, C. A. Rundell, who described himself as a close personal friend of the candidate, made a $5,000 contribution to his campaign. Responding in the press during publicity concerning the Attorney General’s investigation, Meyer joined Democratic county chairman Mike McKool in saying that the CES system used in Dallas was secure. In 1986, as the county GOP chairman, Meyer said: “I could see [fraud] if you counted in one central spot, but not with the kind of equipment we have. The chance of fraud in the system we have is very, very low.” Since, Meyer said, two of Mattox’s cam paign workers in a 1980 Congressional election had pleaded guilty to charges that they had illegally witnessed absentee votes of elderly nursing home residents, “asking Mattox to investigate voter fraud is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.” Commenting on the investigation of the 1985 mayor’s race, he was quoted by Dallas Times-Herald politics writer Tim Graham: “It is a tragedy what they’re trying to do with no evidence. There is not one scintilla of evidence. . . . It is really disgusting.” Late in 1986 the House elections committee, then presided over by Rep. Clinton Hackney, the Houston Democrat, conducted, a hearing -which became a confrontation between Elkins and her allies on one side and, on the other, McCormack and representatives of Cronus/BRC, which had become responsible by corporate inheritance for the CES vote-tallying system that had been used in Dallas since 1972. Some big-county clerks led by Anita Rodeheaver of Harris County are now lobbying to repeal the mandatory hand recount of all computer-counted elections on grounds that it is needless work. “I have done recounts. They never change,” Rodeheaver said. “You may get four or five or ten or twelve change because of chad [the irregular separations of the punchedout particles of the card]. . . . To ask for a recount without any ground, I don’t believe in that. . . . If they have grounds and want a recount, let ’em pay for it.” Rodeheaver, who is the chairwoman of the county clerks’ elections committee, added: “A lot of these [provisions of new law] were put in there because of an unhappy situation comin’ out of Dallas County. I don’t think the whole state should be punished.” With her CES system, she said, “I could not be happier.” As for the company’s retention of the secrecy of the source code, she said: “I feel personally that that is the privilege of the company who originated the program. As long as that program is doing what is required, I’m happy with it.” She does not care that she has not seen it,.she said, continuing: “I have a problem when they start talkin’ about that they can do this, can do that. All of this talk prove it! They’re talkin’ about all this junk they can do, put new cards in. . . . It really gets my hackles up.” Robert Parten, the election administrator of Tarrant County, where votes are counted in a computerized “OpTech I” mark-sense system bought from BRC in 1985, said when asked about the one-percent recount requirement: “I approve of anything that increases public confidence.” Asked to comment on Rodeheaver’s position for repealing it, Parten said: “I am too.” He added, however: “I will never go out there and lobby to repeal it. I’m all for any kind of security that they want. The one-percent rule really is not benefitting us that much. We’ve spent many hours counting ballots for absolutely nothing.” Errors found in the recounts, he said, were probably made during the recounts themselves, except that “of course, if people don’t follow instructions the computer won’t count it right.” “I’ve talked to Anita about it,” said Rep. Glossbrenner, alluding to Rodeheaver’s lobbying for the repeal of the one-percent recount requirement. The House elections committee chairperson said she told Rodeheaver she would fight her on it. “She said, ‘but they come out exactly the same,’ ” Glossbrenner recounted. “I said, `They probably will continue to as long as we count them, ‘ I think it’s the large counties that want to do that.” Glossbrenner did not think the legislature would repeal the requirement. The controversy over the 1985 Dallas election, playing out according to its own rhythms and logic, has come to an inconclusive end, cast into limbo by contradictory calls that have been made by county authorities in Dallas and state authorities in Austin. October a year ago, Theodore Steinke, Dallas County assistant district attorney, wrote Robert L. Lemens, the state assistant attorney general at the time who conducted the investigation, rejecting 13 “discrepancies” discussed in a still-secret 39-page report submitted to the district attorney by the state. “Each of the ‘discrepancies’ have been explained to our satisfaction; and although we verified that a few coding errors were in fact made, we have concluded that they were the result of unintentional ‘human error.’ We find no evidence whatsoever to indicate any deliberate fraud in the 1985 election, nor do we find any credible evidence to indicate an attempt to manipulate the election or its outcome,” Steinke wrote Lemens. “We also note that in the court-ordered recount conducted in two of the races, including the mayor’s race, the vote count differed by only 20 votes out of over 77,000 cast . . . which indicates to us beyond any reasonable doubt that the ‘original’ winners were in fact the winners. . . . We are accordingly closing our investigation at this time.” Steinke, asked to reveal the explanations to the 13 “discrepancies” which his office had found satisfactory, refused, giving as his reason the fact that the inquiry had been a criminal investigation. Elkins said no one from the Dallas DA’s office had communicated with her or asked to see her and Cotten’s copious Work on the election records. “I don’t think you can take it the next step, is what the problem is,” Attorney General Mattox said in Austin. “I think they have found incidents of clearly very questionable actions, and activity which is unexplainable without going outside normal computer operational procedures. . . . We were unable to tell who shoulda been the mayor of Dallas, Max Goldblatt or Starke 8 NOVEMBER 11, 1988