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Park City resident's analysis of Florida vote fuels controversy

Published November 13, 2004 12:40 am
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PARK CITY - Anyone who spends much time on the Internet has witnessed the flurry of postelection rumormongering suggesting that the presidential election was rigged.

E-mail and Web log postings alleging "vote hacking" and citing voting anomalies in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina have reached critical mass, making them hard to ignore and dismiss. Even mainstream news media have picked up on the so-called "Votergate 2004," if only to discredit it.

But denizens of the blogosphere may be surprised to learn that the prime mover of this controversy is an unemployed mathematician and "ski bum" living in Park City.

"I was just sitting here quietly, putting together tables. I decided to post some of the results early and, boom, it just went crazy," said Kathy Dopp.

The silver-haired Internet enthusiast's statistical analysis of the vote in Florida was plucked from her Web site and widely distributed by Democrat bloggers suspicious of the election results in light of early exit polls that showed John Kerry winning.

Dopp, who turns 53 next week, is also a Democrat and longtime critic of e-voting. She has worked tirelessly - some say obsessively - to undermine Utah's planned transition to computerized voting machines, sometimes accusing election officials of fraud in e-mails that she distributes to the local news media.

Aside from odd teaching gigs, Dopp has been jobless since the late-1990s when the Internet service provider company she created fell victim to the dot-com bust. She survives off rental income and her retirement account.

Her solar-powered mountain home, which she shares with her cat, is cluttered with maps, books and stacks of paper. To some, she may appear eccentric. But Dopp, who boasts a master's degree in math, comes across as an intellectual - not a kook.

"I love American democracy. There is no better system of governance on Earth. But it becomes endangered when you let private companies count the vote and you're not allowed to see how they do it," she says of her dislike for paperless voting. "And if democracy were to disappear on my watch when I could have done something about it, I couldn't live with myself."

Conspiracy theorist or not, in the week following the election, Dopp and her Web site - http:

//www.ustogether.org - have become a cause celebre.

The day after the election, Dopp posted on her site a table analyzing Florida's election results, suggesting a link between optical-scan voting machines and unexpected gains for President Bush.

The table juxtaposed party registrations in each of Florida's 67 counties, the votes for each presidential candidate and voting method used. It showed a surprising number of registered Democrats in e-voting districts voting for Bush.

According to an article appearing Friday in The New York Times, the "zeal and sophistication of Dopp's number crunching was hard to dismiss out of hand." With lightning speed, it was co-opted for display on countless other Web sites.

Before the election, Dopp's site received an average 50 visits a day. On Nov. 8, she recorded 68,000 hits.

Three Democratic members of Congress calling for an investigation of voting machines even saw fit to include a link to her site in a letter they sent to the Government Accountability Office, according to the Times.

Republicans and political science professors have rushed to debunk Dopp's findings, noting that Florida Democrats have a history of crossing parties in presidential races.

Utah Elections Director Amy Naccarato wouldn't speak to the legitimacy of Dopp's analysis, nor to the security of other states' voting systems.

But she said, "There is a lot of paranoia out there about voting systems. It's not like elections officers are oblivious to it."

Naccarato says the chances that votes were stolen or fraudulently reported are "slim to none."

But Utah and several other states have reported computer glitches leading to miscounts, and in some cases, undecided races.

Dopp has posted a response to her critics, and won't stop there. She is setting up an account to receive donations for a nonprofit group she plans to launch with other statisticians and computer scientists who believe e-voting technology is amateurish and pocked with security problems.

She also plans to expand on her study of the 2004 presidential election to encompass all states and 2004 races.

"We've just begun to scratch the surface," she said. "This is not a partisan effort. This is an American effort. Everyone wants an election that's counted accurately."





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