by Glynn Wilson
In late October and early November of 2002, the Rileys started calling Ms. Simpson back to get her help in the event of a close election, her phone records confirm. And on election-day Nov. 5, the race was razor-close.
When the poll workers and the press left the courthouses of Alabama that Tuesday night, Siegelman was declared the winner statewide. But the race was not to be over and would come down to a few thousand questionable votes in Baldwin County in South Alabama.
Siegelman received 19,070 votes in Baldwin County and beat Riley by 3,139 votes there. And he won statewide by an initial count showing him with 674,052 to Rileys 670,913 – a margin of 3,139 votes, the closest ever reported in an Alabama election.
But sometime during the night after everyone else went home, a Riley campaign worker by the name of Dan Gans – who had served as Riley’s chief of staff both in Montgomery and Washington and went on to work with the Alexander Strategy Group, which has been repeatedly implicated in the Abramoff corrupt lobbying scandal – set up a laptop computer in the Baldwin County courthouse and changed the results, sources say. (Other sources say it was not Dan Gans, but another Riley aide. A Congressional investigation could get to the bottom of this).
In other words, he committed “electronic ballot stuffing” by changing the vote totals digitally, subtracting 6,334 votes from the Siegelman column.
Gans bills himself as a Republican “voting technology expert” and brags on a now defunct Website about his role in implementing “a state of the art ballot security system that was critical to securing Governor-elect Rileys narrow margin of victory (3,120 votes).”
According to Auburn University Professor James H. Gundlach, who studied the election and reported his results in a peer reviewed paper presented to the Alabama Political Science Association, there is little doubt that election fraud took place that night in Bay Minette.
For one thing, none of the vote counts for any other candidate changed in that last count, only Siegelman’s. And all the votes changed in a negative direction.
“When Baldwin County reported two sets of results, it was clear to me that someone had manipulated the results,” Gundlach says. “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.”
All you have to do to steal an election that is so close, he concluded, would be to install a special 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,” he said.
A source who was in the courthouse on election night says Gans was present and had the necessary access and was very interested in the final results. And this high level official in Baldwin County politics was surprised himself when he woke up the next morning and found out the numbers had changed overnight.
Working for the New York Times out of Bay Minette myself following the election and recount, I interviewed Probate Judge Adrian Johns at the time. Looking back at my files, I reported that he said, “a programming glitch in the software” showed Siegelman with 19,070 votes, enough to give Siegelman the victory in the early, “unofficial” count.
But Johns said the mistake was “corrected later” and that the call-in sheets from poll workers matched the 12,736 number that was made official Wednesday morning.
I suspected fraud and was prepared to work my sources at that time and investigate. But since Siegelman basically conceded, I was pulled out of Bay Minette by the Times and sent back home to New Orleans.
So why did Siegelman concede the election completely after only a few days and not push for a full recount as allowed by law?
Siegelman said in a recent interview that he conceded because his team figured the Alabama Supreme Court was stacked with a Republican majority and would side with Riley, so there was little point in insisting on a recount.
The case proceeded much like Bush vs. Gore in 2000, when the majority Republican appointed U.S. Supreme Court handed the election to Bush over then Vice President Al Gore. In Alabama, Republican Attorney General Bill Pryor certified the changed election count and the courts upheld it.
But Ms. Simpson tells a more intriguing story about that week. Her phone records show she was in almost constant contact with Rob Riley and others in the campaign.
The Riley campaign, led by a Republican operative named Bill Canary, now head of the Business Council of Alabama and husband to Leura Canary, the U.S. Attorney who brought the case against Scrushy and Siegelman, asked Ms. Simpson to go to the Jackson County Courthouse and take some pictures. But not just any pictures. It seemed a local Democrat would be seen there putting up Riley for Governor signs at a Ku Klux Klan rally – to use as a dirty trick against Riley.
What he did not know was that the Rileys already knew about the plan and had their own plan – to expose the Democrat dirty trick attempt and use it against the Democrats.
Ms. Simpson to this day does not know how the Riley campaign knew a Democrat would be engaged in that dubious activity. But she is convinced it was part of a Karl Rove double-barreled dirty trick to get Siegelman to concede – if the electronic voting manipulation strategy failed for some reason.
(I’ve been reporting since the Bush AWOL story that Bush and Rove learned their politics of dirty tricks in Alabama in 1972. This proves it has gotten totally out of hand).
So she went to the courthouse, parked a few blocks away so her car wouldn’t be photographed at the scene, and she even wore a disguise to keep the local press from recognizing her. Sure enough, the Democrat was knocking up Riley signs and whooping it up with the local Klan, pretending to work for Bob Riley.
She took the photos and later hand-delivered the film in a disposable camera to a campaign worker sent to pick it up by Rob Riley. She was told they were given to Terry Butts, who was supposed to show them to Siegelman and force him to concede the election.
Siegelman said that would not have happened, because it would have been an ethical conflict. He says he believes everything in Jill Simpson’s affidavit, but the most important thing, he said, was that “she places Karl Rove at the scene of the crime.”
Terry Butts denies all this, of course, and says even though he was tired from pulling “all nighters” writing briefs and dealing with the recount issue, he has no recollection of any conference call. Butts recalls Bob Riley putting his arm around him when the call came in that Siegelman conceded and using the term, “the winning team.” But he claims no recollection of any Klan photos.
The potential ethical quandary must not have dawned on Butts in his exhaustion, because the prospect didn’t prevent him from bragging about it in the conference call, Ms. Simpson says, most likely in the presence of the governor on a speaker phone. In the conference call Ms. Simpson reports in her affidavit, Butts continually said things like he was a Democrat before he became a Republican and that he knew Don Siegelman and could get to him and assure Siegelman that “it will all be over” if he would just concede.
Nothing else was ever done with the photos, apparently, and no one admits saving copies. The local newspaper in Scottsboro did get photos of the Riley signs at the Klan rally, but apparently never figured out, at least for publication, who was putting the signs up – or why.
And, as the story goes, those photos might be useful in the future to taint other Democrats, including Siegelman – when the time came for Rob to run himself. According to Ms. Simpson, the initial Riley election plan called for Bob Riley to serve one term as governor and then for Rob to run and serve two terms.
But it didn’t work out that way, since apparently, “Bob liked the job too much.”
Part 1:An Introduction to North Alabama Law and Politics
Part 2: Back to the Beginning: Jill Simpson’s Legal and Political History
Part 3: How the 2002 Election Was Stolen in Bay Minette
Part 4: How Ms. Simpson Discovered A Corrupt Judge
Part 5: How and Why Ms. Simpson Wrote and Signed the Affidavit
© 2007 – 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.