March 21 2016 03:06 PM

Did one presidential candidate get his votes erased?

Screen captures appear to indicate De La Fuente “lost” votes.

Crazy election season so far, right? But what if I told you that maybe, just maybe, in this age of computerized voting, your vote might not even count? Or get counted? Or get counted for the wrong person?

That's the creeping concern I got after talking and looking at documents from Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente, the fringe Democratic candidate who'd been running for president.

De La Fuente has been best known as a self-made millionaire who owned nearly 30 car dealerships throughout Southern California; the guy who flies the biggest American flag in the world (3,000 square feet, over one of the dealerships); and the plaintiff in a land-use lawsuit that turned into the city of San Diego's longest running court case (mostly settled in De La Fuente's favor last November, after 20 years).

De La Fuente could have been the Democrats' Donald Trump, not so much in the sense of a loose cannon, scorched-earth candidate, but as a non-politician businessman outsider, one with a potentially natural appeal to the Hispanic community.

It was a quixotic quest to be sure, but hey, this is America and anybody can grow up to be president right? Well, as it turns out, of course not.

While trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states, "We lost petitions at an alarming rate," De La Fuente laments. "Two boxes of signature petitions 'disappeared' in Virginia, which left us short of the filing requirement in that state. Wisconsin also denied us ballot access after it 'lost' 145 of the petitions we filed, without explanation."

Even with the setbacks, De La Fuente ended up getting on the ballot in 40 states—more than Martin O'Malley—but received zero attention from the Democratic National Committee. It refused to include him in the polls to determine who qualifies for the debates, so that pretty much left it game over for building national awareness.

In Iowa, and every subsequent caucus, the party refused to list his name on sign-in sheets, even though he qualified to be there. His campaign was denied signage at the caucuses while other candidates' were permitted. State parties even refused to provide his campaign with a list of where caucuses were being held.

But things started to get really strange at the first primary in New Hampshire.

"At one point, I was listed in third place with 851 votes," De La Fuente said. "Twenty-six minutes later, my tally was 54 votes. A loss of 797 votes." The campaign caught frame grabs of the tally via Politico.

On Super Tuesday it got worse. In Texas, where De La Fuente campaigned heavily in Hispanic communities, "We were delighted to have 8,080 votes in Travis County. About 20 minutes later, we had only 108 votes." Again, frame grabs from Politico's county-by-county tally, provided by the campaign, back up De La Fuente's claim.

Almost all of New Hampshire uses Accuvote Electronic Voting Machines. Travis County voters filed a lawsuit in 2006 alleging that electronic voting machines lacked reliability and security. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the case in 2011 and the machines remained.

I reached out to Verified Voting about De La Fuente's complaints, but was told that if the frame grabs of Politico's changing results throughout the night didn't come from a source unaffiliated with the campaign, they were not worth investigating. I reached out to the DNC about the discrepancies and nobody got back to me.

You barely have to Google "Electronic voting hacks" to start really freaking yourself out.

As recently as last April, a state of Virginia report on the touchscreen voting machines used in numerous elections between 2002 and 2014 gave the machines an "F-minus." According to The Guardian—and why wasn't this widely reported in American media?—the Virginia Information Technology Agency and outside contractor Pro V&V found numerous flaws in the system.

For example: Virginia found that machines were set up with passwords as simple as "abcde" and "admin," and could easily have been hacked from the parking lot outside the polling place. These same kinds of machines were also used in Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

Princeton University computer geeks released a study showing how easy it is to unlock the machines and replace their memory card with another that has malicious code.

"Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with very little risk of detection," the Princeton report stated. "The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs and counter kept by the voting machine so that even careful forensic examination...will find nothing amiss."

In Kansas, a mathematician sued the state to get access to voting records after discovering a series of voting anomalies in urban areas. She lost.

Private companies make most of the electronic voting machines, each with a proprietary, secret software and hardware platform. Recounts are done by the company itself, under the auspices of protecting its business information. No paper trail.

This is the type of stuff that drives me mad, one of the things that seemingly should be a huge story hard-boiled journalists should be chasing but aren't. It seems like you couldn't implement electronic voting to a population this badly unless you tried. And that worries me.

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