More VNS secrecy revealed

More VNS secrecy revealed

By Victoria Collier

By Victoria Collier

Independent journalist

Editor’s note—Last May, Victoria Collier, writing for The Asheville Global Report, interviewed Bill Headline, executive director of Voter News Service, the secretive operation that counts presidential votes and furnishes the numbers to the networks and large daily papers. Collier had stated there appears to be no civilian oversight of VNS’ functions.

HEADLINE: Right. Well, the point there is that. . . uh. . . is that if, if our results are. . . are. . . uh, not accurate, uh. . . then our credibility ceases. And uh. . .

COLLIER: But, you see—

HEADLINE: We feel like there’s a. . . a substantial body out there of official election result collectors, with whom we, uh. . . with whom we have to be in sync.

COLLIER: Well, I’m pretty sure you’re aware of the book Votescam?

HEADLINE: Uh, yes.

COLLIER: I’m just assuming you are.

HEADLINE: I’m not intimately aware of it, I’m aware that, uh. . . that such a book exists. That it made all sorts of allegations about what we do and how we do it and why we do it.

COLLIER: Well, I think the main problem there is that there were two reporters who actually had come up with really massive evidence of vote fraud, and then when they went to get it to the Media, the Media was unwilling to investigate the charges. And so, of course, because the Media is so powerful, they couldn’t get anywhere with the story. And if that ever is truly a problem, as it had been, considering that you ARE the

Media, then the question comes into play; Is there a citizen watchdog group, and an independent media source that could report on vote fraud?

How could they do it, if you’re the Media, and you’re in the process of counting the votes, and nobody’s allowed in to watch the process?

HEADLINE: Well, what I would suggest to you is, in the current Media climate, if there was any, uh. . . any substance in any allegation about vote fraud, that there would be all sorts of Media people out there, uh . . . uh, who would be not only willing but anxious to jump in and prove it.

COLLIER: Well, you would think so. You would definitely think so. But that hasn’t been the case.

HEADLINE: Well, what I’m suggesting to you is that, given the importance and influence of the Internet, the fact that many Internet publications seem to. . .uh. . . exist with a different set of rules than the ones that we’re used to, uh. . . I don’t think you’d find much hesitation in attacking us if there was anything to attack.

COLLIER: Well, there already is more than one website and many reporters doing just that. But you know, they’re really only attacking from outside the gates. They aren’t allowed in. And maybe that would fix the problem, if on election night one of these independent media groups was able to take part or at least witness what goes on.

HEADLINE: But, but. . tell me what the problem is!

COLLIER: The problem is simply that they can’t. They can’t get in.

HEADLINE: No, but, tell me. . . tell me what the allegations are. Is there any evidence that anything that we’ve ever done is, uh. . has been illicit or immoral? Or has —

COLLIER: There’s actually very little evidence of anything because nobody can get in.

HEADLINE: No, but—but, but you or the people who you’ve been associated with are questioning what. . . what we do and how we do it, uh . . . as if there was some wrong that’s been done out there.

COLLIER: Well, actually, there is evidence. Just for example, I believe it was in Iowa, there was a—I’m not sure which election this was—there was a citizen group watching the county vote

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count, a paper ballot count—and then when the results were reported—it was a Buchanan support group who was watching—I believe the county results were different than the results from VNS broadcast over the news. And so, you’re right, it can be watched at the county level, and it was watched at the county level, but, when the supporters of Buchanan demanded the final results from the county, and this must’ve been in 1996, they have yet to receive them!

HEADLINE: That’s. . .their battle is with the county, it’s not with us.

COLLIER: Well, it’s also with you, because they don’t agree with the results that they were given from you, but they need the official results from the county so that they can deal with it from there, and they still haven’t received it. So you see, you can’t depend on the goodwill of the county, necessarily.

HEADLINE: (laughs) The official results have to be available from the county.

COLLIER: You would think so, but, you know, they’re not. And in most cases, people are not watching the vote at the county level anyway. Although that might change in the future, as more people become aware of the need to do this. They haven’t realized the need to watch the process. And you, the Media , you don’t tell them they have to watch the process. So, you know, everyone’s asleep. Everyone simply assumes that the results they see on television are the real ones, without questioning it. And if you committed fraud, who would report on it?

HEADLINE:Let me make something perfectly clear to you, which is that, uh. . . . What we do what we do. . . and how we do it . . . We have absolutely no qualms, uh. . . about how we do what we do, and we have no concerns about the ethical character about what we do. And what we do is, uh. . . attempt to be as correct and. . . and as statistically correct and as accurate as we can be, and the idea that we would cook the numbers somehow is. . . is so outrageous to us, and so implausible, and impossible, that —


HEADLINE: That we’re kind of shocked by the accusations.

COLLIER: How is it implausible and impossible? . . . That’s a good thing to explain! That would clear all this up.

HEADLINE: Because we’re a creature of the six leading journalistic organizations in the country, none of whom could survive if they did that sort of thing. It’s very simple.

COLLIER: How is that? How is it that they couldn’t survive? Because there are already independent reporters who have tried to cover this story, vote fraud in conjunction with VNS, and they. . . they couldn’t get anywhere with it. There was a total Media blackout.

HEADLINE: If—if—if NBC News or CBS News or the Associated Press cooked the

numbers, falsely reported, and believe me, if there. . . if there was. . . let’s take for example, uh. . . let’s use an example out of television.

Dateline, and the uh. . . . and the staging that they did some years ago in the story on gas tanks exploding. I’m sure you remember that. Uh. . . General Motors pickup trucks. Uh. . . that was discovered, and reported upon, by independent press and by everybody in the business and uh. . . and Dateline took a lot of hits. They were wrong, they were proven wrong, and that’s the kind of thing that could destroy a journalistic organization. And that’s not what they’re about, that was an embarrasment to people within NBC News and to everyone in the business. And that’s not the kind of thing that anybody invites. And to cook the books, or falsely report, would open all six of our member organizations to that kind of

criticism. And—

COLLIER: Well, obviously.

HEADLINE: And that’s not what we’re doing.

COLLIER: But the thing is—now, tell me if I’m wrong, I’m trying to understand this—If you’re a pool of all these different Media organizations, it’s not that they would be falsely reporting, necessarily, I mean they’re getting their vote totals from you. Right? Everybody’s getting the same numbers from you?

HEADLINE: Yeah. . . They, they use them as they see fit. And they all have their own numbers as well.

COLLIER: They all have their own numbers? Now, wait. Look, I’m sure you can explain this to me. I want to get this straight. If, on election night, all the counties across the nation are getting their results, then do they all call you? You have headquarters at 34th Street?

HEADLINE: That’s where our offices are, yes.

COLLIER: Okay, so on election night, they call the results from the county—

HEADLINE: Our reporters call.

COLLIER: You have reporters?


COLLIER: From the different networks?

HEADLINE: Yes—so. We hire. . .uh, county level reporters and some precinct level reporters, all over the country. Thousands of them.

COLLIER: You hire thousands of them?


COLLIER: Okay, and they call. Do you use the League of Women Voters?

HEADLINE: In some areas.

COLLIER: Okay, so they’re actually calling by telephone to give you the county results?


COLLIER: Okay, and you must have some kind of computer to tabulate all these results—


COLLIER: And is this computer at 34th Street?


COLLIER: Where is it?

HEADLINE: Part of it is in New Jersey, part of it is uh, wherever our, uh, National Input Center is, and part of it’s at 34th Street.

COLLIER: Does that change each election, wherever your National Input Center is?

HEADLINE: It changes from time to time.

COLLIER: And so then as you’re tabulating the results— does NBC have the same set-up? And CBS, and ABC, and AP and all those? Do they also have computers tabulating results as they’re called in?

HEADLINE: The uh. . . the numbers. . . uh, the vote totals, Associated Press has its own set-up. Uh. . . and they report their own results, and their results are received by all the members along with the results that we’re reporting. And more and more there are websites, either county websites or statewide websites that also count votes and people are looking at, uh. . . the members are looking at those results, uh. . . as a supplement to what they receive from us.

(Continued next week)

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