Victoria Collier Interviews Head
of Voter News Service
Update: August, 2010 -- This interview was unexpected, to say the least. At 24 years old, I was working for a small independent activist newspaper, The Asheville Global Report (AGR). I called Voter News Service (VNS) looking for a brochure, or a website -- some form of public marketing material for this national media consortium comprised of all the major networks. Never would I have expected the CEO himself, Bill Headline, to pick up the phone and confront me directly.
VNS, formerly News Election Services, has morphed again into National Election Pool.
For more on their role in our elections, click here.
On May 18th, E. Baylis called Voter News Service (VNS) on behalf of the Asheville Global Report, requesting what public information they may have about their organization. Baylis spoke with Lee C. Shapiro, press secretary for VNS. The simple conversation was quickly aborted when Baylis asked if a citizen watchdog group existed to oversee the function of VNS on election night. Shapiro replied that she was "not going to get into this with you," and insisted she had a meeting to attend.
On May 20th, another Asheville Global Report writer, Victoria Collier, called VNS again, and was informed that Ms. Shapiro was in a meeting. Collier asked only one question: was there any literature about VNS that could be sent through the mail, such as a brochure? After nearly five minutes on hold, the next person to appear on the other end of the line was the CEO of VNS; Bill Headline. He wanted to know why she was calling. The following is the transcript of the ensuing conversation.
Note- The stuttering and stammering on the part of Bill Headline has been largely edited for the sake of the reader.
Interview with Bill Headline--VNS Executive Director, New York City May 20, 2000
Collier- Yes, I was calling to ask if you had any information you could send to me. Any literature about your organization.
Headline- Ah, well. . . um. . . . . (laughs) . . I hesitate only because we don't really have anything in the way of literature. Uh. . . we have a fax sheet that we're in the process of putting together but it's not ready for distribution. Um. . .
Collier- Oh. And you don't have a Website?
Headline- Well, no, we don't have a Website.
Collier- But, people poll for you? I mean, you do poll?
Headline- We. . uh, we do exit polling.
Collier- Do you have volunteers who do that?
Headline- No, we hire people around the country to do that.
Collier- So, if somebody wanted to work for you, how would they get information on how to do it?
Headline- Well they would, uh. . . they would drop us a note and say that they were interested in. . uh. . in doing that. And I'd be happy to uh. . . to receive such a note. And uh. . . we have a . . uh. . . a group of people who recruit for exit polling on election night.
Collier- Well, it is strange that you don't have any written information that you could send out. I mean--
Headline- Why is it strange?
Collier- Well just because your organization has been around for such a long time, and it seems that in all this time there would be something written up. For the public?
Headline- We uh. . . we do a little, a little . . . as I say, we have a fax that's in uh, that's in development. And uh, we have a . . . a brochure that gets sent out to people who have been hired to work for us.
Collier- Oh, you do have a brochure.
Headline- A. . . well, brochure is kind of stretching it, it's a. . . it's one page.
Collier- It's one page?
Headline- But I, uh. . I mean. . .(laughs) I am aware that this is not the first contact between uh. . . uh. . . your organization and ours. So, I mean. . . . What is it that you want to know?
Collier- I would like to know exactly what it is that you do on election night. That's--
Headline- And why do you want to know this?
Collier- Because I'm . . . I'm a voter.
Headline- But that's not why you're calling us.
Collier- Well, actually that is why. That's it. Of course, I'm sure you're aware of certain charges, of. . . secrecy, I guess, that have been brought against what was NES, and I think you're the same group-- you're VNS now-- and I'm really just checking it out for myself, to see if I can get information. Because I really wasn't aware of the importance of your group in vote counting on election night. I just want to get information on what it is you do. And the question that was asked to Lee C. Shapiro last week that I think caused the problem was: Is there a citizen organization that oversees VNS on election night to make sure that all of the votes are being tallied correctly? But there wasn't an answer to that.
Headline- Well there are a couple of answers to that. First of all, uh. . .our sources. . . Well, we do three things. We do exit polling, and we. . .uh. . .we make statistical models of each state, and we collect the vote from those models . . from those model precincts. And we, uh. . . we collect the entire vote from across the country, primarily at the county level. So, you know. . . is there a citizen group? No, there's not a citizen group. Is there a . . . a double check? Yes, the official results don't come from us, they come from. . . from, uh, states. States and. . . and counties.
Headline- Uh. . .we're. . .uh. . . we're. . in the long run it's those results that are the official results, and . . . uh. . .uh. . . if you look at the history of the organization, the history of what. . . what we do, um. . . uh, (laughs). . . the official results are the final answer. And we have. . . Well, I can't give you any statistical information because I don't think there's ever been any need to do it, but . . . we've. . . we've never been out of sync with the official results.
Collier- No, you haven't, actually your vote projections in particular are remarkably in sync with the official results, which I think has been questioned in the past. That might be something a lot of people might be interested in, which is --
Headline- If- if- if you see a conspiracy there, uh. . .
Collier- No, that's not what I said. I think --
Headline- That's been the accusation, I think, or one of the accusations . .
Collier- No, that isn't what I said. Actually the question is simply, how exactly do you. . . what's the formula for the vote total projections? You're projecting the vote totals almost perfectly, before the polls even close. You use exit polling for this? You're saying that you use certain precincts that you get your exit polling from and they would be, I guess, key precincts?
Headline- Well key precincts isn't, uh. . . isn't the, uh. . . isn't uh, the terminology that we use because it's. . . that's confusing, although it has been used in the past. They are simply sample precincts. They are part of the statistical sample, of the country.
Collier- Do you use the same precincts in each election?
Collier- No? So . . .
Headline- We- we- we, we sample them. This is something that the statisticians understand better than I do.
Collier- Really? What's your position?
Headline- I run the place.
Collier- You're the president?
Headline- No, I'm executive director.
Collier- Executive director. Okay, I don't want to quote you incorrectly. Spell your name?
Headline- Bill Headline. H-E-A-D-L-I-N-E.
Collier- Okay. . . Is Robert Flaherty still the president?
Collier- Not anymore?
Headline- He never was. He might've been at NES. I don't know what those titles were. He is a former executive director.
Collier- Oh, so you're top of the line then.
Headline- (laughs) I like to think so.
Collier- How long have you been working with VNS?
Headline- I've been this shop a little over two years.
(Explains the name changed from NES to VNS in 1993)
Collier- So you only do exit polls, you don't do entrance polls?
Headline- Well entrance polls, uh . . . uh. . . they've been used occasionally when it's difficult for whatever reasons to exit poll. But the preference is to do exit polls.
Collier- Okay. So then in the upcoming election, would it be possible to. . . well, would it be possible for me, for example, to take part in the exit polling?
Headline- (long pause) Um. . . . if. . . if there was a . . .a . . .a sample precinct in uh. . . in your area, and it made sense to hire you to . . . to do that , it's . . it's theoretically possible. I- I- I must tell you that, uh . . . uh . . . it would not be something that we would want to do, because what you try to do in exit polling, in any polling, is to have the process as pure as you can, and uh. . . the purity in, uh . . . in this case. . . has to do with someone who has uh. . . uh. . . only kind of a general interest in doing it. You're . . . I would not want to hire you because you've . . you or your organization has been antagonists for reasons that I don't understand, uh . . . and, uh . . . and, uh . . .
Collier- I don't have an organization. Actually I'm not even on staff at the Global Report, I just - -
Headline- Well, you represent yourself as being from the Global Report.
Collier- I'm writing for the Global Report. Actually I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to speak to anybody if I didn't have some kind of an organization, either a newspaper or something else behind me--
Collier- Which I do. But you know, I'm not on staff with them, and really I am- I'm a voter. I'm just a person, a citizen, who's interested.
Collier- That's all. And I think, well, isn't that criteria for working for the exit polls?
Headline- Well, uh . . . generally speaking, it's nice to have some polling experience, but, uh. . . but that's not absolutely necessary. We recruit people who have an interest in doing the job, and will rehearse according to our directions and follow the directions that are part of the polling package. And certainly you . . uh. . . you might well qualify.
Collier- Well listen, I am not antagonistic. And I certainly hope I haven't been in this telephone call. I'm just interested in the voting procedure, and I'm. . . you know, I'm just a politically active person.
Collier- I'm just interested in it. So I don't see how I wouldn't qualify. And I really would enjoy doing it. And it's not that I'm unaware of the problems that certain people have had with your organization, but I'm willing to look at everything unbiasedly. I just want to see how it runs.
Headline- Right, right. . .
Collier- So, how would I go about doing this?
Headline- Drop me a line.
Collier- Well, I am. I'm dropping you a line. This is the line.
Headline- Okay. Okay.
Collier- So, what's the next step?
Headline- Uh. . . uh, if. . . if you'll drop me a line, I'll get it into the hands of the people who do the recruiting, and uh. . . and, we'll see where it goes from there. And I'm, I'm willing to pass that along without any. . . without any comments or restrictions.
Collier- Okay. I'm glad I'm speaking to you, because I really did want to speak to somebody and I know that Ms. Shapiro isn't in today, and I did have a question. I mean, if you're concerned about the antagonism then it's a good opportunity to clear up some of the --
Headline- Well, she had had a conversation with somebody from the Global Report the other day that was less than satisfactory. I guess in every respect.
Collier- I know.
Headline- So she's a little cautious about, about --
Collier- I think what it was, was that she (the GR reporter) had asked if there was a citizen oversight group for VNS and Ms. Shapiro said she didn't want to "get into it." Then I think that there was an accusation that Ms. Shapiro was being evasive. And, you know, that wasn't necessary, I'm sure that there is an answer- and there is. The answer is; No, there isn't a citizen group. And that would've been sufficient.
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 independant 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 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- Thats. . .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. . . 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 independant 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. . . lets 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 pick-up trucks. Uh. . . that was discovered, and reported upon, by independant 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-No. 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 it's 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.
Collier- Okay, so AP has it's own set-up, and I know that they have, I believe, for a while, but yet they're also part of VNS.
Headline- That's true. They have different needs than the rest of the Members. The Associated Press has to report on every single election, down to Dog Catcher, for its readership in. . .in small towns across the country. The television Networks report at the statewide level.
Collier- And you're just reporting the top of the ticket?
Collier- Okay, but aside from AP, the Networks are getting the numbers from you?
Headline- With. . . . with the caveat that more and more Websites are out there and uh. . . the Members are interested in getting as much information as they can, so they're looking at Websites as well as our numbers, as well as AP numbers.
Collier- I'm just trying to understand how it works, that's all-- so they're calling in vote totals from the county, but then they're also giving you exit poll results?
Headline- We conduct the exit polls and. . . uh. . . . our exit poll people report their results to us several times during the course of an election day. Uh. . . we evaluate that information and provide our recommendations, or our interpretations, if you will, our predictions, if you want to use that word, for the Members. The Members are also conducting their own polls, and using their own sources, and checking our information against what they have, and may or may not call a particular election based on our information or based on a combination of our information and theirs, or, if they think we're wrong, they go with their information.
Collier- Wow, this is strangely . . . complex, and really . . . casual. And yet--such accuracy! You're numbers have often been nearly one hundred percect perfect. Okay, then this is my final question--
Headline- I don't mean to be, difficult, or any of this, I'm uh. . . uh . . . . I'm . . . I'm really flabbergasted at the uh. . . at the nature of the allegations that have floated around there and whatever it was that uh, Votescam, uh. . . undertook to prove, because it's so far off base that it's, just. . . it's just hard for me to fathom.
Collier- Well, maybe you should read the book, and then it probably wouldn't be so shocking. It's really not shocking. You understand that not everybody trusts the major media. That shouldn't shock you. If it does--
Headline- I understand that, but I've worked in major media for thirty five years, and so I have a. . . I have a strong faith in what it is we do and why.
Collier- Well that's good. But if anything, take the opportunity to dispel some of the fears that people--
Headline- Well that's why I'm talking to you.
Collier- Right, so my question is, if there is nothing to worry about, is it not possible for somebody to watch the VNS process on election night? To follow the vote from wherever, if it's in New York, if it's in New Jersey--
Headline- If it's in New York City then we get it from the Police Department. Because they're the official vote counters in New York.
Collier- Okay, so. . . see, it can be confusing, because you're getting your results from so many different places, through so many different people--
Headline- It's not confusing.
Collier- For an outsider, I mean.
Headline- It shouldn't be confusing. We get the vote totals from whatever the official, kind of the easiest offical source there is to get them from, which is generally at the county level.
Collier- Right, there's not just one, across-the-board standard procedure.
Headline- Well that's because we live in a democracy and there are 50 states and there are several thousand counties and every one of them has it's own way of doing things.
Collier- Yes, but it seems that it's particularly complex with the vote. I mean we all do things nationally, for example we all pay our taxes and we pretty much have to do it in the same way on the same day, so you know, we manage to organize when we have to on a national level. If we really wanted to we could organize the election process, and we should. All I'm asking is- could I, or could somebody else from an independent newspaper, or even a citizen organization, follow the vote through its processes and then, wherever VNS is located, follow it up into wherever it gets tabulated and your people are doing their thing on election night, and could we videotape the process? And it really doesn't have to do with any ridiculous allegations, it just seems that every part of the vote counting process should be open to the public. That's all.
Headline- I'm, I'm uh. . . First of all, I can't make the commitment, because that's something that would have to be approved by the Members. And I have no way of knowing what the Members . . uh. . . would be willing to go along with.
Collier- Well, what's the problem? What would be the problem?
Headline- There, there is no problem. This is a. . . we're private organizations, and you know, uh. . . uh. . . Mobile Oil doesn't invite people in to see how they send out credit card bills.
Collier- But of course, this is different. This is the national vote count.
Headline- It isn't different.
Collier- It is different.
Headline- It's not. The official vote count is conducted at the. . uh, at the city, state, uh. . . county and state level, and nationally. Well, actually, not nationally, it's all done at the state level, and, uh. . . and that's the official vote. We're a bunch of reporters who have developed methods of speeding up the process to report more quickly. And that's. . . that's really what we're . . . what we're about. And we. . . uh, regardless of what we report, the official results are the official results. And if we're wrong, we're wrong. We've been wrong, uh, occasionally, not very often. And so--
Collier- You've been--
Headline- And so there's little . . . there's little appetite to, to open up a process that's. . . that's basically a- a- a private process.
Collier- It's a private process? Well, I'm telling you, this secrecy. . . this leads to the incredible allegations that you don't understand.
Headline- Well, if- if, for some reason, there was a reason for those allegations, if- if- if it was. . . if there was any sense that we deliberately miscalled elections, uh. . .
Collier- Well there is a sense.
Headline- Uh. . . or tried in any way to influence the actual outcome, then I'd, then I'd have some sympathy for this concern of yours.
Collier- So you're basically saying that. . . that we'll just have to trust you, but you're not going to show us anything that you do?
Headline- There's . . . you know, what, what --
Collier- Listen, vote fraud is not some insane concept. I mean, it's pretty common.
Headline- I absolutely agree with you, but what I'm telling you--
Collier- So it's understandable to want to watch every single part of the process.
Headline- But what I'm saying is --
Collier- Why is that so difficult?
Headline- What I'm saying is that we are not the official vote count! If there's vote fraud, then you go to the state or the county or the city where it exists. All we do is report results.
Collier- Okay, so then take the Ohio situation, one of the rare instances where anyone was paying attention to the vote count. If they got the wrong numbers from VNS and they haven't been able to get the right results from the county, then yes, it's definitely a problem with the county, but it's also a problem with VNS.
Headline- What Ohio problem?
Collier- The Buchanan supporters who--
Headline- Oh, you mean the Iowa problem.
Collier- Oh, yes. I'm sorry, the Iowa problem.
Headline- Or whatever that was. . . A non problem. . .
Collier- (pause) . . .It's a non-problem?
Headline- Yeah. And I. . . I need to do some research before I address that at any particular length.
Collier- Why do you call it a non-problem?
Headline- Because it was. . . allegations that were made in the political interest of the Buchanan folks. And they had nothing to do with reality.
Collier- Nothing to do with reality?
Collier- Why? . . . I mean, I'm sorry but, that's a strong statement. I just want to know what makes you say it.
Headline- Because. . . there was no basis for the accusations that were made. No basis in fact.
Collier- But I thought that you didn't. . . that you had never heard of those allegations before.
Headline- No I didn't say that.
Collier- Okay. You just seemed to be unfamiliar with it, so why--
Headline- I'm vaguely familiar with it.
Collier- Well then how can you say it has no basis in fact if you're only vaguely familiar with it? That's a strange thing to say.
Headline- No it's not, because I . . . that's, uh. . . that's what I'd been told by people who work for me, uh . . . uh. . . whom I trust.
Collier- . . . Alright. Well. . . this has been a long conversation. I'm going to . . . I'm going to do that. I'm going to drop you a line.
Collier- Like you said.
Collier- And maybe you'll allow me to be one of your polling people in this next election. I would also like to know if you would do me that favor and ask the Members if they would be willing to have an independant media group follow the vote. That's all. Just follow the vote. From start to finish. It's not that you're being accused of anything in particular, it's simply that you're part of the process. And the process actually does belong to the people.
Headline- We're part of the reporting process.
Collier- Well, that's how people find out about the vote, through reporting. So you know, they want to be able to watch it. And people really are interested in what goes on at VNS! But if you say that it's not something that you need to tell or show people and that it's private, well. . . it'll have to rest at that. But maybe you'd be willing to ask the Members--
Headline- Okay. I'm willing to ask. Just drop me a line.
Collier- Alright. I will. I appreciate your time.
On Monday, June 12, Victoria Collier again telephoned Bill Headline.
Headline- Bill Headline.
Collier- Hi, Mr. Headline. This is Victoria Collier.
Headline- How are you?
Collier- Fine thanks, I was wondering if you ever did speak to the members if it would be possible to have some independent media present at VNS on election night.
Headline- No, I was kind of waiting for you to send me a note which I thought you were going to do.
Collier- Oh, I thought I only had to send you a note about the polling.
Headline- Well, uh, I was going to use that as a reminder of. . uh. . raising questions about having an independent presence, and uh, and uh, so I have not talked to the board, but I will.
Collier- Ok, would it be helpful if I faxed something over to you?
Collier- What's your number?
Collier- Ok, well, I had one other question. Where will your National Input center be in November?
Headline- Uh. . .why?
Collier- (laughs) Why? I just want to know where it's going to be.
Headline- What difference does it make?
Collier- What difference does it make if you tell me? I'm not going to show up and--
Headline- Well, the only reason that I am at all hesitant is that uh. . uh. . is that we have had occasional threats over the years that people will try to uh, disrupt what we do and uh, and therefore, I'm not at all anxious to share the location.
Collier- Really? Who has threatened you?
Headline- Uh. .uh. . .I'm not sure that I even . .this was long before I was on the scene, so I'm not sure that I know the names and the organizations, but there are some kooks out there who occasionally think there's something goofy about what we do. . .or something wrong or improper and so uh--
Collier- Well again, you know that's why it comes back to maybe opening up the process in an official way.
Headline- There's nothing official. . .I have rehashed the conversation that you and I had several times and uh, you know this is a. . .this is a private operation and we have a, uh, uh--
Collier- Do you think personally, just on a personal level, on a human level, you can understand how people might feel about--
Headline- Well, I suppose conspiracy theorists might see something sinister about what we do. I've been in the business so long that I understand that uh, the networks and the associated press are not going to set up something which has the possibility of uh. . uh. . of being proven wrong, improper, criminal, whatever. There's far too much at stake in terms of their reputations as news organizations, so--
Collier- I'm not talking about conspiracy theories. I just mean the fact that you do have a certain amount of control over the voting information and--
Headline- We have no control over the voting information.We collect. . .we collect results and uh, we publish them and the public record is the check and balance--
Collier- But nobody's looking.
Headline- --and we have no control over the public record.
Collier- But see, you have psychological control over the entire process.
Headline- (laughs) Psychological control?
Headline- If we're wrong we're wrong and if we're right we're right.
Collier- Well, that's actually another question I had. You said that if the networks thought you were wrong on your numbers, they could use their own numbers. Why would they think that you were wrong?
Headline- They have people who are highly schooled and uh, in statsitics and in uh. . uh. . and in voting behavior and--
Collier- Oh, you mean just in the polling numbers, not on the actual vote numbers coming in?
Headline- On the polling numbers, yeah. The voting numbers coming in uh... nobody challenges us. . . because they know what the source is. . . and. . .
Collier- Right, that's my point. Nobody challenges it and nobody in the public would ever challenge it either because they trust you.
Headline- If. . if we're wrong..uh, uh. . we had a reporting discrepency. . it had to do with the times at which we reported votes opposed to the time when the Texas Secretary of State reported votes on the senatorial primary this year, and bingo, it was instantly challenged and uh, uh, we did a thororough analysis and went back and reconciled our records with the Texas Secretary of Strate and uh, everybody understands that it was a perfectly plausible error. But the fact is that. . uh, we. . . only because of the time we recorded things gave a report that ended up not tallying with the final official results. We were challenged instantly and. . and...
Collier- I don't understand. . . the time at which you reported things?
Headline- At the time when we had results in, it gave one candidate a slight advantage over another candidate. It had nothing to do with the official result because this is a question between second and third place in the primary, and. . uh. . .the vote count, the leader changed . . .let's. . . example. . .and these are not the exact times. Let's say that at 1:45 in the morning uh, we published our report, that is we put out what we thought the results were. . .and at 2 in the morning the Texas Secretary of State put out their results, and the second and third place order was different. Well, the fact of the matter was that we were right at 1:45, but they were right at 2 a.m. and the numbers held.But, but the point is uh, that there was instant scrutiny which there would be anywhere.
Collier- No, that's absolutely not the case. Most people aren't paying any attention at all.
Headline- Well, the people that are paying attention are the officials to whom. . . and that's the official check.
Collier- Right. Well, I think people are feeling now that maybe there needs to be an official citizen check instead.. .
Headline- Who's "people"?
Headline- Voters. We've had one call from you in the last. . .I mean, well, we've had two, three or five calls from you. . those are the only calls we've had--
Collier- Well, I speak to many people. . .
Headline- --questioning our procedures, our results, our right to do what we do. . the fact that we exist. I mean, I cannot take one call from one person, or five calls from one person, as an indicator that there is even the slightest suspicion that there's something wrong with what we do. I mean, there are another two hundred million people out there. . .all of whom could be calling us--
Collier- Most people don't even know you exist. Anyway, don't you think it's a good thing for Americans to be vigilant about their vote count.
Headline- They're very vigilant about their vote count.
Collier- No, I don't believe that they are. I do speak to many people personally who are interested in what you do. They might not be calling you... they don't feel that they can get any response from you. But you have been responding to me and that's good. But they don't feel that you would. Most people are not pro-active enough to actually call up a private corporation and try to get any information from them. But the thing is, I'm not trying to attack you personally.
Headline- It feels like that.
Collier- No, no. . .I don't know why it isn't a positive thing for an American voter to say, hey, what are you doing?
Headline- Because I've given you an answer and you won't accept it--
Collier- Well, it just leads to more questions.
Headline- And I'm trying to give you the truth and you won't accept the truth, so I don't know what to do with you.
Collier- Well, I accept it, there's nothing that I can change, I just don't agree with some of your premises. I believe that. . .I mean personally, I'll admit it to you. . . I don't trust the major media simply because I know the amount of information that's censored by the press on a daily basis because I work with the alternative press.
Headline- That changes the nature of this entire conversation, and I don't want to talk to you anymore, send me your fax. (hangs up.)
Final update -- not long after this conversation, VNS put a website on the Internet. It was one page. None of the links or navigation tabs worked. Ever.