31 March 2014

Columbus Dispatch articles explaining the 2004 election irregularities all embrace the same formula: ignore the more than 1000 signed affidavits and sworn testimonies of disenfranchised voters; rely only on the word of OSU Law Professor Dan Tokaji who has no background in statistical analysis and who always tells the Dispatch whatever they want to hear; and then apologize for former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and fail to mention what is routinely reported in every other major newspaper in the state of Ohio.



In the Sunday, August 10 Dispatch front page story, the paper conveniently avoids reporting on Blackwell’s well-documented activities. There’s no mention of: Blackwell’s directive that returned voter registration applications that weren’t on “80-bond paper weight”; Blackwell’s refusal to count the votes for the first time in modern Ohio history if voters were at the right polling place but the wrong precinct table; the fact that Blackwell outsourced Ohio’s official vote count tabulation to Michael Connell, a Bush family partisan who sent the vote tally to a Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee tied to the White House; or of his full-court blitz on TV trying to get Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry to concede with 250,000 uncounted votes



The Dispatch claims “there’s no direct proof of widespread fraud.” This may be true. But, in an election where the exit polls showed Kerry winning by 3 percentage points, all you need is a “little bit of” fraud to flip the numbers. And that’s exactly what the exit polls showed. That instead of Kerry winning 52% to 48%, Bush wins 51% to 48.5%.



So biased was the Dispatch reporting that they either engaged in deliberate propaganda or made errors so simple that they would have flunked Intro to Politics 101 at any college. Tokaji, who admitted to having no training in exit polling, told the AP, and hence the world, that the unexplainable discrepancy between the exit poll numbers and the actual vote count was not a problem.



For example, they report without embarrassment that the official response for the highly accurate exit polls being wrong in Ohio – and so outside the margin of error that it would only happen in one in 959,000 presidential elections – was that “…exit polls are based only on responses from voters who agree to participate.”



The Dispatch’s own polls, that they brag about as being highly accurate, are based on only those who agree to participate. Also, methodology requires only randomization, not that every single voter exiting the polls agrees to respond. This means that every voter has equal chance at inclusion. If the pollsters are asking every 10th voter and one refuses, they go on to the next 10th voter.



In a telephone survey, if a particular person who is randomly called isn’t home, or refuses to answer the questions, it doesn’t negate the scientific validity of the survey if it is randomized and representative. All of this is taken into consideration in the polls’ methodology.



The Dispatch formula invokes the “c” word – conspiracy – whenever possible. The paper’s fundamental premise is that the statistically impossible results of the election and the highly improbably nature of all the irregularities going in Bush’s favor and against John Kerry are just a coincidence. The Dispatch’s brand of reporting is a monument to coincidence theory.



From the paper’s perspective: 308,000 voters purged from voting registration rolls in the urban centers of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo, are not deliberate, even though 80% or so would have likely voted for Kerry; dozens of sworn statements from voters saying that they touched the computer screen for Kerry and saw their vote flip to Bush is only an accident; and that Kerry’s votes ran significantly behind an underfunded retired African American municipal judge from Cleveland on the ticket – only in 14 Republican counties – is simply ignored.



On Friday, July 25, the Dispatch ran the headline: “’04 Ohio election was fair, Blackwell says.” In the course of the story, they quote the ubiquitous Tokaji who states without facts or political science qualifications that Bush’s margin “was sufficient to overcome any legal challenge that might have arisen from provisional ballots that were uncounted ambiguously marked punch-card ballots and long lines that may have discouraged many citizens from voting.”



Tokaji’s assessment runs contrary to dozens of social and political science texts on the subject. He has refused to appear on panels with political scientists who offer different views. Nor has Tokaji indicated that he’s actually gone into the boards of elections’ warehouses and looked at hundreds of thousands of actual ballots, as his critics do in preparing their analyses.



In a previous article, the Dispatch officially reported without blushing that Franklin County Board of Elections Executive Director Denny L. White retired last month. Members of the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee are openly telling reporters that White was forced out for echoing the Dispatch line that there were no significant problems with the 2004 election. White, the former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, announces his retirement in July of a presidential election year and is replaced by the 28-year-old Michael Stinziano, and the Dispatch reports as fact the fantasy spun by the Party’s PR people.



To put things in perspective, they quote Tokaji who states the obvious: “There are lots of land mines out there, and someone who is not experienced in running local elections must very quickly educate themselves as to where those land mines are.” The Dispatch might have asked some Party insiders why the highly experienced Denny White was retiring just prior to the election. It’s difficult to avoid this question when the Dispatch headline read: “New director will face first ballot in 3 months.”



Four days prior to the Dispatch’s August 10 article that smeared the election integrity movement, they were forced to report that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner had sued the former Diebold Election Systems, now Premier Election Solutions, for providing the state “defective” computerized voting machines.



Brunner told the Dispatch that an investigation by her office documented that the Diebold machines “dropped” votes in “at least 11 counties.”



Conveniently missing from the Dispatch article is the fact that Blackwell personally negotiated the unbid contract that brought Diebold machines into prominence in Ohio. At the same time, Blackwell held Diebold stock. The article also fails to report that Diebold’s CEO Walden O’Dell, a major contributor to the Bush-Cheney Re-election Campaign, sent out a letter pledging to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to Bush in 2004.



But the key reason the Dispatch is attacking the election integrity movement and lead litigator Cliff Arnebeck, of the King Lincoln Bronzeville case that seeks to protect the civil rights of voters in the 2008 election, is because of the revelations concerning Bush family loyalist Michael Connell and the allegations that the vote can easily be stolen with the flip of a switch in the computerized vote tabulation process.



The Dispatch avoids dealing with the revelations by highly respected Republican IT man and McCain supporter Steve Spoonamore at a Columbus press conference on July 17. With Dispatch reporter Mark Niquette in attendance, Spoonamore stated in no uncertain terms that he felt the evidence suggested fraud in the 2004 election. The Dispatch is also not telling its readers that Spoonamore’s analysis as an expert witness was offered to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.



Spoonamore, who has worked for the Secret Service and major corporations on credit card fraud, stated that the IT system designed by Mike Connell for Blackwell is vulnerable to election rigging. In the Dispatch version of reality, little-qualified Party appointees and untrained volunteer election workers stand as a bipartisan impenetrable fortress against election tampering. The ultimate thesis is always based on the tenuous fact that there’s a bipartisan system of Democrats and Republicans at county boards of elections, therefore election rigging is “impossible.”



Spoonamore’s point is the exact opposite of the Dispatch’s. As long as all the Ohio election results are compiled at county central tabulators and fed officially to sites in Ohio and Tennessee, overseen partisan IT companies using proprietary secret software, then our elections are vulnerable to manipulation. All the well-intentioned “bipartisan” grandmothers, grandfathers and political operatives working the polling places and boards of elections watching the flashy touchscreens and shiny county central tabulators have no idea what’s really going on inside the black box and what happens when the
digital vote count heads off into cyberspace.


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Bob Fitrakis holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from the OSU Moritz College of Law, is a Political Science Professor at Columbus State Community College, and is an award-winning investigative reporter.