01 April 2014

During the last weekend in January, the National Association of Secretaries of State met in Washington DC with their usual entourage of private partisan voting machine and software salespeople.


NBC political director Chuck Todd blessed the gathering of vote-changers and money-makers – and their system of faith-based voting.


Andrew Kreig, the Executive Director of the Justice Integrity Project, captured the essence of the absurd undemocratic assembly in his article “NBC’s Todd mocks election fraud critics, wins Washington applause.”


Free Press readers are aware that the United States is the only advance industrial democracy that fails to meet minimum standards of transparency in their election process. Private for-profit partisan corporations secretly encode the computers and software used to tabulate our votes.


Todd is a huge fan of so-called push-and-pray voting and told the voting machine vendors and the secretaries of state they contribute to, “That’s just stretching the bounds of reality” to suggest that computers could be programmed to rig an election.


Why NBC would allow its political director to assert the opposite of what every computer programmer and software developer knows to be untrue remains a question for consideration.


Here in Ohio, an equally important question is – what was Secretary of State Jon Husted up to when he installed last-minute uncertified and untested software on at least 25 of the state’s county tabulators just prior to the 2012 presidential election? My lawsuit on this issue, Fitrakis v. Husted is still pending in state court. But we do have proof that ES&S, the software company paid to install the secretive last-minute software, is pressuring my attorney to drop the case.


Another key statistic was released in early January regarding Husted’s election performance in Ohio. The number of provisional voters was higher in 2012 than it was in 2004.


There were 208,087 provisional ballots cast, according to the Secretary of State’s office in the November 6, 2012 election. Seventeen percent of these, or 34,322 voters, did not get their votes counted. The reasons for not counting their votes require intense scrutiny from advocates for democracy.


The Democratic stronghold of Franklin County (Columbus) had the most uncounted provisional ballots, with 6,096 voters rejected. Cuyahoga (Cleveland) was the next highest with 4,889.


In Franklin County, 1,901 voters were rejected despite being registered, because they “voted in the wrong precinct and wrong polling location.” In Cuyahoga County, 1,313 were also rejected for this reason. So, whose fault is it when a voter is allowed to vote at the wrong location? The poll workers, who work for the Franklin County Board of Elections are under the direction of the Secretary of State, are the ones directing them to vote provisionally instead of telling them to go to the correct polling location. The poll workers have electronic databases at their fingertips as well as the electronic and paper poll books.


Or, who’s responsible in Franklin County when 839 provisional voters lose their right to vote because their provisional ballot was not signed on the envelope? Shouldn’t part of the poll worker’s job be to check and see if the envelope is signed before it is turned in?


Or, it could be worse. You could be one of the 498 voters in the State of Ohio who printed or signed their name correctly, but it was in the wrong spot “on the provisional ballot envelope.”


Another 45 voters in Franklin County lost their right to vote because they “failed to print full name on provisional ballot envelope.” So, if I would have put down “Bob Fitrakis” or abbreviated Robert to “Robt” – my vote shouldn’t count? How difficult would it have been to inform the voter to print their full name after a professional poll worker looked it up in the book and directed them to vote provisionally, which is part of their job?


On January 29, State Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) proposed an election reform package that would establish maximum precinct sizes and minimum staffing levels to avoid what she calls the “confusion” that prevails in urban precincts. Presumably, the minimum staffing would allow the pollworkers to check and see if voters have signed the envelope properly – or prevent provisional voting altogether.


Turner was willing to state the obvious at her press conference: “Ohio in 2012, like 2004, was once again the epicenter of election controversy.”


The Republican-owned Columbus Dispatch issued an editorial on Sunday, February 3 attacking Senator Turner and applauding Husted for his “wish list of sensible changes.” The two sensible changes cited in the editorial are “online voter registration,” which is quite sensible, and the controversial policy of setting “uniform statewide days and hours for early, in person voting.”


The hours set by Husted in 2012 were the same for urban areas like Cuyahoga County, where more than one million people live in and around the Cleveland area, and Williams County, where there are only 38,000 voters.


Husted’s plan caused Cleveland voters to wait five hours or more in early voting lines, while there was virtually no wait in the Republican-dominated rural counties in Ohio. Husted’s order to only allow one early voting location per county caused long lines in Cincinnati and Cleveland as well.


The Dispatch offered the following analysis in its editorial column: “Reality is that elections in Ohio have been increasingly smooth since the watershed year of 2004, when truly unreasonable waiting times at many polling places prompted reform.” What the pro-Republican editorial staff fail to note is that there were 17,000 uncounted provisional votes in 2004, under the Husted administration, that number doubled in 2012.


The Dispatch has signaled that it’s looking for a status quo compromise and asserts that any reform “…will raise protest from whichever end of the political spectrum….” The political spectrum here are mainly the Green and Libertarian Parties -- forces that believe in full transparency, making it easy for voters to vote, and counting every vote . Other forces, primarily the Republican Party, seek to repress votes.


The problem of widespread voter disenfranchisement in urban counties like Franklin and Cuyahoga must be confronted by democracy advocates. Denying that private contractors can tamper with the actual vote count must be overcome. Silence on this issue is the betrayal of democratic principles.


When Mr. Husted goes to Washington – it is to maintain the silence, not to break it and restore all voters’ right to have their votes counted freely and fairly.