On December 9, 2004, I posted an article on Lucas County. I noted with deep suspicion the voter turnout data for the City of Toledo. Of the 495 precincts in Lucas County, the 88 precincts with the lowest turnout, all in the City of Toledo, were won by John Kerry. Of the 8 precincts with less than 50% reported turnout, 4 are located in 2 wards. Of the 29 precincts with less than 55% reported turnout, 20 are located in 4 wards. Of the 63 precincts with less than 60% reported turnout, 34 are located in 4 wards, 39 are located in 5 wards, and 43 are located in 6 wards.
When the precinct numbers are combined into totals for each ward, a clear and unmistakable pattern emerges. The 14 wards with the highest reported turnout were won by John Kerry by a margin of 11 to 7 in the aggregate. The 10 wards with the lowest reported turnout were won by John Kerry by a margin of 6 to 1 in the aggregate. The more competitive the ward, the higher the reported turnout. Conversely, the less competitive the ward, the lower the reported turnout.
It was, and still is, my professional opinion that the election in Lucas County was rigged. I speculated that someone may have gained access to the central counting devices for the optical scanners without anybody at the precinct level knowing about it. The vote totals for candidates could be altered in this manner. But at each precinct there is supposed to be a count of total ballots cast, and it was difficult to imagine how access to a computer could have altered or affected the reported voter turnout without serious risk of exposure.
Shortly after I posted my article I received a phone call from Toledo. My source, who had been an observer at polling stations on Election Day, told me of insecure and chaotic conditions there. I was also referred to a newspaper article in the Toledo Blade, posted online at http://www.toledoblade.com/Police-Fire/2004/10/13/Thieves-hit-Democratic-Party-offices-computers-containing-sensitive-data-removed.html.
The article, written by Robin Erb, published October 13, 2004, is entitled: “Thieves hit Democratic Party offices; computers containing sensitive data removed.” I take the liberty of abbreviating it here:
Thieves shattered a side window overnight at Lucas County Democratic headquarters in Toledo, stealing computers with sensitive campaign information and jeopardizing the party's ability to deliver crucial votes on Election Day.
Among the data on the stolen computer of the party's office manager were: e-mails discussing campaign strategy, candidates' schedules, financial information, and phone numbers of party members, candidates, donors, and volunteers. Also taken were computers belonging to a Lucas County Commissioner and to a Texas attorney working with the Kerry campaign to ensure election security.
“This puts us behind the eight ball,” party spokesman Jerry Chabler said. “This can affect our entire get-out-the-vote operation.”
Barbara Koonce, the office manager, said information on her computer had not been backed up since August. “I try to do it at least once a month, but we've been so extremely busy here, it's not the first thing on our minds,” she said.
At Democratic headquarters, officials stopped short of publicly blaming partisan politics, but at the same time, they all but ruled out run-of-the-mill criminals. Two other computers, holding less sensitive information, were untouched, as were a petty cash box that usually holds $80 to $100, televisions, portable radios, and other electronics. Moreover, other offices inside the building, 1817 Madison Avenue, were not entered. Files, papers, and pamphlets remained in neat piles, and campaign signs leaned, apparently undisturbed, against a wall.
“They knew what they wanted,” Mr. Chabler said, calling the incident a “third-rate burglary,” a not-so-subtle reference to the break-in at National Democratic Committee offices in 1972 that began the Watergate scandal that eventually led to the President Nixon's resignation.
The burglary gave the thieves exclusive possession of two months’ worth of Democratic voter canvass records. It allowed them to target specific wards and precincts for voter suppression operations, and left the Democrats unable to prevent it. The reader will forgive me for not having imagined such a technique for adversely affecting voter turnout.
Since learning of the burglary I have examined the Election Day incident reports for Lucas County posted online at https://voteprotect.org/epc/index.php?display.
Many of these reports are precinct-specific, and I have obtained from the Board of Elections a list allowing me to correlate the polling places mentioned with the precincts they served. Altogether, 31 of the 88 Kerry precincts with lower turnout than any Bush precinct (62.72%) are identified in the incident reports.
The following entries list the polling station, the precincts they served, voter turnout as a percentage in parentheses, and a summation of the incident reports.
Lagrange Elementary School: 2-A (47.40%), 2-I (49.91%), 2-G (51.63%), 2-F (52.24%). Elderly voter expressed strong concern that polling place was recently moved to a very dangerous location. He was discouraging his neighbors and friends from voting. He had called the county election officials to complain.
Teneyck Towers: 8-J (47.50%). Each time ballot entered machine reads “power failure.” Voter asked if ballot will be counted. Worker told her machine is fine. Precinct
8-J had 6 uncounted ballots (1.64%), further reducing the effective turnout.
St. Elizabeth Seton School: 4-N (52.69%), 4-L (64.06%), 4-M (71.73%). Polling place was moved from Caldwell Center, and not even the Ward Chairman was notified. Three precincts voted here, and there was nobody to guide voters to the correct line. Voters who were standing in the correct line were told they were not on the registrar’s list and to fill out a provisional ballot or stand in another line. Included were voters who have never moved or changed names, yet mysteriously were not on voter rolls. Voters were sent home to retrieve yellow card with precinct numbers rather than being directed to precinct map. Some voters were turned away from all three tables and left without voting. A man with a mini DV camera was recording inside and outside the polling place.
Cherry Pre-School Annex: 10-A (54.41%). Observer at polls was telling people to vote with a pen, which cannot be read by the optical scanner.
Flory Gardens Senior Citizens Center: 6-K (54.48%), 6-M (56.51%), 6-A (74.88%). Many long-time voters were not on the rolls and were forced to vote by provisional ballot. Ballot stubs were not removed, which means that one’s vote is not secret, and the vote count may not be reliable.
All Saints Lutheran Church: 24-D (55.12%), 24-I (66.36%). Polling station ran out of ballots and was turning people away.
Pickett Elementary School: 14-F (55.42%), 14-B (62.82%), 14-A (69.60%). One machine was not counting properly, which would explain the low turnout at 14-F. Many voters who had lived and voted in the same location for years were told they were not on the rolls, or that they had already voted by absentee ballot.
East Toledo Family Center: 18-A (56.22%), 18-I (59.56%), 18-J (61.26%), 18-F (62.22%). Voter forced to fill out provisional ballot despite having identification and a voter registration card.
Fulton Elementary School: 8-H (56.47%), 8-L (58.02%). Ran out of ballots and had to wait 30 minutes for more ballots to arrive. Machine that takes the completed ballot was broken for at least 90 minutes. Poll workers told people to put their completed ballots to the side because the machine was broken. Voters were concerned that their votes would not be counted. This is an inner-city precinct in African-American neighborhood.
Toledo Community Church: 13-E (58.78%), 13-D (69.57%). Lines were not designated by precinct, so voters waited in the wrong line. Elderly voters having trouble filling in the spaces correctly so that optical scan machine would read their ballots. Poll worker yelling at voters, taking ballots out of privacy folders. Voter turned away who had lived at the same address for 32 years.
Glenwood Elementary School: 10-G (59.68%), 10-D (60.67%), 10-H (71.82%). Polling place opened 50 minutes late, with no pencils to fill out ballots. No privacy for voting. Several reports of voters being sent back and forth between here and Kent Branch Library or Mott Branch Library, forced to fill out provisional ballot even though registered here. Disorganized polling location, some voters waited in all three lines, some even brought in identification and utility bills to prove residency for as long as 34 years, and still were forced to use provisional ballots. No help in filling out ballots, voters told that if they erased their ballots they would not be counted.
Gesu Catholic School: 13-G (59.83%), 14-K (61.87%). Voters told at 2:15 P.M. and 3:47 P.M. to come back later because there were no more ballots. Board of Elections staff members came and found ballots that had been at the polling site all along. Some ballots had no paper sleeves and poll workers could view the ballots. Machine jammed at 7:30 PM, and poll official opened privacy folder and exposed voter’s ballot. Precinct 14-K had 7 uncounted ballots (1.53%), further reducing the effective turnout.
TORCH: 13-M (60.02%), 13-F (71.33%). Machines broken, ballots got stuck, ballots not scanned, voters concerned they would not be counted. Long lines.
Kent Branch Library: 10-F (60.14%), 10-E (61.73%). Sent voters to Glenwood Elementary School even though they were not registered there.
Sanger Branch Library: 12-J (61.52%), 12-B (75.00%). No plug for optical scanner. The machine was in a separate room unsupervised. Ballots were entered manually. There were no Democratic observers, only Republicans.
University of Toledo Community Tech: 14-G (61.93%), 14-H (63.43%), 14-J (64.91%). Ran out of ballots.
Mott Branch Library: 8-B (62.11%), 14-D (64.34%): Precinct lines were not separated. Registered voters not listed on rolls, turned away even with proof of residency, told to go to Board of Elections. One voter who has lived in the same house for 55 years was forced to fill out a provisional ballot.
There were three other polling places where optical scanners were broken. These precincts enjoyed relatively high turnout in spite of the breakdowns, or perhaps the machines broke down because of the high turnout. Again, all these precincts were won by John Kerry:
Keyser Elementary School: 6-H (64.30%), 6-N (74.75%), 6-G (76.25%). Machine was not working. Scanner did not read vote.
Toledo Iron Workers Local 55: 16-F (70.82%), 16-O (73.01%), 16-P (74.54%). Machine was not reading ballots. Poll workers were putting ballots aside to be scanned later. Voters were concerned about privacy and accuracy. Precinct 16-F had 7 uncounted ballots.
Washington Church: 22-C (79.91%), 22-B (82.28%). Optical scanner was broken. Emergency slot on machine in which to store ballots was full. Poll workers were removing ballots from machine and storing them in a brown cardboard box, telling voters that the ballots would be scanned and counted later. Precinct 22-C had 7 uncounted ballots (1.92%), further reducing the effective turnout.
There were four other polling places with multiple precincts, all of which had very low turnout. There are no incident reports for these polling places, but there may have been no election observers there. Again, all these precincts were won by John Kerry:
Spieker Terrace: 18-C (44.01%), 18-B (52.32%). Precinct 18-C had 14 uncounted ballots, the highest percentage in the county (4.53%).
Waite High School: 19-C (49.07%), 19-D (50.35%), 20-A (57.48%).
Boys’ and Girls’ Club: 17-I (50.63%), 17-J (53.15%), 17-H (54.22%).
East Side Central School: 19-B (54.57%), 19-A (54.89%), 19-F (55.82%), 19-E (56.25%), 18-G (58.67%).
I have no way of knowing if the burglary at the Democratic headquarters was directly connected to voter suppression activities. But I cannot imagine another motive.