NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The following study is intended
as a companion to STEALING VOTES IN COLUMBUS, and
should be read in that context.
The Free Press on Election Day posted a disturbing
story, later confirmed by the Columbus Dispatch. The
Free Press reported that Franklin County Board of
Elections Director Matt Damschroder deliberately
withheld voting machines from predominantly black
Democratic wards in Columbus, and dispersed some of
the machines to affluent suburbs in Franklin County.
Damschroder is the former Executive Director of the
Franklin County Republican Party. Sources close to
the Board of Elections told the Free Press that
Damschroder and Ohio s Secretary of State Kenneth
Blackwell met with President George W. Bush in
Columbus on Election Day.
The idea was to discourage turnout in Democratic wards
by forcing voters to wait in long lines at the polling
places, while creating no such inconveniences to
voters in predominantly Republican suburbs. This was
important because Bush s margin of victory in the
suburbs was, as expected, less than Kerry s margin of
victory in the city, as the following table shows:
FRANKLIN COUNTY VOTE (EXCLUDING PROVISIONAL BALLOTS)
|Columbus||177748 62.22%||105708 37.01%||2200 0.77%|
|Elsewhere||87800 42.31%||118329 57.03%||1365 0.66%|
|Absentee||10025 49.43%||10159 50.10%||95 0.47%|
|Total||275573 53.67%||234196 45.62%||3660 0.71%|
I obtained from the Franklin County Board of Elections
all the data I needed in order to calculate, ward by
ward, and precinct by precinct: (1) The ratio of
registered voters per voting machine. (2) Percent
turnout, calculated as total ballots cast divided by
the number of registered voters. (3) Percent for
Kerry, calculated as votes cast for Kerry divided by
votes cast for president. I arranged the data, ward
by ward, according to the ratio of registered voters
per voting machine.
DISTRIBUTION OF VOTING MACHINES, BY WARD
|UPPER ARLINGTON 5||235.5||64.07||40.01|
|UPPER ARLINGTON 3||243.5||66.05||45.23|
|UPPER ARLINGTON 1||246.8||64.04||47.43|
|UPPER ARLINGTON 6||254.2||64.65||37.70|
|UPPER ARLINGTON 4||255.2||65.93||45.25|
|UPPER ARLINGTON 2||257.2||64.56||41.10|
|GROVE CITY 3||259.1||73.5||30.57|
|GROVE CITY 2||281.4||63.84||34.99|
|GAHANNA 1||288.4||60.28 n||o data **|
|GROVE CITY 4||313.1||59.82||39.76|
|GROVE CITY 1||315.1||61.14||39.16|
* Harrisburg and Lockbourne have one precinct each,
and benefited from a policy of distributing a minimum
of two voting machines to each precinct.
** Gahanna, Ward 1, Precinct B, is the subject of
controversy. There were 638 ballots cast. George W.
Bush was awarded 4,258 votes (20 votes for every 3
ballots cast). John F. Kerry received 260 votes.
There were 87 reported write-in votes, compared to
zero in the rest of the ward, 13 in the rest of
Gahanna. Such discrepancies can only be found through
time-consuming precinct by precinct analysis.
As the above table shows, the Columbus suburbs are
predominantly Republican territory. There are 72
wards in Franklin County outside of Columbus. John F.
Kerry won 15 of them: Clinton, Grandview, Mifflin,
Riverlea, Urbancrest, all four wards in Bexley, all
four wards in Whitehall, Reynoldsburg Ward 4, and
Worthington Ward 2. George W. Bush won at least 56
wards, with reliable data still unavailable for
Gahanna, Ward 1, Precinct B, as noted above.
Of the 15 wards won by Kerry, 5 are among the 6 at the
very bottom of Damschroder s list (Kerry lost the
other, Franklin, by 6 votes). All had more than 320
registered voters per voting machine, and voter
turnout was below 50% in all of them. The top 11
wards, all with fewer than 240 registered voters per
voting machine, were all won by Bush. Of the top 27
wards, all with fewer than 260 registered voters per
voting machine, 25 were won by Bush. As in the City
of Columbus, Bush enjoys disproportional favoritism.
Voter turnout was very high in most of the Columbus
suburbs. In the 30 wards at the top of Damschroder s
list, all with fewer than 265 registered voters per
voting machine, turnout was above 60%, with the
exception of Lockbourne, whose appearance near the top
of the list is anomalous, as explained above. At the
bottom of the list, in wards with more than 290
registered voters per voting machine, turnout was
below 60% in 16 of 19 wards; of these, Bush won 11,
and Kerry won 8, showing that fewer voting machines
depresses the turnout no matter whom the candidate.
On occasion some favoritism shows up at the precinct
level. Kerry won only 1 of 22 precincts in Grove City
(Precinct 1-D), and it happens to be the one with the
most registered voters per voting machine ? 424.0,
compared to an average of 288.5. Kerry won 7 of 15
precincts in Worthington, and 5 of them (2-A, 2-B,
2-C, 4-A, 4-B) happen to be the ones with the most
registered voters per voting machine ? 271.0, 301.3,
302.7, 318.3, and 356.0, respectively, compared to an
average of 253.7. Bush won only 3 of 13 precincts in
Whitehall (1-C, 2-B, 3-A), and they happen to be the
ones with the fewest registered voters per voting
machine ? 285.3, 277.0, and 211.7, respectively,
compared to an average of 323.1.
But the bigger story emerges when one compares the
data for the suburbs with the data for the city.
29 suburban wards, 27 of them won by Bush, had fewer
registered voters per voting machine than ANY wards in
the City of Columbus. All but 3 of these 29 wards
enjoyed a voter turnout above 60%. Conversely, 23
wards in Columbus, all of them won by Kerry, had more
registered voters per voting machine than ANY of the
Bush wards in the suburbs. All but 5 of these 23
wards suffered a voter turnout below 50%. This
substantiates the original charge in the Free Press ?
that voting machines were withheld from predominantly
black Democratic wards in Columbus, and dispersed more
generously to affluent Republican suburbs.
Damschroder has publicly stated that he was not at
fault because the voting machine approval process and
limited funds prevented him from getting enough
machines to satisfy the need. He said that he
allocated the machines based on imperfect estimates.
His defenders will say that my analysis shows at worst
incompetence and at best, an innocent mistake.
To cross-examine this defense, let us look one more
time at the data. There are 146 wards in Franklin
County. In 73 wards, exactly 50%, there were fewer
than 300 voters per voting machine, and in 2 wards
there were 300 exactly. This was the median, and
should have been the target number for equitable
distribution of voting machines.
DISTRIBUTION OF VOTING MACHINES
|Number of Wards:||Registered Voters Per Machine|
|Won by Bush||54||15|
|Won by Kerry||19||58|
There are 72 wards in the suburbs, and 74 wards in the
city. 69 wards were won by Bush, and 77 wards were
won by Kerry. The numbers in the above table should
have been almost equal. Instead, of the 73 wards with
the fewest number of registered voters per machine, 58
(79.5%) were in the suburbs, and 54 (74.0%) were won
by Bush. How fair is that?
All of this mattered a lot. The median ward with
fewer than 300 registered voters per voting machine
had a 62.33% voter turnout. The median ward with 300
or more registered voters per voting machine had a
51.99% turnout. The voting machines could and should
have been distributed more equitably. Data on voter
registration was available before the election.
There were 14 urban and 33 suburban precincts which
could have been provided with one less voting machine
and still have had 300 or fewer registered voters per
machine. This would have freed up 47 machines, which
would have ensured that no precinct had more than 410
registered voters per machine. There were another 19
urban and 46 suburban precincts which could have been
provided with one less voting machine and still have
had fewer than 330 registered voters per machine,
within 10% of the median. This would have freed up
another 65 machines, and no precinct would have had
more than 361 registered voters per machine.
All of these data are for machines placed by close of
polls. I do not know how many voting machines were
available when the polls opened. There were also 68
machines available that were not provided to any
polling station anywhere.
It is bad enough that the voting machines were not
equitably distributed. What makes this worthy of
civil or criminal investigation is the pattern of
providing machines to suburban Republican precincts
and denying them to urban Democratic precincts. I am
quite weary of hearing about low voter turnout in
urban neighborhoods. The turnout would have been
higher if voters had been provided equal access to the
polls, as required by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments and the Voting Rights Act.