24 November 2014

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)

LocationKerryBushOthers
Columbus177748 62.22%105708 37.01%2200 0.77%
Elsewhere87800 42.31%118329 57.03%1365 0.66%
Absentee10025 49.43%10159 50.10%95 0.47%
Total275573 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

Ward Voters/ Percent Kerry
Machine Turnout Percent
HARRISBURG * 118.5 66.24 47.06
LOCKBOURNE * 121 46.28 40.54
PLAIN 195.4 63.62 31.95
MARBLE CLIFF 207 56.52 49.43
TRURO 219 56.34 42.17
GAHANNA 4 219.9 68.28 42.58
WORTHINGTON 1 222.1 66.05 45.63
WORTHINGTON 3 226.5 66.76 47.34
NORWICH 229.9 69.52 37.55
UPPER ARLINGTON 5 235.5 64.07 40.01
GAHANNA 2 239.6 62.41 42.63
RIVERLEA 240 67.92 55.59
UPPER ARLINGTON 3 243.5 66.05 45.23
BEXLEY 2 244.3 65.08 56.97
DUBLIN 2 245.5 61.89 38.35
CANAL WINCH 246.3 68.6 34.60
UPPER ARLINGTON 1 246.8 64.04 47.43
BROWN 248.4 73.78 31.19
JACKSON 250.8 68.22 33.12
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
WESTERVILLE 2 257.3 66.65 34.68
HILLIARD 2 258.2 69.15 35.28
WASHINGTON 259 61.13 31.33
GROVE CITY 3 259.1 73.5 30.57
PLEASANT 259.4 65.56 36.09
BEXLEY 1 260.4 63.4 57.75
PERRY 260.5 64.16 39.38
REYNOLDSBURG 2 263.5 61.58 43.35
VALLEYVIEW 267 54.68 46.29
BEXLEY 3 268 66.94 59.36
DUBLIN 1 268.4 65.33 31.93
GAHANNA 3 269.4 63.12 43.91
GRANDVIEW 274.3 67.36 61.10
MADISON 275.5 61.2 41.96
BLENDON 276.3 60.29 40.43
URBANCREST 277 51.62 84.04
GROVEPORT 277.7 65.29 40.76
HAMILTON 278.3 59.67 41.36
WESTERVILLE 1 278.5 63.84 40.49
WESTERVILLE 4 278.8 64.77 36.48
HILLIARD 4 281.2 68.59 36.36
GROVE CITY 2 281.4 63.84 34.99
HILLIARD 1 281.5 59.72 41.00
DUBLIN 4 284.7 60.92 33.51
DUBLIN 3 285.5 59.86 27.70
SHARON 285.8 61.46 48.99
REYNOLDSBURG 1 286 59.68 48.17
REYNOLDSBURG 3 286.6 59.25 44.64
WESTERVILLE 5 287.9 61.64 44.49
GAHANNA 1 288.4 60.28 n o data **
WORTHINGTON 2 289.6 67.51 59.35
WHITEHALL 3 293.9 54.38 53.01
WESTERVILLE 3 295.8 56.38 43.19
BEXLEY 4 296 56.15 62.88
JEFFERSON 298.6 67.57 35.85
WORTHINGTON 4 298.7 59.49 48.09
PRAIRIE 300 58.51 42.20
MINERVA PARK 300.3 59.53 42.16
NEW ALBANY 306.6 66.06 33.66
WHITEHALL 1 310.7 52.17 59.44
GROVE CITY 4 313.1 59.82 39.76
OBETZ 313.7 57.25 46.17
GROVE CITY 1 315.1 61.14 39.16
HILLIARD 3 317.6 58.34 42.06
MIFFLIN 322.5 47.44 65.88
WHITEHALL 2 324.8 53.81 53.86
REYNOLDSBURG 4 325.6 52.73 50.44
FRANKLIN 348.9 49.77 49.32
CLINTON 351.1 48.73 57.07
WHITEHALL 4 368.9 51.99 60.31


* 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
300 +
In Columbus1559
In Suburbs5814
Won by Bush5415
Won by Kerry1958


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.

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