COLUMBUS -- The bitter battle over the stolen November 2 election in Ohio has turned into a rapidly escalating all-out multi-front war with the outcome of the real presidential vote count increasingly in doubt.
In Columbus, major demonstrations on Saturday, December 4, have been followed by an angry confrontation between demonstrators and state police at the office of Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the Bush-Cheney state chairman who is also officially in charge of certifying the election, at least for now. Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson has called on Blackwell to recuse himself from dealings with the election, saying his role as Bush-Cheney chairman has compromised his objectivity in delivering fair election results.
New revelations about voting machine allocations in Franklin County emerged on Tuesday, December 7. William Anthony, Chair of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told WVKO radio listeners that the Board begins “stationing voting machines four weeks out” before Election Day. Security questions were raised after a machine in Gahanna Ward 1B at the New Life Church recorded 4258 votes for Bush where only 638 voters cast ballots.
Cornell McCleary, former minority director of the Republican Party of Ohio, argues that it would easy for computer hackers to hack directly into the machines: “The two points of vulnerability are setting up a computer and hacking directly into the machine, or the line that goes directly down to the Board of Elections.” He dismissed the Gahanna incident as a “prank.” Prank or not, Kerry’s decision to concede early on November 3 was based in part on these imaginary votes that were either a prank, a computer glitch, or a deliberate effort to boost Bush’s total in Ohio.
Anthony also conceded that some voters in Franklin County waited up to “five or six hours’ in order to vote. He admitted that the Board of Elections usually holds back “a truckload of voting machines"--- 75---in case there’s a truck accident." He blamed this on the lack of machines and the fact that 77 voting machines malfunctioned on Election Day. Two affidavits from voters obtained by the Free Press report that voting machine maintenance people came out to fix machines and their technique seemed to be to continually plug and unplug, or reboot, the electronic machines until the machines functioned again.
Anthony also confirmed that the Board only delivered 2741 of its 2866 machines at the opening of polls on Election Day. He said Board of Elections workers later placed an additional 44. This would put the total number in use at the “close of polls” at 2785, leaving 81 machines sitting unused. Anthony further said Election Day problems were the result of utilizing essentially 4800 volunteers with minimal training, paid a small stipend. Some poll workers have testified they repeatedly called the Board of Elections for additional machines as lines stacked up at their inner city precincts but got no response.
In addition, new evidence has continued to surface of widespread voter fraud throughout the state. Among other things, a letter from Shelby County election officials dated December 2 confirmed that the county discarded "tabulator test deck reports" from the November 2 vote count "to reduce paperwork and confusion with official results." As this county's response is the first of 88 to come from Freedom of Information Act filings, it seems likely other controversial practices could surface.
Moreover, new computer tabulation errors – first reported locally after Election Day – have resurfaced, and are of a magnitude suggesting Bush’s margin over Kerry---now 118,775 votes or 2 percent of the total votes cast in the state, according to Blackwell---could easily have been manipulated.
One precinct in Youngstown, Ohio, recorded a negative 25 million votes (that's not a typo) on an ES&S Votronic voting machine, which was discarded from official results, according to a Nov. 3 report in Youngstown’s Vindicator newspaper http://www.vindy.com/basic/news/281829446390855.php. Machine malfunctions combined with human error to create the massive negative vote count. “That led to some races showing votes of negative 25 million, Munroe said,” quoting Mark Monroe, the Mahoning County election chief. "The numbers were nonsensical so we knew there were problems." The website www.VotersUnite.org lists dozens of voting machine errors, voter intimidation reports and other problems – from the very large to very small – that were reported in the Ohio press. At the very least these errors, many of which are detailed below, add up to a scathing indictment of a statewide election. On December 6 White House Spokesman Scott McClellan called the election “free and fair.”
But even the www.VotersUnite.org list does not contain some of the biggest errors that will be cited in an election challenge filed Tuesday, December 7 by the Ohio Honest Elections Campaign in Ohio Supreme Court. It does not cite two non-partisan Election Day exit polls, by CNN and Zogby, which found Kerry leading by mid-afternoon. The Ohio Honest Election Campaign filing also describes abnormal patterns in the votes for statewide Democratic candidates – with Kerry receiving fewer votes than obscure candidates – could point to computer vote shifting. The Honest Election Campaign is seeking to investigate these abnormalities.
On Wednesday, Dec. 8, Rev. Jesse Jackson and many people associated with recounting the Ohio vote and challenging the election returns, will brief Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington.
Rev. Jackson has repeatedly traveled to Ohio, demanding at packed, angry rallies that the Ohio Supreme Court consider setting aside Bush's victory in Ohio and that Congress should investigate how Ohioans voted. Among other things, the call for a re-vote as in Ukraine has become a consistent theme among disgruntled Ohio voters.
Jackson’s involvement comes as other national public-interest groups are pursuing their own litigation. For example, People for the American Way is trying to stop the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland from rejecting 8,099 of the 24,472 provisional ballots cast there. The ballots were thrown out because voters did not properly complete them or cast them at polling places that were not their own.
(EDITOR’s NOTE: What follows is an excerpted list http://www.votersunite.org/electionproblems.asp of voting errors in Ohio compiles by VotersUnite.org. They are placed in the following categories: malfeasance, canvass anomalies, machine malfunction, vote suppression, provisional ballots, fraud, absentee ballot errors, and others. The link to the original news report follows.)
-- Lucas County. An extensive housecleaning in the Lucas County elections office was announced yesterday with Elections Director Paula Hicks-Hudson resigning and four other officials suspended pending investigation into problems with the official count of the Nov. 2 election. http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
-- Some groups also have complained about thousands of punch-card ballots that were not tallied because officials in the 68 counties that use them could not determine a vote for president. Votes for other offices on the cards were counted. http://www.nbc4i.com/politics/3953104/detail.html
-- Cuyahoga County. 8,099 provisional ballots (about 1/3 of those cast) have been ruled invalid because the voter wasn't registered or was registered in the wrong precinct. In 2000, about 17% were ruled invalid. http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/1101205815101550.xml
-- Mahoning County. 20 to 30 ES&S iVotronic machines that needed to be recalibrated during the voting process because some votes for a candidate were being counted for that candidate's opponent. http://www.vindy.com/basic/news/281829446390855.php
-- Lucas County, Toledo. Throughout the city, polling places reported an assortment of problems, ranging from technical trouble with Lucas County's leased optical-scan voting machines to confusion about precinct boundaries and questions over provisional balloting. http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
-- Lucas County (Toledo). Technical problems snarled the process throughout the day. Jammed or inoperable voting machines were reported throughout the city. http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
-- Lucas County Election Director Paula Hicks-Hudson said the Diebold optical scan machines jammed during testing last week. http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
-- Cincinnati. Problems with punch card voting machines delayed the start of voting for up to an hour Tuesday morning at a suburban precinct. Voters were unable to slide their punch-card ballots all the way into any of the six voting machines that had ALL evidently been damaged in transit. http://www.wcpo.com/news/2004/local/11/02/machineprobs.html
-- In Franklin County, Columbus, overcharged batteries on Danaher Controls ELECTronic 1242 systems kept machines from booting up properly at the beginning of the day http://www.itworld.com/Tech/2987/041102evoteprobs/
-- Auglaize County In a letter dated Oct. 21, Ken Nuss, former deputy director of the County Board of Elections, claimed that Joe McGinnis, a former employee of ES&S, the company that provides the voting system in Auglaize County, was on the main computer that is used to create the ballot and compile election results, which would go against election protocol. Nuss was suspended and then resigned http://www.theeveningleader.com/articles/2004/11/06/news/news.01.txt
-- Franklin County, Columbus. A Danaher ELECTronic 1242 computer error with a voting machine cartridge gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in a Gahanna precinct. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. A cartridge from one of three voting machines at the polling place generated a faulty number at a computerized reading station. Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections said the cartridge was retested Thursday and there were no problems. He couldn't explain why the computer reader malfunctioned. http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/news/state/10103910.htm?1c
-- Warren County. Citing concerns about potential terrorism, officials locked down the county administration building on election night and blocked any independent observers from monitoring the vote count as the nation awaited Ohio's returns. County Emergency Services Director Frank Young explained that he had been advised by the federal government to implement the measures for the sake of Homeland Security. The Warren results were part of the last tallies that helped clinch President Bush's re-election. James Lee, spokesman with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office in Columbus, said Thursday he hasn't heard of any situations similar to Warren County's building restrictions. http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/11/05/loc_warrenvote05.html
-- Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell said voters could not cast provisional ballots despite not receiving their absentee ballots in time. A judge overruled him, calling his statement a "failure to do his duty" and saying that the federal Help America Vote Act requires that people who claim to be eligible voters must be allowed to cast provisionals regardless of the reason they are not on the rolls or are challenged. http://www.votersunite.org/article.asp?id=3652
-- Cuyahoga County. In precinct 4F, located in a predominantly black precinct, at Benedictine High School on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Kerry received 290 votes, Bush 21 and Michael Peroutka, candidate of the ultra-conservative anti-immigrant Constitutional Party, received 215 votes. In precinct 4N, also at Benedictine High School, the tally was Kerry 318, Bush 21, and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik 163. The Constitutional and Libertarian tallies were entirely implausible for the precinct. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/story/257365p-220441c.html
-- Sandusky County. What appeared to be an overcount resulted when a computer disk containing votes was accidentally backed up into the voting machines twice by an election worker. http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com/news/stories/20041125
-- Sandusky County elections officials discovered some ballots in nine precincts were counted twice. [ES&S optical scan] The county doesn't yet know how it happened http://www.thenews-messenger.com/news/stories/20041116/localnews/1601347.html
-- Polling places in Northeast Ohio had half the number of voting machines that were needed. This caused a bottleneck at polling stations, and many people left without voting. http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/1100428444286470.xml
-- Columbus. Sworn testimony shows a disparity between the number of voting machines provided to different precincts. With record turnouts, some inner city precincts had fewer machines than in previous elections. http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2004/917
-- Columbus. Carol Shelton was the presiding judge at a Columbus precinct with three machines for 1,500 registered voters. At her home precinct in Clintonville, she said there were three machines for 730 voters. "I called to get more machines and got connected to Matt Damschroder, and after lots of hassle he sent a fourth machine," she said. "It did not put a dent in the long lines." http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/news/state/10176004.htm
-- In Franklin and Knox counties, where voters use touch-screen units, long lines developed and voters turned to a federal judge for help as the time grew near for polls to close. To speed the voting, some of those voters were given paper ballots http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041103/NEWS09/411030355/-1/ARCHIVES30
-- Cincinnati. "We've had reports that poll workers aren't doing a very good job putting people in the right lines for their precincts," said Molly Lombardi, a spokeswoman for the Election Protection Coalition. "People stood in line for over an hour in the rain in some places only to find they were in the wrong line. A lot of them gave up and went home." http://www.enquirer.com/midday/11/11032004_News_mday_voting03.html
-- Knox County. Kenyon College student Maggie Hill appeared on the "Today Show" Wednesday morning. She was one of hundreds of students and other Gambier residents who waited for up to 10 hours to cast their votes. Observers in the Gambier precinct said there were only two voting machines for 1,300 voters. Each machine, they said, is designed to handle 20 voters per hour. http://www.newsnet5.com/news/3889129/detail.html
-- Stark County (Canton). The Election Board reluctantly followed the law and rejected provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct in the right polling place. Up until this year, they remade a ballot that was cast in the wrong precinct, meaning that the person’s vote would be put toward the appropriate races in the correct precinct. http://www.cantonrep.com/index.php?ID=193617&Category=9
-- Of the 11 counties that have completed checking ballots, 81 percent, or 4,277 out of 5,310 ballots, are valid, according to a survey Monday by The Associated Press. Most of the counties are in rural areas. "They swear up and down they're registered to vote and they're not," said Bill Thompson, deputy elections director in Pike County. http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/news/stories/20041116/
-- Montgomery County. Two precincts had 25% presidential undervotes. This means no presidential vote was recorded on 1/4 of the ballots. The overall undervote rate for the county was 2%. The undercount amounted to 2.8 percent of the ballots in the 231 precincts that supported Kerry, but only 1.6 percent of those cast in the 354 precincts that supported President Bush. http://www.daytondailynews.com/localnews/content/localnews/
-- A woman sued elections officials Tuesday, December 7, on behalf of Ohio voters who claim they did not receive their absentee ballots on time, seeking permission for them to be able to cast provisional ballots at the polls. SoS office said state law says that if a board of elections sent someone an absentee ballot, that person cannot try to vote at a polling place. http://www.ohio.com/mld/beaconjournal/10075572.htm
-- Lake County. Some voters received a memo on bogus Board of Elections letterhead informing voters who registered through Democratic and NACCP drives that they could not vote. Election officials referred the matter to the sheriff. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12514-2004Oct30.html
-- Cleveland, unknown volunteers began showing up at voters' doors illegally offering to collect and deliver completed absentee ballots to the election office http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12514-2004Oct30.html
-- Cleveland. Voters received phone calls incorrectly informing them that their polling place had changed. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12514-2004Oct30.html
Steve Rosenfeld is a producer for Air America radio. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are publisher and senior editor of www.freepress.org.