16 October 2014

Ohio election protection activists have won a landmark court battle to preserve the ballots from 2004’s disputed presidential election, and researchers studying those ballots continue to find new evidence that the election was, indeed, stolen. Among other things, large numbers of consecutive votes in different precincts for George W. Bush make it appear ever more likely that the real winner in 2004 should have been John Kerry. Meanwhile, indictments and prison terms are mounting among key players in that tainted contest.

In King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association et. al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, three community groups and five individuals have won a precedent-setting federal decision preserving the ballots from the 2004 election. By federal law those ballots could have been destroyed en masse September 3, twenty-two months after the November 2, 2004 balloting. Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell gave every indication that he would order the records to be destroyed as soon as he could. Admissions have already come from a few counties that illegally disposed of election-related materials well before the federal deadline. By law, all such documents were to be preserved, under lock and key, right up to the federal deadline.

While running the 2004 election, Blackwell served as the very active co-chair of Ohio’s Bush-Cheney campaign. He is now the GOP nominee for governor, but is trailing substantially in all major polls behind Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland.

Blackwell was put on notice by Columbus Attorney Cliff Arnebeck and others who filed the King Lincoln suit contending illegal discrimination against black and young voters in 2004. The suit is based on widespread allegations involving mal-distribution of voting machines, dubious vote counts, race-based voter suppression and many other questionable occurrences before, during and after the 2004 balloting. The suit asked Judge Algernon Marbley of the federal district court in Columbus to order Blackwell to force Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections (BOEs) to preserve ballots and other election-related materials so the full extent of the allegations could be proven.

Under intense public pressure, Blackwell claimed he lacked the power to force the BOEs to do that. Marbley responded by both ordering Blackwell to issue a blanket preservation edict, and by issuing a federal order to all Ohio’s BOEs. The ballots are thus to be protected at least until after the conclusion of the lawsuit, which could take years.

Ironically, the ballots from the disputed Florida 2000 presidential election have already been preserved in a state facility at Tallahassee. In response to a petition drive spearheaded by historians and other academics, Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Glenda Hood have gathered the ballots from Florida’s counties in a temperature controlled archive, with access guaranteed to future generations of citizens and researchers. (Hood succeeded Katherine Harris as Secretary of State. Like Blackwell, Harris administered her state’s election while also serving as a Bush-Cheney campaign co-chair. She is now the GOP’s Florida nominee for US Senate, and is also trailing badly in her race.)

A petition drive to establish a permanent repository for Ohio’s 2004 election materials is being coordinated through the www.savetheballots.org web site. The campaign’s final outcome will probably hinge on who wins the governorship and secretary of state’s office in November.

As of now, Ohio’s election records are stored in 88 county warehouses that range widely in quality and security. Some of the materials are vulnerable to rain and mold, and are sprawled haphazardly in cardboard boxes on dusty floors. Federal law requires all such records be kept under double lock and key, but many clearly are not. In at least one case, unmonitored maintenance workers have routine access to areas where ballots are stored.

County BOEs have been inconsistent in granting access. But thus far, independent researchers such as Dr. Richard Hayes Philips and Dr. Ron Baiman have looked at about 50,000 ballots under the auspices of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism. Some 5.6 million votes were cast in 2004, but at least 800,000 were cast electronically, with no paper trail. Bush’s official margin was 118,775.

So far, even the limited inspection of ballots has yielded astonishing results. Three precincts in two counties have shown consecutive runs of Bush votes that qualify as “virtual statistical impossibilities.”

  • In Delaware County, Precinct Genoa I, researcher Stuart Wright viewed and recounted 3 separate bundles of ballots. In the second bundle, there were 274 consecutive ballots for Bush. In the third bundle there were 359 consecutive ballots for Bush. Genoa I was not one of the four precincts recounted as part of a required official recount, conducted on December 15, 2004.

  • In Delaware County, BOE officials told Phillips that after the votes were cast on Election Day, ballots were unloaded by a team of teenage volunteers including the Boy Scouts who carried them into the BOE building where they were then given to a "mentally retarded man" who scraped the chads off the punch card ballots. Dr. Phillips estimates that the "mentally retarded man" would have had to scrape four or five ballots per second on election night in order to comply with the posting of the results at 12:40am for the nearly 80,000 ballots cast there.

  • In Delaware County, Ross Township precinct, Philips has discovered that the BOE certified that 70% of the ballots cast for C. Ellen Connally, an African-American woman from Cleveland running for the Ohio Supreme Court, were also counted for Bush. The implausibility of this outcome in a white, Republican suburb is underscored by the fact that Connally trailed both Bush and Kerry very substantially throughout the rest of the state. Some 60% of the Township’s ballots opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (which passed substantially) also were punched for Bush, an extremely implausible outcome widely branded as the “Gays for Bush” anomaly.

  • In Butler County, Phillips found that in Monroe City precinct 4CA, Bush received 52 consecutive votes near the start of voting, and then another run of 212 consecutive votes.

  • Also in Butler Country, in Ross Township Precinct 4JB, Philips found that Bush was awarded 547 votes to Kerry’s 141 votes. In separate sequences, Bush received 41, 29 and 25 straight votes. Neither 4CA nor 4JB were involved in the recount.

  • In Clermont County, which contributed significantly to Bush’s margin of victory, researcher Dr. Ronald Baiman discovered a suspicious use of replacement ballots, that are meant to be issued only if a regular ballot is somehow spoiled by a voter. In a random draw of one ballot from each of the 192 precincts, against huge odds, Baiman found a replacement ballot. Baiman asked that the next ballot from the precinct be drawn and it, too, was a replacement ballot. Continuing pulling ballots from that same precinct, Baiman witnessed 36 straight replacement ballots in a row, a virtual statistical impossibility. Dr. Philips recorded only five spoiled ballots in this same precinct, raising the question of where the other 31 replacement ballots came from.

  • Also in Clermont County, Phillips found an opti-scan ballot with a white sticker over the Kerry-Edwards spot which would prevent the counter from recording a Kerry vote. During the December 2004 recount in Clermont County, witnesses swore out official affidavits that they saw several ballots with stickers over the Kerry-Edwards spot. The county prosecutor claimed there were “less than one hundred” of these, but was unable to explain why any stickers were there at all.

  • In Miami County on Monday, June 19, 2006, Director Steve Quillan handed co-author Bob Fitrakis a print-out of what he called "freely amended results." Director Quillen said "You guys were right" regarding the voter turnout in Concord South West Precinct, which had been listed as 98.55% in the certified election results in 2004. Quillen also disavowed the alleged 94.3% voter turnout certified election results in Concord South. The Free Press has questioned those results, which would have meant that 679 out of 689 people successfully voted in Concord South West. Using a computer databank of voter history, Quillen now admits that the voter turnout was just 82.1% in Concord South West and 79.5% in Concord, discrepancies of more than 15%.

  • In Miami County, BOE Director Quillen also says Boy Scouts who volunteered to help on Election Day mistakenly took Concord South West ballots to the Concord East precinct. Baiman found that the pollbooks and absentee ballots in Miami County “have little to no relationship to the voters who voted in the county.” He also discovered that “At least 8% of precincts in Miami County have at least a 5% discrepancy between the number of voters who voted and the official certified number of votes.” He also noted that there were two precincts that were off by more than 100 votes.

  • In Miami County, both the chair and the director of the BOE admitted that the recount matched the official vote count only because they didn't use the certified results, but simply counted the ballots in the precinct and ran them through the tabulator. This is a valid tabulator test, but not a legally valid recount, since there's no benchmark.

  • Also in Miami County, Diane L. Miley, the BOE’s former Deputy Director said the Director allowed “Republican friends” and “high school students to take ballots out to the polls on Election Day.” Miley also says ten or more Republicans were allowed into the BOE on the evening of Election Day, when votes were being counted, which she says made her “incredibly uncomfortable.” But in going public with her assertions, Miley says she was "abandoned by the Dems . . . when I stood up [to the Republicans] at the Board of Elections."

  • In Warren County, punch card ballots were also shifted from precinct to precinct, which again, due to ballot rotations, could have reversed the intent of thousands of voters. Warren County was also key to the Bush margin of victory. Its BOE declared an unexplained Homeland Security alert when the polls closed, and the county’s ballots were diverted to an unauthorized warehouse, amidst a media blackout. Bush emerged from the county with a very large margin over John Kerry. Warren County also used a chad scraping crew.

Dubious outcomes and marginal behavior by Republican election officials has set off a trickle of legal prosecutions that may become a tidal wave if the preserved ballots continue to tell such tales, and if the assertions in the King Lincoln suit are proven out. Three Cleveland-area poll workers have already been indicated for their actions in the 2004 election, all of which were perpetrated in ways that benefited the Bush vote count.

Meanwhile, the architect of the national imposition of electronic voting machines is on his way to jail. Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, who authored the federal Help America Vote Act, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges on September 15. Ney’s HAVA legislation has been central to foisting electronic voting machines on much of the nation. Central to Ney’s conviction has been a flow of “contributions” from the manufacturers of those machines, which have yielded millions in profits for companies with deep Republican roots.

Ney will join Tom Noe, northern Ohio’s “Mr. Republican,” a major GOP contributor and close cohort of Blackwell, Bush and Ohio Governor Robert Taft. Noe served as chair of the Lucas County (Toledo) Board of Elections for many years. His wife held the post in 2004, and ultimately resigned in disgrace. The entire Lucas County BOE was later fired by Blackwell. Independent researchers have shown at least 7,000 Toledo citizens were stripped from the voter rolls, and have substantiated widespread allegations of vote theft and fraud. Noe has been convicted of federal election funding violations and of mishandling millions of dollars in funds from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

As researchers dive deeper into the vast body of ballots, huge legal battles loom over what they may and may not tell us about the true outcome of the 2004 presidential election. But the tip of the iceberg indicates very serious problems, with a wide range of dubious vote counts and illegal recounts all favoring George W. Bush. Diebold opti-scan machines alone are known to have cost Kerry at least 7,000 votes.

Thus far only a fraction of Ohio’s 88 counties have received even passing scrutiny. But the early indicators are that Ohio 2004, which decided the presidency, may ultimately prove out to have been the dirtiest and most obviously stolen election in all U.S. history.

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Bob Fitrakis is of counsel, and Harvey Wasserman is a plaintiff, in the King Lincoln lawsuit. They are co-authors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of What Happened in Ohio: A documentary record of theft and fraud, just published by The New Press. The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that publishes the Free Press.