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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
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