Pre-punched ballots; touch-screen vote switching;  more absentee votes than absentee voters; unfair provisional voter deletions;   change of voting sites on Election Day; voter suppression;  voter intimidation; double voting; malfunctioning machines; recalibrated machines; evidently rigged machines; and even 25 million negative votes registered in some races in Mahoning County!

Those were among the problematic incidents shared at a 3-hour public hearing on vote irregularities in the Mahoning Valley held on December 21 at the Warren-Trumbull Public Library.  Panelists taking voter testimony included Rev. Rick Judy of Mahoning County; Rev. Werner Lange of Trumbull County; Ray Nakley, an officer of the Arab-American Community Center in Youngstown; and Russ Buckbee, Green Party coordinator for NE Ohio.

Many panelists and testifiers wore orange ribbonos symbolizing the ongoing fight for democracy.  “The color orange was chosen to remember Florida, where the wishes of the voters were ignored in order to place George W. Bush in the White House in 2000”, read the attached explanation,  “Here were are in 2004 and we allege it is happening again”  Evidence that this was indeed, once again, a stolen election even comes from published reports regarding curious developments in the Mahoning Valley on Election Day.  A December 15 article in The Washington Post reveals that Jeanne White, a manager of the Buckeye Review, an African-American newspaper in NE Ohio, pushed the button for Kerry and watched her vote jump to the Bush column.  “We’ve never seen anything like this before” Mark Munroe, Chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Election is quoted as saying in the November 3rd edition of The Vindicator.  Munroe confirmed that vote switching problems occurred in at least 16 precincts and involved some 20 to 30 ES&S machines that “needed to be recalibrated during the voting process because some votes for a candidate were being counted for that candidate’s opponent”.

One Mahoning Valley resident at the hearing stated she knew of at least two voters who, like Ms. White, saw their vote switch from Kerry to Bush.  Similar problems occurred in neighboring Mercer County in Pennsylvania, which, like Mahoning County was among only a handful of BOEs in either state to use these problematic ES&S machines produced and managed by Bush supporters.  Prof. Victoria Lovegren of Case Western Reserve University, an expert in computer programming, came to this hearing and cast very serious doubt on the validity of the Ohio vote recorded by any BOE using these electronic devices.  Everyone present seemed to agree with this assessment of the problem which was read into the record:

“One pattern that has been documented based on the experience of voters in Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, and elsewhere (especially in swing states) is the machines appear to have been set with a default to Bush.  Then if the voter successfully punched the ballot for another candidate, Bush was replaced by that candidate.”

The exact number of votes officially given to Bush and stolen from Kerry by such means is unknown.  No explanation has, to date, been given and no serious investigation into this outrage against democracy has been launched.

Nor has there been any defensible explanation provided for the documented absentee vote inflation in Trumbull County.  A careful review by Werner Lange and Maggie Hagan of nearly 200 precincts in Trumbull County revealed a considerable discrepancy between the number of certified absentee votes and the number of registered absentee voters identified in the poll books.  The poll books are to contain not only the name of every registered voter, but also clearly identify who voted (either by regular, absentee or provisional means) and who did not.  The Trumbull County investigation showed some 650 more absentee votes than there were absentee voters identified in the poll books examined.  If the absentee vote inflation rate there were consistent statewide, then over 63,000 votes were up for grabs in Ohio.  This unexplained problem would have been brought to light much earlier had it not been for an unlawful directive by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to prevent any public inspection of poll books prior to vote certification.  A case filed in mid-November with the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas challenging the validity of this official denial of access to public records has not even been given a hearing date, let alone a ruling, from Judge Peter Kontos.  Justice delayed continues to be justice denied.

A number of other irregularities came to light on this longest night of the year.

The unusually high number of Ohio votes discarded for double-punching remains unexplained.  A possible reason was shared at this hearing by a voter from Cuyahoga County who stated that she inspected her paper ballot prior to voting and was shocked to notice that it was pre-punched for Bush.  She also noticed another ballot had the same tampering problem.  A voter from Niles came to the polls and noticed someone else had signed their name into her signature box.  A voter in Precinct D of Warren Township came to the polls and discovered that someone else had already voted in her name.  John Williams of Niles stated that after the election officials in Mahoning County refused to give him a precinct breakdown of the vote.  Russ Buckbee noted that there seems to have been a pattern of expunging inactive registered voters from inner-city precincts but not the suburbs.  Several testifiers complained about long lines at the polls causing many voters to leave in frustration.  Maureen Lauer-Gatta, who observed the vote recount in Trumbull County, wondered how many votes where lost due to a last-minute change of voting sites on Election Day itself.  She said there were “several” such voting site changes on November 2.  Ariel Vegosan, who observed the vote recount in Mahoning County, noticed baskets full of votes not counted and wondered if there were “missing baskets of votes” in Mahoning County.  She called this to the attention of election officials who seemed unconcerned about this irregularity.  The legitimacy of the whole recount was called into question by Prof. Lovegren due to malfunctioning machines and other problems.

An email from a Cuyahoga County voter shared at the hearing echoed many of the problems discovered in the Mahoning Valley:  “The election wasn’t fair, but trying to prove that any one method of fraud or ‘errors’ has caused a false outcome will be nearly impossible.  Instead I feel that a combination of frauds or ‘errors’ has given Bush the tiniest of advantages in our winner-take-all system.  Simply from surveying the 12 polls in Westlake the general climate of the roving bands of partisan police officers backed by Republican public officials who were threatening Democratic supporters and poll workers, removing legally posted Democratic messages, and chasing Democratic supporters from the polling places with the threat of arrest, all of this amounted to a fraud.  The process was also tainted at the poll with militant Bush supporters serving as the Board of Election Poll Judges”

Finally, note was taken at the hearing of the curious fact that exit polls showed Kerry with a 4.2% lead over Bush in Ohio, but the vote results gave Bush an alleged 2.5% victory over Kerry, a 6.7% final vote tally percentage shift toward Bush.  The chances of this enormous shift being legitimate and the exit polls so wrong are infinitesimal.  Another explanation is much more likely, plausible and real.  It was clearly expressed well before this rigged election by the CEO of Diebold, Walden O’Dell, brother of the top executive at ES&S: “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral vote to the President next year”.That sentiment and intent were undoubtedly shared again on Election Day itself with President Bush personally by key Ohio election officials, including the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio who doubles as Ohio’s Secretary of State, when Bush came to his state headquarters on High Street in Columbus, site of what may be the crime of the century.  It is unlikely that anyone there on that crucial day invoked the spirit of Joseph Stalin who is reputed to have said “those who vote determine nothing; those who count the vote determine everything”.  But whether explicitly invoked or not, that anti-democratic spirit was clearly invited to Ohio.

Dr. Werner Lange ( lives in Newton Falls, Trumbull County, Ohio.