On the flight to Nashville this past weekend, I sat next to a man who asked what I was writing.  Preparing a talk, I told him, for a conference of people sharing evidence that the 2004 presidential election was stolen.  Without missing a beat, he asked ‘Isn’t that next door to the convention on UFO sightings?’

I wasn’t surprised.  We’ve been painted as conspiracy theorists and worse by Democrats and Republicans alike, and even the liberal arm of the press has steered clear of this issue.

But when I arrived at the Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Nashville, my doubts about the election were reinforced by a community of sober professionals, none of whom seemed overtly loony.

I met David Griscom, a retired physics prof who had spent months with his colleague John Brakey poring over election tapes, signature rosters and “consecutive number registers” from Brakey’s Tucson, AZ home precinct.   They audited and verified, one by one, the 895 votes in the precinct, and here’s what they discovered:  12 innocent, and unsuspecting voters had had their names duplicated on the roster and their votes for Bush counted twice.  There were 22 ‘undervotes’ where the machine had failed to register a preference for president, and these had been dutifully and meticulously converted to 22 votes for Bush.  The “Republican” and “Democratic” co-directors of the polling place were a local fundamentalist preacher and his wife.  39 of their parishioners from another precinct had cast provisional ballots, which had been (illegally) converted on the spot to regular ballots and passed through the vote counter, all 39 for Bush.  The net result, Dr Griscom figured, was that Bush got 394 votes when he was entitled only to 336, a swing of 13%.

I met Richard Hayes Phillips, a PhD geologist from New Hampshire who was invited to Ohio as a volunteer to study the integrity of the vote count, then gradually realized that a complete inventory of lost and miscounted votes was needed, and committed himself to the task. To date, Phillips has analyzed 15 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and by his most conservative estimate – the counts he can actually prove – has found 101,000 uncounted Kerry votes. 136,000 is the margin by which Bush officially defeated Kerry.

I heard Clint Curtis talk about working in 2001 as a programmer for Yang Enterprises in Florida.  He was assigned, one day, to a meeting with State Senate Speaker Tom Feeney, who asked to have a program written into the software that controls voting machines so that the totals could be manipulated without leaving a trace.  Curtis, the whistleblower, is now unemployed.  Feeney, the politician, is now the U.S. Representative from Florida’s 24th Congressional district.

I was inspired to hear the travails of Ohio Attorney Cliff Arnebeck.  After the Green Party raised $200,000 and obtained authorization for a recount in Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell staged a charade, in which every State rule about the conduct of the recount was thrown out, and two hand-picked precinct captains emerged from behind locked doors to report that yes, indeed the numbers were exactly right and all was hunky dory.  Arnebeck was lead attorney in a lawsuit to expose this sham, and demand a real recount.  The suit was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer, who ruled on the case despite the fact that his own re-election in 2004 was part of the challenge.  Arnebeck has continued to pursue the case while he fights on the side for his legal life: State Attorney General Jim Petro has brought an action to discipline Arnebeck for bringing a frivolous lawsuit that wastes the precious time of the Ohio court.

I was in Nashville to present the work of Steve Freeman, a Penn professor who was the first to point out that we do have a way to pull these horror stories together, and to know how much effect all these little scandals have had in the aggregate.  The National Exit Poll by the Edison/Mitofsky consortium interviewed 70,000 voters fresh from the voting booth on November 2, and asked for whom they had just cast their ballots.  51% of them said John Kerry, and 48% said George Bush.

Now it’s Monday morning.  I’m safely returned from Planet Nashville, back home in the land of ABC-CBS-NBC-FOX-AP-UPI.  I find it reassuring to remember that if any of this had really happened, the Democrats in Congress would be screaming about it.  I’d read about it on the front page, and it would be all over the network news.  Yes, I can be sure that Nashville was just a bad dream.  The reality is that President Bush won the election, and it’s time to move on.  Time to move on.  It was all just a dream.  Yes, it’s time to move on.

Josh Mitteldorf lives in Mt Airy and teaches math and statistics at Temple University.