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Stolen 2004 Election--RFK jr.--part iii

From the Rolling Stone Magazine  June 2006 at




Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House. BY ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.

The long lines were not only foreseeable -- they were actually created by GOP efforts. Republicans in the state legislature, citing new electronic voting machines that were supposed to speed voting, authorized local election boards to reduce the number of precincts across Ohio. In most cases, the new machines never materialized -- but that didn't stop officials in twenty of the state's eighty-eight counties, all of them favorable to Democrats, from slashing the number of precincts by at least twenty percent.(136)

Republican officials also created long lines by failing to distribute enough voting machines to inner-city precincts. After the Florida disaster in 2000, such problems with machines were supposed to be a thing of the past. Under the Help America Vote Act, Ohio received more than $30 million in federal funds to replace its faulty punch-card machines with more reliable systems.(137) But on Election Day, that money was sitting in the bank. Why? Because Ken Blackwell had applied for an extension until 2006, insisting that there was no point in buying electronic machines that would later have to be retrofitted under Ohio law to generate paper ballots.(138)

''No one has ever accused our secretary of state of lacking in ability,'' says Rep. Kucinich. ''He's a rather bright fellow, and he's involved in the most minute details of his office. There's no doubt that he knew the effect of not having enough voting machines in some areas.''

At liberal Kenyon College, where students had registered in record numbers, local election officials provided only two voting machines to handle the anticipated surge of up to 1,300 voters. Meanwhile, fundamentalist students at nearby Mount Vernon Nazarene University had one machine for 100 voters and faced no lines at all.(139) Citing the lines at Kenyon, the Conyers report concluded that the ''misallocation of machines went beyond urban/suburban discrepancies to specifically target Democratic areas.''(140)

In Columbus, which had registered 125,000 new voters(141) -- more than half of them black(142) -- the board of elections estimated that it would need 5,000 machines to handle the huge surge.(143) ''On Election Day, the county experienced an unprecedented turnout that could only be compared to a 500-year flood,'' says Matt Damschroder,(144) chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections and the former head of the Republican Party in Columbus.(145) But instead of buying more equipment, the Conyers investigation found, Damschroder decided to ''make do'' with 2,741 machines.(146) And to make matters worse, he favored his own party in distributing the equipment. According to The Columbus Dispatch, precincts that had gone seventy percent or more for Al Gore in 2000 were allocated seventeen fewer machines in 2004, while strong GOP precincts received eight additional machines.(147) An analysis by voter advocates found that all but three of the thirty wards with the best voter-to-machine ratios were in Bush strongholds; all but one of the seven with the worst ratios were in Kerry country.(148)

The result was utterly predictable. According to an investigation by the Columbus Free Press, white Republican suburbanites, blessed with a surplus of machines, averaged waits of only twenty-two minutes; black urban Democrats averaged three hours and fifteen minutes.(149) ''The allocation of voting machines in Franklin County was clearly biased against voters in precincts with high proportions of African-Americans,'' concluded Walter Mebane Jr., a government professor at Cornell University who conducted a statistical analysis of the vote in and around Columbus.(150)

By midmorning, when it became clear that voters were dropping out of line rather than braving the wait, precincts appealed for the right to distribute paper ballots to speed the process. Blackwell denied the request, saying it was an invitation to fraud.(151) A lawsuit ensued, and the handwritten affidavits submitted by voters and election officials offer a heart-rending snapshot of an electoral catastrophe in the offing:(152)

From Columbus Precinct 44D:
''There are three voting machines at this precinct. I have been informed that in prior elections there were normally four voting machines. At
1:45 p.m. there are approximately eighty-five voters in line. At this time, the line to vote is approximately three hours long. This precinct is largely African-American. I have personally witnessed voters leaving the polling place without voting due to the length of the line.''

From Precinct 40:
''I am serving as a presiding judge, a position I have held for some 15+ years in precinct 40. In all my years of service, the lines are by far the longest I have seen, with some waiting as long as four to five hours. I expect the situation to only worsen as the early evening heavy turnout approaches. I have requested additional machines since
6:40 a.m. and no assistance has been offered.''

Precinct 65H:
''I observed a broken voting machine that was not in use for approximately two hours. The precinct judge was very diligent but could not get through to the BOE.''

Precinct 18A:
4 p.m. the average wait time is about 4.5 hours and continuing to increase?. Voters are continuing to leave without voting.''

As day stretched into evening, U.S. District Judge Algernon Marbley issued a temporary restraining order requiring that voters be offered paper ballots.(153) But it was too late: According to bipartisan estimates published in The Washington Post, as many as 15,000 voters in Columbus had already given up and gone home.(154) When closing time came at the polls, according to the Conyers report, some precinct workers illegally dismissed citizens who had waited for hours in the rain -- in direct violation of Ohio law, which stipulates that those in line at closing time are allowed to remain and vote.(155)

The voters disenfranchised by long lines were overwhelmingly Democrats. Because of the unequal distribution of voting equipment, the median turnout in Franklin County precincts won by Kerry was fifty-one percent, compared to sixty-one percent in those won by Bush. Assuming sixty percent turnout under more equitable conditions, Kerry would have gained an additional 17,000 votes in the county.(156)

In another move certain to add to the traffic jam at the polls, the GOP deployed 3,600 operatives on Election Day to challenge voters in thirty-one counties -- most of them in predominantly black and urban areas.(157) Although it was billed as a means to ''ensure that voters are not disenfranchised by fraud,''(158) Republicans knew that the challengers would inevitably create delays for eligible voters. Even Mark Weaver, the GOP's attorney in Ohio, predicted in late October that the move would ''create chaos, longer lines and frustration.''(159)

The day before the election, Judge Dlott attempted to halt the challengers, ruling that ''there exists an enormous risk of chaos, delay, intimidation and pandemonium inside the polls and in the lines out the doors.'' Dlott was also troubled by the placement of Republican challengers: In Hamilton County, fourteen percent of new voters in white areas would be confronted at the polls, compared to ninety-seven percent of new voters in black areas.(160) But when the case was appealed to the Supreme Court on Election Day, Justice John Paul Stevens allowed the challenges to go forward. ''I have faith,'' he ruled, ''that the elected officials and numerous election volunteers on the ground will carry out their responsibilities in a way that will enable qualified voters to cast their ballots.''(161)

In fact, Blackwell gave Republican challengers unprecedented access to polling stations, where they intimidated voters, worsening delays in Democratic precincts. By the end of the day, thanks to a whirlwind of legal wrangling, the GOP had even gotten permission to use the discredited list of 35,000 names from its illegal caging effort to challenge would-be voters.(162) According to the survey by the DNC, nearly 5,000 voters across the state were turned away at the polls because of registration challenges -- even though federal law required that they be provided with provisional ballots.(163)

VII. Faulty Machines
Voters who managed to make it past the array of hurdles erected by Republican officials found themselves confronted by voting machines that didn't work. Only 800,000 out of the 5.6 million votes in Ohio were cast on electronic voting machines, but they were plagued with errors.(164) In heavily Democratic areas around Youngstown, where nearly 100 voters reported entering ''Kerry'' on the touch screen and watching ''Bush'' light up, at least twenty machines had to be recalibrated in the middle of the voting process for chronically flipping Kerry votes to Bush.(165) (Similar ''vote hopping'' from Kerry to Bush was reported by voters and election officials in other states.)(166) Elsewhere, voters complained in sworn affidavits that they touched Kerry's name on the screen and it lit up, but that the light had gone out by the time they finished their ballot; the Kerry vote faded away.(167) In the state's most notorious incident, an electronic machine at a fundamentalist church in the town of Gahanna recorded a total of 4,258 votes for Bush and 260 votes for Kerry.(168) In that precinct, however, there were only 800 registered voters, of whom 638 showed up.(169) (The error, which was later blamed on a glitchy memory card, was corrected before the certified vote count.)

In addition to problems with electronic machines, Ohio's vote was skewed by old-fashioned punch-card equipment that posed what even Blackwell acknowledged was the risk of a ''Florida-like calamity.''(170) All but twenty of the state's counties relied on antiquated machines that were virtually guaranteed to destroy votes(171) -- many of which were counted by automatic tabulators manufactured by Triad Governmental Systems,(172) the same company that supplied Florida's notorious butterfly ballot in 2000. In fact, some 95,000 ballots in Ohio recorded no vote for president at all -- most of them on punch-card machines. Even accounting for the tiny fraction of voters in each election who decide not to cast votes for president -- generally in the range of half a percent, according to Ohio State law professor and respected elections scholar Dan Tokaji -- that would mean that at least 66,000 votes were invalidated by faulty voting equipment.(173) If counted by hand instead of by automated tabulator, the vast majority of these votes would have been discernable. But thanks to a corrupt recount process, only one county hand-counted its ballots.(174)

Most of the uncounted ballots occurred in Ohio's big cities. In Cleveland, where nearly 13,000 votes were ruined, a New York Times analysis found that black precincts suffered more than twice the rate of spoiled ballots than white districts.(175) In Dayton, Kerry-leaning precincts had nearly twice the number of spoiled ballots as Bush-leaning precincts.(176) Last April, a federal court ruled that Ohio's use of punch-card balloting violated the equal-protection rights of the citizens who voted on them.(177)

In addition to spoiling ballots, the punch-card machines also created bizarre miscounts known as ''ballot crawl.'' In Cleveland Precinct 4F, a heavily African-American precinct, Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka was credited with an impressive forty-one percent of the vote. In Precinct 4N, where Al Gore won ninety-eight percent of the vote in 2000, Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik was credited with thirty-three percent of the vote. Badnarik and Peroutka also picked up a sizable portion of the vote in precincts across Cleveland -- 11M, 3B, 8G, 8I, 3I.(178) ''It appears that hundreds, if not thousands, of votes intended to be cast for Senator Kerry were recorded as being for a third-party candidate,'' the Conyers report concludes.(179)

But it's not just third-party candidates: Ballot crawl in Cleveland also shifted votes from Kerry to Bush. In Precinct 13B, where Bush received only six votes in 2000, he was credited with twenty percent of the total in 2004. Same story in 9P, where Bush recorded eighty-seven votes in 2004, compared to his grand total of one in 2000.(180)

VIII. Rural Counties
Despite the well-documented effort that prevented hundreds of thousands of voters in urban and minority precincts from casting ballots, the worst theft in
Ohio may have quietly taken place in rural counties. An examination of election data suggests widespread fraud -- and even good old-fashioned stuffing of ballot boxes -- in twelve sparsely populated counties scattered across southern and western Ohio: Auglaize, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Darke, Highland, Mercer, Miami, Putnam, Shelby, Van Wert and Warren. (See The Twelve Suspect Counties) One key indicator of fraud is to look at counties where the presidential vote departs radically from other races on the ballot. By this measure, John Kerry's numbers were suspiciously low in each of the twelve counties -- and George Bush's were unusually high.

Take the case of Ellen Connally, a Democrat who lost her race for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. When the ballots were counted, Kerry should have drawn far more votes than Connally -- a liberal black judge who supports gay rights and campaigned on a shoestring budget. And that's exactly what happened statewide: Kerry tallied 667,000 more votes for president than Connally did for chief justice, outpolling her by a margin of thirty-two percent. Yet in these twelve off-the-radar counties, Connally somehow managed to outperform the best-funded Democrat in history, thumping Kerry by a grand total of 19,621 votes -- a margin of ten percent.(181) The Conyers report -- recognizing that thousands of rural Bush voters were unlikely to have backed a gay-friendly black judge roundly rejected in Democratic precincts -- suggests that ''thousands of votes for Senator Kerry were lost.''(182)

Kucinich, a veteran of elections in the state, puts it even more bluntly. ''Down-ticket candidates shouldn't outperform presidential candidates like that,'' he says. ''That just doesn't happen. The question is: Where did the votes for Kerry go?''

Next page


136) Bernstein, Providence Phoenix

137) U.S. Election Assistance Comm'n, Funding for States,
and Tokaji, pg. 1222.

138) ''The Battle Over Voting Technology,'' PBS, Online NewsHour, December 16, 2003.
Paul Festa, ''States Scrutinize e-Voting as Primaries Near,'' CNET News.com,
December 8, 2003.

139) Preserving Democracy, pg. 27.

140) Preserving Democracy, pg. 30.

141) Matt Damschroder, chairman of Franklin County Board of Elections. 142) Preserving Democracy, pg. 26. 143) Michael Powell and Peter Slevin, ''Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio,'' Washington Post, December 15, 2004.

144) Correspondence with Matt Damschroder.

145) Suzanne Hoholik and Mark Ferenchik, ''GOP Council Hopes Rising; Party expects ruling on petitions will put its candidate on ballot,'' Columbus Dispatch, March 26, 2003.

146) Preserving Democracy, pg. 25.

147) Mark Niquette, ''GOP Strongholds Saw Increase in Voting Machines,'' Columbus Dispatch, December 12, 2004.

148) Michael Powell and Peter Slevin, ''Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio,'' Washington Post, December 15, 2004.

149) Columbus Free Press editor, Bob Fitrakis.

150) ''Voting Machine Allocation in Franklin County, Ohio, 2004: Response to the U.S. Department of Justice Letter of June 29, 2005,'' Walter R. Mebane, Jr., February 11, 2006, Page 13.

151) Tokaji, pg. 1238.

Ohio Democratic Party v. Blackwell, No. C2 04 1055, (S.D. Ohio Nov. 2, 2004).

152) Ohio Democratic Party v. Blackwell, No. C2 04 1055, (S.D. Ohio Nov. 2, 2004).

153) Ohio Democratic Party v. Blackwell, No. C2 04 1055, slip op. At 1 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 2, 2004).

154) Washington Post, ''Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio,'' Michael Powell and Peter Slevin, December 15, 2004.

155) Preserving Democracy, pg. 25.

156) Affidavit of Richard Hayes Phillips, December 10, 2004.

157) Mark Niquette, ''Finally, It's Time to Vote; U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Ban, Allows Challengers Back in Polling Sites,'' Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), November 2, 2004.

158) In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, Marian A. Spencer, et. al., v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, Case no. C-1-04-738, page 3.

159) James Dao, ''The 2004 Campaign: Ohio, G.O.P. Bid to Contest Registrations is Blocked,'' The New York Times, October 28, 2004.

160) Marian A. Spencer, et. al., v. J. Kenneth Blackwell; In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division; Case no. C-1-04-738.

161) Dan Horn, Howard Wilkinson, and Cindi Andrews, ''Supreme Court Justice Allows Challengers,'' Cincinnati Enquirer.

162) Tokaji, pages 1237-1238.

163) Democracy at Risk, pg. 20.

164) The Columbus Free Press.

165) ''Errors Plague Voting Process in Ohio, Pa.'' The Vindicator, November 3, 2004, Vindicator Staff Report

166) Voters Unite catalogues news reports from around the country that give examples of dysfunctional voting machines, among other election stories.

167) The Columbus Free Press.

168) Jim Woods, ''In One Precinct, Bush's Tally was Supersized by a Computer Glitch,'' Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), November 5, 2004.

169) Hitchens, Vanity Fair.

170) Letter from J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State, to Doug White, President, Ohio Senate 3 (Feb. 26, 2004).

171) Sixty-eight counties used punch card ballots. Thirteen used optical scan machines. Seven used touch-screen technology.

172) Malia Rulon, ''Congressman Calls For FBI Investigation Into Ohio Election,'' The Associated Press State & Local Wire, December 15, 2004.

173) Tokaji, Page 1221.

174) Jim Konkoly, ''Volunteers Complete Local Recount,'' Coshocton Tribune, December 18, 2004.

175) New York Times, ''Voting Problems in Ohio Spur Call for Overhaul,'' James Dao, Ford Fessenden, December 24, 2004.

176) Ken McCall and Jim Bebbington, ''Two Precincts had High Undercounts, Analysis Shows,''Dayton Daily News, November 18, 2004.

177) Lisa A. Abraham, ''Punch-Card Voting is Illegal,'' Akron Beacon Journal, April 22, 2006.

178) Analysis by Hayes Phillips.

179) Preserving Democracy, pg. 57.

180) Analysis by Hayes Phillips.

181) Analysis completed by using official tallies on the Ohio Secretary of State Web site.
Official tallies for Kerry

Official tallies for Connally

182) Preserving Democracy, pg. 55.

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