Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Investigating the 2004 Vote in Ohio: Undermining Public Confidence in the Electoral System Itself

This morning the Ohio election issues seemed to pop up onto the radar.

Of course, the Special Section in the Cleveland Plain Dealer was most helpful, giving pages of news, analysis and opinion… Uh, no. That didn’t happen. All I found on their web site was one staff editorial: "MoveOn.Now: The zealots who refuse to accept Ohio's vote count risk undermining confidence in the system itself"

They caught us. Undermining confidence in the system itself. Seriously, this is exactly what we are trying to do. We are casting our no confidence vote in the system over the last two presidential elections. They seem to think that we are nothing but sore losers, even though most people who are lobbying for investigations into the 2004 election do believe that Bush probably did win this election. The concern is not over the results. The concern is with how these results were achieved.

The Washington Post, in an excellent article outlining these problems in Ohio and Florida, notes:

While some promote conspiratorial theories, most have a straightforward bottom line. "A lot of people left in the four hours I waited," recalled [Tanya] Thivener, the mortgage broker from Columbus. "A lot of them were young black men who were saying over and over: 'We knew this would happen.'

"How," she asked, "is that good for democracy?"

However, this is how these concerns are being portrayed by the editorial staff of the Plain Dealer:

Most Americans, including the vast majority of those who supported John Kerry for president, have grasped the most basic reality of Election Day 2004:

George W. Bush was re-elected. He won roughly 60.7 million votes and carried 31 states with 286 electoral votes. Ohio's 20 Electoral College members formally cast ballots for the president Monday in the Statehouse.

Unfortunately, there is a small, but very vocal, group of Americans who refuse to accept this reality. They argue that what appear to be routine technical glitches and human errors were in fact an elaborate conspiracy to skew the election results. They claim that long lines at a few polling places, the rather unsurprising result of high voter interest, were evidence of a systematic campaign to discourage participation. In short, having failed to get the outcome they wanted at the polls, they have decided to mount an irresponsible campaign aimed at undermining public confidence in the electoral system itself.

Let’s take a look at this. “Routine technical glitches and human errors.” Is this what they are calling the fact that “[i]n one Columbus, Ohio suburb, election officials have acknowledged that electronic voting machines credited Bush with winning 4,258 votes, even though only 638 people voted there?” In another case, “25 electronic machines transferred an unknown number of votes for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Bush column.”

And the lines? The Washington Post led their piece with the following:

Tanya Thivener's is a tale of two voting precincts in Franklin County. In her city neighborhood, which is vastly Democratic and majority black, the 38-year-old mortgage broker found a line snaking out of the precinct door.

She stood in line for four hours -- one hour in the rain -- and watched dozens of potential voters mutter in disgust and walk away without casting a ballot. Afterward, Thivener hopped in her car and drove to her mother's house, in the vastly Republican and majority white suburb of Harrisburg. How long, she asked, did it take her to vote?

Fifteen minutes, her mother replied.

Undermining confidence in the system itself? Let’s hope so. It seems like there must be something wrong with the system. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream media seems to agree with the Plain Dealer that those of us arguing for a full review of this election are nothing but zealots and sore losers. They show this by the obvious bias and tone of their coverage of these issues. The tone is silence; the bias is that it is not news worthy, at least not as news worthy as the Peterson Death Sentence.

But that is probably just my “endless sour grapes.”

So, what is being done? The Plain Dealer calls for “common-sense solutions.” They even offer some suggestions:

Clearly it would help if groups that register new voters did not deliver thousands of applications at the last minute. Ohio also needs an early voting system to relieve at least some of the pressure on Election Day. And rather than retreating from electronic voting machines, the state needs to find a secure system and back it up with a paper record.

Their first point makes me a bit nervous, should we just not register those voters? But beyond that, the other two are obvious changes that need to happen. In the case of the voting machines, it disturbs me that such an obvious problem with such an obvious solution seemed to be labeled such a non-issue before the election.

As for what is actually happening in Ohio… The Green and Libertarian Parties are having the ballots recounted. On Monday a case was argued before the Ohio Supreme Court calling for the court to “reconsider the election results, accusing Bush's campaign of ‘high-tech vote stealing.’”

From today’s AP article on Ohio:

[T]he challengers noticed Bush generally received more votes in counties that use optical-scan voting machines and questioned whether the machines were calibrated to record votes for Bush.

The challengers also claim there were disparities in vote totals for Democrats, too few voting machines in Democrat-leaning precincts, organized campaigns directing voters to the wrong polling place and confusion over the counting of provisional ballots by voters whose names did not appear in the records at polling places.


Also today, a federal judge ruled against the ACLU, who was arguing that voting rights are denied to those who use punch-card ballots.

From the same AP article mentioned above:

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the punch-card system is error-prone and ballots are more likely to go uncounted than votes cast in other ways. The group claimed Ohio violated the voting rights of blacks, who predominantly live in punch-card counties.
U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. disagreed.

"All voters in a county, regardless of race, use the same voting system to cast a ballot, and no one is denied the opportunity to cast a valid vote because of their race," Dowd said in his ruling Tuesday.
Moveon.org has a page that makes it easy for people to express their concern about the 2004 election to Congress. Please visit them and let your reps know that the questions about this election must be answered.

Move On: Investigate the Vote

Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio

Ohio Judge Rules Punch-Card Voting Fair

MoveOn.Now: The zealots who refuse to accept Ohio's vote count risk undermining confidence in the system itself
Update: December 15, 2004 - 8:37 PM
Thanks to the Randi Rhodes Website, I have a link to the Curtis Affidavit on Yang Enterprises and vote tampering. This is a scary, must read document.
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