Archive for June 29th, 2005

What the DNC Ohio Election Report failed to address: My letter to H. Dean

Posted in General on June 29th, 2005

Dear Governor Dean:

I have much admiration for you and high hopes for your success as DNC Chairman. And I think that you would have made a fine, if not a great President. However, I have to tell you I believe that you are making a big mistake by embracing the recent DNC report on the 2004 Ohio election, which significantly under-plays the extent to which that election represents a threat to our democracy.

In particular, the repeated assurances of the lack of evidence for election determining fraud is misleading, gives a false sense of security to U.S. citizens, and in my opinion fails to encourage the kind of political climate that is needed in this country to facilitate meaningful election reform – given the fact that our country’s government and news media is heavily dominated by the Republican Party. I would think, as a minimum, before making such assurances in this high profile report, that care should have been taken to adequately address the prevalent arguments that fraud did indeed play a major role in determining the outcome of the Presidential election in Ohio, and therefore the United States.

But this report did no such thing, as I intend to make clear in detail below. I believe that the following issues are relevant to my point:

1. Failed, unlawful recount, and lack of cooperation from the Secretary of State
First and foremost, an assurance to the citizens of this country that fraud played no major role in the outcome of this election should be based on a full investigation. A fair, lawful and transparent recount of the votes, as mandated by Ohio law would be the first step in this process. Yet, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell did everything in his power to prevent such a recount.

Samples for the recount were chosen in a non-random manner, contrary to state law, and every effort appears to have been made to ensure that results of the 3% sample recount would match election day results, so as to prevent the occurrence of county-wide hand recounts. Perhaps the most flagrant example of this was Sherole Eaton’s testimony that a Triad technician in Hocking County modified a vote tabulator prior to the recount and advised election officials on how to manipulate voting machinery to ensure that a hand recount would match the machine recount: http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/121604Z.shtml Ms. Eaton was fired from her job as a result of this transgression. How many others witnessed similar events but did not possess enough courage to risk their livelihood in order to make their observations public, as Ms. Eaton did?

Furthermore, Mr. Blackwell has steadfastly refused to testify under oath with regard to the numerous “irregularities” associated with the Ohio election, and has made every effort to bar the public from access to essential documents that might shed some light on what happened on election day. Under these circumstances, statements to the effect that evidence of massive election fraud sufficient to swing the election “have not been found” are misleading and inappropriate, especially when given extra credibility by virtue of the fact that these statements are made by the opposition party. On the contrary, the burden of proof should be put on Blackwell to show that fraud was not involved.

2. Implausibly low voter turnout in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County
On page 3 of Section IV of the DNC report, there is a discussion about how, in general, voter turnout is strongly related to the ratio of machines per voter. This is an important point and it makes sense because, as pointed out later in the DNC report, insufficient numbers of machines per voter can result in reduced voter turnout because of voters leaving the voting lines when they are unable to wait several hours to vote. However, in Cuyahoga County the normal relationship is inexplicably reversed, so that voting machines per voter is negatively associated with voter turnout. Other than to note this as a fact, the DNC report does not comment further on this very strange finding.

Richard Hayes Phillips, a statistical expert in identifying statistical anomalies whose findings have been widely publicized, has stated that there are at least 30 precincts in Cleveland with inexplicably low voter turnout, ranging as low as 7.1%. In addition, he noted at least 16 precincts where votes intended to be cast for Kerry were apparently shifted to other candidates: http://blog.democrats.com/node/812 , likely a result of non-aligned ballots, similar to the infamous Palm Beach County “butterfly ballot” of 2000. He then goes on to calculate that a 60% turnout in heavily Democratic Cleveland would have resulted in 22,000 additional votes for Kerry.

I have not thoroughly evaluated these claims of Phillips, but certainly voting machine tampering could explain the otherwise unexplained dual findings of low voter turnout in Cleveland and the negative relationship between voting machine allocation and voter turnout in Cuyahoga County. I believe that this anomaly deserves serious investigation.

3. Voter suppression through insufficient machine allocation – Franklin County
So-called “low voter turnout”, in addition to being due to actual low voter turnout, could also be due to fraudulent discarding of ballots (as suggested in point # 2, above), or it could be due to insufficient machine allocation, resulting in voting line waits of several hours, and the consequent need for many voters to leave before voting. There were numerous reports of this problem in Ohio on election day, most prominently documented in John Conyers’ U.S. House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff Report http://www.truthout.org/docs_05/010605Y.shtml . These reports came from predominantly minority and Democratic precincts, especially from Franklin County, where lines of between two and seven hours long were reported.

A study that looked at voting machine allocation per voter by precinct partisanship http://copperas.com/machinery / showed that machine allocation was far less adequate in precincts that voted for Kerry. In fact, it appears from looking at the scatterplot that there were about 30 Kerry precincts where there was less than one machine per 440 registered voters, while there were no Bush precincts in this category. This same study showed that “voter turnout” decreased substantially in Franklin County as machine allocation decreased. And an extensive analysis by Elizabeth Liddle came to a similar conclusion http://uscountvotes.org/index.php?option=com_content&ta… . This is consistent with the DNC report analysis for all of Ohio, as noted above. Furthermore, as Bob Fitrakis reveals, all this happened while 68 voting machines were available in Franklin County but held back http://www.onlinejournal.com/evoting/111704Fitrakis/111… .

Richard Hayes Phillips calculates that this low voter turnout induced in Franklin County through the misallocation of voting machines resulted in approximately 17,000 lost votes for Kerry in Columbus alone. This is easy to understand, given the relationship between inadequate numbers of voting machines and “low voter turnout”, and the fact that this problem occurred very disproportionately in minority and Democratic precincts.

So, what does the DNC report have to say about this? It says that those who decided to leave the polls early because of long lines were split evenly between Bush and Kerry voters. This is simply unbelievable, given the highly disproportionate allocation of voting machines to Republican precincts. I think that statement is disturbing.

4. Anomalies in southwestern Ohio
Three large, heavily Republican counties in southwestern Ohio (Clermont, Butler, and Warren) provided Bush with a margin of 132,685 votes. These counties provided Bush with a margin of only 95,575 votes in 2000 – a difference of more than 37,000 votes compared to 2004, a year in which Kerry did considerably better than Gore in 2000. Each of these counties were among the top ten of Ohio’s 88 counties with regard to Bush vote margin compared to Bush’s vote margin in 2000.

Could this mean that these counties were trending even more Republican in 2004 than in 2000? Perhaps. But consider that the Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Ellen Connally, a liberal African-American from Cleveland, and little known in southern Ohio, achieved 43.3% of the vote in these three counties in 2004, compared to only 31.0% for Kerry http://web.northnet.org/minstrel/connally.htm and actually polled more than 13,000 more votes than Kerry, though state-wide she ran considerably below Kerry.

Also consider the fact that part of the reason for Bush’s excess vote margin in the three counties was an extra-ordinarily large increase in voter registration from 2000, including a 30% increase in Warren County. Yet, according to the DNC report, an increase in voter registration was supposed to favor Kerry in 2004. Furthermore, Warren County was the site of the infamous lockdown, rationalized by the bogus excuse of national security, which allowed Republican officials to tally the Warren County vote in private http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/11/10/loc_warrenv… .

What does the DNC report have to say about this? First, the report goes to great lengths to show that Kerry’s vote percentage state-wide was highly correlated with the percent of African-Americans, the percent vote for the Democratic Senatorial candidate, Eric Fingerhut, and the percent not voting “yes” on Issue 1 (the ban on gay marriage). It then goes on to suggest that because these trends fit the expected pattern, the evidence is strongly suggestive that widespread fraud did not occur.
The correlation of Kerry’s vote percent with that of the Democratic Senate candidate, the percent of African-Americans in a precinct, and not voting yes on issue 1 should not be a surprise. But Kerry only lost Ohio by 2.1%. Therefore, it is entirely plausible that there could be slight anomalies from the expected pattern that could account for much if not all of Bush’s 2004 vote margin, and yet would do little to diminish the overall pattern. The DNC report does not specifically mention the comparison of Fingerhut’s performance in Clermont, Butler, and Warren Counties, versus Kerry’s performance. Fingerhut polled 36.1% of the vote statewide, compared to 24.5% of the vote in Clermont, Butler, and Warren Counties http://election.sos.state.oh.us/results/SingleRaceSumma… . Again, much less of a span than the differential for Kerry, who polled 49% statewide, versus 31.0 percent in Clermont, Butler, and Warren counties.

5. Late vote surge in Miami County
In Miami County on election night, after 100% of precincts had reported, an additional 19,000 ballots were reported, giving Bush an additional vote margin of about 6,000, while changing the total Bush and Kerry percentages by no more than three hundredths of a percent http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2004/983 . What makes this additionally suspicious is that Miami County reported a 20.9% increase in turnout for 2004, compared to 2000, despite a gain in population of only 1.4%, AND Miami County reported the second largest vote gain for Bush of Ohio’s 88 counties (2nd to Butler County), compared to his performance in 2000. The DNC report has nothing to say about this.

6. Vote switching in Mahoning County
According to the Washington Post, an investigation identified 25 electronic voting machines in Youngstown, Mahoning County, which transferred an unknown number of votes from Kerry to Bush http://www.ballotintegrity.org/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard…. . This was part of a larger national pattern, for which a review of the national Electronic Incidence Reporting System (EIRS) determined that 87 out of 94 reports of electronic vote switching to EIRS favored Bush http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph… . The post report goes on to state “Due to lack of cooperation from Secretary of State Blackwell, we have not been able to ascertain the number of votes that were impacted or whether the machines malfunctioned due to intentional manipulation or error.”

What does the DNC report have to say about this? In Section VII, on electronic voting, it notes that it is not possible to determine the baseline accuracy of DRE machines. Then, in Section IX, “Experience on the Ground in Ohio”, the vote switching in Mahoning County is covered in exactly ten words. Also, one sentence is allocated to this issue in Section X of the report.

7. As yet uncounted ballots
There remain 106,000 ballots uncounted, including over 92,000 for which machine tallies have not indicated a choice for President, and about 14,000 uncounted provisional ballots http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2005/10… . Most of these come from areas where Kerry voters predominated. The DNC report does not specifically say how many uncounted ballots remain, though it does note that counting them all could not possibly overturn the election. That is true, when considered as an isolated issue. However, when combined with all the other issues that the DNC did or did not address in its report, these ballots could make the difference.

In conclusion, the DNC report barely touched on many widely publicized issues (only a portion of which I have covered in this letter) that suggest that fraud could have or was likely to have made the difference in the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio. Addressing other issues, while failing to address these issues does not provide assurance that fraud was not pervasive in the 2004 election, though the DNC report suggests exactly that. The facts that Kerry won the Ohio exit poll by a statistically significant 4.2% and that no cooperation in investigating the possibility of fraud is forthcoming from the Secretary of State’s Office, add much additional weight to this problem. In my opinion, this is the most important issue facing us at this time, because until this issue is addressed we are unlikely to ever have a Democratic Congress, President, or Judiciary. Therefore, I beg you to distance yourself from this report and adopt a more assertive stance towards one of the most serious crises that this country has ever had.

Posted by Time for change on Democratic Underground

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With a limp election theft report, Dems prove why they’re unworthy

Posted in General on June 29th, 2005

With a limp election theft report, Dems prove why they’re unworthy
by Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis
June 28, 2005

In an astonishingly limp report on the stolen 2004 election, the Democratic Party has once again proven why it is unworthy to lead this country and incapable of mounting significant resistance to the far-right GOP juggernaut.

The Democrats much-vaunted "investigation" entitled “Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio” could well have been conducted by a high school class in elementary polling. It consists almost entirely of post-election phone interviews. It says nothing about the devastating discrepancies between exit polls and the highly improbable and virtually impossible vote total that gave George W. Bush a second term. It makes no case about precinct-by-precinct illegalities including unguarded ballots, election machine tampering, an unexplained bogus Homeland Security alert, the firing of whistle-blowing election board officials, and much more.

In point of fact, as we have outlined in Did George W. Bush Steal America’s 2004 Election? Essential Documents (CICJ Books), any third world election that was as rife with fraud and theft as was Ohio’s this past November would have been summarily thrown out by the United Nations or any other body of international observers.

But as has been so typical of the Democrats’ performance on so many issues, the party’s report appears to have been drafted on the top floor of a high-rise office building staffed with a phone bank. There is no connection at all to the actual Election Day realities on the ground in Ohio, and the researchers appeared unwilling to read the local newspapers and internet reports about what happened in the election they allegedly studied.

In the interviews conducted, the Democratic National Committee Report “Democracy at Risk” still manages to confirm some crucial assertions made by http://freepress.org pre- and post-election. For example, the study finds that the average wait to vote for a black voter in Ohio was nearly an hour, while the average wait for a white voter was less than 15 minutes. Of course, this was widely covered, even by mainstream news media at the time.

Still, the report downplays the wait of African-Americans in Franklin County where the average wait in the inner city wards on the near east side was over 3 hours, and where some waited 7-8 hours. The statisticians accomplished this by using a statewide survey of all African-Americans instead of focusing on the obvious Republican voter suppression tactics in the three major cities of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The report documents that in the Columbus area “74 percent of voters waited more than 20 minutes to vote” and “There were also proportionally fewer voting machines in Franklin County’s minority neighborhoods than it its predominantly white neighborhoods.” The report fails to note that the Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, Matt Damschroder, the former Chair of the Franklin County Republican Party held back 76 machines, all the in Democratic city of Columbus and 42 from the primarily African-American wards of the city.

Let’s see. If a white suburbanite in Upper Arlington votes in 21 minutes and an African-American in ward 55 waits, on average, 3 hours and 15 minutes, is the best measurement “more than 20 minutes?”

The obvious corollary is then confirmed: as many as “three percent” of Ohio’s would-be voters LEFT THE POLLING PLACES WITHOUT VOTING because of those long lines. As the report points out, that alone involves enough raw votes to have swung the state for John Kerry. But then, astonishingly, the Democrats assert that those who walked away without voting were equally divided between supporters of Kerry and Bush.

This is statistically highly improbable and is absurd on its face. If black voters went overwhelmingly for Kerry (83%) and whites for Bush, and the wait for black voters was so much longer than for whites, who went home? And who is harmed? Is there a mystery here?

The Free Press canvassed one inner city mostly African-American precinct and found 20% of the voters never voted after standing in line at least one time.

There is much, much more, as would befit the Rove/GOP strategy of "doing everything," i.e., employing a wide range of tactics to steal as many votes as possible through as many different means as they could get away with.

A long, convoluted discussion of electronic voting machines does endorse the need for all of them to produce an auditable paper trail. But the Democrats never follow up on the fact that approximately 15% of the 5,625,631 votes certified as official in this state were cast on electronic voting machines that were manufactured, programmed and operated by companies whose officers and directors are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Bush and the Republicans. That means more than 800,000 votes were counted without any meaningful monitoring in an election that was officially recorded as being won by George W. Bush by about 118,000.

Does it matter to the Democrats, for example, that the Triad Corporation, whose representatives mysteriously jiggered the central tabulating machine in Hocking County before a recount could be conducted, is a corporate partner with the same company that produced the infamous butterfly ballots that helped give Bush Florida in 2000?

There is far too much more to document here short of writing another book, which we are doing, and which we hope to have in print by October.

Suffice it to say: to read this report as Ohioans is to enter a dream state in which the "opposition party" seems content to let elections float by with a wave and a nod. To say the least, this does not bode well for 2008, or for the future of American democracy.


Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of DID GEORGE W. BUSH STEAL THE 2004 ELECTION: ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTS, published by CICJ Books and available from http://freepress.org.

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