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

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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