Election Frauds and Fictions

Random Lengths News | November 8, 2004
No Mandate, Maybe No Election, Why No Attention?

In one Ohio precinct, Bush got 4,258 votes, when only 638 ballots were cast. Was this an isolated anomaly, or the tip of a very ugly iceberg? And why are the media—and John Kerry—seemingly so indifferent to the answer?

Despite widespread talk of George W. Bush winning “a mandate” on November 2, Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher pointed out something obvious. “It's true that President Bush got more votes than any winning candidate for president in history,” Mitchell wrote. “He also had more people voting against him than any winning candidate for president in history.”

Bush also got the lowest percentage of electoral votes of any incumbent running for reelection since Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and the smallest margin of popular votes since Harry Truman in 1948. But BBC’s Greg Palast—who exposed the pre-meditated theft of the 2000 election in Florida—is even arguing that Kerry actually won the election, highlighting the issue of Ohio’s spoiled ballots, a lopsided majority of which can be found in minority precincts. And Black Box Voting (www.blackboxvoting.org) has launched the largest Freedom of Information action in history, seeking “to obtain internal computer logs and other documents from 3,000 individual counties and townships.”

Some say they are beating a dead horse. Others claim that they on the trail of a much more sophisticated election theft than that of 2000. Or perhaps something even more sinister is at stake—the freezing into place of a new 21st century system of disenfranchisement, combining the 19th century exclusion of felons with an array of other barriers, many of which may seem trivial to those viewing them from afar.

Evidence of something awry has been found at every level of analysis, from ground-level anecdotal reports to comparative analyses of state-level exit polls vs. announced results. What’s more, a group consisting of 92 international election monitors, invited by the State Department, gave a rather dim assessment. The International Herald Tribune reported, “The observers said they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela, that the ballots were not so simple as in the Republic of Georgia and that no other country had such a complex national election system.”

In Franklin County, Ohio the Gahana precinct gave George Bush 4,258 votes to John Kerry’s 260. There was just one problem: only 638 voters cast ballots there. The extra votes Bush magically received in just that one precinct amounted to almost three percent of his statewide margin in Ohio. (A similar boost spread throughout the county would have been undetectable. A similar boost in all 88 Ohio counties would be more than double Bush’s margin.)

That precinct was just one example cited in a letter from three Democratic Congress members to the head of the General Accountability Office (GAO), asking that it “immediately undertake an investigation of the efficacy of voting machines and new technologies used in the 2004 election, how election officials responded to difficulties they encountered and what we can do in the future to improve our election systems and administration.”

Representatives John Conyers, Jr, Jerrold Nadler and Robert Wexler are all members of the House Judiciary Committee. Wexler represents Palm Beach County, site of the infamous “butterfly ballot” which caused thousands of Gore votes not to be recorded in 2000, effectively costing Gore the election.

“In South Florida,” the letter stated, “Congressman Wexler's staff received numerous reports from voters in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties that they attempted to select John Kerry but George Bush appeared on the screen. CNN has reported that a dozen voters in six states, particularly Democrats in Florida, reported similar problems. This was among over one thousand such problems reported.”

The letter also cited computer problems in a North Carolina county where 4,500 votes were lost, and an uncertain number of votes lost in San Francisco, and went on to note, “Excessively long lines were a frequent problem throughout the nation in Democratic precincts, particularly in Florida and Ohio.”

The Congress members were highlighting irrefutable problems, not challenging the election outcome. But there are strong reasons to believe that significantly more problems exist.

In Ohio, a number of precinct totals may not be impossible, only highly improbable. In Cuyahoga County, minor candidate Michael Peroutka got over a quarter of his 1,667 votes in just six precincts, and a whopping 12 percent in a single precinct, where he out-polled George Bush 10-1. Yet, Kerry probably lost more votes than Bush, since he carried the precinct by 63 fewer votes than the Democratic candidate for county recorder, Patrick J. O'Malley, in a much tighter race in Cuyahoga County, with far lower turnout.

Similarly, Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik out-polled Bush 15-1 in his best precinct, which gave him nine percent of his total. There, Kerry’s margin trailed O’Malley’s by 16 votes.

Statistical snapshots like these can only reveal serious anomalies. They cannot detect the more subtle siphoning off of votes—handfuls in every precinct, rather than truckloads in a few—that would mark a truly sophisticated approach.

Some believe these anomalies are glitches in a more sophisticated plan. There is detailed precinct-level evidence of broad-based efforts to limit Kerry’s vote before the election. There is, also, state-level statistical evidence that indicates that vote-tallying may have been tampered with.

Exit polls on Election Day gave a clear indication of a Kerry victory. While sampling error could have explained them individually, something more was going on, as veteran pollster Mark Blumenthal explained, “Kerry's performance on the partial exit polls surpassed his ultimate performance nationally and in 15 of 16 states. So whatever was happening, it was not just the random variation due to sampling error. If you don't believe me, try flipping a coin and see how often you can get heads to come up 16 of 17 times.”

Most dramatically, in New Hampshire, Kerry’s 17-point margin in the exit poll shrank to a bare one percent in the final tally.

The standard response has been to say that Kerry supporters must have been more eager to talk to pollsters—but such a phenomena in exit polls has never been seen before. Vote tampering is another explanation, but mainstream analysts dismiss it out of hand, despite repeated warnings from computer specialists about inadequate security measures.

What can’t be dismissed is a massive online database of election day voting problems, created by the non-partisan Election Protection Coalition, composed of 59 organizations, including Common Cause, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP National Voter Fund, the National Council of Churches, and Rock the Vote. Election Protection put an unprecedented army of 25,000 volunteer observers in polling places across the country on November 2, as well as taking reports phoned into them by voters themselves. Their database records 20,143 problem incidents, including 1652 in Ohio, 1750 in Florida, and 2353 in Pennsylvania. They cover late opening and early closing of polling places, long lines, lack of ballots, voter intimidation, voter registration, absentee ballots, provisional ballots, disability access, illegal ID requirements, and voting machine problems.

While some problems affect supporters of both candidates, and there are occasional reports of Kerry supporters campaigning too close to the polls, there is no mistaking the disproportionate impact of the incidents on Kerry voters in general, and minority supporters in particular.

While many of the incidents only involve a single voter, many others involve whole precincts, particularly the 179 involving long lines, the 163 involving machine problems, the 21 involving late opening or early closing. “People are leaving in droves without voting” because of long lines, reported a volunteer at Larry Sterling Elementary School in Cleveland. Voters stood in line for three hours at Southmoor Middle School and District 34 Union Hall in Columbus (where they stood in the rain); it took four hours at the Grandville Presbytarian Church in Licking County, six hours at the First Church of Oberlin in Lorain, and up to 10 hours at Kenyon College.

“All of the voting machines are down,” came the report from Franklin Alternative High School in Columbus. "Should have 12 machines, only have four operational (one non-operational),” read another report from a Cleveland precinct.

Difficulties with provisional ballots were also widespread, usually on a case-by-case basis, but sometimes reflecting a blanket failure to follow federal law. They were not provided at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Cuyahoga County, or at Lakeview Towers or Forest Hills Elementary, both in Cleveland, Ohio.

Voter intimidation was another widespread problem. A disturbing number of violations involved campaign posters or literature in church buildings—evidence, in some cases, of IRS as well as election law violations. A report from the Summit Church of God in Weathersfield read, “Sign at polling place saying ‘VOTE BUSH’ - when voter said sign should come down the minister said ‘If you don't like it, vote somewhere else.’”

Seventy-eight year-old Lane Burke, of Baltimore, was an Election Protection lawyer taking phone calls at the Union Baptist Church in Youngstown. She fielded a wide range of complaints, including several instances where people tried to vote for Kerry, but the machines failed to register the vote. People in the low-income black neighborhood around Hillman Elementary School had their water turned off that morning if their bill was unpaid, and were told by the water department to stay home until the matter was resolved to let someone in—which reportedly never happened. Lane dispatched volunteers to stay in their homes so they could go vote. Then, at their polling place, two machines were broken.

Such multi-level second-class treatment takes an enormous—if unquantified—toll on minority’s electoral participation. Added to that, the Justice Policy Institute recently reported, “An estimated 1.7 million people in the 17 swing states will be unable to vote in the presidential election of 2004 due to felony convictions.” In 2000, this represented 2.6 percent of all voters, and 8.4 percent of minority voters in these states. The number of felons excluded in Florida alone—827,000—could easily have changed the outcome of both the 2000 and 2004 elections.

The number of excluded felons has vastly increased over the past twenty years—mostly because of the war on drugs, which convicts minorities at much higher rates than whites, despite the fact that drug use is virtually identical—at about 18 percent—among all racial groups.

Burke had received some media calls about her experience, but was reluctant to talk. “My feeling was I could give them some titillating stuff, but what would be the effect?” She wondered. “What I want is a sustained response that will change the outcome four years hence.”

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