Friday, August 19, 2005

What They Did Last Fall

By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: August 19, 2005

By running for the U.S. Senate, Katherine Harris, Florida's former secretary of state, has stirred up some ugly memories. And that's a good thing, because those memories remain relevant. There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn't change the outcome. And the next election may be worse.

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

And what about 2004?

Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."

So what does U.S. democracy look like? There have been two Democratic reports on Ohio in 2004, one commissioned by Representative John Conyers Jr., the other by the Democratic National Committee.

The D.N.C. report is very cautious: "The purpose of this investigation," it declares, "was not to challenge or question the results of the election in any way." It says there is no evidence that votes were transferred away from John Kerry - but it does suggest that many potential Kerry votes were suppressed. Although the Conyers report is less cautious, it stops far short of claiming that the wrong candidate got Ohio's electoral votes.

But both reports show that votes were suppressed by long lines at polling places - lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines - and that these lines occurred disproportionately in areas likely to vote Democratic. Both reports also point to problems involving voters who were improperly forced to cast provisional votes, many of which were discarded.

The Conyers report goes further, highlighting the blatant partisanship of election officials. In particular, the behavior of Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - who supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio - makes Ms. Harris's actions in 2000 seem mild by comparison.

And then there are the election night stories. Warren County locked down its administration building and barred public observers from the vote-counting, citing an F.B.I. warning of a terrorist threat. But the F.B.I. later denied issuing any such warning. Miami County reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters. And so on.

We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.

Congressman Conyers Urges Kerry and Edwards Not to Withdraw From Ohio Recount Case

Letter from Congressman Conyers:
August 17, 2005

Honorable John Kerry 511 C Street, NE Washington, DC 20002
Honorable John Edwards 401 W. Trade Street Suite 219 Charlotte, NC 28202-1619

Dear Senators Kerry and Edwards:

I would like to express my deepest appreciation for your role in intervening to protect the rights of the candidates seeking the 2004 election recount in Ohio and I applaud you for your great efforts to stand behind the voting public, urging them not to lose faith in our election system.

As you are aware, this has been the second consecutive presidential election where numerous issues were raised concerning irregularities and improprieties within the system. Specifically, we learned of the massive disenfranchisement of fellow voters, as well as numerous incidents of voter intimidation and the purposeful dissemination of misleading information to the voting public, with the intent to interfere with the system. In addition, we learned of numerous irregularities in the way the recount in Ohio was conducted. I therefore commend your willingness to intervene in the recount case as it proceeds in the federal district court in Ohio and to join the candidates and voters in their struggle to fix a seemingly broken system. It is only by investigating these voting irregularities in each past election that we are able to ascertain the problems and pursue a better election process in each succeeding election.

It is for these reasons that I am deeply concerned to learn of the possibility, however remote, that you may be considering withdrawing from the 2004 election recount case in Ohio. As you know, it is absolutely imperative that we have elections that count every vote of every eligible voter, and if there is any issue that is central to a strong democracy, it is ensuring that all eligible voters are able to participate in our elections without encumbrance or interference from others. There is no question that your continued participation in this case will help ensure that we restore trust in our election system.

As you continue your participation in this important case and we continue our investigation of the voting irregularities during the 2004 presidential election, we hope to be able to maintain an open dialogue. As you know, the objective of the recount itself was never to overturn the election, but to win back the confidence of the electorate in the accuracy of voting methods and the fairness of voting procedures. The objective remains the same for the pending case in federal court challenging the unconstitutional manner in which the Ohio recount was conducted. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office at (202) 225-6504.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Election Fraud Continues in the US

New Data Shows Widespread Vote Manipulations in 2004

by Peter Phillips

August 12, 2005
GlobalResearch.ca

In the fall of 2001, after an eight-month review of 175,000 Florida ballots never counted in the 2000 election, an analysis by the National Opinion Research Center confirmed that Al Gore actually won Florida and should have been President. However, coverage of this report was only a small blip in the corporate media as a much bigger story dominated the news after September 11, 2001.

New research compiled by Dr. Dennis Loo with the University of Cal Poly Pomona now shows that extensive manipulation of non-paper-trail voting machines occurred in several states during the 2004 election. The facts are as follows: In 2004 Bush far exceeded the 85% of registered Florida Republican votes that he got in 2000, receiving more than 100% of the registered Republican votes in 47 out of 67 Florida counties, 200% of registered Republicans in 15 counties, and over 300% of registered Republicans in 4 counties. Bush managed these remarkable outcomes despite the fact that his share of the crossover votes by registered Democrats in Florida did not increase over 2000, and he lost ground among registered Independents, dropping 15 points. We also know that Bush "won" Ohio by 51-48%, but statewide results were not matched by the court-supervised hand count of the 147,400 absentee and provisional ballots in which Kerry received 54.46% of the vote. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio the number of recorded votes was more than 93,000 greater than the number of registered voters.

More importantly national exit polls showed Kerry winning in 2004. However, It was only in precincts where there were no paper trails on the voting machines that the exit polls ended up being different from the final count. According to Dr. Steve Freeman, a statistician at the University of Pennsylvania, the odds are 250 million to one that the exit polls were wrong by chance. In fact, where the exit polls disagreed with the computerized outcomes the results always favored Bush - another statistical impossibility.
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Dennis Loo writes, "A team at the University of California at Berkeley, headed by sociology professor Michael Hout, found a highly suspicious pattern in which Bush received 260,000 more votes in those Florida precincts that used electronic voting machines than past voting patterns would indicate compared to those precincts that used optical scan read votes where past voting patterns held."

There is now strong statistical evidence of widespread voting machine manipulation occurring in US elections since 2000. Coverage of the fraud has been reported in independent media and various websites. The information is not secret. But it certainly seems to be a taboo subject for the US corporate media.


Black Box Voting (www.blackboxvoting.org.) reported on March 9, 2005 that voting machines used by over 30 million voters were easily hacked by relatively unsophisticated programs and audits of the computers would not show the changes. It is very possible that a small team of hackers could have manipulated the 2004 and earlier elections in various locations throughout the United States. Irregularities in the vote counts certainly indicate that something beyond chance occurrences has been happening in recent elections.

That a special interest group might try to cheat on an election in the United States is nothing new. Historians tell us how local political machines from both major parties have in the past used methods of double counting, ballot box stuffing, poll taxes and registration manipulation to affect elections. In the computer age, however, election fraud can occur externally without local precinct administrators having any awareness of the manipulations - and the fraud can be extensive enough to change the outcome of an entire national election.

There is little doubt key Democrats know that votes in 2004 and earlier elections were stolen. The fact that few in Congress are complaining about fraud is an indication of the totality to which both parties accept the status quo of a money based elections system. Neither party wants to further undermine public confidence in the American "democratic" process (over 80 millions eligible voters refused to vote in 2004). Instead we will likely see the quiet passing of legislation that will correct the most blatant problems. Future elections in the US will continue as an equal opportunity for both parties to maintain a national democratic charade in which money counts more than truth.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Did the GOP steal another Ohio Election?

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
August 5, 2005

The Republican Party has -- barely -- snatched another election in Ohio. And once again there are telltale symptoms of the kind of vote theft that put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000 and then kept him there in 2004.

This time an outspoken Iraqi War vet named Paul Hackett led the charge for a Cincinnati-area Congressional seat, earning 48% of the vote. The spot was open because Bush appointed his pal Rep. Rob Portman to be a trade representative.

Hackett is a rarity among today's Democrats---a blunt, hard-driving truth talker who blasted Bush's attack on Iraq. Hackett labeled W. "a chicken hawk." He's the first Iraqi war vet to run for Congress. He made no bones about the incompetence and cynicism that define the GOP strategy there. In particular Hackett attacked Bush's attacks on veterans benefits while claiming patriotic support of the war.

In return, GOP candidate Jean Schmidt lied about Hackett's war record. Unlike John Kerry, Hackett fought back immediately.

The Ohio GOP is now being thoroughly roasted by a Coingate scandal in which Republican high roller Tom Noe seems to have walked off with at least $4 million in state funds, and possibly $16.5 million in theft and unauthorized administrative charges from a $50 million rare coin investment fund. Noe is a Bush Pioneer/Ranger level donor, and a supporter of Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the point man in Bush's theft of Ohio's 20 electoral votes and thus the presidency last November.

As his friends and supporters flee him, Noe's role as long-time chair of the Lucas County (Toledo) Board of Elections has come under intense scrutiny. Noe turned the seat over to his wife, Bernadette, in time for a 2004 election rife with disenfranchisement and fraud. Long lines, computer breakdowns, intimidation, harassment and hacked vote counts were the defining characteristics of the election the Noe's administered in the Toledo area last November.

In one instance, an entire precinct was shut down because the voting machines were locked in the office of a school principal, who called in sick. Someone also placed the wrong type of ballot scan markers in heavily Democratic Toledo precincts, causing a high rate of uncounted, machine-rejected votes without the voters knowing it.

Overall, experts estimate more than 7,000 votes were stolen outright from John Kerry under the Noe's supervision in Lucas County 2004.

Whether similar theft defeated Paul Hackett remains to be seen. Hackett ran extremely well in a district thoroughly gerrymandered as a permanent Republican safe seat. Democrats are now crowing about how well Hackett did in "serving notice" that the GOP may be in trouble. But the bottom line is that the Republicans still won the election.

As of 1 am this past Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Hackett was within 3600 votes---about four percent---of Schmidt.

But election officials announced a mysterious "computer glitch" that delayed reports from Clermont County, which accounted for roughly a quarter of all the ballots cast in the district.

When things finally settled out, Clermont gave Schmidt 58%, and a 5,000 vote margin there. And thus the election.

Earlier in the evening---around 9pm---Hackett and Schmidt had been in a virtual dead heat, according to sources in the Cincinnati area (see among them http://billmon.org/archives/002073.html ).

A full 88% of the district's precincts had then reported, including more than half those in Clermont. As in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, it looked like a cliffhanger. Schmidt's lead was less than 900 votes.

Clermont's "technical malfunction" with optical scan readers was blamed on the humidity. Election officials said the southern Ohio summer had soaked into the ballots, making it hard to pass them through opti-scan machines.

Once the problem was "solved," Schmidt picked up more than enough votes to guarantee victory. The percentages by which she won in the post-glitch vote count were far higher than those by which she had been winning prior to the glitch. Vote counts were also higher than expected in the strongest Schmidt precincts.

Clermont and neighboring Butler and Warren Counties gave George W. Bush a margin in 2004 that exceeded his entire statewide margin over John Kerry. Warren County became infamous on election night, when its supervisors suddenly declared a "Homeland Emergency" and dismissed all media and Democrats from the vote count. Bush then emerged with a huge, unexpected and unmonitored majority.

Clermont, Butler and Warren Counties' totals were also suspect because a Democratic candidate for Ohio Supreme Court implausibly out-polled John Kerry. As would be expected, Bush vastly out ran the Republican candidate for Supreme Court Chief Justice in those three counties. But Democrat C. Ellen Connelly, a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage African-American from Cleveland somehow got a higher vote count than Kerry in these conservative, predominantly white southern Ohio counties. Richard Hayes Philips and other experts who have assessed that vote say it is beyond implausible, indicating a high likelihood of fraud.

But along with Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, Paul Hackett has become another Democratic candidate whose campaign went suddenly and mysteriously down to defeat late in the evening of a close election. Amidst the obligatory computer glitches, the GOP candidate was declared the winner before the vote count could be investigated.

Did Clermont County do for Schmidt in 2005 what it did for Bush in 2004? Did that "glitch" in the evening vote count give GOP dirty tricksters time to once again hack the machines they needed to win?

Who in the Bush/Rove Justice Department or major media will even ask the question?