Thursday, September 22, 2005

Carter/Baker Report can't face how the GOP stole America's 2004 election & is rigging 2008

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
September 20, 2005

The stolen elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004 are nowhere to be found in the milquetoast Carter-Baker Report now passing for wisdom on America's broken electoral system.

And unless the public is ready to face the reality that we no longer live in a nation with credible elections, the 2008 balloting is all but over.

As investigative reporters and registered voters living in central Ohio, we witnessed firsthand the outright theft of the 2004 election. We also endured the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to face up to a carefully choreographed "do everything" strategy that gave the presidency to George W. Bush for a second time, and which could make all elections to come virtually moot.

The just-issued report of a special commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and Bush family consigliore Jim Baker is of little real value.

The report warns that public confidence in the electoral system is disappearing. But it fails to point out the most obvious cause: in both 2000 and 2004, the presidency was stolen, and the Republican Party made a mockery of those who took the time and effort to vote. It did the same in Georgia in 2002, when it overrode the public will to install a Republican US Senator and Governor. The US Senate races that year in Minnesota and Colorado are also suspect, to say the least.

Much controversy surrounds the Carter-Baker report over its recommendation that photo IDs be required of all voters. This is the electoral equivalent of blaming the people of New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina (which, of course, this administration has essentially done).

A wide range of critics have pointed out that this requirement is racist and repressive. It is the equivalent of a poll tax and discriminates against people of color, the poor, the elderly, and civil libertarians who object on principle to a national identification card.

The report also recommends that officials who run elections should not be aggressive partisans. But the horse is already out of the barn on that one. Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 were administered by co-chairs of the state Bush-Cheney campaigns. Secretaries of State Katherine Harris and J. Kenneth Blackwell were both extremely outspoken Republican advocates allegedly running non-partisan elections. It's now clear that their fraudulent, illegal vote fixing twice gave George W. Bush the White House.

Among the panel's 87 recommendations is also a warning that electronic voting machines must have verifiable paper trails. On paper this is important. But there are many ways to use electronic voting machines to steal elections, even with a paper trail, if the likes of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are running the show.

In the most laughable Carter/Baker punch line, the commission warns that "had the margin of victory for the [2004] presidential contest been narrower, the lengthy dispute that followed the 2000 election could have been repeated."

In fact, in our own preliminary report, we have unearthed more than 180 bullet points dealing with exactly how the GOP did steal the presidency in Ohio. A "do everything" Republican assault on democracy used intimidation, fraud, vote theft, computer rigging, machine distribution manipulation, a fake Homeland security alert, trashing of provisional ballots, denial of a recount and dozens more "dirty tricks" to produce a 118,775 "official" margin for Bush that was an utter fiction.

Exit polls in nine swing states showed Kerry a clear winner as late as 12:21 am on election night. Nationwide exit polls showed him with a 1.5 million vote margin in the popular vote.

But somehow, against all statistical probability, Bush wound up with a popular vote victory of nearly 3.5 million. And somehow, against all statistical probability, he carried Ohio and three other states (Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico) where he had been the clear loser in the exit polls. Ohio alone was sufficient to give him a second term, just as Florida had been in 2000.

Such an outcome is beyond implausible -- unless you saw how the Rove-Blackwell machine stole the vote.

The tactics the GOP perfected in Ohio 2004 are now being honed for re-use in 2008. Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry nor the core of the Democratic Party has been willing to face the reality that elections in the United States are all but over. This latest wimp report from the Carter-Baker whitewash commission does no better.

Unless our electoral system gets a total top-to-bottom revamp by an informed public willing to deal with the systematic poisoning of American democracy, there is no reason to bother printing the ballots or plugging in the voting machines in 2008.

--
Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, now available in a special release at http://freepress.org and http://harveywasserman.com.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA
September 20, 2005

Don't Let Congress Use the Carter-Baker Report to Make Vote Verification Meaningless

The Report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, published this morning and available for download at http://www.american.edu/ia/cfer/, is a significant tome at over 100 pages, and its 87 recommendations cover a wide range of issues of concern to election activists. The section dealing with voting technology is of particular interest to those concerned about the accuracy and security of elections in that it explicitly recommends a requirement for a voter verifiable paper trail on all voting systems.

The Commission’s report very correctly recognizes the need to ensure voter confidence in the election process through a verification process. However, the report specifically recommends that the status of the voter verified record should be left to the states. This is unacceptable. It is fundamental to the integrity of the democratic process that it is the voters and not the machines that ultimately confirm the accuracy of their votes.

The record verified by the voter is the only physical record that voter has confirmed and should be recognized as such. It should not be offered to voters as a placebo to ensure their confidence if it does not actually provide reason for that confidence. It is crucial for a transparent election process is a record of each vote that has been verified by the voters themselves. It must be human readable, it must be genuinely permanent and preserved in the manner that all election materials are preserved, and it must be used to confirm the accuracy of machine counts, whether those counts come from DREs or optical scanners. When inconsistencies between hand counts of paper records and machine-tabulated records are uncovered in an audit or recount, the totals of the voter verified records must be considered the true and correct record of the voter’s vote.

And mandatory random manual audits are critically important. While the Commission’s report recommends audits to verify the accuracy of voting systems, it is unclear about the mechanism through which such audits shall be conducted and does not specify the need for hand counts. Meaningful audits require hand counts – it is not possible to confirm the accuracy of machine counts with more machine counts. Publicly observed hand counts are the only means to achieve complete certainty of the vote totals and should be required in all audits and recounts.

Of course there is a bill introduced in Congress that would do all this. It has over 150 co-sponsors and has generated widespread constituent support across the country. The voter verification language in this bill was carefully crafted and benefited from the input of computer scientists, disability organizations, and election reform advocates. This bill deals comprehensively with the broad-based and legitimate concerns about the accuracy of vote casting and counting on electronic voting systems by mandating random manual audits to verify the accuracy of electronic data and prohibit the use of undisclosed software, the use of wireless communications devices, and the connection of voting systems to the Internet. The bill, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt as HR 550, deserves to be passed as written and passed quickly, in time to affect the 2006 elections.

The Commission has identified the importance of a voter verified paper record requirement, audits, and the prohibition of undisclosed voting system software to ensuring confidence in the election process. We urgently need Federal legislation establishing that it is the voters, rather than a secret and non-transparent software code that ultimately confirm the accuracy of their votes. Congress must not be allowed to use the Commission’s report as justification for weakening the language of HR 550. The bill should be passed as written and a companion bill should be introduced and passed in the Senate at once.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ohio Governor's ethics violations expose money trail to stolen 2004 election

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
August 30, 2005

COLUMBUS -- The shock waves from Ohio Governor Bob Taft's no contest plea to four misdemeanor ethics violations have turned this state's politics upside down. They also have direct roots in the stolen election of 2004.

Ohio's "Mr. Clean" governor has been forced to admit he took gratis golf games and other insider graft and goodies. His tearful no contest plea led to a nominal fine where lesser public figures could have gotten substantial jail time. Taft faced up to two years in jail.

The mainstream media has indeed reported that these gratuities have come from the usual thieves' den of contractors doing business with the state of Ohio. It's also well known that Tom Noe has been prominent among them. In fact, it has now been reported that Noe told Taft about controversial rare coin investments that may have cost the state millions as early as 2001, rather than 2004, as Taft has claimed. Also, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Taft failed to report eight additional gifts valued at more than $75: three between 1999-2005; five between 2002-2004. Columbus City Prosecutor Steve McIntosh told the Dispatch that there wasn't likely to be a "second round of misdemeanors."

But the media has ignored the fact that Noe is also former Chair of the Lucas County Board of Elections, a major Bush-Cheney donor, and a key player in the theft of Ohio's 2004 electoral votes. He is reportedly under federal investigation for laundering money into the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Election Day chaos and confusion in Noe's predominantly Democratic Lucas County helped give Bush a second term in the White House.

Time and again Taft has made public posturings about the need for all state employees to be completely free of even the perception of wrongdoing and corruption.

But the Taft sinkhole goes way beyond a few gubernatorial golf games. Millions of dollars are now missing from the Bureau of Workers' Compensation Fund, thanks to his friend Tom Noe's bizarre investment schemes. Noe ran a Toledo coin shop before being fingered as some kind of investment genius, designated to handle some $50 million in state funds. When he got the account, Noe's first move was to write himself a check for fees well in excess of $1 million. As of now, millions more are known to be missing in a "Coingate" scandal that has made headlines nationwide.

But Noe was also at the heart of Ohio's 2004 stolen election. As northwestern Ohio's "Mr. Republican," Noe was the gatekeeper for Toledo-area GOP politics for a dozen years. He chaired not only the Lucas County Republican Party, but also the Lucas County Board of Elections.

As BOE Chair, Tom Noe made a high profile acquisition of Sequoia electronic voting machines, crowing about the speed with which they were installed. But by 2004, Lucas County was knee-deep in malfunctions involving the notorious Diebold opti-scan vote counters, which jammed before and during Election Day. In precinct after precinct throughout the heavily Democratic Toledo inner city, African-American voters were disenfranchised en masse. Machines broke down, lines grew to three, four and five hours. Thousands left without voting.

At the Glenwood School, voting machines were locked in the principal's office. When he called in sick on Election Morning, hundreds of African-American citizens were denied the ability to vote. The situation was cemented by an edict from Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that paper ballots were not to be issued to Ohio precincts to cover when machines broke down.

At other Lucas County precincts, as citizens have testified under oath, unsuspecting voters were issued faulty markers which ruined the ballots on which they were used. Inner city voters thus left thinking they had voted when, in fact, their ballots were automatically trashed.

The overall situation in Lucas County became so infamously twisted with incompetence, malfeasance and corruption that in mid 2005, Blackwell was forced to issue a scathing staff report on voting practices there. In response, he threatened to fire the entire Board of Elections.

Board Chair Bernadette Noe had already announced her intention to resign. But independent researchers estimate that at least 7,000 votes were shifted in Lucas County from John Kerry to George W. Bush under her regime. Many thousands of African-American citizens, most of them likely Kerry voters, were effectively disenfranchised.

The Toledo Blade reported that in the summer of 2004, 28,000 voters were "erased" from the Lucas County voter registration rolls. The purge included voters like Barbara and Ralph George "who first registered to vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and had lived in the same East Toledo house for 44 years." The Georges had called prior to their elimination from the voting rolls and had been told that they were eligible voters.

The Blade also reported that 40 of the provisional voters in precinct 4N were in the right room, but the wrong line on Election Day. All of their votes were rejected as were 50 of the 67 provisional ballots cast in the precinct. The volume of provisional ballots more than doubled when contrasted to the 2000 presidential election.

Taft is the first governor in Ohio history to be charged with misdemeanor ethics violations. His no contest plea opens a new chapter in Ohio politics. Whether its roots in the stolen election of 2004 will be fully exposed in the mainstream media remains to be seen. But we will continue to do our best.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Two Election Workers Indicted in Ohio

Two Cuyahoga County Board of Elections workers have been indicted today on charges stemming from the 2004 presidential election recount.

Rosie Grier and Kathleen Dreamer have been indicted on six counts each, including unlawfully obtaining possession of ballots. If convicted, they face a maximum prison sentence of 18 months.

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case and filed the charges today. Messages left seeking comment from Baxter and Board of Elections director Michael Vu were not immediately returned.