Friday, August 12, 2005

What happened in Ohio?

I will make a prediction: one of the top stories in the 2006 edition of Project Censored will be the failure of the mainstream media to cover alleged voting irregularities in the 2004 presidential election. Personally, I myself had considered talk of vote fraud to be trivial conspiracy theories, but coming face to face with the evidence has forced me to reconsider this position.

The first I heard anyone talk of potential voting irregularity (other than as wild conspiracy) was in Christopher Hitchens' Ohio's Odd Numbers article for Vanity Fair back in March. I casually read the article, but let the implications slip out of my mind and thought no more of it. I believe that I didn't think more about it because I did not want to think it true - I did not want to have to believe that such a despicable thing could happen in America, that so many people could be disenfranchised, that the democratic voting process could be subverted. But a careful reading of Hitchens would have given me plenty to be suspicious of, only a deliberate act of willfull ignorance could allow me to not be troubled by it. (I recommend reading the the Hitchens article before continuing on with this post to get the full effect.)

With the media black-out of the story proceeding as before this matter remained out of mind for me. It was not until late May (the 27th to be precise) that the specter of vote fraud was once again raised, this time by a fellow blogger, with a post about the Conyer's report. Commissioned by John Conyer (D-Mich), the report contained the findings of the Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee's inquiry (Republicans were invited to participate but declined) into alleged voter fraud and misconduct in the state of Ohio. Again, this post contained enough to make one question the integrity of the election, but still not wanting to believe it, I tucked this information away somewhere in the back of my mind.

It wasn't until last week that I finally started to realize that something quite suspect had occurred in Ohio. Something that definitely merited a national discussion, and something that pointed to an immediate need for serious vote reforms to be implemented in order to preserve and protect our franchise as American citizens. What brought about this change in awareness for me was an article in the Aug. 2005 edition of Harper's magazine entitled None Dare Call It Stolen (ironically, written by Mark Crispin Miller, the same person who had brought this to the attention of the blogger who brought it to my attention.) The figure that screamed at me from the article was this: the odds against 26 state exit polls incorrectly predicting wins for John Kerry were 16.5 million to 1!!!! according to a report issued by the National Election Data Archive project. (A search there will pull up numerous articles addressing statistical anomalies related to the election.)

Once one is willing to look seriously into the election related activities in Ohio many disturbing examples of suspect behavior come to light. For example, the owner of the Triad GSI voting systems that were used in Ohio, Todd Rapp, had donated money to George Bush's election campaign. Now, this in itself does not imply any wrongdoing, but it does represent, at the least, a perceived conflict of interest, something that the public should have been made aware of, especially given the post-election related machine tampering that Triad has been accused of.

Another questionable tie was that of Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who was also the co-chair of the Bush/Cheney Ohio campaign. The Conyer's report lists, through three phases, how Blackwell sought to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Here are some examples:
- registered letters were sent to new voters from the state Republican party. Blackwell then challenged 35,000 voters who failed to sign the letters
- Blackwell attempted to bar the media from the polls, this was struck down by a federal court
- reporters were barred from a post-election ballot counting site in Warren Country when a fake FBI warning was issued
- foreign observers were prevented from monitoring the election

Example after example is contained with in Conyer's report of irregular activity. Here are several:
- in Miami county 13,000 votes appeared in Bush's column after all precincts reported
- in Franklin county 4,000 extra votes appeared for Bush from one computer
- in Perry county Bush votes exceeded registered voters
- Youngstown reported negative 25 million votes

The full report, Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, should be read by every American citizen, and it is another black mark for our media that this document has not been given the national attention it deserves. Regardless of where you fall in the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that vote fraud is something we do not want to see happen, and thus we should be taking steps to ensure that the questionable voting irregularities which occurred in Ohio (and elsewhere) should not happen again.

UPDATE - While I was linking to Project Censored I noticed that they now have an article up about voter fraud in the 2004 election. As odd as I already thought the election's voting irregularities were, the Project Censored article points out even more that I wasn't aware of. Something very strange seems to have happened this past election, and it is of the utmost importance that we give this matter its proper consideration. If our vote doesn't count, or if it ceases to matter, then we truely have lost our democracy.

Here is an excerpt from the Project Censored article:
In order to believe that George Bush won the November 2, 2004 presidential election, you must also believe all of the following extremely improbable or outright impossible things.
1) A big turnout and a highly energized and motivated electorate favored the GOP instead of the Democrats for the first time in history.
2) Even though first-time voters, lapsed voters (those who didn’t vote in 2000), and undecideds went for John Kerry by big margins, and Bush lost people who voted for him in the cliffhanger 2000 election, Bush still received a 3.5 million vote surplus nationally.
3) The fact that Bush far exceeded the 85% of registered Florida Republicans’ votes that he got in 2000, receiving in 2004 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, merely shows Floridians’ enthusiasm for Bush. He managed to do this 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.
4) Florida’s reporting of more presidential votes (7.59 million) than actual number of people who voted (7.35 million), a surplus of 237,522 votes, does not indicate fraud.
5) The fact that Bush got more votes than registered voters, and the fact that by stark contrast participation rates in many Democratic strongholds in Ohio and Florida fell to as low as 8%, do not indicate a rigged election.
6) Bush won re-election despite approval ratings below 50% - the first time in history this has happened. Truman has been cited as having also done this, but Truman’s polling numbers were trailing so much behind his challenger, Thomas Dewey, pollsters stopped surveying two months before the 1948 elections, thus missing the late surge of support for Truman. Unlike Truman, Bush’s support was clearly eroding on the eve of the election.
7) Harris' last-minute polling indicating a Kerry victory was wrong (even though Harris was exactly on the mark in their 2000 election final poll).
8) The “challenger rule” - an incumbent’s final results won’t be better than his final polling - was wrong;
9) On election day the early-day voters picked up by early exit polls (showing Kerry with a wide lead) were heavily Democratic instead of the traditional pattern of early voters being mainly Republican.
10) The fact that Bush “won” Ohio by 51-48%, but this was 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 doesn’t cast any suspicion upon the official tally.
11) Florida computer programmer Clinton Curtis (a life-long registered Republican) must be lying when he said in a sworn affidavit that his employers at Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) and Tom Feeney (general counsel and lobbyist for YEI, GOP state legislator and Jeb Bush’s 1994 running mate for Florida Lt. Governor) asked him in 2000 to create a computer program to undetectably alter vote totals. Curtis, under the initial impression that he was creating this software in order to forestall possible fraud, handed over the program to his employer Mrs. Li Woan Yang, and was told: “You don’t understand, in order to get the contract we have to hide the manipulation in the source code. This program is needed to control the vote in south Florida.” (Boldface in original).
12) Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell’s declaration in a August 14, 2003 letter to GOP fundraisers that he was "committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president next year" and the fact that Diebold is one of the three major suppliers of the electronic voting machines in Ohio and nationally, didn’t result in any fraud by Diebold.
13) There was no fraud in Cuyahoga County, Ohio where the number of recorded votes was more than 93,000 larger than the number of registered voters and where they admitted counting the votes in secret before bringing them out in public to count. [See appendix – attached herein]
14) CNN reported at 9 p.m. EST on election evening that Kerry was leading by 3 points in the national exit polls based on well over 13,000 respondents. Several hours later at 1:36 a.m. CNN reported that the exit polls, now based on a few hundred more - 13,531 respondents - were showing Bush leading by 2 points, a 5-point swing. In other words, a swing of 5 percentage points from a tiny increase in the number of respondents somehow occurred despite it being mathematically impossible.
15) Exit polls in the November 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections, paid for in part by the Bush administration, were right, but exit polls in the U.S., where exit polling was invented, were very wrong.
16) The National Election Pool’s exit polls were so far off that since their inception twenty years ago, they have never been this wrong, more wrong than statistical probability indicates is possible.
17) In every single instance where exit polls were wrong the discrepancy favored Bush, even though statistical probability tells us that any survey errors should show up in both directions. Half a century of polling and centuries of mathematics must be wrong.
18) It must be merely a stunning coincidence that exit polls were wrong only in precincts where there was no paper ballot to check against the electronic totals and right everywhere there was a paper trail.


John Lombard said...

Wow. There's a lot to get into here, but I'd like to point out that Project Censored is only half-right on Truman. The data for Truman is in fact a famous example of statistical bias where a magazine conducted a massive poll of their readers. But their readers were upper class and heavily slanted Republican -- Truman, a Democrat, won on the basis of the vote of the less well up. That anyone would cite the case of Truman to show Bush had won demonstrates a level of cynicism I can only imagine.

John Lombard said...

I ended up buying the issue of Harpers, by the way.

Hume's Ghost said...

If you like the Notebook column in that issue I'd highly recommend Gag Rule by Lewis Lapham, the editor who writes the Notebook columns. I just finished it - Lapham reminds me of Paine with his biting criticism of anti-democratic forces in our culture. And he's so very concise.