Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Back to Ohio
Congress will be certifying the 2004 election results tomorrow. Though I personally don't think the election should be overturned, based mostly on my belief that the popular vote, not the electoral college, is the real source of sovereignty (the EC effectively stands against the principle of one person/one vote), I have become convinced that a Congressional investigation into what happened in Ohio is badly needed if we're to preserve faith in our democracy.

These arguments aren't primarily based on the personal and financial ties between the Bush administration and the companies that counted the votes, notable though I think those are, or even the fact that the "proprietary" vote-counting software is effectively unaccountable, significant though I think that is too. (I'd ask Republican friends to imagine how they would feel if Jane Fonda owned the vote-counting company and refused to let them know how she went about tallying their votes.) This is mostly based on, one, measured discrepancies between the balloting and the reported results; and two, "legal" but sleazy actions such as the Ohio Secretary of State/Bush campaign co-chair's decision to send too few voting machines to poor and minority precincts where he knew Democrats would dominate. That is not what democracy is about, and by focusing public attention on this behavior I would hope we can end it.

Here is a great summary source from DailyKos explaining why, with excerpts:

Partisan Election Officials: Conveniently enough, Bush had the Secretaries of State (and Chief Election Officials) in three battleground states as his Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign Chairs. Kenneth Blackwell (OH), Terry Lynn Land (MI) and Matt Blunt (MO) all employed strikingly similar tactics in placing unreasonable restrictions on provisional ballots (which are heavily used in Democratic areas), new voter registration, and felony voting rights. All three have come under fire from the public and from the courts for their efforts to obstruct and deny voters their rights.

Long lines were intentional, and meant to suppress the Democratic vote. Ohio had upwards of 68-90 extra machines available on election day, and despite frantic calls from poll workers asking for more machines, the State refused to release them. The initial allocation of machines were deliberately designed to decrease Democratic turnout; Nearly one out of three (31%) Democratic precincts had less voting machines in 2004 than in 2000 compared to less than one out of six (16%) Republican precincts. Of the 217 precincts where voting machines were subtracted, 184 (85%) were Democratic.

There was no Ohio recount. Let's say that again. There was no Ohio recount. As explained in the link below, there were at least 31 violations of Ohio law, ranging from denying public access to voting records to outright vote tampering and fraud. Every action taken by Ohio officials during the recount was meant to obstruct access to records and to, for some reason, prevent auditing the actual vote totals. Under Ohio law, denying access to public voter records, as was the case here, is in and of itself fraud.

Every "irregularity" favored Bush. If the "irregularites" were truly due to random chance or error, then they should have benefited Kerry around 50% of the time. But almost every instance of touch-screen "vote-hopping", every claim of a pre-punched ballot, every instance of a glitch awarding extra votes....every irregularity favored Bush.
Has the election of our President become arbitrary? Two elections in a row, we have seen razor thin margins in battleground states. A different rule on provisional ballots here, an extra voting machine there might literally be outcome determinative. Are we comfortable with that as a nation? That our President could essentially be decided by an unexplainable computer glitch or a partisan ruling rather than by the will of the people?

And here's more from this argument of why Congress should investigate:

More than 106,000 Ohio ballots remain uncounted. As certified by Blackwell, Ohio's official results say 92,672 regular ballots were cast without indicating a choice for president. This sum grows to 106,000 ballots when uncounted provisional ballots are included. There is no legal reason for not inspecting and counting each of these ballots. [...]

Most uncounted ballots come from regions and precincts where Kerry was strongest.
Turnout inconsistencies reveal tens of thousands of Kerry votes were not simply recorded. [...] Most striking is a pattern where turnout percentages (votes cast as a percentage of registered voters) in cities won by Kerry were 10 percentage points or more lower than in the regions won by Bush, a virtually impossible scenario.

Many certified turnout results in key regions throughout the state are simply not plausible, and all work to the advantage of Bush. In southern Perry County, two precincts reported turnouts of 124.4 and 124.0 percent of the registered voters. These impossible turnouts were nonetheless officially certified as part of the final recount by Blackwell. But in pro-Kerry Cleveland, there were certified precinct turnouts of 7.10, 13.15, 19.60, 21.01, 21.80, 24.72, 28.83 and 28.97 percents. Seven entire wards reported a turnout less than 50 percent. [...]

Due to computer flaws and vote shifting, there were numerous reports across Ohio of extremely troublesome electronic errors during the voting process and in the counting. [...]

In Miami County, two sets of results were submitted to state officials. The second, which padded Bush's margin, reported that 18,615 additional votes were counted, increasing Bush's total by exactly 16,000 votes. [...] Two Miami County precincts were certified with reported turnouts of 98.55 and 94.27 percent. In one of the precincts this would have required all but ten registered voters to have cast ballots. But an independent investigation has already collected affidavits of more than 10 registered voters that did not cast ballots on Nov. 2, indicating that Blackwell's officially certified vote count is simply impossible, which once again favoring Bush.
Ohio's Election Day exit poll was more credible than the certified result, according to intense statistical analysis. In-depth studies by Prof. Ron Baiman of the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that Ohio's exit polls in Ohio and elsewhere were virtually certain to be more accurate than the final vote count as certified by Blackwell. Ohio's exit polls predicted a Kerry victory by percentages that exceeded their margin of error. [...] The stark shift from exit polls favoring Kerry to final results in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio all went in Bush's direction, and are, according to Baiman, a virtual impossibility, with odds as high as 150 million to one against.

The Ohio recount wasn't random or comprehensive and may have involved serious illegalities. [...] In many districts, Republican Secretary of State Blackwell chose the precincts to be counted in a partisan manner, weighing the choices toward precincts where there were no disputes while avoiding those being contested. Moreover, there have been numerous confirmed instances where employees of the private companies that manufactured the voting machines had access to the machines and the computer records before the recount occurred. [...]

As noted above, I'm not really interested in overturning the election result; to be brutally honest, part of me actually wants to see Bush and the Republicans reap the whirlwind these next four years. What I am interested in is improving our practices of self-government. Even if the election wasn't "stolen", this was not done right or fairly. And if it happened in Ohio, it could happen anywhere. Leaving all these questions unanswered would be bad enough; leaving them unasked is simply disgraceful.

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