Vote Watch 2004
Vote/Election fraud, vote suppression, voting irregularities, voter intimidation in Election 2004

 

Acknowledgements


Home Page Interpreting Pre-Election Polls Anti-Kerry Lies and Fraud
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Here, I use the definition of Swing States by the Swing State Project

Please select your state of interest to proceed. (If there is no link, that means there is no content for that state yet).

OHIO

12/7/04 [Permalink]
Ohio's GOP Secretary of State continues his disdain for voting rights by delaying start of recount to the date when U.S. Presidential election will be formally certified nationwide

Bob Parry writes in the Consortium News:

George W. Bush’s political allies appear to be slow-rolling a requested recount in Ohio, leaving so little time that even if widespread voting fraud is discovered, the finding will come too late to derail Bush’s second term.

Though balloting occurred on Nov. 2, more than a month ago, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell still hasn’t certified an official vote, a move now expected on Monday, Dec. 6. Since Blackwell also has battled requests from third-party candidates for an expedited recount, a review of Ohio’s vote now won’t begin until Dec. 13, at the earliest, according to Blackwell’s office. [See Boston Globe, Dec. 1, 2004]

But the Dec. 13 date is the same day the electors of the Electoral College meet to formally select the President of the United States. So even if the recount uncovers enough fraud to reveal John Kerry as the rightful winner in Ohio, it would be too late to change that outcome.

Meanwhile, as Ohio’s official foot-dragging has gone on, Bush’s election-night lead has continued to shrink with the counting of overseas and provisional ballots. The Associated Press reported on Dec. 3 that its vote tally of Ohio’s 88 counties showed Kerry narrowing Bush’s lead to 119,000 votes from about 136,000 votes, leaving Bush with a 2 percent lead.

But Kerry also might stand to gain a substantial number of votes from a recount that would examine ballots thrown out by antiquated punch-card voting machines. They are  used mostly in poor areas, especially African-American neighborhoods that are Democratic strongholds. Other voters, believing that Ohio’s electronic systems were susceptible to vote rigging, have sought audits to check for tampering.

Instead of embracing these examinations to resolve voter doubts, however, Secretary of State Blackwell and other Bush allies in Ohio have resisted the demands. Now, the clock is running out for any meaningful review. [Citizens demanding a full recount in Ohio scheduled a rally for Dec. 4 in the capital of Columbus Other protests are being organized in the days leading up to the Electoral College meetings on Dec. 13.]

Florida Echoes

In some ways, the United States is witnessing a repeat of Election 2000 where Bush first frustrated Al Gore’s demands for recounts in Florida and then had five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court block a recount ordered by the state Supreme Court. Finally, the five Republican justices in Washington required that a reorganized Florida recount be conducted in two hours, a clearly impossible task that handed the presidency to George W. Bush.

Placing national unity as a priority over democracy, the U.S. news media stepped in after Election 2000 to sweep away any lingering doubts about Bush’s legitimacy. The unity message was that the United States needed to put the contentious election in the past, even though Bush was the first popular-vote loser in more than a century to move into the White House.

This protection of Bush’s fragile legitimacy gained even greater momentum after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The “united-we-stand” sentiment put the New York Times and other leading news organizations in a particular quandary in November 2001 when they completed an unofficial recount of Florida’s votes.

The recount discovered that if all legally cast votes had been counted, Al Gore would have won Florida regardless of what standard of “chad” was used. In other words, Gore was the rightfully elected President of the United States, not Bush.

To avert the predictable conservative outrage over the recount findings, the major national news outlets simply buried the “Gore-won” lead. Instead, they topped their stories with a bogus analysis that a recount would have left Bush as the rightful winner.

The analysis assumed, falsely, that so-called “overvotes,” where voters checked a candidate and wrote in the name, would not have been included in the recount. But the news organizations were erroneous in this assumption because the judge handling the Florida recount had ordered those votes tallied and almost certainly would have added them to the state’s total, since they were clearly legal under Florida law. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “So Bush Did Steal the White House.”]

Now, with Team Bush running out the clock in Ohio, one has to wonder what contortions the mainstream news media would put itself through if a belated recount – after Bush’s election is formalized – shows that Kerry should have won Ohio and thus the White House.

 

11/20/04 [Permalink]
A sample of the vote suppression and voting irregularities in Ohio captured by Voters Unite in a single page graphic

Votersunite has an excellent single page graphic that shows some of the reasons why the problems in Ohio need to be investigated and why Ohio deserves a recount. For convenience I have captured their chart in JPEG form and reproduced it below:

 

11/16/04_1 [Permalink]
Ohio's Sandusky County had some votes counted twice raising doubts about some results from that county

Via Votersunite, a report in the News-Messenger:

Sandusky County elections officials discovered some ballots in the Nov. 2 election were counted twice.

The finding further emphasizes the fact that the 49-vote lead Republican challenger Irma Celestino has over Democratic incumbent Anna Senior isn't the final word. That race will be decided when provisional, military or remade ballots are counted and the official count is taken Thursday. It is not known how much of an impact it might have had on any other unofficial count.

Barb Tuckerman, director of the Sandusky County Board of Elections, said when she reviewed election information Nov. 8 she discovered the mistake.

"Clyde had 131 percent voting," Tuckerman said. "That's not possible. I knew there was something amiss."

After reviewing the computer discs used to store precinct tallies, officials came to the conclusion that some ballots in nine precincts were counted twice.

 

11/15/04_2 [Permalink]
Report from at least one Ohio county that 20 to 30 machines were recording votes for one candidate as votes for another and had to be recalibrated; another report of a machine that recorded a negative 25 million votes!

Via reader radtimes, a column in Roanoke.com:

In a report from the Youngstown, Ohio Vindicator (Nov. 3), the chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections said that 20 to 30 machines needed to be recalibrated during the voting process because some votes for a candidate were being counted for that candidate's opponent.

Via Votersunite, a report in the Los Angeles Times:

Based on reports that Dill's organization — Verified Voting.org — has received, one precinct in Youngstown, Ohio, recorded a negative 25 million votes, which was discarded from official results.

 

11/15/04 [Permalink]
Former Deputy Director of Auglaize County, Ohio, resigns after claiming that former employee of electronic voting firm ES&S was given unauthorized access to the county's central vote tabulation computer before the election

Via reader CS, there is this report in The Free Press:

In Auglaize County, a letter dated October 21 under the signature of Ken Nuss, the county’s former deputy director, alleges that Joe McGinnis, a former employee of Election Systems & Software (ES&S), violated election protocol with his unauthorized use of the county’s central tabulating computer that creates ballots and compiles election results. Nuss, who resigned on October 21, alleges that McGinnis was improperly granted access to the computer the weekend of October 16.

 

11/12/04 [Permalink]
Franklin County, Ohio, absentee ballots designed similar to infamous "butterfly" ballots

Via reader radtimes, a report in The Free Press:

Even if they are counted, Franklin County's absentee ballot forms are designed in ways strikingly reminiscent of those notorious butterfly ballots in the Florida 2000 presidential election. On Franklin County absentee ballot forms, Kerry is the third name on the list of presidential candidates on the left side of the ballot. But, the punch card is designed to fit in the middle, so the actual number you punch for Kerry is hole "4." If you mistakenly punch hole "3" you've just voted for Bush.

 

11/11/04_4 [Permalink] UPDATED 11/15/04
Eligibility criteria for Ohio provisional ballots (which are expected to favor Kerry) changed after the election in Cuhayoga County (on 11/9/04) per Election Observer. Ballots without birth dates are ordered to be thrown out even though earlier instructions clearly stated lack of birth date was not a disqualifier. Subsequently Ohio Secretary of State issues ruling allowing such ballots to be counted. 

Via reader radtimes, a report in The Free Press:

Are the provisional ballots in Ohio being thrown out? A new rule for counting provisional ballots in Cuyahoga County, Ohio was implemented on Tuesday, November 9 at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, according to election observer Victoria Lovegren.

The new ruling in Cuyahoga County mandates that provisional ballots in yellow packets must be “Rejected” if there is no “date of birth” on the packet. The Free Press obtained copies of the original “Provisional Verification Procedure” from Cuyahoga County which stated “Date of birth is not mandatory and should not reject a provisional ballot.” The original procedure required the voter’s name, address and a signature that matched the signature in the county’s database.

Lovegren described the clerks as “kind of disturbed” after the new ruling came down. She said that one of the clerks told her, “This is new. This just came down. They just changed it in the last thirty minutes.” According to Lovegren, 80 yellow-jacketed provisional ballots piled up in the hour and 45 minutes she observed. By Lovegren’s tally, three provisional ballots were rejected because the registered voters’ registration had been “cancelled.” The rest, she said, were being discarded because of no date of birth.

Via poultrynow at Dailykos, here is an update in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Meanwhile, counties that were confused about whether to validate provisional ballots that don't have voters' dates of birth on them were told Friday by the secretary of state's office in a conference call to allow those ballots.

Cuyahoga County elections board director Michael Vu said there had been confusion over whether missing birth dates made the ballots invalid.

"We're counting those now," he said.

 

11/11/04_3 [Permalink] UPDATED 12/7/04
Ohio Warren County election officials who instituted a "lockdown" during vote counting (keeping the media away) claimed terrorist threat notification from FBI led to the "lockdown"; FBI and Ohio Public Safety Director said there was no such threat.

Keith Olbermann at Hard Blogger reports:

David Cobb of the Green Party told a California radio station late yesterday afternoon that he is “quite likely to be demanding a recount in Ohio,” with a final decision to be reached and announced during the day.

...

In any event, if Nader and Cobb are at the edges, questions about Ohio moved back into the mainstream yesterday with another cogent article in The Cincinnati Enquirer. The rationale for the bizarre “lockdown” of the vote-counting venue in Warren County on election night suddenly broke down when it was contradicted by spokespersons from the FBI and Ohio’s primary homeland security official.

County Emergency Services Director Frank Young said last week that in a face-to-face meeting with an FBI agent, he was warned that Warren County, outside Cincinnati, faced a “terrorist threat.” County Commissioners President Pat South amplified, insisting to us at Countdown that her jurisdiction had received a series of memos from Homeland Security about the threat. “These memos were sent out statewide, not just to Warren County, and they included a lot of planning tools and resources to use for election day security.

“In a face to face meeting between the FBI and our director of Emergency Services,” Ms. South continued, “we were informed that on a scale from 1 to 10, the tri-state area of Southwest Ohio was ranked at a high 8 to a low 9 in terms of security risk. Warren County in particular, was rated at 10.”

But the Bureau says it issued no such warning.

“The FBI did not notify anyone in Warren County of any specific terrorist threat to Warren County before Election Day,” FBI spokesman Michael Brooks told Enquirer reporters Erica Solvig and Dan Horn.

Through a spokeswoman, Ohio Public Safety Director Ken Morckel told the newspaper that his office knew of no heightened terror warning for election night for Warren County or any other community in Greater Cincinnati.

Despite the contradiction from both security services, Ms. South again amplified, telling the Enquirer “It wasn’t international terrorism that we were in fear of; it was more domestic terrorism.”

So the media was kept two floors away from the vote counting at the Warren County Administration on election night on the basis of a “10” FBI terror threat that the FBI says was never issued.

UPDATE 12/7/04

Via reader radtimes I came across a Free Press article that led to me to the website of Richard Hayes Phillips who is monitoring the Ohio recount. Phillips has a page dedicated to Warren County, raising questions about some of the results (not to mention that massive Bush advantage in this county).

 

11/11/04_2 [Permalink] UPDATED 12/7/04
Additional modes of Democratic vote suppression in Ohio may have easily cost Kerry tens of thousands of votes: GOP Secretary of State stuck with outdated and less reliable punch-card machines in Democratic counties (refusing to spend budgeted tens of millions of dollars); the number of precincts in highly populated Democratic counties was significantly reduced unlike in Republican counties leading to a lower vote gain for Kerry; polling machine reductions in Democratic precincts, other problems and delays lasting for several hours added to the mix - indicating poor preparation even though turnout was below the state's expectations

Via reader radtimes a report in the Boston Phoenix (bold text is my emphasis):

BUSH HAS, at the moment, won Ohio by 136,483 votes, but a number of considerations throw that lead into serious doubt. For one thing, that number will likely diminish when the state’s approximately 155,000 provisional ballots are processed. Most of those who had to use provisional ballots probably were first-time voters whose names had not made it onto their precinct lists, observers say, and first-timers went 54-46 for Kerry in Ohio, according to exit polls.

Another 92,672 votes were discarded, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, mostly due to now-familiar problems with punch-card ballots. Those punch-card machines are — surprise, surprise — predominantly used in urban areas that tend to vote Democratic. In Cuyahoga County — two-to-one Kerry country — a voter reported misaligned holes and out-of-order pages on the punch ballots to Election Protection, a nonpartisan coalition of organizations led by People for the American Way Foundation, which was monitoring elections in select states, including Ohio.

Punch cards also probably slowed down the voting process, suggests Carlo LoParo, spokesperson for the Ohio secretary of state, as voters with memories of Florida made super-extra-sure to remove the chads they produce completely. "People were a little more methodical, making sure they didn’t leave any hanging chads," agrees Dan Trevas, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party.

But wait — wasn’t the Help America Vote Act of 2002 supposed to help rid states of these machines? Why, yes — in fact, Ohio received $133 million from the federal government specifically to replace those old clunkers with new DRE and optical-scan machines. The state even contracted with venders. But then Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell — a Republican — had a change of heart. The technology was not sufficiently proven secure, he said. Nothing has been purchased. The $133 million stayed in the bank. "We weren’t going to spend it on more punch-card machines," says LoParo. Or on more poll workers, or training, or any of that nonsense.

"There should have been a lot of effort [put into], instead of talking about challengers, talking about getting enough machines and getting ready to handle the large turnout," Trevas says.

...

Serious questions have also been raised about absentee ballots, which may have been withheld from those who requested them — a problem in the Bay State as well. The single biggest election complaint in Massachusetts came from college students who sent for, but never received, absentee ballots from their home states, says David Harris, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, in Boston. He received at least 50 such complaints from Harvard alone. The same problem reared its head at Boston University, says BU psychology professor Deborah Belle: more than a half-dozen of her students told her similar stories.

We don’t know yet how many of those students were trying to vote in Ohio, but we do know that the Republican-led Ohio legislature prevented the elections department from implementing expedited absentee balloting and early voting, says Trevas. Then, Blackwell barred those who never received their absentee ballots from casting provisional ballots in person — that is, until Election Day, when a Toledo woman filed and won a lawsuit against him in US District Court.

...

MANY OF THOSE who did get to the polls had to wait ages to get to a booth. There were reports of waiting times of two-and-a-half-hours in Cleveland, five in Columbus, and six in the college town of Gambier.

This was all officially blamed on extraordinarily high turnout, but many disagree. After all, turnout was actually lower than predicted by the Secretary of State’s office, and the increase from 2000 worked out to just 64 additional voters per Ohio precinct. "Everybody saw it coming — the huge lines, the huge voter turnout," says Britton. "We’re very concerned that county officials did not adequately prepare."

"It was poor planning, and I think you lay that on the head of the governor and secretary of state," Trevas says.

But Republican governor Bob Taft and Blackwell did prepare: they reduced the number of polling places, ensuring long lines.

As noted above, the state had been anticipating the purchase of DRE machines, which are both more expensive and — at least in theory — quicker. That meant, according to Blackwell, that counties could make do with fewer machines without affecting the lines, and fewer faster machines meant that counties could merge small precincts together to share them. The Republican-led legislature helped encourage precinct consolidation by raising the maximum allowable number of registered voters per precinct. So, some counties merged their polling places, cutting as many as 48 percent in some cases.

When the state suddenly nixed the new machines, those counties were left with fewer polling places for more voters, with the old slow machines, and about the same number of poll workers. Erie County consolidated 101 precincts in 2000 into just 62 this year. As a result, the average number of voters per precinct in Erie nearly doubled, from 355 to 640.

"Our county was in a budget crunch," says Ruth Leuthold — Republican — director of the Crawford County Board of Elections, which went from 67 precincts to 46. "We did it due to budgetary reasons, and to go to electronic voting."

The long lines were greatly exacerbated by the poll workers, whose average age was 78 statewide, according to Bryan Williams, director of the Summit County Board of Education.

And in case the octogenarians were too nimble, Williams — Republican — encouraged them to take their time. "At their training, I emphasized accuracy over speed," Williams says.

At one Columbus site, the head poll worker was a half-hour late to open up, "and things went downhill from there," reported the Columbus Dispatch. Several other poll workers in the county overslept, according to the paper. And oddly enough, the same thing happened in Cuyahoga County, where four polling places opened late, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Another poll worker was fired for showing up drunk.

Nobody in Columbus’s Franklin County, including poll workers, could reach the elections-board office by phone — even when machines broke, which was frequent. For a 45-minute stretch at one site, all three voting machines were inoperative, according to the Dispatch, which added that half of the 100 people in line left without voting.

Almost certainly, long lines disproportionately disenfranchise poorer, working-class voters, who tend to live in high-density city precincts, and have less flexibility in their schedules. "We heard of folks who were told by their bosses they have to get back to work instead of stay and vote," says Britton.

LoParo of the Secretary of State’s office dismisses the concern, saying that "we have heard anecdotally" that only a few people showed up but didn’t vote. But Ohio newspapers were filled with anecdotes to the contrary. And many people probably didn’t bother to show up, as word about the long waits spread. "People were in line on their cell phones telling their friends not to try to take one hour to vote — everybody was in line doing that when I went," Trevas says.

HERE’S THE rub: a Phoenix analysis shows that the precinct reductions disproportionately hurt Ohio’s Democratic turnout.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 20 suffered a significant reduction — shutting at least 20 percent (or at least 30) of their precincts. Most of those counties have Republicans serving as Board of Elections director, including the four biggest: Cuyahoga, Montgomery, Summit, and Lucas.

Those 20 counties went heavily to Gore in 2000, 53 to 42 percent. The other 68 counties, which underwent little-to-no precinct consolidation, went exactly the opposite way in 2000: 53 to 42 percent to Bush.

In the 68 counties that kept their precinct count at or near 2000 levels, Kerry benefited more than Bush from the high turnout, getting 24 percent more votes than Gore did in 2000, while Bush increased his vote total by only 17 percent.

But in the 20 squeezed counties, the opposite happened. Bush increased his vote total by 22 percent, and Kerry won just 19 percent more than Gore in 2000.

If the reduced number of precincts in those counties accounts for the difference, it cost Kerry about 45,000 votes. And who knows what might have happened had the state increased polling places in anticipation of the high turnout it knew was coming? And if the state had encouraged voting rather than threatened to challenge credentials? And if there had been no dirty tricks and intimidation? And if all had received their absentee ballots?

Here's another snippet from David Shuster on Hard Blogger:

  • We still "don't know" why the officials in charge of voting at Kenyon college in Ohio equipped the site with only two voting machines.  No explanation has been offered.  Students who waited in line for nine hours believe it was an effort to disenfranchise easily identifiable democrats.

Via reader CS, a report in The Free Press:

  • In Franklin County, where Franklin County Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder is also the former Executive Director of the county’s Republican Party, the county Board of Elections building looked like a bunker. Scores of city buses blocked parking spaces on the street outside, numerous concrete barricades surrounded the parking lot, and a metal detector was stationed at the only entrance. A phalanx of armed deputy sheriffs swarmed the only site where provisional voters could cast a guaranteed ballot. The Columbus Dispatch confirmed an Election Day Free Press story that far fewer voting machines were present in predominantly black Democratic inner-city voting wards than in the recent primary election and the 2000 presidential election, with their lighter turnouts. The reduced number of machines caused voters to wait up to seven hours and wait an average of approximately three hours. One Republican Central Committee member told the Free Press that Damschroder held back as many as 2000 machines and dispersed many of the other machines to affluent suburbs in Franklin County.

Via reader LV, another report in the Free Press by Bob Fitrakis:

One telling piece of evidence was entered into the record at the Saturday, November 13 public hearing on election irregularities and voter suppression held by nonpartisan voter rights organizations. Cliff Arnebeck, a Common Cause attorney, introduced into the record the Franklin County Board of Elections spreadsheet detailing the allocation of e-voting computer machines for the 2004 election. The Board of Elections’ own document records that, while voters waited in lines ranging from 2-7 hours at polling places, 68 electronic voting machines remained in storage and were never used on Election Day.

The Board of Elections document details that there are 2886 “Total Machines” in Franklin County. Twenty of them are “In Vans for Breakdowns.” The County record acknowledges 2886 were available on Election Day, November 2 and that 2798 of their machines were “placed by close of polls.” The difference between the machines “available” and those “placed” is 68. The nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition provided legal advisors and observed 58 polling places in primarily African American and poor neighborhoods in Franklin County.

An analysis of the Franklin County Board of Elections’ allocation of machines reveals a consistent pattern of providing fewer machines to the Democratic city of Columbus, with its Democratic mayor and uniformly Democratic city council, despite increased voter registration in the city. The result was an obvious disparity in machine allocations compared to the primarily Republican white affluent suburbs.

Franklin County had traditionally used a formula of one machine per 100 voters, with machine usage allowable up to 125 votes per machine. The County’s rationale is as follows: if it takes each voter five minutes to vote, 12 people an hour, 120 people in ten hours and the remaining three hours taken up moving people in and out of the voting machines.

Once a machine is recording 200 voters per machine, 100% over optimum use, the system completely breaks down. This causes long waits in long lines and potential voters leaving before casting their ballots, due to age, disability, work and family responsibilities.

A preliminary analysis by the Free Press shows six suburban polling places with 100 votes a machine or less, and only one in the city of Columbus meeting or falling under the guideline.

The legendary affluent Republican enclave of Upper Arlington has 34 precincts. No voting machines in this area cast more than 200 votes per machine. Only one, ward 6F, was over 190 votes at 194 on one machine. By contrast, 39 Columbus city polling machines had more than 200 votes per machine and 42 were over 190 votes per machine. This means 17% of Columbus’ machines were operating at 90-100% over optimum capacity while in Upper Arlington the figure was 3%.

In the Democratic stronghold of Columbus 139 of the 472 precincts had at least one and up to five fewer machine than in the 2000 presidential election. Two of Upper Arlington’s 34 precincts lost at least one machine. In the 2004 presidential election, 29% of Columbus’ precincts, despite a massive increase in voter registration and turnout, had fewer machines than in 2000. In Upper Arlington, 6% had fewer machines in 2004 One of those precincts had a 25% decline in voter registration and the other had a 1% increase. Compare that to Columbus ward 1B, where voter registration went up 27%, but two machines were taken away in the 2004 election. Or look at 23B where voter registration went up 22% and they lost two machines since the 2000 election, causing an average of 207 votes to be cast on each of the remaining machines. In the year 2000, only 97 votes were cast per machine in the precinct. Thus, in four years, the ward went from optimum usage to system failure.

Jeff Graessle, Franklin County Election Operations Division Manager, told the Citizen’s Alliance for Secure Elections (CASE) Ohio voting rights activists that Franklin County does not use a simple 100 votes per machine guideline. Rather, they allocated their machines in the 2004 election based on a new criteria determined by ACTIVE registered voters. Hence, an affluent area like Upper Arlington which has shown a consistent pattern of voters is rewarded with more machines and fewer losses. A less affluent area of Columbus where voters miss voting at more elections and may only come out in a hotly tested election, like Bush-Kerry, are punished with fewer machines.

Of course, there’s a direct correlation between affluence and votes for Bush and below medium income areas and votes for Kerry. Franklin County, Ohio’s formula served to disenfranchise disproportionately poor, minority and Democratic voters under the guise of rewarding the “likely” voter or active registered voters.

UPDATE 11/20/04

Bob Fitrakis has more here.

UPDATE 12/7/04

Via reader radtimes, here is an update from Richard Hayes Phillips in the Free Press:

The Free Press on Election Day posted a disturbing story, later confirmed by the Columbus Dispatch. The Free Press reported that Franklin County Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder deliberately withheld voting machines from predominantly black Democratic wards in Columbus, and dispersed some of the machines to affluent suburbs in Franklin County. Damschroder is the former Executive Director of the Franklin County Republican Party. Sources close to the Board of Elections told the Free Press that Damschroder and Ohio’s Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell met with President George W. Bush in Columbus on Election Day. The idea was to discourage turnout in Democratic wards by forcing voters to wait in long lines at the polling places. Such a strategy would be far more effective than encouraging turnout in Republican wards. Elections are all about margins. There are 74 wards in Columbus. George W. Bush won 12 wards, with a margin of 7.35%. John F. Kerry won 62 wards, with a margin of 37.62%. Affecting Kerry’s turnout would greatly reduce his margin of victory in Columbus, giving the Republicans a much better chance of overtaking Kerry given a strong enough showing in suburban and small town Republican strongholds.

In order to investigate this matter, I obtained from the Franklin County Board of Elections all the data I needed in order to calculate, ward by ward, and precinct by precinct: (1) The ratio of registered voters per voting machine. (2) Percent turnout, calculated as total ballots cast divided by the number of registered voters. (3) Percent for Kerry, calculated as votes cast for Kerry divided by votes cast for president. (4) Margin of victory or defeat for Kerry, calculated as the difference between the vote totals for Kerry and Bush.

All 36 of the wards at the bottom of the list of voters per voting machine were won by Kerry, and they include most of his strongholds. In 29 of the 36 wards, Kerry exceeded his city wide share of 62.22% of the vote. However, these wards suffered a low voter turnout.It is important to understand what these numbers mean. The polls in Ohio were open from 6:30 A.M. to 7:30 P.M. That is 13 hours, or 780 minutes. If there are 400 registered voters per voting machine, and turnout is 60%, each voter has less than 3.5 minutes to vote, and that is assuming a steady stream of voters, with no rushes at certain hours. It also assumes no challenges to voters at the polls. If there are 550 registered voters per voting machine, and the turnout is 60%, each voter has 2.4 minutes. All of this amounts to theft of votes. It has been shown above that the Kerry precincts enjoyed a voter turnout similar to that of the Bush precincts when supplied with enough voting machines.

Thus I conclude that the withholding of voting machines from predominantly Democratic wards in the City of Columbus cost John Kerry upwards of 17,000 votes. A more detailed calculation could be done on a precinct by precinct basis, but that is not necessary here. The purpose is to illustrate the magnitude of the conspiracy. Matt Damschroder did not act alone. There are 74 wards and 472 precincts in Columbus, Ohio. It is not possible for one person to have delivered all the voting machines, and it is unlikely that nobody else was involved in planning where to deliver them. Anyone who associated with Mr. Damschroder on or shortly before Election Day should be investigated for possible complicity.

 

11/11/04_1 [Permalink]
Bush gets extra 3893 votes in Gahanna Precinct in Ohio's Franklin County - only 638 total voters cast ballots in that precinct

Via BradBlog, we have this AP report:

An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.

Bush actually received 365 votes in the precinct, Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch.

 

11/2/04_1 [Permalink]
Democratic Party accused of making calls to Republicans in Ohio with wrong polling site information; Democrats claim volunteers made a mistake and that Democratic voters were also provided incorrect information

Via Demos, we have this report in the Marion Star:

The Ohio Republican Party accused the Marion County Democratic Party of trying to suppress Republican voter turnout in a last-minute legal attempt filed Monday in Marion County Common Pleas Court.

Republicans, in a suit filed by Columbus attorney Mark Landes, accused the local Democratic party of calling registered Republicans and telling them that their polling locations had been changed. While alleged instances of such action were reported in five of Ohio's 88 counties, Landes said the suit was filed in Marion County because the party had received an answering machine tape with the misleading information recorded.

According to Landes and Marion County Clerk of Courts Julie Kagel, Judge Robert Davidson disqualified himself from ruling on the case and refused to file a temporary restraining order because his household had also received such a call. Considering Judge Robert Fragale, the other county common pleas judge, is off this week and also a candidate in today's election, Landes said he does not expect the court to take any action until after the election.

"Frankly, if they're willing to call and lie to people, I'm not sure if they would follow a court order anyway," said Landes.

Marion County Democratic Party chair Cathy Chaffin said no attempt to mislead voters was made by Democrats but acknowledged mistakes may have happened.

Landes said the suit was filed after Jamie Straw, a registered Republican in Marion County, received a phone call saying to vote at the Marion Catholic High School. Landes said Straw is a Capaldi Drive resident whose precinct votes at the Marion County Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

According to an affidavit signed by Straw, the caller claimed to be from the Marion County Democratic Party.

Mark Weaver, attorney and consultant for the Ohio Republican Party, said he has received other similar complaints from Butler, Fairfield, Greene and Franklin counties. He dismissed suggestions the calls were simply mistakes.

"This seems to be a calculated attempt to steal this election," he said.

Out of those counties, Landes said Marion County was selected because Straw's tape was the strongest evidence available. He said if Davidson would have been able to take action, it would have forced all five counties' parties to stop calling with false information.

The suit was also filed against the Ohio Democratic Party, Greene County Democratic Party and ACT Ohio, a 527 political action committee. It also claimed that Democrats misinformed registered Republicans about the date of the election, saying it will be held on Wednesday, and told them that certain documentation must be taken to the polls in order for them to be able to vote. State law does not require identification in order to vote.

The suit recommended a temporary restraining order against Democrats to "halt their un-American conduct" and stop making misleading phone calls. The Ohio Republican Party also requested more than $25,000 in compensatory damages.

Asked whether it could lead to attempts to challenge results of today's election, Landes said, "If people show up at the wrong polls we're going to know why."

Chaffin said neither the Marion County nor Ohio Democratic parties attempted to give anyone the incorrect day to vote. As far as the other allegations, she said no effort was under way to give out incorrect information but said volunteers may have done so by accident.

"Do volunteers make mistakes? Sure they do," she said. "If they made the mistake it was an honest mistake."

Chaffin said Democrats were calling people who either voted Democrat in the last two years or were identified as potential John Kerry for president supporters. She said it is possible that calls may have been made to people who had moved since the party obtained its list of registered voters, which would mean their precinct polling place would have also been misidentified. She said volunteers over the weekend were told to stop giving out polling locations and instead refer people to call the Marion County Board of Elections.

Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, wished Republicans had called to alert them of the problems, instead of rushing to file a lawsuit.

"It's just an unfortunate mistake by some eager volunteers who are trying to get people out to vote," Trevas said, noting the party also heard from two Democrats in Marion County who also received incorrect polling site information.

Volunteers would call back those people Monday evening to rectify the situation, he said.

Marion County Republican Party chair Karyle Mumper disagreed and said she had phone calls at her home over the weekend informing her that wrong information was being given out.

 

11/1/04_2 [Permalink] UPDATED 11/2/04
Fake leaflet emerges in Ohio saying Republicans should vote on Tuesday (11/2) and Democrats on Wednesday (11/3)

Ohio Voter Suppression News mentions this:

Franklin County hit with phony leaflets

Matt Damschroder, director of the Franklin County (Columbus area) Board of Elections held a news conference Monday afternoon to announce that parts of the county had indeed been victimized by people distributing the following flyer:

[eRiposte note: Picture of flyer is at the URL above. I am reproducing the text here in brown font]

Franklin County Board of Elections

Election Bulletin

Because the confusion caused [sic] by unexpected heavy voter registration, voters are asked to apply to the following schedule:

Republican voters are asked to vote at your assigned location on Tuesday.

Democratic voters are asked to vote at your assigned location on Wednesday.

Thank you for your cooperation, and remember voting is a privilege.

Franklin County, Where Government Works

Another update from them:

Dirty Tricks on Columbus East Side

My boss was canvassing this morning for ACT, putting out GOTV door tags in a predominantly black neighborhood on the near east side of Columbus. Repugs had been there first, putting up door hangers that read: Vote for George Bush/Dick Cheney on Tuesday, November 2: Vote for John Kerry/John Edwards on Wednesday, November 3. Incredible!

 

11/1/04_1 [Permalink
Vote suppression dirty tricks in Ohio grow at an alarming pace

Ohio Voter Suppression News writes:

The dirty tricks haven't really started yet.

Whatever the motive, election officials say voters are genuinely confused by the misinformation. In the Cleveland area, election officials said they received a spate of complaints after voters began receiving phone calls incorrectly informing them their polling places had changed. In addition, unknown volunteers began showing up at voters' doors illegally offering to collect and deliver completed absentee ballots to the election office.

Jane Platten of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections said officials had not identified who is behind the tricks. ``We've never seen anything like this before, where there seems to be a concerted effort to give voters misinformation,'' she said.
Other tricks include:
  • telling people they can't vote if they haven't paid child support, having undercover "angry voters" yell out that lines are three hours long to discourage people from waiting and having aggressive supporters yell at voters who want to choose the opponent.
  • Nonpartisan election-protection groups and attorneys recruited by both the Bush and Kerry campaigns to patrol tight states also said groups are expected to send unregistered voters into crowded polling places to slow down the already long lines.
  • In Ohio's Franklin County, both registered Democrats and Republicans have been receiving phone calls from phony Board of Elections workers telling them that their polling places have been changed, said election officials.
  • Ohio Republican Party spokesman Jeff Flint added that Ohio Republicans have received calls telling them their absentee ballots will be picked up by election workers — a process that's illegal.
  • In West Dayton, Ohio, registered Democrats received calls reminding them to vote on Nov. 5 — three days after the election, according to Hagel.

More here:

This over at Daily Kos, from an Ohio phone bank volunteer:

I worked all day yesterday at the largest Toledo area Kerry GOTV phone bank at Gallon and Takacs law offices, 3516 Granite, Sylvania. Out of the 8 phone banks that we had here in the Toledo area yesterday, ours produced one third of all of the contacts made.

Both the local phone company and our phone systems provider have confirmed to us that phone relay point into the building was purposely severed. Many volunteers were rerouted to other locations and several also had to rely on cell phones when we found our lines down this morning. We thought it was a coincidence until the phone company verified to us that the lines were intentionally cut.
Gosh, and how do you think that might have happened?

 

10/28/04 [Permalink] UPDATE 10/31/04
More electoral fraud/dirty tricks in Ohio: letter claims voters registered by Democratic campaigns or NAACP have invalid registrations and cannot vote

Via Atrios, we have this story:

It is an outright case of election fraud in Lake County.

The phony letter says newly registered voters signed up by the Kerry or Capri Cafaro campaigns or the NAACP, their registrations are illegal and they will not be able to vote.

“That was not authorized by the Board of Elections, said Elections Director Jan Clair. “It was not mailed by the Lake County Board of Elections.”

A real board mailing would have Clair’s signature.

The letter was brought to election officials by Ron Colvin, a longtime registered voter and head of the Lake County NAACP.

Sheriff Dan Dunlap is investigating. “It will be a federal offense because you have interfered with the constitutionally protected right to vote,” he said.

Via Buzzflash, here is a copy of the letter at Lawgeek. Lawgeek has some comments here.

Reader dfandbj sent in this email:

Attached is copy of phony letter sent to newly registered voters in Lake County Ohio. Apparently whomever sent this letter had access to the Lake County BOE's new voter registration lists. Following is copy on report of this activity by WKYC TV, Cleveland. As this activity has received little publicity in Northeast Ohio, I e-mailed every Cleveland/Lake County and Ashtabula County radio station (because of spill-in) I could locate requesting that they issue a voter alert to include this item on their newscasts and call-in shows. Here's the e-mail list I used. Please post this on your site so other Ohio voters can contact these stations.

wzip@uakron.edu ; comments@wcpn.org ; tkogrady@wone.net ; jimmantelandthemorningcrew@wgar.com ; trapper@wdok.com ; robin@wdok.com ; jim@wdok.com ; WCRF@moody.eduDick [sic?] ; News Director ; lanigan@wmji.com ; malone@wmji.com ; wncx@wncx.com ; buzzard@wmms.com ; cliffbaechle@clearchannel.com ; MichaelKelly@ClearChannel.com ; tedklopp@clearchannel.com ; gregsaber@clearchannel.com ; judythompson@clearchannel.com ; darrentoms@clearchannel.com

 

10/25/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 12/14/04 
[Since there is a lot of material on this evolving issue, let me alert you that most recent material is towards the bottom of this post]

GOP voter suppression efforts in Ohio morph into another growing scandal with fraudulent challenges and angry citizens/voters - Federal courts nix GOP challenges

The GOP originally challenged about 35,000 registrations in Ohio - only to withdraw thousands of the claims because of self-described "errors" in their filings. Moreover, some of those challenged were homeless. The GOP also claimed over-registration fraud but the Election Board pointed out there is no evidence of fraud and that "inactive" voters have to be kept on the rolls for 4 years per the National Voter Registration Act. After mass protests, Ohio's GOP Sec. of State partially caved in with a "compromise" ruling that allows the challenged voters to cast provisional ballots. 
In the meantime, one of the GOP members who challenged the voters faces a possible indictment on felony charges for swearing she had personal knowledge about the voters being challenged when she had no knowledge whatsoever - by her own admission. The election board threw out another 976 challenges due to the latter incident. Another challenger turns out to be Megan Harrington, President of the College Republicans at the University of Toledo. She has been discovered to have challenged a voter based on a claim that he does not live where he claims he does, even though the voter actually does live at that address. Many others including some faculty at the University of Toledo were falsely challenged as well even though they were actually living at the very address the GOP claimed was not valid [NOTE: New Donkey points out that this type of vote challenge is a decades old GOP trick and Dailykos points out that that GOP settled a lawsuit agreeing to not indulge in this kind of vote suppression about two decades ago]. Many of those challenged are understandably angry at this nonsense. There is a possibility that some of those who were challenged may have been on the list since they were contributors to the Democratic party - but this needs further investigation. At least one voter was challenged under the pretext that she was dead, even though she was very much alive. It is quite clear these challengers have no morals whatsoever and need to be indicted or investigated, as appropriate. 

Here are a slew of updates on this growing scandal.

Via Corrente, here's an AP article:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- State Republicans withdrew thousands of more than 35,000 challenges to new voter registrations because of errors in their filings apparently caused by a computer glitch.

Republicans filed the challenges Friday in 65 of Ohio's 88 counties, saying mail sent to the newly registered voters was returned as undeliverable.

Over the weekend, the party withdrew about 4,700 challenges in Hamilton County because the names and addresses on the GOP list did not match voter rolls, and Franklin County officials in Columbus accepted 2,371 challenges, rejecting half of about 4,200 filed.

Challenged voters will be notified by mail that they are entitled to attend a hearing with proof of their address.

Even if they fail to show up, the elections board is not likely to throw out the registrations, said Matthew Damschroder, Franklin County's elections chief and a Republican. Doing so could violate the federal right to vote even if the voter has failed to notify elections officials of an address change, he said.

It is too late to file a new challenge under the statute the party used, John Williams, election director in Hamilton County, said Monday. There appeared to be an error in the database program used to print the challenges, so that addresses were not matched with the correct names, he said.

But the largest single batch of challenges, some 17,000 in Cuyahoga County, is still being processed because there were no errors, said Jane Platten, elections board spokeswoman.

CAP has more:

 According to ACORN, a non-profit group, "46 percent of the Republican challenges in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, were against black people, who represent only 27 percent of the county's population." (Don't let tactics like these keep you from the polls. Remember, if you don't vote, this election will not be stolen; it will be given away.)

THE MYTH OF VOTER FRAUD: The Republican talking points manipulate the facts to create a false impression of widespread voter fraud in key states. For example, appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, GOP Chairman Ed Gillespie said that "If you look at Franklin County [Ohio]... a very important county in the election, there are 815,000 people according to the census, 18 or older eligible to vote. There are 845,000 registered voters." Gillespie suggests that the only way this can be explained is voter fraud. That isn't true. Federal law prohibits purging records of voters who have moved out of the state – or should otherwise not be on the rolls – for four years. So if there are more registered voters than eligible voters, that doesn't mean scores of people are attempting to commit fraud. It means the state is complying with the National Voter Registration Act.

THEY AREN'T COMMITTING VOTER FRAUD, THEY'RE IN IRAQ: Many of the people that Republicans are targeting in Ohio – claiming their addresses are invalid – "are overseas military members...whose mail cannot be forwarded." Among those challenged was "Lisa Potts, a longtime Marine currently stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C." Potts – a Republican – said, "I pay taxes to the state of Ohio every year."

VOTER FRAUD IS RARE: According to a new study by Demos finds that "election fraud is at most a minor problem across the 50 U.S. states, and does not affect election outcomes." For example, election officials in Arizona "say voter fraud involving undocumented immigrants is rare." Karen Osborne, Maricopa County's director of elections, said, "if we have one case a year, it's an amazement." Officials in Arizona are concerned that a new ballot measure – which would require proof of citizenship to vote – "could end up blocking legitimate voters from exercising their rights."

Via Hesiod, we have this report in the Washington Post (bold text is my emphasis):

Ohio's voter-registration rolls contain more than 120,000 duplicate names, and an untold number of ineligible voters, such as people who have moved out of the state. A review of the rolls by the Columbus Dispatch even found a murder victim and two suspected terrorists among the eligible.
...
The rules for challenging voters vary from state to state, and officials nationwide are bracing for an onslaught. In Ohio, the state GOP is drawing on a little-used 1953 law to file its pre-election challenges.

Ohio law states that a party can challenge a voter's eligibility if the challenger has a reasonable doubt that the person is a citizen, is at least 18, or is a legal resident of the state or the county where he shows up to vote. The law also states that local election boards must give voters challenged before Election Day three days' notice before holding a mandatory hearing, no later than two days before the election.

It is not clear, however, how election officials can hold so many hearings, or what they should do after them.

Gwen Dillingham, the Cuyahoga County deputy election director, said 15,000 to 18,000 pre-election challenges have been filed in the Cleveland area, a traditional Democratic stronghold. "I don't know how we're going to find those people to tell them there's a hearing," she said.

Republicans have pointed to what they contend is widespread evidence of fraud in voter registration. Making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, for instance, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie pointed out that in Franklin County, the latest Census shows there are more registered voters than there are age-eligible residents.

But election officials and other experts say there is a reasonable explanation for bloated election rolls that has nothing to do with fraud: The National Voter Registration Act prohibits them from purging voters from the rolls for four years after an initial notification is sent.

"It's unfortunate that there seems to be an assumption that there's fraud behind every problem," said Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters. "There often is a simple explanation. And we're very concerned that these challenges will intimidate people and keep them from voting."

Some boards, including those in the two counties that are home to the cities of Columbus and Dayton, are tossing out most of the GOP's pre-election challenges because the party made technical errors in filing them.

Of the 4,200 challenges filed in Franklin County, officials have determined that 1,600 are valid. Election Board Director Matthew M. Damschroder, a Republican, said that his board will hold the required hearings on the challenges that remain, but will more than likely keep every voter on the rolls and allow those voters to cast provisional ballots.

One irony of the GOP's challenges in Franklin County and Montgomery County is that many of those challenged are overseas military members -- often Republican supporters -- whose mail cannot be forwarded, officials in both counties said.

Although Ohio law specifies that removing a successfully challenged voter from the rolls is an option, that conflicts with the rules laid out by the National Voter Registration Act. Moreover, local Ohio election boards are bipartisan, with two Republican members and two Democrats, leaving the potential for deadlocks.

UPDATE 10/28/04

Hypothetically Speaking noted this first:

The wheels may be about to fall off of the Ohio Republican Party's challenge to over 35,000 voter registrations in Ohio.

A story in Enquirer indicates that the GOP mishandled the data and mailing lists of new voter registrants and that these screw ups are behind many (maybe most) of the "questionable" voter registrations.

The controversy started when the GOP sent a mailing to over 230,000 new voters in 65 counties. Allegedly, about 35,000 of these mailings could not be delivered. Ohio GOP chairman and others blamed ACORN, ACT, MoveON, the unions and others for "massive and systemic voter registration fraud" and on Friday announced that they would launch challenges against these 35,000 in each of the county Board of Election.

On Saturday, the Hamilton County Board of Election examined the over 5,000 returned mailers from that region. Lo and behold, instead of fraud, the BOE found that the GOP had mismatched the names and addresses of the recipients.

Not that they had a lot of choice, but the GOP screw-ups are so bad that Bennett had to announce that it will drop all of their challenges in Hamilton County.

An update here:

The Dayton Daily News reports that 90% of the Republican voter registration challenges in Montgomery County are invalid, including one case involving Army master sergeant Surjo Banerjee who has been fighting in Iraq for about a hear:
Local board of elections officials believe the Republican Party challenged Banerjee's registration because board mail sent to him in Centerville was returned undelivered since he was in Iraq. Board records also include a June request from Banerjee for an absentee ballot, which last month was sent to him in Iraq.

It's still not clear exactly what all the problems are that are underlying Ohio Republican Party's bumbling effort to get these challenges to stick. There is agreement by everyone that the challenge forms used by the ORP were filled out incorrectly in many if not most cases and contain wrong information such as mixed up precincts. This still leaves open the question of whether the original mailings by the ORP were also mixed up since copies of the returns have not been shared with the boards of elections.

Another update here:

At the same time, the Plain Dealer reports that over 9,000 of the 17,780 challenges in Franklin Co. have to do with "inactive" voters. HAVA does not permit inactive voters from being purged from voter rolls unless they skip two presidential elections and don't respond to notices from the local board of election. Besides general disenfranchisement, challenges based on "inactive" status have the affect of suppressing the African American vote. Again, according the Plain Dealer:  

But one voter-registration group, ACORN, said the GOP list disproportionately affects black voters. An analysis by the group found that nearly half of the voters challenged were in largely black Cleveland neighborhoods, said Jack Pannell, an ACORN spokesman. Voters in those neighborhoods typically vote for Democratic candidates.

Ohioans and other supporters need to be bombarding their newspapers, radio stations and TV stations about this.

The latest update here:

Regarding the hearings the various Ohio county boards of elections were being forced to hold because of the Republican's bogus challenges to voter registration, WBNS-TV reports:
The US District Court has issued a temporary restraining order, which will result in the calling off of several hearings that were slated to begin Thursday on the subject.

In Franklin County, 2,400 people, 35,000 overall, received notices that there was a problem with their voter registration forms.

Republicans say that they are trying to prevent voter fraud with the challenge, but Democrats say Republicans are trying to suppress the vote.

Some local board of elections officials say they are happy with the decision.

Matt Damschroder with the Franklin County Board of Elections says, "My preference would be to let this thing completely go away and allow individuals to vote on Election Day. It allows for a smoother administration of elections."

The decision could be appealed by Republicans to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal would have to be made by Wednesday night.
This may be a short-term victory because the GOP will probably appeal, and they have already stated that they will still make these challenges at the poll sites on election day.

Some of those challenged were homeless.

Also in Franklin County, 291 homeless people are being questioned out of the 2,370 total challenges, according to an analysis of the challenges by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. In Cuyahoga County, 757 people of the 17,717 total being challenged are homeless.

"We're very concerned that people that have chosen to participate in our democratic process, who took a big step in registering to vote and who were poised to go to the polls on Nov. 2, are going to be disenfranchised, and we may never get them back," said Bill Faith, COHHIO executive director.

Mary Sullivan, 57, looked for work for a year after losing her job as a receptionist and prescription filler for a local drug maker in August 2003. She was evicted from her apartment after her money ran out this past June and spent two months at Friends of the Homeless, a shelter on Columbus' east side.

"My vote has to be counted," Sullivan said. "Just because you're homeless doesn't mean you're stupid."

Here's G35Guy at Dailykos with an update:

Blackwell has caved into pressure (including a protest at his office of over 1000 people) and now says provisional ballots should be allowed to be cast.

Blackwell issued a directive Tuesday ... outlining the procedure for hearing the challenges. He essentially told election boards to let any of the people whose registrations are challenged cast a provisional ballot if they show up at a poll Nov. 2.

http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/10025402.htm

Summit County Board of Elections Director Bryan Williams said he believes the order does a good job of balancing state and federal voting rights laws. ``I think that this directive properly recognizes that since this is a federal election, these challenges can happen, but you still have to protect the person's right to vote,'' he said.
...
Williams said he has begun hearing from some of the 976 Summit County registrants being challenged. Their hearing notices were mailed Sunday.

``We've gotten a number of calls -- about 30 of them,'' Williams said. He said some of the challenged registrants appear to be college students, and the board has been instructing them to send in identification and proof of residence if they cannot attend their hearing.

MyDD has an important update (bold text is my emphasis):

The Republicans have been compiling lists (probably in the tens of thousands) of voters whom they have culled from lists of those newly registered, mailing registered mail to them, preparing lists of those who did not accept the Republican Party mailing, and then challenging their right to vote.

Here's one such incident that's been exposed in Ohio: 

ELECTION BOARD THROWS OUT 976 CHALLENGES BY REPUBLICAN PARTY

GOP Challenger Barbara Miller Could be Indicted on Felony Charges

AKRON, Ohio - The Summit County Board of Elections abruptly threw out 976 challenges of voter eligibility by the Republican Party today after Barbara Miller, the challenger, revealed that she did not have any personal information about the eligibility of any of the challenged voters.
Instead, Miller said that her challenges were based on a list of "undeliverable mail" given to her by the Republican Party. The list was based on a GOP mailing sent to registered voters throughout the state of Ohio.
After Miller presented this as her evidence, Russell Pry, Summit County Election Board member, told her that she could be indicted for signing a sworn challenge without any personal knowledge about the eligibility of the voters. Miller's reaction was to plead the Fifth Amendment.
Catherine Herold, the first voter challenged at the hearing, told the board that she believes that she was on the undeliverable list because she "refused the letter when she saw that it came from the Republican Party." She and many others expressed anger that their eligibility had been challenged - which could force them to vote by provisional ballot on Nov. 2.
"This is an outrage," Herold said. "I feel as if I am being called a liar for claiming to live at my address."
The Summit County Board of Elections has indicated that they plan to call in the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation of the challenges.
Following is an excerpt from a transcript of today's hearing (for email copies contact Emilie Karrick). Catherine Herold and Neil Klingshirn, attorney for several of the challenged voters, are available for interviews.

Blogwood has more on the above incident.

Another case reported by Suicide Girls, via Atrios (bold text is my emphasis):

Former SG member Doctashock, a resident of Toledo, Ohio, in Lucas County, has received notice that the validity of his voter registration is being challenged, and that he will have to appear in court this Saturday to answer the challenge or be denied the right to vote.

Who challenged him? One Megan Harrington, President of the College Republicans at the University of Toledo.

Miss Harrington is heavily involved with the GOP, as demonstrated by this PBS article quoting her reaction to the Presidential debates:

Megan Harrington, president of the College Republicans and a sophomore majoring in political science, watched the debate at the Republican Victory Center in Maumee.

"Bush was consistent with his statements," Harrington said.

"Everybody knows where he stands, especially on national security and the Iraq War."

On what grounds is his registration being challenged?

They say he doesn't live where he lives. How the f***, then, did he receive these letters?

Letter one.

Letter two.

Doctashock registered as an Independent, and, for the record, he says that he does not live in a predominantly black neighborhood. However, he is an African American, with a name (Jermaine) that is common among African Americans. Makes you wonder why his registration was among those selected to be challenged, considering that 90% of blacks (Republicans, Democrats, and Independents) voted for Al Gore in 2000.

Doctashock will show up in court to defend his right to vote. How many won't?

Miss Harrington can be reached at: utcr2004@yahoo.com or at megan.harrington@toledo.edu

Update: Doctashock is not a college student, and his driver's license does match his home address, and is the same address he registered at.

This outrage needs to be prosecuted. Additionally, Atrios says this (which I've not been able to confirm independently, but if true only adds to the outrage):

...wow, I didn't realize this is all based on *registered* mail.

Another update from Atrios:

I sure as hell wouldn't accept a registered letter from the Republican party, and I definitely wouldn't bother to stand in line for an hour at my post office to pick it up if I wasn't home to get it. Let's see some prosecutions, damnit.
When Catherine Herold received mail from the Ohio Republican Party earlier this year, she refused it.

The longtime Barberton Democrat wanted no part of the mailing and figured that by refusing it, the GOP would have to pay the return postage.

What she didn't count on was the returned mail being used to challenge the validity of her voter registration.

Herold,who is assistant to the senior vice president and provost at the University of Akron,was one of 976 Summit County voters whose registrations were challenged last week by local Republicans on behalf of the state party.

...

The challengers, all older longtime Republicans -- Barbara Miller, Howard Calhoun, Madge Doerler and Louis Wray -- were subpoenaed by the elections board and were present at the hearings. Akron attorney Jack Morrison, a Republican, volunteered to represent the four.

Democratic board member Russ Pry suggested that the four could be subject to criminal prosecution for essentially making false claims on the challenge forms. The form states that making a false claim is subject to prosecution as a fifth-degree felony.

...The angry voters had the Republicans on the defensive.

``Why'd you do it?'' one challenged voter shouted out at Calhoun. ``Who the hell are you?'' the man asked.

``What the hell do you care?'' replied Calhoun, an attorney.
What the hell do you care? What a monster.

QUICK UPDATE 10/31/04 
Looks like Ms. Harrington, who has destroyed the privacy of innocent, legitimate voters with false charges, is none too pleased with her (publicly available information) being circulated! Atrios has this note:

Monkey Mail

Funny:
In reference to your website, I am here to tell you to take
down the e-mail address of Megan Harrington. That is
invasion of privacy, and defamation, and if it is not off in
twenty-fours hours, the proper authorities will be contacted
to remove your website. To use someone's e-mail without
their reference is invasion of privacy, and I hope you
realize that.
In reference to this, presumably.

Ms. Harrington's email can be found at georgewbush.com site as well as the University of Toledo Young Republicans site...

UPDATE 10/30/04

Reader EN sends in this article on this growing outrage (bold text is my emphasis):

Two University of Toledo psychology professors believe challenges to their voter registrations just days before the election are politically motivated.

"University professors tend to be more liberal and Democratic, if that was a reason why some of us was targeted," said Alex Czopp. "The Pre-Election Challenge uses a little known and seldom used Ohio law that says any registered voter can challenge the legitimacy of another's voter registration.

"I can show you my voter registration. I got it the first week in September, said Alice Frye." Alice Frye and Alex Czopp received notices from the Lucas County Board of Elections alleging the two did not live at the addresses listed on their voter registrations.

Both Frye and Czopp registered along with their spouses, listing the same respective addresses. Neither of their spouses' registrations were challenged. "My husband and I have both donated money to the Democratic Party. All the money donated has been in my name. We have different last names. We are registered to vote at the same address. My registration is being challenged. His is not, said Frye."

Czopp finds irony in the pre election challenges. "They mailed the letter that was protesting whether I lived at this current address to this current address," said Czopp

Both voters plan to attend an 11:00am Board of Elections hearing Saturday morning at Government Center. Challenged voters will have a change to have those pre election challenges overturned.

He also wrote this (bold text is my emphasis):

Six Republicans, including one University of Toledo Republican student leader, have challenged the voting rights of over 930 citizens. The list includes soldiers currently serving in Iraq, a military recruitment officer, a UT student who is a Bush/Cheney volunteer, and at least four University of Toledo professors. It includes my wife. My wife and I live at the same place and registered around the same time. She was challenged and I was not. If any mail was truly sent out and returned, the supposed basis for this challenge, I should have received such a letter but never did. This shows that their challenging process is flawed and that other factors determined their selection--perhaps because my wife donated to the DNC (publicly available information) but I had not? Her challenger does not even live in Toledo but in Waterville, Ohio. She never tried to contact us. She knows nothing about us, we have never met or heard of her, and yet she saw fit to issue a totally unjustified challenge. We have had to take time out of our lives to deal with a frivolous charge and much of our week has been wasted with a time-consuming and worry-producing process of contacting various officials and lawyers. This included attending a board of elections hearing in order to make sure that my wife can still vote. Luckily the challenges have been checked, but what about individuals who were not able to show up at a last minute meeting and now believe that they cannot vote? Adding further insult to injury, many concerned people showed up at this board meaning in order to guarantee their voting rights and the Republican members did not allow them to voice their complaints. The signed challenge also clearly states that misusing it is a felony. We hope these people will be investigated because voter intimidation and suppression should not be tolerated in a free society. One has to wonder about the morals, values and character of people who seek to deny voting rights to their fellow citizens, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Sardonic Views (via Votelaw) has more on the developments.

UPDATE 10/31/04

Reader EN sends in a few more updates, partly concerned by the apolitical tone in the articles considering this garbage is being perpetrated by the Republican party. 

This Toledo Blade article (bold text is my emphasis):

As the chief recruiter in Toledo, U.S. Army Sgt. Peter Conklin is a busy guy.

So when he received a letter last week from the Lucas County board of elections notifying him that his right to vote in Tuesday's election was being challenged, several thoughts sprung to mind.

"I thought a lot of things. A lot of adjectives and adverbs," he said, adding that none of them is fit to be published.

The notice, sent to him and 930 others around the county, informed them that their voter registration was under challenge and instructed them to attend a public hearing yesterday morning to defend their right to vote.

Paid to defend his country, defending his right to vote was a no-brainer.

Dressed in his uniform, he arrived at Government Center only to discover the hearing had been canceled because a federal court had ruled Friday that the hearing could not go forward, and that no challenged voters would be disqualified.

"My biggest thing is someone is wasting my time. I want to know who is wasting my time. I want to know who is challenging my right to vote," he said.

"I don't have time to waste coming down here and fooling around with this stuff," the sergeant said. "You give up your rights to defend the rights of others to vote. And then this happens? Well, they picked on the wrong pit bull."

Dozens of others also showed up - most of them angry, some of them confused.

He sat in the front row in City Council chambers while the four-member board of elections convened a special meeting to deal with the challenges and other issues springing up as Election Day looms. After it became clear that no voters would be allowed to address the board members, he stood up to leave.

"I've got to go. I've got a nation to defend," he proclaimed loudly, as the crowd broke out in cheers and applause.
...
Democrat Paula Ross made a motion to allow public comment, but it was defeated by Ms. Noe and fellow Republican board member Sam Thurber.

The decision was not popular. Several in the crowd shouted at the board members, demanding a right to speak. Soon after, five Toledo police officers arrived in council chambers and things calmed down.

"This is my first year that I can vote in a big election, so I thought I'd take the chance," said Ashley Whetsel, 20, of Toledo. "No one is going to take away my right to vote."

Stacy Kuhn, another young voter who works as a waitress at Max and Erma's restaurant in Maumee, arrived at the council chambers wearing her work clothes.

"I'm supposed to be at work right now," she said. "My boss was nice enough to let me come in late today.
...
Local elections officials said in their meeting last week that they were uncertain how the voters were singled out to be challenged, but thousands across the state were targeted, most of them newly registered.

This one from WTOL (bold text is my emphasis):

Instead of a hearing, the Lucas County Board of Elections held a special meeting where it addressed some challenged voter concerns. That was good news for folks who just want to make sure their voice is heard on election day. "I just want to vote like they do in Afghanistan.  I want to vote like they do in Iraq. I want to vote that's all I want to do," said Bell.

This one from 13abc (bold text is my emphasis):

Each spin of the revolving door brought another frustrated voter into Government Center this Saturday morning. Vietnam veteran Francis McElhannon was one of many who came to defend his voter registration at a public hearing only to learn the hearing was not happening. Even though there was no public hearing, voters still wanted to be heard. Frustration gave way to anger and the police were called in to keep tempers from boiling over.

[The local ABC affiliate has posted the challenged voter list here].

UPDATE 11/1/04

Ohio Voter Suppression News reports:

The Dayton Daily News reports that 90% of the Republican voter registration challenges in Montgomery County are invalid, including one case involving Army master sergeant Surjo Banerjee who has been fighting in Iraq for about a hear:
Local board of elections officials believe the Republican Party challenged Banerjee's registration because board mail sent to him in Centerville was returned undelivered since he was in Iraq. Board records also include a June request from Banerjee for an absentee ballot, which last month was sent to him in Iraq.

Ohio Voter Suppression News also alerts us that the returned-mail-type-of-vote-challenge is a longtime GOP dirty trick:

Ann Woolner, a columnist for Bloomberg News, gives some additional perspective on Ohio Voter suppression in this recent column:
Mass Mailings

A tactic that still survives to this day involves mass mailings sent to certain registered voters to see which mail comes back because of bad addresses. These mailings often target heavily Democratic precincts, many of them black or Latino neighborhoods.

That's the sort of thing the Republican National Committee was doing in Louisiana in 1986, when one party official said in a note to a colleague that the Republicans' ballot security program "could keep the black vote down considerably.''

Ohio Voter Suppression News reports:

Got this from Oberlin Votes, a non-partisan voter registration effort. They have evidence disproving allegations of fraud made by Robert Rousseau, Lorain County Republican Party Chairman, and member of the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Juanita Smith, who was declared to be a dead registrant by county Republicans, is very much alive. Last week an Ohio newspaper reported that "Juanita Smith died more than four years ago, but somehow a voter registration card with her name on it showed up at the Lorain County Board of Elections office this year." (Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, 10/23/2004) However, Ms. Smith is quite well. "When I read that article saying I was dead," Ms. Smith recounted, "I said to myself, 'I'd better go find my voter card.' "

It comes down to the usual clerical errors that provisional ballots are meant to resolve. Details of the hilarity are now posted at the organization's website.

Via Dailykos here is an update on the 6th Circuit's ruling on the constitutionality of the GOP's vote challenges:

A federal appeals court Friday blocked the Republicans from contesting more than 20,000 voter registrations in Ohio before Election Day.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati turned down several GOP appeals of a lower court judge's order that stopped hearings on the contested registrations.

The action could mean the hearings might never take place, since they must be held within two days of the election, the Republicans said. The lower court judge was considering Friday whether to make her temporary order permanent.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and the Ohio Republican Party said they would not pursue any further appeals.
...
The GOP originally challenged about 35,000 voters, but withdrew about 7,500 of those challenges because of mistakes. County elections boards threw out hundreds more. Few registrations have been rejected.

NOTE: Also see this article on challenges in Greene County that were proved wrong, via EllenJ at Dailykos.

UPDATE 11/15/04

A2jean at Dailykos has a post on citizen protests against the vote suppression:

This is from the subscribers-only electronic version of today's Columbus Dispatch , about the voting irregularities hearing of 11/13.
...

Angry voters air complaints

Hundreds at hearing question process, suspect fraud

...
Joe Popich, a field organizer for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, displays a copy of a Perry County poll book that he contends has discrepancies.

An elderly man who was refused an absentee ballot left his hospital bed and showed up at a polling site with an IV still in his arm.

Another man had to convince four elections workers that he still lives in his Bexley house.

Broken voting machines, cars being towed from a Driving Park polling site, threeto five-hour waits and too few machines -- these were some of the stories shared by voters, poll workers and elections observers yesterday at a Near East Side church. Robert Fitrakis, a lawyer and political-science professor at Columbus State Community College, organized the hearing so attendees could air their election grievances -- then send the information to state officials.

It drew more than 200 people and ran hours longer than planned.

Most of the crowd favored Sen. John Kerry, with many wearing campaign stickers and buttons.

They cheered when one man called for Kerry to "unconcede" the presidential election and booed at the mention of Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

A sign leaning on the New Faith Baptist Church of Christ read Voting fraud = death to democracy and many cars had Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers.

Stories were collected by a court reporter, and the hearing was videotaped and broadcast on a local radio station.

Fitrakis said he'd give transcripts and tapes to Blackwell as well as county boards of elections, and if any glaring issues arise, he's ready to file criminal or civil lawsuits.

"I believe there is enough evidence for systematic voter suppression," he said. "To pretend that it went well on Election Day is wrong."

Matthew Damschroder, Franklin County Board of Elections director, said later in an interview that the election was a success.

"Nothing happened in this election that doesn't happen in any other election," he said. "The difference in this election was there was far more attention being paid by everyone."

Harvey Wasserman has been a voter since 1976 and has lived in Bexley since 1986. He knew he'd be out of town Nov. 2 and applied for an absentee ballot.

"A few days later, I received a rejection," he said. "It said I filled out the wrong address even though (the letter) came to me."

After four phone calls, he received a ballot.

"How many other absentee ballots were rejected?" Wasserman asked.

Carol Shelton was the presiding judge at the Linden library precinct, with three machines for 1,500 registered voters. At her home precinct in Clintonville, she said there were three machines for 730 voters.

"I called to get more machines and got connected to Matt Damschroder, and after lots of hassle he sent a fourth machine," she said. "It did not put a dent in the long lines. This was a clear case of voter suppression."

Damschroder agreed in the interview that adding one machine per precinct wouldn't have made a difference with 102,000 more people voting than in 2000.

"We need to have a public discourse about what is the appropriate level of resources and funding for county boards of elections," he said.

Although there were enough machines at Derek Winsor's Victorian Village precinct, three broke down while he was in line for three hours. He asked how poll workers knew the votes cast on those machines would be counted and said he was told, "They just are."

"How do we as voters and poll workers receive assurances that the votes are stored?" he asked.

Floyd Mitchell Hall, a volunteer for the nonpartisan Election Protection group, worked at a Driving Park precinct where the man showed up with an IV in his arm.

"He was told he could not vote absentee, that he had applied too late," Hall said.

...

UPDATE ON 11/16/04:

Reader radtimes sent in this link to videos from the vote suppression complaint hearings. Pronin2 at Dailykos has notes from the hearings.

Another article here.

UPDATE 11/20/04

More from Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman here via reader radtimes and here via reader LV.

 

10/22/04 [Permalink]
Fraudulent calls made to Ohio voters to suppress their votes using wrong information on voting site

Via Atrios and Logan's Lurch, we have this report in the Columbus Dispatch:

The caller interrupting a North Side couple’s dinner earlier this week said he was from the Franklin County Board of Elections.

He told the elderly woman that her voting site had changed and that on Nov. 2 she and her husband should cast their ballots at a South Side precinct. The caller even left the phone number of the board.

Her husband, who didn’t want their names published out of fear of retribution, called the board, sat through a long menu of automated options and finally spoke with an employee.

"They said there was no way in the world they would make such a call," he said. "I think it’s hankypanky and somebody in the election is trying to kill some votes."

At no time, Elections Director Matthew Damschroder said, does the board call voters.

"The only communication from the board of elections is printed on official board of elections paper with the logo," he said.

"If they’re saying they’re the board of elections, that’s a violation of the law. My recommendation to them would be to cease and desist."

His office has received about a dozen calls since last week from voters checking on similar calls.

Damschroder said there are two scams: The caller tells voters their precincts have changed or the caller offers to pick up an absentee-ballot application, deliver the ballot to the voter and return the completed ballot to the elections office.

By law, the elections board mails absentee ballots and the only deliveries are made to voters in nursing homes by both a Republican and Democratic elections worker. The only person who can return an absentee ballot, besides the voter, is an immediate family member.

"People are calling saying, ‘I got a call last night when I was watching Oprah from this group,’ " Damschroder said. "By law, the board of elections does not give anybody a ballot to deliver."

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, said he hadn’t heard about the scams. But he said he was glad to hear that voters who had received calls reported them to the elections board.

 

10/20/04 [Permalink]
124 fake voter registrations in exchange for crack cocaine in Ohio

Via Mark Adams (here and here), we have this story in the Toledo Blade

Mary Poppins. Jeffrey Dahmer. Janet Jackson. Chad Staton.

Defiance County elections officials were confident the first three hadn't moved to their small community. But the fourth one lived there, and - in exchange for crack cocaine - tried to falsely submit the first three names and more than 100 others onto the county's voter registration rolls, police said.

Now Mr. Staton, 22, of Defiance, faces a felony charge of false registration in a case that has quickly gained national attention as part of a hotly contested presidential battle that's attracted a flurry of new voter registrations across the country - and a flurry of complaints of voter registration fraud.

Defiance County Sheriff David Westrick said that Mr. Staton was working on behalf of a Toledo woman, Georgianne Pitts, to register new voters. She, in turn, was working on behalf of the NAACP National Voter Fund, which was formed by the NAACP in 2000 to register new voters.

Sheriff Westrick said that Pitts, 41, of Toledo, admitted she gave Mr. Staton crack cocaine in lieu of cash for supplying her with completed voter registration forms. The sheriff declined to say how much crack cocaine Pitts supplied Mr. Staton, or to say whether Pitts knew that the forms Mr. Staton gave her were falsified.

"That remains under investigation," he said.

Defiance County sheriff's deputies and Toledo police searched Pitts' home on Woodland Avenue and found drug paraphernalia and voter registration forms, the sheriff said.

Pitts, who over the past two decades has been convicted of crimes ranging from domestic violence to resisting arrest, was not arrested this week. She could not be reached for comment. A month ago, she had just finished a year of probation for driving with a suspended license.

Pitts told police that she was recruited by Thaddeus J. Jackson II, who is coordinating the Toledo efforts of the NAACP Voter Fund.

Reached yesterday afternoon in Cleveland, Mr. Jackson described Pitts as a "volunteer" with the group but said he knew of no problems with her and of no voter fraud with her new-voter submissions.

"This is the first I've heard of it," he told The Blade.

He refused further comment on the case and representatives of the voter fund in Washington declined to elaborate on Pitts' involvement in the campaign.

In a statement issued late yesterday, Gregory Moore, the national executive director, said the group was "shocked" by the allegations, welcomed the investigation, and hoped it didn't hurt the reputation of other "volunteers and canvassers who have worked tirelessly to enfranchise the disenfranchised throughout the year."

Mr. Staton's 130 voter registration forms were among the 80,000 submitted to state officials by The National Voter Fund's Ohio office, based in Cleveland. The fund turned in Mr. Staton's completed forms to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, elections officials said.

Of the 130 forms submitted, county elections board director Wayne Olsson said that only six turned out to be legitimate.

Noting that the potentially new voters had listed addresses in Defiance County, Cuyahoga County elections officials sent the forms to Defiance County, where they arrived the afternoon of Oct. 8.

The package came with a small note inside from Cuyahoga County officials: Check the signatures on the cards for fraud.

Within an hour, Defiance County elections workers had deduced that the batch of 130 was mostly faked forms, said Laura Howell, the county elections board's deputy director.

"We could tell by the handwriting that many of them were written by the same person," she said. "And of course we know the streets. Defiance being a small town, many of [the forms] had streets not even in Defiance."

And so elections workers immediately began sending out letters, addressed to the people listed at those addresses, as a precaution to ensure that a Mary Poppins, a Jeffrey Dahmer, or a Janet Jackson didn't, in fact, live in Defiance County, she said.

Letters also went out to George Foreman, Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, and Dick Tracy, among others in the bundle to see if the post office would return them as undeliverable.

Letters even went out to a handful of people registered on forms with different personal identifiers but the same name: Chad Staton.

None of the Chad Statons made the cut.

In the meantime, elections officials contacted the office of Sheriff Westrick, a Republican, who began an investigation that included the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Mr. Staton as he walked along a Defiance street about 8 a.m. yesterday, and issued a press release by noon that soon spread across the Internet.

The Ohio Republican Party immediately seized on the scandal. In a statement issued hours later, spokesman Jason Mauk cited the case in claiming that "the effort to steal Ohio's election is under way, and it's being driven exclusively by interest groups working to register Democrat voters."

The Ohio Democratic Party responded that they don't condone any registration fraud. Spokesman Dan Trevas argued that, of the 500,000 forms submitted for newly registered voters, "the vast, vast majority are clearly eligible voters who did the right thing."

He called it a "stretch" to link the Democratic Party and the NAACP Voter Fund to fraud because "the volunteer to the volunteer did something fraudulent."

But it's not the first complaint of fraud against the NAACP Voter Fund, which insists it is nonpartisan.

Elections officials in Lake County, just east of Cleveland, last month began investigating the group and an anti-Bush group called Americans Coming Together, or ACT Ohio, for hundreds of suspicious registration forms and absentee ballot requests.

Among them was one, submitted by the NAACP Voter Fund, for a man who'd been dead for more than two decades.

Mr. Staton's arrest is not the first time someone who is paid to collect voter registrations or petition signatures has been accusing of falsifying them - such accusations have been made across the country.

And the NAACP Voter Fund is not the first group to come under fire.

Among the others are a Republican-linked group, Voters Outreach of America, which has been accused of destroying voter-registration forms its workers had collected from Democratic voters in Nevada and Oregon.

 

10/18/04_2 [Permalink]
Some Ohio Hamilton County absentee ballots mailed to voters WITHOUT the names of Kerry and Edwards on them

As much as the person interviewed in the article (reporting this incident) would like us to believe that this is an inadvertent error, my patience is running thin on what is going on in Ohio. I am willing to give Ohio the benefit of the doubt if it turns out that, indeed, only a small number of absentee ballots were affected - if so, I will consider this an inadvertent error. Via Pacified at Dailykos, here's a report in the Cincinnati Post:

Some absentee ballots distributed to Hamilton County voters do not include the name of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, local election officials confirmed today.

Because of a printing error -- limited, election officials believe, to only a few ballots in the Forest Park area -- absentee ballots recently mailed out exclude the Democratic presidential ticket of Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards.

It's a screw-up," said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. "This just feeds the paranoia that's out there. The tragic thing is that even though I think we will have a very fair and accurate count here, this will cause people to question the accuracy of our operation."

Although election officials believe only two voters have received the inaccurate ballot to date, Burke said he is worried that the mix-up "will open us up to all kinds of questions and concerns." He also conceded that some may question whether the problem is, indeed, limited to only a few ballots.

"I'm happy we're talking about a very small number," Burke said. "But it's something that never  should have happened."

One of the voters who received the inaccurate ballot said today she "just couldn't believe it" when she opened her absentee ballot envelope and noticed that Kerry's name was missing.

"I knew enough to see something was wrong," said the voter, who asked not to be identified. "But you wonder whether others maybe didn't notice it before they sent their ballots back."

The printing error is the second major mistake to plague Hamilton County's absentee ballots for the Nov. 2 election.

Earlier this month, officials scrapped 17,500 absentee ballots after Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell ordered presidential candidate Ralph Nader off the ballot because of invalid signatures on his candidacy petitions. Those ballots also had been tainted by the elections board's discovery that the punch positions of Hamilton County Engineer Bill Brayshaw and one of the candidates for Ohio Supreme Court had been switched.

Nader's removal from ballots throughout Ohio also figures into the new problem that caused Kerry's name to be dropped from some absentee ballots in Hamilton County. In seeking to remove Nader's name from some local ballots, Hamilton County officials inadvertently struck Kerry's name instead.

On the flawed ballots, the words "Candidate removed" appear on the line where Kerry's name should appear. On the line below, Nader's name -- where "Candidate removed" actually should have been printed -- remains.

John Williams, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, explained that there are 72 different ballots countywide covering different political jurisdictions. For each of those 72 ballots, the order in which candidates' names are listed is rotated 10 times, Williams said.

The problem with Kerry's name being dropped occurred with one rotation on a ballot used in Forest Park. Although 22 absentee ballots in that area have gone out to voters so far, election officials believe that only two of them are the flawed ballots without Kerry's name, Williams said.

Williams was contacted over the weekend by one of the voters who received an inaccurate ballot and gave her a corrected ballot. Election officials today were trying to contact the rest of the 22 people who received the particular style of ballot at issue to find the one person they know also has a ballot without Kerry's name.

"Mistakes happen in every election," Williams said. "I'm not happy about it, but we're trying to do what we can to correct it. This time, you're under their magnifying glass, so it gets more attention."

What is especially frustrating, Williams said, is that the mistake actually had been caught by the election board's proof readers. But when a broken copier forced officials to use an old copying machine, the old, mistaken ballot format without Kerry's name accidentally was printed, he said.

 

10/18/04_1 [Permalink] UPDATED 11/2/04
GOP plan to field thousands of "vote challengers" in Ohio exploiting a historical minority voter intimidation law dating back to 1953 (the pre-Civil-Rights era) - pushed by GOP Secretary of State and Bush Justice Department. Strongly conservative judges in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court allow it.

Via reader MB, we have this editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal:

How much does your vote count?

Republican operatives in Summit County and elsewhere across the state have answered emphatically in recent weeks. They have begun to organize squads of ``challengers'' to be deployed at polling places in Ohio. They point to a 1953 state law, rarely if ever used, a relic of the past, echoing dark and ugly days in the South, when whites did practically all they could to deny blacks the right to vote. The law permits designated representatives of the political parties to challenge a voter on the basis of his or her citizenship, residence or age.

Republicans insist they are pursuing a wholesome activity. Jason Mauk, a state party spokesman, explained to Lisa Abraham, a Beacon Journal staff writer, that in view of the many election reforms since 2000, ``we want to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised.'' Mauk proved more biting when he added that Democrats are largely to blame for this escalation of the political ground war, contending that they ``engaged in fraudulent activities while seeking to register Democratic voters.''

Summit County did receive a load of dubious voter registrations via collection points at an AFL-CIO headquarters and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Yet walk that cat back, and the trouble may stem from paid petition circulators for Ralph Nader and Issue 1 (the proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman and denying certain rights and benefits to all unmarried couples). Those are hardly ardent Democratic causes.

Many Republicans hope the proposed amendment will increase the turnout among their ranks. They saw clearly the benefit of Nader appearing on the ballot. (In the end, Nader failed to qualify in Ohio.) Even Democrats less prone to conspiracy theories have connected the dots: these error-filled, perhaps fraudulent, petition efforts contributing to Republican calls for challengers at the polls.

At the very least, Republicans understand the dynamic in Battleground Ohio. Democrats have registered roughly 500,000 (or more) new voters in the state, an estimated 50,000 in Summit County. Republicans have reaped a far smaller number. George Bush won the state by 166,735 votes four years ago. If those newly registered Democrats actually cast ballots, the president will be looking for 20 electoral votes elsewhere, attempting no less than to defy recent history, Republicans absolutely needing Ohio to capture the presidency.

As fervently as Republicans insist their motives are noble, their ``fraud patrol'' serving in the spirit of the League of Women Voters, they understand the fallout from playing aggressively. Mere talk of dispatching challengers to polling places may discourage first-time voters from casting their ballots. These voters are unfamiliar with the process. They read or hear that lawyers in suits will be ready to pounce. Why bother?

That doesn't absolve them of their civic responsibility. They should go to the polls, even call their county Board of Elections tomorrow to confirm their registration and polling place. The worry is, the prospect of challengers on the scene has a calculated and profound chilling effect. Has turnout already been dampened?

Challengers take an oath, pledging that they will ``faithfully and impartially'' discharge their duties. The office of the secretary of state has issued guidelines stating that challengers ``may not interfere with the voting process or unnecessarily delay it.'' If a challenger targets so many voters that the process stalls or voters are intimidated, the presiding poll worker can toss the challenger out the door.

In the next day or two, poll workers are slated for training. They would do well to work on their backbones in case they encounter bullies. As it is, the law says a challenger must show ``good cause.'' J. Kenneth Blackwell has much to do in the coming days, especially sorting through the confusion over provisional balloting (triggered, in part, by his own doing). Still, the secretary of state would advance the right to vote by explaining to boards of elections what the standard precisely means.

Challengers must be named by Friday. Democrats insist they will respond with their own deployment (although challengers cannot directly challenge challengers). Once a voter is challenged, he or she must take an oath and then answer questions posed by the presiding poll worker who formally records the responses. The sight of all this, or the resulting delay, may lead those still in line to bolt, choosing not to vote even though their registration may be all in order.

Republican officers and their soldiers may scoff at such concerns. Recall the fiasco in Florida. Katherine Harris and the butterfly ballot received much attention. The greater outrage was the thousands of black voters essentially denied the right to vote.

The past four years, the country has begun to repair its elections process. The effort has proceeded more slowly and less smoothly than many had hoped. That is partly because of the increasing legalization of the elections process, the political parties inspired by the messy Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore to mine the law for partisan advantage, more frequently going to court to get their way.

Thus, the appearance of a 1953 law that more closely resembles the poll tax and the literacy test than the spirit of counting every vote. Those who are registered should take up the challenge. Your vote does count. So much so that you should be more determined than ever to cast your ballot.

More from the New York Times:

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Ohio Democrats were struggling to match the Republicans' move, which had been rumored for weeks. Both parties had until 4 p.m. to register people they had recruited to monitor the election. Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100.

The Democrats, who tend to benefit more than Republicans from large turnouts, said they had registered more than 2,000 recruits to try to protect legitimate voters rather than weed out ineligible ones.

Republican officials said they had no intention of disrupting voting but were concerned about the possibility of fraud involving thousands of newly registered Democrats.

"The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters - I call them ringers - have created these problems," said James P. Trakas, a Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County.

Both parties have waged huge campaigns in the battleground states to register millions of new voters, and the developments in Ohio provided an early glimpse of how those efforts may play out on Election Day.

Ohio election officials said that by state law, the parties' challengers would have to show "reasonable" justification for doubting the qualifications of a voter before asking a poll worker to question that person. And, the officials said, challenges could be made on four main grounds: whether the voter is a citizen, is at least 18, is a resident of the county and has lived in Ohio for the previous 30 days.

Elections officials in Ohio said they hoped the criteria would minimize the potential for disruption. But Democrats worry that the challenges will inevitably delay the process and frustrate the voters.

"Our concern is Republicans will be challenging in large numbers for the purpose of slowing down voting, because challenging takes a long time,'' said David Sullivan, the voter protection coordinator for the national Democratic Party in Ohio. "And creating long lines causes our people to leave without voting.''

The Republican challenges in Ohio have already begun. Yesterday, party officials submitted a list of about 35,000 registered voters whose mailing addresses, the Republicans said, were questionable. After registering, they said, each of the voters was mailed a notice, and in each case the notice was returned to election officials as undeliverable.

In Cuyahoga County alone, which includes the heavily Democratic neighborhoods of Cleveland, the Republican Party submitted more than 14,000 names of voters for county election officials to scrutinize for possible irregularities. The party said it had registered more than 1,400 people to challenge voters in that county.

Among the main swing states, only Ohio, Florida and Missouri require the parties to register poll watchers before Election Day; elsewhere, party observers can register on the day itself. In several states officials have alerted poll workers to expect a heightened interest by the parties in challenging voters. In some cases, poll workers, many of them elderly, have been given training to deal with any abusive challenging.

Mr. Trakas, the Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County, said the recruits would be equipped with lists of voters who the party suspects are not county residents or otherwise qualified to vote.

The recruits will be trained next week, said Mr. Trakas, who added that he had not decided whether to open the training sessions to the public or reporters. Among other things, he said, the recruits will be taught how to challenge mentally disabled voters who are assisted by anyone other than their legal guardians. In previous elections, he said, bus drivers who had taken group-home residents to polling places often helped them vote.

Reno Oradini, the Cuyahoga County election board attorney, said a challenge would in effect create impromptu courts at polling places as workers huddled to resolve a dispute and cause delays in voting. He said he was working with local election officials to find ways of preventing disruptions that could drive away impatient voters and reduce turnout.

State law varies widely on voter challenges. In Colorado, challenged voters can sign an oath that they are indeed qualified to vote; voters found to have lied could be prosecuted, but their votes would still be counted. In Wisconsin, it is the challenger who must sign an oath stating the grounds for a challenge.

"You need personal knowledge," said Kevin J. Kennedy, executive director of the Wisconsin State Elections Board. "You can't say they don't look American or don't speak English."

National election officials said yesterday that Election Day challenging had been done only sporadically by the parties over the years, mainly in highly contested races. In the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, they said, challenges occurred mainly after Election Day.

The preparations for widespread challenging this year have alarmed some election officials.

"This creates chaos and confusion in the polling site," said R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, an international association of election officials. But, he said, "most courts say it's permissible by state law and therefore can't be denied."

UPDATE 10/28/04

Ralph Neas of PFAW writes this (via Buzzflash):

Late Wednesday, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell issued a directive that, for the first time, will allow political parties to apportion partisan challengers by precinct instead of polling site, thereby greatly increasing the number of challengers at Ohio polling places.

For example, a polling place serving four precincts would normally have one challenger from each party. Blackwell’s directive will now allow four challengers at that location, one for each precinct served.

The deadline for registering partisan poll challengers passed on October 22nd. A New York Times story the following day revealed that the Republican Party registered 3,600 challengers, while the Democratic Party registered 2,000. Neither party is allowed to add challengers, but Blackwell’s directive will allow the parties to concentrate multiple challengers at polling places with multiple precincts.

People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas said:

“There is something terribly wrong here. The question must be asked: is the Ohio Secretary of State using his position for partisan advantage? What is the purpose for putting an unprecedented number of challengers at the polls and allowing them to be concentrated in precincts?

UPDATE 11/1/04

Reader radtimes sent in this Los Angeles Times article:

As two federal judges in Ohio prepared to rule on lawsuits contending that the state's procedure for challenging an individual's right to vote is unconstitutional, the Justice Department weighed in with an unusual letter brief supporting the statute.

Assistant Atty. Gen. R. Alexander Acosta sent a brief during the weekend to U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott, who held a rare Sunday night hearing in one of the cases, a lawsuit filed late last week by Donald and Marian Spencer. The Spencers, an elderly African American couple, are longtime civil rights activists in Cincinnati.

The Spencers' lawsuit contends that the Ohio procedure, which was enacted in 1886 and permits individuals to challenge the legitimacy of a voter at the polling place, is a vestige of "Jim Crow" laws and creates the possibility of disenfranchising a voter without due process of law.

Another lawsuit, pending in federal court in Akron, raises similar contentions. It was filed by two Akron residents, two residents of nearby communities and the Summit County Democratic Central Committee.

Ohio's Republican secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, is a defendant in each case, along with local election officials in the respective counties.

Acosta's letter urged the judge to heed the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which was passed in 2002 to help remedy some of the problems in the 2000 presidential election. In particular, the letter said HAVA permitted a voter whose "eligibility to vote is called into question" to cast a provisional ballot.

"We bring this provision to the court's attention because HAVA's provisional ballot requirement is relevant to the balance between ballot access and ballot integrity," Acosta wrote.

"Challenge statutes, such as those at issue in Ohio, are part of this balance," he added. "They are intended to allow citizens and election officials, who have information pertinent to the crucial determination of whether an individual possesses all of the necessary qualifiers to being able to vote, to place that information before the officials charged with making such determinations."

Acosta's letter also stated that "nothing" in the Voting Rights Act barred challenge statutes. Consequently, Acosta concluded, "a challenge statute permitting objections based on United States citizenship, residency, precinct residency, and legal voting age like those at issue here are not subject" to a challenge based on the language of the law alone, because those criteria are "not tied to race."

Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, a veteran civil rights lawyer who represents the plaintiffs in the Cincinnati case, said he thought "the letter was highly irregular."

"The Justice Department is not a party to the case. They have not filed a motion to intervene in the case or filed an amicus brief," Gerhardstein said.

"They volunteered information that goes beyond any federal interest. It's startling to say that challengers can bring information to [the official] poll watchers. That presumes they will bring in outside information. If you are a poll watcher, how are you going to evaluate that information on the spot?" Gerhardstein wondered.

Gerhardstein's lawsuit emphasizes that under Ohio law, a voter can be disqualified at a polling place.

Last week, Dlott held two days of hearings. On Friday, David Maume, a sociologist at the University of Cincinnati, testified that demographic data demonstrated that a disproportionate number of Republican challengers would be placed in precincts that were predominantly African American.

Maume told the judge that his analysis found that 77% of black voters in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is the largest city, could face a Republican challenger on election day, while only 25% of white voters could encounter a challenger.

Maume said there was "a clear correlation between a voting population that is black and the placement of Republican challengers."

Republican Party officials countered, submitting affidavits stating that the places where they planned to deploy challengers were not determined by race. Rather, they would place challengers at all precincts where then-Vice President Al Gore got 60% or more of the vote during the 2000 presidential election, said lawyer Michael Barrett, co-chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

Dlott adjourned the hearing Friday night and asked the parties to submit additional briefs by Sunday morning and present additional testimony at a Sunday night hearing.

At the hearing, Drew Hicks, a Cincinnati lawyer who has volunteered to serve as a Republican challenger and who attended a training session Sunday, was questioned sharply by Gerhardstein. Hicks said volunteers had been directed to lodge challenges against voters who were on a list of people who had applied for absentee ballots.

Hicks said volunteers also had been instructed to inform officials at the polls if names of voters were on a list of dead people given to volunteers by Republican officials. Hicks conceded he did not know the genesis of the list or whether it was accurate.

He also sent in this follow-up article:

Two federal judges on Monday barred political party representatives from challenging voters at polling places throughout Ohio, saying poll officials should handle disputes over voter eligibility.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott said plaintiffs in a lawsuit likely would be able to prove that Ohio's law allowing polling place challengers was unconstitutional.

The GOP appealed her ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and planned to appeal in the second case.

In that case, U.S. District Judge John Adams of Akron said poll workers are the ones to determine if voters are eligible.

"In light of these extraordinary circumstances, and the contentious nature of the imminent election, the court cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the substantial likelihood that significant harm will result not only to voters, but also to the voting process itself, if appointed challengers are permitted at the polls," Adams said.

Based on the two rulings, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's office told county election boards Monday to bar all challengers from polling places.

Via Atrios, here's an update from Make Ohio Blue:

A federal judge has barred vote challengers from Ohio polls.

A federal judge issued an order early Monday barring political party challengers from polling places throughout Ohio during Tuesday's election.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott found that the application of Ohio's statute allowing challengers at polling places is unconstitutional.

She said the presence of challengers inexperienced in the electoral process questioning voters about their eligibility would impede voting.

Dlott ruled on a lawsuit by a black Cincinnati couple who said Republican plans to deploy challengers to largely black precincts in Hamilton County was meant to intimidate and block black voters.

However, as larre at the Left Coaster points out the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that challengers should be allowed. 

Tonight, a majority of the Ohio Supreme Court, without opinion, summarily reversed an earlier trial court decision which had restricted the presence of partisan "challengers" inside actual polling places.

The net effect of this unexplained decision is to allow state Republicans to gang up multiple "challengers" inside single polling places.

Justices Resnick and Sweeney dissented, citing prior Ohio court precedent as well as the majority's flouting of long-accepted common law doctrine that "the court should not so readily grant extraordinary relief..." when the most directly affected parties -- voters whose franchise rights are to be tested -- "are not named parties and are effectively barred from opposing the emergency relief."

Democracy does not die. It simply loses its appeal.

UPDATE 11/2/04

Liquid List has an update on the 6th Circuit judges (via Josh Marshall):

Who are these two judges from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed challengers to hold up the voting process in minority-heavy Ohio counties this morning?

James Ryan - appointed by Ronald Reagan - notable for: dissenting in 2003 against 6th Circuit panel ruling that barred 10 Commandments from Kentucky courtrooms; wrote in his dissent "The influence of religion upon American law and government is a fact of American history and politics that has been widely recognized by scholars, jurists, legislators, presidents, and, not least, the founders themselves...In his Farewell Address to the nation, George Washington stated that religion was not only a part of the foundation of our law and government, it was a necessity."

John Rogers - appointed by George W. Bush - notable for: writing the initial draft of the 1986 Thornburgh brief that urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade (as well as to uphold requirements requiring abortion providers to give their clients information about abortion alternatives and requiring that a minor girl obtain the consent of her parents, or a judge, before obtaining an abortion)

Can we just call the courts partisan now? Enough with the robes and the religious overtones and the veneer of objectivity. That ideal broke down before it even started.

 

10/15/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 10/17/04
GOP operatives who resigned over vote fraud scandal in South Dakota recruited by GOP to run operations in Ohio

Via Buzzflash, here is a report from the Argus Leader:

South Dakota campaign official who resigned after questions arose over absentee-ballot applications will work in Ohio for the Bush-Cheney campaign, an internal Republican Party memo indicates.

Larry Russell, who was chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party's get-out-the-vote operation, resigned this week after questions were raised about the validity of some of the 1,400 absentee-ballot applications gathered, largely on college campuses, by the program Russell led.

Students on campuses in Brookings, Vermillion, Yankton and Spearfish have questioned the absentee-ballot application process, saying young men obtained their applications, but the notarization of the documents carried the signature of a woman.

The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation has been interviewing several people about the matter.

No charges have been filed as a result of the probe, which Attorney General Larry Long on Thursday would only say "is continuing."

When South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Randy Frederick announced the resignations of Russell and five others Monday evening, he said the state party has a "zero-tolerance policy."

But an internal Republican Party memo obtained by the Argus Leader said Russell would be going to Cleveland "to lead the ground operations" for President Bush and Vice President Cheney there.

Ohio is a swing state considered vital to a successful presidential victory.

Attempts to contact Bush-Cheney campaign officials in Cleveland were unsuccessful.

The memo was e-mailed to Republican staffers and officials Sunday evening by the state

party's Executive Director Jason Glodt. Three other GOP workers who resigned over the application fracas also will be involved in the Ohio campaign, according to the memo.

"Todd Schleckeway, Nathan Mertz and Eric Fahrendorf have also been recruited to Ohio to work with Larry on the President's campaign," the e-mail stated.

UPDATE 10/17/04:

Via annac1aire at Dailykos, here's an update on this from the Argus Leader:

• Three of the six state Republican Party workers who resigned late last week are now working as field coordinators for the Republican Party in Ohio, not for the Bush-Cheney campaign, according to Ohio officials.
...
Six people involved with the Victory operation lost their jobs late last week because of the questions about irregularities, including Hoff and Larry Russell, Victory's executive director.

Russell and two of the others who resigned - Nathan Mertz and Todd Schlekeway - are now working for the state Republican Party in Ohio, said Jason Mauk, Ohio Republican Party spokesman.

"They are not with Bush-Cheney. They are working for the party," Mauk said Friday. "Larry and the others are field coordinators for our voter turnout in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland). They work the phone banks, recruit and organize volunteer activities, but they are not working in a supervisory capacity."

Brendon Cull, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party campaign, said he was surprised that the former campaign workers were coming to Ohio.

"Clearly, these guys are bad enough actors that the GOP in South Dakota didn't want them, and I don't really think they belong in Ohio," Cull said. "Certainly, we hope they aren't up to anything nefarious."

 

10/13/04 [Permalink]
Democratic Party headquarters in Toledo, OH, burgled and campaign computers containing highly sensitive information stolen, while other valuables/electronics left untouched

Via reader PT, here's a very disturbing report from the Toledo Blade:

Thieves shattered a side window overnight at Lucas County Democratic headquarters in Toledo, stealing computers with sensitive campaign information and triggering concern of the local party's ability to deliver crucial votes on Nov. 2.

Among the data on the stolen computer of the party's office manager were: e-mails discussing campaign strategy, candidates' schedules, financial information, and phone numbers of party members, candidates, donors, and volunteers.

Also taken were computers belonging to Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak and to a Texas attorney working with the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign to ensure election security.

The thefts have prompted the Kerry/Edwards campaign and Democrats in Washington to offer help and have left local officials fretting about the crime's impact on the upcoming election, in which Ohio plays a high-profile role.

"This puts us behind the eight ball," party spokesman Jerry Chabler said. "This can affect our entire get-out-the-vote operation."

Ohio's Democratic Party pledged to deploy volunteers, lend computers, or "provide whatever source of assistance they need," said spokesman Dan Trevas.

The political importance of Lucas County cannot be overstated, Mr. Trevas said.

"It's a major Democratic county in a swing area, surrounded by Republican and moderates," Mr. Trevas said. "A lot of votes come out of northwest Ohio."

Both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry have campaigned throughout the region repeatedly. With a saturation of television ads by both parties in the local market, it has become one of the most contested regions in the country.

Barbara Koonce, the office manager, said information on her computer had not been backed up since August. "I try to do it at least once a month, but we've been so extremely busy here, it's not the first thing on our minds," she said.

Beyond the missing data, the break-in also might have lasting "collateral damage" because 25 to 50 volunteers come to the headquarters to make phone calls, send out campaign information, and "do the necessary grunt work," in any campaign, Mr. Chabler said.

Toledo police took fingerprints at the scene with the hopes, in part, that they may be identified or matched to unidentified prints at other crime scenes.

Neither Chief Mike Navarre nor other investigators would elaborate on the details of the case, although lead investigator Jim Dec confirmed, "We collected valuable physical evidence."

At Democratic headquarters, officials stopped short of publicly blaming partisan politics, but at the same time, they all but ruled out run-of-the-mill criminals.

Two other computers, holding less sensitive information, were untouched, as were a petty cash box that usually holds $80 to $100, televisions, portable radios, and other electronics. Moreover, other offices inside the building, 1817 Madison Ave., were not entered. Files, papers, and pamphlets remained in neat piles, and campaign signs leaned, apparently undisturbed, against a wall.

"They knew what they wanted," Mr. Chabler said, calling the incident a 'third-rate burglary,' " a not-so-subtle reference to the break-in at National Democratic Committee offices in 1972 that began the Watergate scandal that eventually led to the President Nixon's resignation.

 

10/12/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 10/31/04
GOP Dirty Tricks in Ohio

Lisa Chamberlain writes in Salon.com about GOP dirty tricks in Ohio. Highlights from the article are below, but let us see what the GOP Secretary of State in Ohio has already been up to in trying to neutralize the large number of new Democratic voters in the state:

(a)-(c) Voting rights suppression
- Demanding that new voter registrations be re-submitted (barely days before the deadline) using 80-pound stock paper - even though this triviality violates the Civil Rights Act [also see Dailykos for an update].
- Trying to suppress provisional ballots by saying that "provisional ballots should not be issued if voters are in the wrong polling location"
- Allowing 21 counties to wrongly inform ex-felons that they do not have a right to vote.

(d) Doing little to reduce error rates with punch card voting

Here are some snippets from Chamberlain's article [bold text is my emphasis]:

On Monday, the final day of voter registration in Ohio, the Board of Elections in Cleveland had a line out the door. "I've never seen anything like this in my life," said John Ryan, head of the Cleveland AFL-CIO. "We did a voter registration drive four years ago. We turned in 14,399 new registration forms, and we were pleased with that. This time, there are about 100,000 newly registered voters. That blows my mind. This is not Arizona with a growing population. People are leaving this area, not coming in."
...
With the registration deadline past, the focus for the numerous groups in Ohio that are working to mobilize voters has now shifted to making sure those voters get to the polls and, once they get there, are able to vote. Conventional wisdom has always held that the hard part is getting people signed up and to the polls. But with millions of dollars being spent by groups such as America Coming Together, MoveOn PAC, 21st Century Democrats and others on such efforts, a more important problem may be getting those votes counted -- a fear given definite shape thanks in no small part to Ohio's obstructionist Republican secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell.

While there had been a lot of hand-wringing among elected officials, voting rights groups and the public over electronic voting, Ohio passed a law in May requiring that all new machines have a paper receipt by 2006. This, of course, won't occur until after the 2004 presidential election, but the change has had a deterrent effect on a switch to electronic voting machines. According to Petee Talley, who is chairing the Ohio Voter Protection Coalition, made up of labor, civil rights, voting rights, retiree and community organizations: "Ninety-five percent of Ohio's voters will be voting on the same equipment they did the last time."

So, befitting the state's anachronistic Rust Belt economy, tactics have turned to good old-fashioned voter suppression and intimidation rather than high-tech tampering. In a recent campaign stop in Cleveland, Sen. John Kerry suggested that such intimidation was already underway. His comments came on the heels of Blackwell's backpedaling on his decision to enforce an archaic law requiring that all new registrations be on postcard-weight paper [more on this here and here]. But it seems Blackwell may have several more tricks up his sleeve.

"What's happening in Ohio," says Talley, "is that the secretary of state has issued a statement saying that provisional ballots should not be issued if voters are in the wrong polling location." With tens of thousands of newly registered voters, confusion about where to go is likely. Withholding provisional ballots -- which the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002 in the wake of the 2000 election debacle, specifically mentions as an alternative voting method when valid registration is in doubt -- will result in many people simply not voting.

We "sent a letter to the secretary of state saying that it's a violation of the Help America Vote Act," says Talley. Not getting an adequate response, the Ohio Voter Protection Coalition filed a lawsuit on Tuesday. The Ohio Democratic Party has already sued on this issue, and a judge is expected to issue a ruling on that suit by Oct. 15. [eRiposte: see update on this below]

Provisional ballots might seem like small potatoes in the scheme of things. But one professor at Case Western Reserve University -- site of the recent vice presidential debate in Cleveland -- has crunched some numbers and he's not at all convinced this issue is of little consequence.

Using data from the 2000 election, the professor, Norman Robbins, calculates conservatively that as many as 13,000 Clevelanders will have to use a provisional ballot as a result of clerical and other errors. The typical discard rate for provisional ballots means that nearly 2,300 of those will be invalidated. But this doesn't include all the people who show up at the wrong polling place and don't get a provisional ballot at all. Multiply this by the eight urban areas around Ohio and the potential for disenfranchisement is high. Considering that Al Gore lost Ohio by 165,000 votes and Ralph Nader (who will not be on the ballot) took 117,857 votes, it could impact the election not just in Ohio, but affect the outcome of the national race.

"Who does this provisional ruling affect most?" asks Robbins. "People who move. Census data shows that low-income people are 90 percent more likely to move. If you're poor, you're twice as likely to have to vote provisionally. On top of that, when they get a provisional ballot, they're likely to encounter [poll workers] who give them unclear information on a complex form. That's already difficult.

Note, as this Houston Chronicle article states, that "More than 100,000 provisional votes were cast [in Ohio] in the 2000 election.". 

Back to Chamberlain's article:

Ohio's secretary of state was also sued because 21 counties were wrongly informing ex-felons that they had no right to vote. According to Robbins, the secretary of state's office agreed to inform all ex-felons of their voting rights in time for the registration deadline, but then backed out based on a "distorted" interpretation of the law.

And then there is the specter of hanging chads if the race in Ohio is close enough to trigger a recount. Sixty-eight counties in Ohio (out of 88) will vote using punch card ballots. (In fact, it was little noted at the time, but Cleveland also had its very own butterfly ballot in 2000, and it was as poorly designed as Theresa LePore's in Palm Beach County, Fla.). Again using the 2000 election as a guidepost, Robbins says punch card ballots have nearly a 4 percent error rate. With some 300,000 voters in Cleveland, that's nearly 8,000 lost votes, factoring in the turnout rate. He is critical of Blackwell for doing very little to educate voters about how to use punch card machines, and points to Los Angeles as having undertaken a model educational campaign that greatly reduced the error rate.

"In 2002, the Federal Election Commission said that these error rates were unacceptable," says Robbins. Blackwell "knew the majority of counties would be using punch cards, and he'd done nothing to improve that situation until a week ago. What they're doing now is good, but it's very late in the day and he had to be badgered into it."

Blackwell has defended himself and his office by saying that these criticisms did not surface until recently. But Robbins says the voter coalition he's been working with sent letters to Blackwell on July 29 and again on Sept. 2, pointing out the problems and making suggestions.

Votelaw has more on the provisional ballot directive. 

Also, on the ex-felon voting issue, here's an update from Votelaw:

Advocates claim Ohio reneging on promise to notify released felons of right to vote

AP reports: Advocates who contend that Ohio elections officials haven't properly informed released felons about their right to vote said Thursday that the state has backed away from a promise that led to the settlement of a lawsuit.

State officials denied the claim by the Prison Reform Advocacy Center, which had filed the lawsuit in August in an effort to inform ex-convicts that they can register to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election. State spokesmen said Ohio had not made any commitment or reached any settlement of the lawsuit against Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and 21 county boards of election. ...

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction did not reach a settlement because it was not named as a defendant in the suit, department spokeswoman JoEllen Culp said.

But the Prison Reform Advocacy Center said it dismissed its lawsuit against Blackwell this month based on a promise by a lawyer who spoke for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The prisoners' advocacy organization released a court transcript in which a state attorney told a federal judge on Sept. 3 that the state prisons department could help by having parole officers give written notice to ex-convicts saying that state law allows them to vote after being released. -- Advocates: Ohio backing away from vow to tell released felons of voting rights (AP via Ohio News Now)

UPDATE 10/18/04:

Via reader CC, here's an update on the provisional ballot lawsuit in the Los Angeles Times:

TOLEDO, Ohio — A federal judge ruled Thursday that Ohio voters who showed up at the wrong polling place on election day could still cast ballots as long as they were in the county where they were registered.

U.S. District Judge James Carr blocked a directive from Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, who recently announced that poll workers must send voters to their correct precinct.

Blackwell filed an appeal.

The judge said voters who showed up at the wrong polling place after moving without notifying the elections board, and those whose names could not be found on the registration rolls, should be able to cast provisional ballots there.

Denying any voter the right to a provisional vote will erode confidence in the election and lessen the incentive to vote, the judge said.

"Lessened participation at the polls diminishes the vitality of our democracy," Carr said.

The decision is a victory for the Ohio Democratic Party and a coalition of labor and voter rights groups, which said Blackwell's order discriminated against the poor and minorities.

"We expect the secretary of state to issue a new set of guidelines that will allow voters to participate in the election process," state party Chairman Dennis White said.

Foes of the directive also argued that a federal law passed in 2002 allows voters to cast provisional ballots at any polling place in their home county.

Blackwell called Carr's decision a misinterpretation of the federal act.

"The law specifically leaves the issuing and counting of those ballots to states in accordance with state law," which requires that voters cast ballots at the correct polling place, Blackwell said.

Provisional ballots are not counted until after the election. They are set aside and inspected by Democratic and Republican election board employees to establish their validity.

Interestingly, Tim Russo at Ohio Countdown points this out:

Republican voter suppression is a national strategy. There has to be a memo somewhere to prove it.

Exhibit A. Jeb Bush's appearance on This Week with George Stephanopolous tipped the Republicans' hand on their national voter suppression strategy. Stephanopolous pressed Jeb on the impression that Florida's vote will be flawed, and in the classic Bush petulance we all know and hate, he alleged all sorts of things have been done to insure a fair vote. Including, (he said this almost under his breath) allowing "provisional voting for voters not on the list but in the right precinct."

It just so happens that Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has hung his voter suppression hat on exactly the same thing...allowing only provisional voting for voters who aren't on the list and can prove they live in the precinct covered by the polling place.

Most people don't know which House district they live in, let alone which precinct. New voters showing up and not being on the list (i.e. without having been sent a voter registration card confirming their polling place and precinct...a regular occurance) are highly unlikely to be turning up in their correct precicnt. Under Jeb's and Blackwell's strategy, they don't get to vote.

This strategy was struck down by a federal court in Toledo. Blackwell is appealling to federal circuit court.

Also, people forget....Ken Blackwell was the black face of Florida 2000. He was on the air constantly as the only black person willing to defend the inevitable march of electoral fraud in Florida in 2000. He is not some innocent attempting to enforce fair election law.

UPDATE 10/25/04:

Via reader radtimes, here's an article in the Washington Post with bad news for voting rights:

A federal appeals court ruled Saturday that the provisional ballots Ohio voters cast outside their precincts should not be counted, throwing out a lower-court decision that said such ballots are valid as long as they are cast in the correct county.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit supports an order issued by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Democrats contend that the Republican official's rules are too restrictive and allege that they are intended to suppress the vote.

Ohio Democrats late Saturday decided not to file an appeal in the case, one of the first major tests of how such ballots will be handled in a close election. Polls show that the race between President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry is too close to call in the key swing state.

Federal judges in several states have issued varying rulings on the issue of provisional ballots, which are intended to be backups for eligible voters whose names do not appear on the rolls. Saturday's ruling was the first time a federal appeals court has weighed in.

Jerome Armstrong at MyDD points out:

The political ramifications of Bush appointees are being felt now, look at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court, which hears appeals from federal cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The 6th started Bush's term with 16 judges, and six vacancies, two for Ohio-based judges and four for Michigan. Republicans had refused for the past 3 years of Clinton's term to make appointments to the 6th.

Bush has made 4 appointees to the 6th, ultra-wingers Jeffrey Sutton and Deborah Cook were appointed in 2003, giving the majority to Republican appointees.

Just last week, the 6th reversed the ruling that allowed a provisional vote to be counted, if the vote was was not made in the correct precinct within Ohio. And just yesterday, the 6th issued a stay on provisional votes being counted in Michigan if they were cast in the wrong precinct -- but in the right city, village or township.

The Republican Secretary of State officials, Terri Land of Michigan, and Ken Blackwell of Ohio, are in the act of manipulating a victory for Bush.  The followup to thier shenanigans is for precients to be changed on election day, in heavily Democratic areas, thus resulting in votes not being counted, even if they are made in the correct city, village, or township.

UPDATE 10/31/04

Also see this article (via What Really Happened).

UPDATE 11/15/04

Via reader CS, here's an extract from a piece in The Free Press:

  • Twenty GOP-dominated Ohio counties have given wrong information to former felons about their voter eligibility. In Hamilton County, home of Cincinnati and the Republican Taft family, officials told numerous former felons that a judge had to sign off before they could vote, which is blatantly false.
  • Franklin County, which normally cancels 2-300 registered voters a year for felony convictions, has sent at least 3,500 cancellation letters to both current felons and ex-felons whose convictions date back to 1998. The list includes numerous citizens who were charged with felonies but convicted only of misdemeanors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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