So, Did the GOP Steal the 2004 Election?
"And I'm very proud of the 50,000 poll workers and election officials who delivered a free and fair election." — Kenneth Blackwell, Republican Ohio Secretary of State during 2004 election.
"We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts..." — Congressman John Conyers' Investigation into the 2004 Ohio Election.
It sure seems simple enough. Everyone gets a ballot. Everyone fills out the ballot. Every ballot is securely stored and then counted. The results are tabulated and a winner is declared.
That's how it works in theory, with both major political parties providing observers and political pressure to ensure that neither side rigs an election, "loses" votes, counts votes for the wrong candidate, turns away valid voters, or in any way cheats the system.
Yet, in 2004, each and every one of those things happened — leading directly to the re-election of George W. Bush. Did the conduct of Ken Blackwell, who certainly did everything in his power to rig the election for Bush, flip the result for Bush? Did the systematic disenfranchisement of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of minority voters flip the election to Bush? Did Republican companies in charge of electronic ballots outright steal the election? Maybe.
"Maybe" is about as good an answer as we're going to get here. Despite a court order not to do so, Ohio destroyed its 2004 ballots. The electronic votes never had a paper trail, so we'll never know if Mark Connell's testimony would have implicated the GOP and GOP companies in a massive vote-rigging scandal. (Mark Connell died in a mysterious plane crash right before he could testify. Of course...)
And really, who wants to focus on an issue like vote fraud and outright stealing of a presidential election? It seems like the something destined for the realm of third-world banana republics and conspiracy websites. Hell, I've written one article on it and received some pretty impressive hate mail, wondering about my sanity, intelligence, and partisanship, among other things. I cannot imagine what Mark Crispin Miller and Bob Fitrakis, among others, have gone through in their pursuit of justice for the American people.
Many of the people who have reached out to me have done so with one thought: where is the proof? That's a good question. Where is the proof?
First, read the report put together by John Conyers' Congressional Committee, "What Went Wrong In Ohio: THE CONYERS REPORT ON THE 2004 PRESIDENT ELECTION". You can pick up a printed version on Amazon.com for about $15. Enterprising folks may find a bootleg PDF online.
The Conyers Report lays out a damning case, particularly in the context of minority voters and voters in Kerry-favored, Democratic precincts.
Among the key points are:
- Democratic (particularly minority) precincts received significantly fewer voting machines per voter than Republican ones, leading to long lines and potentially thousands of democratic voters who left without voting.
- Blackwell and the Ohio Republican Party changed the way provisional ballots are distributed, skewing results in their favor by, once again, eliminating thousands of Democratic and minority voters.
- The Republican Party almost exclusively challenged the votes of minority voters, a violation of almost every federal election law written since Abraham Lincoln. Targeting one minority for extra scrutiny is a violation of federal law.
- Machine malfunctions, machine irregularities, votes for one candidate counting for an opposing candidate — these all plagued the 2004 Ohio election. They also went significantly in favor of the GOP and Bush and worked against Kerry and the Democrats. (The Conyers Report lays out several cases of precincts where votes were clearly manufactured and others where they were clearly deleted; again, to the benefit of the GOP.)
- Exit polls showed Kerry not only won Ohio, but won fairly convincingly. While that isn't proof, it's pretty damning, considering the rest of the world uses exit polling to determine if an election is fraudulent or not. In other words, if what happened in Ohio had happened in Afghanistan, we would invalidate that election as fraudulent. In the USA? We call that candidate the winner, without any real investigation into the discrepancy until after the fact.
You can add to Conyers list the theory I covered last week,, which is that computer companies, run by GOP operatives (including Karl Rove's go-to IT guy) were set up to provide a man-in-the-middle attack against the electronic votes in Ohio. One company reportedly had enough access to allow itself to add or delete votes from either candidate's total, and no one would be the wiser.
This access explains how Kerry's exit polls vary so widely from his end results, and how Bush came to win a state he, under fair circumstances, should have lost.
Is this all proof enough? Maybe, maybe not. Democrats will say yes, Republicans will say no. And America will stay a place where elections are suspect, where voters are denied their right to vote, and where democracy slowly dies on the vine. Is that what we want? Is partisanship so important that we cannot even entertain the possibility that one or both of our political parties is gaming the voting system to steal, cheat, or hack their way to electoral victory?
Before you answer that question, know one thing: I voted for George Bush in 2004.
So, please, let's agree to focus on what matters around this story. Even if George Bush stole the election, without a confession (impossible, since the only man willing to testify mysteriously died in a plane crash), we'll never have a definite answer. The best we can do is a circumstantial case with circumstantial evidence.
In the context of 2011 America, it hardly matters whether John Kerry or George Bush won in 2004. Would Kerry have pursued different policies? Probably. Would the banking industry have still collapsed the economy? Maybe. We don't know and we never will. The variables and political calculations are too great to work out.
What matters, and what is of the utmost urgency, is identifying these frauds, abuses, and scandals, and fixing the system so they can never happen again.
In the coming weeks, I will research and bring to the readers of this site as much evidence as I can around the election system in this country. We'll find experts to help us all understand better the realities of an 18th century election system in a 21st century world.
We'll find other experts to offer solutions that can bring us all, as citizens, closer to a system that matches what is the fundamental essence of our existence: one person, one vote, counted fairly and tabulated legitimately.
You can reach the author by email firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @johndthorpe.
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