High-Tech Jim Crow:
Stealing Ohio's Vote
by Michele Steinberg and Judy DeMarco
One day after Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry announced that he conceded the election to George W. Bush, there were at least 300,000 missing votes in Ohio, many of them in the heavily Democratic counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin, which had not been counted. George W. Bush was reportedly leading by only 136,483 votes at the time, and one day later, that lead was cut by about 3,800 votes—falsely recorded on a single machine in Franklin County, Ohio.
The report of this figure on missing votes was compiled by EIR from discussions with elected officials who had been at the polling sites on Nov. 2, from media reports, from discussions with voters and Ohio Board of Elections Offices, and, most important, from discussions with the youth organizers of Lyndon LaRouche's political action committee, LaRouche PAC. The LaRouche PAC organizers spent about six weeks in Ohio, campaigning for a Democratic victory by mobilizing young people, students, and the "forgotten men and women"—the unemployed and lower 80% of the income brackets in the United States.
What emerges is a shameful picture of voter discrimination, using telephone dirty tricks, forged leaflets and e-mails, and postal irregularities such as the non-receipt of absentee ballots requested by voters; and a voter suppression operation that suggests that voter registrations—a record number in Ohio—could have been lost or not processed as they were in other states. And, of course, there were the untraceable electronic voting machines.
It is a high-technology "Jim Crow" that puts the 2004 election on a par with the abuses of the pre-1965 Voting Rights Act discrimination against black voters. In Ohio, the major offenses have been documented against black voters, the poor, and first-time voters, including young people.
The Missing 300,000
There were more than 155,000 "provisional ballots," statewide; that is, ballots which were not counted after voters (sometimes after waiting 3-5 hours on election lines), found that their names were not on registration rolls. There were between 50,000 and 80,000 unaccounted-for absentee ballots; that is, ballots which were requested by voters, but which had not been returned to the election boards on Election Day. EIR had received reports from voters that the absentee ballots had never been received, or were received after the election. The Election Protection Coalition has made public its log of complaints from voters in Ohio.
But on Nov. 3, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, based in Cuyahoga County, a county that saw a landslide for John Kerry, revealed that statewide, there were also 92,672 "discarded" votes. Journalist Greg Palast wrote in a Nov. 4 article, "Kerry Won..." that:
"Once again, at the heart of the Ohio uncounted vote game, are, I'm sorry to report, hanging chads and pregnant chads.... The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called 'spoilage.'
"Ohio is one of the last states in America to still use the vote-spoiling punch-card machines. And the Secretary of State of Ohio, J. Kenneth Blackwell, wrote before the election, 'the possibility of close election with punch cards as the state's primary voting device invites a Florida-like calamity.' "
Palast emphasized, however, that "unlike last time [the Florida 2000 election], Democrats aren't even asking Ohio to count these cards with the not-quite-punched holes...."
Palast's observation, however, may change, now that organizations in Ohio are compiling the results centrally, and beginning to hold hearings and town meetings to both gather more information, and publicize the fraud.
On Oct. 26, Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter John Caniglia wrote that the Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections and the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants, along with seven residents of Cuyahoga County, had sued the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Federal court and claimed that the Election Board employees failed to enter new registrations onto the voter rolls, or to update changes sent in by voters, or to enter addresses correctly. The Board also failed to notify the applicants of any potential problems. The suit asked the Board to place the voters correctly on the rolls before the election. However, this was not resolved before Nov. 2.
It was well known that there was a massive voter registration drive going on, but apparently Blackwell's strategy was to drag his heels in processing these, adding to the confusion. On Oct. 5, the New York Times reported that the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections had already spent $200,000 on temporary workers to handle the new voter registrations, which the Times put at 230,000. But, ultimately, the Cuyahoga Board received 344,000 new voter registration forms this year, more than three times the number it had received for the 2000 election. Were these forms processed in time, or properly?
Some of Blackwell's dirty tricks, such as requiring 80-pound paper, were overruled by the courts, but others were fully in play.
In Cincinnati, some 150,000 voters were moved from active to inactive status within the last four years for not voting in the last two Federal elections. This is not required under Ohio law, but is an option allowed and exercised by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. These "unlikely" voters were the ones that were being targetted by the Democrats to "get out and vote."
Cutting Out the Absentee Ballots
On Nov. 5, around 2 p.m., a Federal judge granted a temporary restraining order in the case, White v. Blackwell, over the denial of provisional ballots to voters who had mistakenly not received absentee ballots, reports the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. Prior to 2 p.m., anyone who had not received their absentee ballot was simply not allowed to vote. The TRO ordered Blackwell to inform all election workers that voters who allege they have mistakenly not received an absentee ballot may vote by provisional ballot. However, earlier in the day, all such voters had been turned away, and there is no record of how many thousands that may have been.
Voting rights groups are investigating whether there was apparent tampering with absentee ballots in Ohio, as has been document in Florida. For example, a lawsuit in Florida, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, cited examples in Broward County, where the Board of Elections dropped off 2,500 absentee ballots to the Post Office on Saturday, Oct. 30; and Palm Beach County where 5,500 absentee ballots were dropped off the same day. The ACLU suit requested that all absentee ballots returned by Nov. 12 be counted.
However, in Ohio, ballots that were received after Nov. 2 are not being counted. A Board of Elections official in one county told EIR on Nov. 4, "Oh, yes, we received several absentee ballots in the mail today. They will not be counted." There are no exceptions, even if the postmark was long before Election Day. On Nov. 10, an Ohio voter reported to EIR that she had just received her absentee ballot the day before—that is, a week after the election.
Insufficient Election Machines
Another major question is whether there was deliberate withholding of election machines from areas of high turnout. In Cuyahoga County, LaRouche PAC activists reported on Election Day that by about 1 p.m., voters were beginning to turn away from crowded polls, where the wait was becoming hours long because of an insufficient number of machines. Democratic Party officials told LaRouche PAC that there were fewer voting machines in some precincts for the general election than there had been for the Democratic primary. They also reported that in more affluent areas of Cleveland and Cuyahoga, there were more machines than ever before.
On Nov. 5, the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain Dealer focussed in on Franklin County, which includes Columbus, the state capital. John Kerry won the County, not just the city of Columbus, by a wide margin.
But, polling places throughout the county (not only in the city, but also its suburbs) lacked enough machines, and the average machine logged nearly 200 votes (times 5 minutes per voter = 16-17 hours, but the polls were open only 13 hours, and long lines sent some people away). A Republican Party official was quoted saying that up to 2,000 voting machines were held back by the Republican-dominated Board of Elections, some of which were then distributed to affluent suburban areas; this report is still being investigated.
Prior to the election, both the Columbus Dispatch and WVKO radio documented that phone calls from people impersonating Board of Elections workers were made to registered voters in Ohio, directing them to different and incorrect polling sites. According to Bob Fitrakis, who worked on vote protection in Ohio, one individual was falsely told not to vote at the polling station across the street from his house, but at a "new" site, four miles away. Under Blackwell's new rules concerning provisional ballots, such a vote would not be counted.
But the biggest single case of such dirty tricks in Ohio was cited by Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on national television, Oct. 30. Pairing off with Republican National Committee head Ed Gillespie, on ABC's "This Week" talk show, McAuliffe said that 250,000 flyers falsely telling Ohio voters that their registrations were not valid had been distributed, especially to minority group voters. McAuliffe handed a copy to Gillespie on the air, but viewers were not given a chance to see it.
By McAuliffe's description, the leaflet was similar to the forged Board of Elections letter of Oct. 22, sent out on Lake County Board of Elections letterhead, that told voters that they were ineligible to vote on Election Day.