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Monday, February 06, 2006

Part 5 of 5

The Forbidden Question: Did Bush Steal Ohio?
Late last year, I wrote the first four parts of a five part series centered around one question: Does democracy really still exist? I've reposted the series below and if you didn't check it out before, do it now.

I've hestitated writing this portion for some time because my beliefs in this area don't have the empirical support necessary to make the kinds of claims I'd like to make. This post is only intended to spark the kind of legitimate discussion that has mostly been forbidden. It starts with the bizarre Georgia elections of 2002, when polls showed Sen. Max Cleland winning re-election. Alan Waldman, a reporter for the Hartford Advocate, sums it up better than I can:

In November 2002, Georgia Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes led by 11 percent and Democratic Sen. Max Cleland was in front by 5 percent just before the election -- the first ever conducted entirely on touch-screen electronic machines, and counted entirely by company employees, rather than public officials -- but mysterious election-day swings of 16 percent and 12 percent defeated both these popular incumbents. In Minnesota, Democrat Walter Mondale (replacing highly regarded Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash), lost in an amazing last-minute 11 percent vote swing recorded on electronic machines.

The 2002 election just happened to be the first after the Help America Vote Act of 2002 -- an act designed to prevent the debacle of Election 2000 but ended up giving big money to Republican voting corporations to design electronic voting. E-voting lacks a verifiable paper trail, in most states anyways, and as such no recount is possible. Waldman explains the connections between the Republicans and the big voting corporations:

More than 35 Ohio counties used electronic voting machines from Diebold, whose CEO, Warren O´Dell, declared in 2003 that he was ¨committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to¨ President Bush in 2004. Up to 50,000 Diebold touch-screen machines and 20,000 scanners of paper ballots were used in 38 states during the November 2004 election.

The four major companies control the U.S. vote count are all hard-wired into the Bush campaign and power structure. The Bush government gave them millions to roll out computerized voting machines. Diebold chief O´Dell is a top Bush fundraiser. Diebold´s election division is headed by Bob Urosevich, whose brother Todd is a top exec at ¨rival¨ ES&S. The brothers were originally staked by Howard Ahmanson, bagman for the extremist Christian Reconstruction Movement, which advocates the theocratic takeover of American government. Sequoia is owned by a partner member of the Carlyle Group, which has dictated foreign policy in both Bush administrations and which employed former President Bush for quite a while.

Expert pollster John Zogby, a man who predicted Clinton's 1996 victory within 0.1% when all other pollsters erroneously showed a massive Clinton landslide, predicted on Election Day that Kerry would be elected the 44th President of the United States. Polls at the time showed Bush with a 1-2 percentage point lead, but the conventional wisdom was that Kerry would win because 1) polls tend to over represent Republicans and underrepresent Democrats because telephone polls conducted at night necessarily target a slightly more conservative audience than the American voting population (because poor people work at night and young people go out at night) and 2) undecided voters traditionally break for the challenger at the last minute. This is because you've had 4 years to decided whether you like the incumbent and if you aren't 100% behind him days before the election, that means you are leaning towards a change. Yet Bush defied the odds and scored another Presidential victory.

Another troubling factor in the 2004 election is that all the exit polls showed that Kerry would win Ohio. This was explained away under a bizarre theory that Bush voters were more reluctant to admit to exit pollsters they voted for Bush. Waldman notes that the exit polls were all wrong in the states that used electronic voting but were all right in the states that had a verifiable paper trail:

In 10 states where there were verifiable paper trails -- or no electronic machines -- the final results hardly differed from the initial exit polls. Exit polls and final counts in Missouri, Louisiana, Maine and Utah, for instance, varied by 1 percent or less. In non-paper-trail states, however, there were significant differences. Florida saw a shift from Kerry up 1 percent in the exit polls to Bush up 5 percent at evening´s end. In Ohio, Kerry went from +3 percent to -3 percent. Other big discrepancies in key states were: Minnesota (from +10 percent to +4 percent), New Mexico (+4 to -1), Nevada (+1 to -3), Wisconsin (+7 to +0.4), Colorado (-2 to -5), North Carolina (-4 to -13), Iowa (+1 to -1), New Hampshire (+14 to +1) and Pennsylvania (+8 to +2). Exit polls also had Kerry winning the national popular vote by 3 percent.

In close Senate races, changes between the exit poll results and the final tallies cost Democrats anticipated seats in Kentucky (a 13 percent swing to the GOP), Alaska (9 percent), North Carolina (9 percent), Florida, Oklahoma, South Dakota and possibly Pennsylvania -- as well as enough House seats to retake control of the chamber.

Republican consultant and Fox News regular Dick Morris wrote after the election, ¨Exit polls are almost never wrong. They eliminate the two major potential fallacies in survey research by correctly separating actual voters from those who pretend they will cast ballots and by substituting actual observation from guesswork. According to ABC-TV´s exit polls, Kerry was slated to win Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa -- all of which Bush ultimately carried.¨

There's one thing that I will claim cost Kerry the victory in Ohio: Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was also Bush's Ohio campaign mangager. Blackwell provided less election machines than in 2000 despite a massive increase in voting registration. (91% of the new registration were Democrats.) Everyone remembers the news reports showing people waiting in lines for hours to vote in Ohio. Strangely, rich white neighborhoods had plenty of voting machines while poorer black neighborhoods had waits of several hours to vote. This was no accident; the Republican party didn't want those people to vote.

I'm certainly not going to claim that Bush stole the 2004 election. I just don't have any hard evidence to make that claim. The point of this article today is that everyone must consider and debate the possibility that the Republican Party might be engaged in a criminal enterprise to undermine our democracy by rigging elections.

With the notable exception of Keith Olbermann, the corporate news media entertained no such suspicions that Bush stole Ohio. Part of this is a good thing -- the legitimacy of our government is key to keeping the peace in America. We can't be questioning elections without some real evidence to do so. On the other hand, this purposeful censorship could very well kill democracy if we know it. If we can't question a considerable body of evidence that indicates a stolen election, how would we ever catch those who would steal an election?

The day after election 2004, I was in shock and disbelief. felt utterly depressed all day pondering the horrors and evil that Bush would inflict upon this nation in the next four years. We've already seen those evils in the form of Bush's refusal to leave Iraq and stop young US troops from dying; from his appointment of two far-right extremists to the Supreme Court; to his illegal warrantless wiretaps that violate our Constitutional rights; to his anti-Robin Hood stance of cutting social programs for the poor in order to give bigger tax cuts to the rich. But after November 2 everyone else acted as if I were crazy when I suggested that the possibility remained that Bush stole Ohio. No legitimate debate ever took place because of this chilling factor. Well, I'm now going to be silent any longer. I have massive doubts about the legitimacy of Bush's re-election. Unfortunately, we'll never be able to prove what happened because our corporate media refused to do the kind of reporting we needed to do at that time.

Right now, election officials fear that 2006 may provide all sorts of voting problems. This is because 20% of the nation will be using new, mostly computerized, election equipment. Most of these lack a paper trail and involve technology in its infancy that is incredibly open to tampering.

I leave you all with this: our Democracy may very well have died a silent death. We all need to question authority and be ready to investigate any and all voter irregularities. What happened in 2002 and 2004 likely followed the Republican Party's behavior over the past half century of undermining democracy in favor of the results that they wanted.

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