New Civilization News: The Great Ohio Rebellion Disintegrates    
 The Great Ohio Rebellion Disintegrates11 comments
picture22 Dec 2004 @ 13:43, by Richard Carlson

When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong.

---Oscar Wilde

Restless man's mind is,
So strongly shaken
In the grip of the senses:
Gross and grown hard
With stubborn desire
For what is worldly.
How shall I tame it?
Truly, I think
The wind is no wilder.

---Bhagavad Gita

What is the most miraculous of all miracles?
That I sit quietly by myself.

---Zen mondo

The photo's by Lauren Heaton: Recount 'em up---Ballot gazing in Cincinnati on December 15

The trouble with the American Left is the nature of our material. Our spirit of independence is easily corrupted by frustration, rage, and stubbornness. We are less reliable by far to carry a load and get the work done than any Democratic mule. When we're dropped we splinter. We love to make speeches full of demands and hurl charges empty of evidence. We're the stuff of impotence.

No wonder the media doesn't report us. No wonder it takes 2 hours to tour the Internet to find out what's going on. Everybody has his own little blog or group blaring out similar invectives. Where's a coalition, an alliance to get the job done? Who is doing painstaking research and organization? No wonder the rightwing message boards find us so hilarious. No wonder their insults hurt. No wonder all we do is squeal louder.

I had contented myself with a long winter's nap in preparation for Christmas Eve. I thought everybody was taking the week off maybe. I figured the courts must be adjourned for the holiday, and the only action was now left to the lawyers. The Recount is about over, and David Cobb's site looked pretty mild and moving to New Mexico next...even though there is concern the partisan Election Boards seemed to select what they wanted to recount and what they didn't. [link] But for some reason this morning I decided to tour the blogs and sites again. What I found is the little posting happening now involves fighting with each other. It's the American Left at its most dismal.

Keith Olbermann came out of vacation yesterday to put something up, because so many emails were yelling at him to tell us what's going on! His column, which has been a bastion of hope for those of us depending on Congress or lawyers or a political party of some kind to do something to save us from the coming 4-year madness, looks at everything we've got left and concludes there ain't much. Unless somebody comes up with a hard drive that proves the vote was fixed, Bush and his family have prevailed. [link] Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog promises a reply, but he's arguing and how can we expect leadership from a couple of journalists anyway? [link]

The summary that best reflects the situation, at least here in Ohio, showed up at The Village Voice yesterday. Rick Perlstein wrote it, and it's called "The Case Of The Ohio Recount." Mr. Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, and the chief national political correspondant for The Village Voice. Here it is~~~

In the whodunit over who won it, the true villain is slipping away: The Case of the Ohio Recount
by Rick Perlstein
December 21st, 2004 12:00 PM

The game is still afoot in Ohio. Taking advantage of a state law that allows presidential candidates to request an official recount if they finance it themselves, David Cobb of the Green Party and Michael Badnarik of the Libertarians raised $113,600 in mid November, largely from progressives nearly tapped out after the campaign. Last week, the part-time bureaucrats of Ohio's 88 county boards of elections started slogging through the results once more. Teams of progressive volunteers watching over the recounts began clocking 20-hour days.

Meanwhile there have been the emotional hearings, led by ranking House Judiciary Committee member John Conyers, in which Ohio secretary of state and Bush-Cheney campaign co-chair Ken Blackwell was raked over the coals in absentia for answers to 36 questions about specific Election Day irregularities that Conyers posed to him in a now famous December 2 letter. The 36 questions are masticated endlessly in forums on—new outrages added each day, thousands of embittered idealists consuming the better part of their time in search of that elusive needle-in-haystack data point that will prove outright theft of the election. One lawyer, Cliff Arnebeck, even thinks he's found it, and has filed suit with the aim of kicking George W. Bush out of office.

It's possible that their vindication will come, that what's already being referred to as the "vote fraud community"—the allusion is to the "JFK assassination research community"—won't disappear up its very own grassy knoll. But the charges producing the greatest heat online often turn out to have the most innocent explanations. The recount isn't amounting to much, either. Last week the Franklin County Board of Elections did discover one extra vote for Kerry—offset by the extra vote they found for Bush. The irregularities volunteers have pointed to in the recount process itself are often picayune.

In many Americans' minds, it's not too hard to imagine, this will all be received as further evidence of the activist left's irrelevance. Which would, in fact, be a tragedy. For elections in America are indeed broken, badly, and vulnerable to fraud. That fact is not politically neutral: The problems in America's election system have advantaged the Republicans, in significant and consistent ways.

If the Democrats had a Karl Rove—a cunning master strategist who thinks so far in advance that he wins new wars before the other side even wakes up to discover there's been a fight—setting up an election reform movement might be the first thing he would do. It just wouldn't look anything like the reform movement we have—so uncoordinated, strategically unsound, and prone to going off half-cocked that it may end up hurting the crucial cause it seeks to help.


The national elections may—--we can't prove it yet, but there's every indication--—be completely crooked," says Wayne Tack, an activist in Chicago. "And the consequence of that is, in the next election cycle, the Republicans have a filibuster-proof majority. The election cycle after that, a two-thirds majority in both houses, and the possibility of a two-thirds majority in two-thirds of the states. Then you can amend the Constitution every week." He adds, "Based on the lockdown thing, I would leave the country right now."

By "lockdown thing," he's referring to one of the vote fraud community's bêtes noires, and a useful index of its culture. On December 10, two California volunteers took upon themselves independent investigation of suspiciously low voter turnout in three precincts abutting a black college in rural Greene County, Ohio. When they asked to copy those precincts' signature books—ordinarily public records open to anyone who asks—the clerk called the Secretary of State's office. She was told that these records, for the time being, were "locked down."


Vote fraud activists tore through the statute books and alighted upon Ohio Revised Code Title XXXV, section 3503.26, which makes knowingly preventing or prohibiting the inspection of public records filed at a board of elections "a prima facie case of election fraud within the purview of such Title." Motive was surmised: What could be an easier way to hold down Kerry's totals in Ohio than to suppress the votes of one black island in an overwhelming sea of white?

Now, generally speaking, it is true that Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is a cad. His decisions in the runup to the election seemed tailor-made to smooth the way for Republican vote-suppression teams. But his office's answer to the "lockdown" charge just happens to make sense. During an official election count, says his spokesman Carlo LoParo, Ohio law sensibly allows for a period of heightened security in which such materials can be touched only in the presence of a bipartisan group of election officials. "What would these people be saying if officials from the Bush campaign were able to look at these documents?" LoParo asks in exasperation.

That hardly satisfied the volunteers. They returned to the same office the next morning and found it untended and unlocked. The Internet erupted in rumors that the documents were being surreptitiously doctored; the more elegant explanation, that some Barney Fife forgot to lock the door, wasn't even broached.

This clash of cultures, between bright-eyed defenders of democracy (an ingathering one of the Greene County volunteers breathlessly calls "divinely guided") and harried county clerks can make for epic misunderstandings. An entire county is only recounted if a preliminary sample of 3 percent shows anomalies. In little Hocking County, a visiting computer repairman from Triad Government Systems suggested dodging that tedious eventuality by hiding the original totals on a bulletin board. Word of the repairman's suggestion leaked out. Online forums exploded with conspiracy theories, though everyone actually present at the time insists the guy was joking. It wasn't funny to Representative Conyers, who called it "likely illegal election tampering" and demanded an FBI investigation.

That kind of overreaching may lead to embarrassments. Cliff Arnebeck is an Ohio-based lawyer convinced that it was John Kerry who won 51 percent there—only to be robbed, he says, by "a movement of some 65,000 votes or so that were cast for Kerry into the Bush column." His evidence relies on comparing the number of votes Kerry received in four conservative counties in southwest Ohio to the total won by an African American Supreme Court candidate, C. Ellen Connally. "It's a fix," says Arnebeck—after all, he reasons, who could have intended a vote for both George Bush and a liberal black woman?

You wonder if Arnebeck did his due diligence before making the claim. "Connally and I have talked about it. It's such a stretch," says Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. He reeled off three reasons southwestern Ohio turned against Connally's opponent, Thomas J. Moyer—most prominently the way the area had been ravaged by one of Moyer's most prominent decisions, on school-funding formulas. Arnebeck's response? "He's blowing smoke. Those three things are bullshit." He blames the Democrats' culture of timidity for their inability to get behind his suit. "If you get screwed this way, this is the last thing you want to admit: that you've let them get away with this stuff."


What's wrong with this picture? These people should be working together, not fighting each other. None seems to know what a coordinated, disciplined, long-term progressive strategy on election infrastructure would look like; certainly, no one seems to be working toward one.

Which is exactly what Karl Rove would be doing, if he were a progressive.

If the Ohio situation shows anything, it is how lazy, harried, dilettantish, variable, confusing, and sometimes even arbitrary election administration can be in the United States of America. "I don't think people understand how elections get reported on election night," says Jonathan Rosen, director of the New York Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "I mean, it's literally old blue-haired ladies who work once a year for a hundred bucks . . . yelling out the number to their husband with a hearing aid who's going to change the eight to a zero." The confusion advantages the more ruthless party, the Republicans: They are willing, as in Florida in 2000, to proclaim victory before all the votes have been counted—taking advantage of the American need for the election to be done with on election night—and to make those who protest sound like whiners, wreckers, or extremists.

Democrats in Westchester County have pointed toward a better way. They knew that the state senate race between Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Nick Spano was going to be close. Explains Rosen, "So we went to court for an impoundment order in this recount the day before the election, mainly in an effort to create a public psychological perception that, whatever unofficial results were reported on election night, we wanted to reserve the presumption that there was still a recount to be had." Thus their post-election strategy proved disciplined and tough. They've got a good chance to win.

But in Ohio, where Kerry is down by 119,000 votes, no one is talking about winning. Nationally, the progressive side is left with a clash of agendas and conspiracy theories and an emotionally draining recount thrown together, ad hoc, after Election Day, dazedly negotiating the confusion of a radically decentralized system in which every county courthouse seems to cherish its own confounded traditions.

As a strategy for election reform, a recount can only work if it produces a convincing record of abuse. That hasn't happened, and so neither has the necessary work of educating the public. "Nobody can say that there weren't long lines in Ohio. And nobody can say that there weren't more machines in the suburbs than there were in the inner city. There was not equal protection under the law," observes Frank Watkins, a longtime progressive activist and campaign manager for Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign. But the recount has achieved naught in publicizing these problems.

Republicans rely on such failures. If everyone in the country voted under the same rules of residency and eligibility, their votes counted the same way, using the same equipment, it would be a lot harder to hide needles in haystacks. Getting rid of the current flawed system, ultimately, has to be the long-term strategy—but it is hard to get good answers from recounters, lawsuit-filers, and hearing-holders about how that long-term strategy could come together.

There is a way, though it will take some heavy lifting—a lot of heavy lifting. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. has pointed out that Congress doesn't even have the power to establish a nationally uniform system of voting—everything in the Constitution concerning presidential elections is mediated through the states, which is why every state (and within every state, every county) runs elections its own way. He's proposed a constitutional amendment to right the wrong. Passing it is a daunting prospect, no doubt. But as strategy, it also has the makings of brilliance. Let the Republicans try to fight it. Put them on record as against the right to vote. Let them defend the process as it exists—where a figure like Blackwell can simultaneously be the captain of one of the teams and the game's chief referee.

Then Americans will know where the Republicans stand.

Standing behind Jackson's constitutional amendment would be a better application of progressive energies than the frenzied attempt every fourth December to chase down the horses after the barn door is closed. We should be working on political campaigns also—working on winning the next time around by wide enough margins to put the need for any kind of recount out of play. The Republicans lost a presidential election in 1992, remember. They didn't waste their time trying to take it back. They took back Congress, instead. We've got 22 more months to try to do that ourselves. It's December of 2004. Do you know who your congressional candidate for '06 is?

Rick Perlstein's vast array of articles and reviews online have been compiled into links by 2 bloggers, who must admire him greatly~~~

Scroll down an entry for that last one.
Good holiday to all, folks!

[< Back] [New Civilization News]



22 Dec 2004 @ 14:21 by spiritseek : MERRY CHRISTMAS
I wish for you and your family much love and health. If we but remember to take the chaos out of ourselves then the chaos becomes less in the outer.Become a beacon of loving light and that spark will ignite another.  

22 Dec 2004 @ 21:01 by ov : Thanks
Jazz I read your blog regularly to keep up to date on what is happening with this election scandal. Well, it would be a scandal if there was any journalistic integrity left in the US. A propaganda machine that is worse than anything the Soviets ever had, but at least the Soviets knew it was propaganda.

Everybody looking for a white knight riding a democrat jackass, everybody looking for the leader with the silver bullet that will take care of everything for them, perhaps the problem is in our dependency on the top of the pyramid. I'm not hearing much about how the problem is centralization and the political system you have down there is just another case of centralization in the extreme.

Then what about Bev Harris. Sounds like she cut a deal with Diebold for a small fine, no need to look at the code or their machine, and in launching her lawsuit it prevented anybody else from taking legal action. Moles and sellouts, who can you trust. That is the problem when it all boils down to having to trust the one person at the top. It doesn't matter who that one person is, the problem is in the system itself.

All this energy being wasted in duct taping together a peace of crap that has failed the experiment. Oh well, it is nice to have a few people that condense it all down so the rest of us don't have to spend too much time on it. Just because the results weren't what the originators had hoped for doesn't mean the experiment can be considered a failure as long as it is well documented. So yes the representative democracy is a piece of crap but if we can acknowledge that then it won't be a total failure.

Keep up the good work Jazz. Play out the hand that has been dealt. It is the only way.


Encouragements to me aside, what a brilliant comment Robert! And thank you too Spiritseeker. May the Polar Express come to your door tonight!

---Love, Richard  

23 Dec 2004 @ 00:27 by jmarc : introspection
is the first step in healing yourself, or your party. You could always join the republican party and change it from the inside. Just a thought. Taking advice from canadiens is just hilarious though, in my point of view. The fact that they are so fascinated with OUR system, and just know so much better than us? Cracks me up every time. I bet Kerry would of got that extra percentage point if it weren't for that whole, "world leaders want me to be president" comment.
Cheer up bucko. The pendulums still swinging, and it'll move back your way soon enough. Mark my words. I personally feel less constrained about complaining about Bush already. Always darkest before the dawn, jazz. Except in canada, where in some parts, its dark six months out of the year.  

23 Dec 2004 @ 00:28 by astrid : "The problem is
in the system itself." That's it ov! THAT is what I've been trying to make everybody to hear since my first day here on NCN. Same Game. Different Day. Different Players. That is how it's been for the last 5-6000 years; since the inception of the PATRIARCHAL SYSTEM.
But that's been possible -that IS possible- ONLY to the degree there's enough people to represent -or to buy into- that TRAIN of THOUGHT/ Consciousness!

The Shift really comes forth only in the same pace as one person and the next person and the next CHANGES from Within = accept to choose other PRIORITIES!!!
So, why is that --still-- so hard for people, one might ask. Money. People still are trapped in the money game!.... WHAT does the money stand for??? LAND --if ask me. People have to grow their/raise their FOOD/Cattle.
Sure, in today's INDULDGENT MATERIAL Lifestyle here in the US, people might think that they are (emotionally) too attached to The Good Life = all the Material GLITTER... And to some extent that is true.But only as long as "everything" hums the right tune!.... Send in a Blizzard, Earthquake Hurricane, Eruption ALL (Material Stuff)is lost....But THANK GOODNESS almost all people made it out alive! People searching for eachother finding eachother and giving sigh of relief!... or a Government-orchestrated TERRORIST ATTACK.... Now the material stuff doesn't mean a shit anymore, compared to the fact that thousands of people cant be found... They were too close to the Blast and were wiped out in a matter of seconds! Now we have a juxtapostion.
Is this what it takes again one or a few more times before enough Americans to wake up? Maybe.

We who know must continue to talk to our comatose friends, "slapp" them a few times an' see if they wake by one... Maybe. A few will. For those few we go on and on... And then one day Critical Mass is reached! Voila!
But it is very hard on the Planet and the not so Materially well situated Nations. They don't have info sources the way we do here. they don't have ANY money to begin with! ALL they have is the NATURAL Resources of their Lands!!!.... And THAT is what the BIG BOYS are robbing when not robbing the CASH from the Westeners!....
"Geeeeez'us" HOW can this be so hard for the Westeners to see and uinderstand and rememdy!???/ BUT once again we just have to walk one stp at the time onward and forward, envisioning nothing but Heaven on Earth. Be the cost whatever Mankind deems to be the Right Price!....  

23 Dec 2004 @ 06:55 by b : Hey Jazzo, where's that
James Carville when you need him. No pay, he don't play. The democrats demigogue stays out of Ohio. Four more years. Then you can get behind Hillary. But now, you ought to relax, pay down that low interest mortgage, plant some tomatoes in your green house. For the hard core, Bush hate will keep you warm all winter. Everybody ought to relax a bit. Nobody is attacking you at home. Long term food storage is a priority. Popular brands may disapear. Life is good in USA. Enjoy yourself. I hope that your health allows that Richard.  

23 Dec 2004 @ 11:31 by jazzolog : Thanks This Christmas Eve Eve
Yes B, there still is joy, even if health turns bad, or in the jaws of Death itself. O Sir JMarc, my love of Canada and its people---and a whole bunch of other countries on this spinning ball, besides the Home of the Brave---only grows stronger. Astrid, I would say the Money System, patriarchal or matriarchal, is based on labor rather than land. While property certainly implies ownership, its derivation is shared with propriety, which is about behavior and interaction with others. Figuring out a reward for the social value of one's work is the conundrum.  

23 Dec 2004 @ 14:21 by martha : "my love of Canada and its people-"
Hey we something in common Jazzy.

The social value of one's work is only what you perceive it to be, no one else. The reward is in walking your talk if that is what you seek. But why seek a reward? Isn't the process the reward jazzy? The election process in Ohio was ugly and so ugly is what you get (bush and cronies). The ugly election process in Ohio is only a reflection of the whole. Over half of the votes in America voted for Bubba Bush.

So while I agree it is good to keep digging in Ohio to get the system more equitable, the real work and reward is honoring yourself and enjoying the process.....

Merry Merry to you and your lovely family. We celebrate today before all the youngins run off tomorrow to the east coast or Malibu. Spendimg lots of quality time this week with Mikey and contrary to rumors, some 15 year old boys are quite nice (once you get a straight answer out of them).

There will always be more elections but one's loved ones are not here forever.  

23 Dec 2004 @ 16:09 by jazzolog : Is Olbermann Trying To Drive Me Crazy?
Thank you Martha, and gee wouldn't it be great to get our families together in celebration?

This Christmas Eve Eve it's a toss-up as to whether I'm over the brink or around the bend. During the last several hours the main sources for Jazzolog's political equilibrium on the Internet have posted new stuff or recapitulations that pretty much mandate this Election fracas is going to plow right through the holidays. Yesterday I thought the jig was up and the ballgame over. Olbermann sounded like Marley's Ghost as he said, "Look to see me no more"...and headed back into undisclosed location vacation. Apparently I was not the only one to moan at the tone of his essay on Tuesday. He headed for the telephone instead, and yesterday evening posted a new entry setting the record straight (or straighter) particularly on that "repairman" in Hocking County. Among those most upset with him was Brad Friedman who promised he'd take that column apart. The Brad Blog is getting more complicated to read all the time, but I recommend you take a look at his update today...and the material about Olbermann. Brad continues to push for more attention to the Clint Curtis story, and now has a sidebar devoted just to that aspect.

The Village Voice welcomes letters and comments but doesn't publish them immediately, so I don't know what reaction is out there to Rick Perlstein's piece which bummed me out totally...and which I sent out yesterday. My wife said it served me right for doing that before checking with her first, because she didn't buy all of it...especially about the repairman's little joke. We may see what a courtroom thinks about it. Attorney Ray Beckerman's entry today is enormous...and will get your fires burning again if they were flickering like mine yesterday. Especially interesting there is mention of a new video available for view online , which chronicles voter suppression on Election Day. Haven't looked at it yet, so somebody let me know how it is---somebody who isn't on dialup where it takes 10 hours to load 10 minutes of footage.

The bad news of the day is at Raw Story, where we learn that the major lawsuit we've all been waiting for in Ohio is tough sledding before the Chief Justice here. Called Moss vs. Bush, this is the case that Jesse Jackson has involved himself in, as did the Kerry campaign a couple of times. At the moment, with the Ohio Secretary of State's approval no doubt, Justice Moyer, whose own re-election would be drawn into limbo by the suit, is delaying it past the date when Congress is scheduled to certify the Presidential Election, and trying to dismiss it altogether. Hopefully the technical grounds upon which he has been operating throughout will draw fire from Kerry once again. (And thanks to the Dusty Brand Clothing Company that took a little of the chill off that webpage. :-) Sorry.) However the lead at Raw Story is about John Conyers and his continuing concern about Triad's involvement in the recount. He's written another letter to that company and this may amount to something.

Finally, it must be said that researching this stuff every day is dizzying...and there's probably no way to avoid it. We are in the midst of both investigative journalism and congressional activity at the very moment it is happening. All of this is due to and only possible because of the Internet. Television and radio couldn't get us this close, unless there were a hearing going on---and even then we wouldn't go behind the scenes the way blogs can. It's time-consuming I know, but I feel we're pioneers into a new aspect of free political activity. And nobody ever said freedom isn't exhausting.  

23 Dec 2004 @ 16:30 by martha : Tommy Jefferson quotes
to cheer you up Jazzy and maintain your resolve.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?

Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth


24 Dec 2004 @ 09:41 by jazzolog : Ohio Finally Makes The Times Big-Time
The New York Times
December 24, 2004

Voting Problems in Ohio Spur Call for Overhaul

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 22 - William Shambora, 53, is the kind of diligent voter who once assumed that his ballot always counted. He got a rude awakening this year.

Mr. Shambora, an economics professor at Ohio University, moved during the summer but failed to notify the Athens County Board of Elections until the day before the presidential election. An official told him to use a provisional ballot.

But under Ohio law, provisional ballots are valid only when cast from a voter's correct precinct. Mr. Shambora was given a ballot for the wrong precinct, a fact he did not learn until after the election. Two weeks later, the board discarded his vote, adding him to a list of more than 300 provisional ballots that were rejected in that heavily Democratic county.

"It seems like such a confused system," said Mr. Shambora, a John Kerry supporter who blames himself for the mistake. "Maybe if enough people's votes had counted, the election might have turned out differently."

From seven-hour lines that drove voters away to malfunctioning machines to poorly trained poll workers who directed people to the wrong polling places to uneven policies about the use of provisional ballots, Ohio has become this year's example for every ailment in the United States' electoral process.

With a state recount expected to be completed next week, few experts think the problems were enough to overturn President Bush's victory here. And many of the shortcomings have plagued elections for decades.

But with the 36-day Florida recount of 2000 proving that every vote counts and with the two major parties near parity, the electoral system is being scrutinized more closely than ever. Election lawyers and academics say Ohio is providing a roadmap to a second generation of issues about the way the nation votes.

Congressional passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 - which mandated the provisional ballot as a failsafe and provided states money to update voting technology - was considered a landmark overhaul that would help prevent another Florida.

But an array of voting rights groups contend that Ohio has underscored shortcomings in the law, including one of its centerpieces, the provisional ballot. Now those groups are pushing for a re-examination not only of the law, but also of other voting issues, including the role of partisan secretaries of state in overseeing elections, electronic voting and the elimination of the Electoral College.

"We're in an environment where people believe that even the tiniest number of votes can have a huge impact," said Doug Chapin, director of, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for voting information.

Ohio is emblematic of that attitude.

In the two weeks since Mr. Bush was certified the winner here by 118,000 votes out of 5.7 million cast, watchdog groups have filed lawsuits contesting the outcome and questioning the counting of provisional ballots. The state has nearly completed a recount, at the request of the Green and Independent Parties. Liberal Democrats have demanded investigations into whether there was voter fraud, tampering and intimidation in urban districts.

"This has fundamentally shocked people's sense of whether any election can be accurately counted," said Daniel Hoffheimer, counsel to Mr. Kerry's Ohio campaign.

It is far from clear that Republicans in Congress will have any appetite to revisit voting issues, and many Republicans here argue that the system suffered only minor glitches, even with high voter turnout. "There are no error-free elections," said Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican whom Democrats have accused of worsening the state's voting problems in the way he interpreted state law.

But Mr. Blackwell acknowledged that the election spotlighted the state's outdated voting system, with 68 of 88 counties still relying on punch cards. In an interview, he called for updating voting machines, and also for early voting, multiple-day voting and other changes that he said would shorten lines and encourage people to vote.

"I don't think it's wrong to have high expectations," he said.

Certainly there were problems on Election Day.

In Franklin County, a computing error initially awarded nearly 4,000 extra votes to President Bush. In Mahoning County, improperly calibrated touch screens resulted in an unknown number of votes incorrectly going to President Bush before the problem was caught.

And most recently, election challengers in various Ohio counties have said that the tabulators used to count punch cards may have been tampered with before the recount.

But experts in election law say little clear evidence of fraud has emerged. Democratic officials have joined Republicans in arguing that any conspiracy to deny Mr. Kerry votes would have required Democratic complicity, because each of Ohio's 88 county election boards has two Democrats and two Republicans.

Yet there were widespread problems, many of which point to defects in the election rules, experts say.

"I think the problems weren't sufficient to cast doubt on the results," said Edward B. Foley, director of the Election Law Program at Ohio State University's law school. "But I do think there were more problems than usual in Ohio."

Provisional ballots are a prime example. In 2002, Congress authorized using the ballots in federal elections for voters whose names do not appear on registration rolls. The ballots are sealed and held until after an election, so a voter's eligibility can be checked. Valid ballots are then counted, others discarded.

But Congress largely left it to the states to promulgate rules for provisional ballots, resulting in a hodgepodge of policies. In Ohio, Mr. Blackwell, who was co-chairman of Mr. Bush's state campaign, ruled that provisional ballots would be counted only when cast from a voter's proper precinct. (At least 26 other states followed the same practice.) Democrats challenged the ruling, but a federal court upheld Mr. Blackwell.

Rules for reviewing provisional ballots also vary widely within the state. Some counties checked voter registration records dating back several years to validate ballots; others searched only recent records. Cuyahoga County, a Democratic bastion that includes Cleveland, did not check older records, and its rejection rate for provisional ballots was about 35 percent. The state average was 23 percent.

Mr. Blackwell says that despite the complaints, Ohio had one of the country's highest acceptance rates for provisional ballots: 77 percent of its 155,000 provisional ballots were counted, the highest in a 16-state survey by Illinois and Pennsylvania, which went for Mr. Kerry, accepted only about half of their provisional ballots.

Perhaps the most visible of Ohio's problems were its long lines. Christopher McQuoid reached his polling place in Columbus at 4:30 p.m., congratulating himself for beating the after-work rush. By 7:30, he was getting impatient. And when he finally voted at 9:30, there were 150 people in line behind him.

"I was lucky," said Mr. McQuoid, a radio announcer. "I had the day off."

But how many people decided not to vote because of long lines, and was it enough to make a difference? No one has been able to say with authority. Much attention has focused on whether elections officials served one constituency better than another.

Among the 464 complaints about long lines in Ohio collected by the Election Protection Coalition, a loose alliance of voting rights advocates and legal organizations, nearly 400 came from Columbus and Cleveland, where a huge proportion of the state's Democratic voters live.

"It's possible that it made a difference in the outcome but unlikely," said Dan Tokaji, an assistant professor of law at Ohio State, where academics plan a voter survey to test whether large numbers were discouraged.

In Columbus, Franklin County election officials reduced the number of electronic voting machines assigned to downtown precincts and added them in the suburbs. They used a formula based not on the number of registered voters, but on past turnout in each precinct and on the number of so-called active voters - a smaller universe.

By contrast, the state's most populous county, Cuyahoga, allocated machines based on the total number of voters, a move that the county's election director, Michael Vu, said helped stave off even bigger lines.

In the Columbus area, the result was that suburban precincts that supported Mr. Bush tended to have more machines per registered voter than center-city precincts that supported Mr. Kerry - 4.6 machines per 1,000 voters in Mr. Bush's 50 strongest precincts, compared with 3.9 in Mr. Kerry's 50 best. Mr. McQuoid's precinct, a Kerry stronghold, lost one of the four machines it had in 2000, despite an increase in registration.

"Somebody came up with a very sophisticated plan for machine distribution which, either by accident or design, greatly enhanced the president," said Robert Fitrakis of Columbus, who is part of a group that has contested the election results in court.

Matthew Damschroder, a Republican who is the director of elections in Franklin County, said the urban precincts lost machines because many of their voters had not voted recently and because those precincts historically had had low turnout.

Indeed, election results show that a much higher suburban turnout on Nov. 2 meant that machines in Bush areas were more heavily used on average, although whether that was because their voters were less easily discouraged by long lines or simply more efficient in voting is unclear.

"Most of the precincts that stayed open late because of long lines were in the suburbs," said William Anthony Jr., a Democrat who is chairman of the Franklin County election board.

Another area of contention is the large number of ballots - 96,000 by recent counts - that registered no vote for president. Known as "residual" or "lost" votes, they involve cases where no candidate for president appeared to have been selected or where multiple candidates were chosen, rendering the ballot invalid for that race.

The problem was pronounced in minority areas, typically Kerry strongholds. In Cleveland ZIP codes where at least 85 percent of the population is black, precinct results show that one in 31 ballots registered no vote for president, more than twice the rate of largely white ZIP codes, where one in 75 registered no vote for president.

Experts say punch cards contributed to the problem, because the ballots, which require voters to punch a hole through a heavy-stock paper, are prone to partial perforations, or the buildup of chads. Election officials say that nearly 77,000 of the 96,000 residual ballots in Ohio were punch cards.

But Mr. Foley, the election expert at Ohio State, noted that some people consciously withhold their votes for president and that 77,000 residual punch cards is in keeping with failure rates for punch cards nationwide.

Mr. Blackwell said Ohio's residual votes actually declined this year from 2000. Of the 4.8 million votes cast in 2000, about 90,000 - 1.9 percent - registered no vote for president. This year, 96,000 of 5.7 million votes cast - 1.7 percent - did so.

Mr. Blackwell favors changing to a system that uses an optical scanner to read a paper ballot, which, he said, meets federal requirements, is less expensive than other machines and can handle more voters. But he said groups who say that just about every electronic voting system can be hacked are not helping things.

"There is still evidence out there that we need to transform the machinery," he said. "But it will be harder to do now."

When the recount is completed next week, no one expects the questions about the election to die, with several groups poised to challenge the recount.

"I think the majority of Democrats feel that the election was more or less accurate," said Dan Trevas, the spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. "But others are suspicious. Irregularities that are normally overlooked have become the focal point of attention this year. I just can't see those people walking away satisfied."

James Dao reported from Columbus for this article, Ford Fessenden from New York and Tom Zeller Jr. from Cleveland.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company  

24 Dec 2004 @ 12:24 by jazzolog : And The Brad Blog Comments
Brad Friedman was up late going to work on The Times' Ohio story. If you haven't yet made a visit to this vital blog, let me entice you to it by posting here his entire entry~~~

Blogged by Brad on 12/23/2004 @ 10:46pm PT...

NY Times Mentions 'Ohio' and 'Election' and 'Problems' in Article Again!
Second Time in 9 Days!
God Bless Us, Everyone!

Precisely seven weeks after Election Day 2004, and exactly one week after the Electoral College met to cast their votes, The New York Times has filed what, by my count, is their second serious article on Voting Irregularities in the 51 days since our last terribly flawed election.

Their first landmark effort was an article just last week by Tom Zeller, Jr. on which we also commented with our recognizably snarky, but always-lovable, demeanor.

Today's outting -- also inked by new BRAD BLOG best friend, Zeller (and others) -- finally puts the paper of record on record as admitting there were "Voting Problems in Ohio". They even go so far as to admit, "Certainly there were problems on Election Day."

Luke-warm, and a good nominee for the BRAD BLOG "Understatement of the Year Award", but for now, in the generous spirit of Christmas, we'll take it!

After a few quotes from an Ohioan who's (sic) vote failed to count this year because the provisional ballot he was given when his name didn't appear at the precinct to which he'd recently moved, was rejected because it wasn't dropped into the bucket at the precinct where he used to live, the Times piece mentions what they should have mentioned -- in spades -- on the morning of November 3rd:

"From seven-hour lines that drove voters away to malfunctioning machines to poorly trained poll workers who directed people to the wrong polling places to uneven policies about the use of provisional ballots, Ohio has become this year's example for every ailment in the United States' electoral process."

Dead-on sentiment. Wish they had joined the party earlier. But again, it's Christmas, so in the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior (well, not mine, I'm Jewish...but, hey, it's Christmas!) we'll turn the other cheek.

Back to The Times...

"[A]n array of voting rights groups contend that Ohio has underscored shortcomings in the law, including one of its centerpieces, the provisional ballot. Now those groups are pushing for a re-examination not only of the law, but also of other voting issues, including the role of partisan secretaries of state in overseeing elections, electronic voting and the elimination of the Electoral College."

Yes. We are. And some of us are not even a group at all! We're just Americans. And expect damn-well better than what we've now seen over the last two Presidential elections!

I hope that this isn't just a holiday diversion for The Times, but that they are seriously planning to continue to investigate and report on these issues.

The last few grafs, however, don't bode well...

"'There are no error-free elections,' said Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican whom Democrats have accused of worsening the state's voting problems in the way he interpreted state law.

"But Mr. Blackwell acknowledged that the election spotlighted the state's outdated voting system, with 68 of 88 counties still relying on punch cards. In an interview, he called for updating voting machines, and also for early voting, multiple-day voting and other changes that he said would shorten lines and encourage people to vote.

"'I don't think it's wrong to have high expectations,' he said."

(Okay...I'm fine...Back up off the floor now...)

We'll try to be brief, but where to begin?

1) Any reporter (and there were three that contributed to this short piece!) that mentions Blackwell in anyway -- much less in a way that actually paints him as someone who gives any kind of a damn about solving election problems in Ohio! -- and yet doesn't point out that he was also THE OHIO CO-CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE TO RELECT BUSH/CHENEY should have their Journalist License immediately and permanently revoked, and sentenced to a lifetime of writing 24/7 on a green blog for no money at all.

2) To quote Blackwell, without offering context, as caring in even the smallest way about shortening voting lines after he presided over an election in which thousands were disenfranchised and hundreds of thousands (almost exclusively in Democratic-dominated areas only) were forced to wait in the rain up to 7 or more hours precisely due to decisions that Blackwell himself instigated, oversaw, and approved, is again worthy of sentence to a lifetime of blogging and begging for donations via PayPal {link:} on Christmas Eve eve!

3) "Outdated punchards" aren't the problem, and if we've learned anything, it's the punchcards -- being recountable and all -- that remain the last vestige of verifiable confidence in a system that has finally lost almost all remaining credibility for millions of American voters. (See the previous article on recountable Washington state if you have any questions about that.) No, the problem was not the punchcards, the problem was BLACKWELL (and friends)!

4) Read items 1 through 3 again, memorize them, and give extra charitable Christmas Spirit emphasis to that PayPal link in #2.

But in that same charitable spirit, we'll thank the Times for covering the topic at all, and save our last slice of Christmas venom (read "cheer") for the Republican Party, about whom the Times story says...

"It is far from clear that Republicans in Congress will have any appetite to revisit voting issues, and many Republicans here argue that the system suffered only minor glitches, even with high voter turnout."

With all due respect to the "Republicans in Congress", I don't give much of a damn what they have an appetite for today. If we have anything to say about it -- and, as it turns out, we do! -- they will soon find themselves very hungry, very soon, for complete Election Reform overhaul.

Otherwise, by 2006, we hope they will have become as comfortable as we have with begging shamelessly for PayPal donations on a website, because they're gonna have to figure out a new way to make a living...and we hope that it won't be pretty.

God bless us, everyone.

(Thanks John of Crooks & Liars for the tip!)  

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