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Robert Kennedy: Did Bush Steal the 2004 election? Yes.

Via the tireless and effective Bradblog, Robert Kennedy, Jr., in Rolling Stone:

After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn't even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)

Go read this article now; it's evidence-based, well-written, well-reasoned, and completely convincing. I'll wait.

Here are the key points:

I. The Exit Polls
Puzzled by the discrepancies, [Steven] Freemen [of the University of Pennsylvania] laboriously examined the raw polling data released by Edison/Mitofsky in January 2005. ''I'm not even political -- I despise the Democrats,'' he says.

According to Mitofsky [who did the exit polls for the networks], Bush partisans were simply disinclined to talk to exit pollsters on November 2nd [explaining the discrepancy between the exit polls and the voting totals.]

Now, thanks to careful examination of Mitofsky's own data by Freeman and a team of eight researchers, we can say conclusively that the theory is dead wrong. In fact it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were more disinclined to answer pollsters' questions on Election Day. In Bush strongholds, Freeman and the other researchers found that fifty-six percent of voters completed the exit survey -- compared to only fifty-three percent in Kerry strongholds.(38) ''The data presented to support the claim not only fails to substantiate it,'' observes Freeman, ''but actually contradicts it.''

What's more, Freeman found, the greatest disparities between exit polls and the official vote count came in Republican strongholds. In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent -- a pattern that suggests Republican election officials stuffed the ballot box in Bush country.(39)

''When you look at the numbers, there is a tremendous amount of data that supports the supposition of election fraud,'' concludes Freeman.

II. The Partisan Official
[D]uring the 2004 election [Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell] used his official powers to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens in Democratic strongholds. In a ruling issued two weeks before the election, a federal judge rebuked Blackwell for seeking to ''accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''(51)

III. The Strike Force
To stem the tide of new registrations, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party attempted to knock tens of thousands of predominantly minority and urban voters off the rolls through illegal mailings known in electioneering jargon as ''caging.'' During the Eighties, after the GOP used such mailings to disenfranchise nearly 76,000 black voters in New Jersey and Louisiana, it was forced to sign two separate court orders agreeing to abstain from caging.(63) But during the summer of 2004, the GOP targeted minority voters in Ohio by zip code, sending registered letters to more than 200,000 newly registered voters(64) in sixty-five counties.

On October 29th, a federal judge found that the Republican Party had violated the court orders from the Eighties that barred it from caging. ''The return of mail does not implicate fraud,'' the court affirmed,(78) and the disenfranchisement effort illegally targeted ''precincts where minority voters predominate, interfering with and discouraging voters from voting in those districts.''(79) Nor were such caging efforts limited to Ohio: The GOP also targeted hundreds of thousands of urban voters in the battleground states of Florida,(80) Pennsylvania(81) and Wisconsin.(82)

This was no freelance operation. The Strike Force -- an offshoot of the Republican National Committee(85) -- was part of a team of more than 1,500 volunteers from Texas who were deployed to battleground states, usually in teams of ten.

V. Barriers to Registration
To further monkey-wrench the process he was bound by law to safeguard, Blackwell cited an arcane elections regulation to make it harder to register new voters. In a now-infamous decree, Blackwell announced on September 7th -- less than a month before the filing deadline -- that election officials would process registration forms only if they were printed on eighty-pound unwaxed white paper stock.

Under the threat of court action, Blackwell ultimately revoked his order on September 28th -- six days before the registration deadline.(94)

But by then, the damage was done.

Statewide, the [the nonpartisan Greater Cleveland Voter Coalition] study concludes, a total of 72,000 voters were disenfranchised through avoidable registration errors -- one percent of all voters in an election decided by barely two percent.(97)

V. ''The Wrong Pew''
In one of his most effective maneuvers, Blackwell prevented thousands of voters from receiving provisional ballots on Election Day. .... But it is possible to put a fairly precise number on those turned away by his most disastrous directive. Blackwell decided to toss out the ballots of anyone who showed up at the wrong precinct -- a move guaranteed to disenfranchise Democrats who live in urban areas crowded with multiple polling places. The decision left hundreds of thousands of voters in predominantly Democratic counties to navigate the state's bewildering array of 11,366 precincts, whose boundaries had been redrawn just prior to the election.(125) To further compound their confusion, the new precinct lines were misidentified on the secretary of state's own Web site, which was months out of date on Election Day. Instead, thanks to Blackwell's ruling, at least 10,000 provisional votes were tossed out after Election Day simply because citizens wound up in the wrong line.

VI. Long Lines
When Election Day dawned on November 2nd, tens of thousands of Ohio voters who had managed to overcome all the obstacles to registration erected by Blackwell discovered that it didn't matter whether they were properly listed on the voting rolls -- because long lines at their precincts prevented them from ever making it to the ballot box.

he long lines were not only foreseeable -- they were actually created by GOP efforts. Republicans in the state legislature, citing new electronic voting machines that were supposed to speed voting, authorized local election boards to reduce the number of precincts across Ohio. In most cases, the new machines never materialized -- but that didn't stop officials in twenty of the state's eighty-eight counties, all of them favorable to Democrats, from slashing the number of precincts by at least twenty percent.(136)

Republican officials also created long lines by failing to distribute enough voting machines to inner-city precincts.

According to an investigation by the Columbus Free Press, white Republican suburbanites, blessed with a surplus of machines, averaged waits of only twenty-two minutes; black urban Democrats averaged three hours and fifteen minutes.(149)

According to bipartisan estimates published in The Washington Post, as many as 15,000 voters in Columbus had already given up and gone home.

VII. Faulty Machines
Voters who managed to make it past the array of hurdles erected by Republican officials found themselves confronted by voting machines that didn't work.

In fact, some 95,000 ballots in Ohio recorded no vote for president at all -- most of them on punch-card machines. Even accounting for the tiny fraction of voters in each election who decide not to cast votes for president -- generally in the range of half a percent, according to Ohio State law professor and respected elections scholar Dan Tokaji -- that would mean that at least 66,000 votes were invalidated by faulty voting equipment.

VIII. Rural Counties
Despite the well-documented effort that prevented hundreds of thousands of voters in urban and minority precincts from casting ballots, the worst theft in Ohio may have quietly taken place in rural counties. An examination of election data suggests widespread fraud -- and even good old-fashioned stuffing of ballot boxes -- in twelve sparsely populated counties scattered across southern and western Ohio: Auglaize, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Darke, Highland, Mercer, Miami, Putnam, Shelby, Van Wert and Warren.

One key indicator of fraud is to look at counties where the presidential vote departs radically from other races on the ballot.

Take the case of Ellen Connally, a Democrat who lost her race for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. When the ballots were counted, Kerry should have drawn far more votes than Connally -- a liberal black judge who supports gay rights and campaigned on a shoestring budget. And that's exactly what happened statewide: Kerry tallied 667,000 more votes for president than Connally did for chief justice, outpolling her by a margin of thirty-two percent. Yet in these twelve off-the-radar counties, Connally somehow managed to outperform the best-funded Democrat in history, thumping Kerry by a grand total of 19,621 votes -- a margin of ten percent.

Kucinich, a veteran of elections in the state, puts it even more bluntly. ''Down-ticket candidates shouldn't outperform presidential candidates like that,'' he says. ''That just doesn't happen. The question is: Where did the votes for Kerry go?''

They certainly weren't invalidated by faulty voting equipment: a trifling one percent of presidential ballots in the twelve suspect counties were spoiled. The more likely explanation is that they were fraudulently shifted to Bush. Statewide, the president outpolled Thomas Moyer, the Republican judge who defeated Connally, by twenty-one percent. Yet in the twelve questionable counties, Bush's margin over Moyer was fifty percent -- a strong indication that the president's certified vote total was inflated. If Kerry had maintained his statewide margin over Connally in the twelve suspect counties, as he almost assuredly would have done in a clean election, he would have bested her by 81,260 ballots. That's a swing of 162,520 votes from Kerry to Bush -- more than enough to alter the outcome. (183)

''This is very strong evidence that the count is off in those counties,'' says Freeman, the poll analyst. ''By itself, without anything else, what happened in these twelve counties turns Ohio into a Kerry state. To me, this provides every indication of fraud.''

How might this fraud have been carried out?

Here I pause to pat myself on the back--I've beens creaming for years that the real vulnerability of these systems isn't at the precinct level, but at the central server level, the "single point of failure where the votes are tabulated. And lookee here:

In addition to altering individual ballots, evidence suggests that Republicans tampered with the software used to tabulate votes. In Auglaize County ... Two weeks before the election, an employee of ES&S, the company that manufactures the machines, was observed by a local election official making an unauthorized log-in to the central computer used to compile election results. (188) In Miami County, after 100 percent of precincts had already reported their official results, an additional 18,615 votes were inexplicably added to the final tally. The last-minute alteration awarded 12,000 of the votes to Bush, boosting his margin of victory in the county by nearly 6,000. (189)

The most transparently crooked incident took place in Warren County. Immediately after the polls closed on Election Day, GOP officials -- citing the FBI -- declared that the county was facing a terrorist threat that ranked ten on a scale of one to ten. The county administration building was hastily locked down, allowing election officials to tabulate the results without any reporters present.

In fact, there was no terrorist threat. The FBI declared that it had issued no such warning, and an investigation by The Cincinnati Enquirer unearthed e-mails showing that the Republican plan to declare a terrorist alert had been in the works for eight days prior to the election. Officials had even refined the plot down to the language they used on signs notifying the public of a lockdown. (When ROLLING STONE requested copies of the same e-mails from the county, officials responded that the documents have been destroyed.) (191)

The late-night secrecy in Warren County recalls a classic trick: Results are held back until it's determined how many votes the favored candidate needs to win, and the totals are then adjusted accordingly. When Warren County finally announced its official results -- one of the last counties in the state to do so (192) -- the results departed wildly from statewide patterns. John Kerry received 2,426 fewer votes for president than Ellen Connally, the poorly funded black judge, did for chief justice.

IX. Rigging the Recount
Under state law, county boards of election were required to randomly select three percent of their precincts and recount the ballots both by hand and by machine.

According to charges brought by a special prosecutor in April, election officials in Cleveland fraudulently and secretly pre-counted precincts by hand to identify ones that would match the machine count. They then used these pre-screened precincts to select the ''random'' sample of three percent used for the recount.

Voting machines were also tinkered with prior to the recount. In Hocking County, deputy elections director Sherole Eaton caught an employee of Triad -- which provided the software used to count punch-card ballots in nearly half of Ohio's counties (197) -- making unauthorized modifications to the tabulating computer before the recount. Eaton told the Conyers committee that the same employee also provided county officials with a ''cheat sheet'' so that ''the count would come out perfect and we wouldn't have to do a full hand-recount of the county.'' (198) After Eaton blew the whistle on the illegal tampering, she was fired.

The same Triad employee was dispatched to do the same work in at least five other counties.

And back to the central servers once again:

Even more troubling, in at least two counties, Fulton and Henry, Triad was able to connect to tabulating computers remotely via a dial-up connection, and reprogram them to recount only the presidential ballots. (203) If that kind of remote tabulator modification is possible for the purposes of the recount, it's no great leap to wonder if such modifications might have helped skew the original vote count.

And there I will stop for the evening.

Reading this has made me, quite literally, sick. My stomach is churning. Fuckheads.

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