How American |
Elections Became a Criminal Enterprise
In 2004, the first news about the presidential election was reassuring. Mainstream reporters, apparently sending their dispatches from lunar outposts, said the election had gone smoothly. Earth-dwellers experienced a very different reality. From coast to coast, came complaints of voter intimidation, erratic machines, and crazy numbers.
| The morning after the 2004 presidential election was eerily similar to the morning after the 2000 presidential election. All the well-founded predictions that George W. Bush would lose went out the window, and he was once again,
|| by some sleight-of-hand, installed in the office previously awarded to him by the Supreme Court. Something was seriously wrong. There were questions, not all of them from Democrats, but the American press ignored them. |
What Had Happened?
Dissenters, subjected to the usual "get over it" routine, had to go to the International Press Service for a hearing. Ralph Nader described radical Republican tactics to the IPS, "What they 'do' is minorities, and make sure that there aren't enough voting machines for the minority areas. They have to wait in line ... for hours, and most of them don't. There are all kinds of ways, and that's why I was quoted as saying, 'this election was hijacked from A to Z.'"
Harvey Wasserman, author and lecturer, told the International Press Service,
"As far as I'm concerned, this election was clearly stolen. What they did in Ohio was systematically deny thousands of African Americans, and other suspected Democrats, the vote.
"It was like Mississippi in the fifties, and it was deliberate ... had there been enough (voting) machines, and had people equal access to the polls with a reliable vote count, there is no doubt that John Kerry would have carried Ohio."
There was evidence to support Wasserman's claim, and then some. Not only were African-Americans often targeted, but many Democrats attempting to register were undermined by a peculiarly sinister program. A Republican consulting firm, Voters Outreach of America, is headed by Nathan Sproul, formerly head of the Arizona Republican Party and Arizona Christian Coalition. The Voters Outreach program, which conducted registration drives in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, was accused of ripping and discarding Democratic registrations. Former employee Eric Russell retrieved ballots from the trash and offered them to the FBI as evidence. Presumably, the FBI is still investigating.
Outright Vote Fraud
Critics in Oregon charged the same company with using the same tactics, but in Oregon the firm called itself America Votes, which is actually the name of a non-partisan organization. The Republican National Committee acknowledges that it hired Voters Outreach of America to register voters, stating that it had zero tolerance for any kind of fraud. No formal severing of ties to Sproul's Voters Outreach Program, though. (Two months after the election they were still paying Sproul.) No apologies to the thousands of people who were cheated of their right to vote and were unaware of their disenfranchisement until they arrived at their polling place.
Gradually, news about the not-so-smooth election seeped into the American press. The November 14, 2004 Cleveland Plain Dealer reported a voter hearing where, for three hours, voters offered sworn testimony about election day voter suppression and irregularities.
A Washington Post article (December 15, 2004) reported dissatisfaction across Ohio.
"The foul-ups appeared particularly acute in Democratic-leaning districts, according to interviews with voters, poll workers, election observers and election board and party officials, as well as an examination of precinct voting patterns in several cities.
In Cleveland, poll workers apparently gave faulty instructions to voters that led to the disqualification of thousands of provisional ballots and misdirected several hundred votes to third-party candidates. In Youngstown, 25 electronic machines transferred an unknown number of votes for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Bush column."
"In Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, and on college campuses, election officials allocated far too few voting machines to busy precincts, with the result that voters stood on line as long as 10 hours--many leaving without voting. Some longtime voters discovered their registrations had been purged."
The Post reported that there had been protest marches and demands for a recount.
"After the election, local political activists seeking a recount, analyzed how Franklin County officials distributed voting machines. They found that 27 of the 30 wards with the most machines per registered voter showed majorities for Bush. At the other end of the spectrum, 6 of the 7 wards with the fewest machines delivered large margins for Kerry."
In New Mexico, Hispanic voters were frequently given provisional ballots that never made the count.
In North Carolina, machine malfunctions occurred throughout the day. They doubled votes and subtracted votes. In Carteret County, over 4500 votes were irretrievably lost.
In Pennsylvania, inner-city voters and college students waited hours to vote. For them, there was a shortage of machines and even of ballots.
In New Jersey, the Newark Star-Ledger reported, "Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new voters at Rutgers University reluctantly filled out paper provisional ballots or walked away from the polls when their names could not be found at polling locations."
Many more instances of sleazy and sometimes fraudulent tactics could be cited, and unless Americans wake up, the whole nightmare scenario will repeat in 2006 and 2008. As Mark Crispin Miller declares in his book Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too,
"the Republican Party did whatever it could do, throughout the nation and the world, to cut the Kerry vote and pad the Bush vote. Some of the methods were exceedingly sophisticated, like the various cyber-scams pulled off in a tight complicity with Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, Triad and other corporate vendors of electoral infrastructure. Other methods were more bureaucratic: the disappearance of innumerable Democratic registration forms, countless absentee ballots and provisional ballots, as well as multitudes of would-be 'felonies' never committed or committed by somebody else, or for no given reason whatsoever.
"There were vast logistical inequities in state after state. Democratic precincts got far too few machines, and those machines kept breaking down, or turning Kerry votes into Bush votes, with long, long lines of would-be voters stuck for hours (or, as often happened, giving up and not voting); while pro-Bush precincts tended to have plenty of machines, all working well, so that voting there was quick and easy. And then there were old-fashioned dirty tricks meant to scare people into staying home, or to send them to the wrong address, or to get them out to vote a day too late. There was also outright bullying, intimidation and harassment--the oldest methods of mass disenfranchisement, just as obvious in 2004 as they were in Dixie after Reconstruction, only now such methods were used nationwide (and the U.S. federal government, in this case, was behind them)."
The preparations for chaos began before the election:
In April, 2005 Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler revealed that Election Systems and Software, known as ES&S, which sold Marion County, Florida its voting system, installed illegal software before the November 2004 election.
In the late hours of July 2, 2004, persons unknown entered the offices of an Akron consulting firm for the Democratic Party and stole only two computers containing campaign related information. In October, a similar burglary occurred in the Lucas County Democratic Headquarters in Toledo. Only three computers containing sensitive campaign information were selected from an array of appliances and a cash box.
In Franklin County, Ohio, the Republican Party paid expenses for a group calling themselves "the Mighty Texas Strike Force." They were tasked to intimidate Democratic voters by phone and in person. Bands of them harassed and threatened Democrats on Election Day." (Shades of the berserkers unleashed in Florida in 2000.)
Some swing state precincts (Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa) saw long lines of minority voters and college students waiting for scarce or malfunctioning machines. (There were only 3 machines per 1400 people at some locations in Ohio.) An estimated one-third of them dropped out of line without voting. On December 20, 2004, Scripps Howard News Service reported that a review of election results in a ten-county sampling revealed that more than 12,000 ballots failed to record a vote for president, almost one in every ten ballots cast.
In Warren County, Republican operatives said a Homeland Security alert forced them to shut down the vote count, which they then removed to an unapproved, unsecured warehouse to count in secret. The FBI denied that any alert had been issued. The official Warren County tally gave Bush a third of his winning margin in Ohio.
The most vehement voter complaints concerned the tendency of some machines to switch their vote from Kerry to Bush. In Ohio's Mahoning County, election officials confirm that at least eighteen machines visibly shifted votes from Kerry to Bush throughout the day. Some voters tried repeatedly to have the machine verify their vote for Kerry, without success. Voters from Franklin County declared under oath that their vote for Kerry faded away and could not be retrieved. County canvassers attributed these malfunctions to computer "glitches," but when a computer consistently favors one candidate, a pre-inserted program, not a glitch, is responsible.
The Center of Republican Vote Fraud: Ohio
To repeat: elections were anything but smooth in Ohio.
In their detailed and documented How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008, (published in 2005), Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman describe the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the 2004 Ohio election. "In the lead-up to the 2004 elections, numerous and independent non-governmental organizations requested permission from Ohio election officials to gain access to polling stations for routine observation and monitoring, as in Iraq and Ukraine.
"These requests were uniformly rejected. Without public explanation, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell [who simultaneously chaired the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio] refused all requests from non-partisan national and international organizations to establish impartial observation and monitoring procedures during the Ohio 2004 election.
"Co-author and El Salvador election observer Bob Fitrakis was personally present in a meeting in which Matt Damschroder, former chair of the Franklin County Republican Party and Director of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, denied international monitoring groups the right to observe the Ohio elections. Among other things, Damschroder warned that if they set foot within 100 feet of polling places in Franklin County, he would have them arrested.
"Throughout the rest of the world, such an edict would be viewed as an admission of intent to steal an election. The United Nations and other election protection organizations would see Ohio's actions as the core definition of renegade dictatorship. The Bush administration made it clear in Ukraine that such behavior would not be tolerated.
"With the denial of access to international monitors, Ohio's 2004 election would generally be considered a 'demonstration election,' a meaningless show for a repressive regime. By international standards, it had no more credibility in the eyes of history or the world than one in Castro's Cuba, the former Soviet Union or any of scores of dictatorships where elections, presidential and otherwise, are mere window dressings, with a predetermined outcome and an electorate deprived of its rights.
"After Ohio's election, in further violation of internationally accepted procedure, and of American election law, Blackwell ordered that all tally sheets and other crucial documents pertaining to the presidential vote be locked down. As we write, public access to those records is still being denied."
Despite press complacency and self-congratulations of election officials, the situation in Florida was rough, not smooth. Staffers of the emergency hotline for the Kerry Campaign Headquarters in Broward County from late October through the 2004 election took calls from voters whose complaints sound suspiciously like those of Ohio voters.
On November 7, 2004 they reported:
"Many of the calls to our hotline were from voters who had pressed the 'Kerry' button on their electronic voting screen, only to have 'Bush' light up as the candidate they had chosen. In some cases, this would happen repeatedly until about the 5th or 6th time the voter pressed 'Kerry' and eventually his name would light up. In other cases, the voters pushed 'Kerry' but were later asked to confirm their 'Bush' vote.
"We had calls about a road block, put up by the police at 7am on November 2, which blocked road access to two precinct locations in majority black districts. There was no justification for the road block -- no accident or crime scene or construction."
"We spoke with hundreds of voters who were certain they had registered to vote in the past 6 months, well before the October 18 deadline, but were not on the rolls. And those were just the people who had the information to contact us.
"The local paper, citing the Supervisor of Elections office as its source, told all people voting by absentee ballot that they could turn in ballots by hand to any of its seven offices by 5pm on Tuesday, November 2. Every single one of those offices except one was closed on Tuesday."
"All of these problems do not even take into account the 58,000 absentee ballots that had been 'lost' by the Supervisor of Elections, in perhaps the most Democratic county in the state, disenfranchising thousands of people who were disabled, out of the country, or elderly and unable get to the polls. These events, and many others, have been documented and also reported to lawyers, but we fear they will not get the attention they deserve. This is what we witnessed in just one county. We believe that these 'voting irregularities' raise serious concerns about the legitimacy of the results in Florida, and more broadly, about the health of democracy in this country."
A Repeat of the 2000 Florida Vote Fraud
Sam Parry, of was also disturbed by the Florida count.On November 9, 2004, he wrote:
"George W. Bush's vote tallies, especially in the key state of Florida, are so statistically stunning that they border on the unbelievable.
"While it's extraordinary for a candidate to get a vote total that exceeds his party's registration in any voting jurisdiction - because of non-voters - Bush racked up more votes than registered Republicans in 47 out of 67 counties in Florida. In 15 of those counties, his vote total more than doubled the number of registered Republicans and in four counties, Bush more than tripled the number.
"Statewide, Bush earned about 20,000 more votes than registered Republicans.
The exit polls show Bush winning about 14% of the Democratic votes statewide and losing
Independent voters to Kerry by a 57% to 41% margin."
So where did all those extra votes come from? Were the exit polls wrong? Did Democrats and Independents lie to the exit pollsters?
The Astounding Significance of the Exit Polls
Up until about 12:30 a.m. immediately following Election Day, all the standard polls showed that John Kerry would win the presidency by around one and a half million votes.
Consultants Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International had been hired to conduct exit polls for the National Election Pool, a consortium of the nation's five major broadcasters and the Associated Press. Edison/Mitofsky released the results of their large, nation-wide exit polls to their clients at 4 p.m. Election Day. Their data indicated that Kerry would win by 3%.
Exit pollers ask people emerging from the polling station how they actually voted. Before the tallying is complete, an exit poll sampling accurately indicates what the final vote count will be. Exit polls are so accurate that the variation between the final vote count and the sampling is plus or minus one tenth of one percent. To the consternation of Edison/Mitofsky, the discrepancy between the presidential exit polls and the final published vote tally was far beyond the margin for error, over two points. A two percent variation between exit polls and final tallies is simply mind-boggling to statisticians. Whenever such a variation occurs anywhere else in the world (say, Latin-America or Ukraine), election watchers immediately declare the vote count fraudulent.
When Edison/Mitofsky, the pollsters of record, and the other pollsters confronted the startling disparity, a strange thing happened. Rather than declare the vote tally corrupted, the other pollsters said it was their exit polls that were flawed, but refused to release their raw data for public inspection. Looking for some kind of pattern to explain the "failure" of the exit polls, the pollsters proposed that Bush supporters voted later in the day, after the exit poll results were in; that pollsters were unable to access some polling stations; that women voters were over-represented in the sampling; and that Kerry voters were more amenable to completing the poll questionnaire than Bush voters.
That last wistful rationalization sounds rather desperate, doesn't it.
To date, not a single one of these rationalizations is supported by any credible evidence.
A pattern does emerge from the first exit poll numbers, those released before the final vote tally was posted, those that were not "corrected for sampling errors". The pattern that emerges shows up in thirty-three of the fifty-one voting jurisdictions. In those thirty-three states, no matter who won, we find a big variation between six early exit polls and the final count. In every case, there is a 4% or 5% swing in Bush's favor in the final count. This swing shows up in all the close states, in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. With the exception of Wisconsin, discrepancies between exit polls and final vote counts all went in Bush's favor. (Exit polls showed Kerry winning by .4% in Wisconsin, which he did.)
In "The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy," A Research Report from the University of Pennsylvania (December 29, 2004), Dr. Steven F. Freeman says the discrepancy between exit poll and vote tally is an anomaly even if one considers only the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. "The likelihood of any two of these statistical anomalies occurring together is on the order of one-in-a-million. The odds against all three occurring together are 250 million to one."
In July 2005, the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute of Government and Public Affairs Professor Ron Baiman and eleven colleagues from other universities issued a disturbing in-depth statistical study of the exit poll and final tally variance. Their methods and conclusions have withstood intense scrutiny.
Here is the unvarnished truth about the 2004 election from Professor Baiman's report: "There have been several methods to estimate the probability that the national exit polls would be as different as they were from the national popular vote by random chance. These estimates range from one in 1,240 to one in 16.5 million. No matter how one calculates it, the discrepancy cannot be attributed to chance."
The executive summary concludes that, "the many anecdotal reports of voting irregularities create a context in which the possibility that the overall vote count was substantially corrupted must be taken seriously."
On November 5, 2004, Michael Keefer of Global Research approached the variance from another direction:
"One can surmise that instructions of two sorts were issued. The election-massagers working for Diebold, ES&S (Election Systems & Software) and the other suppliers of black-box voting machines may have been told to go easy on their manipulations of back-door 'Democrat-Delete' software: mere victory was what the Bush campaign wanted, not an implausible landslide. And the number crunchers at the National Election Pool may have been asked to fix up those awkward exit polls.
"But how do we know the fix was in? Because the exit poll data also included the total number of respondents. At 9:00 p.m. EST, this number was well over 13,000; by 1:36 a.m. EST on November 3 it had risen by less than 3 percent, to a final total of 13,531 respondents-but with a corresponding swing of 5 percent from Kerry to Bush in voters' reports of their choices. Given the increase in respondents, a swing of this size is a mathematical impossibility."
Steve Freeman and Josh Mitteldorf's article "A Corrupted Election: Despite What You May Have Heard, the Exit Polls Were Right" (February 15, 2005) concludes:
"The exit polls themselves are a strong indicator of a corrupted election. Moreover, the exit poll discrepancy must be interpreted in the context of more than 100,000 officially logged reports of irregularities during Election Day 2004. For many Americans, if not most, mass-scale fraud in a U.S. presidential election is an unthinkable possibility. But taken together, the allegations, the subsequently documented irregularities, systematic vulnerabilities, and implausible numbers suggest a coherent story of fraud and deceit."
GAO Confirms Voting Machine Risks
Immediately after Bush was proclaimed the winner of the 2004 election, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received more than 57,000 complaints of irregularities and outright fraud. Many of the complainants presented their testimony under oath as sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted by the Free Press and other voters' rights organizations. In Ohio and elsewhere, many of the complaints centered on the erratic performance of electronic voting machines.
Senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers, a strong supporter of voters' rights, asked the General Accountability Office to investigate electronic voting machines as used in the November 2, 2004 presidential election.
On October 20, 2005, the scrupulously nonpartisan Government Accountability Office released a 107-page report on the reliability and security of voting machines. Listed on the front page are the key findings of the report:GAO Report Results in Brief
"While electronic voting systems hold promise for a more accurate and efficient election process, numerous entities have raised concerns about their security and reliability, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete voting system standards, among other issues. For example, studies found (1) some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected; (2) it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate; and (3) vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system
software at the local level. It is important to note that many of the reported concerns were drawn from specific system makes and models or from a specific jurisdiction's election, and that there is a lack of consensus among election officials and other experts on the pervasiveness of the concerns. Nevertheless, some of these concerns were reported to have caused local problems in federal elections-resulting in the loss or miscount of votes-and therefore merit attention."
This document confirms our worst fears about voting machines. They are hackable, fragile, unreliable, and unworthy of our trust. There is more, much more, in the report. Problems looming on the horizon haven't even been addressed yet. One nightmare scenario: standards for federal and state voting machine certification could take years to formulate and might be unenforceable at the local level.
There is no longer any excuse for fatuous politicians to call election reform advocates conspiracy theorists. The evidence is in. Read it. Act on it. Take back our right to cast a straightforward vote and have it count.
Why should a functioning democracy allow private companies to conduct its elections?
The seemingly generous offer of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to purchase the machines for the states is only fairy gold.
The bill for care, maintenance, security, inspection, certification, and replacement will be paid by the states. For the manufacturers and purveyors, voting machines are a cash cow to be milked in perpetuity. The continual battle against partisan tricks will create whole cadres of computer police--who themselves will need to be policed. At any stage of the process, ballots can vanish without a trace, and, within limits, can be created without a trace. (Such limits include reporting more votes than there are voters in a precinct, a report that surfaced more than once in 2004.)
A machine with a paper trail is no better. Machines can be programmed to register a vote for
candidate X while issuing a paper receipt for candidate Y. Machines with paper rolls and printers are even worse, creating yet
another way for machines to malfunction.
2006 Election: the Republicans Botched Their Vote-Rigging
Long lines, power failures, voting machine crashes, false screen readings, questionable tallies,
inaccurate voter rolls, paper ballot shortages, voter identity problems, and voter intimidation occurred in the midterm election
On November 22 the New York Times reported, "Tens of thousands of voters, scattered across more
than 25 states, encountered serious problems at the polls, including failures in sophisticated new voting machines and confusion
over new identification rules.
Voting experts say it is impossible to say how many votes were not counted that should have
Despite the vigilance of 850 federal marshals and thousands of poll watchers, 40,000 voters
registered the same old complaints on hotlines provided by Common Cause and the Election Protection Coalition. Most of the
complaints came from Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Sound familiar?
Frustrated voters described the same outrageous machine vote flipping (Democratic votes registered
as Republican on the summary screen) that turned up in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and South Carolina,
according to Voters Unite.
The Virginia State Board of Elections vowed to investigate complaints of intimidation, threats, and
false information designed to suppress voting in black districts. And remember the butterfly ballot in Florida? On many ballots
in Democratic districts, Democrat Jim Webb's name was cut off or split on two pages. (Webb won the tight Virginia election,
With so much widespread cheating going on, how did the Democrats win?
The Election Defense Alliance (EDA) has the answer. Their careful analysis of national exit polls
revealed a 4% bias, 3 million votes, favoring Republicans.
Jonathan Simon, co-founder of EDA, announced,
"We see evidence of pervasive fraud, but apparently calibrated to political conditions existing before recent developments shifted the political landscape, so 'the fix' turned out not
to be sufficient for the actual circumstances."
"When you set out to rig an election, you want to do just enough to win. The greater the shift from expectations,
(from exit polling, pre-election polling, demographics) the greater the risk of exposure--of provoking investigation. What was
plenty to win on October 1 fell short on November 7."
Sally Castleman, National Chair of EDA, explained,
"The numbers tell us there absolutely was
hacking going on, just not enough to overcome the size of the actual turnout. The tide turned so much in the last few weeks before
the election. It looks for all the world that they'd already figured out the percentage they needed to rig, when the programming
of the vote rigging software was distributed weeks before the election, and it wasn't enough."
Here is a solution to our voting problems: Federally mandate a printed paper ballot in a standardized format. No more butterfly ballots. No more hanging chads. No more electronic willies. These pencil-marked ballots must be hand-counted in plain view of press and public. This is the way the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the Canadians and other civilized democracies vote. Civil servants count the ballots in the presence of representatives of all the political parties on the ballot. If the counting takes a week, no one is agitated. The results of the exit polls, never more than a tenth of a percent off, have already determined the winners.
Optical scanners will not be used to count the vote. They are susceptible to hacking, and if the count is challenged, they are always bypassed in favor of the slower but more accurate public hand count.
Civil servants can certify the custodial trail of paper ballots and can be held responsible for them.
Civil servants should register voters and maintain voter rolls. Every registering citizen will be issued a receipt or copy that will be recognized in the appropriate precinct. Secretaries of state and other partisan officials should have no role in the entire election process. They can be and have been bought, both in the initial vote and in the recount process.
Recounts will be conducted by civil servants in the same fashion as the general election.
Civil servants should maintain a bureau to process all provisional ballots and mailed ballots.
Election fraud should be a federal crime subject to severe penalties.
Call to Action
We, the people, must insist on reform. We can expect nothing of our corrupt and spineless political masters. To all appearances, the press is content to sleep through the apocalypse. Today, this very day, is the time for all of us who care about our repressed democracy to speak out, organize, and be heard above the din of propaganda and commerce. Work for reform by November.
Part one of this article
Updates and Links:
References: These books will guide you through the maze.
- Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too, by Mark Crispin Miller
- What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report On The 2004 Presidential Election, by Anita Miller, Gore Vidal (Introduction)
- Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?: Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count, by Steve Freeman & Joel Bleifuss
- Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election? by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld, Harvey Wasserman
- How the GOP Stole America's Election & Is Rigging 2008, by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman