Who Really Won?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Free Press: Blackwell Says Ohio "A National Model"

The Free Press writes in more detail about the Blackwell testimony.

Some snips:

Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell finally testified – something he had refused to do in the Moss v. Bush Ohio election challenge before the State Supreme Court and refused to do in Washington, D.C. His testimony proved so contentious that at one point Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, D-OH, told him to “haul butt” if he was unwilling to answer questions about irregularities in the 2004 election.

“Mr. Blackwell, there have been many allegations put out there – you don’t want to hear that,” Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald said. “But they are out there… you did have long lines, therefore there was a certain amount of disenfranchisement.”

Blackwell – who turned his back to Millender-McDonald when she spoke and was told by the congresswoman to face him and speak up – had answers for all the problems cited. The shortage of voting machines was in part the federal government’s fault, he said, as HAVA required new machines – but only provided limited funding to buy those new machines. Thus he said he was unable to replace old machines or buy new ones, adding – and this is notable in itself – that even the newest electronic voting machines had unacceptable security flaws.

In sum, the House Administration Committee field hearing is likely to be one of the few chances the public will have the opportunity to hear Blackwell questioned and challenged in a legal forum. When the committee last asked him to appear– while he was in Washington, D.C. – Blackwell did not show up. Similarly, Blackwell refused to be deposed during the 2004 election challenge lawsuit process.

Blackwell did not answer many of the questions that would have been asked had he appeared before the election challenge legal team, attorney Cliff Arnebeck said. For example, Blackwell did not answer questions about specific vote counts in counties – where the number of votes tabulated was bigger than the number of registered voters. Those figures, which were certified and used to calculate Bush’s victory margin, were pointed out in the election challenge suit. Since then, Blackwell’s office has ‘corrected’ the official vote count, another election challenge legal team member said.

But the biggest point made at the March 21 hearing was this: if you accept Blackwell’s assertion that his administration of the 2004 vote was a model for the nation to follow, then this example of ‘best practices’ shows why elections have to be run based on one federal standard. Otherwise, you get what Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-IL, says are “13,000 separate and unequal” voting jurisdictions across the country.

Election officials like Blackwell and his county election directors all want to retain the power to run elections - creating rules, imposing barriers or removing them - as they see fit. That power, coupled with what Blackwell said were “security issues” with the latest electronic voting machines, even those with paper trails, shows why elections in the country have a long way to go before they can be fully free and fair.