Who Really Won?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Time To Destroy The Evidence

With paper ballots from the 2004 presidential election in Ohio scheduled to be destroyed next week, the secretary of state in Columbus, under pressure from critics, said yesterday that he would move to delay the destruction at least for several months.

Since the election, questions have been raised about how votes were tallied in Ohio, a battleground state that helped deliver the election to President Bush over Senator John Kerry.

The critics, including an independent candidate for governor and a team of statisticians and lawyers, say preliminary results from their ballot inspections show signs of more widespread irregularities than previously known.

The critics say the ballots should be saved pending an investigation. They also say the secretary of state’s proposal to delay the destruction does not go far enough, and they intend to sue to preserve the ballots.

In Florida in 2003, historians and lawyers persuaded state officials not to destroy the ballots in the 2000 presidential election, and those ballots are stored at the state archive.

Lawyers for J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state, said although he did not have the authority to preserve the ballots, Mr. Blackwell would issue an order in a day or two that delays the destruction and that reminds local elections officials that they have to consult the public records commissions in each county.

Federal law permits, but does not require, destroying paper ballots from federal elections 22 months after Election Day.

The critics say their sole interest in the question is to improve the voting system.

“This is not about Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush or who should be president,’’ said Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York group that is part of the lawsuit. “This is about figuring out what is not working in our election system and ensuring that every cast vote counts.

“There is a gap between the numbers provided in the local level records, which until recently no one has been allowed to see, and the official final tallies that were publicly released after this election, and we want to figure out why that gap is there.”

The planned action of Mr. Blackwell, a Republican who is running for governor, and the threatened suit could draw attention to possible irregularities in the election that he supervised.

The suit would follow what researchers call the first time anyone other than county and state officials in Ohio have been given such extensive access to the main material from the previous presidential election.

After eight months inspecting 35,000 ballots from 75 rural and urban precincts, the critics say that they have found many with signs of tampering and that in some precincts the number of voters differs significantly from the certified results.

In Miami County, in southwestern Ohio, official tallies in one precinct recorded about 550 votes. Ballots and signature books indicated that 450 people voted.

The investigation has not inspected all 5.6 million ballots in the election because the critics were not given access to them until January. That followed an agreement by the League of Women Voters, a plaintiff in another election suit against the state, that it was not contesting the 2004 results, Mr. Goodman said.

The new suit, to be filed in Federal District Court in Columbus, would be argued on civil rights grounds, saying the state deprived voters of equal treatment.

Last week, lawyers sent a legal notice to Mr. Blackwell notifying him that suit was pending and asking him to issue an administrative order directing the 88 county election boards to retain the 2004 records.

“The decision of who decides whether the records will be preserved is quite simply not the secretary’s to make,” said Robert A. Destro, a lawyer for the secretary of state’s office.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ohio and 5 More?

Problems with elections in Ohio's most populous county are so severe that it's unlikely they can be completely fixed by November, or even by the 2008 presidential election, a report commissioned by Cuyahoga County and released Tuesday says.

A nonprofit group hired to review the county's first election with new electronic voting machines found several problems with the May 2 primary, the results of which were delayed six days because roughly 18,000 absentee ballots had to be hand counted.

The absentee ballots had been improperly formatted for new optical scan voting machines. Poll workers also had problems operating the machines, some poll workers didn't show up, vote memory cards disappeared and one precinct opened hours late. Researchers also found that the four sources used to keep track of vote totals on machines did not always add up.

(From AP)

And Salon has a disheartening look at Ohio and five other states where more shenanigans look to be planned...

For the 2006 elections, with the control of the House and the Senate in the balance, Salon has selected six states with the most serious potential for vote suppression and the greatest potential for affecting the outcome of key races. In nearly every case, the voter-suppression techniques have been implemented since 2004 by Republican legislators or officials...