Ohio election protection activists have won a landmark court battle to preserve the ballots from 2004's disputed presidential election, and researchers studying those ballots continue to find new evidence that the election was, indeed, stolen. Among other things, large numbers of consecutive votes in different precincts for George W. Bush make it appear ever more likely that the real winner in 2004 should have been John Kerry. Meanwhile, indictments and prison terms are mounting among key players in that tainted contest.
In King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association et. al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, three community groups and five individuals have won a precedent-setting federal decision preserving the ballots from the 2004 election. By federal law those ballots could have been destroyed en masse September 3, twenty-two months after the November 2, 2004 balloting. Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell gave every indication that he would order the records to be destroyed as soon as he could. Admissions have already come from a few counties that illegally disposed of election-related materials well before the federal deadline. By law, all such documents were to be preserved, under lock and key, right up to the federal deadline.
While running the 2004 election, Blackwell served as the very active co-chair of Ohio's Bush-Cheney campaign. He is now the GOP nominee for governor, but is trailing substantially in all major polls behind Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland.
Blackwell was put on notice by Columbus Attorney Cliff Arnebeck and others who filed the King Lincoln suit contending illegal discrimination against black and young voters in 2004. The suit is based on widespread allegations involving mal-distribution of voting machines, dubious vote counts, race-based voter suppression and many other questionable occurrences before, during and after the 2004 balloting. The suit asked Judge Algernon Marbley of the federal district court in Columbus to order Blackwell to force Ohio's 88 county boards of elections (BOEs) to preserve ballots and other election-related materials so the full extent of the allegations could be proven.
Under intense public pressure, Blackwell claimed he lacked the power to force the BOEs to do that. Marbley responded by both ordering Blackwell to issue a blanket preservation edict, and by issuing a federal order to all Ohio's BOEs. The ballots are thus to be protected at least until after the conclusion of the lawsuit, which could take years.
Ironically, the ballots from the disputed Florida 2000 presidential election have already been preserved in a state facility at Tallahassee. In response to a petition drive spearheaded by historians and other academics, Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Glenda Hood have gathered the ballots from Florida's counties in a temperature controlled archive, with access guaranteed to future generations of citizens and researchers. (Hood succeeded Katherine Harris as Secretary of State. Like Blackwell, Harris administered her state's election while also serving as a Bush-Cheney campaign co-chair. She is now the GOP's Florida nominee for US Senate, and is also trailing badly in her race.)
A petition drive to establish a permanent repository for Ohio's 2004 election materials is being coordinated through the www.savetheballots.org web site. The campaign's final outcome will probably hinge on who wins the governorship and secretary of state's office in November.
As of now, Ohio's election records are stored in 88 county warehouses that range widely in quality and security. Some of the materials are vulnerable to rain and mold, and are sprawled haphazardly in cardboard boxes on dusty floors. Federal law requires all such records be kept under double lock and key, but many clearly are not. In at least one case, unmonitored maintenance workers have routine access to areas where ballots are stored.
County BOEs have been inconsistent in granting access. But thus far, independent researchers such as Dr. Richard Hayes Philips and Dr. Ron Baiman have looked at about 50,000 ballots under the auspices of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism. Some 5.6 million votes were cast in 2004, but at least 800,000 were cast electronically, with no paper trail. Bush's official margin was 118,775.
So far, even the limited inspection of ballots has yielded astonishing results. Three precincts in two counties have shown consecutive runs of Bush votes that qualify as "virtual statistical impossibilities."
* In Delaware County, Precinct Genoa I, researcher Stuart Wright viewed and recounted 3 separate bundles of ballots. In the second bundle, there were 274 consecutive ballots for Bush. In the third bundle there were 359 consecutive ballots for Bush. Genoa I was not one of the four precincts recounted as part of a required official recount, conducted on December 15, 2004.
* In Delaware County, BOE officials told Phillips that after the votes were cast on Election Day, ballots were unloaded by a team of teenage volunteers including the Boy Scouts who carried them into the BOE building where they were then given to a "mentally retarded man" who scraped the chads off the punch card ballots. Dr. Phillips estimates that the "mentally retarded man" would have had to scrape four or five ballots per second on election night in order to comply with the posting of the results at 12:40am for the nearly 80,000 ballots cast there.
* In Delaware County, Ross Township precinct, Philips has discovered that the BOE certified that 70% of the ballots cast for C. Ellen Connally, an African-American woman from Cleveland running for the Ohio Supreme Court, were also counted for Bush. The implausibility of this outcome in a white, Republican suburb is underscored by the fact that Connally trailed both Bush and Kerry very substantially throughout the rest of the state. Some 60% of the Township's ballots opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (which passed substantially) also were punched for Bush, an extremely implausible outcome widely branded as the "Gays for Bush" anomaly.
* In Butler County, Phillips found that in Monroe City precinct 4CA, Bush received 52 consecutive votes near the start of voting, and then another run of 212 consecutive votes.
* Also in Butler Country, in Ross Township Precinct 4JB, Philips found that Bush was awarded 547 votes to Kerry's 141 votes. In separate sequences, Bush received 41, 29 and 25 straight votes. Neither 4CA nor 4JB were involved in the recount.
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