by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 8, 2006
The real winner in the November 7 election is the grassroots voter protection movement.
That the well-oiled, well-funded Rove/Bush theft machine lost control of the US House with the Senate as close as it is says just one thing: somebody was watching. In 2006, that would be thousands of volunteer grassroots activists who left no stone unturned to expose rigged voting machines, Jim Crow registration roadblocks, trashed provisional ballots, manipulated absentee voting processes, and much more.
A nationwide movement has been born to apply the lessons of the stolen elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004. In the lead-up to 2006, activists and independent experts scrutinized voting machines and electoral processes as never before. Mainstream media reports from the New York Times to CNN's Lou Dobbs to hundreds of radio talk shows finally paid attention to "glitches" and "problems" and "long lines" and "disputes" that just an election cycle ago were dismissed as "business as usual" or the stuff of conspiracy theory.
At least six major reports have now warned of the hackability of electronic voting machines. More than 90% of the American public has expressed concern about the sanctity of the US electoral system. At least two state governors have called for electronic voting machines to be discarded in favor of a return to paper ballots.
As we write, in Montana the fate of the U.S. Senate rests on a hand count after a software failure on voting machines in a few remaining precincts.
The impact? There is no way the 2006 election would not have been stolen without a concerted 50-state effort to guarantee otherwise.
In Ohio, an unprecedented project by five statewide Green, Libertarian and independent candidates dispersed scores of election observers throughout the state placing them inside key county boards of elections and precincts.
A classic case comes from central Ohio, "scene of the crime" for the 2004 election. In the 15th Congressional District, election protection attorney Cliff Arnebeck was initially turned away from voting due to lack of "proper I.D," even though he presented a valid Ohio driver's license and proof of his current address.
Arnebeck serves as lead attorney in the King Lincoln lawsuit that has won preservation of the Ohio 2004 ballots and a number of key victories regarding election protection. All around him, hundreds of voters were being wrongly forced to show various forms of personal identification. Election observers documented a staggering percent of voters who were being forced to cast provisional ballots. Provisionals are notoriously easy for GOP Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to pitch or now delete from the e-voting machines. More than 16,000 of them, mostly on paper, remain uncounted from 2004.
Clearly, this was set up to be a stolen cakewalk for incumbent Congresswoman Deborah Pryce (R-15th), fourth ranking House Republican and a close Bush ally.
Instead, Pryce's alleged margin of victory is now less than 4,000 votes. Rather than conceding, challenger Mary Jo Kilroy has vowed to fight it out until the last ballot is counted. A Democratic poll watcher at the Ohio Student Union at Ohio State University estimated that as many as 50% of the students may have been forced to vote provisional ballots. These student voters are in the heart of the undecided race in the 15th district, and early reports indicate there are 20-40,000 uncounted e-provisional voters in that race.
Around the country, races in at least eight states are still under extreme scrutiny. Lawsuits are being prepared, video tape reviewed, testimony collected, reports compiled. Numerous eyewitness accounts have been filed at firstname.lastname@example.org, with CommonCause and a wide range of other election protection web, phone and legal operations. Both Democrats and Republicans who might earlier have meekly conceded are now holding out until the very last vote is recounted.
This is new to American politics. In years gone by, elections have been stolen and the populace---and even candidates, like John Kerry in 2004---have shrugged their shoulders.
No more. Team Bush/Rove has taught the grassroots that our electoral process cannot be taken for granted.
One major, hopefully temporary, casualty in 2006 has been exit polling. Exit polls have become the most reliable overall monitor on election outcomes. The are regularly within 0.1% of the official vote count in Germany. In 2004, they showed clearly that John Kerry won Ohio and the national popular vote. They've been used to guarantee and even overturn dubious results in Ukraine, Mexico, ex-Soviet Georgia, the Philippines and more.
But in 2006 the major networks did their best to lock up exit polls results that might have embarrassed the White House. Instead, the exit poll results we re impounded under lock and key, to be released to the public only after the election, and after "experts" massage the data to make it match official vote counts. To this day, the core data from the 2004 exit polls has yet to be released to the public.
This cannot be allowed to stand. In the upcoming 2008 election, exit polls must be made fully public well before the final vote counts are announced. They must be funded to one percent accuracy or better, and their raw data must be a matter of open public record.
In the interim, the science of election protection will advance and spread. There is still no reliable way to monitor electronic voting machines, whose computer codes are still deemed private property, and held in secret. Before 2008, this practice must be abolished. As the Rev. Jesse Jackson has put it, there can be no public elections on privately controlled machines.
A return to paper ballots is the bottom line. The color-coded, multi-shaped Swiss sequencing ballots would work perfectly fine here in the U.S., and would save the nation billions of dollars, as well as the hard uncertainty that surrounds our electoral process.
But however we cut it, there has been a sea change in the election process.
As Americans, we have too long taken for granted the right to vote and have our votes counted.
Now we know we have to fight for that right. And that doing so has already helped turn the tide of American politics.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, just published by The New Press. Fitrakis and Wasserman are of counsel and a plaintiff in the King Lincoln lawsuit. Fitrakis was an independent candidate for governor of Ohio, endorsed by the Green Party. Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030, is available at www.solartopia.org. Read more of their work at http://freepress.org.