New Ohio evidence exposes apparently illegal 2004 recount activity by Hocking County's GOP Election Director, and a stinging complaint is filed in Cleveland
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
March 26, 2007
The Republican executive director of the Hocking County Board of Elections (BOE) may have written at least one memo outlining possibly illegal behavior during the scandal-ridden 2004 Ohio presidential recount. And an explosive five-count complaint has been filed by Ohio's new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, against two GOP directors in Cuyahoga County. It is built in part on evidence gleaned from the federal report issued by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) after the 2004 election, from stories broken at the Freepress.org website, and evidence gathered by grassroots voting rights activists in Cleveland.
After the 2004 election, the Green Party and Libertarian Party paid $113,620.00 for a recount of the state's presidential balloting.
Lisa Schwartze, the executive director of the Hocking County Board of Elections, supervised the recount in that county. On Friday morning, December 10, 2004 as the recount was about to commence there, a technician, Michael Barbian, Jr. from Triad Governmental Systems, Inc., called the Hocking County BOE and informed them he would be in that afternoon "to check out your tabulator [and] computer . . ." a court affidavit documents.
In a court filing by the National Voting Rights Institute contesting the legality of the recount, the following description is offered: ". . . Michael Barbian, Jr. appeared . . . asked for the identity of the precincts selected for the recount, and then proceeded to take apart the computer used for vote tabulation and reprogram it. While there, Mr. Barbian instructed the Hocking County Board of Elections on how to create a 'cheat sheet' to avoid a full hand recount of the votes cast there for president."
At a December 20 hearing conducted by the Hocking County BOE, Barbian was asked "You were just trying to help them so they wouldn't have to do a full recount of the county, to try to avoid that?" Barbian replied, "Right."
Hocking County BOE Deputy Director Sherole Eaton took Barbian's coat when he arrived on the recount day, and followed him to the room where the county's central computer tabulator was located. As she describes the events, "I had my back to him when he turned the computer on. He stated that the computer was not coming up. I did see some commands at the lower left hand of the screen but no menu. He said that the battery in the computer was dead and that the stored information was gone. He said that he could put a patch on it and fix it. My main concern was - what if this happened when we were ready to do the recount."
Barbian proceeded, according to Eaton, to take both the central tabulating computer and the spare "apart." Eaton stated, "He proceeded to take the computer apart and call his office to get information to input into our computer." He arrived at 12:30pm and by 3pm after dissembling both computers, he pronounced the computer ready for the recount. Barbian stayed for another two hours and asked which precinct was going to be recounted. "I told him Good Hope 1," Eaton later swore in an affidavit to U.S. Congressman John Conyers.
According to Eaton, Barbian remained until 5pm and, "He advised Lisa [Schwartze] and I how to post a �cheat sheet' on the wall so that only the Board members and staff would know about it and what the codes meant so the count would come out perfect and we wouldn't have to do a full hand recount of the county." Eaton swore in her affidavit that, "The realization that this company and staff would do anything to dishonor or disrupt the voting process is distressing to me and hard to believe."
Conyers on December 15, wrote to the FBI agent in charge, Kevin Brock and Hocking County Prosecutor Larry Beal pointing out that, "Triad is controlled by the Rapp family, and its founder Tod A. Rapp has been a consistent contributor to Republican causes. A Triad affiliate, Psephos Corporation, supplied the notorious butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County, Florida, in the 2000 presidential election."
Public records show that Rapp had given $500 to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in February 2004 as well as another $500 to the Republican National Committee that same month. At the time of the recount, Triad sold copies of the butterfly ballot, that had disenfranchised so many voters, as a "commemorative item" on its website.
Eaton was fired soon after swearing out her December 13 affidavit. She has since sued to get her job back. The Free Press has obtained a memo that Eaton claims is from Executive Director Schwartze. The memo is part of the evidence submitted in Eaton's court case, and the Hocking County BOE has never denied its authenticity. The memo refers (in all caps) to the handling of the computer tabulators by saying "MICHAEL FROM TRIAD HAS PROGRAMMED THE COMPUTER (FOR FREE), AND IS GIVING US ANOTHER RUN THROUGH."
Conyers raised the issue of election tampering in a December 21, 2004 letter to President Bush, among others, stating "Triad employees possibly accessed computers and tabulating machines before the recount and out of the presence of board members and witnesses in at least 41 counties. You have the right to have ballots secured until witnesses and board members are present." Conyers referenced Ohio Revised Code Section 3515.04.
Conyers also pointed out that: "You have the right to have the 3% randomly selected" and cited then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's directive 2004-58 issued on December 7, 2004.
Schwartze's memo goes on to indicate that, in direct contradiction to Ohio law, the BOE executive director approved the choice of a single precinct to recount not at random, but with deliberate predetermination. Referring to the choice of which precinct to re-examine, the memo notes that the law requires that 3% of the county's votes be re-counted, and then states that: "3% EQUALS TO 404 VOTES. I RECOMMEND THAT WE HAND COUNT GOOD HOPE 1 BECAUSE THEY HAVE 405 VOTERS."
If this memo was in fact written and issued by Schwartze, it constitutes a possible official order to commit an illegal act. The clear intent would have been to avoid hand-counting all the ballots cast in the county, which would have been mandated had the re-count in the test precinct come up at variance with the initial official results.