July 3, 2006
The Ohio media has imposed a near-complete wall of censorship against the Buckeye Green Party, even though it has now qualified for the statewide fall ballot. Though small in number, the Greens could prove decisive in the epic struggle for the governor's mansion, which in turn could determine the next president of the United States.
The governor's race here is particularly crucial because the Republican nominee is none other than J. Kenneth Blackwell. In 2004, Blackwell became the second Republican Secretary of State to administer a decisive statewide election while simultaneously serving as co-chair of that state's Bush-Cheney campaign. Katherine Harris did it first in Florida 2000, and was rewarded with a safe Congressional seat. She is now running for the U.S. Senate.
Blackwell hopes to cash in by grabbing the Ohio governor's mansion. It's a position from which he could play a decisive role in determining who will win in 2008. No Republican candidate has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. Only John Kennedy has done it for the Democrats.
The rule of thumb here is that "Ken Blackwell will never lose an election in which he is responsible for counting the votes," and this fall is widely expected to be no exception. Blackwell is fiercely authoritarian and notoriously short-tempered. His primary base of support is the state's network of extreme right-wing fundamentalist churches. His positions have included advocating the death penalty for performing abortions, and banning all abortions, even in cases of rape and imminent death of the mother. Blackwell also attempted to reward an unbid $100 million voting machine contract to Diebold while he owned stock in the company.
Blackwell's Democratic opponent is Ted Strickland, a mild-mannered Congressman from southern Ohio who is also a Methodist Minister. Strickland is running as a moderate, and currently leads in the polls.
The wild card is Green candidate Bob Fitrakis. Political scientist, journalist, author, attorney and publisher of the www.freepress.org web site, Fitrakis has been my co-author on a wide range of articles and books that first raised the issue of the theft of the 2004 election, and Blackwell's role in it. A professor of political science at Columbus State Community College, Fitrakis was one of four attorneys of record in a lawsuit filed against Blackwell demanding a recount on the 2004 election. Blackwell responded by getting Ohio's attorney-general to file for sanctions against Fitrakis et. al. The filing was thrown out by the Ohio Supreme Court after Ohio's Electoral College delegation gave the presidency to Bush.
Fitrakis and Blackwell are fierce personal combatants. Blackwell has referred to Fitrakis as "a complete idiot." Fitrakis has demanded that Blackwell be indicted for his actions in 2004 and 2005, when a statewide referendum outcome was electronically shifted.
Fitrakis and his running mate for Lieutenant-Governor, Anita Rios of Toledo, filed some 12,000 signatures on May 2. Only 5,000 valid signatures are required for ballot status. While filing the petitions, Fitrakis and other Green Party activists were threatened with arrest by security guards outside Blackwell's office.
Blackwell then let the petitions languish in a box on an office floor for over a month. But led by the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, the signatures were finally tallied and approved. Fitrakis and Rios had about 7,800 valid signatures certified. Fitrakis, Rios and the Green Party candidate for Secretary of State then held a press conference in downtown Columbus on Friday at noon. Not a single newspaper or radio/TV station came. Only two lines of type about the new ballot status appeared in the Columbus Dispatch.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, has featured Fitrakis's opinions on immigration and other issues alongside those of Blackwell, Strickland and the Libertarian Party candidate.
With full candidate's legal status, Fitrakis has vowed to litigate against the state's mis-use of electronic voting machines. Blackwell is also waging a legal war against voter registration campaigns, threatening signature gatherers with felony prosecutions related to minor infractions. County Boards of Elections have stripped nearly 500,000 voters---about 10% of the electorate---from registration rolls in Democratic strongholds since 2000. "The disenfranchisement of Ohio voters by the Republican Party has to stop," says Fitrakis.
Strickland and the Ohio Democratic Party have stayed mum about the theft of the 2004 election. Some Democrats have complained Fitrakis's candidacy might take votes from Strickland. But the Greens have vowed to focus on restoring democracy to a state which has become linked worldwide to the practice of stealing elections, and the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to do anything about it.
With Fitrakis now on the ballot, the issue will certainly be raised in the courts and on the internet, even if the mainstream media refuses to cover any of it.
Harvey Wasserman is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available via www.freepress.org, along with their SUPERPOWER OF PEACE.
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