Exclusive Interview with Investigator Rady Ananda
Rady Ananda began blogging in 2004, finally settling in at OpEdNews where she now volunteers as a Senior Editor. She has actively pursued election integrity since 2004, and several pieces of her research and analysis appear in three books on Ohio’s 2004 election. She continues to promote equal rights for the LGBT community, while honing her skills as an essayist and investigative journalist.
So, Rady, how did you get started in election integrity?
The first thing about elections that made me go, “hmm?” was the December 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision halting the Florida recount and appointing GWB president. I was in school at the time, so I didn’t get involved until after graduating college. In 2004, I started reading online news sites – WantToKnow, the Freep, and BBV. That internal “hmm?” warning started to elevate.
But then I got caught up in the Democratic Party’s Get Out The Vote efforts in 2004. Anybody But Bush was the motto. I took a classmate to see John Kerry and Bruce Springsteen at the Ohio State campus. We were totally pumped. From Kerry’s lips to my ears, “We will count every vote!” I had much to learn about the difference between campaign promises and actual behavior. He conceded the election on Nov. 3rd, and refused to provide any funds to our recount efforts.
On November 2, 2004, I got another friend to work with me for the local Dem Party. We went into four different precincts in Columbus, Ohio. In three of those precincts, black working class neighborhoods, we collected the numbers of voters who had shown up by 11 AM and 4 PM, as directed by the Dems. But we also visited a white wealthy Republican precinct. The difference was stark: not enough machines in the black precincts, and the lines went out the door, into the rainy weather where voters waited two hours; while voters in the wealthy white precinct waited ten minutes to access one of many machines.
Later we learned that Franklin County Elections Director Matt Damschroder had withheld over a hundred machines, providing fewer machines to certain neighborhoods than were provided in the 2004 primary. Of course the turnout for the general election was twice that of the primary. I studied the public records that Bob Fitrakis acquired, and saw with my own eyes the deployment figures. No one got in trouble for this blatant disenfranchisement of a targeted class of voters.
That election – on machines that the EVEREST study later revealed were easily and undetectably hackable – also resulted in Ohio’s constitutionally mandated same-sex marriage ban. Several of us in the Q community railed at our gay leadership who lacked the foresight to attack the proposed amendment en masse. Where were the bumper stickers? The rallies? The OpEd pieces? What did they do with all the money we had donated? After the election, they provided 600 of us with a bright yellow sweatshirt, and changed the name of their organization. I even attended the follow up meetings to develop new leadership, but the same leaders were voted in, and in later emails, they told us their process was top-down. Yeah, that worked real well the last time, didn’t it? Disgusted, I walked away.
After Nov. 2nd, I mainly focused on elections. I read the various lawsuits and mainstream press articles about how funny those machines acted on Election Day: vote switching, 98% turnout, tampering with the recount, etc. One precinct (Gahanna 1B) showed that of 638 total votes cast, 4,258 of them were for Bush. I started keeping track, and eventually developed an EIR spreadsheet of all the election incident reports I could find in the public record. I submitted that spreadsheet to the Election Assistance Commission in 2005, and it’s been reproduced sans citations in the book, What Happened in Ohio: A documentary record of theft and fraud in the 2004 election, by Robert J. Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman, NY: New Press, 2006, at pp 116-123.
So I got tied into elections in three ways: shenanigans at the poll sites, shenanigans with the software, and an unconstitutional amendment discriminating against my tribe.
I know you’ve done a lot since 2004. What are some of the highlights?
(Laughing) Yeah, much has happened since 2004. In July 2005, Troy Semen, Jo Anne Karasek and I formed the first investigative team to photograph the 2004 ballots in Ohio. Over the next 13 months, I photographed thousands of ballots and led several teams into various counties. I burnt numerous copies of the digital records, to ensure the evidence was spread far and wide. This work appears in Richard Hayes Phillips’ book, Witness to a Crime: A citizens’ audit of an American election. That was amazing to work with so many people who care about democracy.
We plugged away at those photographs, often going into hostile counties, like Warren – which advised it received a Level Ten Terrorist Threat alert from the FBI on election night, so they “had to remove the ballots” to be counted in secret. Of course that was absolute hogwash, yet no one in Warren was ever indicted for this fraud that violated Ohio and local election laws.
We presciently suspected that our photographs would become the only extant record of those ballots. In September of 2006, despite a court order requiring preservation, 3/4 of all Ohio counties “lost” or destroyed the 2004 punch card ballots. No one’s been convicted of any wrongdoing.
After Kerry conceded on November 3rd, the Democratic Party crawled back into the woodwork and the Greens and Libertarians stepped up on behalf of all Ohio’s voters, organizing Ohio’s 2004 recount. I joined that 2004 recount effort, and observed two more recounts in 2006. But recounts of records that lack chain of custody; or that lack continual scrutiny by the public; or that are produced on undetectably mutable software are an exercise in futility. We have no rational basis for confidence in reported election results, or in recounts that fail Security 101 (provenance).
Two exciting legal opportunities arose in 2006. I provided legal support to two election cases that questioned the integrity of reported results: San Diego’s 50th Congressional District race between Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray; and Franklin (OH) County’s judicial race between Carole Squire and Chris Geer. For Squire, I organized and led a team of college graduates who audited the signature poll books, and I prepared a spreadsheet comparing our results to official numbers. I also testified on behalf of our findings.