Did the most powerful Republicans in America have the computer capacity, software skills and electronic infrastructure in place on Election Night 2004 to tamper with the Ohio results to ensure George W. Bush's re-election?
The answer appears to be yes. There is more than ample documentation to show that on Election Night 2004, Ohio's "official" Secretary of State website – which gave the world the presidential election results – was redirected from an Ohio government server to a group of servers that contain scores of Republican web sites, including the secret White House e-mail accounts that have emerged in the scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s firing of eight federal prosecutors.
Recent revelations have documented that the Republican National Committee (RNC) ran a secret White House e-mail system for Karl Rove and dozens of White House staffers. This high-tech system used to count and report the 2004 presidential vote– from server-hosting contracts, to software-writing services, to remote-access capability, to the actual server usage logs themselves – must be added to the growing congressional investigations.
The software created for the Ohio secretary of state’s Election Night 2004 website was created by GovTech Solutions, a firm co-founded by longtime GOP computing guru Mike Connell. He also redesigned the Bush campaign's website in 2000 and told "Inside Business" magazine in 1999, "I wouldn't be where I am today without the Bush campaign and the Bush family because the Bushes truly are about family and I’m loyal to my network."
Ohio's Cedarville University, a Christian school with 3,100 students, issued a press release on January 13, 2005 describing how faculty member Dr. Alan Dillman’s computing company Government Consulting Resources, Ltd, worked with these Republican-connected companies to tally the vote on Election Night 2004.
On Election Night 2004, the Republican Party not only controlled the vote-counting process in Ohio, the final presidential swing state, through a secretary of state who was a co-chair of the Bush campaign, but it also controlled the technology that allowed the tally of the vote in Ohio's 88 counties to be reported to the media and voters.
Privatizing elections and allowing known partisans to run a key presidential vote count is troubling enough. But the reason Congress must investigate these high-tech ties is there is abundant evidence that Republicans could have used this computing network to delay announcing the winner of Ohio's 2004 election while tinkering with the results.
Did Ohio Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell or other GOP operatives inflate the president's vote totals to secure George W. Bush's margin of victory? On Election Night 2004, many of the totals reported by the Secretary of State were based on local precinct results that were impossible. In Clyde, Ohio, a Republican haven, Bush won big after 131 percent voter turnout. In Republican Perry County, two precincts came in at 124 percent and 120 percent respectively. In Gahanna Ward 1, precinct B, Bush received 4,258 votes despite the fact that only 638 people voted for president. In Concord Southwest in Miami County, the certified election results proudly proclaimed at 679 out of 689 registered voters cast ballots, a 98.55 percent turnout. FreePress.org later found that only 547 voters had signed in.
These strange election results were routed by county election officials through Ohio's Secretary of State's office, through partisan IT providers and software, and the final results were hosted out of a computer based in Tennessee announcing the winner. The Cedarville University releases boasted the system "was running like a champ." It said, "The system kept running through the early morning hours as users from around the world looked to Ohio for their election results."
All the facts are not in, but enough is known to warrant a serious congressional inquiry. Beginning with a timeline on Election Night after a national media consortium exit poll predicted Democrat John Kerry would win Ohio, the first Ohio returns were from the state's Democratic urban strongholds, showing Kerry in the lead.
This was the case until shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 3, when for roughly 90 minutes the Ohio election results reported on the Secretary of State's website were frozen. Shortly before 2am EST election returns came in from a handful of the state's rural Republican enclaves, bumping Bush's numbers over the top.
It was known Bush would carry rural Ohio. But the vote totals from these last-to-report counties, where Karl Rove said there was an unprecedented late-hour evangelical vote giving the White House a moral mandate, were highly improbable and suggested vote count fraud to pad Bush’s numbers. Just how flimsy the reported GOP totals were was not known on Election Night and has not been examined by the national media. But an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff begun after Election Day 2004 and completed before the Electoral College met on Jan. 6, 2005, was first to publicly point to vote count fraud in rural Ohio.
That report, "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio," cited near-impossible vote totals, including 19,000 votes that were mysteriously added at the close of tallying the vote in Miami County. The report cited more than 3,000 apparently fraudulent voter registrations – all dating back to the same day in 1977 in Perry County. The report noted a homeland security emergency was declared in Warren County, prompting its ballots to be taken to a police-guarded unauthorized warehouse and counted away from public scrutiny, despite local media protests.
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