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Did the GOP steal another Ohio Election?

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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This time an outspoken Iraqi War vet named Paul Hackett led the charge for a Cincinnati-area Congressional seat, earning 48% of the vote. The spot was open because Bush appointed his pal Rep. Rob Portman to be a trade representative.

Hackett is a rarity among today's Democrats---a blunt, hard-driving truth talker who blasted Bush's attack on Iraq. Hackett labeled W. "a chicken hawk." He's the first Iraqi war vet to run for Congress. He made no bones about the incompetence and cynicism that define the GOP strategy there. In particular Hackett attacked Bush's attacks on veterans benefits while claiming patriotic support of the war.

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In return, GOP candidate Jean Schmidt lied about Hackett's war record. Unlike John Kerry, Hackett fought back immediately.

The Ohio GOP is now being thoroughly roasted by a Coingate scandal in which Republican high roller Tom Noe seems to have walked off with at least $4 million in state funds, and possibly $16.5 million in theft and unauthorized administrative charges from a $50 million rare coin investment fund. Noe is a Bush Pioneer/Ranger level donor, and a supporter of Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the point man in Bush's theft of Ohio's 20 electoral votes and thus the presidency last November.

As his friends and supporters flee him, Noe's role as long-time chair of the Lucas County (Toledo) Board of Elections has come under intense scrutiny. Noe turned the seat over to his wife, Bernadette, in time for a 2004 election rife with disenfranchisement and fraud. Long lines, computer breakdowns, intimidation, harassment and hacked vote counts were the defining characteristics of the election the Noe's administered in the Toledo area last November.

In one instance, an entire precinct was shut down because the voting machines were locked in the office of a school principal, who called in sick. Someone also placed the wrong type of ballot scan markers in heavily Democratic Toledo precincts, causing a high rate of uncounted, machine-rejected votes without the voters knowing it.

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Overall, experts estimate more than 7,000 votes were stolen outright from John Kerry under the Noe's supervision in Lucas County 2004.

Whether similar theft defeated Paul Hackett remains to be seen. Hackett ran extremely well in a district thoroughly gerrymandered as a permanent Republican safe seat. Democrats are now crowing about how well Hackett did in "serving notice" that the GOP may be in trouble. But the bottom line is that the Republicans still won the election.

As of 1 am this past Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Hackett was within 3600 votes---about four percent---of Schmidt.

But election officials announced a mysterious "computer glitch" that delayed reports from Clermont County, which accounted for roughly a quarter of all the ballots cast in the district.

When things finally settled out, Clermont gave Schmidt 58%, and a 5,000 vote margin there. And thus the election.

Earlier in the evening---around 9pm---Hackett and Schmidt had been in a virtual dead heat, according to sources in the Cincinnati area (see among them http://billmon.org/archives/002073.html ).

A full 88% of the district's precincts had then reported, including more than half those in Clermont. As in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, it looked like a cliffhanger. Schmidt's lead was less than 900 votes.

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Clermont's "technical malfunction" with optical scan readers was blamed on the humidity. Election officials said the southern Ohio summer had soaked into the ballots, making it hard to pass them through opti-scan machines.

Once the problem was "solved," Schmidt picked up more than enough votes to guarantee victory. The percentages by which she won in the post-glitch vote count were far higher than those by which she had been winning prior to the glitch. Vote counts were also higher than expected in the strongest Schmidt precincts.

Clermont and neighboring Butler and Warren Counties gave George W. Bush a margin in 2004 that exceeded his entire statewide margin over John Kerry. Warren County became infamous on election night, when its supervisors suddenly declared a "Homeland Emergency" and dismissed all media and Democrats from the vote count. Bush then emerged with a huge, unexpected and unmonitored majority.

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