by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
E-mails being sought from Karl Rove's computers, and recent revelations about critical electronic conflicts of interest, may be the smoking guns of Ohio's stolen 2004 election. A thorough recount of ballots and electronic files. preserved by a federal lawsuit, could tell the tale.
The major media has come to focus on a large batch of electronic communications which have disappeared from the server of the Republican National Committee, and from White House advisor Rove's computers. The attention stems from the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors by Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales.
Earlier that day, Rove and Bush flew into Columbus. Local election officials say they met with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in Columbus. Also apparently in attendance was Matt Damschroder, executive director of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections.
These four men, along with Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, were at the core of a multi-pronged strategy that gave Bush Ohio's twenty Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency. Bennett and Damschroder held key positions on election boards in the state's two most populous counties, with the biggest inner city concentrations of Democratic voters.
There were four key phases to the GOP's election theft strategy:
1. Prior to the election, the GOP focused on massive voter disenfranchisement, with a selective reduction of voter turnout in urban Democratic strongholds. Blackwell issued confusing and contradictory edicts on voter eligibility, registration requirements, and provisional ballots; on shifting precinct locations; on denial and misprinting of absentee ballots, and more. Among other things, election officials, including Bennett, stripped nearly 300,000 voters from registration rolls in heavily Democratic areas in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo.
2. On election day, the GOP focussed on voter intimidation, denial of voting rights to legally eligible ex-felons, denial of voting machines to inner city precincts, malfunctioning of those machines, destruction of provisional ballots and more.
In Franklin, Cuyahoga and other urban counties, huge lines left mostly African-American voters waiting in the rain for three hours and more. A Democratic Party survey shows more than 100,000 voters failed to vote due to these lines, which plagued heavily Democratic inner city precincts (but not Republican suburban ones) throughout the state. The survey shows another 50,000 ballots may have been discarded at the polling stations. In addition, to this day, more than 100,000 machine-rejected and provisional ballots remain uncounted. The official Bush margin of victory was less than 119,000 votes.
3. After the final tabulation of the votes, and the announcement that Bush had won, the GOP strategy focussed on subverting a statewide recount. A filing by the Green and Libertarian Parties required Ohio's 88 county boards of election to conduct random precinct samplings, to be followed by recounts where necessary.
A lawsuit was filed to delay the seating of Ohio's Electoral College delegation until after the recount was completed. Among other things, the plaintiffs sued to get access to Rove's laptop. But Blackwell rushed to certify the delegation before a recount could be completed. The issue became moot, and the suit was dropped. In retaliation, Blackwell tried to impose legal sanctions on the attorneys who filed it.
But two felony convictions have thus far resulted from what prosecutors have called the "rigging" of the recount in Cuyahoga County (where Bennett has been forced to resign his chairmanship of the board of elections). More are likely to follow.
The practices that led to these convictions were apparently repeated in many of Ohio's 88 counties. The order to violate the law---or at least tacit approval to do so---is almost certain to have come from Blackwell.
4. Ultimately, however, it is the GOP's computerized control of the vote count that may have been decisive. And here is where Rove's e-mails, and the wee hours of the morning after the election, are crucial.
Despite the massive disenfranchisement of Ohio Democrats, there is every indication John Kerry won Ohio 2004. Exit polls shown on national television at 12:20am gave Kerry a clear lead in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico. These "purple states" were Democratic blue late in the night, but, against virtually impossible odds, all turned Bush red by morning.
Along the way, Gahanna, Ohio's "loaves & fishes" vote count, showed 4,258 ballots for Bush in a precinct where just 638 people voted. Voting machines in Youngstown and Columbus lit up for Bush when Kerry's name was pushed. Rural Republican precincts registered more than 100% turnouts, while inner city Democratic ones went as low as 7%. Warren County declared a "Homeland Security" alert, removed the ballot count from public scrutiny, then recorded a huge, unlikely margin for Bush.