The Broken Contract Lies upon my Office Floor
Part 3 of Exclusive with Richard Hayes Phillips, Author of Witness to a Crime: A Citizens’ Audit of an American Election
This piece is about how close this book came to disappearing into a black hole. It got me thinking about just how much of what is really newsworthy never sees the light of day. Project Censored* has been documenting uncovered news for over three decades. Help make sure this story – the theft of the 2004 election - stays in the public eye.
“I'm pretty sure it was your interview I heard on an NPR broadcast some months ago,” she said. “I had to pull the car over and finish listening, stunned and repulsed. This is a fascinating and horrifying story and one that certainly needs to be told.”
The National Public Radio broadcast had occurred on Morning Edition on September 1, 2006, the day after we filed in federal court to protect the ballots from destruction. The subject at hand was pre-punched ballots. We had photographs of nearly 2000 ballots from six counties with punches for more than one presidential candidate. These ballots were heavily concentrated in urban precincts that had voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry. It seemed unlikely that so many voters would have made the same mistake. It was my conclusion that many of these ballots had been punched in advance for third-party presidential candidates, thus ruining ballots expected to be cast for Kerry.
“If these ballots were punched in advance,” asked one reporter, “wouldn’t the voters have noticed?” “Some of them did,” I replied. “We have sworn affidavits from voters who stated that their ballots were already punched for President.”
The response from Kent State University Press, which I received on June 19, 2007, is quoted on the dust jacket for my book:
“The research conducted, records and statistics cited, and analysis performed succeeds in telling a staggering story –- one almost unbelievable but for the documentation.”
They also asked for an Annotated Table of Contents, which I provided on July 1, 2007. This was an excellent suggestion, as many of my chapter titles are more humorous than descriptive.
On July 3, 2007, I arrived at the offices of Kent State University Press. I was greeted with a preliminary book contract, already signed by the Director, which I took as a sign of genuine enthusiasm. The terms of the contract were negotiable, so I took it home to review it. At this time I submitted two more sample chapters. The very same day I received an e-mail from the Director stating that if I submitted a completed manuscript by August 31, 2007, Kent State University Press would “commit to announcing your book in our spring 2008 catalog” and to publishing the book during the summer of 2008, “preferably June.”
On July 12, 2007, Ohio University Press withdrew from consideration. Their unidentified readers agreed that I had done “a phenomenal amount of work” and “an exemplary citizen investigation,” but felt that “the heart of the present manuscript” should “be relegated to appendices.” They wanted me to discuss “the socio-eco-political context” and the “ad campaigns” that “influenced people’s attitudes” and “affected the outcomes in the various counties.” In other words, their readers wanted me to assume that the official results are true and correct, and would have me analyze how television advertising brought about the curious voting patterns. Perhaps they expected me to find advertising campaigns urging voters in the inner cities to punch their ballots for both John Kerry and Michael Peroutka for President, thus ruining their own ballots; or urging voters in rural southwestern Ohio to vote for gay marriage, and for a liberal black woman for Chief Justice, and for George W. Bush for President.
The very next day, on July 17, 2007, the Copy Editor at Kent State University Press asked for “a complete manuscript,” including any photographs or columned charts and tables. Note that this request was made forty-five days before the deadline specified in the contract. On the same day I received an e-mail from the Director reaffirming their intention: “We are delighted that you have brought your book to us, and we look forward to publishing it.”
Five days later, on July 22, 2007, forty days before deadline, I submitted the first half of the manuscript, with charts and tables embedded within. I submitted no photographs, as these were forensic evidence intended for the second half of the book.