Count Every Vote
New York Times, December 20, 2004 - Editorial
Every vote is supposed to count in America, but candidates too often maneuver to disqualify votes that they think might go to the other side. A month and a half after Election Day, battles are still raging in Washington State and in San Diego over whether to count all of the votes that were cast. The answer to that question must be yes.
In Washington's gubernatorial election, Dino Rossi, a Republican, and Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, finished in a virtual dead heat. With nearly 2.9 million votes cast, Mr. Rossi initially led by 261 votes. A machine recount took his lead down to 42. Ms. Gregoire requested a hand recount. During it, King County, a heavily Democratic area that includes Seattle, found 723 absentee ballots that had not been counted because election workers made errors like failing to verify the voters' signatures.
Republicans, fearing that those ballots would throw the election to Ms. Gregoire, have gotten a lower court judge to prevent them from being counted, at least temporarily. But there is no reason these ballots and other valid ballots that have turned up during the recount should not be counted. The right to vote cannot be taken away because an election official did not do his or her job correctly.
In San Diego, the No. 2 choice of the voters for the mayor's job may be headed to City Hall. Donna Frye, a write-in candidate, came within 2,108 votes of defeating Mayor Dick Murphy. But Ms. Frye's vote total does not include more than 5,500 ballots on which voters wrote her name, but failed to darken a bubble next to it. There can be no doubt that those voters, who would easily give Ms. Frye a majority, tried to vote for her, but were tripped up by poor ballot design. The voters' intent should be recognized.
In Ohio, where a recount of the presidential election is under way, it is becoming clear that as important as recounts are, they are not enough to ensure the integrity of our elections. Representative John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, has charged that an employee of a company that makes vote-counting software used across the state may have tampered with one county's vote tabulator after the election to make the recount come out right. If people other than election officials have free access to the tabulation software, it can make a recount an empty gesture.
Clearly the American election system needs significant improvement, starting with voter-verified paper trails for every vote cast electronically. In the current flawed system, the best chance we have of producing accurate results is to be on guard for manipulation of electronic voting machines and tabulation software, and to conduct conscientious recounts when the outcome is at all in doubt.
© 2004 The New York Times
Stolen Election-Lost Democracy: Report From Ohio
by Michael Cavlan RN
Email: ollamhfaery (at) earthlink.net (unverified!)
20 Dec 2004
The evidence is mounting that this election, just as the last one, had been stolen. What makes this one even more stunning is the brazen nature in which it had been stolen. Add to this the nature of how it had been stolen, with the possible use of manipulated machines as well as the silence from the media and the leadership of the Democratic Party. Many observers have noted the common feeling that the democratic process is slipping away right in front of us.
This is the second part of this Indy Media Journalist and Official Observer for the Green Party's David Cobb Re-count effort in Ohio.
We met them everywhere. People who were angry, who knew that something very wrong had happened in the last election. Typical reactions were such as the young waitress who served us in Dianne's Restaraunt in Sandusky, a town in Seneca County, Ohio.
She approached us after we entered Dianne's to eat and strategize our efforts for the re-count. Eli Anthony, Noca Timassy and myself were seated at a booth, bedecked in bright orange scarf, hat and wearing our Green Party Ohio Election Re-count team buttons. She asked if we were helping in the Re-count effort underway. When we answered that we were, she thanked us profusely and also spoke of her anger. She, like many there, knew that something had gone very wrong in this election. They understood that the exit polls did not match the result in the presidential race, even thought they did match all the other races. We met many others like her, all over our designated area. The stench of a corrupted election was everywhere.
We also met the Erie County head of the NAACP. We heard stories of voter intimidation and where minority communities had few machines, causing folks to stand for hours, often in the rain even as other whiter and more affluent communities had no such problem. Even more damning were the reports that there were voting machines lying unused in storage containers in Colombus, Ohio. However we discovered that things were to get much worse.
Tuesday, we had been at the Board of Elections Headquarters for Seneca County. There, while we had a few problems such as the "random" pick of pricincts already being chosen before observers were present, none the less it had gone fairly well. In Seneca, we watched and had explained that the ballots were opened in a locked storage facility and needed a key from both the Republican and Democratic secretaries to be opened, thereby ensuring integrity of the ballot access.
On Wednesday, our focus was the media and our team talked to some local media including a newspaper from Sandusky. Later we went to the local library where I filed my initial Indy Media report. By this stage we had already been hearing some of the reports from Greene, Lucas, Hocking and other Counties. We also taped an interview with the local co-ordinator Noca Timassy, Eli Anthony and myself which Noca promised would be edited and appear on the local cable access. Noca promised that she would send a copy, when finished so that we could also screen on our own cable access.
Later that evening we recieved reports of David Cobb, Green Party candidate and other observers personally witnessing "technicians" from the Triad Company approach them, while they were auditing a machine in Hocking and other Counties. These "technicians" stated that they had to change a battery in the machine. In the proccess of changing the battery, some were observed removing other parts from the Triad machines. He was challenged but since observers had to legal authority to actually stop a count or even contest actions such as this, the individual in question left. Even more appalling was reports from Cobb of the same individual approaching them to "change the battery" after the team started to check another machine that was counting another county.Apparently the only ones with actual authority were the Member of the Board of Election Committee. They did nothing to challenge the technicians in question or their questionable behavior. Triad of course produce machines that count the optiscan ballots and have reportedly close ties to the Republican Party. We can report though, that after Cobb and others testified at the Conyers hearings, that an investigation has been opened into voter fraud by both the FBI and local authorities. We can watch this development with interest.
We also recieved reports of individuals who had been approaching Board of Elections offices in other parts of the state after they were closed late at night. In this instance, while observers were watching one office, an unknown individual was seen attempting to enter the office. When challenged by an observer, who had been watching the office from a distance for any irregularities, the person in question mysteriously stated " hey, we all make mistakes" and then left. After this incident, there was a statewide call for us to watch our local Board of Elections offices. Our team went to Eire County and we did not see anything out of the ordinary but since we had to report there the next morning, we had to leave later that night. But we did have local people who would "drive by from time to time" and keep an eye out. It would have to do because we would have a big day tommorrow.
Also there is the reports of other observers experience in Greene County, to the south. In one instance Katrina Sumner arrived at a Board of Elections office the day before and was stunned to find it wide open. After calling it in, she testified to the Conyers hearing in Colombus, Ohio. After she testified, she recieved threating phone calls, from individuals who told her that she was at a variety of locations and that they were watching her. Later she had the tires on her car slashed.
8:00 am we arrived at the Offices of the Erie County Board of Elections. While the workers there were very helpful and willing to assist, we experienced problems immediately. The first thing was that the boxes of ballots were already out on the table. There had been no observer present to watch the ballots removal from a secure location. At 8:07 the team of Green party Observers made our first objection, that the random pricinct selection, with observers present had not been made. Like other places in the state, the pick of pricincts to do a hand count, to represent a 3% total of the state had already been chosen. This means that by definition it was not a random count. The Republican Board member, Chris Marinko over-ruled us immediately. The count went on.
Then Board member Marinko called, in a very angry tone, an "emergency meeting" of the Board. There he was heard to make comments such as "I can't believe we have to do this shit", "do we have to do this Green Re-count", and to the Democratic lawyer present " We could never be Green's, we have too much money and we like our big houses and SUV's way to much". It must be noted here that the Democratic Party lawyer specializes in corporate law. During this and later events Democratic Party Board of Elections Chairman, Dave Gasse sat passively on. Marinko was quickly to earn the title "the Little Prick" from the members of the Green Party Election Observer Team.
We were also to hear later that Chairman Gisse was " about as useless as shit" from a constituant. While Gisse was the Chairman, it was obvious that Marinko was really the one who was "wearing the pants" in Eire County. It was already turning interesting in Eire County.
Then we began the Logic and Accuracy Test of the optiscanner machine. This machine was manufactured by AIS and so was not a Triad, but troubles were to develop. At first it appeared that a test deck had already been run Nov 14th and obviously we questioned this. We wanted a test run done in front of us observers and they did indeed do this. But upon further questioning, we found some details that upon further analysis may prove to be troubling. The reason that there had been a "test run" done Nov 14th was that there had been a new chip placed in the machine at this date. This begs the question as to why there were new chips added to this machine Nov 14th, after the election but before the re-count, especially knowing that the re-count was going to be done. The explaination may be innocent, but it will take others, more knowledgably of the AIS machinary than the Observer Team to rectify this potential problem.
Upon completion of the hand count of the selected pricincts #2 and #41 of Eire County, the machine did it's count. For a minute we were all stunned because the count was off. The Democratic lawyer and Eli Anthony demanded a full hand re-count of the entire county, but after some deliberation it was decided to do another hand count, which the board could do, according to procedure. The second hand count matched the machines total. Of interest though was that the operators of the machines, workers for the board made the comment that "oh, the machine may be off because I forgot to press the button for the overvotes" as a way to explain the descrepancy. Observer Anthony from the Green Party team raised an objection that this was never rectified but it was ignored by the board.
Another thing that we observed was the number of votes that were not originally counted because they had been filled in by pen. Apparently when the bubble was filled by pen, the machine would reject them. By the end of the count Kerry would recieve an additional 17 votes and Bush 4 more. Each of these were filled in with pencil by Board members, therby ensuring that it would count. We were curious as to why these had not been done the first time, during the Nov 2nd Election. We also noted the large number of overvotes, where the voter had filled in more than one selection for president, therby nullifying that vote. Of interest was that the vast majority of overvotes were Kerry/Nader/other votes. Very few were Bush overvotes, even though the ballot had two other conservatives, the Constitution Party and Libertarian Party candidates. There is no way to verify if there had been any intentional " additional filling" of bubbles by unknown others.
It must be noted here that Ohio's Secretary of State, the person directly responsible for mmaintaining the integrity of the voting proccess is none other than Ken Blackwell. Blackwell, a Republican, is no ordinary Secretary of State. As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, many believe that Blackwell has experiences in subverting the democratic proccess elsewhere. Places such as Venezuala, where it is suspected that the Council on Foreign Relations helped foster the attempted coup of popular Venezualian president, Hugo Chavez. This could very easily be a case of the chicken truely coming home to roost.
Finally, the re-count was finished at 4:00 pm. The staff at the board had been very friendly and transparent and we observers got on well with them. perhaps they, like us were "not rich with big houses and SUV's". After a quick interview with the local, Republican friendly newspaper, a lsat dinner with Noca at Dianne's, Eli and I were off home to the twin cities.
Since coming home, more has become evident. Apart from the almost complete silence in the "mainstream" corporate media, apparently we are now hearing that even thought there are now serious concerns that the entire democratic proccess for the future is at risk, the reason that the Kerry campaign will not speak out is because of their fear that they will be portrayed as "whiney loosers". The media has stated that they are not reporting it due to Kerry remaining silent and Kerry remains silent because of his fear of the reactions in the media to him speaking out. It is a self perpetuating cycle of political cowardice by both the leadership of the Democratic Party and of the media.
Our democracy is at risk and we deserve better than this. We should not accept these "chickens coming home to roost". It is now our job to reclaim our right to vote and become involved in the democratic proccess. The Democratic Party and the Corporate Media might be afraid but we, like many in Ohio are not afraid. We are angry and will not stand idly by, while our democracy starts to slip away from us. We will claim it back, despite the cowardice of the so called leadership, or lack there-of, of the Democratic Party along with the complicity of the corporate media.
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