Ohio 2004: Ignoring the Canary

Thanks to Byron York and Jim Lampley for engaging in a serious and substantive debate about what, if anything, went wrong in Ohio. In particular, I am grateful to York for treating this topic respectfully. That said, York really misses the point about the exit polls because asking whether the exit polls in and of themselves are proof of election fraud sidesteps the question.

The exit poll discrepancies are to the evidence that massive disenfranchisement occurred in Ohio, as the canary is to the detection of harmful gases in a coal mine. When a canary dies in a coal mine, that alone is not proof positive that something is wrong (maybe the cause of death was just old age or as John Cleese once said, maybe he is "just sleeping"). But -- if you are working in the coalmine -- you just might want to check things out.

And so it went for me and the exit polls. Seeing that there was an unprecedented discrepancy between the exit polls and the official results in Ohio, I was concerned and I decided to check things out a little more closely. Like Jim Lampley, when I see something that is apparently unprecedented and incredibly anomolous, I ask questions. I am just curious that way.

At the same time, I was receiving over 30,000 emails on this matter, the vast majority consisting of complaints from Ohio voters. My response to these voters, contrary to Mr. York’s implication, was not to simply hold two hearings on this matter -- my staff and I interviewed witnesses, examined hundreds of actual ballots, reviewed the public record, evaluated Ohio and federal law, and attempted to give every party the opportunity to answer any allegations that came to light. Unfortunately, I was stonewalled by Ohio officials.

Since Mr. York speaks with such dismissiveness of my investigation, I can only assume it is because he can answer all of questions they would not. Just a few here (more are in my staff’s report here [PDF] and here):

Why was there a scarcity of voting machines in Democratic leaning areas, and an abundance in Republican areas, leading to lines as long as ten hours for Democrats and little or no wait for Republicans? How many votes were affected? In Franklin County alone, according to the Washington Post, “27 of the 30 wards with the most machines per registered voter showed majorities for Bush. At the other end of the spectrum, six of the seven wards with the fewest machines delivered large margins for Kerry.”

Why did Blackwell change longstanding rules with respect to provisional ballots to disallow a voter from casting a provisional ballot who was in the correct jurisdiction but wrong precinct? Such a voter would be voting on the right ballot, but the wrong place (in some instances the wrong line in the right building)? Was Ohio’s Republican Governor wrong when he said this was likely to result in the loss of as many as 100,000 votes?

Why did Blackwell order that voter registration forms, printed on the incorrect weight of paper, but otherwise valid, should be discarded? How many such registrations were discarded before Blackwell was forced, amid public outcry, to rescind the order?

Why did the Republican Party employ so-called caging tactics and partisan challengers in primarily minority voting areas when such tactics has previously been held to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act? If these tactics were to uncover fraudulent voters, how many such voters were found?

According to the Washington Post, voting machines in Ohio flipped an unknown number of votes from Kerry to Bush? How and why did this happen? Did it happen anywhere else? How many votes were affected?

In sum, what I found in Ohio was a series of massive irregularities, many of which were illegal under federal and/or state law, and every single one resulted in a loss of votes for John Kerry, not George Bush. I wonder why?

I await Mr. York's reply.

At the end of his most recent entry, in classic sleight of hand, York points us to where the REAL fraud may have taken place: Wisconsin. Whenever I talk about the specific allegations involving Ohio, conservatives want to discuss something or somewhere else, and almost always offer the diversion of unsupported contentions about illegal voting.

The right-wing American Center for Voting Rights is one example. In response to my 102 page report [PDF], they issued a 31 page report implying, without substantiation, a rash of fraud involving illegal votes cast by voters using the names “Marry Poppins,” “Dick Tracy,” and “Jive Turkey, Sr.” And they call me a conspiracy theorist?