by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 27, 2007

The first felony convictions of two Cleveland poll workers stemming from Ohio’s stolen 2004 election confirm that the official recount in that contested vote was, in the words of county prosecutors, “rigged.” The question now is whether further prosecutions will reach higher up in the ranks of officials who may have been involved in illegalities throughout the rest of the state.

The convictions have come down in Cuyahoga County, where Democratic candidates traditionally run up huge majorities. Suspicious vote counts and other irregularities cut deeply into John Kerry’s margins in 2004. Official vote counts gave the state—and thus the presidency—to George W. Bush by about 118,000 votes out of 5.5 million counted.

A statewide recount, paid for by the Green and Libertarian Parties, was marred in 87 of the state’s 88 counties by the types of illegalities that led to this week’s convictions. Only in Coshocton County was a full, manual recount performed.

Throughout the rest of the state, under the direction of Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, mandatory random sampling was not done, as prescribed by law. Instead, poll workers illegally chose sample precincts for recounting where they knew there would be no problems, and then routinely recounted the rest of the ballots by machine, rendering the recount meaningless.

Blackwell simultaneously served as state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign. This fall he was defeated in his campaign for governor by Democrat Ted Strickland.

County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter opened the Cuyahoga trial by charging that “the evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless.” Baxter said three election workers “did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months” on the recount. “This was a very hush operation.”

Jacqueline Maiden, the county election board’s third-ranking employee, and Kathleen Dreamer, an assistant manager, have each been convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct and a misdemeanor count of failing to perform their duties. Rosie Grier, the board’s ballot department manager, was acquitted on all seven counts raised against the three. Sentencing is scheduled for late February. Defense attorneys have indicated they will appeal. The felony conviction carries a possible sentence of six to 18 months.

The county prosecutors have not yet alleged vote fraud. No do they say mishandling the recount affected the election’s outcome. Dreamer’s defense attorney, Roger Synenberg, said the defendants “were just doing [the recount] the way they were always doing it.”

But Cuyahoga’s precinct-by-precinct vote counts and turnout numbers varied wildly and improbably. Several predominantly black precincts showed turnouts of less than 30% in a county where overall turnout was around 60%. One ward showed a 7% turnout as compared to surrounding precincts with turnouts nearly ten times as high.

Further prosecutions may now hinge on what Maiden and Dreamer might tell prosecutors about the role played by higher-ups. The assumption is widespread that the decision to consciously designate test precincts, rather than choose them at random, must have been at least tacitly approved by Secretary of State Blackwell.

In Cleveland, Robert Bennett, chair of the state’s Republican Party, also served as chair of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Cuyahoga BOE Executive Director Michael Vu was chosen by the county Democratic Party. Under Vu’s direction, the county’s elections have been rife with chaos, irregularities and apparent fraud. When the Democrats recently tried to remove him from his post, Vu was supported by Bennett and the Republican Party. He kept his job when Blackwell strategically abstained from a key removal vote.

There is growing evidence that what happened in Cleveland was the rule, rather than the exception, in Ohio’s 2004 presidential recount. Sworn testimony at a public hearing in Toledo indicates Diebold technicians were involved in picking “random” precincts to be recounted there. A memory card was apparently lacking from at least one optiscan machines.

Miami County election officials admit they merely ran the optiscan ballots through the ES 550 counter, rather than doing the prescribed random recounts. Free Press reporters have found recount results varied signficantly from official results, which should have triggered a hand recount of all the ballots in the county. This was never done in Miami or in any other Ohio County except Coshocton.

Handwritten field notes from Paddy Shaffer, the Green/Libertarian Recount Coordinator in Delaware County in 2004, call into question the role played by ES&S technician Sam Hogsett. On December 15, 2004, Shaffer recorded at 2:42pm that Hogsett was “…tapping tabulator machine on left. There are two machines in the room. Kim [Spangler] says he is doing this because the light/the switch keeps going out. He has now handled the machines multiple times.”

At 4:25pm, Shaffer recorded “ES&S tech Sam Hogsett back on the machine and touching the ballots. They are working on Genoa precincts. My intuition is screaming get him away from the ballots and machines. … He continued moving around the machines, stacking in the ballots.”

At 5:05pm Shaffer noted “Sam is back loading and stacking. Throughout much of this time, Sam is the one to call out the precinct total and the name.”

Sam Hogsett is more than an ES&S technician according to Shaffer and others who investigated him, who have found his letters to the editor quite alarming. Voting rights activists troubled by Hogsett’s role in the recount found letters posted under the name Sam Hogsett, Crown City, at the southeatern Ohio newspaper website .

One of the letters begins as follows: “I recently read in this pitifully left-leaning editorial section that the spineless, thoughtless, moral less useless left-wing liberal America hater Robert Sheer is unsuccessfully attempting to use an apples-to-oranges comparison to wrongfully attack our Second Amendment rights.” Hogsett goes on to write: “… He [Sheer] believes that if I were to take a Smith and Wesson and blast his little pea brain to bits, that his family should be able to sue the manufacturer and the gun dealer who sold it to me.”

Initially, Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost obtained a temporary restraining order stopping the recount in Delaware County on November 23, 2004.

The Delaware Gazette noted a complaint from Shaffer about the role Hogsett played in the recount as a private voting machine company technician, and in a report dated January 1, 2005, Shaffer wrote the Delaware County Board of Elections that John Myers of the Delaware County Democratic Party said that, “He was very pleased that unlike many counties that are at the mercy of computer technicians, Delaware is not. He [Myers] said during both conversations, even repeated over and over, that they do their own programming. So why was Sam Hogsett needed? Why involve the technician in the process of the recount?”

Board of Elections records in Fairfield County document that when the recount was not matching thus mandating a full handcount under Ohio law, the Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell’s office recommended that Sam Hogsett be brought in to deal with the discrepancies between the official count and the recount. After Hogsett arrived and took charge of the recount as a private ES&S technician, the vote matched perfectly for the first time.

In Athens and Auglaize Counties, BOE workers who attempted to blow the whistle on apparent election irregularities were forced out of their jobs.

Overall, the illegalities prompting these initial convictions in Cuyahoga County appear to be the rule rather than the exception in the handling of the Ohio 2004 recount statewide. The question now is whether parallel prosecutions will follow in other counties. And whether such prosecutions might include those who are likely to have ordered or approved the illegalities that marred the recount in Cleveland, and throughout the rest of the state.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, published by the New Press.

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Do new Ohio recount prosecutions indicate unraveling of 2004 election theft cover-up?
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman January 19, 2007

Three criminal prosecutions in Ohio’s biggest county have opened with strong indications that the cover-up of the theft of the 2004 presidential election is starting to unravel. Prosecutors say these cases involve “rigging” the recount in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), where tens of thousands of votes were shifted from John Kerry to George W. Bush, or else never counted. Meanwhile, corroborating evidence continues to surface throughout Ohio illuminating the GOP’s theft of the presidency. According to the AP, County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter opened the Cuyahoga trial by charging that “the evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless.” Baxter said the three election workers “did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months” on the recount.

Jacqueline Maiden, the county election board’s third-ranking employee, faces six counts of misconduct involving ballot review. Rosie Grier, the board’s ballot department manager, and Kathleen Dreamer, an assistant manager, are also charged. All three are on paid administrative leave, and are being supported by the county board of elections.

The county prosecutors do not allege vote fraud. No do they say mishandling the recount affected the election’s outcome.

But Cleveland, which usually gives Democrats an extremely heavy margin, was crucial to Bush’s alleged victory of roughly 118,000 votes out of 5.5 million counted. Some 600,000 votes were cast or counted in Cuyahoga County. But official turnout and vote counts varied wildly and improbably from precinct to precinct. Overall the county reported about a 60% turnout. But several predominantly black precincts, where voters went more than 80% for Kerry, reported turnouts of 30% or less. In one ward, only a 7% turnout was reported, while surrounding precincts were nearly ten times as high. Independent studies indicate Kerry thousands of votes in Cuyahoga County that rightfully should have been counted in his column.

In the Cuyahoga case, the poll workers are charged with circumventing state recount laws that require a random sampling of at least three percent of the votes cast in a given precinct, to be recounted by hand and by machine. The prosecution charges that the workers instead hand picked sample precincts to recount that they knew did not have questionable results. Once they were able to match those recounts with official results, they could then do the rest of the recount by machine, in effect rendering the entire process meaningless. “This was a very hush operation,” said prosecutor Baxter.

Similar allegations have been made in other counties. Indeed, such illegal non-random recounting procedures appear to have been common throughout the state, carried out by board of election employees with the tacit consent of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell was officially charged with administering the election that gave Bush a second term while simultaneously serving as the Ohio co-chair of his Bush’s re-election campaign. Blackwell has just been overwhelmingly defeated in his own attempt to become governor of Ohio.

Defense attorney Roger Synenberg, who represents Dreamer, told the jury that the recount was an open process, and that his client and the others “were just doing it the way they were always doing it.”

The Ohio recount was forced by the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, which raised over $100,000 to cover costs. They charge the recount was fraudulent due largely to the kinds of irregularities with which the Cuyahoga poll workers are now charged. Those charges carry sentences of up to 18 months in prison each, and include failure to perform duties imposed by law; misconduct; knowingly disobeying elections law; unlawfully obtaining possession of ballots/ballot boxes or pollbooks; and unlawfully opening or permitting the opening of a sealed package containing ballots.

But the trial in Cleveland represents just a small sampling of what happened during the Ohio recount. At a public hearing sponsored by the Free Press in Toledo in December, 2004, sworn testimony claimed that Diebold technicians were party to picking the “random” precincts to be recounted. At least one of the precincts lacked a memory card for the recount using the optiscan machine.

In Miami County, election officials admit that they did not recount to the official vote total, but merely ran the optiscan ballots through the ES 550 counter, and then counted them to see if they matched the machine count. In essence, what they did was a test of the counting machine, not a recount to the actual reported votes. Miami’s procedures were thus as illegal as those in Cuyahoga.

Indeed, when the Free Press audited all the recount ballots from Miami County, we found the so-called recount results differed noticeably from the official results. If these differences in results were discovered at the recount in 2004, Ohio law should have triggered a hand recount of all ballots in the county. That was never done.

In Fairfield County, when the recount totals wouldn’t match, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell recommended Sam Hogsett, an ES&S employee, to assist with the process. Despite complaints from a Democratic election officer, Hogsettt worked the central tabulator and counter. Hogsett somehow managed to make the recount match, thus avoiding a full manual recount.

Hogsettt is on record in a local newspaper saying that he would like to shoot a “liberal” so the liberal would learn that it wasn’t the gun that killed him, but the shooter, Hogsett. Green Party recount coordinator Paddy Shaffer complained to Delaware County election officials about Hogsett’s presence during the recount and his constant use of the computer. Her complaint has had no apparent impact.

In Hocking County, Board of Elections Deputy Director, Sherole Eaton was fired after she submitted an affidavit to U.S. Rep. John Conyers outlining how Hocking BOE officials pre-selected one precinct because it had the “right” number of voters (3%), thus illegally prescreening like Cuyahoga County. Eaton also complained that a Triad technician showed up unannounced on recount day and offered her a “cheat sheet” for the recount. He just happened to have a hard drive for a 12-year-old Dell computer that served as Hocking County’s central tabulator. The county’s official central tabulator went down mysteriously just prior to the recount. Eaton said the Triad technician installed his hard drive and told the election officials that the recount would match up perfectly if they didn’t turn off the computer. Eaton has not been restored to her BOE position, and there has been no full recount in Hocking County.

In Coshocton County, Green Party recount observer Tim Kettler acquired public records showing that election officials pre-counted in secrecy in clear violation of Ohio law. Coshocton BOE officials desperately begged Secretary of State Blackwell for advice when the recount did not match. Blackwell’s office urged the county to simply send in the results as official. But after being confronted by angry recount observers, Coshocton BOE officials became the only ones in Ohio to hand count every ballot. The recount resulted in a statistically significant vote pickup for John Kerry among previously uncounted ballots.

In part due to widespread public revulsion over his conduct of the 2004 election, Blackwell was soundly beaten in the 2006 gubernatorial race by Democrat Ted Strickland. Ohio also now has a Democratic Secretary of State and Attorney General. Whether they will conduct further investigations into what really happened in 2004 remains to be seen.

But a federal court decision has preserved the ballots from that election. Whether further legal charges come from the new administration in Columbus remains to be seen. But the Cuyahoga prosecutions provide more evidence that we still don’t have a reliable vote count for the election that gave George W. Bush a second term.

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Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, published by the New Press. 


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Bob Fitrakis

Missing votes in Ohio call races into question
January 2, 2007

While Democratic Party supporters celebrate their success in Ohio, where their statewide candidates won four out of five executive offices and they now control both the U.S. House and Senate, they are ignoring massive and verifiable irregularities in the 2006 election. Similar irregularities – including missing votes, undervotes and overvotes – may come back to haunt the Democrats in the 2008 general election.

The only statewide partisan loss for the Democrats was also the closest contest. Republican Mary Taylor defeated Democrat Barbara Sykes for State Auditor by an official vote of 50.64% to 49.36%. Taylor prevailed by 48,826 votes. The Columbus Dispatch’s final poll, usually the most accurate in the state for candidate races, predicted Sykes would win by 10%.

An analysis by the Free Press documents massive discrepancies between the unofficial turnout reported by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell immediately following the election and the official general election turnout numbers reported in December 2006. These discrepancies may help explain Sykes’ unexpected loss.

In Cuyahoga County which contains the Democratic stronghold of Cleveland, immediately following the election 562,498 votes were reported cast with 30,791 listed as absentee or provisional ballots. The official results show 468,056 counted in Cuyahoga. This means that 94,442 ballots cast in the unofficial total disappeared in the official tallies. This represents a shocking 16.8% of all the votes cast in Cuyahoga.

Sykes won 62% of the vote in Cuyahoga County.

Cuyahoga County uses the controversial Diebold touchscreen voting machines. These machines suffered a notorious meltdown in the 2006 primary where many machines malfunctioned and an Election Science Institute (ESI) report documented significant differences between votes actually cast on the machines as opposed to counted.

Similarly in Lucas County, another Democratic stronghold, 17,351 votes disappeared (10.6% of the total vote) between the unofficial and official turnout numbers. An analysis by Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips indicates that Taylor, a first-time statewide office seeker, ran significantly ahead of Republican incumbent candidates Mike Dewine and Betty Montgomery, in the Senate and Attorney General races respectively.

Other counties with significant and unexplained loss of votes include: Auglaize (15.7%), Coshocton (14.1%), Jackson (11.3%), Licking (14.1%), Morrow (17.4%), and Tuscarawas (11.7%). In these less populated counties, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland won in five out of six and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod won in four out of the six.

Normally, the official total vote tally increases as provisional ballots are added to the unfficial total. For example, Franklin County had 342,958 votes unofficially with 46,458 provisionals and a few late overseas absentee ballots. The official Franklin County result was 385,863 votes cast, a pickup of 42,905 ballots once the provisionals were counted. Eleven of Ohio’s 88 counties reported this anomaly of fewer votes in the official total than the unofficial total.

Other election anomalies that bear further investigation are six counties with improbable undervote percentages in the U.S. Senate race. On average in Ohio, 3.9% of the ballots contained an “undervote,” meaning no vote was cast in the Senate race. But, in the Senate race there were significant undervote totals: Adams County had 14.1%; Darke County had 13.5%; Highland had 13.8%; Mercer had 11.2%; Montgomery had 13.8%; and Perry had 16.3%. The city of Dayton is in Montgomery County where more than 30,000 ballots recorded no vote for Senate. Brown won 53% of the vote in Montgomery County.

In comparison with the undervote in the well-known District 13 race in Sarasota, Florida, the undervote was 18,382.

In the Sykes race, the undervote for Auditor in Cuyahoga County was 10.7%. Undervotes were 8.3% of the total vote in Lucas County. Skyes’ undervote total in these Democratic havens should have been examined along with the bizarre unofficial vs. official vote totals in these counties.

The state auditor’s office in Ohio has enormous power to investigate and root out official corruption involving public funds. Many critics of Republican Party scandals in Ohio have pointed to the GOP’s control of the state auditor’s office as the key to delaying and minimizing public scrutiny.

Franklin County and the Squire challenge

Although the election numbers are stranger in Cuyahoga and Lucas counties for the Democrats, an election contest complaint filed in the Franklin County Court of Appeals by Judge Carol Squire documents in great detail the problem with electronic voting machines based on the results of her 2006 race. Incumbent Squire filed the action on December 22 after losing by 13,064 votes to Chris Geer for a seat on the County Court of Common Pleas.

The action seeks to “declare invalid and set aside” Squire’s loss. The complaint requests a full evidentiary hearing.

Squire hired Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, President and Chief Technical Officer of Notable Software, Inc. as an expert witness and investigator. The former Bryn Mawr computer science professor holds a Ph.D. in computer and informational science from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Mercuri’s sworn affidavit contains detailed criticisms of the Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) and its conduct of the 2006 election. Her sworn statements include the following:

  • 35 precincts were unable to close “due to problems with printers, machine malfunctions, infrared readers, PEBs [personal electronic ballots] . . . .” Squire paid for a recount of these 35 precincts but the BOE used the real time audit log (RTAL) paper tapes to recount only 2 of the 35 precincts. The RTALs are the only way to accurately assess how people really voted on the Election Day.
  • In the BOE warehouse “hundreds of RTAL paper rolls were sitting out on various tables . . . It had been my understanding that sealed containers holding the rolls would be open only in the presence of observers, but this apparently had already been done, and the rolls extracted, prior to the observers’ arrival.”
  • “Many of the rolls” lacked “tamper-proof” tape, which seals the RTALs at the end of Election Day in case of a recount. Instead, they had stickers which could be easily tampered with.
  • “Some of the [RTAL] rolls did not have a sticker” leaving them open for tampering or accidental destruction.
  • “. . . Others [RTALs] had a sticker with handwritten initials on it” indicating that the roll “was replaced by a service person during the Election Day.” This raises questions concerning chain of custody of the rolls, the functionality of the machines, and identity and background of the technicians who initialed the stickers.
  • “. . . A considerable number of the rolls were incomplete, possibly because the paper roll had run out or been changed, although for some, it was evident that the end of the paper roll had been damaged or ripped.”
  • “. . . between five and ten percent of the machines had either not printed an end tally,” or “it was missing.”
  • In one case, when Mercuri requested the information at the beginning of the RTAL roll be read aloud during the recount, the phrases “password override” and “PEB failure” were read from the audit log. Mercuri concludes that “. . . this might have indicated a pre-election breach of security or protocol for that equipment.”
  • “It was observed that some of the equipment problem report pages had been previously removed from the pollbooks.”
  • “The warehouse facility appeared to be shared by other agencies, as there was a large SWAT team truck behind some of the rows of voting machines . . . .”

Mercuri’s 16-page affidavit concludes that Squire was denied “an appropriate recount” from a voter-verified paper trail using the RTAL rolls and also points out that the “voting system was inappropriately configured and improperly used during the election.” The Franklin County BOE used different versions of hardware that were not certified prior to the election.

“The use of mismatched components violates certification requirements and also runs the risk of exposure to programming errors (bugs) or security vulnerabilities that could compromise the integrity of the election and result in the loss or mistabulation of votes,” Mercuri states.

In late November the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), one of the federal government’s premier research centers, condemned electronic voting machines noting that as presently configured, they “cannot be made secure.”

In an audit of 25% of Franklin County’s precinct pollbooks and signature books, Squire’s elections investigator Rady Ananda found massive problems with over reporting of votes. Only 29 out of 216 precincts matched the number of signatures to the number of votes cast. Eight precincts reported more than 100 more votes cast than signatures in the pollbooks.

A similar problem of fewer votes being recorded than voter signatures also occurred with one precinct having 100 fewer votes on the machine than signatures. In all, 136 precincts fell into this category. Columbus Ward 66 Precinct G was missing 123 votes. An audit of Miami County by a Free Press investigation team following the 2004 presidential election found a similar problem of optiscan precinct totals not matching signature books. In the spring 2006 primary election, the ESI audit of Cuyahoga County found similar problems.

Cuyahoga’s problems reappeared in the 2006 general election. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that, “Nearly 12,000 people in Cuyahoga County cast votes illegally on Election Day without signing the election books, or likely, showing identification as required by a new state law.”

“An analysis showed that 533 of the 570 Cuyhoga County voting precincts reported more votes than voters signed in.” The Plain Dealer found that: “With some polling places, the numbers were off by more than 100.”

Beverly Campbell, a 2006 Democratic candidate for the Ohio Statehouse, lost by 368 votes in Franklin County. She told the Columbus Dispatch that “her campaign has questions similar to Squire’s about vote and signature totals.” In a meeting with the Free Press, she supplied a worksheet from her own investigation of 98 precincts where there were problems in 88 of them either with more votes cast than signatures or more signatures than votes cast. In all, she found 483 more votes than signatures and 300 missing votes.

Squire’s complaint also asserts that “over 2500 provisional ballots were discarded with no opportunity for observers to obtain the basis or justification for rejection.”

The voting irregularities in the 2006 election appear to be greater than in 2004, but many Ohio Democrats have chosen to ignore that reality. But one who hasn’t taken that position is newly-elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who has pledged a complete review of the electronic voting machines. The facts remain that not every vote is counted or accounted for in the Buckeye State and this could be the key factor in deciding the next president of the United States.

Bob Fitrakis is the co-author of What Happened in Ohio: A documentary record of theft and fraud in the 2004 election published by the New Press.
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