by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
February 10, 2007

With two felony convictions already in its wake, Ohio’s spreading stolen 2004 election scandal has claimed another victim—Michael Vu, the controversial executive director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Hired in 2003 with the support of the Democratic Party, Vu was in charge of administering the electoral process in Ohio’s biggest county.  Centered in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County regularly gives huge majorities to Democratic candidates, and was expected to help put John Kerry into the White House in 2004.  

But as chaos ensued on election day, long lines, malfunctioning machines, suspiciously low turnouts in inner city precincts, lost ballots and dubious vote counts turned Democrats against Vu.  Independent researchers calculate that the irregularities may have cost Kerry thousands of votes.

Vu also supervised the purchase of some $20 million in electronic voting equipment, a decision bitterly opposed by grassroots activists, and featured in a major documentary film recently broadcast nationwide on HBO.  Upon installation for the 2006 election, much of the equipment malfunctioned. 

Most damning were felony convictions stemming from the botched recount of 2004 presidential ballots that was, according to Cuyahoga County prosecutors, “rigged.”  Forced by the Green Party and Libertarian Party, the recount process required recounting precincts chosen at random.  But a jury has convicted two Cuyahoga poll workers of, among other things, choosing the precincts based on specific criteria, which is illegal.  Though Vu remains unindicted, the convicted workers were operating under his supervision.

Vu fell out of favor with the county Democrats who brought him in as election after election was engulfed in chaos.  Calls for his removal rang out from the election protection community, including the Columbus Free Press.

Vu was then supported by Robert Bennett, chair of the Board of Elections.  Bennett also serves as chair of the Ohio Republican Party.  The two Democrats on the BOE tried to have Vu removed, but Bennett and the other Republican on the board voted to keep him.  The board remained deadlocked when then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, refused to cast a ballot, thus saving Vu’s job.

But the felony convictions of the two poll workers may have been too much for the board, whose tie votes will now be broken by Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s new Secretary of State.  Brunner is a Democrat.

On February 6, after a two-hour closed-door meeting, Vu, 30, submitted his resignation, a decision he said was mutual between himself and the BOE.  A search committee is now seeking a replacement for the $119,000 per year job. 

Bob Fitrakis & 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? From the New Press.

MollyIvans                              I haven’t blogged since the election, although there have been a few postings of articles I’ve written for the Free Press. But I break this unofficial vow of silence to mourn Molly Ivins, the longtime Free Press columnist and Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer.

I can remember the first time I met Molly a decade or so ago. She was in Columbus speaking at a private prep school, the Columbus School for Girls. My good friend and Free Press Senior Editor Harvey Wasserman insisted that Molly would want to meet me. So, we went over to the School for Girls to say Hi.

Molly not only wanted to talk to me, she insisted on shooting hoops before the event. While the crowd gathered in the auditorium, Molly, Harvey and I played a little “21.” As a recall, Molly won, and she was a mean rebounder. She was a tall woman with a quick wit and equally quick elbows, who knew her way around a basketball court.

After her speech, we met back at the Wasserman home in Bexley where Molly was eager to share the longneck beers that she was drinking. Since Harvey is a healthy Green, the task fell to me to drink the longnecks with Molly – and exchange stories. While I hate to admit it, her stories were much funnier than mine, and her charm was incomparable, like her writing.

Molly’s Texas populist perspectives always sided with the poor and the oppressed over the wealthy drunken yay-hoos of her native state. She captured Texas politics and national politics in a way that made you proud to be an American. Molly’s last column entitled “Stand up Against the Surge” was also her last campaign to stop the criminally insane war in Iraq. Many now are calling her the conscience of America. But that’s what they wrote of Michael Harrington, Norman Thomas and Eugene Debs. Molly was more than that, she was not only the conscience, she was the comedic voice that defined the follies and the foibles of the Bush dynasty. As much conscience, as a jester speaking truth shrouded in humor.

We have lost one of the great voices in American journalism. I’m just happy she let me shoot hoops with her, and publish her columns at the Free Press.