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Are Rove’s Missing E-mails The Smoking Guns Of The Stolen 2004 Election?

7877-rove.jpgby Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
April 25, 2007

E-mails being sought from Karl Rove’s computers, and recent revelations about critical electronic conflicts of interest, may be the smoking guns of Ohio’s stolen 2004 election. A thorough recount of ballots and electronic files. preserved by a federal lawsuit, could tell the tale.

The major media has come to focus on a large batch of electronic communications which have disappeared from the server of the Republican National Committee, and from White House advisor Rove’s computers. The attention stems from the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors by Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales.

But the time frame from which these e-mails are missing also includes a critical late night period after the presidential election of 2004. In these crucial hours, computerized vote tallies may have been shifted to move the Ohio vote count from John Kerry to George W. Bush, giving Bush the presidency.

Earlier that day, Rove and Bush flew into Columbus. Local election officials say they met with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in Columbus. Also apparently in attendance was Matt Damschroder, executive director of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections.

These four men, along with Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, were at the core of a multi-pronged strategy that gave Bush Ohio’s twenty Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency. Bennett and Damschroder held key positions on election boards in the state’s two most populous counties, with the biggest inner city concentrations of Democratic voters.

There were four key phases to the GOP’s election theft strategy:

1. Prior to the election, the GOP focused on massive voter disenfranchisement, with a selective reduction of voter turnout in urban Democratic strongholds. Blackwell issued confusing and contradictory edicts on voter eligibility, registration requirements, and provisional ballots; on shifting precinct locations; on denial and misprinting of absentee ballots, and more. Among other things, election officials, including Bennett, stripped nearly 300,000 voters from registration rolls in heavily Democratic areas in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo.

2. On election day, the GOP focussed on voter intimidation, denial of voting rights to legally eligible ex-felons, denial of voting machines to inner city precincts, malfunctioning of those machines, destruction of provisional ballots and more.

In Franklin, Cuyahoga and other urban counties, huge lines left mostly African-American voters waiting in the rain for three hours and more. A Democratic Party survey shows more than 100,000 voters failed to vote due to these lines, which plagued heavily Democratic inner city precincts (but not Republican suburban ones) throughout the state. The survey shows another 50,000 ballots may have been discarded at the polling stations. In addition, to this day, more than 100,000 machine-rejected and provisional ballots remain uncounted. The official Bush margin of victory was less than 119,000 votes.

3. After the final tabulation of the votes, and the announcement that Bush had won, the GOP strategy focussed on subverting a statewide recount. A filing by the Green and Libertarian Parties required Ohio’s 88 county boards of election to conduct random precinct samplings, to be followed by recounts where necessary.

A lawsuit was filed to delay the seating of Ohio’s Electoral College delegation until after the recount was completed. Among other things, the plaintiffs sued to get access to Rove’s laptop. But Blackwell rushed to certify the delegation before a recount could be completed. The issue became moot, and the suit was dropped. In retaliation, Blackwell tried to impose legal sanctions on the attorneys who filed it.

But two felony convictions have thus far resulted from what prosecutors have called the “rigging” of the recount in Cuyahoga County (where Bennett has been forced to resign his chairmanship of the board of elections). More are likely to follow.

The practices that led to these convictions were apparently repeated in many of Ohio’s 88 counties. The order to violate the law—or at least tacit approval to do so—is almost certain to have come from Blackwell.

4. Ultimately, however, it is the GOP’s computerized control of the vote count that may have been decisive. And here is where Rove’s e-mails, and the wee hours of the morning after the election, are crucial.

Despite the massive disenfranchisement of Ohio Democrats, there is every indication John Kerry won Ohio 2004. Exit polls shown on national television at 12:20am gave Kerry a clear lead in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico. These “purple states” were Democratic blue late in the night, but, against virtually impossible odds, all turned Bush red by morning.

Along the way, Gahanna, Ohio’s “loaves & fishes” vote count, showed 4,258 ballots for Bush in a precinct where just 638 people voted. Voting machines in Youngstown and Columbus lit up for Bush when Kerry’s name was pushed. Rural Republican precincts registered more than 100% turnouts, while inner city Democratic ones went as low as 7%. Warren County declared a “Homeland Security” alert, removed the ballot count from public scrutiny, then recorded a huge, unlikely margin for Bush.

These and many more instances of irregularities and theft were reported at www.freepress.org and then confirmed by U.S. Representative John Conyers and others who researched the election.

But the most critical reversals may have come as exit polls indicated that despite massive Democratic disenfranchisement, and even with preliminary vote count manipulations, Kerry would win Ohio by 4.2%, a margin well in excess of 200,000 votes.

The key to that reversal may be electronic. It has now become widely known that the same web-hosting firm that served a range of GOP websites, including the one for the Republican National Committee, also hosted the official site that Blackwell used to report the Ohio vote count.

This astonishing conflict of interest has been reported at the epluribusmedia.org on-line investigative service. Cross-postings have come from luaptifer at Dailykos and blogger Joseph Cannon’s Cannonfire.blogspot.com. They all confirm that the RNC tech network’s hosting firm is SMARTech.com, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. SMARTech hosts georgew.bush.com, mc.org and gop.com among other Republican web domains, in a bank basement.

Furthermore, the same hosting site that handled redirections from Blackwell’s “official” site also handled the White House e-mail accounts that have become central to investigations of the Gonzales purge of eight federal prosecutors, some of whom were themselves involved in vote fraud investigations.

Conflicts of interest in programming services and remote-access capability appear throughout the RNC’s computer networks, Rove’s secret White House e-mail, and the electronic vehicles used by Blackwell to finally reveal his “official” presidential vote counts for Ohio 2004.

One factor may be Ohio’s electronic touch-screen voting systems, on which were cast more than 800,000 votes in an election decided by about one-seventh that total. Such vulnerabilities, among other things, have been confirmed in exhaustive reports by Conyers’s Committee, by the Government Accountability Office, by the Carter-Baker Commission, by Princeton University, by the Brennan Center, and by others.

But overall, the electronic record of every vote in Ohio was transmitted to the Secretary of State’s office, and hosted in real time in Chattanooga. Under such circumstances, the joint hosting of the White House e-mail system and accessibility by Blackwell and Rove to the same computer networks linked to the Ohio vote count, takes on an added dimension.

Mike Connell, a Republican computer expert, helped create the software for both Ohio’s official 2004 election web site, and for the Bush campaign’s partisan web site during the 2000 election. The success of Connell’s GovTech Solutions has been attributed by Connell to his being “loyal to my network,” including the Bush family.

Blackwell shared those loyalties. Like Connell, he worked for the Bush-Cheney campaign, serving as its Ohio co-chair. He was also in control of the vote count that was being reported on software Bush loyalist Connell helped design.

It was in a crucial period after midnight on election night 2004 that these paired conflicts of interest may have decided the election. As exit polls showed a decisive Kerry victory, there was an unexplained 90-minute void in official reporting of results. By this time, most of the vote counts were coming in from rural areas, which are traditionally Republican, and which, ironically, usually report their results earlier than the Democratic urban areas.

In this time span, Kerry’s lead morphed into a GOP triumph. To explain this “miraculous” shift, Rove invented a myth of the greatest last-second voting surge in US history, allegedly coming from late-voting fundamentalist Republicans. No significant evidence exists to substantiate this claim. In fact, local news reports indicate the heaviest turnouts in most rural areas came early on election day, rather than later.

According to a January 13, 2005, release from Cedarville University, a small Ohio-based Christian academy, Connell’s GovTech Solutions helped make the shared server system run “like a champ…through the early morning hours as users from around the world looked to Ohio for their election results.”

After 2am, despite exit polls showing very much the opposite outcome, those results put Bush back in the White House.

In January, 2005, the U.S. Congress hosted the first challenge to a state’s Electoral College delegation in our nation’s history. At the time, the compromised security of the official Ohio electronic reporting systems was not public knowledge. But the first attempt to subpoena Karl Rove’s computer files had already failed.

Now a second attempt to gain such access is being mounted as the Gonzales scandal deepens.

Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) has raised “particular concerns about Karl Rove” and his electronic communications about the Gonzales firings.

Rove claims both his own computer records and the RNC’s servers have been purged of e-mails through the time the Ohio vote was being reversed. Rove’s attorney, Robert Kuskin, has told a Congressional inquiry that Rove mistakenly believed his messages to the RNC “were being archived” there.

But the RNC says it has no e-mail records for Rove before 2005. Rob Kelner, an RNC lawyer says efforts to recreate the lost records have had some success. But it’s not yet known whether communications from the 2004 election can be retrieved.

Nor is it known whether the joint access allowed to top GOP operatives Rove and Blackwell was responsible for the election-night reversal that put Bush back in the White House.

But there remains another avenue by which the real outcome of Ohio 2004 could be discovered. Longstanding federal law protected Ohio’s ballots and other election documentation prior to September 3, 2006. Blackwell gave clear orders that these crucial records were to be destroyed on that date.

Prior to the expiration of the federal statutory protection, a civil rights lawsuit was filed in the federal court of Judge Algernon Marbley, asking that the remaining records be preserved. The request was granted in what has become known as the King-Lincoln Bronzeville suit (co-author Bob Fitrakis is an attorney in the case, and Harvey Wasserman is a plaintiff).

Thus, by federal law, the actual ballots and electronic records should be available for the kind of exhaustive recount that was illegally denied—or “rigged,” as prosecutors in Cleveland have put it—by Blackwell, Bennett and their cohorts the first time around.

Ohio’s newly-elected Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, has agreed to take custody of these materials, and to bring them to a central repository, probably in Columbus.

This means that an exhaustive recount could show who really did win the presidential election of 2004.

It may also be possible to learn what roles—electronic or otherwise— Karl Rove and J. Kenneth Blackwell really did play during those crucial 90 minutes in the deep night, when the presidency somehow slipped from John Kerry to George W. Bush.


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, from the New Press. Fitrakis is publisher, and Wasserman is senior editor, of www.freepress.org.

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The GOP’s Cyber Election Hit Squad

by Steven Rosenfeld and Bob Fitrakis
April 22, 2007

Did the most powerful Republicans in America have the computer capacity, software skills and electronic infrastructure in place on Election Night 2004 to tamper with the Ohio results to ensure George W. Bush’s re-election?

The answer appears to be yes. There is more than ample documentation to show that on Election Night 2004, Ohio’s “official” Secretary of State website – which gave the world the presidential election results – was redirected from an Ohio government server to a group of servers that contain scores of Republican web sites, including the secret White House e-mail accounts that have emerged in the scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Recent revelations have documented that the Republican National Committee (RNC) ran a secret White House e-mail system for Karl Rove and dozens of White House staffers. This high-tech system used to count and report the 2004 presidential vote– from server-hosting contracts, to software-writing services, to remote-access capability, to the actual server usage logs themselves – must be added to the growing congressional investigations.

Numerous tech-savvy bloggers, starting with the online investigative consortium epluribusmedia.org and their November 2006 article cross-posted by contributor luaptifer to Dailykos, and Joseph Cannon’s blog at Cannonfire.blogspot.com, outed the RNC tech network. That web-hosting firm is SMARTech Corp. of Chattanooga, TN, operating out of the basement in the old Pioneer Bank building. The firm hosts scores of Republican websites, including georgewbush.com, gop.com and rnc.org.

The software created for the Ohio secretary of state’s Election Night 2004 website was created by GovTech Solutions, a firm co-founded by longtime GOP computing guru Mike Connell. He also redesigned the Bush campaign’s website in 2000 and told “Inside Business” magazine in 1999, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Bush campaign and the Bush family because the Bushes truly are about family and I’m loyal to my network.”

Ohio’s Cedarville University, a Christian school with 3,100 students, issued a press release on January 13, 2005 describing how faculty member Dr. Alan Dillman’s computing company Government Consulting Resources, Ltd, worked with these Republican-connected companies to tally the vote on Election Night 2004.

“Dillman personally led the effort from the GCR side, teaming with key members of Blackwell’s staff,” the release said. “GCR teamed with several other firms – including key players such as GovTech Solutions, which performed the software development – to deliver the end result. SMARTech provided the backup and additional system capacity, and Mercury Interactive performed the stress testing.”

On Election Night 2004, the Republican Party not only controlled the vote-counting process in Ohio, the final presidential swing state, through a secretary of state who was a co-chair of the Bush campaign, but it also controlled the technology that allowed the tally of the vote in Ohio’s 88 counties to be reported to the media and voters.

Privatizing elections and allowing known partisans to run a key presidential vote count is troubling enough. But the reason Congress must investigate these high-tech ties is there is abundant evidence that Republicans could have used this computing network to delay announcing the winner of Ohio’s 2004 election while tinkering with the results.

Did Ohio Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell or other GOP operatives inflate the president’s vote totals to secure George W. Bush’s margin of victory? On Election Night 2004, many of the totals reported by the Secretary of State were based on local precinct results that were impossible. In Clyde, Ohio, a Republican haven, Bush won big after 131 percent voter turnout. In Republican Perry County, two precincts came in at 124 percent and 120 percent respectively. In Gahanna Ward 1, precinct B, Bush received 4,258 votes despite the fact that only 638 people voted for president. In Concord Southwest in Miami County, the certified election results proudly proclaimed at 679 out of 689 registered voters cast ballots, a 98.55 percent turnout. FreePress.org later found that only 547 voters had signed in.

These strange election results were routed by county election officials through Ohio’s Secretary of State’s office, through partisan IT providers and software, and the final results were hosted out of a computer based in Tennessee announcing the winner. The Cedarville University releases boasted the system “was running like a champ.” It said, “The system kept running through the early morning hours as users from around the world looked to Ohio for their election results.”

All the facts are not in, but enough is known to warrant a serious congressional inquiry. Beginning with a timeline on Election Night after a national media consortium exit poll predicted Democrat John Kerry would win Ohio, the first Ohio returns were from the state’s Democratic urban strongholds, showing Kerry in the lead.

This was the case until shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 3, when for roughly 90 minutes the Ohio election results reported on the Secretary of State’s website were frozen. Shortly before 2am EST election returns came in from a handful of the state’s rural Republican enclaves, bumping Bush’s numbers over the top.

It was known Bush would carry rural Ohio. But the vote totals from these last-to-report counties, where Karl Rove said there was an unprecedented late-hour evangelical vote giving the White House a moral mandate, were highly improbable and suggested vote count fraud to pad Bush’s numbers. Just how flimsy the reported GOP totals were was not known on Election Night and has not been examined by the national media. But an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff begun after Election Day 2004 and completed before the Electoral College met on Jan. 6, 2005, was first to publicly point to vote count fraud in rural Ohio.

That report, “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio,” cited near-impossible vote totals, including 19,000 votes that were mysteriously added at the close of tallying the vote in Miami County. The report cited more than 3,000 apparently fraudulent voter registrations – all dating back to the same day in 1977 in Perry County. The report noted a homeland security emergency was declared in Warren County, prompting its ballots to be taken to a police-guarded unauthorized warehouse and counted away from public scrutiny, despite local media protests.

In our book, “What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election” (The New Press, 2006), we go beyond the House Judiciary Democratic report to analyze precinct-by-precinct returns and we print copies of the documents upon which we base our findings. We found many vote-count irregularities based on examining the certified results, precinct-level records and the actual ballots.

The most eyebrow-raising example to emerge from parsing precinct results was finding 10,500 people in three Ohio’s ‘Bible Belt’ counties who voted to re-elect Bush and voted in favor of gay marriage, if the official results are true. That was in Warren, Butler and Clermont Counties. The most plausible explanation for this anomaly, which defies logic and was not seen anywhere else in the country, was Kerry votes were flipped to Bush while the rest of the ballot was left alone. While we have some theories about how that might have been done by hand in a police-guarded warehouse, could full Republican control of the vote-counting software and servers also have played a role?

The early returns on the Secretary of State’s website suggest Blackwell’s vote-tallying and reporting system could manipulate large blocks of votes. Screenshots taken during the early returns in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, gave Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb 39,541 votes, which was clearly incorrect. Similarly, early return screenshots in Lucas County, where Toledo is located, gave Cobb 4,685 votes, another clear error. (The screenshots are in our book). Were these innocent computer glitches or was a GOP vote-counting and reporting system moving and dumping Kerry votes?

There’s more evidence the late returns from Ohio’s Republican-majority countryside were not accurate. During the spring and summer of 2006, several teams of investigators associated with Freepress.org, notably one team led by Ron Baiman, a Ph.D. statistician and researcher at Chicago’s Loyola University, examined the actual election records from precincts in Miami and Clermont Counties. These records – from poll books where voters sign in, to examining the actual ballots themselves – were not publicly accessible until last year, under orders from Ohio’s former Republican Secretary of State. Baiman compared the number of voters who signed in with the total number of votes attributed to precincts. He found hundreds of “phantom” votes, where the number of voter signatures was less than the reported vote total. That discrepancy also suggests vote count fraud.

There was other evidence in the observable paper trail of padding the vote, including instances in Delaware County where in one precinct, 359 of the final punch-card ballots cast on Election Day contained no Kerry votes, which means the day’s last voters all were Bush supporters, which also is improbable. In another Delaware County precinct, Bush allegedly received the last 210 votes of the day. Were partisan local election workers trying to mask what was happening electronically to tilt the vote count?

Ohio’s 2004 ballots were to be destroyed last September. However that fate was blocked by a federal judge, who ruled in the early phase of trying a Voting Rights Act lawsuit that accused Ohio officials of suppressing the minority vote in Ohio’s cities. The state’s new Secretary of State and Attorney General, both Democrats, are now holding settlement talks for that suit, suggesting its claims have merit. However, unlike Florida after the 2000 election, there still has yet to be a full accounting of Ohio’s presidential vote.

What’s clear, however, is the highest ranks of the Republican Party’s political wing, including White House counselor Karl Rove, a handful of the party’s most tech-savvy computer gurus and the former Republican Ohio Secretary of State, created, owned and operated the vote-counting system that reported George W. Bush’s re-election to the presidency. Moreover, it appears the votes that gave Bush his 118,775-vote margin of victory – the boost from Ohio’s countryside – have yet to be confirmed as accurate. Instead, the reporting to date suggests that what happened on the ground and across Ohio’s rural precincts is at odds with the vote tally released on Election Night.

As numerous congressional committees attempt to retrieve and examine the secret White House e-mails surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ firing of eight federal prosecutors, those panels must also probe the privatization and partisan manipulation of the 2004 presidential vote count in Ohio. The lessons from 2004 have yet to be fully understood or learned.

Similarly, the House Administration Committee, which is expected to soon mark up H.R. 811, a bill by Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, to regulate electronic voting technology, also must take heed. The vote count and outcome of American elections cannot be left in the hands of known partisans, who can control and manipulate how the votes are counted and what is reported to the media and American people.

Public vote counts on private, partisan servers and secret proprietary software have no place in a democracy.

Bob Fitrakis is a political science professor and attorney in the King Lincoln Bronzeville civil rights lawsuit against Ken Blackwell. Fitrakis, Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman are authors of “What Happened in Ohio? A documentary record of theft and fraud in the 2004 election,” (New Press, 2006).

KEY LINKS: To trace the site-hosting history of election.sos.state.oh.us, go to:
http://toolbar.netcraft.com/site_report?url=http://election.sos.state.oh.us
(You will note on Nov. 3, 2004, the Ohio Secretary of State’s website was moved from a Columbus-based company, OARnet, to SMARTECH CORPORATION.)

Ken Blackwell Outsources Ohio Election Results to GOP Internet Operatives, Again
http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2006/11/7/115314/922
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/7/144314/082

Who is Michael L. Connell? Part II: Behind the firewall
http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2007/4/2/6328/14926

The White House, vote theft, and the email trail
http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2007/03/gwb43-white-house-vote-theft-and-email.html

Cedarville University A Major Player in Ohio’s Election Tallying Efforts
http://www.cedarville.edu/departments/marketing/publicrelations/newsarticle.cfm?ID=2132271177

“What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election,” by Robert Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld, Harvey Wasserman.
http://www.thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&task =view_title&metaproductid=1597

Rove-ing emails: what else could go missing? by Todd Johnston
http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2007/4/22/33926/1773

http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2006/11/9/61233/1283
This shows a screen capture of the TN server 64.203.98.137 which in 2004 was where election.sos.state.oh.us was hosted from, and in 2006 it was still getting live data from Ohio, even though election.sos.state.oh.us was hosted on OARnet servers in Ohio.

Original article at:https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2553

 

 

 

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Bye Bye To Cleveland GOP Election Chair Bob “Ballots For Bush” Bennett

We Do Not Concede

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
April 16, 2007

Ohio’s Bob “Ballots for Bush” Bennett, an essential player in putting George W. Bush back in the White House in 2004, is no long chair of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. His milestone resignation leaves a legacy of scandal, recrimination, massive voter purges, felony convictions and a pivotal role in a stolen presidential election.

Bennett has quit in a signature cloud of graceless accusations and cheap shots at Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s newly elected Secretary of State, who asked him to resign along with the rest of the Cleveland election authority. His forced departure marks the biggest landmark yet in the unraveling theft of the presidential elections in Ohio 2004.

Bennett remains chair of the Ohio Republican Party. In 2004 he was apparently asked by White House consigliere Karl Rove to stay on at the Cuyahoga BOE to help guarantee Bush’s second term. Cleveland is Ohio’s biggest and most Democratic urban center. A massive sweep there by John Kerry was widely expected to have given him the White House. It was Bennett’s job to mute that margin, and apparently that’s exactly what he did.

Leading up to the 2004 vote, Bennett oversaw the quiet purge of some 168,000 registered voters from the Cuyahoga rolls, including 24.93% of the entire city of Cleveland, which voted 83% for Kerry. In one inner city majority African American ward, 51% of the voters were purged. Centered on precincts that voted more than 80% for John Kerry, this purge may well have meant a net loss to the Democrats of tens of thousands of votes in an election that was officially decided statewide by less than 119,000.

In a report issued December 7, 2004, the Greater Cleveland Voter Registration Coalition (GCVRC) reported that in addition to the purge of registered voters, some 3.5% of those applying for new registrations were never even entered on the rolls by Bennett’s BOE, or were entered incorrectly, which would result in disenfranchisement of those who had just tried to become new voters. Additionally, the GCVRC estimated that “over 10,000 voters in Cuyahoga County would be compromised because of these clerical errors.”

Bennett refused to respond to the report’s initial conclusions. When the study became public, BOE Executive Director Michael Vu accused the study coordinator of “inciting panic.” Vu did not respond to GCVRC’s request for the reinstatement of 303 voter registrations where there was direct evidence that they had been wrongly cancelled.

The GCVRC also documented that the Cuyahoga County BOE incorrectly classified 463 properly registered voters as not registered. This included 201 voters who were registered on BOE computers on August 17, but for some unexplained reason, were removed from the rolls by October 22. They then were forced to vote provisionally and their votes were rejected as not registered.

In Brunner’s formal complaint against Bennett she cited the fact that Bennett’s BOE did nothing when an estimated 10,000 voters were thrown off the voting roll by a Diebold voter registration computer glitch.

Also, Bennett’s BOE rejected 262 properly registered voters included on its own list as of October 22. They incorrectly listed 183 as not registered and 79 as no signatures. “The Board did not contest our data,” said the GCVRC, “but said again it was just a small percentage due to human error, and then proceeded to certify the entire Cuyahoga County vote even though they thereby knowingly possibly disenfranchised 463 individuals.”

Parallel purges were conducted by Republican-controlled boards of election in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) where some 105,000 voters were purged from the rolls, and in Lucas County (Toledo), where some 28,000 were purged in an unprecedented move in late August 2004. These remain the only three counties in the state known to have conducted massive registration purges prior to the 2004 election. The three mass urban purges decimated the rolls in heavily Democratic areas. Since then, another 170,000 voters have been purged from the rolls in Franklin County, primarily in the heavily Democratic Columbus precincts. Many rural Republican counties, like Miami, practice a “no-purge” policy.

From his post at the helm of both the Ohio GOP and the Cuyahoga BOE, Bennett was at the center of the purges. Many of the 300,000-plus purged voters reported that they never received notice that their voting rights had been cancelled. Should the general 80% pro-Democratic inner city margins have prevailed for all three purged lists, the net loss to the Kerry camp could have been in the range of 100,000 votes.

In addition to the purges, Bennett was also at the center of the election challenges to college students in Democratic enclaves.

Bennett is infamous for far more than massive voter purges. Under his supervision, a legally mandated recount of the 2004 presidential vote was illegally manipulated. Ohio law says precincts must be chosen at random for hand counting as part of the recount process. But two Cuyahoga BOE employees have been convicted of a felony and a misdemeanor each, and have each been sentenced to eighteen months in prison for what prosecutors have called “rigging” the recount.

Bennett was also instrumental in the purchase of some $20 million in Diebold voting machines for 2006 statewide elections. Election protection activists vehemently opposed the purchase, as seen in a nationally televised HBO special, “Hacking Democracy.” Under Bennett and Cuyahoga BOE Executive Director Michael Vu, the machines malfunctioned in Ohio’s 2006 primary, with vote count reporting delayed for five days.

Long-time election activist Adele Eisner characterizes Bennett’s reign at the Cuyahoga BOE as a “culture with fear.” Among other things, Bennett chose to disregard long-standing laws requiring that election results be posted at the precinct level, a decision backed by Ohio’s former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

In a recent audit of the general 2006 elections, Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips found that in the initial vote count, “Cuyahoga County alone accounted for 148,928 undervotes, or 42.47% of the statewide total.” The undervotes occurred in the race for U.S. Senate, where voters apparently opted to not vote for either incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine or Democrat Sherrod Brown, the eventual winner. The undervotes represented 26.48% of the county’s voters.

But, says Philips, “Once the official results were posted, Cuyahoga’s undervote total fell to 3.25%,” leaving him to wonder “how the unofficial results could have been so erroneous in the first place.”

Hayes also found that Cuyahoga County reported 30,791 uncounted absentee and provisional ballots. After these ballots were counted, they reported 39,262 votes, an outcome Phillips terms mathematically “impossible.”

Bennett and Vu were also responsible for more than $12,900,000 in BOE cost overruns, more than doubling the agency’s original budget of $11,000,000.

Vu resigned earlier this year, and has since been hired as an Assistant Registrar of Voters in San Diego County, the number two spot, with a $10,000 salary increase to $130,000 a year. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted that, “Vu’s resignation followed a tumultuous 3 1/2-year tenure as election chief, including a disastrous May 2006 primary when the county began using new electronic voting machines.”

In response to the chaos and recrimination, Brunner requested the resignations of the Cuyahoga board’s two Democrats and two Republicans. Only Bennett vowed to fight his removal.

But he has now become the highest election board official to resign here amidst the deepening scandals surrounding the 2004 election. He has joined the growing Republican chorus echoing Rove’s line that the Democrats are preparing to steal the 2008 election.

But Brunner has taken custody of the 2004 ballots and other vote count materials, which are currently protected by a federal court decision. She is expected to bring them from Ohio’s 88 county boards to a central repository in Columbus.

Meanwhile, new evidence is emerging that Karl Rove and the GOP had real-time computer access to both the actual vote numbers in Ohio as well as the exit polling data that would have allowed them to direct how many votes they needed from the suspect Ohio southwestern Republican counties that gave Bush his official margin of victory in the 2004 election. Stay tuned.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman’s books include HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION and WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO from the New Press (with Steve Rosenfeld). https://freepress.org/store.php

Original article at: https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2542

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From cover-ups to sunshine: Brunner And Dann Roll Back The Legacy Of Blackwell And Petro

constitution_mth.jpgBy Bob Fitrakis

To paraphrase the late investigative reporter I.F. Stone: Everything we need to know is in the public record. The problem during the Voinovich and Taft years is the fact that public papers were treated like corporate trade secrets. The fact that touchscreen computer voting machines are programmed with private proprietary software is a reflection of the much bigger problem of authoritarianism in the U.S. government.

Benjamin Marrison’s commentary entitled “Dann’s fight for Ohioans to know” in the Sunday, April 8, 2007 Columbus Dispatch provides the proper analysis in distinguishing why corruption has flourished in Ohio.

Having spent nearly two and a half years trying to uncover what happened in the 2004 election, I was occasionally with arrest and usually denied access to public records. The dynamic duo of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Attorney General James Petro worked as follows: the first would urge his county board of elections (BOE) employees not to turn over records and the second would do nothing when the county prosecutors violated their oath of office and refused to hand over voting records.

Eventually, the threatened lawsuits, papers filed and records requests would slowly prevail, but it wasn’t really until the summer of 2006 that many of the ballots, pollbooks and purge lists requested were made available in limited numbers.

There is one exception. Steve Quillen, the Republican appointed director of the board of elections in Miami County remains the only BOE official who acted in good faith and practiced full transparency. Despite some voting irregularities in his county, Quillen’s actions were never called into questions because he did nothing to cover up those activities.

As for most of the state’s other BOEs, particularly those in rural southwest Ohio, Ohio’s new Attorney General Marc Dann needs to go after one of the public officials down there and put his or head on a pike – figuratively, I mean. That’s why the convictions of the BOE workers in Cuyahoga County are so important. It sends a message that law-breaking and election tampering, no matter what the excuse – I was tired and didn’t want to do a real recount as required by law – will end your career and land you in jail.

That’s why Dann’s recent actions in enforcing the sunshine law by pointing out that the Ohio Public Utilities Commissioners were illegally appointed is of great symbolic value. Equally important is Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s actions this week taking custody of all the public records from the controversial 2004 presidential election. Brunner’s commitment to the public records act coupled with Dann’s bold recent actions are first steps to re-establishing rule by the people in the Buckeye State.

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Two Big Victories Boost Ohio’s Election Protection Movement

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
April 5, 2007

In a victory for election protection activists, Ohio’s powerful GOP Chair Bob Bennett will be forced to face a public hearing on his removal as Chair of the Cuyahoga (Cleveland) Board of Elections. And in a second triumph, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has agreed, as part of a legal settlement, to take possession of the ballots and other key documents from the disputed 2004 election that gave George W. Bush a second term in the White House.

Brunner has requested the resignations of the entire scandal-plagued Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, which Bennett has chaired. Two Democratic members and one Republican have complied with her request. The BOE’s executive director, Michael Vu, previously resigned amidst a cloud of scandal resulting from a mishandled primary election and more than $12 million in budgetary overruns. Two BOE workers have been given 18-month prison sentences for felony convictions stemming from what a government prosecutor called the “rigging” of an officially mandated recount for the 2004 presidential election.

Bennett has issued a legal challenge against his removal. But on Wednesday, April 4, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John Connor ruled Bennett has to comply with Brunner’s call for a public hearing on the matter. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 9.

A long-time GOP power broker, Bennett is a close personal confidante of White House advisor Karl Rove. He has been Rove’s point man in Ohio’s most populous county, which includes the Democratic voter rich city of Cleveland. A wide array of irregularities there were pivotal in giving Bush his narrow margin of official victory in 2004.

Bennett asked the court to rule that the Ohio statute seeking his removal was unconstitutionally vague. But Judge Connor ruled that the law was “clear and unequivocal.”

This is Bennett’s third major setback in three days. On Monday, April 2, Brunner put the Cuyahoga BOE under state administrative oversight because it lacked a quorum to conduct business. With the resignations of the other three board members, Bennett stood alone as the sole board member.

On Tuesday, April 3, Brunner suspended Bennett, citing the fact that as BOE chair he had allegedly “instructed” former Executive Director Vu to award a contract to a consultant without Board approval.

“Bennett instructed Vu to award a second contract to David Hopcraft in the amount of $14,750 on or about February 26, 2007, for public relations services to be paid for by public dollars by the Board of Elections,” Brunner wrote in her suspension statement.

The statement adds that: “The Dayton Daily News on March 26, 2007 reported Mr. Hopcraft to be a ‘GOP spokesperson.’ According to Board policy, no contract for services may be awarded without Board approval if it exceeds $15,000. The extension of Hopcraft’s contract for just under $15,000, without Board approval, violates Board policy,” Brunner’s statement says.

Brunner’s order suspends all of Bennett’s powers. It orders Bennett not to attend any Cuyahoga County BOE meetings or to be present at the BOE offices. The suspension is indefinite, pending the results of the removal hearing and any subsequent legal appeals.

On March 21, Bennett lashed out following the convictions of two Cuyahoga County BOE workers charged with “rigging” the 2004 presidential recount. Bennett said, in part: “… the public deserves to know that the big shots, the lawyers and the special political interests are not going to grind up the people who are doing the public’s work at this Board.”

Steve Hertzberg of the nonprofit Election Science Institute, which conducted an investigation of major problems that marred the 2006 Cuyahoga County primary election, responded to Bennett’s attack by stating, “It is an insult to the intelligence of the Cuyahoga community that Mr. Bennett attempts to lay blame elsewhere while he attempts to maintain his lucrative position on the CCBOE. Not only should this man resign immediately, he should apologize for the myriad of mistakes and the damage he had done to the reputation of Ohio and its citizens.

“Shame on you, Mr. Bennett,” Hertzberg concluded.

In another decisive action, which may stand as a major landmark, Brunner has agreed to take responsibility for the preservation of the ballots from Ohio’s 2004 presidential election.

The ballots were subject to destruction in early September 2006, as the law protecting them was about to expire. However, a suit involving the King-LincolnBronzeville Neighborhood Association, among others, was filed in federal court. The suit alleges a wide range of civil rights violations against inner city and other Ohio voters in the conduct of the 2004 Ohio election. It also asked that then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell be prevented from ordering the disposal of the ballots and other election materials, which he was poised to do.

The suit gained widespread national attention, including news stories and editorial comment in the New York Times. On September 11, 2006, Federal Judge Algernon Marbley issued an order preserving the ballots pending the outcome of what has become known as the King-Lincoln lawsuit.

Blackwell left the office of Secretary of State earlier this year, in the wake of his unsuccessful run as the GOP’s 2006 nominee for Governor of Ohio. By and large, the materials have been stored by Ohio’s 88 counties.

As the new Secretary of State, Brunner has now agreed to a joint motion as defendant in the King-Lincoln suit. The motion effectively transfers the custody of “…all ballots from the 2004 presidential election, on paper or in any other format, including electronic data,…” from the counties to Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann’s office is representing Brunner.

In a Memorandum in Support of the Joint Motion, the parties state: “To lessen the burden on the respective boards of elections and to provide a central repository for records, the parties are jointly requesting that an order be entered in this matter requiring the 88 county boards of elections to transfer to the custody of the Secretary of State all ballots from the 2004 presidential election….”

Voting rights activists have urged the state to preserve all the records and open them to interested parties following the Florida 2000 election model, which created a centralized accessible repository following the controversial 2000 election in the Sunshine State.

Brunner is now widely expected to do the same for the documents that defined the disputed presidential election of 2004. Scrutinized over the coming years, they could finally reveal what really put George W. Bush back in the White House for a second term.

They may also illuminate Bob Bennett’s role in making that happen.

Original post at:

https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2525 


Bob Fitrakis is one of the attorneys representing the King Lincoln Bronzeville Association and Harvey Wasserman is one of the plaintiffs. They are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (www.freepress.org) and WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO? from the New Press. Photo by Adele Eisner.

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More Potential 2004 Election Illegalities Rock Ohio’s Hocking County As Cleveland Braces For A Legal Firestorm

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
March 30, 2007

constitution_mth.jpgAs the third of four members of the Cuyahoga (Cleveland) County Board of Elections resigns under pressure from Ohio’s new Secretary of State, additional potential illegalities in Hocking County have resurfaced with new weight against a GOP executive director already under serious fire.

The four members of the Cuyahoga BOE have been asked to resign by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat elected in November, 2006. Brunner has issued a stinging five-point complaint, much of which derives from the report done by U.S. Congressman John Conyers in the wake of the 2004 presidential election, and on reporting done at https://freepress.org/ and research by grassroots election protection activists.

The two Democratic members of the board have already resigned. On March 27, Sally D. Florkiewicz, a Republican , became the third to depart the board. Her departure leaves just Robert Bennett, the BOE chair, clinging to his position. Bennett also chairs the Ohio Republican Party, and has long been one of the state’s most powerful politicians, with close ties to the White House. Many believe Bennett was the key point person, along with then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, in the theft of Ohio’s 2004 presidential election. Karl Rove is widely believed to have personally persuaded Bennett to stay on at the Cleveland-area BOE through the election.

Bennett’s position mirrors that of Tom Noe, former chair of the Lucas County (Toledo) BOE, once known as northern Ohio’s “Mr. Republican.” Like Bennett, Noe had close personal ties to George W. Bush and Ohio Governor Robert Taft. Taft, who left office earlier this year after his public approval ratings sank as low as 7%, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanors involving favors taken from Noe. Noe has since been convicted of a wide range of crimes ranging from illegal campaign contributions to the mishandling of state funds. He is now in prison.

Florkiewicz’s resignation letter charges that “the Secretary of State has decided to use the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to advance a partisan agenda.” Bennett is saying much the same as he refuses to resign. But he now, on behalf of the board he has chaired, faces a wide range of charges involving, among other things, the mishandling of public funds that resulted in taxpayer expenditures of at least an additional $12,900,000 above original budget.

For Bennett to resign would widely be viewed as admission of guilt. But a firestorm of controversy is certain to erupt should Bennett attempt to stand up to Brunner’s complaint.

The public hearing she has demanded is currently scheduled to begin April 2. However, Bennett’s taxpayer-funded special counsel, Stan Chesley, has filed a motion in court to stop it. Pending the court’s review, Brunner’s counsel John Ferron agreed to delay the hearing for a week, according to Cliff Arnebeck who is closely monitoring the case and spoke with Ferron Thursday afternoon. “With all of these fireworks it will become more and more difficult for some of the Ohio editorial boards to maintain their position that the 2004 election was not stolen,” said Arnebeck.

Meanwhile, another GOP county election official is also under intensifying fire. Lisa Schwartze, executive director of the Hocking County BOE, has been charged with allowing an unmonitored manipulation of electronic memory drives before the 2004 recount could be completed. A memo purportedly written by Schwartze also directs poll workers to recount a precinct chosen deliberately by Schwartze, rather than at random, as the law demands. Two Cuyahoga County poll workers have been convicted of felonies for similar behavior, and have each been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Schwartze’s offenses, however, may not stop there. According to sworn affidavits from Sherole Eaton, former Hocking County DOE assistant director, Schwartze publicly bragged of having held Republican Party fundraisers in her executive director’s office, a clear illegality. Schwartze may also have organized the fundraisers while being paid by the county to do her allegedly non-partisan job as executive director.

Schwartze may also have supervised the shredding of voter registration rolls leading up to the 2004 election. Eaton’s under-oath testimony strongly indicates this destruction of vital public records may also have been illegal.

Like Bennett, Schwartze has long been a high-profile associate of Blackwell’s, and apparently played a key role in delivering Ohio’s electoral votes to George W. Bush in 2004. Whether she did so illegally remains to be seen.

But the fire Jennifer Brunner has set in Cleveland now seems very likely to spread to the rest of Ohio’s 88 counties. Hocking’s Schwartze is almost certain to join Bob Bennett among those feeling the heat.


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of three books on Ohio’s recent elections which are avaliable, along with their reportage, at www.freepress.org.

Original Post at:

https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2521