, , ,

Part II – Squire v. Geer: Facts The Magistrate Left Out Are Even More Shocking Than The Ones He Included

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
July 30, 2007

Note:  This is the Second in a Two-Part Series

The Free Press recently published an article entitled “Sausage making and electronic voting machines” that revealed shocking facts about e-voting flaws in a 2006 Franklin County, Ohio judicial race.

This extensive investigation into this stolen election is a strong indictment of electronic voting in general.  It  underscores the importance of the national debate on the Holt Bill and other legislation now pending on “reforming” or abolishing the use of these problematic machines altogether.   

Indeed, what was left out of the Magistrate’s report in the Squire case (which is now on appeal) but was well documented in the court’s evidence record, constitutes an even greater indictment of touchscreen voting machines than has generally been known.

To understand the implications of this obscure election, readers should realize that it’s one of the most exhaustively studied e-voting races in U.S. history. Election Day and recount observers, two auditors, joined by one of the country’s leading electronic voting experts and under oath depositions and testimony from Board of Elections officials exposed in detail the unreliability of electronic voting systems.

The Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) appears to have violated the law when it refused to comply with Ohio law. BOE officials must follow election laws. “Strict compliance” is mandated under Ohio law. Failure to comply is a first-degree misdemeanor.

The BOE refused to impound election material as ordered by the Franklin County Court of Appeals. Magistrate Joel Sacco refused to punish the BOE and allowed them to get away with presumed fraudulent activity in their non-compliance with the Appeals Court order. Ohio law assumes fraud has taken place when election officials refuse to comply with court orders.

Moreover, Franklin County BOE Executive Director Matt Damschroder admitted under oath that he did not compare the total votes cast in the recount precincts with the number of voters listed in the pollbook in direct violation of the Secretary of State’s recount requirements. Also, when election officials failed to provide the poll books, poll lists and/or signature poll books for visual inspection as requested, they again violated recount procedures.

The facts the Magistrate ignored in the court record are the most damning toward touchscreen voting machines. Much of this reaches the legal standard for criminal election or vote tampering.

The key issue regards how election officials handled the real time audit log (RTAL) paper rolls that are supposed to ensure a fair recount. Hundreds of RTALs were already sitting out on various tables when Judge Squire’s observers entered the recount site. Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, Squire’s expert witness, noted that the correct procedure is for the “sealed containers holding the RTAL rolls to be opened in the presence of observers.” The premature extraction of the RTALs exposed the audit to the potential of a biased result.

Missing from many of these paper rolls was the additional tamper-proof tape that held the roll together.

The court record indicates that many of the RTAL rolls were incomplete. At the end of many rolls, where the final vote tally is printed for candidates, the figures were missing.

The explanation from election officials was that many of the rolls were incomplete because they had most likely been changed during the election process, the machines had simply run out of paper, or the paper rolls were damaged or ripped.

Mercuri estimated that between 5-10% of the machines either had not printed an ending vote tally or that tally was simply missing. The court record shows that specific machines lacked the end print out tallies. These machines include #5152130, #5157287, #5153310, #5153871, and #5159550, among others.

Another machine, #5151765, had a blank RTAL. Not to be outdone, machine #5155228 printed out all zeros.

A fair and unbiased audit is impossible to conduct under these circumstances.

Karen Cotton, the administrator for the Franklin County BOE, tried to explain away the fact that many RTALs had not been signed by poll workers. Cotton claimed that the “paper may have jammed” making it impossible to sign the vote tally.

Mercuri testified under oath that “I did not observe any [RTALs] that were signed at all.”

So, in the Squire v. Geer race, an uncertified system that was incapable of being audited produced unexpected election results. And the Board of Elections officials responsible for ensuring free, fair and unbiased elections failed to safeguard the people’s votes.

The real RTALs, or voter verified paper trails, prove to be worthless for audit purposes in an election where 90,000 votes were in question, according to the court record.


Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org.

Original at

http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2719

, ,

Ohio’s 2004 Presidential Election Records Missing Or Destroyed

by Steven Rosenfeld
July 30, 2007

In 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties, ballots and election records that would reveal whether the 2004 election was stolen have been “accidentally” destroyed.

Two-thirds of Ohio counties have destroyed or lost their 2004 presidential ballots and related election records, according to letters from county election officials to the Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner.

The lost records violate Ohio law, which states federal election records must be kept for 22 months after Election Day, and a U.S. District Court order issued last September that the 2004 ballots be preserved while the court hears a civil rights lawsuit alleging voter suppression of African-American voters in Columbus.

The destruction of the election records also frustrates efforts by the media and historians to determine the accuracy of Ohio’s 2004 vote count, because in county after county the key evidence needed to understand vote count anomalies apparently no longer exists.

“The extent of the destruction of records is consistent with the covering up of the fraud that we believe occurred in the presidential election,” said Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus attorney representing the King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association, which filed voter suppression suit. “We’re in the process of addressing where to go from here with the Ohio Attorney General’s office.”

“On the one hand, people will now say you can’t prove the fraud,” he said, “but the rule of law says that when evidence is destroyed it creates a presumption that the people who destroyed evidence did so because it would have proved the contention of the other side.”

Brunner’s office confirmed the 2004 ballots were missing, but declined to comment.

“Because this case is still pending, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is unable to comment on this,” said Jeff Ortega, a spokesperson. “Ultimately, whether the boards of elections are in violation of a federal court order is a matter for the court to decide.”

The missing presidential election records were discovered this past spring by Brunner, a Democrat and former judge who was elected Secretary of State in 2006. Her predecessor, Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell, was sued in August 2006 by a Columbus community organization that alleged the former Secretary of State and other “unnamed” officials “selectively and discriminatorily designed and implemented procedures for the allocation of voting machines in a manner to create a shortage. for certain urban precincts where large numbers of African-Americans resided,” according to the complaint.

Under federal and Ohio law, all ballots and election records from federal races must be preserved for 22 months after Election Day, which fell on Sept. 2, 2006. While election integrity activists and reporters from a Columbus website, FreePress.org, had sought the ballots and other election records soon after the presidential election, Blackwell would not allow county boards to release the ballots, citing court challenges to the 2004 results and a 2005 suit from the League of Women Voters alleging the state was not following the newest federal election law, the Help America Vote Act. By spring 2006, after the League’s lawyers stipulated they were not challenging the 2004 election results, some counties began to release their 2004 election records. Scrutiny of those records raised questions about the conduct of the election and some county vote totals.

On Aug. 23, 2006, lawyers for the King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association notified the Secretary of State’s office of their voter suppression suit. The following day Blackwell’s office sent letters to all 88 of Ohio’s county Boards of Election, notifying them of the suit. It is customary for public officials to preserve potential evidence when notified of pending litigation. Ian Urbina, a New York Times reporter working on the story, reported that Blackwell said he would be creating a process whereby county election records could eventually review and dispose of the 2004 ballots.

On Sept. 11, 2006, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley ordered the election boards “to preserve all ballots from the 2004 Presidential election, on paper and in any other format, including electronic data, unless and until such time otherwise instructed by this Court.”

Two months after Marbley’s order, Blackwell lost the race for governor to Democrat Ted Strickland and Brunner was elected Secretary of State. During the following winter and spring, Brunner and the state’s attorneys began negotiating a settlement for the voter suppression suit, according to lawyers involved in those talks. Part of that agreement, which has not yet been brought before the federal district court, was the creation of a statewide repository of the 2004 presidential ballots. When conducting an inventory and attempting to collect those records, Brunner’s office learned that seven counties had no ballots to turn over and 56 counties only had partial records from the 2004 vote.

“This is not just a violation of a 22-month ballot retention law. It is a violation of a court order,” Arnebeck said. “Blackwell told the New York Times that he would create a clearance procedure before destroying any ballots. The combination of Blackwell’s directive and my letter should have been enough to give the counties notice.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 2004 BALLOTS?

The presidential ballots and election records were lost, misplaced, damaged by water, taken to landfills – all apparently by mistake, due to miscommunications, or because the local election administrators were not aware of the state ballot preservation law or the federal court order, according to letters to Brunner’s office from the various county election boards.

“Our staff unintentionally discarded boxes containing Ballot Pages as requested in (Brunner’s) Directive 2007-07 due to unclear and misinterpreted instructions,” wrote Butler County Board of Election Director Betty McGary and Deputy Director Lynn Kinkaid in a May 9 memo. “Several boxes containing all the wire-bound ballot pages were discarded into a Rumpke dumpster. The dumpster would have been emptied into the local landfill.”

“The Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Board of Elections was unable to transfer the unvoted precinct ballots and soiled precinct ballots,” wrote John Williams, Hamilton County Director of Elections on May 16, 2007. “To the best if my knowledge, the above ballots were inadvertently shredded between January 19th and 26th of ’06 in an effort to make room for the new Hart voting system.”

“No one could remember the disposition of said ballots,” wrote Mike Keeley, of Clermont County’s Board of Elections on May 10, 2007, referring to the “unvoted” or unused ballots from the 2004 presidential election.

Since the 2004 election, a handful of media organizations, civil rights groups, attorneys, historians and authors have been investigating how the president won in Ohio by 118,775 votes. These inquiries have had two primary focuses: examining Republican-led voter suppression tactics and problems with the vote count, suggesting vote count fraud.

The partisan voter suppression tactics have been easier to document. Before the election, Blackwell, who was co-chair of the state’s Bush-Cheney campaign, issued numerous administrative orders that fueled an extreme partisan climate. One of the most notable came as Ohio was seeing large voter registration drives in mid-2004. Blackwell issued an order, which he later rescinded under pressure, saying only voter registrations on 80-pound paper would be accepted and processed. At the time, Republican Gov. Robert Taft told reporters that directive could disenfranchise 100,000 voters. The state Republican Party also threatened to send thousands of poll challengers to local precincts, to ensure only properly registered voter exercised that right.

On Election Day in many Ohio cities, the turnout – or voter accommodation rate – in these traditional Democratic strongholds was markedly lower than in nearby suburbs, where Republicans have tended to be the majority. In Columbus, the King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association sued saying African-American voters in Franklin County were disenfranchised because urban precincts received fewer voting machines per capita than the whiter, wealthier suburbs. They noted urban precincts had many more voting machines during the spring primary.

Ohio’s Secretary of State and Attorney General are engaged in settlement talks in the neighborhood association suit, suggesting the voter suppression claims have merit. In contrast, the case for Republican vote count fraud in the rural areas has been much harder to prove, even as the certified vote count is problematic in some counties.

Compared to Ohio’s Democratic urban core, turnout in the Republican districts was higher than the 2000 election. Moreover, in a handful of counties there were vote count anomalies that made post-election observers question whether Bush’s vote was padded. The most notable example is more than 10,000 voters from several Bible belt counties who voted for Bush and voted in favor of gay marriage, if the results are true. In a dozen rural counties, virtually unknown Democrats at the bottom of the ballot received more votes that Kerry, an oddity in a presidential year.

Reporters associated with FreePress.org and Arnebeck’s legal team hoped the court order preserving the 2004 ballots would enable them to investigate how these results occurred. Depending on the ballot type and vote-counting machine used, they have theories about how Bush’s vote could have been inflated. But because many of these rural counties apparently have destroyed the very 2004 election records that would clarify what happened, it is now virtually impossible to determine what happened.

In Warren County, where county election officials said on Election Day that the FBI had declared a homeland security alert – which they later retracted – ballots were diverted to a warehouse before counting. The local media was not allowed to observe the vote count. According to a letter from the Warren County Board of Election to Brunner’s office, the election board cannot find 22,000 unused ballots from the election. In nearby Butler County, unused ballots are also missing, fueling speculation that they might have been used by Republican partisans to pad the president’s totals.

“The missing records reveal where the fraud occurred,” said Arnebeck. “You take as an example, Warren County. It is well documented that there was a phony homeland security alert and that was the excuse for excluding the public and the press from observing what was going on during Election Day. So the missing unused ballots would suggest that ballots were remade to fit the desired result.”

“The same situation occurred in Clermont County,” he said. “We have sworn affidavits from people who saw white stickers placed over the Kerry-Edward ovals in this optical scan county,” he said, referring to one way of masking a would-be Kerry vote, because optical-scan machines read ink marks on paper ballots. “So the missing unused ballots would suggest they were used to remake ballots to reflect the desired vote for Bush.”

Many rural Ohio counties did not have vote count problems, Arnebeck said. But enough did have significant problems that called for further investigation.

“The Attorney General says the rural counties all say human error was to blame (for the missing ballots),” he said. “There are some counties where ballots are missing and we don’t believe anything was wrong with the vote count. But there are others where that human error covers up what we think was vote count fraud.”

Another big category of votes that will never be explained are the nearly 129,000 ballots that were rejected by voting machines and not counted. Many of these 2004 ballots – a mix of computer punch cards, paper ballots to be marked by ink and electronic votes – are among the incomplete 2004 election records. One post-election analysis found 94,000 of these ballots come from Democratic-majority precincts, and estimated these that ballots could have cost Kerry an additional 26,000 votes.

, ,

Sausage Making And Electronic Voting Machines

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
July 27, 2007

We’ve been long warned that foreign policy is like making sausage – you don’t want to know the gory details. The same is true of electronic vote counting on the so-called e-voting machines, or DREs.

Earlier this month, the 2006 election challenge court case Squire v. Geer gave us a rare tour inside the scam known as “touchscreen voting.” The “tour” comes with the backdrop of revelations that 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties have “lost” all or some of the election records from the stolen 2004 election. Though the records were protected by federal law, this means it may now be impossible to definitively tabulate who actually won the presidency in 2004. We will write more on this breaking news story in articles to come.

Carol Squire, a Franklin County Domestic Court Judge, refused to stand down after election observers and a post-election computer forensic analysis documented massive electronic voting machine irregularities in her race for re-election. She first paid for a recount of key precincts and used those results to file an election challenge. Squire’s election challenge sought a new election as the remedy.

Prior to last year’s election, the incumbent Democrat—the only African American female in the Domestic Relations Court her—was under fire from the Republican daily monopoly newspaper Columbus Dispatch as well as the Republican-controlled county court. Yet, most political observers expected her to win, particularly if the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland did well in Franklin County.

Strickland won with 58% of the vote in Franklin County. But Squire’s opponent Chris Geer purportedly won by 13,069 votes out of more than 262,000 cast. The outcome, to say the least, is highly implausible.

Magistrate Joel Sacco presided over the Squire v. Geer case, and while he declined to order a new election, his Findings of Fact in his decision of July 2, 2007 serves as a lasting testament to the illegitimacy of e-voting. The Finding of Facts encompassed the recount as well as evidence presented during the election challenge hearing.

Proving that they are either dyslexic or incompetent (or both), Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) officials proved incapable of calculating 3% of the absentee vote as recount election law requires. The BOE officials “…counted 2072 absentee votes when they should have counted 2702 votes,” according to the Magistrate’s decision.

Compounding their inability to count, “Board of Elections did not check the public counters prior to this recount to verify that the numbers on these counters corresponded to the numbers on the VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail} and the poll books, poll lists or signature book records.”

This is a pattern repeated from the 2004 presidential election recount. Then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell issued a directive that allowed counties to recount, not based on their certified election results, but simply by running a few voted ballots through a counter and then hand-counting them to see if the numbers match. It defies logic that the BOE officials would recount without checking the numbers on the machine counters.

Repeating another tactic made infamous from 2004 presidential election, BOE workers, contrary to Ohio Secretary of State’s directive, violated principles of transparency. The Magistrate wrote that: Franklin County BOE “…did not in the presence of two election officials of different political parties make the poll books, poll lists or signature poll book records available on December 11, 2006 for visual inspection by the recount witnesses.”

Franklin County BOE officials not only refused to provide the books for inspection as required by law, they then proceeded to tamper with evidence in direct violation of election law. The Magistrate found that BOE workers “reviewed the poll books during the period before the official canvas began. Certain corrections were made to correct errors, voter audits were made, and voters were given credit before the official canvas began. Notations were made in precinct workbooks and poll books by Board of Elections staff. No date was placed by the initials of the person making the notation to indicate when the notations were made.”

In any other democracy, this would be called illegal cooking of the books.

After the books were well-done and well-seasoned, the Magistrate found that:

“For the November 7, 2006 general election, in 721 out of 835 Franklin County precincts, the public count on DREs did not equal the number of signatures in the poll books plus provisional votes cast minus the number of cancelled votes.”

Do the math. Of all DRE precincts in Franklin County, 86.3% had vote totals that failed to match signatures in the poll books. This is one of the most stunning indictments of e-voting in United States history.

Even after illegally withholding and anonymously correcting the book, the Franklin County BOE still “…reported 2824 more votes cast than signatures scanned,” according to the Magistrate’s Findings.

What this suggests is that while election officials had time to come close to an overall match by secretly and illegally “correcting” the books, they didn’t have time to match up the precinct-by-precinct tallies.

In an all too familiar scenario with e-voting machines, massive unexplained and improbable undervotes marred the race. The Magistrate noted that “of the voters in the November 7, 2006 election who voted for Governor by paper ballots, 22.15% did not vote in the Squire/Geer contest. Of those who voted for Governor by DRE or electronic ballot, 33.81% did not vote in the Squire/Geer contest. This represents a difference of 11.66%. In the past three elections this ‘voter drop off’ was reversed in the sense that persons voting absentee dropped off at a higher rate than persons utilizing voting machines or voting in the precincts.”

As in U.S. Senate races in 2006 in Montgomery County, Ohio, and in Sarasota, Florida’s House race that year, statistically impossible high rates of undervotes have gone against the Democratic candidates.

A conservative estimate in the Squire race suggests that 30,649 votes went unrecorded due to machine malfunction. The number is no doubt higher, as the Magistrate points out. DRE machines, since they flash when a voter fails to vote, historically have a lower undervote rate than paper ballots.

A staggering 33.81% — more than a third of all voters — allegedly did not cast a vote for Squire or Geer—but only on the DRE machines. Computer scientists have long documented that undervotes can be easily programmed. They can occur either by accident or design.

In Montgomery County’s 2006 Senate race, 30,000 unexplained undervotes occurred in the U.S. Senate race between Sherrod Brown and incumbent Michael Dewine. The county voted Democratic, implying that the Democrat Brown was hurt most by the undervote. In fact, the last major poll before the 2006 election by the Columbus, Ohio Dispatch had Brown winning the state by 24%. That poll was conducted by participants filling out and mailing in an actual paper ballot. A few days later, on Election Day, Brown only received 12% of the vote in the 2006 election conducted almost entirely on DREs.

The reason why the DRE votes are so unreliable may well be explained by the Magistrate’s finding that, “the voting system certified by the Secretary of State and the USEAC and the voting system utilized by Franklin County on November 7, 2006 varied in the following component versions. … Election Data Manager, Hardware Programming Manager and M100 Optical Scanner.”

The use of uncertified hardware and software installed at the last second can create not only massive undervotes but unexplained vote shifts due to recalibration problems, which is a quaint term for vote flipping. The software changes involved, among other things, ballot definitions. And, with rotating candidates’ names by precinct, so that all have equal chance of appearing first, uncertified changes could cause a vote cast for Squire to show up as a vote cast for Geer.

Squire’s expert witness, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, found and the Magistrate accepted as fact that “…The use of components that are mismatched — i.e., components that are configured in a way that was not certified by the USEAC — violates certification requirements and also runs the risk of exposure to programming errors or security vulnerabilities that could compromise the integrity of the election and could result in the loss of mistabulation of votes.”

Dr. Mercuri also testified and it was accepted as fact in the Magistrate’s decision that “…Franklin County had not completed a review of the 1.4 million lines of code contained collectively in the software which comprises the modules. Dr. Mercuri concluded that she had ‘very serious concerns about the security’ during the election.”

Computer election expert David Dill of Stanford publicly stated that, “It is practically impossible for someone to review software of any length at all – even 10,000 or even 1500 – lines of code to make sure that it’s 100% error-free.”

Professor Avi Rubin points out that it is easy to hide undetected codes in large code packages.

In 2004, Diebold, ES&S, and Triad technicians just prior to the election and recount, made numerous software and hardware changes to election voting machines, central tabulators and other computer technology without certification. In 2006, there were even more electronic voting machines in use, and the Squire challenge just happened to catch the use of uncertified software and hardware.

While the Magistrate found by clear and convincing evidence that there were election “irregularities,” he failed to order a new election in part because electronic voting creates a classic Catch-22. Because of the non-transparency of the computer black boxes we vote on, you can never really prove with “clear and convincing evidence” who won.

That now seems to be the case for Carol Squire—and for the majority of counties in Ohio’s stolen 2004 election.


Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org, where this article was first published.

Original article at,

http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2712

 

,

FREE First Friday Flicks at the Free Press, August 3

You’re invited to the                                             bushsbrain
FREE First Friday Flicks at the Free Press
Friday, August 3, 2007
Showing:
“Bush’s Brain-A documentary about Karl Rove”

6:30 doors open, 7pm film begins. Light refreshments.
BUSH’S BRAIN chronicles the life and work of Karl Rove, currently the Senior Advisor to President Bush. When the filmmakers began shooting BUSH’S BRAIN, Karl Rove was unknown to most of us. He was the most powerful man America had never heard of. He was the “Wizard of Oz” behind the curtain of the Bush Presidency.
Discussion will follow film showing.

Location: Free Press office, 1000 E. Main St., in Columbus Compact building, parking lot in rear, overflow in Salvation Army parking lot next door.
Phone: 253-2571, 224-1082
Email: truth@freepress.org
Website: Bush’s Brain

, , ,

SHREDS OF EVIDENCE (How Ohio Participated In A Coup D’etat)

Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

July 25, 2007

Those who would dismiss out of hand our allegations of election fraud are fond of claiming that there is not a “shred of evidence” to substantiate our charges. To the contrary, there are millions of shreds of evidence in Ohio. In at least 56 of 88 counties, ballots and other elections records were shredded or otherwise destroyed.

On September 11, 2006, Judge Algenon L. Marbley, United States District Judge, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, in the case of King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association, et al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, et al. (Case No. 06-CV-745), issued an order requiring the Boards of Elections for all 88 counties in Ohio to preserve as evidence all the ballots from the 2004 presidential election, “on paper or in any other format, including electronic data.” The intent of Judge Marbley’s order was to extend the 22-month records retention period required by law for federal elections, which period would have ended on September 2, 2006. Judge Marbley cited Ohio Revised Code Section 3505.31, which states in relevant part:

. . . if the election includes the nomination or election of candidates for . . . president, the board shall carefully preserve all ballots prepared and provided by it for use in that election, whether used or unused for twenty-two months after the day of the election. (emphasis added)

. . . provided that the secretary of state . . . may order the board to preserve the ballots or any part of the ballots for a longer period of time, in which event the board shall preserve those ballots for that longer period of time.

In fact, Directive 2004-43, issued by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, dated October 25, 2004, eight days before the election, had also instructed the Boards of Elections that “All used and unused ballots must be retained for at least 22 months.”

In addition, wrote Judge Marbley, the Boards of Election were required to preserve the ballots because they were the subject matter of a lawsuit (King Lincoln v. Blackwell), and the “duty to preserve the ballots began when each county Board of Elections office received a letter from Plaintiffs” on August 31, 2006, notifying them of the filing of the lawsuit.

In short, all ballots, used and unused, were protected from destruction until September 2, 2006 by Ohio Revised Code Section 3505.31 and Secretary of State Directive 2004-43; from August 31, 2006 onward by the filing in Federal District Court of King Lincoln v. Blackwell (Case No. 06-CV-745); and by Order of Judge Algenon L. Marbley from September 11, 2006 “unless and until such time otherwise instructed by this Court.”

As it happens, Boards of Elections in at least 56 of 88 Ohio counties did not comply with the law.

During the spring of 2007, the parties to the King Lincoln v. Blackwell lawsuit reached a courtapproved Stipulated Agreement under which Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, successor to J. Kenneth Blackwell, agreed to take possession of the ballots from all 88 counties in Ohio. According to records provided by Brunner’s office, 46 counties destroyed their unused ballots (a.k.a. “unvoted” ballots). In addition, I was personally informed by the Trumbull County Board of Elections that their unused ballots had been destroyed as well. The 46 counties are: Allen, Ashland, Ashtabula, Athens, Champaign, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Darke, Erie, Fairfield, Fayette, Guernsey, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Jackson, Lawrence, Licking, Logan, Lorain, Madison, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Morrow, Noble, Perry, Preble, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Shelby, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas, Van Wert, Warren, Wayne, Wood.

Many of these counties (e.g. Ashland, Champaign, Erie, Fayette, Monroe, Perry, Shelby, Warren) claimed that the records retention schedule does not state that they must retain their unused ballots for more than 60 days. Fairfield County could only “assume” that the unvoted ballots “would have been shredded” 60 days after the election. Others (e.g. Hardin, Scioto, Stark) stated that their unused ballots were destroyed prior to the court order. Hancock County claimed that they “received verbal direction” from the office of former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that the unused ballots and soiled ballots “did not have to be retained and these items were destroyed.” Logan County actually claimed that they destroyed their unused ballots “pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code.” Putnam County stated that “Following the 2004 General Election all unused ballots were destroyed for security purposes.” Thirteen counties which failed to produce their unused ballots (Columbiana, Coshocton, Darke, Lawrence, Licking, Lorain, Madison, Morgan, Noble, Summit, Tuscarawas, Wayne, Wood) submitted no explanation at all.

Five counties (Athens, Guernsey, Hamilton, Mercer, Van Wert) expressed surprise at being unable to locate their unused ballots. The Athens County Board of Elections stated that “The Director in 2004 has retired and we feel that these unvoted ballots from the polls were inadvertently discarded.” The Guernsey County Board of Elections stated that “The unused ballots as well as the punch card ballot pages were destroyed in error” because “the county maintenance worker, when collecting trash, picked up the boxes” that contained them. The Mercer County Board of Elections stated that the unused ballots “were not found in our storage area. Please note that the previous office administration was responsible for the handling of these ballots. We will continue to search for the unused ballots from this election.” The Van Wert County Board of Elections stated that “After a thorough search of our basement (where most of our equipment and supplies are kept) and our office, we are unable to find any unvoted ballot cards from the November 2, 2004 General Election. We assume that those ballots were discarded.” John M. Williams, Director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, first discovered that their unused ballots were missing on August 22, 2006 when he failed to find them pursuant to my public records request. He submitted the following explanation to Secretary Brunner regarding the “unvoted” ballots and “soiled” ballots:

The above ballots were secured after the election in a basement storage area. To the best of my knowledge, the above ballots were inadvertently shredded between January 19th and 26th of ’06 in an effort to make room for the new Hart voting system. The unvoted ballots were stored in boxes and wheeled carts. The voted ballots were not destroyed as they were stored in punch card filing cabinets that were also located in the basement area. The unvoted punch cards cannot be replicated.

Failure to preserve the unused ballots makes it impossible for any Board of Elections to verify the authenticity of the voted ballots. The sum total of voted, spoiled, and unused ballots in each precinct must equal the total number of ballots issued to that precinct. Without the unused ballots, there is no way for Hamilton, Montgomery, Richland, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties to prove that ballots in selected precincts were not punched in advance for independent and third-party presidential candidates. Without the unused ballots (and the stub numbers torn from the voted and spoiled ballots), there is no way for Clermont, Darke, Mercer, Shelby, Van Wert and Warren counties to prove that fake ballots were not substituted for real ones.

Clermont County is a special case, because of their infamous “stickered ballots.” During the “recount” of December 14, 2004, several witnesses saw numerous optical scan ballots with white stickers over the Kerry-Edwards mark, and the Bush-Cheney oval filled in. By the time we were allowed to photograph these hand-counted ballots in July of 2006, only one “stickered” presidential ballot survived. The most likely explanation is that the incriminating “stickered” ballots were replaced with “duplicates,” and then destroyed. The making of “duplicate” ballots would have partially depleted the stash of unused ballots, and because such a shortage would also be incriminating, the unused ballots would also have been destroyed.

My initial records request to the Clermont County Board of Elections was dated April 3, 2006. More than twenty weeks later, on August 24, 2006, Director Mike Keeley stated in writing to me that “As time permits, we are still attempting to locate said un-used ballots. When they are located you, and numerous other requestors, will be so notified.” More than one year later, on May 10, 2007, they were still looking, as stated in Keeley’s letter of explanation to Brunner:

The Clermont County Board of Elections (has) been unable to locate the unused ballots regarding the 2004 Election. In interviewing the staff, no one could remember the disposition of said ballots. No one remembers specifically discarding the ballots. There is a possibility that the ballots will surface as we complete the re-organization of our warehouse section, as well as a re-visit to our records storage facility. If/when we locate the unused ballots we will notify our Liaison, for disposition.

According to records provided by Secretary Brunner, 23 counties destroyed their spoiled ballots (a.k.a. “soiled and defaced” ballots). The 23 counties are:

Allen, Ashtabula, Clark, Darke, Hamilton, Hancock, Holmes, Jackson, Lawrence, Licking, Logan, Marion, Medina, Miami, Montgomery, Morrow, Preble, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Stark, Wyandot.

Miami was the only one of these counties that destroyed their spoiled ballots and nothing else. They submitted no letter of explanation. Failure to preserve the spoiled ballots makes it impossible for Miami County to verify the authenticity of their 570 “recount remakes.” Without the spoiled ballots, there is no way to prove that the “remakes” match the originals they supposedly duplicate. As stated in a previous chapter, “Rain-Soaked Records in Miami County,” the rate of undervotes among the “remakes” was 13.9% (79 of 570), compared to a rate of 0.50% (248 of 49,744) among all the other ballots in the county. It cannot be proven that these were not “remakes” of tampered ballots on which a presidential choice had been erased or covered over.

Also according to records provided by Secretary Brunner, 19 counties destroyed their “ballot pages.” These are booklets, placed upon the voting machines, which list the candidates and the numbered positions on the punch cards that correspond to their names. The 19 counties are:

Adams, Ashtabula, Butler, Clinton, Fayette, Guernsey, Lorain, Marion, Medina, Montgomery, Morrow, Paulding, Preble, Richland, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Shelby, Summit, Wyandot.

Fayette County stated that “The actual Election Day ballot pages would have been destroyed a month before the next election so we could reuse the frames.” The Director of the Clinton County Board of Elections stated that “I discovered the punch card ballot pages were not included in the boxes from the Records Department and began to search for them immediately. I called previous Board of Elections employees and searched our office.” She stated that they “opened and searched each box stored at the Records Department,” but the “Presidential ballot pages were not found.”

Four of these counties (Adams, Butler, Clinton and Paulding) destroyed their ballot pages and nothing else. The Butler County Board of Elections offered the following explanation:

In early March of 2007, we were in the process of creating an inventory of all storage items being held in our off-site warehouse. At that time, a request to discard unused forms from the 2004 Precinct Kits was approved. When these instructions were related via telephone to our offsite warehouse staff, a miscommunication occurred. The instructions were interpreted as to include boxes containing the 2004 ballot pages – as they were being stored next to the unused forms boxes. At no time was anyone specifically instructed to discard these items. Our warehouse staff then began cleaning the storage area and marking boxes for inventory purposes. During that process, several boxes containing all the wire-bound ballot pages were discarded into a Rumpke dumpster. This dumpster would have been emptied into the local landfill.

Failure to preserve the ballot pages makes it impossible to verify that the ballot rotation was listed correctly on each and every voting machine. Without the ballot pages, there is no way for Butler County, for example, to prove that the “Connally anomaly” in specific precincts was not due to the ballot positions being reversed on one of several voting machines in that precinct. This could have happened in one of two ways. If the presidential positions were reversed on a machine in a “blue precinct,” there would have been a net loss of Kerry votes to Bush; or if the Chief Justice positions were reversed on a machine in a “red precinct,” there would have been a net loss of Moyer votes to Connally. Either way, by fraud or error, Connally would likely have run ahead of Kerry in that precinct. Reversing the ballot rotations on all machines for a single precinct would make the results obviously erroneous. But if only one machine of several was affected, the results would be merely anomalous.

Among the counties that failed to provide all their voted ballots to Secretary Brunner, two counties (Mahoning, Ross) are listed as having destroyed only their absentee ballots. That is because the only paper ballots they ever had were absentee ballots. Both of these counties utilized electronic voting at the polls on Election Day. The Mahoning County Board of Elections blamed the destruction of evidence on poor communications with the “Green Team” (a.k.a. Mahoning County Commissioners’ Reuse and Recycling Division):

The ballots were accidentally disposed of on Friday, March 23rd of 2007. On Wednesday the 21st the warehouse supervisor asked the Director, Thomas P. McCabe, if it was acceptable to have the Mahoning County Green Team pick up all recyclables in the storage room for disposal pursuant to the retention schedule. The Director gave the affirmative that it was acceptable. Lost in the communication was the previous memorandum between said two of the September court order to retain all 2004 materials past the retention date.

Five counties (Allen, Holmes, Jackson, Lawrence, Scioto) provided some but not all of their voted ballots to Secretary Brunner. The Lawrence County Board of Elections, which failed to provide their provisional ballots, offered no explanation at all. The Jackson County Board of Elections found only “a partial portion” of the voted ballots, and offered two alternative explanations for how the ballots went missing: “They may have been destroyed pursuant to the retention schedule,” or they may have been “accidentally destroyed when we moved our Board of Elections office.” The Scioto County Board of Elections offered the following explanation:

Un-voted ballots were released and shredded following the twenty-two (22) month retention period and prior to our receipt of Judge Marbley’s order on September 11, 2006. Our staff has searched diligently and thoroughly for the box of missing voted ballots but they have not been located, to date. The ballots have not been intentionally destroyed. It is unknown whether the ballots were accidentally destroyed or have been otherwise misplaced.

The letter of explanation from the Holmes County Board of Elections is entertaining, although it does fall short of compliance with the spirit of the law (Ohio Revised Code Section 3505.31), which requires the Board to “carefully preserve all ballots.” (emphasis added)

A shelving unit collapsed in the Board of Elections storeroom on the morning of Friday, April 7, 2006. That shelving unit held the voted ballots, stubs, soiled and defaced ballot envelopes, and ballot accounting charts from the 2004 General Election. The shelves and stored items collapsed onto a side table holding a working coffee maker. The carafe on the coffee maker was full at the time of the incident. Many of the stored items had to be destroyed due to the broken glass and hot coffee. The ballot pages and unused ballots were stored on a neighboring shelf and were not damaged.

More serious problems were encountered by the Allen County Board of Elections:

Following the 2004 General Election the Allen County Board of Elections boxed and labeled all voted ballots and placed them in our vault for the required 22 months of storage. Throughout the latter part of 2004 and into 2005 the Allen County Board of Elections began to experience problems with storm water migrating and subsequently penetrating our primary storage areas including our vault. As a result of these events, much of what was stored in our vault, including the 2004 General Election ballots, was compromised by water damage and subsequently destroyed on or about August 20, 2006. Pursuant to the recommendations of the Allen County Health Department, the boxes displaying mold or mildew were set aside to be discarded. Unfortunately, the contractor hired to remove the damaged boxes also accidentally removed the undamaged boxes as well. Those items include: Poll Books, Clerks Books and a box containing 498 write-in ballots.

Finally, seven counties (Ashtabula, Marion, Medina, Montgomery, Preble, Sandusky, Seneca) provided no ballots at all to Secretary Brunner. Marion, Medina, Sandusky and Seneca counties stated that they destroyed their ballots pursuant to the records retention schedule, shortly after September 2, 2006. Marion and Medina counties stated that this was done before they received Judge Marbley’s order. Sandusky and Seneca counties claimed that they have “no record” of receiving Judge Marbley’s order. Ashtabula County gave the following explanation:

The 2004 Presidential ballots were inadvertently disposed of when the old punch card equipment appurtenances were disposed of before the May 2006 primary when the new optical scan voting equipment was implemented. A similar explanation was provided by Preble County:

We are in receipt of Secretary Brunner’s Directive #2007-07 requesting delivery of the 2004 general election ballots to her office. Upon receipt of that Directive our director and deputy director went to our storage area to retrieve the ballots but were unable to find them. They contacted our recently retired director to see if she might know where they were located. She told them that she had been aware that they were not where they were supposed to be and thought it likely that they had been inadvertently discarded by the Courthouse maintenance staff when room had to be made for our new electronic voting equipment.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections, in a letter signed by Steven P. Harsman, Director, provided a lengthy and contentious explanation:

As you are aware, in accordance to Ohio Revised Code the retention schedule for a Federal Election is 22 months. We prepared the certificate of destruction in preparation of destroying the materials from the Presidential Election and we received the signed copy of Certificate of Destruction from the county records to proceed with destruction according to the retention schedule. In addition, we contacted our county prosecutor for further authorization. In addition, we experienced an extra ordinary situation having 4 elections during a 90 day period. We literally ran out of space to prepare, stage, and retain material for those elections. It was imperative that we process the 2004 materials for destruction under the guidelines of the 22 month retention. Therefore, all materials were properly destroyed in a timely manner and we are unable to comply due to those circumstances. We did not receive formal notice from the courts prior to preparing the certificate of destruction.

In short, Harsman is saying that the 2004 election records still existed at the time the Board of Elections received Judge Marbley’s order to preserve them, but because they “ran out of space” to store these records, and because the Board had already received authorization from the County Prosecutor to destroy these records, it was “imperative” and “proper” to destroy them. The opinion of the County Prosecutor trumps an order from a United States District Judge.

It was Steven P. Harsman who, accompanied by Betty Smith, Deputy Director, barged into the room where I was photographing ballots at about 3:30 P.M. on Thursday, August 24, 2006, and ordered me to stop. I refused, stating that Harsman had agreed to allow me one full day to photograph the uncounted ballots from all 23 precincts specified in my public records request. Earlier on this same day, the Montgomery County Board of Elections had received notification by e-mail from Cliff Arnebeck, Attorney at Law, of the impending lawsuit, and was asked to preserve the ballots as evidence in the case. But the Board was eager to destroy them. The employees who handled the ballots for me brought up the subject themselves.

Of the 501 uncounted ballots photographed in these 23 precincts, 322 (64.3%) contained multiple punches for president. Of these, 21 (6.5%) were punched for both Bush and Kerry, 273 (84.8%) were punched for Kerry and one or two independent or third-party presidential candidates, and only 19 (5.9%) were punched for Bush and for one or two independent or third-party presidential candidates. It is my conclusion, stated in a previous chapter, “Pre-Punched Ballots in Deep Blue Precincts,” that these ballots were pre-punched in order to ruin otherwise valid ballots in heavily Democratic precincts, but that the pre-punching was not done by the Board of Elections. However, 70 (14.0%) of the uncounted ballots had “dimpled chads” for president, 57 intended for Kerry, and 13 intended for Bush. There were 1124 holes punched cleanly through the very ballots on which these 70 “dimpled chads” were found, indicating that some of the voting machines were rigged to make it more difficult to vote for president than for any other office or ballot initiative. If the holes in the “masks” or “shields” that cover the punch card ballots are too small, the punching implement, or “stylus,” will leave only a dent, or “dimple,” in the ballot. It is the Boards of Elections, not the voting machine vendors, who punch the holes in the “masks” or “shields.” This would be a powerful incentive for the Board of Elections to destroy the ballots.

————————– ———————

Richard Hayes Phillips has been investigating the 2004 Ohio election ever since it happened. The Free Press was the first to publish any of his writings. The preceding chapter will appear in his forthcoming book, “Witness to a Crime: A Citizens’ Audit of an American Election.”

, , , ,

Free Press Second Saturday Salon, Saturday, July 14, 2007

6pm-midnight. Meet new friends in the progressive community! Have a
meeting during the salon with a small group! Give a presentation on a
social justice issue! Food, drinks, music, art, political discourse or
just socializing time with progressive friends.

Presentation topic: Women against beauty deception by Bona Oma. Madison
Avenue has generated millions by encouraging women to pursue a phantom
of perfection that most will never attain. Bona Oma is an
advocacy/support group that exposes Madison Ave.’s false depiction of
women. Please join us for this avant-garde presentation including a
slide show, displays and great conversation!

Location:Free Press office, 1000 E. Main St., old firehouse #11,
parking lot in rear, overflow in Salvation Army lot next door.
Phone:253-2571, 224-1082
Email:Free Press

, , , ,

“Who Killed The Electric Car?” Film July 9th, Columbus Northside Library

Elec Car

You are invited to see the true story: “Who Killed the Electric Car?”
A documentary about the destruction of a car that would decrease our dependence on foreign oil

Monday, July 9, 2007 – 7pm
Video at 7pm and discussion following.
Electric cars began to flourish in California in the late 1990s. Then slowly, gradually, they were being picked up and disposed of in the dump. Why were these cars obliterated from the face of the Earth? Who was threatened by them? Who killed the electric car? You may have seen the article in the Sunday Dispatch about a local man who invented a “water car” that had no use of oil — who was intimidated, threatened and finally allegedly poisoned and killed. This type of suppression of any inventions that reduce the U.S. dependence on oil is rampant.Sponsored by the Central Ohio Greens.

Location: Northside Library, 1423 N. High St.
Phone: 253-2571
Email: dgibson6@columbus.rr.com
Website: www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar/electric.html

, ,

Blair, Well-Equipped To Be Sent To The Hague As A War Criminal

Peace Palace

International Court of Justice

Peace Palace

I couldn’t help but notice the bizarre Fourth of July editorial in the Columbus Dispatch entitled in part, “. . . Blair well-equipped to be special mideast envoy.” The Dispatch, which has been highly critical of Bush’s illegal and genocidal war against Iraq, gushes over Bush’s “poodle” – as he’s known to the British tabloids. But, former Prime Minister Tony Blair was far more than a poodle. He was a fellow gangster and co-conspirator in a war that violated every principle of Nuremberg and UN Charter. In short, what Blair is uniquely qualified for is prison. Or the gallows.

The Dispatch writes “Blair is trusted by Israelis and Palestinians.” Since it is an editorial, they cite no proof. In reality, Blair is one of the most hated men among Middle East Arabs as well as pan-Islamic forces throughout the region. It’s hard to think of a worse envoy for peace than a man who whole-heartedly endorsed the slaughter of Iraqi people and went along with the deliberate lies and cooking of intelligence that led to the imperialist war and occupation of Iraq.

Blair’s lasting legacy are the Downing Street memos which show that his government knew that Bush and Cheney were liars and war mongers.