In Farhad Manjoo’s “Was the 2004 Election Stolen? No” he claims Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s article in Rolling Stone contains “numerous errors of interpretation and his [Kennedy’s] deliberate omission of key bits of data.” As an Election Protection legal observer in Columbus and one of the four attorneys who challenged the Ohio election results, I was struck by Manjoo’s own numerous errors of fact and deliberate omissions of widely-known studies and data.
In his first claim about the Ellen Connally anomaly, where an under-funded retired municipal judge from Cleveland ran ahead of Kerry
in rural southwestern counties fails to indicate vote-shifting from
Kerry to Bush, Manjoo deliberately omits several well-known facts.The obvious fact on record is that Democratic nominee Al Gore pulled his
campaign out of the state six weeks prior to the 2000 election while
Kerry and his 527 organization supporters spent the largest amount of money in Ohio history. So to compare the non-Gore campaign in 2000 to the massive Democratic effort in 2004 seems disingenuous. Moreover, Manjoo conveniently ignores the fact that sample ballots were everywhere in the state of Ohio and voters in these rural counties were repeatedly mailed and handed both party’s sample ballots. There were large and active campaigns in the key counties in question – Butler, Clermont, and Warren – passing out Republican and Democratic sample ballots. This is a major omission. Also, Manjoo might actually want to do some research on the amount of money Eric Fingerhut spent vs. John Kerry. Fingerhut’s major effort was walking across the state of Ohio because he didn’t have any funds. Hardly Kerry’s problem.
By the way, it is easy to shift votes on punchcard machines due to the ballot rotation law in Ohio. For instance, the hole to punch for Kerry
would be “4” in one precinct and the hole to punch for Bush would be
“4” in the next precinct. Public records reveal that in key southwest
Ohio counties, ballots were counted at the county level, not the
precinct level, to save money on counting machines. Thus, all one has
to do is shift Kerry cards to a Bush tabulating machine to get a shift.
There was more than enough time to do this, when votes came in during the wee hours of the morning. In fact, when we finally got to look at the ballots from four precincts in Warren County, we were surprised to discover that two OF the pink “header” cards used to separate precinct ballots had holes punched for Bush.
It appears Manjoo knows very little about Ohio election law. As a
licensed attorney in the state and involved in the practice of election
law, I’m stunned by the obvious errors that Manjoo makes. The purges in Ohio were, in fact, deliberate, and they occurred in Democratic strongholds. Cuyahoga County records indicate 24.93% of all voters in Cleveland were purged between the 2000 and 2004 election. Census data indicates that most of the people who move in urban areas move within the county, which would make them still eligible to vote under Ohio law, and not be purged. What Manjoo leaves out is the standard practice by counties, which would have moved these individuals to “inactive” status before purging them. Additionally, numerous surveys as well as reports by the Toledo Blade and other newspapers reveal that many of these people had voted in local elections or had contacted their county board of elections, which under voting directives indicates activity. This activity would prevent them from being purged. But counter to the law and existing practice, they were purged anyway.
Yes, there was the deliberate purging in the Democratic strongholds
indeed. The Toledo Blade reports 28,000 voters purged from the
Democratic stronghold of Toledo in late August 2004. Perhaps Manjoo
should make it a practice to do a Lexus Nexus search prior to attacking people for omitting data. The key here is that it is standard for counties to purge in odd-number years, 2001, 2003, etc. Manjoo also ignores the fact that 95.12% of all the provisional voters in Hamilton County came from the Democratic city of Cincinnati, where only 32% of the county’s voters resided. Less than 5% of the provisional ballots were handed out in the lily-white suburbs. Perhaps Manjoo has a hard time imagining a man of Karl Rove’s high standards targeting black and poor voters.
Manjoo’s claim that the missing voting machines did not impact the
African American communities is bizarre and laughable. As an election
observer who witnessed lines at 9 inner-city African American
precincts, I counted an average of 80 voters leaving per hour without
voting in precinct after precinct. I have my logs from that day, if
Manjoo would care to see them. I find Manjoo’s comments both
preposterous and possibly racist. The reality is, Franklin County
needed 5000 machines. They went into the election with 2886, but they only put out 2741 on Election Day. I have in my possession a document that shows 125 machines that had been previously allocated, but were blackout out and held back on Election Day – all 125 from the Democratic stronghold of Columbus. Forty-two percent of the African American wards had machines held back at the last second. This constitutes 74% of all the majority African American wards in Franklin County. Perhaps if Manjoo had actually called and asked for the documents, he may have had a better perspective. Mark Crispin Miller, Rolling Stone and Bobby Kennedy all verified their facts before they wrote their pieces. Election Protection volunteers, attorneys and eyewitnesses have yet to hear from Mr. Manjoo. Perhaps this is a new style of investigative reporting. As an award-winning investigative reporter, I’m also quite interested in how salon.com fact checks their writers.
While Manjoo’s errors are legion and will clearly pass into infamy, one
of his most absurd is pretending that Bill Anthony, the Franklin County Board of Elections Chair, had anything to do with the actual allocation
of the machines. The allocation of voting machines was drawn up by Matt Damschroder, the Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. Manjoo actually, in a major error, refers to Damschroder, as the Chair of the Election Board. Manjoo incorrectly cites both Anthony and Damschroder as chairs of the Franklin County Board of Elections. Under Ohio law, there’s only one Chair and Damschroder has never been chair. I’m surprised that Manjoo would make an error of this magnitude. Anthony is the Chair. The Board he chairs deals with general policy matters. Damschroder is the Director who deals with the nuts and bolts of Election Day activity. For example, it was Damschroder who admitted going back to 1998 and purging 3500 felons in Franklin County at Blackwell’s request. In a given year, Damschroder told WVKO he only normally purges between 200-300 felons. In 2004, Damschroder admitted that he went back and purged people indicted, but not convicted of a felony. By the way, Damschroder is also the former Chair of the Franklin County Republican Party. It is Damschroder who admitted that when 356 people showed up to vote at the right polling site, the vast majority from the inner city, he refused to have their votes counted because his election workers gave them a provisional ballot in error. This is listed in his official voting log as “Voted on Paper, Should Have Voted on Machine.”
There is far more wrong with Manjoo’s silly, superficial attack. But in
conclusion, it appears that Manjoo, in his zest to be the great “de-bunker” of grassroots activists and progressive writers, simply creates his facts as needed. No surprise that he thinks Bush won. After all, he seems to adopt the same intelligence-gathering methods Bush used in Iraq which are favored by Fox News. His approach reminds me of that famous quote from Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.”