by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
February 10, 2007
With two felony convictions already in its wake, Ohio’s spreading stolen 2004 election scandal has claimed another victim—Michael Vu, the controversial executive director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
Hired in 2003 with the support of the Democratic Party, Vu was in charge of administering the electoral process in Ohio’s biggest county. Centered in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County regularly gives huge majorities to Democratic candidates, and was expected to help put John Kerry into the White House in 2004.
But as chaos ensued on election day, long lines, malfunctioning machines, suspiciously low turnouts in inner city precincts, lost ballots and dubious vote counts turned Democrats against Vu. Independent researchers calculate that the irregularities may have cost Kerry thousands of votes.
Vu also supervised the purchase of some $20 million in electronic voting equipment, a decision bitterly opposed by grassroots activists, and featured in a major documentary film recently broadcast nationwide on HBO. Upon installation for the 2006 election, much of the equipment malfunctioned.
Most damning were felony convictions stemming from the botched recount of 2004 presidential ballots that was, according to Cuyahoga County prosecutors, “rigged.” Forced by the Green Party and Libertarian Party, the recount process required recounting precincts chosen at random. But a jury has convicted two Cuyahoga poll workers of, among other things, choosing the precincts based on specific criteria, which is illegal. Though Vu remains unindicted, the convicted workers were operating under his supervision.
Vu fell out of favor with the county Democrats who brought him in as election after election was engulfed in chaos. Calls for his removal rang out from the election protection community, including the Columbus Free Press.
Vu was then supported by Robert Bennett, chair of the Board of Elections. Bennett also serves as chair of the Ohio Republican Party. The two Democrats on the BOE tried to have Vu removed, but Bennett and the other Republican on the board voted to keep him. The board remained deadlocked when then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, refused to cast a ballot, thus saving Vu’s job.
But the felony convictions of the two poll workers may have been too much for the board, whose tie votes will now be broken by Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s new Secretary of State. Brunner is a Democrat.
On February 6, after a two-hour closed-door meeting, Vu, 30, submitted his resignation, a decision he said was mutual between himself and the BOE. A search committee is now seeking a replacement for the $119,000 per year job.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008 (www.freepress.org) and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO? From the New Press.