Will The 1% Steal Ohio’s Labor Rights Referendum?

Will the 1% steal Ohio’s labor rights referendum?
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 6, 2011

Tuesday’s most important vote is the repeal of Ohio’s vicious anti-labor Issue 2.

Polls show the repeal winning by 25% or more. But will it—like the 2004 presidential election—be stolen by the 1% intent on crushing working people and stealing huge sums of money?

Like Wisconsin’s millionaire assault on the bargaining rights of public unions, the thoroughly bought Ohio legislature has passed a draconian law aimed at crippling the organizing ability of working people.

The attack has the loud, persistent support of Wall Street’s hand-picked Governor John Kasich, who made millions as a Foxist commentator and Lehman bond dealer. Among other things, Kasich helped pawn $400 million in Lehman’s junk bonds onto the Ohio teacher’s pension fund, making him a multi-millionaire. Control of that money would be directly affected by the outcome of this referendum.

The legislature’s original passage of the anti-labor bill drew thousands of demonstrators to the statehouse lawn and key locations throughout the Buckeye State. The pre-occupy rallies got ardent support from progressive, union and working people across Ohio’s political spectrum.

But the vast, apparently virtually limitless resources of corporate America have been polluting the Ohio media, distorting the nature of the vote, aiming to thoroughly confuse the voters, who must vote no on this issue to defeat the bill. Since corporations are now considered “people,” with no real limits on what can be spent, the corporate anti-labor deluge has been horrific.

But that’s only the beginning. In 2004, the Ohio’s GOP control of the governorship and Secretary of State’s office made possible the theft of the presidency for George W. Bush. Though highly sophisticated exit polls showed John Kerry winning the state by more than 4%, the “official” outcome had him losing Ohio’s 20 electoral votes—and thus the White House—by more than 2%.

By all credible estimates such a shift of more than 6% was a statistical impossibility. It was primarily engineered by Bush consigliore Karl Rove and Republican Secretary of J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Rove and Blackwell helped knock more than 300,000 primarily Democratic voters off Ohio’s registration rolls prior to election day 2004. Despite the obvious irregularities that defined the registration process, voting procedures, ballot tabulations and final electronic manipulations, John Kerry conceded Ohio—and the election—with nearly 250,000 votes left uncounted.

In July of this year, www.freepress.org posted the architectural maps used in Blackwell’s 2004 voting operation in Ohio. His electronic reporting operation was designed by a partisan Republican firm, GovTech and linked directly to servers at the premier Republican and right-wing tech company SmarTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee. See New court filing reveals how the 2004 Ohio presidential election was hacked

In the 2005 election, a corporate coalition parallel to the one fighting to crush worker rights this year worked on a comparable Issue 2. In reaction to the theft of the vote in 2004, a popular uprising had designed that Issue 2 to make it easier for Ohioans to vote early by mail or in person.

Two days before the 2005 vote, the Republican-leaning Columbus Dispatch poll showed that Issue 2 passing by 26 points, 59% to 33%.

But, on that November 8 (the same day as this year’s vote), Blackwell oversaw the defeat of Issue 2 with the utterly implausible support of 63.5%. Once again, the shift from pre-election polling to final “official” vote count was a virtual statistical impossibility.

For Blackwell’s official vote tally to square with the pre-election Dispatch poll, there would have to have been an unprecedented 22% shift in the last days of the election cycle. Given the ability of the Ohio Secretary of State to easily manipulate voter registration and ballot counting, American democracy was severely crippled in that 2005 outcome, a defeat that may again come into play this Tuesday. (See Has American Democracy died an electronic death in Ohio 2005’s referenda defeats?)

This time around, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature has already attempted to disenfranchise 900,000 Ohio voters—nearly 20% of the overall electorate. The vast majority of these newly disenfranchised citizens come from demographics indicating they are progressive voters who would vote to defeat Issue 2. Republican efforts came through HB 194, designed to make it difficult for the elderly, disabled, poor, and students to vote. Thankfully, a separate petition drive has temporarily blocked this latest reincarnaton of Jim Crow in the north.

But the GOP did kill early voting on the weekend before the election. This hugely successful expansion of the effective franchise had allowed tens of thousands of Ohioans to vote at public locations the Saturday and Sunday prior to the 2008 presidential election. This “excess of democracy” proved too much for the 1%, which got rid of it this year on the back of one of the legislature’s many anti-voter rights bills.

Greg Moore, head of the NAACP’s voting rights campaign, has said on Bob Fitrakis’s FIGHT BACK radio show (www.talktainmentradio.com) that Ohio’s Issue 2 may be the most important vote in the entire US this year. He also points out that in 2004 the right wing used a vote against gay marriage to attract conservative voters to the polls. This year the Republicans have put a symbolic anti-Obamacare Issue 3 on the ballot to draw out the same reactionary elements.

But the polling indicates that many of those who hate Obamacare also happen to be public employees, or friends and family of public employees – the targets of Issue 2.

Why is passing Issue 2 so important to these Republicans? If it passes, it will destroy the power of the public employee unions in the state. These unions remain the last base of money in Ohio politics for moderate, liberal and progressive candidates. The 1% has already been successful in destroying grassroots organizations that registered lower income voter, like ACORN.

Also, the pension funds the targeted unions protect contain hundreds of billions of dollars in workers assets. Defanged unions would be easy prey for the likes of Kasich, the former Lehman Brothers Uber-Vulture who got rich with the sale of over $400 million of junk assets to the teacher’s pension before becoming governor.

Essentially the weakened unions could lose control of the pension boards and the looting would begin anew.

Thus, even though the forces of democracy and unionization seem to have a substantial lead going into Tuesday’s vote, no electoral tally in Ohio is a safe bet. The theft of the presidency in 2004, and the huge reversal of the pro-democracy margin for Issue 2 in 2005—more than 20%—should remind us all that where billions of dollars and the rights of working people are concerned, the 1% will stop at nothing to steal an election.

It has been done repeatedly in Ohio. It could be done again on Tuesday. Let’s do all in our power to make sure Buckeye history does not repeat itself as both tragedy and farce.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection. Bob’s Fitrakis Files are at www.freepress.org, where this article was first published. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States is at www.harveywasserman.com, along with Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth.