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Democracy & Voting - Ohio 2004 as Lesson in What Can Go Wrong

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VOTING RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: Accurate Recording and Counting of Votes

- Numerous instances of votes incorrectly recorded In its limited investigation, the Washington Post found 25 electronic voting machines that transferred an unknown number of Kerry votes to the Bush column.

Likewise, the Election Protection Commission noted a voter reporting that "Every time I tried to vote for the Democratic Party presidential candidate, the machine went blank. I had to keep trying. It took five times."

One voter, a newspaper manager, testified that she "pushed the button for Kerry---and watched her vote jump to the Bush column."

Numerous obvious errors in recording votes Ward 1B in the Gahana precinct of Franklin County recorded 4,258 votes for Bush and 260 votes for Kerry, when this precinct only has 800 registered voters. It was determined after the election that a computer glitch recorded 3,893 extra votes for Bush.

Voters are required to affix their signature to a roster before voting. At many precincts, more ballots were cast then there were voter signatures. And in a few heavily Democratic precincts, more voters signatures were present on the rolls than ballots actually reported as cast.

And at some Ohio precincts, the numbers were even more nonsensical. At the Reading S precinct in Trumball County, the sign-in roster shows 360 voters cast ballots, plus 33 absentees ballots were cast for a total of 393 total ballots. Yet, the official tally reflected 489 votes cast in that precinct.

In Hamilton County, many absentee ballots entirely excluded John Kerry's name, ostensibly due to worker error.

The Congressional Report recounts, "We learned of literally thousands of additional irregularities in Ohio....There is no doubt that there were a number of machine irregularities and glitches in the election, beyond the major discrepancies highlighted in our report."

- Confusion in counting provisional ballots Blackwell failed to issue clear standards for the counting of provisional ballots, causing arbitrary and diverse counting practices for each Ohio county. This irregularity conceivably caused 50,000 to 100,000 ballots to not be counted.

For instance, in Cuyahoga County, 8,099 out of 24,472 provisional ballots were rejected and never counted, which is twice the normal percentage of provisional ballots rejected there in 2000.

- Recounts were delayed Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell issued directive that Ohio boards of election need to complete their official counts by December 1, fully one month after Election Day.

He also directed that "no recount may be held prior to the official canvass and certification of results." Thus, recounts were stalled until December, and then were required to be completed by December 15.

By design, the end result was the impossibility of an Ohio election recount in time to affect the national election.

- Manipulation of recount software by voting machine manufacturer In what the Congessional Report termed "the most disturbing iiregularity" in connection with the recount, repressentatives of Triad GSI, supplier of the voting machines, altered tabulating software in at least six Ohio counties during the recount process.

A witness testified that one Triad employee in Hocking County "advised election officials how to manipulate voting machinery to ensure that a preliminary hand recount matches the machine count." In Union county the original hard drive on the Triad vote tabulating machine disappeared, and only reappeared in response to a subpoena.

In Monroe County, a new Triad machine was brought in during the recount to replace a machine that failed twice to match the original count. The new machine matched original counts results; and the original machine disappeared.

And startlingly, Congress belatedly discovered that Triad could alter election software by remote access. And more startingly, Triad reprogrammed recount voting machines in Fulton and Henry Counties to "count only presidential votes prior to the start of the recount."(That statement implies that votes were added during the initial recount processses.)

The Congressional report noted that "Triad is controlled by the Rapp family, and its founder, Brett A. Rapp, has been a consistent contributor to Republican causes."

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