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

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- Failure to Issue Recount Procedural Standards Blackwell failed to issue standard recount procedures to county election boards, resulting in inconsistent count practices, and innumerable irregularities and illegalities. The Congressional Report contains five full pages of specific examples in more than 20 Ohio counties.

For instance, in Washington County, "an election official pulled a black marker from his right pocket near the beginning of the recount and stated that he was the mark-up man. He proceeded to do all of the marking of the ballots " It's strictly prohibited to alter or deface another person's ballot.

In another precinct in Washington County, "a voter had both marked the oval and put an X through it for the presidential candidate Michael Peroutka, and had marked an oval for Bush. The election official put a band-aid over the Peroutka vote and put his own X on the Bush vote. The observer objected that it should be counted as an overvote. The Board ruled that the vote should count for Bush."

- Inadequate objective observations of recounts In Summit County, recount witnesses were threatened with expulsion if they spoke to counters, and many were required to observe from a distance of 20 feet.

In Huron County, certain recount tests were allowed to be observed only by Republican witnesses. In Putnam County, some observers were given the incorrect recount date, and were later told that they missed the recount. In Licking County, observers were not allowed to view provisional and rejected ballots. And in Allen County observers could view neither absentee nor provisional ballots.

And that's merely a sampling of recount observation deficiencies.

CONCLUSIONS The Congressional Report concluded that Ohio election law was violated by the Secretary of State and others "such that the election cannot be said to comply with Ohio law."

The Report also concluded that criminal violations occurred in Ohio of the following: the US Constitution, the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, and many more statutes and regulations.

Said the Congressional Report, "with regards to our factual findings, in brief, we find that there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio. In many of these cases, these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior...."
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It's true that most of us have never been refused or purposely deterred from execising our right to vote, but we freely admit that it's wrong and positively undemocratic to deny any citizen that right.

We should all care because it's wrong, and because it can happen to us.

As Martin Luther King, Jr, who fought for the Voting Rights Act, said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

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