Massive Election Day irregularities are emerging in reports
from all over Ohio after the introduction of Diebold's electronic voting in
nearly half of the Buckeye State's counties. A recently released report by the
non-partisan General Accountability Office warned of such problems with
electronic voting machines.
E-voting Machine Disasters
Prior to the 2005 election, electronic voting machines from
Diebold and other Republican voting machine manufacturers were newly installed
in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties. The Dayton Daily News reported that in Montgomery
County, for example, "Some machines began registering votes for the wrong
item when voters touched the screen correctly. Those machines had lost their
calibration during shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated. . . ."
Steve Harsman, the drector of the Montgomery County Board of
Elections (BOE), told the Daily News that the recalibration could be done on
site, but poll workers had never performed the task before.
The city of Carlisle, Ohio, announced on November 22 that it
is contesting the results of the November 8 general election as a result of
Montgomery County vote counting problems. Carlisle Mayor Jerry Ellender told
the Middletown Journal that the count on the city's continuing $3.8 million
replacement fire levy is invalid "since they are not sure if Carlisle
voters received the right ballots on the new electronic voting machines."
Harsman, according to the Journal, said, "poll workers
incorrectly encoded voter cards that are used to bring up the ballots on the
electronic machines in precincts in Germantown and Carlisle."
At least 225 votes were registered for the fire levy in
precincts with only 148 registered voters, according to the Journal. In
addition, 187 voting machine memory cards were lost for most of election night
in Montgomery County, according to the Dayton Daily News.
In Lucas County, election results appeared more than 13
hours after the close of polls. The Toledo Blade cited "'frightened' poll
workers," intimidated by the new "touch-screen voting machines."
The Blade found that despite an $87,568 federal grant to the
Lucas County Board of Elections for "voter education and poll worker
training . . ." only $1,718.65 was spent from the grant.
The Blade also reported that 10 days after the 2005
election, "Fourteen touch-screen voting machines have sat unattended in
the central hallway at the University of Toledo Scott Park Campus." The
GAO report warned that touch-screen machines are easily hacked and should be
kept secure at all times.
In Miami County, the Board of Elections fired the deputy
director, Diane Miley, following a 20-minute closed-door session reviewing the
November 8, 2005, general election.
The Free Press had reported that in the 2004 presidential
election, Miami County was cited in the seminal Moss v. Bush election challenge
case. The county was specifically cited for an early morning influx of 19,000
additional votes, mostly for Bush, after 100 percent of the vote had been
The AP reported additional irregularities in the 2005
election in Ohio. In Wood County, election results were not posted until 6:23 a.m., after poll workers at four polling
places accidentally selected the wrong option on voting machines preventing the
machine memory cards from being automatically uploaded, according to the Board
of Elections Deputy Director Debbie Hazard.
In five counties -- Brown, Crawford, Jackson, Jefferson and
Marion -- using Diebold machines, there were problems with the counting of
absentee ballots as a result of "the width of the ballot," the AP
In Scioto County, the vote count was not finished until 4:30
a.m. Board of Elections Director
Steve Mowery informed the Portsmouth Daily Times that, as a result of machines
undergoing insufficient testing and absentee problems, things went
Many counties used "roving employees" assigned to
pick up memory cards from voting machines. In Lucas County, these
"rovers" traveled "to multiple locations before delivering the
cards to the election office at Governmental Center." The polls closed at
7:30 p.m. but, "The final
memory cards were delivered to the Board of Elections office just before
midnight," according to WTOL Channel 11 News, Toledo.
Toledo's WTOL Channel 11 News posed the simple question:
"Did the delay in returning memory cards to the election office open the
door to possible vote fraud?"
Amidst these massive glitches, Ohio Secretary of State J.
Kenneth Blackwell, who personally negotiated the deal for the Diebold machines
that he called the "best in the nation," insisted through his
spokesperson Carlo LaParo that "The new touch-screen systems went
Odd Results for Election Reform Initiatives
The Reform Ohio Now (RON) campaign saw polls throughout the
state showing two of its four election reform issues to be passing easily. Both
the Columbus Dispatch and University of Akron Bliss Institute polls predicted
victories for Issue 2 and Issue 3, only to see them go down to sudden and
statistically unexplainable defeat. Issue 2 allowed for early voting in Ohio
and Issue 3 reduced the amount of money an individual can give a candidate from
$10,000 to $2,000. Both were predicted to pass with 59 percent and 61 percent
of the vote, respectively.
The Bliss Institute of Applied Politics' survey was
completed on October 20 at the University of Akron Survey Research Center, and
found that Issue 2 seemed likely to win approval with more than three-fifths of
The Dispatch mail-in poll was completed on Thursday Nov. 3,
just prior to Election Day. The Dispatch poll is so accurate, that at least two
academic studies have been published about it in the Public Opinion Quarterly
(POQ). The first paper documents that the Dispatch poll between 1980-1984 was
far more accurate than telephone polling. The study showed the Dispatch error
rate at only 1.6 percentage points versus phone error rates of 5 percent. A
companion study published in POQ in 2000 dealt specifically with the question
of statewide referenda. A quote from the study: "The average error for the
Dispatch forecast of these referenda was 5.4 percentage points, compared to 7.2
percentage points for the telephone surveys."
The academic study concluded that the Dispatch's mail survey
outperformed telephone surveys for both referenda and candidate's races.
The fact that the Dispatch was nearly 30 points off in predicting
the "YES" vote on Issue 3 should raise concerns.
Dispatch Associate Publisher Mike Curtin shrugged off the
worst polling performance since the infamous Literary Digest predicted that Alf
Landon would beat FDR in 1936. In an email obtained by the Free Press, Curtin
told California voting rights activist Sheri Myers, "There is no evidence
of any irregularities in Ohio's 2005 voting results." Curtin, according to
election attorney Cliff Arnebeck, had also dismissed anyone who raises issues
about Ohio's 2004 presidential election results as "conspiracy
Curtin co-authored the scholarly papers on the Dispatch's
legendary polling accuracy. Editorially, the Dispatch has not endorsed a
Democratic presidential candidate since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
Curtin pleaded with the voting rights activists,
"Please don't buy into the conspiracy theories without any shred of
evidence." Curtin did not deal with the specifics about how the polling,
which he was so proud of, was up to 40 points off on certain issues for the
first time ever. In another email explaining the unprecedented Dispatch polling
debacle, Dispatch Editor Darrel Rowland told a Tribune Media Services columnist
that, "I also can't imagine voting technology is to blame, when both Democrats
and Republicans are involved in every crucial step of the way."
Under oath testimony at public hearings sponsored by the
Free Press after the 2004 presidential election revealed that election workers
admit that they have little or no knowledge of how e-voting technology works
and are totally reliant on private vendors for vote counting inside the
"black box." Ohio's other major newspapers routinely suggest what
Rowland "can't imagine."
Rowland did note that despite the Dispatch's recent
embracing of its unprecedented incompetence at polling that, "Over the
years we have found that the people who return our mail poll are likely voters
-- the holy grail in political polls. Our track record in gauging public
opinion in this state regarded as a national political bellwether is
Don McTigue, the attorney for RON, told the Free Press that
Blackwell had issued a ruling barring RON volunteers from the county vote
counting rooms on election eve. McTigue and the RON volunteers had filled out a
request form to view the counting 11 days prior to Election Day, but Blackwell
had added a new form to verify which group was representing the issues. This
new form was not filled out, McTigue admits.
Matt Damschroder, the Franklin County Board of Elections
director, allowed the RON observers in anyway, despite their being barred from
the vote counting rooms in other counties.
This is the second straight election in which the polling
organizations were spectacularly wrong in Ohio. In the 2004 election, the media
consortium exit polls, as well as the Harris and Zogby polls, all declared
Kerry the winner on Election Day.
Democracy in Jeopardy
One of the first times electronic voting machines were used,
in the 1988 New Hampshire presidential primary, former CIA director George
Herbert Walker Bush pulled off a stunning and unpredicted upset. The last poll
before that primary showed Senator Bob Dole winning with 8 percentage points.
Bush won by 9 points, a startling 17-point shift. Bush's e-voting victory allowed
him to claim the White House and paved the way for his son to become the United
States' chief executive.
Diebold electronic voting machines use non-transparent,
proprietary software to count the votes. Diebold's CEO Wally O'Dell is one of
President Bush's major donors and fundraisers.
Election Day news coverage from the 41 counties that adopted
Diebold touch-screen machines makes it clear that poll worker ignorance about
how to use the high-tech equipment and machine glitches were widespread problems
in 2005. Diebold technicians in many areas were key in producing the final vote
Use of e-voting machines has resulted in two elections with
improbable results in Ohio, with potentially catastrophic outcomes for American
democracy -- especially if they are ignored.
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S
2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org, and, with Steve
Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, to be published this spring by The New