Do new Ohio recount prosecutions indicate unraveling of 2004 election theft cover-up?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Journal Guest Writers
Jan 22, 2007, 00:21
Three criminal prosecutions in Ohio's biggest county have
opened with strong indications that the cover-up of the theft of the 2004 presidential
election is starting to unravel. Prosecutors say these cases involve
"rigging" the recount in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), where tens of
thousands of votes were shifted from John Kerry to George W. Bush, or else
Meanwhile, corroborating evidence continues to surface
throughout Ohio, illuminating the GOP's theft of the presidency.
According to the Associated Press (AP), County Prosecutor
Kevin Baxter opened the Cuyahoga trial by charging that "the evidence will
show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged
nonetheless." Baxter said the three election workers "did this so
they could spend a day rather than weeks or months" on the recount.
Jacqueline Maiden, the county election board's third-ranking
employee, faces six counts of misconduct involving ballot review. Rosie Grier,
the board's ballot department manager, and Kathleen Dreamer, an assistant
manager, are also charged. All three are on paid administrative leave, and are
being supported by the county board of elections.
The county prosecutors do not allege vote fraud. No do they
say mishandling the recount affected the election's outcome.
But Cleveland, which usually gives Democrats an extremely
heavy margin, was crucial to Bush's alleged victory of roughly 118,000 votes
out of 5.5 million counted. Some 600,000 votes were cast or counted in Cuyahoga
County. But official turnout and vote counts varied wildly and improbably from
precinct to precinct. Overall the county reported about a 60 percent turnout.
But several predominantly black precincts, where voters went more than 80
percent for Kerry, reported turnouts of 30 percent or less. In one ward, only a
7 percent turnout was reported, while surrounding precincts were nearly 10
times as high. Independent studies indicate thousands of votes in Cuyahoga
County that rightfully should have been counted in Kerry's column.
In the Cuyahoga case, the poll workers are charged with
circumventing state recount laws that require a random sampling of at least 3
percent of the votes cast in a given precinct to be recounted by hand and by
machine. The prosecution charges that the workers instead hand-picked sample
precincts to recount that they knew did not have questionable results. Once
they were able to match those recounts with official results, they could then
do the rest of the recount by machine, in effect rendering the entire process
meaningless. "This was a very hush operation," said prosecutor
Similar allegations have been made in other counties.
Indeed, such illegal non-random recounting procedures appear to have been
common throughout the state, carried out by board of election employees with
the tacit consent of then Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell
was officially charged with administering the election that gave Bush a second
term while simultaneously serving as the Ohio co-chair of his Bush's
re-election campaign. Blackwell has just been overwhelmingly defeated in his
own attempt to become governor of Ohio.
Defense attorney Roger Synenberg, who represents Dreamer,
told the jury that the recount was an open process, and that his client and the
others "were just doing it the way they were always doing it."
The Ohio recount was forced by the Green Party and the
Libertarian Party, which raised over $100,000 to cover costs. They charge the
recount was fraudulent due largely to the kinds of irregularities with which
the Cuyahoga poll workers are now charged. Those charges carry sentences of up
to 18 months in prison each, and include failure to perform duties imposed by
law; misconduct; knowingly disobeying elections law; unlawfully obtaining
possession of ballots/ballot boxes or pollbooks; and unlawfully opening or
permitting the opening of a sealed package containing ballots.
But the trial in Cleveland represents just a small sampling
of what happened during the Ohio recount. At a public hearing sponsored by the
Free Press in Toledo in December 2004, sworn testimony claimed that Diebold
technicians were party to picking the "random" precincts to be
recounted. At least one of the precincts lacked a memory card for the recount
using the Opti-Scan machine.
In Miami County, election officials admit that they did not
recount to verify the official vote total, but merely ran the Opti-Scan ballots
through the ES 550 counter, and then counted them to see if they matched the
machine count. In essence, what they did was a test of the counting machine,
not a recount to the actual reported votes. Miami's procedures were thus as
illegal as those in Cuyahoga.
Indeed, when the Free Press audited all the recounted
ballots from Miami County, we found the so-called recount results differed
noticeably from the official results. If these differences in results were
discovered at the recount in 2004, Ohio law should have triggered a hand
recount of all ballots in the county. That was never done.
In Fairfield County, when the recount totals wouldn't match,
Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell recommended Sam Hogsett, an ES&S
employee, to assist with the process. Despite complaints from a Democratic
election officer, Hogsettt worked the central tabulator and counter. Hogsett
somehow managed to make the recount match, thus avoiding a full manual recount.
Hogsettt is on record in a local newspaper saying that he
would like to shoot a �liberal� so the liberal would learn that it wasn�t the
gun that killed him, but the shooter, Hogsett. Green Party recount coordinator
Paddy Shaffer complained to Delaware County election officials about Hogsett's
presence during the recount and his constant use of the computer. Her complaint
has had no apparent impact.
In Hocking County, Board of Elections Deputy Director
Sherole Eaton was fired after she submitted an affidavit to U.S. Rep. John
Conyers outlining how Hocking BOE officials pre-selected one precinct because
it had the "right" number of voters (3 percent), thus illegally
prescreening like Cuyahoga County. Eaton also complained that a Triad
technician showed up unannounced on recount day and offered her a "cheat
sheet" for the recount. He just happened to have a hard drive for a
12-year-old Dell computer that served as Hocking County's central tabulator.
The county's official central tabulator went down mysteriously just prior to
the recount. Eaton said the Triad technician installed his hard drive and told
the election officials that the recount would match up perfectly if they didn't
turn off the computer. Eaton has not been restored to her BOE position, and
there has been no full recount in Hocking County.
In Coshocton County, Green Party recount observer Tim
Kettler acquired public records showing that election officials pre-counted in
secrecy in clear violation of Ohio law. Coshocton BOE officials desperately
begged Secretary of State Blackwell for advice when the recount did not match.
Blackwell's office urged the county to simply send in the results as official.
But after being confronted by angry recount observers, Coshocton BOE officials
became the only ones in Ohio to hand count every ballot. The recount resulted
in a statistically significant vote pickup for John Kerry among previously
In part due to widespread public revulsion over his conduct
of the 2004 election, Blackwell was soundly beaten in the 2006 gubernatorial
race by Democrat Ted Strickland. Ohio also now has a Democratic secretary of
state and attorney general. Whether they will conduct further investigations
into what really happened in 2004 remains to be seen.
But a federal court decision has preserved the ballots from
that election. Whether further legal charges come from the new administration
in Columbus remains to be seen. But the Cuyahoga prosecutions provide more
evidence that we still don't have a reliable vote count for the election that
gave George W. Bush a second term.
This article originallyappeared in The Free Press.Bob
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of "How
the Gop Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008." They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of
Happened in Ohio?" published by The New Press.
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