Forced resignations and stiff prison sentences intensify the escalating blowback from Ohio�s 2004 stolen election
By Bob Fitrakis
& Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
Mar 21, 2007, 00:34
In a bold move �to restore trust to elections in Ohio,� Ohio�s
newly-elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has requested the resignation
of all four members of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. The two
Democrats and two Republicans were formally asked to resign by the close of
business on March 21. Cuyahoga County includes the heavily Democratic city of
Cleveland. Brunner is a Democrat who was elected, last November, to be Ohio�s
Secretary of State.
Felony convictions have also resulted in 18-month prison
sentences for two employees of the Cuyahoga BOE as a result of what the county
prosecutor in the case calls the �rigging� of the outcome in the recount
following the 2004 presidential election. Further problems surfaced in the
conduct of Cuyahoga County�s May, 2006 primary, in the wake of which Michel Vu,
Executive Director of the county�s Board of Elections recently resigned.
In tandem, the shake-up in Ohio�s biggest county reflects a
widening storm surrounding the outcome of the 2004 presidential election and
the conduct of elections overall in the nation�s most pivotal state.
Among those Brunner has asked to resign is Cuyahoga County
BOE Chair Robert Bennett, who chairs Ohio�s Republican Party. Voting rights
attorney Cliff Arnebeck and others have long charged that Bennett worked
closely with White House advisor Karl Rove and Ohio�s then-Secretary of State
J. Kenneth Blackwell to secure Bush�s 2004 victory in Ohio.
Bennett responded to Brunner by saying that he will refuse
to resign. He has placed the blame for the May 2006 primary problems on private
voting machine vendors, including Diebold. Bennett claims the rigging of the
2004 presidential recount was caused by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor�s
office, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
If Bennett and other board members refuse to resign by Wednesday,
Brunner says they �will face a complaint and public hearing to be conducted in
Cleveland . . .�
In the 2004 presidential election, Cuyahoga County suffered
serious election irregularities that worked to the disadvantage of Democratic
presidential candidate John Kerry. Among them: the purging of 24.93 percent of
all the voters in the city of Cleveland, where Kerry won 83 percent of the
vote; mysterious and suspect vote totals for third party candidates in majority
African American wards; unexplained �security� problems that caused the
last-minute shift of voting locations in the inner city Cleveland Public School
polling places; improbably low apparent turnouts in heavily Democratic inner
city wards, and more.
Brunner�s request for the resignations comes a week after
two Cuyahoga County election workers were each sentenced to 18 months in prison
for rigging the recount of the 2004 election in Ohio�s biggest county. These
are the first prison terms issued in the escalating scandal over the vote count
that gave George W. Bush a second stay in the White House. The two women are
out on bail pending appeal. But the substantial jail time demanded by Cuyahoga
County Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan indicates there may be more trials and
convictions yet to come, especially in light of new evidence unearthed by the
Free Press in other counties around the state.
Jacqueline Maiden and Kathleen Dreamer were each convicted
of a felony count of negligent misconduct by an election board employee.
Maiden, 60, was the Cuyahoga Board of Elections� third-highest ranking
Dreamer, 40, was ballot manager. Maiden and Dreamer were
also convicted of a separate misdemeanor. A third defendant in the case was
acquitted of all charges.
The Free Press has unearthed evidence indicating possible
criminal misconduct by a wide range of election officials throughout the state,
including Blackwell. Under the law, election boards are required to do recounts
by choosing 3 percent of a county�s voters at random for sampling. But
throughout the state, apparently with the explicit knowledge and approval of
Blackwell, precincts were hand-counted for recounting, a criminal act. This
non-random sampling in essence voided the recount, for which backers of the
Green and Libertarian Parties paid more than $100,000.
According to the prosecution in the case against Maiden and
Dreamer, this method of action led to the recount being illegally �rigged.�
When investigators working with the Free Press attempted to audit the Cuyahoga
County ballots from the 2004 election last summer, BOE officials were unable to
find the ballots for four full days. The investigation team, led by Richard
Hayes Phillips, had to find the ballots on their own. Under Ohio law, the
ballots were to be locked in a known location, and secured by two keys, one
controlled by each major party.
Brunner says she acted in part because she is concerned that
many of the problems from 2004 and 2006 might resurface in the upcoming 2008
election. �With maximum 18-month prison sentences being handed down to two
Cuyahoga County election workers last week, for their role in the 2004
presidential recount, the tremendous problems that surfaced in the May 2006
primary that delayed even the unofficial vote count for five days, and the uncertain
future of this board as another Presidential election looms on the near
horizon, it is incumbent on me as Secretary of State to provide the direction
needed to get this troubled board on track,� she says. �The voters of Cuyahoga
county deserve it, the citizens of Ohio expect it and the rest of the nation
will be watching.�
In the 2006 primary, Cuyahoga County used the controversial
Diebold touchscreen voting machines. These machines suffered a well-publicized
meltdown, in which many malfunctioned. A report from the Election Science
Institute (ESI) documented significant differences between votes actually cast
on the machines as opposed to those officially counted.
Immediately following the election, 562,498 votes were
reported cast in Cuyahoga County, with 30,791 listed as absentee or provisional
ballots. But the official results show just 468,056 counted. This means that
94,442 ballots cast in the unofficial total disappeared in the official
tallies, representing a shocking 16.8 percent of all the votes cast in
Michael Vu, who was the Cuyahoga BOE executive director,
came under intense criticism for the bitter controversies surrounding both the
2004 and 2006 elections. Last month, he resigned �to pursue future career
growth,� according to a Cuyahoga County Board of Elections release.
In an interesting and perhaps telling statement coming from
a Republican who was commenting on an appointee supported by the Democratic
Party, Bennett said �Michael Vu has worked hard and accomplished a great deal
on behalf of Cuyahoga County voters and will, I am sure, continue to have
success in his career of public service.
�Michael oversaw a difficult transition period at the board
including the implementation of a new electronic voting system county-wide in
the May (2006) primary followed by a near flawless general election,� Bennett
Brunner�s action underscores a growing sentiment that the
unraveling of what happened during and after the 2004 election has only just
The Free Press has learned that Brunner�s office is also
investigating an unexplained undercount in the 2006 general election in six
Ohio counties which all used the Diebold TSX DRE voting machines. In Montgomery
County, where the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland beat
Blackwell, the Republican nominee, by 107,593 to 76,189, there was an
abnormally high 13.76 percent of the machines registering no vote for the state�s
highest office. Problems are also under investigation in Adams, Darke,
Highland, Mercer and Perry Counties.
With stiff prison terms, forced resignations and widespread
investigations underway, there is a well-founded sense in Ohio that much more
is yet to surface about the disputed presidential election of 2004 and what has
come after it.
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 ��What
Happened in Ohio?� published by The New Press.
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