Will the GOP election theft machine do it again in 2008?
By Bob Fitrakis
and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
Oct 22, 2007, 01:48
With record low approval ratings for the Bush/Cheney regime
and the albatross of an unpopular war hanging from the GOP's neck, do you think
that a Democratic presidential candidate will win the White House, get us out
of Iraq, and end our long national nightmare?
Think again -- the mighty election theft machine Karl Rove
used to steal the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 may be under attack, but it is
still in place for the upcoming 2008 election.
With his usual devious mastery, Rove has seized upon the
national outrage sparked by his electoral larceny and used it as smokescreen
while he makes the American electoral system even MORE unfair, and even EASIER
to rig. Thus the administration has fired federal attorneys when they would not
participate in a nationwide campaign to deny minorities and the poor their
access to the polls. It has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to install
electronic voting machines that can be "flipped" with a few
keystrokes. And under the guise of "reforming" our busted electoral
system, it is setting us up for another presidential theft in 2008.
Thus it should come as no surprise that our exclusive
investigations into the firings of eight federal prosecutors who refused to
execute Rove�s plans for massive disenfranchisement of Democratic voters reveal
a pattern of illegalities and fraud aimed at reducing the number of minority,
poor and young voters at the core of Democratic support. In the wake of major
news breaks, two felony convictions have come from the rigging of the illegal
Ohio 2004 vote count and recount that gave George W. Bush a second illegitimate
term. Stunning new admissions from county election boards that illegally
destroyed voter records will almost certainly lead to new convictions. And the
multi-million-dollar electronic voting machine scam that made possible the
biggest electoral frauds in US history is under massive new attack, with key
states moving to scrap the machines altogether in a desperate attempt to
restore American democracy -- but with the job far from done.
Rove, Neyand the undead
Indeed, the Rovian theft engine is far from dead. The media
groundwork has already been laid out for the Republicans to claim that hordes
of illegal aliens have registered to vote. The Bush administration has been
caught ordering public agencies -- possibly in violation of the law -- to cease
registering voters. In an April 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers
Association, Rove openly alluded to the strategy of demanding photo ID and
purging voter roles of poor, minority voters just as had been done in 2000 and
2004. And, as always with Bush/Rove, there is much more beneath the surface.
All that has happened to challenge the GOP death grip on the
American vote count has been reported in the pages of Hustler and on the
Internet at freepress.org, bradblog and elsewhere, and is being seized upon by
a national grassroots movement determined to restore American democracy next
Nowhere has that movement been more in evidence than with
the high profile firestorm surrounding Bush administration Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales� firing of eight federal prosecutors without legitimate cause.
Evidence continues to surface from throughout the United
States about this blatant Bush abuse of executive power. But we have traced the
roots of the firings to an obscure congressional hearing held at the statehouse
in Columbus, Ohio, on March 21, 2005, and to a shadowy GOP operative named Mark
F. "Thor" Hearne.
The hearing was conducted by none other than former US Rep.
Bob Ney (R-18th OH). The once-powerful Ohio congressman (who is now behind
bars) was the godfather of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the national
boondoggle that mandated electronic voting machines for the American electoral
That the machines would cost taxpayers billions was a big
plus for Ney. They would come from Diebold and other companies that poured
money into Republican coffers. Thanks largely to the manipulations of disgraced
lobbyist Jack Abramoff, these e-voting machine companies would help guarantee
the GOP�s ability to steal elections.
Ney�s hearing featured a marquee appearance by J. Kenneth
Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state responsible for delivering Ohio�s
decisive 2004 electoral votes to Bush. Blackwell was a key operative for the
Bush election campaign in Florida in 2000 and co-chaired the Bush-Cheney 2004
re-election campaign in Ohio.
Congressional protocol required that Ney allow Rep.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) to question Blackwell. Soon Blackwell and
Jones were yelling at each other in a legendary exchange that ended with Jones
telling Blackwell to "haul butt" out of the chamber.
Not quite so high profile was the ensuing testimony by
Hearne, who identified himself as the head of the American Center for Voting
Rights. Hearne is a long-time GOP dirty trickster, with a Rovian rap sheet
dating to the 1970s. He did not explain that the ACVR had a post box in a
Dallas mall, but no office, few staff, a board stacked with GOP operatives, no
grassroots mailing list or much else to confirm the functioning of a real
organization. Nor did Ney clarify that Hearne had served as election counsel to
the Bush-Cheney campaign, and had founded ACVR the previous month, at the
urging of Karl Rove.
While the press corps rushed to report the Jones-Blackwell
dust-up, Hearne laid out for Ney and the few of us left listening the essential
template for the new GOP strategy for disenfranchising millions of suspected
Democrats from voting in future elections. In classic Rovian terms, Hearne
bemoaned a litany of "voter fraud" abuses allegedly committed by the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the
Association for Communities Organizing for Reform Now (ACORN) and other
multi-racial coalitions working to register millions of new voters across the
Among other things, Hearne told Ney the voter registration
campaigns were using "crack cocaine" as an "incentive" for
registering new voters. Adding the AFL-CIO and ACT-Ohio to his list of
evildoers, Hearne warned that millions of "fraudulent" ballots would
be cast in future elections unless something was done to curb the ability of
ordinary citizens to vote without extensive identification papers.
Hearne�s testimony drew little press. But it has led
directly to the national Bush/Rove push for new laws requiring voters to show
picture IDs at the polls and other methods of mass disenfranchisement -- and
the firing of eight US prosecutors who apparently refused to go along.
References to Hearne�s ACVR have now mysteriously
disappeared from the Internet. But the McClatchy Newspapers have reported that
Hearne�s ACVR and the Republican Lawyers Association have actively campaigned
-- with a war chest of at least $1.5 million -- in at least nine battleground
states. They stump for voter ID laws and rigid registration restrictions and
other tactics aimed at radically reducing the ability of Democrat-leaning
organizations to register new voters.
The ACVR agenda embraces the administration�s illegal demand
that public agencies stop registering new, mostly poor voters. And the pressure
to rid our democracy of such voters has carried over to the offices of the
nation�s federal prosecutors, even in the face of widespread investigations
showing the numbers of people illegally trying to register and vote have been
Emblematic of the firings is the case of David Iglesias of
New Mexico. Iglesias has testified to Congress that Albuquerque lawyer Patrick
Rogers pressured him to prosecute alleged vote fraud perpetrators. When he
resisted, Iglesias was fired by Gonzales.
Rogers is listed as "secretary" of Thor Hearne�s
American Center for Voting Rights, as well as a former general counsel to the
New Mexico Republican Party.
Meanwhile, the Bush Justice Department�s Civil Rights
Division has reversed its mandate by fighting to narrow rather than broaden the
voting rights of minorities, and to prosecute voter registration operations
without just cause. An ACVR director, Cameron Quinn, is now the division�s
A key target has been Project Vote, which registered 1.5
million voters in 2004 and 2006. Five days before the 2006 election, Bush�s
interim US attorney in Kansas City issued indictments against four ACORN
workers under contract with Project Vote. Prosecutions that close to election
day have traditionally been discouraged by the Justice Department. Acorn
officials had notified the federal officials when they noticed the doctored
forms. But ACVR�s "job was to confuse the public about voter fraud and
offer bogus solutions to the problem," said Michael Slater, the deputy
director of Project Vote, they used "deception and faulty research"
to help Rove�s GOP.
The common denominator in the firings of the federal
attorneys has been an unwillingness to pursue prosecutions on the basis of such
research. Iglesias, for example, told Newsweek magazine he "had been
repeatedly pushed by New Mexico GOP officials to prosecute workers for
ACORN" who were registering voters.
Mediamissed it again
The media have missed what DID happen when the attorneys
complied with the Bush/Rove game plan. Just four days prior to the 2004 vote,
Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta, the civil rights chief of the Bush
Justice Department asked, a federal judge in Ohio to sign off on policies that
would disenfranchise thousands of black voters. The move almost certainly had a
significant impact on Bush�s subsequent victory in the Electoral College.
Joseph Rich, a former chief of the Justice Department�s Voting Rights Section,
has called the Ohio scheme "vote caging," which is illegal.
The case arose when Republicans allegedly sent "caging"
letters to thousands of registered voters in inner city districts. The letters
had "do not forward" stamped on them, with a return receipt
requested. When some 23,000 came back as undeliverable, GOP operatives demanded
the right to get the names removed from voter rolls. Acosta argued in his
letter that restricting such challenges would "undermine" the
But an exclusive investigation by freepress.org found that
at least 25 percent of the people being removed from the voter rolls were in
fact still living at their registered address. Greg Palast has reported that
the GOP deliberately targeted black soldiers fighting in Iraq.
Acosta says his letter endorsed the GOP challenges as
"permissible" as long as they were not racially motivated, and that
anyone whose eligibility was challenged could still get a provisional ballot.
But due to the actions of former Ohio Secretary of State
Blackwell, more than 16,000 provisional ballots from the 2004 election remain
uncounted. Independent observers have testified that thousands more may have
been discarded right at the polling stations. (Bush�s official margin of
victory in Ohio was less than 119,000 votes.)
Robert Kengle, who served under Acosta at the Justice
Department�s Voting Rights Section, says Acosta�s unsolicited letter to the
courts was "cheerleading" for the GOP. "It was doubly
outrageous," he said, "because the allegation in the litigation was
that these were overwhelmingly African-American voters that were on the
challenge list," precisely those whose right to vote the Justice
Department was charged to protect.
Acosta was not among the attorneys fired by Bush. In fact,
he is now the federal attorney in Miami.
Eyewitness testimony from throughout the state confirms that
scores of GOP activists did challenge voters in numerous inner city polling
stations. Many carried Blackberries and used sophisticated lists that may have
included those illegally garnered caging rosters. The challenges did lead to
numerous voters being turned away, and increased the long delays suffered by
inner city voters throughout the state.
Surveys show it took blacks nearly an hour to vote on
average in Ohio in 2004, while whites voted in less than 15 minutes. In the
inner city of Columbus, black voters waited between three and seven hours to
vote, while in the nearby suburb of Bexley it took just five minutes. The
delays in Columbus alone may have cost Kerry up to 60,000 votes.
Similar challenges were also endorsed by White House
operative Tim Griffin, who has been widely accused of trying to cage mostly
black voters in Florida. Rich says the scheme became public before the
election, and the GOP apparently dropped the idea.
But as he was firing the federal attorneys who refused to
cage, Bush appointed Griffin to be US attorney for Arkansas. Griffin has since
resigned the post under fire. But along with Ohio, the administration used
similar tactics in the key swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania, as well as
in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Bush�s Justice
Department also supported former California Secretary of State Bruce
McPherson�s rejection of 20,000 voter registration forms, a move later reversed
in court. And it has helped push photo ID requirements -- again rejected in court
-- devised by Georgia to restrict black and poor voter access.
A 35-year veteran of the Justice Department�s Voting Right
Sections, Rich told the McClatchey papers that he quit over political
appointees who "skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly
were intended to influence the outcome of the elections." Thus, Thor
Hearne�s original blueprint for disenfranchising minorities and the poor is now
established administration policy, supported by Bush�s Justice Department, and
backed by his firing of federal attorneys -- illegal or otherwise -- who refuse
to go along. Whether the Democrats in Congress do anything about it, and
whether the GOP successfully uses these tactics again in 2008, remain to be
Alongside the Bush/Rove commitment to mass
disenfranchisement, the key to the outcome of the 2008 election may be the rise
and incomplete fall of electronic voting machines.
Unmonitorable DRE (direct record electronic) voting machines
have been center stage at every Bush-era stolen election. In Florida 2000, some
16,000 votes that "disappeared" from Al Gore�s tallies in Volusia
County helped turn the tide for Bush at a key election night moment, even
though they were later reinstated. In 2002, fraudulent electronic vote counts
in Georgia almost certainly deprived Vietnam war hero Max Cleland of his US
Senate seat in a race which all credible polls showed him winning by a
The spread of DREs is at the core of the Help America Vote
Act (HAVA) pushed through by then-Congressman (now jailbird) Bob Ney.
High-powered studies from the likes of the Government Accountability Office,
the Brennan Center on Voting Rights, the Carter-Baker Commission on Voting
Rights, Princeton University and US Representative John Conyers all conclude
that DRE�s can be easily manipulated, with entire elections illicitly shifted
by a few keystrokes.
The GOP's HAVA means to put the nation on DREs as thoroughly
as possible by 2008. But a public rebellion has slowed that plan. In Ohio, grassroots
campaigners stopped Blackwell from giving Diebold an unbid $100 million
contract to put virtually the entire state on DREs. Elsewhere, state and local
election boards rebelled against the high cost of maintaining the machines,
which often must be kept air conditioned around the clock, resulting in huge
electric bills. Programming and other costs make administering elections on
DREs far more expensive than doing it on paper ballots. The DREs have become
infamous because of widespread testimony in Ohio that 2004 voters were pushing
John Kerry�s name, only to see George Bush�s name light up, or to have their
Kerry vote simply disappear moments later.
In response to nationwide opposition, US Rep. Rush Holt
(D-NJ) proposed federal legislation that would have forced all electronic
voting machines to be fitted with devices that would produce a paper trail. An
accredited scientist, Holt also wanted to force manufacturers to make public
the software that ran their machines.
Holt�s proposed House Bill 811 divided the election
protection movement, much of which saw it as an endorsement of DREs. And as the
bill progressed, the GOP gutted it, killing the software transparency
requirements and settling for unworkable paper trail provisions.
The governors of Florida and Maryland have already moved to
ban DREs in 2008, and to use paper ballots instead. Grassroots confrontations
over how to cast and count votes will rage right up to election day.
The need for electronic safeguards has been confirmed to the
hilt by an astonishing flood of revelations from Ohio. To report Ohio�s 2004
election-night vote count, Blackwell contracted with the same GOP computer
programmer who created the Bush-Cheney web site in 2000. Those GOP-programmed
results were then run through servers housed in the basement of a bank in
Chattanooga, Tennessee, which also housed the servers for the Republican
National Committee (through which Karl Rove ran his off-the-record e-mails, now
being sought by Congress).
Supervised by Blackwell, those results showed a substantial
victory for John Kerry until about 12:20 at night, when reporting inexplicably
stopped. When it resumed about 90 minutes later, Ohio�s margin -- and the
presidency -- suddenly switched to Bush.
After the election, a citizen-based federal lawsuit (in
which we are attorney and plaintiff) was filed, aimed at preserving all of
Ohio�s 2004 election materials for further investigation. Those materials were
protected by federal law until September 2, 2006, when Blackwell intended to
destroy them. But a week prior, we won a federal court decision barring the
counties from destroying any of these materials. Ohio�s new Secretary of State
(SOS), Jennifer Brunner, then ordered the boards of election to deliver this
evidence to her.
But in July 2007, 56 of Ohio�s 88 county BOEs admitted to
illegally destroying all or some of their records. John M. Williams, Director
of Elections in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) told Brunner he was " . . . unable
to transfer the unvoted precinct ballots and soiled ballots" essential to
an accurate audit because they " . . . were inadvertently shredded between
January 19 and 26 of �06 in an effort to make room for the new Hart voting
In Clermont County, a key Republican stronghold permeated
with election irregularities, Director Mike Keeley told Brunner that "in
interviewing the staff, no one could remember the disposition of said
ballots," meaning the actual number of votes cast remains a mystery. In
neighboring Butler County, Director Betty L. McGary informed the SOS on May 9,
2007, that they had lost the "ballot pages" thus making it impossible
to confirm how votes were counted.
Delaware County, where the last 359 votes cast in one
precinct were all counted for Bush, informed Brunner that they had 29 boxes of
ballots, but then delivered only 26. The Delaware BOE initially reported 1,872
provisional ballots, but the official number is now 1462, feeding suspicions
the boxes were stuffed.
Two election officials in Cleveland have thus far been
convicted of felonies stemming from rigged recount procedures after 2004. Now a
solid majority of Ohio�s election boards face potential federal criminal
action. They have made a reliable reconstruction of the true 2004 outcome
Brunner has pledged to preside over a fair election in Ohio
2008. Like Debra Bowen, California�s new Secretary of State, Brunner is running
extensive tests on the state�s electronic voting machines. Most or all of
California and Ohio�s DREs could be gone by 2008, possibly to be replaced by
paper ballots counted by electronic scanners.
But even those are not immune to fraud. In 2004, Diebold
technicians provided inner city precincts with malfunctioning opti-scan
machines. Throughout the state, more than 90,000 ballots were never counted
because of voting machine malfunctions. At a mostly Democratic precinct in
Toledo, poll workers handed out pencils whose marks could not be read by the
electronic counters, thus voiding the votes cast there.
Overall, our nation�s history has been filled with stolen
elections. Most have been robbed with paper ballots and stuffed ballot boxes.
But under Bush/Rove, electronics are at center stage.
Bush/Rove stole the 2000 and 2004 elections by intimidation,
vote caging, rigged machines, rigged recounts, and much more. Bush�s firing of
the eight federal attorneys only underscores the fraud perpetrated by those who
Whether Congress gets to the bottom of those firings remains
to be seen. But there is little doubt the Democrats were able to retake the
House and Senate in 2006 only because of the increased vigilance of a national
grassroots voter protection movement.
Though Democrats carried Ohio in the off-year elections of
2006, our research indicates that the GOP still stole as much as 12 percent of
the vote, and is still intent on disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of
minority, poor and young voters. In a single election in Franklin County in
2006, a magistrate found that more than 83 percent of all the precincts were
miscounted on the DRE machines.
And though DRE machines are under intense attack, their
presence in 2008 will still be substantial, and will still subject the election
to GOP theft.
The lessons of 2000 and 2004 are in the terror imposed on
the registration process and the error perpetrated in the vote count. Only by
saying "never again" can Americans hope to see a return to actual
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.
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