Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Our slide toward banana republicanism

The Washington Post has a fantastic story on voting irregularities, fraud and abuse in Ohio. OK, we know, not another one of these. But before you yawn over another vote-problem story, check this out. The article concludes that thousands of votes may have been lost or even switched from Kerry to Bush, that this mostly happened in Democratic-leaning districts, and there is the hint that this was a coordinated effort. Here are some choice lines from the story:

In northeastern Ohio, in the fading industrial city of Youngstown, Jeanne White, a veteran voter and manager at the Buckeye Review, an African American newspaper, stepped into the booth, pushed the button for Kerry -- and watched her vote jump to the Bush column. "I saw what happened; I started screaming: 'They're cheating again and they're starting early!' "

It was not her imagination. Twenty-five machines in Youngstown experienced what election officials called "calibration problems." "It happens every election," said
Thomas McCabe, deputy director of elections for Mahoning County, which includes
Youngstown. "It's something we have to live with, and we can fix it."

And look at this provisional ballot horror story:
As expected, there were more provisional ballots, and officials disqualified about 23 percent. In Hamilton County, which encompasses Cincinnati and its Ohio suburbs, 1,110 provisional ballots got tossed out because people voted in the wrong precinct. In about 40 percent of those cases, voters found the right polling place -- which contained multiple precincts -- but workers directed them to the wrong table.

The upshot? Tens of thousands of votes were lost, but not enough to tip the election. Make you feel better? Such skulduggery was not relegated to Ohio. Here in New Jersey, they tried out these new electronic machines, and at my local polling place in Jersey City, lines snaked out the door into the street all day. Though all polling places were supposed to close at 8 p.m., mine stayed open until 10 to accomodate all those who had been waiting before 8.

On top of this, the county noticed a large amount of "undercounts" -- about 5,000 -- essentially people who had signed the book, gotten a number, and somehow never got their vote recorded. Here's what the county clerk said on a local radio program in November. He's talking first about the old pull-lever machines.
People knew when their vote was registered, because they would have to pull that lever, and when they pulled that lever, the curtain behind them opened. Now, the curtains are not connected to the cast vote button, so you can just walk in and out of the booth. All you do is when you hit the cast vote button a little bell is supposed to sound. And I said that’s what’s going to be the major problem.”

In other words, large amounts of people probably walked in, cast their vote, but did not hit the final "Cast Vote" button, walked out, and never had their vote recorded. And no one could do a thing about it. To top this off, the county misplaced 14 cartridges that contained the recordings of the votes (they were later found in the machines).

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:32 AM

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