Thursday, November 18, 2004

Hearings on Ohio voting put 2004 election in doubt

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 18, 2004, FreePress.org

Highly-charged, jam-packed hearings held here in Columbus have cast serious doubt on the true outcome of the presidential election.

On Saturday, November 13, and Monday, November 15, the Ohio Election Protection Coalition�s public hearings in Columbus solicited extensive sworn first-person testimony from 32 of Ohio voters, precinct judges, poll workers, legal observers, party challengers. An additional 66 people provided written affidavits of election irregularities. The unavoidable conclusion is that this year's election in Ohio was deeply flawed, that thousands of Ohioans were denied their right to vote, and that the ultimate vote count is very much in doubt.

Most importantly, the testimony has revealed a widespread and concerted effort on the part of Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to deny primarily African-American and young voters the right to cast their ballots within a reasonable time. By depriving precincts of adequate numbers of functioning voting machines, Blackwell created waits of three to eleven hours, driving tens of thousands of likely Democratic voters away from the polls and very likely affecting the outcome of the Ohio vote count, which in turn decided the national election.

On November 17, Blackwell wrote an op-ed piece for Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times, stating: �Every eligible voter who wanted to vote had the opportunity to vote. There was no widespread fraud, and there was no disenfranchisement. A half-million more Ohioans voted than ever before with fewer errors than four years ago, a sure sign on success by any measure,� Blackwell wrote. Moon's extreme right wing Unification Church has long-standing ties to the Bush Family and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Additional testimony also called into question the validity of the actual vote counts. There are thus serious doubts that the final official tally in Ohio, due December 1 to Blackwell�s office, will have any validity. Blackwell will certify the vote count on December 3.

While Blackwell supervised the Ohio vote he also served as co-chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, a clear conflict of interest that casts further doubt on how the Ohio election and vote counts have been conducted.

At the Columbus hearings, witness after witness under oath gave testimony to an election riddled with discrimination and disarray. Among them:

Werner Lange, a pastor from Youngstown, Ohio:
�In precincts 1 A and 5 G, voting as Hillman Elementary School, which is a predominantly African American community, there were woefully insufficient number of voting machines in three precincts. I was told that the standard was to have one voting machine per 100 registered voters. Precinct A had 750 registered voters. Precinct G had 690. There should have been 14 voting machines at this site. There were only 6, three per precinct, less than 50 percent of the standard. This caused an enormous bottleneck among voters who had to wait a very, very long time to vote, many of them giving up in frustration and leaving. . . . I estimate, by the way, that an estimated loss of over 8,000 votes from the African American community in the City of Youngstown alone, with its 84 precincts, were lost due to insufficient voting machines, and that would translate to some 7,000 votes lost for John Kerry for President in Youngstown alone. . . .�

�Just yesterday I went to the Trumbull Board of Elections in northeast Ohio, I wanted to review their precinct logs so I could continue my investigation. This was denied. I was told by the Board of Elections official that I could not see them until after the official vote was given.�

Marion Brown, Columbus:
�I am here on behalf of a friend. My friend came to my home very upset while she was away standing four hours in the voting, her husband passed away. The funeral was on yesterday, November 13th, at 2:00. Perhaps had she not stood so long in the line, she may have been able to save her husband.�

Victoria Parks:
�In Pickaway County, oh, my goodness, in Pickaway County, I entered there, I was shown a table, 53 poll books were plunked down in front of my. I noticed there were no signature on file in any of the poll books, in any of the poll books, and furthermore, a minute later the director of the Board of Elections of Pickaway County came into the room and snatched the books away from me and said you cannot look at these books. I said are you aware that what you are doing is against the law? She said I have been on the phone with the Secretary of State and he has instructed me to take these books away and you cannot see them. I paraphrase very slightly here. She took them away. I was persona non grata. I did not want to risk arrest, and I left. . . . There were no signatures, and furthermore, the writing in the book seemed to have been written in the same hand, because that is a requirement.�

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