Saturday, November 13, 2004

Limited Voting Machines Were a Problem Primarily in Ohio's Democratic Districts

The Perfect Election Day Crime

Steven Rosenfeld
TomPaine.com, November 12

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Across Ohio’s minority-rich cities, there were fewer voting machines than during past elections, including March’s presidential primary. As the number of voters grew by as much as 50 percent in some precincts, according to pro-Kerry field organizers, the number of voting machines on Election Day shrank by a third. Precincts that usually had five machines only had three.

The lack of voting machines was a disaster.

“I don’t think this story has been told,” said Miles Gerety, a public defender from Bridgeport, Conn., who went to Ohio as a legal observer and discovered this trend by overhearing elderly voters talk about fewer machines. “The press and election protection people weren’t looking for this. They were looking for poll challenges. But this is the perfect way to suppress the vote.” 

The shortage of voting machines didn’t just create long lines. It kept thousands of new and longtime voters from casting ballots in the state’s minority communities—the Democratic strongholds. The accounts of people who had to leave the polls for work or family obligations were everywhere. But on Election Day, very few Democrats realized this was happening. They just saw long lines.

"The lack of adequate voting machines helped the GOP in Ohio," said Brian Clark, site coordinator for SierraClubVotes.org in Franklin County, where the city of Columbus is located. He managed a voter contact and get-out-the-vote effort in 43 precincts that reached a third of the county’s 250,000 voters. "There were fewer machines in some inner city precincts than in 2000, despite Board of Elections and secretary of state’s projections of record turnout."

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"It’s interesting to note that the inner-city precincts where we spent most of our time working, turnout was about 50 percent higher than it was in 2000," Clark said. "Yet the Franklin County Board of Elections moved voting machines from the inner city precincts out to the suburbs. It was pretty dispiriting to know that we spent months trying to get new voters to the polls and they didn’t even have machines to go to once they got there."

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