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Investigation into the 2004 US Election: General discrepancies and irregularities


Project: Investigation into the 2004 US Election

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November 2, 2004

       Voters in 68 of Ohio's 88 counties, or roughly 73 percent of the electorate, use punch-card ballots to cast their votes. In the counties that use electronic voting systems, 0.8 percent of the votes cast do not register a vote for president whereas in counties that use punch-card ballots, the figure is 1.9 percent, or 76,068 ballots. [Dayton Daily News, 11/21/2004] According to some groups who later dispute the election results, the punch-card ballots that fail to register a vote for the president do register votes for the other offices. [Guardian, 12/1/2004]

November 2, 2004

       A dozen precincts in the southwest part of Merced County, Ohio experience problems with electronic voting machines that were purchased in 2001 from UniLect Corp. Machine malfunctions in these precincts are compounded by problems with the paper ballots that are used as a back-up. [Vindicator, 11/3/2004; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/9/2004] All of the precincts experiencing these problems have a Democratic majority. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/9/2004] Some of the problems that voters experience include:
20 to 30 of the machines need to be recalibrated when votes intended for one candidate are instead counted for another. [Vindicator, 11/3/2004]

About twelve machines freeze up and have to be restarted. [Vindicator, 11/3/2004]

In the precincts of Hermitage, Farrell, Wheatland, West Middlesex, Shenango Township and Sharon, some machines never operate or offer only black screens while others display the ballot backwards, requiring the voter to start with the last page of the ballot and work towards the beginning. [Vindicator, 11/3/2004]

In polling places where the machines are inoperable, election officials have to provide a back-up supply of paper ballots. But the county only has an emergency stock of 2,000 paper ballots, and as a result they have to print “a couple thousand more.” [Vindicator, 11/3/2004]
But this creates new problems. Some of the paper ballots are missing candidates' names and in some precincts there are complaints that poll workers require people to sign their paper ballots. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/9/2004] Additionally, critics later note that the failure to have had enough paper ballots on hand may have disenfranchised voters. Some people who left the polls when voting was not possible may not have returned to vote when the new supply of paper ballots arrived. [Vindicator, 11/6/2004]
At the Farrell municipal building, where 289 people are known to have voted, the voting machines record only 51 votes for president—48 votes for John Kerry and 3 for George W. Bush. Missing presidential votes are a problem in other precincts as well, as the county reports a few days later that 51,818 people cast ballots but only 47,768 of those included a vote for president. [Vindicator, 11/6/2004]
About a month later, the total undervote in Mercer County is determined to have been 7.29 percent. Typically, candidates will challenge results when the undervote exceeds 2 percent . [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/9/2004]
For some races machines tabulated negative 25 million votes. [Vindicator, 11/3/2004]

Finally, there is at least one incident involving the harassment of voters. Challengers from both the Democratic and Republican parties assigned to Warren 2E are ordered to leave the polling station after precinct judges say they are being disruptive. [Vindicator, 11/3/2004]


November 2, 2004

       In several Ohio counties, Democratic candidate for State Supreme Court C. Ellen Connally receives more votes than Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (Auglaize County, Connally - 7,312, Kerry - 5,729; Brown County, Connally - 7,407, Kerry - 7,058; Clermont County, Connally - 29,464, Kerry - 25,318; Dark County, Connally - 8,817, Kerry - 6,683; Highland County, Connally - 6,119, Kerry - 6,012; Mercer County, Connally - 6,607, Kerry - 4,924; Butler County, Connally - 59,532, Kerry - 54,185; Miami County, Connally - 17,206, Kerry - 17,039). As the US House Judiciary Democrats note in a December 2 letter to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, these results “run counter to the established principle that downballot party candidates receive far less votes than the presidential candidate of the same party.” The totals also deviate significantly from the statewide trend in Ohio, where Kerry receives 48.5 percent of the vote and Connally receives 46.6 percent. Even more striking about the figures is that fact that Connally's campaign was not very well funded. The same letter, referring to the results of Butler County, comments: “[I]t appears to be wildly implausible that 5,000 voters waited in line to case a vote for an underfunded Democratic Supreme Court candidate and then declined to cast a vote for the most well-funded Democratic Presidential campaign in history.” In addition to the bizarre voter numbers of the Connally and Kerry campaigns in Butler County, the results of the Republican side of those races are also hard to explain. The winning Republican candidate for the State Supreme Court receives 40,000 less votes than presidential candidate George Bush. [Source: Letter from US House Judiciary Democrats to Kenneth Blackwell, 12/2/2004]

After 7:30pm, November 2, 2004

       In Lebanon, Ohio, Warren County officials close the county administration building to the public where the vote is being tallied. The lockdown—the only one to occur in the state—is a result of a decision that was made during a closed-door meeting the previous week (See October 28, 2004). Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young had recommended the increased security because of information received from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] An FBI agent reportedly said that Warren County ranked a “10” on a terrorism scale of 1 to 10. The threat was said to be of domestic origins. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004] But these claims are later challenged when officials from the FBI and DHS say that they were not aware of any such threats. Media organizations protest the lockdown, arguing that the officials are violating the law and the public's rights. “The media should have been permitted into the area where there was counting,” Enquirer attorney Jack Greiner complains. “This is a process that should be done in complete transparency and it wasn't.” In other Ohio counties, such as Butler County, people are permitted to observe ballot checkers through a window. In past elections, the Warren County commissioners' room was open to the public so they could observe the process. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004; Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/3/2004] The news director at WCPO-TV, Bob Morford, says he's suspicious of the decision to close the building to the public. I've “never seen anything like it,” he says. “Frankly, we consider that a red herring.... That's something that's put up when you don't know what else to put up to keep us out.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] Additionally, election officials fail to set up an area with telephones for the media as they were supposed to. When reporters attempt to enter the building, they are refused, although they are later permitted into the building's lobby located two floors below the elections office. The Associated Press, which has reporters at every Ohio board of elections site, says that Warren County is the only county to implement such tight restrictions. County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel claims that having reporters and photographers around could interfere with the vote count. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] It is later explained that these restrictions were also due to homeland security concerns. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004]

November 3, 2004

       In Ohio's Cuyahoga County, some Cleveland precincts with large African-American populations, report an extraordinarily high number of votes for third party candidates even though few voters in these precincts have voted for these candidates in the past. For instance, in precinct 4F in the 4th Ward, where voting took place at Benedictine High School, there are 290 votes for Kerry, 21 for Bush, and 215 for Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka. And in precinct 4N, where voting occurred at the same location, the tally was 318 for Kerry, 21 for Bush, and 163 for Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik. Yet in the previous presidential election, a total of only 8 votes were cast by those two precincts for all independent candidates combined. City Councilman Kenneth Johnson, who has represented the 4th Ward since 1980, tells Juan Gonzales of the New York Daily News: “That's terrible, I can't believe it. It's obviously a malfunction with the machines.” Similar results appear in other Cleveland precincts, including the 8th Ward's G and I precinct at Cory United Methodist Church. In G, there were 51 votes for Badnarik and in I, there were 27 votes cast for Peroutka. However in 2000, third party candidates received only 9 votes from these precincts. [Source: Letter from US House Judiciary Democrats to Kenneth Blackwell, 12/2/2004; New York Daily News , 11/30/2004] It is later suggested that the problems were caused by voters in one precinct using machines intended for another. According to Katie Daley, an observer for the Democratic Party, voters waited in a single line between adjacent precincts and entered the voting booths as they became available, without regard to precinct assignment. [Associated Press, 12/10/2004] Reporter Juan Gonzales suggests that the votes cast for the third party candidates may have been meant for John Kerry: “In virtually all those precincts, Kerry's vote was lower than Al Gore's in 2000, even though there was a record turnout in the black community this time, and even though blacks voted overwhelmingly for Kerry.” [New York Daily News , 11/30/2004]

November 3, 2004

       In Montgomery County, two precincts—one in Kettering and another in Washington Twp.—report extraordinarily high numbers of ballots cast with no presidential vote. The two precincts, both of which used punch-card ballots, had undercounts of more than 25 percent, far exceeding the county's overall undercount of 2 percent. Undercount rates were 75 percent higher in the precincts that voted for John Kerry. Of the 231 precincts that went to Kerry, 2.8 percent of the ballots cast lacked a vote for the president. In the 354 precincts that supported President Bush, the figure was 1.6 percent. (But there were some exceptions. In fact, seven of the 10 precincts with the highest rate of undercounted presidential ballots went to Bush. For example, the highest undercount rate in Montgomery County occurred in precinct Washington X, a Bush stronghold, with 27.5 percent of the 611 ballots cast lacking a vote for president.) Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist from the University of Virginia, tells the Dayton Daily News that the extremely high rate of undercounts indicates that something went wrong. “It is very difficult to believe that a quarter of the people would not vote for president, especially in a year like this,” he says. “If I were the election officers in those areas I would be doing some very extensive checks of those machines.” But the presiding judge of Washington X, Shirley Wightman, tells the Dayton Daily News that her precinct reported no problems. [Dayton Daily News, 11/18/2004]

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