Let's Get Real About Our Rigged Voting System

By Bev Conover
Online Journal Editor & Publisher
Mar 10, 2006, 00:40

Writer after writer keeps talking about how we are just going to march into the polls come November and vote the monsters out.

If only that were true.

The system is rigged, folks. Just like oil and water, computers and voting don't mix.

And that includes touch screens, optically-scanned ballots, even punch cards that are tabulated by computers.

Worse, the voting equipment is in the hands of partisan private firms and they deny you the right to see the code, claiming it is proprietary information.

Adding so-called "verifiable" paper receipts to touch screens would be meaningless, because a handful of scumbags still can change the results just enough to give their candidates a win without triggering a hand recount.

Is this so hard to understand?

It must be, because we, Bev Harris, Lynn Landes Bob Fitrakis and others have been screaming about this elephant in the room for nearly six years.

Bev Harris and her Black Box Voting team have proved in state after state how easily computers can be rigged. Lynn Landes' voting rights lawsuit has made its way to the US Supreme Court (Docket No. 05-930), where she intends to represent herself.

"I tried to get civil rights organizations interested in this case, but had no luck.

Their disregard for this issue is incredible.

It's clear to me that without direct access to a physical ballot and meaningful transparency in the process, our elections have no integrity whatsoever," Landes said.

Fitrakis and three other attorneys, who filed a 1awsuit questioning the results of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, found themselves the target of Ohio Attorney General James Petro, who sought stiff legal sanctions against the four for filing a "political nuisance" lawsuit.

In a Feb. 3, 2005, Free Press article, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman wrote, "In documents filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, Petro's office charges that the citizen contestors -- Ohio voters -- and their attorneys lacked evidence and proceeded in bad faith to file the challenge. Petro says the election challenge was a 'political nuisance' lawsuit, and as such, the legal team should be fined -- personally -- many thousands of dollars."

That ploy backfired on Petro, when more documents were entered into evidence, including the 102-page Status Report of the House Judiciary Democratic Staff entitled "What Went Wrong in Ohio?", further exposing the 2004 skullduggery. While Petro's sanction motion was denied by the Ohio Supreme Court, the voters lost again when the case was dismissed.

But instead of remedying the situation, the legislature passed and Gov. Robert Taft, the only sitting Ohio governor ever convicted of a crime, signed into law on Jan. 31 a draconian bill (HB 3), which Fitakris noted in a Dec. 7 article, "HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote.

But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio.

When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over."

So what chance do you think Fitrakis, who is now a Green Party candidate for Ohio governor, has against the winner of the GOP primary -- either Petro or Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the man at the center of the 2004 vote horror? Ditto for whoever wins the Democratic primary.

While the Bushistas have learned to be a bit more careful in the wake of the 2000 Florida debacle, stuff happens, as Donald Rumsfeld would say.

Perhaps Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 were diversions to keep people from looking at the skullduggery that went on everywhere. For example, George W. Bush received an extra 100,000 votes -- "phantom votes," as Chris Floyd called them -- in Alaska in 2004.

Floyd wrote, " A good example of how this control really works can be found in Alaska. There, the state Democratic Party has long been seeking an audit of some of the 2004 Diebold-counted returns, which produced a series of strange anomalies - including awarding George W. Bush an extra 100,000 votes that turned out to be phantoms.

First, state officials blocked the request because that information - the vote count of a public election - was a "company secret" that belonged exclusively to Diebold, Friedman reports. Then they decided that the returns could be examined - but only on the condition that Diebold and the Republican officials be allowed to "manipulate the data" before it was released.

In the end, even this tainted transparency was too much for the Bushist ballot crunchers; late last month, Alaska officials suddenly declared that examining the returns would pose a dire but unspecified "security risk" to the state.

Yet, writers blat on and on about what the Democrats need to do to win, as if the Democratic cretins were any better than the Republican cretins, and how "progressives" of any stripe need support in the primaries and general election.

Meanwhile, the Bushes and their criminal allies continue on their merry way, pulling off "miraculous" win after "miraculous" win. Hey, God is on their side and if the exit polls say the other guy or gal should have won, declare the exit polls erroneous.

Some pundits are even foolish enough to think that a little bribery scandal spells the end of Rep. Katherine Harris' bid for a US Senate seat.

Harris, who, as Florida's secretary of state, pulled every dirty trick in the book to hand the Sunshine State's electoral votes to George W. in 2000, was rewarded with a seat in the US House of Representatives. So why not a Senate seat?

Harris, unlike Tom DeLay, hasn't yet been indicted, and an indictment didn't stop DeLay from "winning" his primary bid against three opponents.

Harris will be gone only if the powers that be, not the voters, want her gone.

Elections, for most people, used to be a relatively simple thing. They took a paper ballot into a voting booth and penciled an X next to the names of the candidates they favored. The paper ballot was then dropped into a locked box. At the end of the voting day, the box was opened and the votes were counted one by one. Most states even allowed the public to witness the counting.

Sure, it was slow and, depending on the length of a ballot, the election board workers tended to gripe.

For the voters, though, election nights used to be filled with anticipation and excitement as the results trickled in.

So the question comes down to do we want accurate and honest vote counts or fast and crooked vote counts?

If it's fast and crooked, stay with easily rigged computers.

If it is accurate and honest, demand a return to paper ballots, which make it much harder to steal a statewide, congressional or presidential election.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal



Fake Voting Rights Activists And Groups Linked To White House

By Bob Fitrakis
Online Journal Guest Writer
Dec 31, 2005, 00:34

Top level Republican operatives with ties to the White House, Senate Majority Leader William Frist and the Republican National Committee (RNC) not only engaged in the suppression of poor and minority voters in the 2004 Ohio presidential election, but they spun the election irregularities into a story linking blacks to cocaine and voter fraud. Bush allies in Ohio are now using this myth of voter fraud to pass a repressive "election reform" bill.

In the month prior to and immediately after the 2004 presidential election, the Republican Party engaged in an orchestrated campaign to divert the mainstream media focus away from election fraud and irregularities in Ohio and manufactured the myth of "voter fraud."

According to a former Columbus Dispatch reporter, Ohio Senator Mike DeWine sent his spokesperson, Mike Dawson, to meet with the editorial board of the Dispatch and other Ohio newspapers. The primary talking point for the GOP was that there was no evidence of irregularities in Ohio.

The Republican state legislature used the "voter fraud" spin to introduce the draconian Ohio House Bill 3. The "election reform" bill has passed both Republican-dominated houses and is awaiting a conference committee at the start of the new year.

HB 3's most publicized provision will require voters to show their ID before casting a ballot. But it also opens voter registration activists to criminal prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. HB 3 will also reduce voter rolls by ordering county boards of elections to send cards to registered voters every two years. If a card comes back as undelivered, the voter must rely on a provisional ballot.

As the League of Women Voters put it in a letter to Republican legislative leaders, "Its [HB 3's] purported purpose of preventing voting fraud is based on the fallacy that there was widespread fraud perpetrated by voters in Ohio. In fact, the fraud was committed against Ohio voters by inadequate preparation that suppressed the votes of those whose registrations were not recorded correctly, those who could not wait for hours to vote, or those whose votes were not counted because of misdirection or mishandling."

The Senate sponsor of HB 3, Kevin Coughlin, could only cite the names of a few cartoon characters and celebrities on voting registration forms, which were easily weeded out by county election boards, as the reason for his repressive legislation.

Fake Voting Rights Groups Tied to the White House

In March 2005, Congressman Bob Ney held a U.S. House Administrative hearing at the Ohio Statehouse where a general counsel for the brand new voting rights group, the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), told the congressional committee that the voting problems in Ohio were the result of the NAACP paying people with crack in order to entice them to register to vote. ACVR's general counsel, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne, turned out to be the former national general counsel for Bush-Cheney '04, Inc., with no history of working in a voting rights organization. Hearne relied on a lawsuit filed against the NAACP in Wood County, Ohio, "alleging fraudulent voter registration under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act."

Hearne wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2005 claiming there was "substantial evidence to suggest potential criminal wrongdoing by organizations such as Americans Coming Together ("ACT"), ACORN and the NAACP -- Project Vote."

"We understand that local Ohio law enforcement authorities are pursuing criminal prosecution against some of the individuals involved in this activity, which activities include paying crack cocaine for fraudulent voter registration forms," Hearne wrote.

Cliff Arnebeck, the attorney representing the NAACP, denounces this as a deliberate racist disinformation campaign to divert attention from Ohio's election theft. "Crack cocaine, the NAACP -- Hearne and the Republicans are using racist code words," Arnebeck said. The Wood County case was withdrawn in June 2005, but not before it was revealed that the plaintiff, Mark Rubick, had been "indemnified" and held "harmless" by an obscure group, the Free Enterprise Coalition, with ties to the Republican Party. Signing as the "Authorized representative" for the coalition was one Alex Vogel.

Who Is Alex Vogel?

This is the same Alex Vogel who is now identified as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's attorney. Vogel was busy in December explaining why Frist's so-called AIDS charity, World of Hope, Inc., paid nearly a half million dollars in consulting fees to his "political inner circle," according to the Washington Times.

While Vogel fights to keep secret the amount of money that Frist's 96 World of Hope donors gave to the "charity," his top-level political connections are emerging in the media. Vogel co-founded a lobbying firm with Bruce Mehlman, the brother of Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman. Vogel and Mehlman's lobbying firm has close ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Arnebeck recently won a ruling against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which he claims gave $14 million secretly to Ohio Republican candidates in the 2002 and 2004 election cycle, allowing the GOP to dominate Ohio's Supreme Court.

Vogel also served as a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and as parliamentarian at the 2004 Republican Party platform hearings.

Other Players Tied to Bush-Cheney

While Vogel helped create the voter fraud myth and Hearne acted as the group's general counsel, a man named Jim Dyke acted as spokesperson for the dubious ACVR. Dyke served for many years as Republican National Committee Communications Director. In October, Dyke emerged as a White House spokesperson on National Public Radio pushing the ill-fated nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court.

Dyke and Hearne incorporated their "nonpartisan" tax-exempt voting rights organization in Dallas, Texas, only three business days prior to the Ney hearings in Ohio's capital. Despite its lack of history, the ACVR was the only "voting rights group" called to testify on election irregularities in Ohio. With a few exceptions, like Raw Story and Bradblog, news organizations have ignored these obvious political connections.

Other interesting individuals involved in so-called "election reform" activities in Ohio are William E. Franke of Gannon Technologies Group and Steve Hertzberg of the Election Science Institute.

Franke, a close friend of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, installed a computer operating system for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Gannon Technologies website bragged that the Ohio Secretary of State joins the FBI and a host of other government agencies as clients of "an innovative system that compiles records in different formats via an imaging program with 100 percent accuracy." One worker who helped install the technology warned the Free Press that there were possible back doors into the system and it may have "points of vulnerability."

Franke came to national attention during the 2004 election as the man heading the operations of the Swift Boat Veterans and Vietnam POWs for Truth. Their nasty attack ads against John Kerry became legendary.

Hertzberg, the project director of Election Science Institute (ESI), received a contract in 2005 from the Franklin County commissioners to monitor and certify new voting machines. Hertzberg's website is dedicated to disputing any scientific claims of election fraud in Ohio. Oddly, Hertzberg's biography posted at the ESI website shows he has no advanced degrees in political science, only a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from Purdue University. As Hertzberg explains it, he "spent the first several years of his career as a civilian within the U.S. Department of Defense" also " . . . serving as a Project Manager and Test Director for highly visible military development programs. . . ."

Hertzberg launched an organization called Vote Watch in 2002 before renaming it Election Science Institute in 2005. Recent ESI publications seek to discredit real social scientists with Ph.D.s who claim there was election fraud.

The ability of the Bush-Cheney White House to both blatantly repress poor and minority voters in the 2004 election and divert attention from these activities to spin this political operation into a bogus election reform bill bodes well for their ability to win the 2006 mid-term elections, despite a majority of the voters disapproving of the president's performance.

---Bob Fitrakis is the co-editor of "Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election?" with Harvey Wasserman (www.freepress.org) and co-counsel with Cliff Arnebeck in the Alliance for Democracy suit against the Hocking County Board of Elections.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal

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